I Am Your Father – Part 12: Baby’s First Smile

We are now five weeks in and, despite the happy title, this has been one of our most challenging weeks yet…

Reminder: This blog is the work of a sleep-deprived, first-time parent, trying to talk frankly and honestly about his experience. I make no apologies for the language used.


M’boy is now a whopping 12lbs, still in the 91st percentile, which is bloody miraculous given everything that’s happened in the past few weeks. I think the novelty is starting to wear off and the adrenaline reserves are running low…

The smile that (almost) makes it all worthwhile [left] and it looks like I’m not going anywhere for a while… [right]

Back to Work

For the last four weeks, I have been on paternity leave, so I’ve been able to focus all my efforts on looking after m’wife and m’boy. But now, that is over. Most dads must go through something like this, but because of the lockdown, the transition has been really difficult for me.

Part of the problem is that I’m stuck working from home, which means that I can hear when m’boy is crying and that is hard to ignore. I’m trying to help out as much as possible – because no-one else can! – but I also have to get some actual work done… it’s proving to be a difficult balancing act.

Health Issues

On top of all that, m’wife has developed anaemia and mastitis, plus both her and m’boy have developed a minor infection. This all means that he is more unsettled than ever and m’wife is really struggling. It’s so hard watching her going through all this and knowing that there isn’t much I can do.

Because m’wife wants to breastfeed and because she is… what’s the polite word for stubborn again? Anyway, she has to do all the feeding, which can take hours if he is particularly unsettled. Frankly, I’m amazed that she has been able to persevere, given how much pain she is clearly in and how little sleep she is getting. The fact that he’s still putting on weight at such a rate is about the only good news we have to report right now.

Sleep Update

I should probably explain that the current advice is that the baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first six months. This is to avoid SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as it is so calmingly named! So, we’ve got a Moses basket, which I lug downstairs so he can sleep in it during the day and then carry back up for the night. For the first few weeks, he was settling in it quite happily, but it’s getting more difficult to get him to go down. I’m not sure if that’s due to his health problems or just normal development. Anyway, he’s already getting a bit big for it, so he’ll probably be moving into the cot soon. I should probably get round to assembling that at some point!

According to my Fitbit, I’ve been getting about 7 hours of sleep, on average. This sounds great, but it’s really not the same when its in small chunks with regular interruptions. Obviously, it’s worse for m’wife, who is getting up several times a night for feeds. Often, she’s only getting maybe two hour’s sleep between hour-long feeds. She is exhausted and is trying to catch up on sleep as much as she can during the day, but it’s just not enough.

I’m doing OK, relatively at least. Well enough to look do my part and after them both anyway, but it’s becoming more and more of a struggle. There’s a reason why they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture!

Lockdown Life

At this point, very few people have seen m’boy in person and those who have, have only seen him through the window. A few people have very kindly dropped some supplies off for us and briefly chatted through the window/quarantine screen, but that’s about it (apart from the occasional Zoom call).

At time of writing, no-one is allowed into each other’s houses, so no-one is able to come round and help. M’wife has been going out on socially-distant walks with her immediate family, but that’s no substitute. We did go for an experimental garden visit with her parents, which turned out to be very helpful as it meant that, for example, m’wife could feed in front of her mum and get some feedback and advice. However, this just served to underline the fact that hands-on help is something that we have sorely missed due to the lockdown restrictions!

The First Smile

On a happier note, we did get our first smile out of him a couple of days ago. He has pulled a few faces resembling a smile before, but that was mostly just gas! It’s hard to describe, but we could both tell that he was close to smiling for a few days, so we had the camera ready when it finally happened.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “the smile made it all worthwhile”. Maybe it would have done under less difficult circumstances. However, for a brief, shining moment, there was real joy in our lives and we’re hoping that as these smiles become more frequent, the journey will seem less difficult.

Life Hack #2

Continuing my reviews of the gadgets and techniques we’ve been using to help us out, I want to mention Olly the Owl.

He sits by the bed, has a night-light and plays a range of sounds and music. When we first brought m’boy home, we set Olly to play heartbeat noises, which are apparently similar to what the baby hears in the womb. More recently, we’ve been playing white noise, which also seems to calm babies down for whatever reason.

After a while, Olly goes quiet but his sensors trigger the sound whenever the baby starts to grumble, the idea being that the soothing sound sends them back to sleep and prevents them crying. I don’t really care why it works, but it seems to work at least 2/3 times!

We are still aware of the noise and wake up every time it starts playing but it’s not as bad as waking to the sound of crying. I think the heartbeat, in particular, is quite soothing and I’m quite tempted to keep Olly in our room when m’boy moves out to the nursery!

Full disclosure; he seemed quite expensive and was one of the few things that we’ve bought new and paid full price for (rather than getting him second-hand), but we believe he was worth every penny. Even if it only works one in three times, it’s worth it for the extra sleep!

Final Thoughts

Things are getting a lot harder. I think we could probably have coped with everything that has happened without the lockdown, or vice-versa, but this is the situation we find ourselves in. I think we could really do with a bit of extra help, but we’re just going to have to find a way to keep going for now.

Hopefully, things will start to improve in the coming weeks, particularly now smiles are happening.