Erin is officially 6 months old (22nd of September) and I'm not going to lie, to me, that's mental. Those six months have just flown by, it only feels like yesterday I was waiting to get the call to come into the hospital. Now, I've had 6 months of being a Dad to the greatest baby girl, a little messer that I love to bits and who's moving on to solids.
Whoever came up with the saying "They grow up so fast", fucking hit the nail on the head that day.
First day & night home
I remember the Friday I brought Ruth and Erin home from the hospital. I was absolutely buzzing driving over and getting to see them both after an extended stay in the hospital due to jaundice and restrictions. I couldn't remember the last time I felt that sheer excitement. I was about to do "Dad", get to parent, hold Erin, feed her, help Ruth, change my first nappy, introduce her to Indie.
Looking back on that day and after speaking with Ruth. It was an overwhelming day full of emotions, thoughts, and anxieties for both of us. For myself, it was the emotion of seeing Erin again and the mixture of excitement and anxiety that I now have to look after her until she's an adult basically.
For Ruth, she felt out of sorts. Having spent the best part of a week in the hospital with midwives on hand if needed. Ruth had gotten used to the setup there. Knew where the nappies were, the bottles etc. As a new Mom, then thrust back into a house with both myself and Indie going mental with excitement. Who then had to supervise me changing my first nappy, do feeds, figure out where everything was again etc. It was a happy time yes but, also daunting, tiring and scary that she didn't have the midwives to rely on, just in case. Also, she had a baby a few days prior and was still shattered from that.
That first night I stayed awake in bed while Ruth slept just so someone was watching Erin. It just gave a bit of peace of mind to Ruth that someone was looking after Erin.
That feeling of having Erin in my arms, watching her sleep that first night was one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. I almost felt I was staring too much, I couldn't get enough of her.
I was looking at Erin a bit flabbergasted (great word) that "We made you! It's mad".
That first night holding Erin is a memory I'll cherish until the day I'm lifted down the aisle to the song "Highway to Hell".
Mind you, I was shattered at this point too. I remember fighting the tiredness, watching Netflix on my phone while at the same moment, internally, I could hear the midwife from the Baby Academy Ireland antenatal class say "never fall asleep with a baby in your arms, in case they fall out or they suffocate".
Trust me when that thought pops into your head lads, it's like a shot of adrenaline to keep your ass awake.
I'm sharing this as it might give new Dads a heads up before welcoming your little family home. Be conscious that your other half is experiencing something different to you and perhaps give her some extra space to find her bearings after coming back from the hospital.
Perhaps, it might have been different for me had I been able to visit Ruth & Erin in the hospital before they came home. It may have been less of an adjustment, but I'll never know.
I've shared a lot in previous blogs about those early weeks but that first day and night at home, for me as the Dad was special. So, to any expecting first-time Dads. Enjoy every bit of it... but drink plenty of coffee if you plan on staying awake all night.
Being a Dad is hard work
Being a Dad is hard work. Gents those early weeks of setting an alarm to wake every 3 hours for feeds are rough but will flash by in the blink of an eye. Trust me, even though at the time you wonder will you ever have a full nights sleep again? While at the same time your darling baby has just spat up on your back and said sick is now rolling down your back towards your arse crack at a rapid pace. All the while the mother of your child thinks you're grunting and angry over the fact she's asked you to do a 3 am nappy change.
Not the case, of course, just no one wants baby sick rolling down their back into the crack of their arse. Then what happens next... the baby craps on your hand while changing them and also narrowly misses the white wall with their projectile faeces.
The reality is lads, yes being a Dad is hard work but it's enjoyable and so feckin rewarding once your little one starts interacting with you.
Now I will say this, from close David Attenborough style observation, it's nowhere near as hard as what is required to be a mother. Especially, in my case, one who is breastfeeding.
I was never in doubt about how great a mother Ruth would be. But by god has she blown my expectations out of the water. Breastfeeding alone is a tough job. There are so many things to know, positions, latches, blocked ducts, pumping and the list goes on. Any obstacle on this front she's overcome and has provided the best start in life to our daughter. Something as the Dad, we can't but only admire.
Then you add in recovering from childbirth while also balancing the list of things a baby needs on a daily basis, appointments, social occasions, trying to get some semblance of a life back and sure for kicks and giggles a pandemic to contend with too.
She's an amazing mother and Erin, Indie and I are lucky to have Ruth in our lives.
Yes I help, I try to be as involved in every aspect as a parent but your partner will inevitably spend more time with your child on maternity leave while you're at work and hence there can be the feeling of "not getting a break" for your partner.
One thing you can do as the Dad, that your wife/partner can't do, is be the person to give them a break.
Another thing I've noticed over the last 6 months is 'Parents Know'. It's a head nod while walking past or when you're dealing with a screaming baby they might throw ya a look to say "I know how ya feel". Now, unless you work in childcare perhaps, I still feel until you have a baby of your own you don't 'really' know.
If you don't have a baby or child and think you know or have an idea. I'm sorry, but you don't, all you're getting is the 3-minute sports highlights version. You get the afternoon to play with them, dote on them, get the giggles and change a single nappy maybe. The parents have the 24 hours around the clock version which involves being up during the night, cranky episodes, horrendous nappies, scrubbing out poo stains with a Vanish bar, them spitting up after you've just put them in that nice new outfit and the feeling you're doomed to a life of milk stained clothing.
And even when they're asleep or you're not with them. You're thinking about them and what's the next thing I've to do for them.
The perfect example of 'Parents Know' is when you speak to another parent about heading away with a baby or child for a weekend, a holiday or even a day out. They throw you a look in acknowledgement of firstly, just how much planning is involved with naps, feeds etc. to physically travel with a child. And secondly, just the sheer amount of fucking stuff you need to bring with you.
"Two car job it was..."
"Oh, I hear ya. I have the two cars with a roof box and all..."
People without kids can't seem to grasp that you can't go somewhere at a moments notice and can't go anywhere without bringing the entire belongings of your house seemingly.
Another example of 'Parents Know' is the understanding and appreciation of how tired you are from sleepless nights and how functioning as an adult on such little sleep is a daily struggle.
Only this morning I found myself putting an empty coffee mug into the fridge instead of the dishwasher and poured Indie's dog food into her water bowl... again.
Your Wife will Hate You
If you're going to be a Dad for the first time soon. A word of warning, your wife or partner will hate you. Why you might ask? After you helped them conceive the most gorgeous baby in the world.
The answer is simple. You make the baby smile, laugh, giggle or go into hysterics with just a smile. Your wife on the other hand just spent the last 45 minutes trying every funny face she knows, has arms flapping around, sticking their tongue out and has been making a cacophony of noises in the hope of a giggle.
In my case, I might stroll into a room say something like...
"There's my baby girl"
Erin: (Bursts out laughing) "You're so funny Dad...Do the boop thing again... (Boop!)... Hahaha... Oh, you crack me up Dad! You're so funny"
Safe to say your wife/partner feels like they just had their heart ripped out and can hear the song "Hello Darkness My Old Friend" by Simon & Garfunkel play out in their head.
You can't deal with bad news involving kids
I've noticed about myself over the past 6 months, is that any story that appears in the media that involves a baby or child negatively. I just can't deal with it.
It's like a switch went off in my head and has me immediately thinking "Christ, please don't let that happen to Erin". And then you start thinking of all these bad things that could happen to her.
You end up going down the rabbit hole. So now I tend to avoid any negative stories if I can or at least avoid hearing the details.
I can't be alone on this one?
Babies have a Death Wish
Now I can't be the only one who's thought this, but over the last say 3-4 months, once Erin has gotten more active and mobile, she seems to have a death wish.
Baby's in general seem to have this insatiable desire to want to squirm out of your arms or when given the slightest opportunity make a rolling move off to the side of the changing table.
"Where are you off to? You've just learned to roll over on your own, you can't crawl yet, you need to be fed every few hours, you get upset after too much tummy time and I'm pretty sure you haven't seen 'Baby's Day Out' yet".
How did we survive as a species
On a similar note over the past 6 months, it has occurred to me as I watch Erin grow and develop and learn new things, is just how incredible an achievement it is that we've survived as a species.
First off, we're completely useless once we're born. We literally can't do anything for ourselves except breathe, pee and poo. On top of that our skulls are soft, which isn't ideal for species that are top-heavy upon arrival into this world. We don't know how to roll over for months so if we accidentally roll onto our stomachs to sleep, well it might not end well. So we've invented items to prevent this.
Oh, it takes about 6 months before we can sit up unassisted but we've to be assisted into getting into the seated position. And then the floor looks so inviting, you know what? I might headbutt it with that soft skull of mine. Also around this time we start trying solid foods and experiencing the world by putting every object into our mouth. But wait there's more, that object or food could kill you by either choking or by finding out you're allergic to eggs or something.
Then we're onto walking and with that comes falling. Followed by experiencing the world by grabbing every hazardous item within arms reach. Oh if you were wondering what those hazardous items are? It's everything and anything.
And this is all before we step outside the bloody front door.
We're haunted we've so much information at our disposal in this day in age that we can check if this or that is ok to give to a baby. Imagine back 100's of years ago, no internet and only knowledge passed on by family.
(In an accent of yesteryear).
"Dearest Archibald, let the child partake in this fine feast and try some egg..."
(Hands baby a piece of egg to eat)
"Alas my darling Beatrice, I do believe the child is dead".
I just love Erin so much
These past 6 months have been tiring, frustrating at times and hard for both me and Ruth. No shying away from it gents. Baby's are energy-sapping frustrating little beings. But by god do I love Erin so much.
She just brightens up my day and she's my little wind-up merchant with a cheeky grin & smile. I can't get enough of her and I'm now starting to understand why people would be addicted to their kids and that addiction fuels their desire to have or give the best to them. Be it from education to sport, life decisions or whatever.
For me, something I've felt since Erin was born, is this connection with her that's arguably stronger than any other I've felt. Yes I know there's 50% of me in Erin unless Pat Mustard has been doing the rounds again.
But besides that, you get to develop this understanding, bond and connection with a little person from day 1. You get to show them the world, show them how to play, grab stuff, make them laugh and get to witness someone experiencing everything for the first time and the response it elicits.
You get to know them so well, you can tell before they know it that they're tired, hungry or are about to do poo even. I don't think I know any of my friends well enough to know what their poo face looks like. It would be very disturbing if I did.
Yes, Erin is growing up so fast and people tell me to cherish this time. Which I am, those cuddles when she falls asleep on your chest are brilliant. But I'm also looking forward to the future and the stuff we'll be able to do together as a Dad & Daughter that we can't do now.
All this stuff and more are all part of my love for Erin.
I can't wait for what's in store in the next 6 months with Halloween, Christmas, 2022 and of course her 1st birthday.
Time for writing blogs
On a different note, I'll try and get blogs out as often as I can. It's getting a little harder to find the time to sit down and write them as Erin gets bigger, with work, cleaning, exercise and taking some downtime with Ruth to relax & check in with each other.
But I'll endeavour to keep writing away.