bairn blog: a tale of three henleys

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07:08pm Friday, 19th May 2006

Warning. Outpouring of heart and mind imminent! Those of a nervous disposition would be better off here

So ends a cerazy and emotional, but ultimately rewarding, week for the Three Henleys.

As Peta mentioned, I was a bit upset earlier in the week, stemming from a number of factors. Since being back at work I was feeling I hadn’t bonded with Gethin as much as I should have. Getting up with the early feed, getting ready for work, going to work, working and getting back just in time for Gethin’s early evening feed and bed was inevitably restricting the amount of time I was spending with the wee fella, and provided a bit of a skewed snapshot of the full spectrum of his behaviour (usually catching him at his sleepy, grizzly best).

This was making the times we were spending together quite frustrating as I was struggling to understand what was upsetting him when he was upset – coupled with the fact that he was obviously much more at ease with Peta. It was inevitable that being a stay-at-home mum, Peta was going to bond more with Gethin in these early stages but it has been quite a bitter pill to swallow.

Gethin wasn’t even getting particularly upset but there is something inherent in being a dad about needing to know why a baby is crying/upset, when in fact sometimes they just do. It must derive from the same mindset as our blokish obsession with DIY, something which must have begun in our ancestral days of yore:

“Ug. Is broke. Must fix. Preferably, must buy new tool to help fix. Can’t fix. Panic.”

I was beginning to pass Gethin to Peta at the slightest murmer and before we had refined his routine earlier in the week this was happening quite often. I was losing all confidence in my abilities as a father. I think in the first week that Gethin was home I felt completely in control. Super dad! But as you will know, not everything was as it seemed and Gethin had to go back into hospital. Having lost a significant amount of weight I had clearly not been such a super dad and I think at the time both Peta and I had felt that we had failed to some extent as first-time mummy and daddy. Good start to this parenting malarky! I know this is all rubbish but it is something that pops into you head from time to time and had been lurking in my head still.

I had also lost a lot of confidence handling Gethin after the wee accident when he fell out of the sling. Having always been a clumsy oaf – often to comedic effect – I was worried that a similar accident might not be far away and with less fortunate results. Peta had noticed I had been holding Gethin like I was handling a flask of nuclear waste and simple things like putting him in and out of bed, or in and out of the car seat, were becoming quite stressful. I’d be about to lower him into the cot at night and forget how to put him down.

Anyway, a number of things were generally amounting to a quite stressful daddy. What if I do drop him? Why is he crying? Is he ill? Why is he crying when I am holding him but calm when Peta holds him? To make things worse all these things were being stockpiled at the back of my head whilst I was actively putting Gethin quite literally at arms length.

Peta and I had a chat about it on Monday evening which really helped. Talking about things that I had been thinking about for a month but kept to myself was a great relief. Then on Tuesday, after a trip to Edinburgh, Peta bought home a book her midwife had recommended which has been a massive relief: Baby Bliss by Harvey Karp. Reading the book made me realise how normal/common many of the feeling I had been experiencing were.

In the opening chapter it has cartoon pictures of two babies – a sit-up-and-smiling two-month old and a screaming two-week old. Using these pictures it talks about how all newbie parents expect the first baby before the birth of their first child yet on d-day are confronted with the latter baby. This can be quite a struggle for all parents and has certainly been the case for me. Something that is so obvious but I had never quite prepared myself for.

The book also enlightened me to the seldom reported but quite commonplace six-week blip. Apparently most babies have a growth spurt at six weeks and are determined to let all in earshot know about it. That certainly might explain Gethin’s erratic sleeping and moods this past week or so. Baby Bliss also presents some quite interesting ideas about baby development, suggesting that the mental and physical development of babies requires a fourth-trimester but, due to physical necessity, is curtailed after nine months. You will have to buy a copy to find out more but it excellently written and has some really comforting food for thought, as well as some sound tips for settling your crying baby (yet to try them all out).

So, all is well in camp Henley once more. Dad is at long last a bit more chilled and enjoying, rather than fearing, time with his son. We are all going on a mini-adventure tomorrow to New Lanark – let’s hope the weather is on good behaviour.