Four Things for Four Months

Originally posted on The FMLY Man blog.

“Four months” doesn’t sound like a lot of time. And yet somehow it feels like our little one has been here forever, retconned into all past memories. I can no longer imagine or remember a time without her, just like I can’t remember a time I wasn’t tired.

In these four months I’ve learnt that every day is precious. So much about the little person in your life can, and will, change on a daily basis. No one day is like another, and every day is a gift. Especially the day she first woke up, saw me, and gave me the biggest grin in the world. If I wasn’t hopelessly enraptured before, I was then.

I’ve learnt that family is what you make it. Outside of your little family unit, there are a number of people related to you by blood or other means, friends, acquaintances and random passersby. From within this social circle will come the champions, the supporters, the genuinely interested parties. It may surprise you who those people are. It may surprise you who those people aren’t.

Planning is super-important and nigh-impossible. There are so many things in daily baby daycare that need to happen. And without a bit of forethought to meals, activities and schedules, they’re just not going to happen, something always slips through the cracks. The laissez-faire, ad hoc life is not for you any more! Saying that though, try not to plan too much, because that deftly crafted battleplan isn’t going to survive contact with the enemy. Running a little behind for an appointment? Surprise outfit-ruining aPoo-calypse! Need to make a quick phonecall? Screaming fit!

Time runs differently now that you have a little one in your life. I don’t just mean the inability to fully appreciate how old she is, how long she’s been with you. Things just take longer now. That might be because just going to the shops to get milk is now an epic undertaking involving multiple layers of clothes, possibly vehicles, baby bag etc. It might be because when you’re tired, time stretches and distends in ways you’d never imagined. Or it might just be that suddenly there’s nothing more important in your life than this small being, and everything else, including time, just pales into insignificance.

Farewell, sweet dreams

Sleep is not something I really worried about before; I was always a light sleeper and able to make do with very little sleep. Sleep became something I resented, a necessary unpleasantness, like pooping. Of course sleep and poop are the two main things we talk about these days, the dearth of the one and the excess of the other.

We thought we were so smart, splitting nights so that we’d each only be half exhausted. However, it appears we miscalculated a little: half of ‘infinitely tired’ is still ‘infinitely tired’, it’s just that now there’s two of us that are sleep deprived. Of course, realistically, it’s not really that bad, we do both get a little more sleep than if there was only one of us seeing to her little ladyship’ whims in the night. But you can’t not feel the strain on your body and sanity. 

I have no idea how people do it, night after night being the sole responder to the cries and wails of discontent. Eternally adding to the sleep deficit, with seemingly no end in sight. Never mind those who also have additional children and/or try to hold down regular work at the same time. My hat is very firmly doffed to them!

I’ve come to appreciate sleep, am even coming around to the idea of a nap; at least the theory of them. Better get what I can, after all people have told us this phase will last about three months. Except for those who’ve told us it’ll last six months, a year, two years, three or until they’re twenty one and moved out. Some say never.

I’d say that sounds exhausting, but adding more tiredness on top of ‘infinitely tired’ is still just ‘infinitely tired’. 

Baby Proofing Your Relationship – Part 1

This is a precarious subject to write for about, for a variety of reasons: 1) I’m no relationship expert, if there is such a thing, 2) If I ever claim to be an expert in relationships, I ought to be punched in the face, I’m an idiot, and 3) baby isn’t here yet. However, NCT do raise the topic of baby-proofing your relationship in their classes, but don’t really give any answers, so I’m going to give it a go, from a dad’s/husband’s/male co-habiting partner’s perspective. But, because I want a chance to laugh at myself and illustrate how wrong I was, I’ll write Part 2 after baby’s been here for a few weeks and I’ll let you know how I got on!

Communication

That’s got to be a pretty big one, right? If you don’t talk to each other, discuss your hopes and fears, your wishes for the birth and raising of your child, your aches and pains, anxieties and general state of mind, you’re pretty much sunk. Sure, it’s general advice for any relationship, and one I’ve disastrously failed to take in the past. But the need for it is amplified tenfold during the emotional time of pregnancy, and I can imagine hundredfold after your tiny human is with you. Make decisions together, air your fears and grievances. Tell her you love her and that she’s beautiful, not because she needs to hear it (though she does), but because it’s true and that truth will shine from you. Tell her you’re excited, what you’re looking forward to, speculate with her how your baby will look, act, develop, what foods it will like, whether it will get on with the dog or be academically gifted. Discuss your own childhoods, and what bits you thought were great, and which you as parents never want to inflict on your child.

Get Out

This is an important one during the pregnancy: Get out and do stuff. Go to the theatre, the cinema, go out for meals, meet people, go to galleries, see beautiful things, take walks along the river. It could be all too easy to stay inside with a tub of ice-cream and her favourite soap, but going out, doing things together, seeing new things or things that are beautiful and calming is good for all three of you. Despite what everyone tells you, life doesn’t end as soon as the pregnancy test shows positive.

Positivity

Speaking of ‘Positive’: Positivity is going to help. She feels massive, can’t see her feet, struggles to waddle down the street, Facebook and her friends will shower her with unhelpful anecdotes, and she’s about to try and push something the size and weight of a watermelon out of her vagina. If she can’t do that, they’ll cut it out of her, then expect her to figure out breastfeeding, then you have a small fragile human you now have sole responsibility for, for about 20 odd years. By the gods, don’t be a misery guts. Don’t add to the potential negativity, don’t ruminate about all the things that can go wrong, don’t scare her. Make sure you’re informed, sure, but don’t terrify her. Or yourself for that matter, you’re of no use to anyone as an anxious wreck. (No offence to anyone with actual anxiety). Be a beacon of light and positivity, in a maelstrom of uncertainty.

Get Involved

Seriously, don’t be that guy. Go to the NCT, Daisy or other antenatal classes. Read the books. Read the websites. Get the apps. Whenever you can go to the midwife meetings. Definitely go to the scans. Talk to other dads and don’t let them brush you off with embarrassed banalities. You’ll be able to help make informed decisions, you’ll feel part of the process rather than divorced from it, and you just don’t want to be that guy. You know the one I mean. That stereotype of the clueless dad, uninvolved, disinterested, baffled by the ‘womanswork’ going on around you. That guy that’s the reason so many mummy blogs and pregnancy books write articles extorting dads to maybe once in a blue moon maybe try helping out a little bit during pregnancy. Please. Don’t be him.

Preparation

Okay, you’re involved, you’ve ready the books, you’re supportive, open and positive. What else? Well, good news, there’s practical things you can do. Obviously there’s the dishes and general housework. But if you have a few favourite dishes you’re adept at making, make a ton of them and freeze them! Nobody will feel like cooking in those first days after you come home with baby, so having something you both love that you can make with zero effort is a win. Research! There are about 80,000 different baby products being released every half an hour, and the choices are bewildering. If you can help narrow the choices as to which pram to buy, or what the benefits of different cribs, cots and moses baskets are, it will be a big help. Assemble the pram and the cot. If you’re going down that path, decorate the nursery. Pack your own bag for the hospital! (I’ll write a separate article for that). You can’t grow a child, and when it’s here you’ll likely not be able to help feed it for a while. But with a bit of prep, there are practical things you can do, to ease the way.

That’s it, that’s all I have for now. I hope it helps!