Friday, 27 April 2012 he breathing?

I have discovered that there are three main emotions now that I am a father, and all three are experienced quite intensely.

Firstly, there is love. I am addicted to my son. I want to kiss him, hold him, stroke him and generally be near him all the time. He amazes me.

Secondly, there is excitement. We are a family, our future is both wonderful and mysterious, which makes it exciting. There is so much to look forward to, and even more to appreciate now. Life with Henry is filled with love and excitement.

However, as I lie here awake at gone midnight, listening to the coughs, wheezes, splutters and movements of my 15 days old son it strikes me that fear also makes up a rather large component of my emotional state. I currently cannot sleep because each splutter terrifies me that he is choking. Perhaps he has thrown up and cannot clear his airwaves. So I lie, waiting for the next noisy breath. Which doesn't come. I tell my wife to stop breathing so I can listen for his. And just as I am on the verge of leaping across the room to his crib, he coughs and I let out a sigh of relief.

The strange thing is I am usually a rational and logical person. I am fully aware that I am biologically programmed to care for his welfare, whilst he is biologically programmed to carry on breathing. Yet this does not stop that yawning pit in my stomach when something happens. And so many things happen! His joints crack, I accidentally touch the soft bit on his head, he splutters in his sleep, he jerks and his head goes further than I expect, he throws up lying back.

I once joked to my wife that all we had to do was keep him alive, anything else was a bonus. It would appear that my brain has taken this seriously and now will not let me rest. I have been reliably informed that this never goes away.

This love - how exciting...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Welcome to the world Henry Michael!

And the deed is done - on the 11th April at 8:30am, Henry Michael entered the world.  So what have I learnt?

Firstly - I love my son more than I thought possible.  The emotional impact this little man has had on me is incredible.  There was so much I did not understand when people talked about their children.  Things such as you can spend just hours watching them, they grow up so quick, and so on.  Now I know.  I love kissing him, holding him, watching him, talking to him.  I am already worried about him growing up and me not getting those utterly dependent cuddles.  The birth of a child changes you in ways you cannot imagine, or prepare for.  My son is awesome; he inspires awe.

Secondly - childbirth is a painful experience for mothers.  Now I know it obviously is, but again, I had no idea how much pain, and what was actually involved.  My wife was amazing - Henry came with the help of some forceps, which has resulted in some hefty consequences for Emily, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience.  She soldiered; I was in pieces.  I have nothing but admiration for her, and my son is lucky to have her.

Thirdly - nothing can prepare a father for the utter helplessness felt whilst observing the mother's role.  During childbirth and beyond.  Breastfeeding appears to be quite difficult to get off the ground, and mothers are attempting to learn at a point in their life when hormones are raging, exhaustion is present, and pain is constant.  And apart from make tea, stroke hair, bring food and hold hands there is nothing you can do to ease your partner's lot.  It is horrible and it makes you want to scream and shout and throw things.  Don't.  It won't help.  But having some ideas for things that you can do when the frustration does boil over is key.

Fourthly - do not pretend, and do not allow your partner to pretend, that you should know it all.  As an example, this morning Henry was refusing his first feed.  He should have been hungry, my wife started to panic (we'd had a scary midwife visit, more on that particular topic in another post).  My mother-in-law has been staying with us whilst Emily gets feeding established and was quickly called to the scene.  The reason? His nappy was fit to bursting with his first poo!  Neither of us had thought to check and we're both childcare professionals.  Tomorrow we will remember.  Just as Henry is learning new things everyday, so are we as parents.  It is ok to make mistakes and perfection is impossible.

And finally, from my viewpoint as a new father - nothing we go through as fathers compares to mothers during this period.  Later on you will become a much more equal partner - at this stage I see my role as doing everything I can to make her life easier so that she can make Henry's life easier.  I am currently trying to find ways to look after myself.  I will not pretend, that whilst this is difficult for new mothers, it is also emotional and difficult for new fathers.  It makes me miss my own father, as it is him I would have turned to talk about this time in my life.  My advice would be do not allow yourself to become isolated and pretend that you can cope with it all. But try not to add to your partner's burdens, certainly not in the first couple of weeks.

So that is some of what I have learned - what about Henry?

He is currently learning how to breastfeed (this is a skill, and although there is an instinctual urge, Henry does not appear to have read the manual).  He is improving, bless him, but he does need to relearn frequently something we thought he had weighed off just hours before.

His body is also learning how to expel stuff it does not want.  Today saw his first proper poo.  And his second.  And a bit of vomiting.  It's lovely, but messy.

The world is an interesting place, but parents are particularly so.  Henry appears to be delighted to be carried around the house listening to a running commentary provided by daddy.  He loves the sound of voices.

I will try to get back here a bit more often now - I will share what I learn as I go, as well as some of the personal stuff that happens.  But right now Henry is crying and daddy wants to cuddle him.