My little boy Finnley Joe is 4.5 months old this week (originally I planned to call this blog “The Fourth Trimester” but life got in the way and it is now far past that). There have been however 750 plus nappy changes, a similar amount of breast-feeds, 125 bath-times with Dad, over 300 changes of clothes and an endless round of washing machine runs.
I have watched him grow from being able to hold him in my palms to an energetic mini-me that does not stop kicking and is now in the 100th percentile for height.
Routine where possible, has been the name of the game. Our friends and family know how we work. We are “Mr. & Mrs Perfect” on the shiny Instagram/Facebook realm of the World. Organisation and productivity keep us going and this has gone into overdrive since Finn’s birth. But we are painfully human at times.
You quickly realise as a parent you can be deemed powerless when your World operates on this little human’s cycles, moods and unintentional effect of causing an earthquake-style shake-up of your previous life.
With Finn no longer a “newborn” I have tried to summarise our own key, if endless, lessons over a time when change is happening quicker than we can handle.
You will talk about how easy it seems when your newborn sleeps constantly, anytime, anywhere. You will soon learn this is short-lived.
You will be asked daily, “Are you getting much sleep?”, and, “You don’t look like you’re that bad!”
Your body and mind will be stretched by sleep deprivation. You will feel the intense emotional pressure when all three of you have a bad night’s sleep.
You be grateful for a few hours rest undisturbed and when they sleep through to 6am, you will celebrate like it’s 1999.
Your idea of good can be someone else’s idea of incredible, and their idea of reasonable may be what pushes you over the edge.
You will learn to work together and remember the smiling face that greets you at 3am. It will stop you in your tracks and make a tiring situation special.
You will argue, compete and compare (if you do not can you please sell me your priceless secret).
You can be the strongest partnership in the world but no matter your relationship, you will be pushed to your utmost limits. Threatening divorce or saying things you do not mean can occur.
You will occasionally compete about who is more tired and got up more in the night. You may refer to you partner when talking to your baby and in “baby-speak” say things like, “Well Mummy is a bit of a grumpy-pants today isn’t she, hey!?”
You will go to bed at different times, sometimes not at all and wonder when the last time you ate together was or watched a movie.
You will see your partner suffer through the sleepless nights and you will see reservoirs of tears, not just from your baby. Your heart may just break a little when you see your partner at their lowest.
Your anxiety levels will rise and you will feel helpless when your baby first gets ill, even if it “just” a cold or fever. You may feel second fiddle to Mum.
On bad days you may need to take a ten-minute breather before entering the house when you return from work (this based on just our family dynamic, with Mum on maternity leave, not Dad).
You will read countless articles, blogs and social media posts that all say something different. “Experts” will sell you books and fads that do not work. You will walk away feeling even more confused.
You will go from using Google before a Doctor, return to the Professionals, and back to Google. You may even employ a Sleep Consultant to be your saviour through a difficult period.
For all the pressures, strain, emotions and lack of energy, there are some moments that will never leave you. You will greet bowels emptying and wind releasing with high-fives and cheers.
You will feel sad that they are growing so fast, that they no longer sleep on your chest.
You may hear your baby when you wake squawking like a bird, testing out their newly-found voice every morning. You may just be the luckiest man alive to see a smiling face and giggle every morning when you stand over the cot as they realise Dad is about to pick them up.
You will be happy when they grab your arm with a vice-like grip as you change their nappy. You will feel proud opening their first bank account. You will certainly dread holding them still at the Doctors as they have their vaccinations, with Mum in the background with tears in her eyes. Although you will not be prepared for your baby’s tears moments later.
You will create and endlessly sing songs that make no sense or dance around the room encouraging them to sleep until your legs can take no more. You may go to a Mother’s Group or Sensory Class or similar and dance around with ribbons, sing and do sign language while your baby tries to take it all in.
You will not be able to hide your delight when they roll over for the first time, completely surprising themselves and you.
You may just be paralysed momentarily when you realise how powerful the maternal bond is, that just by rubbing cheek to cheek, Mum could immediately calm them (If anyone struggles to explain love I could show them that scene). You will watch your baby following Mum and/or Dad with their eyes when they walk in and out of a room.
On good days you will watch the clock at work thinking about rushing home to your family. And take a minute to breathe and be thankful that you survived and at times thrived when you did not think you could.
I will never have all the answers about being a good Dad, I am not sure I even know what that truly means, but if I can leave you with something to take away, here is something my ever hyperactive mind came up with.
Modern day life is brutal for most. It is designed to throw you, to confuse, to distract. If you can pull yourself out of that for long enough, reflect and be grateful, you will be happier and your family, if you are lucky enough to have one, will only benefit.