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Christmas time is a time for lots of family and friends to visit. Having a baby brings even more reasons for visitors as everyone wants to meet your new arrival, plus you want to show off the new tiny, beautiful human that you’ve created.
It’s one of those things though that looking back, Mums often say that they wish they took it slower or managed visitors a bit better. So here’s some of my top tips for managing visitors. I’ve put a Christmas spin on it as everything is better with a festive twist.
Be clear on times and who. Mary would have been sat there trying to get to know the baby she’s just birthed and in walked 3 Kings. Now I don’t know about you but in the presence of kings I would be worried about whether I would be leaking blood through my PJ bottoms or if my nipples were on show in front of a King. Both highly likely scenarios after having a baby. When you want to sit their with your boobs out trying to figure out breastfeeding, stay in your PJs all day with a disheveled mum bun or when you want to just have a nap when baby is sleeping, it’s good to know exactly who’s coming over, what time and when they’re leaving too.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for things. Lots of people when planning their visit ask to see if you need anything. Rather than being polite and saying no and then ending up with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh., ask for a certain size of baby clothes that you need, or ask for a lasagne if you’re struggling to find the time to cook. I bet Mary wished that she had an easy meal to cook for the next few weeks rather than some Frankincense to carry home on her donkey.
3. Let people do the things… You’ve just had a baby. You’re job is to enjoy your baby, get to know your baby, feed, cuddle your baby and rest up. This comes first over entertaining 3 wise men. It shouldn’t be up to you to be making the teas and baking the cakes. Get your friend and family to make the tea and more so, Mums and Mother In Laws are always happy to put the washing away or unload the dishwasher!
4. Make use of the visitors too. If your family is coming over for the morning and you know they’re going to want to cuddle the baby, don’t be afraid of using this time to take a shower, get yourself dressed or even take a nap. You can’t pour from an empty cup after all so looking after no. 1 is important.
5. If it all becomes a little overwhelming have a safe space in your house where you can go with your baby. You could always take the baby upstairs to feed so you can get a little time out or space. Having a baby is busy and over Christmas especially it can be that bit more hectic.
6. Don’t be afraid to say no. Even if your guests are Kings, Wise and are from afar. You and your baby are the most important beings at this moment and if you don’t want someone visiting or holding the baby, then it’s ok to say no!
Have a conversation with your other half before baby arrives to see if you’re on the same page when it comes to visitors. It’s one less thing to think about when baby gets here.
As I lie on the floor trying to write this, with my 7 month year old daughter crawling all over me, clawing at my note pad, shrieking in my ear and doing her best to be impossibly cute, I’m ashamed to admit to how I’ve felt before; especially when I now know that I’ve never loved anyone more.
What follows may read asbrutal, but I feel that for fathers their expectation is to be strong (especially when mum has been through so much with pregnancy, the birth and thentheweeks and months that follow). Thereality is that it isn’t easyfor eitherand there doesn’t seem to be much out there to help a dad in need.If my words can resonate with one dad in distress, thenI’lldeem it totally worthwhile to have laid my flaws bare for all to see.
Our daughter Vesper was born in the early hours ofFebruary 3rdat Gloucester hospital.Avery difficult pregnancy for Olivia was followed by a ‘holistic’ birth plan that went out the window, a 34 hour labour and pretty much all the drugs we could legally get our hands.However, all of the pain and tiredness quickly subsideswhen you have a beautiful baby girl in your arms.
The first few days were bliss. We were inundated withfamily & friendswhobroughtbabygrowsand champagne en mass at an approximate 1:1 ratio. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, we were making it up as we went along and we were smashing it.As the days went by Ikept that appearance up, butthe reality wasthatI wasstarting to struggleandwasfeeling very underwhelmed about being a father.
My own mother told me that ‘there is nothing that can prepare you forthe love you will feel for yourchild’. I could see that Oliviawas indeed feeling this, but Iwasn’t. I was flat,at timesfeltambivalenttowards my daughter, was easily frustrated when I couldn’t sooth her anddidn’t feel any physicalbond with her whatsoever.
When we decided to begin our family,neither Olivia norI were particularly broodybut both knew that one day having a family would be important to us.Having been together for 9 years, married for 4 and with Oliviabeing35 at the time, we both felt that it was now or never. When Vesper finally arrived (this cuts me to even think about let alone admit tooin writing) I thoughtthat I had made a mistake. I felt like I hadn’t consideredit properlyand with it rapidly becoming clear how difficult parenting was going to be, thatI’d prematurely robbed myself of my freedom at the age of 30.
There were three thoughts that would keep me up at night (other than a crying baby):
1.How am I going to provide for my family, especially when I feel like I’m falling apart?
I am a property developer and the last time I got paid (orsold a house) was May 2017.Building houses is not conducive to making a fast buck. Throwa baby into the mix,living on a building site at home aswelland you’ve got all the ingredientsneeded for one stressed out dad.
2.For how long is Olivia going to expect me to be the bread winner?
For 8 months I’dbeen living offborrowed money andprior to having Vesper,Olivia was the only one actually bringing any money into the household bank account. Olivia and I are both self employed and before having Vesper,Olivia was adamant that she’d be backpart time after 4-6 weeksand that we would split childcare. I had no reason to doubt her ambition, but low and behold it became very clear that she wasn’t going togo back to work for a long time. This put a further unexpected pressure on things.
3.How am I supposed to bond with my daughter?
By all accounts at the time Vesperdidn’t need me.Olivia had all of the ‘tools’ and I seemed so bad atcalming Vesper, who could only be soothedby her mum.Asa dad, that really fucking hurts. Whenyour daughter screams as if she’s in painwhenin your arms, and thenyou can hear the sigh of reliefin her voice as she’s handed to her mum, it makes you feel really crap.
No 1& 2 could have been easily solved had Olivia not buried our heads in the sand about the money subject and been a bit more realistic about what was achievable.A bit more careful planning and some frank conversations before probably would have saved me a whole world of pain.
Number 3 however was going to prove a bit more difficult to crack.Iwastrying to finish the house I was building so that I could sell it, claw some money back, pay off debts, keep the mortgage payments going and give us a bit of wiggle room. I’d borrowed over £1m to build this house and so it didn’t feel like I could take my foot off the gas. It was tearing me apart. I was torn between that and being there to support Oliviawhile alsofinding time to bond with my daughter. It felt like an impossible situation.
It came to a climax after a particularly shit day on site. I always tried to come home earlier than Ihad before having Vesper to help Olivia, whichoccasionallyirkedme asI was underpressureto get the build finished.Olivia hadalso had a bad day and asked me to take Vesper for an hour so she could have a bath and relax, as was often the case when I got back from work.
Vesper was really fractious and I just could not calm her. I tried tiger in thetree;put heron her back, on my knee, between my legs, on her own, swaddle, cuddle, bouncing. You name it, I tried it. The more stressed I got, the more stressed she got and the whole thing just compounded itself. After 20minutesIlost my coolandscreamed ‘what do you fucking want!?’
I was immediately appalled with myself for screaming at a baby. Then my phone vibrated and it was a text from Olivia asking me to bring Vesper to her.She had heard everything.Olivia was crying in the bath and I felt like a monster.It was my lowest point as a father.
It was the culmination of a tough couple of weeks, and although Olivia and I had spoken quite a bit about the fact that I was clearly struggling, neither of us were able to make any sense of the situation, or what we could do about it. My mental health was not in a good place and I needed some help.
I’vestruggled with my mental healthbefore and so I’m very fortunate that I have noissuewhatsoever in confiding in others, and neither should anyone reading this. Mental health can be a killer if left untreated, so there is not a single good reason tonottalk to someone.
Ourmidwifewas dueoverfor one of her finalcheck-ins a few days later and I told her everything. She put me in touch with an amazing man called Mark Harris. Mark is a male midwife and he also runs a program for dads called ‘Birthing For Blokes’. I took the dog for a walk onCleeveHill just behind our house and spoke to Markon the phonefor over an hour. Speaking to Mark was the catalyst for putting things right. Not only was he able to impart some insightful knowledge, but he also pushed me in the direction of some ‘self help’ which ultimately hasgivenmeabeautiful relationship with my daughter. One I was afraid I might never achieve.
Someone reading this might resonate 100% with what I’ve said. Otherswon’t but might feel that things just aren’t right and being a Dad isn’t quite what they hadexpected. Whateverthe situation, below are a fewof my takeawaysfromlearning ‘on the job’for any dads in need:
1.You’renot alone.Part of the reason I felt so bad is that I was ashamed that I was the only Dad in the world who wasn’t bonding with their child. I felt like I was broken.I waspunishingmyself for my feelings, butMark reassured me that my situation was not unique in the slightest and that he spoke todads like me on adaily basis.Knowing this was the single most important fact that helped me becomea better dad.
2.The love you have for your childmighthave to be unearthed, worked forand polished like a rough diamond.
I had just assumed that I would love Vesper sodeeplyand unconditionallyfrom day one. This is what I had been told was the norm. I thoughtthat the sleepless nights, the crying,the burden it puts on your relationship with your partner, etc would alljust fade into insignificance.Imagine mydespairwhen I didn’t have the feeling of unconditional love that I had been promised.
What I can say with the benefit of hindsightisthat I now know that it’s the struggleand the fight to have a relationship with your child that makes the love that much sweeter.It’sthe struggle that makes the reward soworthwhile. Seeing your daughter smile, or hearing her giggle for the first time is so much sweeter when you’ve had to battle a few lows to get there.
3.Being stressed, stresses your baby!If Olivia had had Vesper for a whole day, I felt it my duty to take heras much as possible in the evening to give herbreak. Sadly I wasn’t able to separate the work stress or financial worries from home life, which would lead me to being ill equipped to look after a baby. I learned that it’s much better if I just say ‘Darling, I really don’t thinkI’min the right place to sooth a screaming baby right now’.
Olivia would sometimes take Vesper when it all got too much for me and Iwould sit with them bothand just be there for Olivia, which was actually a great help for her having spent all day alone.
4.It’s good to talk.The single best thing you can do is also the single hardest thing to do. We live in a generation where for some reason talking about the state of your mental health to a medical professional is so much harder than walking into a hospital and showing doctor a nasty cut, or having lumps and bumps examined. It’s especially bad for men!
I can’t tell you why that is, but what I can tell you 100% without exception that telling someone you’re having a shit time of things, will always help. Swallow you’re pride, tell your partner, tell a friend, see a councillor, tell that guy at work you’ve never said more than ‘alright’to. For God’ssake, just tell someone.
The issues I had were far more complicated and wide reaching than I could ever hope to explain in a single blog post, which is why I have simplified them for this piece of writing. My biggest concern was that for a long while I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a journey and will require self learning, but hopefully something in this post will be the catalyst for someone in need to take that first step.
As with all good stories, this one had a happy ending. I finished buildingthehouse, renamed it and called it ‘Vespers’. The house then sold in 4 weeks. I have the most beautiful relationship with mydaughter who I love unconditionally. What I had always wanted. While being dad is still at times the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, I feel so well equipped to handle it now that my mental state of mind is in check. I’m now able to understand Vespers needs, know how to make her smile and how to sooth her when she cries. As we wean her off breast milk, it’s now my job to settle her to sleep every night as it’s much easier to do it without the smell and temptation ofOlivia’s milk. I look forward to bed timeeveryday as I get to sing to her, stare into her eyes and watch her drift off to sleep in my arms.
I know of other fathers who have experienced similar and allowed their frustrations to manifest as shouting at a baby. I also know that they have been too ashamed to talk to anyone, and their partners don’t want others to know about it either. It is not my place to approach them and to explain that I’ve had the same, and thatit’s behind me. I want this biggest lesson from this to be that dads (and mums for that matter) must feel that they can approach anyone and tell them all is not well without fear of persecution.
At the end of the day, no one would dare deny that parenting is the most challenging experience one can go through, but also without doubt the most rewarding when you come out the other side smelling of roses.
For any dads in need, feel free to drop me a line. It might be best thing you ever did.
This has got to be one of the biggest highs in life EVER!! Who else can remember those moments after their baby was born? You see this little being that you’ve made and grown for the first time.. you smell her little head, watch her screwed up little face trying to look beyond the swollen nose and eyebrows to work out if your baby looks like Mum or Dad.
The couple of hours after Delphi was born was amazing. We were left in the room in skin to skin, with dim lights just to get to know this brand new baby girl. It was a magical time all round as Rob got his hands on a coffee for the first time that night (it was about 5am!). The midwife threw in some toast too so it was pretty much perfect.
I’m under no illusion that it’s always this magical and always this early. After long births or ones that have had intervention, it can be really overwhelming and tiredness can become all consuming. But there will be a time, maybe a couple of hours later or a couple of days, if baby is in SCBU or if you’re feeling shattered where you can enjoy this time.
I did hypnobirthing with one couple who focussed more on this time than the birth itself. She thought to herself that no matter how Birth happened she wanted to do everything in her power to ensure that she got her “Baby Bubble”. She delayed weighing, wanted dim lights and uninterrupted skin to skin. It’s these moments that you could argue means so much more than the birth itself.
This Golden Hour has so many benefits such as helping with bonding, breastfeeding, helping your baby adapt to life in the big wide world. The rush of love can happen now or it can happen in the next few days, never beat yourself up if this doesn’t happen straight away as birth can be overwhelming.
Any pregnant Mums thought about this time and how you’d like it to be?
What was your first couple of hours like with your baby? Join the conversation here.
Why is it you get home with your newborn baby and for the first few days/weeks they sleep? This is easy as pie, you think 💭 feeling smug, I have struck gold with a “sleeper”. Then as the weeks tick by your baby tends to turn into a baby that no longer knows how to sleep. Then you think 💭 I’ve broke my baby 🤷🏼♀️.
So I learnt from lovely, fellow Mum Helen that there’s a reason for this madness…
MELATONIN – the hormone that makes us sleep. A baby doesn’t start to produce this hormone till about 8 weeks. When a baby is born they have their mothers melatonin in their system making them often sleep beautifully until it starts to run out. They then have to build it up again from 8 weeks, hence the 8 week sleep regression 💡.
Delphi is currently coming up to 8 weeks and we’ve had a fair few sleepless nights. Knowing this nugget of info though has made me realise that I actually haven’t broke my baby at all, she’s not the real child of Voldemort (if you know you know!) and that it’s not only just normal but there’s a reason for it.
The most wonderful thing I gained from yesterday was knowing that this early on there’s nothing that you can do to control your baby’s sleep💤 SO STOP TRYING!!! What I can control though is how us as a family deal with it and accommodate this little sleep thief. It goes back to – Control the things you can, let go of the things you can’t – which is one of my favourite birth motos.
Whoever said breastfeeding was a walk in the park LIED!! Well at least for lots of women anyway.
That latch that midwives go on about sooooo much is so important because…
▪️ If the latch isn’t quite right your nipples can become sore and even cracked.
▫️ Your baby won’t be getting enough of a milk supply if the latch isn’t quite right which means that your baby may not be getting enough milk and this can also in turn reduce your supply.
Both the above can make breastfeeding VERY challenging.
Look at the way the mother in this photo is holding her baby. Just like we do when we grab a drink we tilt our head back- so the best way to hold your baby whilst feeding is by not holding the back of their head… Sounds like an alien concept though, right? Growing up we are encouraged to “hold the baby’s head!!!!” where as during breastfeeding this isn’t the case and supporting them by their shoulders and neck instead is a better way to encourage and support feeding.
We know how important feeding is to new parents and their babies, be that breast or bottle. So we’ve roped in Infant Feeding Specialist Midwife Sue to come and share her tips with you at antenatal class. You know lack of support is thought to be the biggest reasons why mothers choosing and wishing to breastfeed end up stopping, which is why we have your back ❤️ we think if you want to do it, it helps if your breastfeeding journey starts in pregnancy so it’s always included at antenatal.
Another tip for pregnant mothers is to head over to a breastfeeding support group in your area whilst you are on maternity leave before baby arrives. This is so that when you need to go there for breastfeeding support, you have already met some people there, you already know where you’re going and where to park. By doing this you’ll really be helping your sleep deprived & emotional future self.
Her whole face lights up when she looks in my eyes, like my eyes are the best thing she’s ever seen.
When she hears my voice, even when it’s just a whisper, she stops to hear me. And even though she can’t yet understand what I’m saying she hangs off my every word.
My body, with all its lumps and bumps is the comfiest place to sleep, better than any Premier Inn mattress. My skin is more comforting to her than the finest Egyptian cotton.
She’ll cry when she feels alone, her bottom lip will turn upside down and when I hold her close she knows that she is safe. The closer the better.
To her.. My boobs are the best boobs in town!
This baby of mine so small and new knows nothing more than me.
Soon her eyes will look far past me at this beautiful world…
She will know the mayhem of her siblings and the dog. Her face will light up when she sees them. She will enjoy colour and toys, or Peppa Pig. She will see the trees, flowers, hills and shout “I can see the sea!” With the same look on her face how she looks at me now.
She’ll get excited at the sound of her Daddy coming home from work, her siblings waking up in the morning. Soon her favourite nursery rhyme, her favourite band, her most inspirational teacher will be the sounds that grab her attention.
She’ll no longer fall asleep in my arms. She will want her space. She’ll want a big toddler bed, she’ll learn to nap on journeys in the car, she’ll want her own room. Soon sleepovers will be the best thing to do on a Saturday night.
She’ll find safety in others, her Daddy, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends. She will learn independence, freedom and will enjoy her time away from me with others she will grow to love.
She will soon be weaning and loving the tastes of things other than milk. She’ll discover the wonders of chocolate and spices and feel the excitement of going to McDonalds.
I’m looking forward to her exploring and discovering the world, watching her find wonder in it all. But for this moment whilst she’s little and cwtched up next to me I’m going to enjoy being her only world 🌍.
Soak in your little ones as well as the sunshine this weekend.