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.

Recipe: Cold Brew Coffee

My last post was a bit of a rambling cavalcade of emotions, but on to more practical matters: staying awake. Sure, there are all the usual options: cups of tea or coffee. But, those are inevitably cold by the time you get to them, and when they are they’re disgusting. So, why not cut out the middleman of boiling the kettle in the first place? Bask in the glory of cold brew coffee.

sandow's coldbrew coffee

Sandow’s makes an excellent off-the-shelf or in your local cafe product. But why not make it yourself at home? All you need is some good quality ground coffee, cold water, a receptacle like a flask, and a coffee brewing device. As to the latter, I use an Aeropress which I’ve found to be easily the best maker of coffee. However, they can sometimes be fiddly, and will only do one cup of coffee at a time. You can also use a standard cafetière (French Press) or pour over coffee maker.

The process is simple:

  • Use one and a half times as much ground coffee as you normally would
  • Add cold water until the ground are just covered
  • Stir thoroughly for around 30 seconds, which releases important oils
  • Add the rest of the cold water to make the quantity you need
  • Stir very thoroughly, every minute
  • Allow to steep for twice as long as you would for hot coffee
  • Plunge the coffee, pour it int your flask, jar or bottle, and refrigerate
  • Serve with ice, or just swig it straight from the fridge for an instant pick-me-up.

And there you go: Easy, chilled rocket fuel. Perfect for when your tiny delight is desperate for something, but you’re too bleary-eyed to work out what it is yet…

Flying Solo

Sometimes things don’t go how you imagined. Sometimes life veers a little off-road, and you just have to steer around the worst of the bumps and forge a new path through the undergrowth. Sometimes a list of aphorisms becomes tedious and trite.

Sometimes mummy unavoidably has to go away for 36 hours and daddy has to look after the baby and the dog on his own for the first time.

The three of us do day shifts together plenty of times, but this is the first time we’ve done nights without mum at hand, and the first time we’ve been away from mum for this length of time since birth. Emotionally it’s hard for me, but nowhere near as hard as it is for her, being away from our little bundle of joy and poop.

There’s the practical side, of course, the care of a two month old baby without support, without reprieve, without assistance. Nobody to watch the baby while I quickly have a shower in record time, or to grab a nappy if they’re too far away, nobody to take a go at trying to soothe the poor mite when she’s gone into a random meltdown. Nobody to make a cup of coffee or a quick snack or run to the shop to buy some wipes.

These trials aren’t new, every stay-at-home parent, of any family arrangement, finds themselves in this situation at one point or another; maybe even every day. But for me, for all of us, it was all new. Without nearby family or a support network of any kind, flying solo with such a young baby was an emotional trial. Missing mum, all of us, every moment, but also knowing that if things went south, there would be no cavalry; no backstop, and no reprieve until mummy got home.

The diaspora of our modern lives often means those most able and willing to help are scattered around the country or even the world. NCT groups, when they work, are honestly more geared around new mums than stay-at-home dads. Society still sometimes has a point-and-stare response to a man walking around town with a tiny baby in a sling without a suitable maternal chaperone. We have to get better at this. There has to be more support; not necessarily for anything specific. But just to feel that even when flying solo, there’s a wingman somewhere out there to stop us using too many euphemisms and similies.

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’.