I wanted to say, for the record, how wonderful, amazing and truly magical being a Dad is; and it is absolutely all those things, but more importantly, it is SOLID!
So, how do you support your ‘lass’? As the Geordies say. I’m not Geordie, I’m originally from South London but I’ve had to adapt to my new local culture. But yeah, how do you support her? Especially when she might be stressed, emotional, tired, sleep deprived, in pain, hangry (I can confirm it’s a real thing). I struggle to understand the love of my life at the best of times. And on top of all that, no matter how much effort you think you’re putting in or how supportive you are trying to be, it just doesn't seem enough?!
Then the additional added pressure of trying to bond with your new bundle of joy (or Tasmanian Devil in the case of our youngest; see previous blog). Especially when they only want Mam or food, which equals Mam, or they are crying and only Mam can settle them. You begin to feel a bit worthless and like your efforts are equating to, well, nothing...!
And the truth is lads, even though you will feel like you’re best isn’t enough, or you don’t feel like anyone sympathises with your sleep deprivation the way they do with Mam’s, or you just feel like a bit of a spare part, whatever it is, you just have to keep going. Keep trying, then try harder again.
Perseverance is key. (Here's my best perseverance/exhausted face)...
At times it will feel like an endless, hollow, unrewarding task; however what you don’t see is the huge difference your constant efforts make or how the dedication is providing a solid structure to support your family unit. You may never feel like you are appreciated in these moments but subconsciously your family can see you are creating a safe environment for them, filled with love and protection that is unconditional. This can never be judged or tested.
Pecfeeding for me, means building that special relationship within your new family. It’s about them knowing they are loved and safe and you will do anything to protect them. It’s about you as a Dad/ Step-dad/ Husband/ Boyfriend providing them with the perfect environment to continually grow and evolve as a new family unit.
This could be as simple as making sure the house is clean (even though you’ve tided eight times already that day), running a bath for her when she’s tired and needs to relax. Or going to the shop at midnight in the middle of winter because she’s ran out of Lansinoh or just giving her a cuddle and telling her everything will be OK.
Or, if you’re feeling brave, it could be more challenging. I asked if my wife would try to express milk so I could feed our youngest daughter. She didn’t manage to breastfeed long with our first (about 4 weeks) so I had that feeding bond with our eldest. She agreed and recognised I needed that special time too. She would sit, relentlessly sometimes, pumping milk whilst watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, just so I would have a bottle, no matter how small, to feed her and have that bond. I was petrified to broach that conversation. I was expecting it to go one of two ways. 1. No! or 2. I’ll think about it (which we all know means "No!").
I don't know why I was ever worried. You can forget how loving, kind, understanding and amazing wives/girlfriends actually are when you're under this huge new baby pressure. Especially when you’re so used to ‘getting wrong’ (being told off to the rest of us non-northerners).
I also attended ‘latching’ sessions. (I'm just making that term up, I don’t even know what they're called). You know when someone comes to your house and shows Mam how to position herself and the baby for optimal feeding? Those sessions! We didn’t have many sessions, maybe two or three. However just being there meant I was able to recognise how challenging breast feeding can be. I was in awe that she didn’t just give up and I appreciated her perseverance and dedication so much more than if I wasn’t present.
Equally, had she been unable to continue, like with our first, she would have known I was with her through the entire journey and she would never have felt like she needed to justify her reasoning for switching to a bottle. I missed these sessions with our eldest and I know she felt immense guilt for switching when there was absolutely no need for her to feel this way. Mam’s give themselves such a hard time. They all do the hardest job in the world and they absolutely smash it. They don’t however give themselves credit for it and I guess that’s where we come in.
A new baby, even when it’s not your first child, is a lot of pressure. It’s hard work, tiring without recognition and probably one of the toughest times you will face together as a couple. However, the benefits and the feeling of self-worth knowing you gave your absolute best for your family to flourish in the early stages of change is so rewarding.
So, if it’s your first child and you’ve got all the gear and absolutely no idea or if you're 2, 3, 4, 5, however many kids in and you feel your sanity and energy levels slipping away day by day, keep going!!! There is light at the end of the tunnel! Most importantly, your baby will start weaning in the not so distant future. You will have the pleasure of chopping, steaming, blending and batch making deliciously wholesome foods. All for your little treasure, who will then refuse to eat any of it and probably throw it off the wall, cream carpets or even give it to the dog!
Or you improvise and sly them a chocolate button when Mam isn’t looking...