Who’s the Daddy? (The long road)

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and I haven’t slept for two days.

I can hear our new baby screaming downstairs as her dad tries to comfort her. I close my eyes and sink deeper into the bath I’ve been looking forward to since giving birth 24 hours earlier.

When the screams get louder I run downstairs, naked and soaking wet, to check all is well. It isn’t. The (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine is pacing up and down with the tiny Frog on his shoulder, trying to calm her. He looks terrified.

This was just the beginning.

When I was pregnant, I remember being asked what most scared me about life with a baby. It wasn’t the nappies, or the breastfeeding, or the colic or the weaning. It wasn’t the new responsibility or the feeling I was going to be judged as a mum. I was prepared for all these things. I’d read the books and trawled the web. I’d been part of a big, breeding family my whole life so babies were nothing new. No, what really scared me – and I mean scared me – was how my partner would handle life as a dad.

It wasn’t that he was ill prepared. He’d come to the antenatal classes, read (well, skimmed) the books. His job as a teacher meant he was used to children. But he was so laid back about the whole thing. I had never seen him stressed before. And I couldn’t see how that calm exterior would survive a bawling new baby.

I was right to be scared.

Before Frog was born we had never really argued, not properly. Two weeks after her birth, cue the first argument. It started about five minutes after Frog began crying, when the NLM made a comment that she cried all the time. Immediately defensive of my beautiful baby (how could he say that? Couldn’t he see she was gorgeous? She’s just a tiny baby? etc etc) I rounded on him. I can’t remember what was said, but there were raised voices. This was completely new to us. We didn’t “do” raised voices. What was happening?

And then I started worrying. If the NLM was at his computer I’d thrust the baby into his hands for some “bonding” time. I would make excuses to leave the room so he could have time alone with his daughter, all the while trying to spy on them from the doorway.

Other dads didn’t help. We’d be out shopping and they’d be carrying their newborns round in slings, looking serene. We’d be in baby-changing rooms and it all seemed to be dads dealing with the dirty nappies. Baby swimming lessons and, surprise surprise, it was the dads in the pool – confident, laughing, happy. All the while the NLM shrunk deeper and deeper into himself, finding solace and peace at his computer.

I snapped.

Another row, this time with even more shouting. I was sobbing, clutching a sleeping Frog to me as I demanded over and over “why don’t you just hold her?” And he replied “What’s the point? She’s not interested in me.”

More crying and this time – honesty. The NLM admitted he couldn’t get the images of the birth out of his head. He was still shocked at the pain I was in and the way he was helpless to do anything. He felt pushed-aside, jealous almost, of this tiny thing that demanded so much of my attention. He didn’t know what to do when she cried. He missed me – missed “us”. He felt scared all the time. Scared of this huge weight of responsibility that sat squarely on his shoulders. He didn’t know it would be like this.

And, looking back, that was when his relationship with Frog really began.

It was such a relief for him – and me – to finally be honest. I knew what he was feeling and could understand it. He didn’t feel that he had to pretend to be the “perfect” dad anymore. He just had to work out his own way to be dad.

Now, when the NLM comes home from work, Frog’s face lights up. She cackles with laughter when his head pops round the door. She kicks her legs with delight when he’s in the room. They’re friends.

OK, so he doesn’t know all the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And he’s never worn her in the sling (he says it “gives him asthma”), but he’s fun and loving and protective. Frog is lucky to have such a wonderful dad. Even if he doesn’t always do things the conventional way…

This is my entry for this week’s Gallery. Pop over to Sticky Fingers to see the rest of the entries.

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66 Comments

Filed under Baby stuff, Family

66 responses to “Who’s the Daddy? (The long road)

  1. I was speaking to my MIL last week about how men can feel after having a baby, apparently male post-natal depression is a recognised condition these days. It must be hard for them as they do get forgotten what with all the focus being on us during the birth and then the baby afterwards. I’m glad everything got sorted out, honesty is always the best way of sorting out problems. I might be extra nice to dad2babyinsomniac tonight 🙂 x

    • I expect this is a really common problem, but one which often happens behind closed doors. I think it may have helped the NLM more at the time if he thought others were in the same boat. It would have helped me too, as I would have been more able to support him through it. x

  2. What a wonderfully honest post, so moving. The idea of Dads suffering from Post Natal issues is only recently being acknowledged and talked about in the media. I’m so glad the honesty came and helped pave the way to a relationship with Frog. It must be so hard for men to make the transition to being a father. Hope your husband has a wonderful Father’s Day with his little girl!! xxx

  3. mummymummymum

    Gorgeous photos! Maybe its harder for men than we think? xx

  4. Very interesting post, and ultimately, very uplifting. Thank goodness he had a supportive other half to help him through the bonding process at the beginning.

    • Thank you – I’m not sure how supportive I actually was at the beginning though! I think it goes to show how important it is to be honest about your feelings. That’s what we found anyway.

  5. That is such a sweet photo.

  6. mutteringsofafool

    I have an 8 week old so can relate to how he feels/felt, it’s tough not being able to do anything during the birth and if you’re breast feeding then nothing to help feed either. You end up just changing nappies and trying to calm crying babies! Plus if the man is the one going to work then you actually don’t see a lot fo the baby anyway. However I think your last photo really captures what it’s about, this is dad time and I’m sure will only increase in the future. Girls and their dad’s have amazing relationships, it just takes a bit more time to develop.

    • Wise words indeed – where were you a year ago?! It’s amazing to see the bond develop and strengthen between them every day. And I think those difficult early days have ironically meant a better relationship now somehow, for all of us.

  7. What a great post, and it is brilliant that you shared this as I am sure that others feel the same but this just isn’t covered in the books. Love that last photo, there is a lot of love there.

  8. A moving post. Thank you for opening up about it.

  9. Awww, that’s lovely. You are right, it’s hard for new mums to realise that sometimes the dads are struggling too. DH is much better with babies than I am, he’d have another if we could, but babies grow into children and we both struggle with those…

  10. Sometimes us mums get caught up in the fact it is all happening to us, it’s easy to push partner’s asude and be a bit of a control freak like only we know best! Lovely honest post. I’m so glad all worked out and they have a good relationship now 🙂

  11. Refreshingly honest! It’s a great post, and love the photos. Nat

  12. Oh I want to hug nlm.

    Can I….

  13. I remember my husband saying after our first baby had been home for about a week – ‘So is that all she does?’ Yes darling – not quite your performing monkey just yet.

  14. A fantastic honest post and i think a lot of men feel that way. Suddenly they realise that you would give your life for something else. Once they realise that you love them even more for feeling the same way they then get it. What a fab man you and a credit to your relationship that you can be so open with each other. x

  15. oh my gosh *sniff* brilliantly honest and emotional post – any pre-natal Dads should read this, so many Dad’s have similar experiences but it’s another one of those taboos rarely explored – brilliant. You both should be very proud.

    • Thank you so much. I really couldn’t decide whether to post it or not but I think it’s good to be open about these things. That was our downfall in the beginning I think – thinking that everyone else was coping amazingly well. I expect there are lots of couples in similar situations though.

  16. I had only just stopped crying at all the Father’s Day Gallery posts, and then I read this. What a wonderful and honest post. So glad that the rough time didn’t last for long and I really hope he has a fantastic Father’s Day (and you enjoy it too of course!)…

    Emma 🙂

    PS. How gorgeous is that last photograph?!

  17. Oh, goodness. I loved this whole entry, but the last picture? Priceless. Aw.

  18. The whole stress of the relationship thing is exactly what happened to us too. we never argued, completely got along but once G was born, never had I known so much tension in our house. Exactly the same reactions too, clamming up, withdrawing, not trying. Like you we did eventually sort it out. Certainly the most stressful time of our relationship but certainly made ‘us’ a lit stronger.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • I expect it’s something that lots of couples go through. So important to be honest and open about these things. And, I suppose, to accept that the odd row is part and parcel of getting through what can be a stressful and exhausting time.

  19. What a sweet, honest post. It’s a tough gig being a dad and bonding with a little baby – dads don’t have to endure the pain of labour, but they also don’t get the entonox, the endorphins, the hormones or the other helpful stuff. They have to bond manually, slowly over time.

    Lovely closing pic, glad to hear they have grown into great buddies now.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment. It’s true it must be hard for dads as they haven’t carried the baby for 9 months. For me, I already felt bonded with F before she was even born and I didn’t really consider at the time this wasn’t the case at all with the NLM. x

  20. Oh wow I am so glad I have discovered your blog! What a moving post. The Hubster says to me that he didn’t properly ‘love’ our babies until they were 6 months and started ‘doing stuff’. This doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have killed to protect them etc etc, but it did take that long for him to be ‘interested’ in them ( in the nicest possible way!). Now at 3 and a half and 11 months they are the sparkles that brighten up his day time and time again. Can’t wait to explore your blog some more! Check mine out if you ever get a chance x

    • Thank you, I will! The NLM used to say “I can’t wait until she’s talking” etc etc and I used to get cross that he was wishing her life away. But now, I can see what he meant. I know he finds things so much easier now she can interact with him. x

  21. What a lucky daughter you have. She has bloody brilliant parents.
    Congratulations for your honesty and communication and perseverance and patience.
    It is not easy to be vulnerable but being vulnerable is the path to strength.

    Very moving post indeed.
    xx

  22. Nel

    Its so easy to forget the dads when we come home with our new babies. Poor old NLM. I’m glad she is a happy daddy now.

    ps. love the “it gives me asthma”. Of course it does darling.

  23. Oh wow. This really moved me.

    The images are wonderful but for me it’s all about the words.

    I’m so glad that the two of them are growing so close now.

  24. Ghislaine Forbes

    Nice photo. He’s taken that bloody silly cap off at last!

    ma x

  25. Your best blog to date Miss Forbes. Brilliantly written and had a lump in my throat reading it. You just have an incredible way with words – love having you in my life, friend. xxx

  26. Absolutely love the idea that the babysling gives him asthma – I must use that line next time I don’t want to do something!. But serisouly goad it’s all coming together for the three of you! x

  27. Eek – sorry it posted before I could correct all the typos x

  28. really enjoyed reading this post

  29. This is a gorgeous post and I admire your honesty – I find it difficult writing about my relationship in my blog, sometimes it feels a little too revealing.
    But at least you can look back now and think about how hard those first days were, but how far you have come and what a lovely dad the (self-proclaimed) NLM is now x
    PS After the tears, did you feel that writing this all down helped?x

    • Definitely – and all the lovely comments have made me realise we weren’t the only ones to go through this, lots of couples experience the same but it still seems quite a taboo subject. Thanks for your kind words, as ever. xxx

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  32. This is one heart felt post. I have just seen this post through Tots 100 although you wrote it a while ago. We went through a similar situation. In fact my husband was warned by a friend to be prepared to feel useless for a while and that at around 6 months he will be more involved. He still wasn’t prepared and I don’t think it was helped by the fact he became so anxious before the birth thinking I might die etc. Labour day he was fantastic and then it changed after that. As I breastfed I know that was a factor and as my son has got older it has obviously changed. He still does complain about missing ‘us’ as well and my son is very much a mummy’s boy so that doesn’t help at times! There are moments that I just stand and watch them when they are being really close and it makes my heart melt, it’s just not as often as I would like x

    • I know exactly what you mean about it making your heart melt. When I took that last picture in this post neither of them realised I was there. I love seeing them having fun together and I do think that those difficult early days make us appreciate what we’ve got more now. x

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  34. A lovely post. It is very hard for men as well, but they often feel they can’t complain when we are the ones that have done the hard work of birth and breastfeeding. I remember the night my husband bonded with our eldest child. It was the second night of being home, we’d been through a 30-hour birth and already one night of no sleep. All the endorphins had worn off for me and I was exhausted, beyond functioning. The baby just kept crying and crying. In tears, and feeling like a failure I handed her over to my husband who promised to do his best for an hour so that I could get a little sleep. I left them with great misgivings, my daughter was howling and I was not at all confident that my husband, who was holding her in an awkward ‘I’ve just been passed a rugby ball”-hold, would be able to do much. Four hours later, I woke up and panicked at the silence, convinced they must both be dead. I found them in the living room, my daughter snoozing in daddy’s big hands like a contented pink piglet, and my husband gazing at her in wonder.

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