A phrase exclaimed by the fictional lead, Dr Sam Beckett, of the great sci-fi drama ‘Quantum Leap’, was something I felt like saying in the early days of fatherhood and still do now, but less so nowadays.
I now stare at my gorgeously cute 14 week daughter as she plays on her bouncy chair, plays with her hands, intermittently stares at me, blows saliva bubbles and slips out a cute smile.
I really struggled in those first couple of months, as I felt inadequate as a new father, because I felt I couldn’t console her when she was upset and until we made some changes, I just felt I had a dark cloud of despair over me. I was convinced I had ‘paternal postnatal depression’, especially because I felt I hadn’t bonded with her and dreaded having to look after her.
It has taken about 3 months to work out her ‘routine’ ie feeding cues, pooing cues, sleeping cues and sometimes I literally have no clue. We had many days and weeks of incessant crying where we had no idea why our baby was upset. Wind was often what we thought was wrong with her, but it eventually turned out that when she cried a lot, it was because our baby was hungry.
Changes were made to make things easier for us both eg I slept in the spare bedroom. I looked after her from 10pm to 1am if I had a work day the next day or till 3am if I didn’t. I watched trash TV (Love Island, Netflix) and tried to get her asleep on me, sometimes in the Ergo carrier, so I could transfer her to the bedside cot.
Also I started work half an hour later so I could take baby from E at approx 6.15-6.30am and have her for 2 hours so E could get some catch up sleep. These 2 hours also allowed me to see the ‘morning smiles’ E had mentioned that I never got to see. The changes allowed me to get some sleep because I often felt ‘wrecked’ each morning going to work which in turn affected my mood. Adjusting to the shock of sleep deprivation didn’t thankfully take as long as expected.
I tried to get advice from friends, family and even NCT ‘friends’ but got various opinions, with the general feeling that as a man ‘I should just get on with it’, because I wasn’t even doing all the hard work eg breastfeeding, looking after her all day. Thankfully E was a bit more understanding.
Maybe we didn’t listen or no-one ever says, but the truth regarding those early few weeks of parenthood is that it can be quite hellish. We both struggled with our babybut managed with perseverance to get through things, together.
And now at 14 weeks, whilst on holiday in Italy during a European heatwave, I feel much more confident about being a new father.
After much thought over these past 2 weeks whilst on holiday, I know what the root cause of my various anxieties are and how they are impacting on my fatherhood. Bullying.
As a child I was bullied mercilessly from the age of 12 to 18 years. My secondary school years were miserable. As a result, I developed anxiety issues when in groups and have bouts of low self confidence with shyness when stressed. Together with the tumultuous childhood, difficult sister and occasionally stressful job AND new baby, maybe my puny psyche has struggled when under the stress.
I’m now seeing counsellor and hope I can finally discuss the bullying and how I feel it has had a major impact on my adult life.
Anyway, that was a big post! Things are slowly developing into a routine. Our baby is super cute and super smiley and each day as she gets older, she and I learn something new. 😃