Monday, 27 June 2011

Thoughts on being a Dad

It's now two months since Lydia was born. Two months since the day I became a father and my life was changed forever. The day I began a new journey that promised to test my resolve and push me to the very edge of my limits, bringing me love, anxiety, stress and delight in equal measures.

A happy, 2 month old baby
A lot has happened in those two months, as I'm sure you can imagine. I, along with my wife, have had the pleasure of watching our little girl grow in both size and in character, already going from a helpless newborn to a smiling, cheerful little lady who knows how to get what she wants from us. Seeing this growth has been amazing, and prompted me to reflect on what we have experienced and learnt from the beginning of our new life as a family, which is the goal of this blog entry.

Here is a list of some of the things I have learnt about the responsibilities and rewards of fatherhood.

1.  Newborn babies don't always want to sleep

A peaceful baby
(with her friend Pingu)
I had read in various books and on several new parent-related websites that newborn babies sleep "up to 20 hours a day". Lydia clearly wasn't told this rule, as right from the start she preferred to be awake, sleeping for perhaps 10 hours per day at most. We could see her fighting to stay awake, often getting annoyed at the fact that she was so tired (ending in tears). Either we have a very special baby or the books and websites are spouting a load of crap.

In either case, having a wakeful newborn meant we did not get much sleep in the first couple of weeks, highlighted by Black Thursday (an entire 24 hours in the company of a crying/screaming baby). Just recently this has begun to change though, as she now quite often naps during the day. This might be because it is much warmer now we are in the summer, so maybe that's more tiring for Lydia. It might also be because her digestive system and other internal goings on are now in place and working properly, so she feels more comfortable as well. Either way, our little girl seems happy with her life in general, and as a parent that is the most important thing.

2.  Whoever invented gripe water should be given a Nobel Prize

A bit of research via Google tells me it was actually invented by William Woodward, who developed a simple mixture that is used to help alleviate painful colic in infants. The ingredients vary depending on the brand, but most have things like fennel and peppermint, which helped to calm infants and sooth their little bellies. We were recommended this by the midwife when Lydia was struggling with digestion and often regurgitating her milk in the early weeks. It worked an absolute charm, and Lydia has been so much calmer since we used this product, although we only give it occasionally now to ensure her digestive system doesn't get too dependant on it.

3.  Nothing makes you happier than seeing your child smile

Lydia smiling at her mum

I was not expecting to feel such a sense of joy and delight when Lydia began smiling for the first time. Ok, I knew it would be a nice moment, but it was so much more than that. Being able to see that she is happy was like a validation that we are doing the right thing as parents, leaving us safe in the knowledge that our little girl can concentrate on growing up in a happy environment.

I was also really happy that my parents were with Lydia when she really started smiling more frequently, especially as it was the first time they saw her. Seeing my mum's eyes welling up with pride every time Lydia smiled at her was really touching. Apparently, babies usually start to smile at around 6-8 weeks; Lydia was just over 4 weeks old. Do we have a superbaby on our hands?

4.  Parenting is largely instinctive

However many books you read on the subject of babies and childcare, nothing can fully prepare you for having a baby. I thought we were being really proactive by buying instructional books that guide you through what to expect as a new parent and offer some tips on parenting techniques. As it turns out, we haven't even looked at these books since Lydia was born, as we have been coping on our own. As every baby is different, the various techniques that books describe won't necessarily work on your baby, so you are much better off just going with the flow. You know when your baby is too hot or too cold, or when they are hungry or over-tired. It just comes naturally. Once you have gotten to know your baby a little bit, the parental instincts start to kick in and you just do what you have to do. That's what we've been doing and, as Lydia is growing well and smiling at us, we must be doing something right.

5.  Little babies can do a lot of poop

Sometimes I go to change Lydia's nappy and I'm faced with what looks like the entire contents of a Colman's wholegrain mustard jar. In these moments I seriously wonder where it all comes from. Lydia is only little, yet she happily fills her nappy with generous helpings of poop, usually when it is my turn to change her (I swear she does it on purpose). I have been told by various people that we should "enjoy" this stage, as it gets much worse when the baby starts eating real food instead of just milk. Oh how I am looking forward to that...

6.  Pushchairs are massive

Little Lydia in her giant
pushchair (and this is only
the car seat: the pram
attachment is even bigger!)
When we had to buy a new car last year we opted to go for a large estate car (a Mazda 6, as I wrote about in this blog) in preparation for the eventual expansion of our family (at the time Chris wasn't even pregnant, so how's that for planning ahead?). We reasoned that we would need the extra boot space to allow us to fit all the extra things that come with having a baby, like the pushchair, carry bag, etc. How right we were.

Lydia's pushchair, a Maxi-cosy, plus the pram take up the entire boot of our car, which we had thought to be a really big boot. I am so glad we opted for a larger car because I cannot imagine how we would fit this into a smaller one. I used to have a Peugeot 106 and there is no way we would have been able to put the pushchair and the pram in it's boot!

Well, that's probably enough for now. I have learnt much more than what I have written above, but I wouldn't want this blog entry to ramble on for too long. Perhaps I'll save them for a future blog?

Look out for Thoughts on being a Dad Part II, coming soon!

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