This blog is primarily about my experiences of Shared Parental Leave however, I thought I’d start by writing about the first few months of fatherhood. Here goes,
Florence was due to go in for a planned c-section on 28th November we had, had our last appointment with the consultant on the Friday before who told us that we had an 80% chance of baby coming on the Tuesday and a 20% of baby arriving sooner. We liked those odds so we carefully planned our last weekend as a couple together which would involved a quick clean of the house, double checking we had everything we need and then spend the rest of the weekend watching films and eating rubbish...
Baby had other ideas, he decided to make his appearance on Saturday evening as we were settling down for the evening. I won’t go through the details of the birth itself but sufficed to say it all went well and Leo was born a couple of hours after Florence’s water broke.
Life would then change forever.
That moment when your wife/partner goes into Hospital and actually has the baby is a strange experience. Don’t get me wrong its amazing, its beautiful it’s the best thing ever but nevertheless really, really strange.
Let me explain, you’ve planned for this moment for months and months, you both know what is coming, you are aware of the responsibility, you plan, you prepare, you talk to friends and family for advice, you have your bags packed, you know the route to the Hospital, you know where to park but at the same time, when the baby comes, you are both bewildered by the fact that this little human is actually yours and you are responsible for him.
I think in the Hospital it's almost as if the baby belongs to the Hospital, you have loads of people coming along to perform checks on him, to give you advice, to help out, the security in the postnatal ward is rightly very strict, there locks on entry ways and they tag all the babies. Of course, it's right that they do all this but nevertheless it's not the most comfortable environment – probably the safest, both medically and physically but its not home and for me, I didn’t feel really comfortable until I was back at home.
Despite all this the Hospital were great, really supportive, provided great advice and we eventually got the go ahead to leave.
A new world:
From birth to discharge from Hospital is all a bit of a blur, it’s tiring, the days all merge into each other, you start eating rubbish and as the fatigue mixes with the sugar highs and lows the whole world becomes a-lot more confusing and complicated. Whereas once upon a time you may have had a constant minimum of 8 uninterrupted hours sleep and possible more at weekends, you can kiss all that goodbye when baby comes. And it’s not as if you are eased into this new world, no, you are thrown in at the deep end and simply have to get through it.
The good news is how quickly you adapt to this new state of affairs. Don’t get me wrong, getting up several times a night is not great but you eventually start to cope better and you learn the art of the power nap. If you are lucky some of your most memorable moments can be in the early hours of the morning, for us that was certainly the case. I remember one occasion at 5am, still in the Hospital when all three of us were up and Leo just quietly looked around the room at the new world he had been born into. We were all so peaceful and calm and we were together as a family.
This new world then is a world of contrasts. One moment you experience great joy, the next you are in a panic as baby has been screaming for what seems like hours (but is only probably minutes or even seconds). One moment you are all resting and quiet, the next you are wide awake making bottles, changing nappies or bouncing the baby back to sleep. One moment baby is settled and happy, the next he starts flapping or doing something new that looks strange and awkward and you worry whether he is ok (he probably is). Initially the contrasts seem massive and you wonder how long you can cope but as time goes on, the contrasts either start to fade or you simply get used to them. I can’t decide what has happened but three months in, I’m surviving!