Since becoming a dad, I willingly give up my morning bike rides for cuddles and cartoons.
When I thought ‘pregnant’, the film What To Expect When You’re Expecting came to mind, especially the characters Wendy and Skylar.
Wendy, played by Elizabeth Banks, goes through what seems like a long arduous and painful pregnancy, with peaks of hormonal mood swings and leaking bowels. Skylar (Brooklyn Decker) is referred to as a ‘unicorn’, a rare and mystical creature that takes it all in her stride and is fortunate to experience hardly any hiccups.
We were lucky that D was 100% a pregnancy unicorn. With this life growing inside her, she looked amazing and was “big” in all the right places. And then Lola came into the world on December 14 2017.
The moment your little one is placed into your arms, it’s meant to be unconditional love – in our case, it was pure terror. D and I had been in each other’s lives for more than half of our own, and now this tiny being is here and is wholly dependent on us.
For the first two weeks of Lola’s existence we were helped, or hindered depending which one of us you’d ask, by the grandparents (or as my wife refers to them ‘The Russians’). Now we both look back on it and wish we’d had that month to ourselves. A month to not babysit the relatives, a month to practice nappy changes and getting over my poop gag reflex, a month without judgmental tuts or raised eyebrows as we navigated our way through the minefield of first time parenting.
As for support, we were helped massively by our live in nanny, who we now consider family. Despite that, we were both determined to be as hands on as possible – unless we were at breaking point during colic tears or a build-up of sleepless nights.
Our first night back home after five days at the hospital was nothing short of a nightmare, but pretty much summarises our goal to power through the bad and the ugly.
We arrived home at 3pm in the afternoon, ready and excited. As we bathed her and got her ready for bed, the tears began and after trying everything on the checklist (nappy, hunger, temperature) we couldn’t identify what was wrong. Had we broken her in less than 12 hours? With grandparents sleeping in one room and the nanny downstairs all unaware of our turmoil, at no point did we want to ask for help. Instead we went straight back to the hospital at 3am.
During the 20-minute drive from home to a&e, Lola had fallen asleep peacefully, but we had to be sure, maybe she picked up a bug? As we arrived the nurses asked “is this your first one?” – a question we faced on regular basis by health care professionals throughout the first 6 months of Lola’s life as they watched us ‘fake it till we make it’ as parents. Safe to say, during that a&e visit the nurse told us she was absolutely fine and to go home. She was extremely kind and understanding, plus saved us the money in seeing the doctor who was timely rushed away to attend a heart attack episode. We’re sure that person was absolutely fine…
Despite the early-month hiccups, the past year has seen both of us develop and grow as individuals, and as a couple. Individually we’ve both adjusted our life/work balance to Lola’s routine as much as possible, and made sacrifices both emotionally and financially.
But together we have grown not just as a family, but in our understanding of one another’s weaknesses and strengths. The nights shifts were hard, but we worked as team (me prepping the bottle, D changing the nappy and then feeding) and here we are with a daughter who can’t stop saying ‘mama’ and who sleeps through the night (yes, it does eventually happen!) Lola has grown exponentially over the last year, from a little pink cheeked pooping and screaming monster, to a fully interactive, joyful, fun loving, smiling girl.
D and I have had an amazing time growing together since we met at school, but I’m sure these following chapters of our lives are going to be the most exciting yet.
Being a dad means…
Accepting that on occasions, the sick on you is not your own.
That your phone is never safe and when you do find it, she probably locked you out of it for the next hour.
Accepting that the TV remotes will be used as drum sticks.
Accepting that on Daddy day care trips you will forget one or all of the following: diapers, wipes, milk, water, snacks, socks, toy, pram…
My top three tips for new dads:
- When the baby cries and mum doesn’t wake up, keep pretending to sleep and offer a subtle arm throw in mums direction to “subtly” waken her.
- Develop a sensitive nose, this way you can pre-diagnose poopy diapers, claim its only wee and offer baby to your spouse.
- For bath time, shower skin to skin with your baby, its ace.