Eight weeks in and, as things hit a low point, we had to make a tough call about whether to follow the orders of our
malicious and inept wise and glorious leaders or whether to prioritise the physical and mental health of us and our baby…
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 in the following post.
These last few weeks have been particularly difficult for me personally. I can work from home, so I’ve had to get back to it and I felt under great pressure to deliver on my various projects and responsibilities, but I was also painfully aware of how much m’wife was struggling and I wanted to help her out as much as I could. Achieving a life/work balance was practically impossible and neither of us was getting much down-time to recover. Now that the adrenaline reserves are well and truly spent, the effects of prolonged anxiety, isolation and sleep deprivation have really taken their toll.
I think the garden visit a couple of weeks ago made us acutely aware of what we were missing out on. It also gave m’wife’s parents the chance to see first hand just how tired we were and how much we were struggling.
It’s not just family we’re missing either. Normally m’wife would be taking m’boy to baby sensory classes or going for coffee with the other NCT mums, but none of that is running. The isolation wasn’t really getting to me so much, but its something that my wife was really struggling with.
So, this week’s lockdown update is that we have basically decided to break it. M’wife is taking m’boy round to his grandparents every weekday from nine to five, leaving me to focus on work and the odd bit of housework without having to worry about them. It’s been a game-changer and, everyone involved agreed that the wellbeing of the baby (and the mental and physical health of his parents) was a higher priority than the minimal risk to those involved. And as it turned out, the government agreed and changed the guidelines shortly afterwards.
It’s not like we’re not being careful. M’wife’s parents are both minimising their contact with other people and are both currently either working from home or off work altogether. She may only get to see her parents, but that makes all the difference, particularly as they can take him off her and give her a chance to catch up on some sleep! Anyway, it has really turned things around from the bleak and hopeless direction that they were heading in.
On the bright side, m’boy is still pretty happy and healthy (infection and broken collarbone notwithstanding) and is gaining weight at about 1lb per week, which the health visitor is very happy with. He’s up to just under a stone and is still in the 91st percentile.
To give you a sense of how big he is, some other babies from NCT are just now moving out of size 1 nappies, while m’boy has already moved up to size 3! So, at least it seems that he is happy and blissfully unaware of the chaotic nightmare of the world around him.
We’ve changed our habits and started to get into something of a routine. Instead of eating at a normal time and then taking him up to bed, we’ve started doing bathtime at 6:30 and putting him to bed at 7.
Bathtime is one of the few things I get to do with the baby, plus he loves it (even if daddy and the carpet do end up getting soaked in the process!). It’s definitely gratifying to get more smiles and laughs out of him and it really feels like he’s starting to become a bit more interactive.
Then my wife takes him upstairs and feeds him to sleep, while I cook. This means we usually eat at 8, but it can be later depending on how long it takes him to go down. There is also still a pretty high chance he will wake up and cry within a few hours, but we’re starting to feel like there might be some hope of getting our evenings back at some point in the near future.
This week I want to share two tips for dads on how to settle your baby, particularly if, like me, your wife is doing all of the feedings and you don’t have the option to give him a bottle to get him off to sleep. I find that some combination of these two things works for me most of the time.
#3 – Ergobaby Omni 360 Carrier
First, get a baby carrier. We got an Ergo Baby one, which are usually pretty expensive (though we managed to find what appears to be a genuine one on eBay for a fraction of the price). It is usable basically from birth, changes as he grows and allows him to be carried in a range of positions.
He will often settle in “the sling”, even if I just walk around the living room or sit on the yoga ball with him. Motion seems to settle him and he will (sometimes) fall asleep in it, which allows me to give m’wife that all-important extra hour-or-so of sleep. I’d still feel the pain of having to pay full price for one of these, but given the amount of use we are going to get out of it now and over the next few years, I have to admit that it’s probably worth it.
#4 – White Noise App
Secondly, download a white noise app. As I explained what I talked about Olly the Owl, white noise apparently soothes babies and it certainly seems to work with m’boy. There are a number of apps and we tried and stuck with the first one we found, which is rather unimaginatively titled “white noise baby sleep sounds”.
If he’s in the pram or in the sling, I tuck the phone in near his head with “brown noise” playing and most of the time it seems to help him get off to sleep (and stay there). It doesn’t always work, i.e. if he’s particularly hungry or needs a change, but even if it only works sometimes, it’s totally worth it!
It has been a tough few weeks, but hopefully, we’ve turned a corner. Breaking lockdown (albeit only slightly) has taken the pressure off both of us and allowed some semblance of happiness back into our lives. Fingers crossed that this will be a turning point for us!