Posted in I'm the Daddy

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby

This month I passed my one year blogging anniversary or blogiversary if you will. So yay for me! I have been wondering about how I should mark this occasion as nothing seems appropriate. My first thought was to write about what I have learnt about blogging so far, but to be frank, my insights would not be particularly revealing. I may have found my groove but I doubt I have much of interest to share with the world.

I read through my first few posts, laughed at the memory of those early days and thought about how much had changed. It was only after reading an article on twitter that I remembered that my first post was written before I started this blog. It was titled ‘We are not always the boobs . . . . . and that’s OK too’ and appeared on a site called ‘We are the Dads’. I wrote it after reading my first experience of well-meaning but ill thought out (and since deleted) comments about the benefits of breast feeding. Lactation may be beyond me but I remember how defensive and angry I felt at the time. It felt like a personal attack on my little family.

It is more than a year on and I have read similar comments, countless times while watching the debate rage away on the internet. Thankfully most people have a ‘live and let live’ approach and want to support all parents but the blinkered views never really go away. I wish I could wipe away the guilt my beautiful wife still feels about having to stop breast feeding as easily as the zealots make claims that ‘all you need is better support and education’. As I said in my original post ‘anything that makes her feel like she isn’t the most amazing Mum in the world should be vigorously rejected’.

All of this is taking my train of thought away from what I actually want to talk about as this isn’t really about me. We all know who the star of the show is, the reason why this blog exists and my number one obsession; it’s George. In the year I have been writing he has put his shaky start behind him and grown into the noisy, funny, caring, perpetual motion toddler I love with all my heart. I can’t begin to catalogue all he has learnt in the year I have been blogging but it certainly puts my development to shame. So this is for George, Daddy loves you little boy x

George on the beach

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Posted in I'm the Daddy

Dadvertising Extra

I started this post last year but I’ve only just got round to finishing it off. It is a small addition to a post I did for the mighty Kraken about how badly Dads are portrayed in most adverts. I’ve seen very little improvement since I wrote this but I feel it is only fair to mention there were a couple of adverts that I was impressed with.

Piri WeepuThe first featured New Zealand’s World Cup winning scrum half, Piri Weepu. The advert was part of anti-smoking campaign and featured the rugby star, bottle feeding his daughter Taylor.  Anyone who has seen Piri leading the All Black haka knows what a fearsome and intimidating character he is so I loved seeing this paternal side to him. Sadly you can only see stills from this advert as it was pulled after pressure from the La Leche League who felt their agenda was more important.

The second advert I liked was from VW which surprised me as I normally hate car adverts. It manages to steer away from too many clichés and most importantly portrays a Dad who isn’t an idiot. The theme that links these two adverts is Dads and their daughters.  The advertising world frequently struggles with complex concepts and has very little idea how to depict a father/daughter relationship.

I can’t find the advert now but recently I remember being infuriated by an advert for Disneyland Paris whose central premise was ‘Dads – You can’t possibly understand your daughter so buy their love with a trip to Disneyland Paris’. It made me want to drown Mickey and his mates. Money and taxi rides are the only thing a father can give his daughter in your average advert.

I think reality is somewhat different and as usual I look to my friends for inspiration. One friend has two daughters and I’ve always joked that he is the least important decision maker in the house but we both know he is central to lives of his little girls. Another friend has taught his daughter the words to ‘Flower of Scotland’ so they can sing the national anthem together before Scottish rugby games – it is beyond cute.  The most broody I have ever been in my life was when I saw the man who taught me ‘where real men piss’ holding his 2 week old daughter with a look of total adoration in his eyes. His daughter is 8 years old and I have never seen that love waver.

If I can find inspiration this easily why do the people behind our adverts find it so hard? Maybe they don’t have kids. I have a Mad Men style image of sharp suited men trying to work out if babies like smoking and whiskey while tedious jazz plays in the background.  I don’t know.  You can probably see why I haven’t finished this post before as I have left myself with nowhere to go. I don’t know the answer and boycotting all products with a poor advert is virtually impossible. I hope things will change eventually and the odd marketing bod will realise that Dads are different now but we may have to wait some time.

I will leave you with what is neither an advert for milk or sippy cups but should be both.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Looper

LooperHas anyone seen the film ‘Looper’? I won’t try to explain the whole plot as it does get quite complicated but there is one key element I would like to talk about as it has got me thinking. In the film, two actors – Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis – play the same character at different points in his life. Bruce Willis gets sent back in time and tries to change the future for the Joseph-Gordon Levitt version of himself. They are the same man but they are very different, time has mellowed Bruce and his experiences have left him a changed man.

Now I’m not one for giving out advice to other people but what if I could go back and talk to myself? What if I could back exactly one year to the day before my son was born? What would I say? If I could go back, I imagine the conversation would go something like this.

For the purposes of this blog post I will be played by Bruce Willis and me from a year ago will be played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt.

Bruce Willis (BW): Hi Andy, I’m you but from the future.

Joseph-Gordon Levitt (JGL): Really? You look like Bruce Willis.

BW: Yeah I know. I would have cast someone else but what can you do? Anyway, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now it is all about to kick off.

JGL:  I’m really nervous, I could do with some advice. Have I done enough to prepare for childbirth? Will I be able to help?

BW: Well kind of. Nothing you’ve done will be any use but  . . . um .

JGL: But it’s going to alright isn’t it?

BW: Not really. It’s going to be awful. None of that ‘best day of your life’ crap.  You’ll get through but that’s the best I can say about it.

JGL:  But once the baby is born, then it will be alright?

BW: Sorry mate, not really. It is going to be hard especially in that first week. I don’t want to say too much as you have got to find out for yourself. It will get better but not for a while.

Silence

BW: Anyway, this isn’t why I came back to talk to you. I came to warn you that things are going to change, you’re going to change.

JGL: Change how?

BW: It’s difficult to explain. Everything you feel, everything you see, everything you do will be different. You won’t be able to separate the different strands of your life, everything will come back to the little life you helped bring into the world.  Things that used feel important won’t anymore.  Clearing your head will become one of the hardest things you do. Don’t underestimate the emotional impact this will have on you, there is no going back.

JGL: I don’t understand. How do I prepare?

BW: You can’t, you just need to know it is going to happen. Changing a nappy is easy and you will get used to waking up in the middle of the night but no one tells you about the emotional changes, even though it is the hardest part. The highs will take your breath away, you will not believe me if I tell you how many happy tears you will shed in the next year. The smallest gesture, smile or noise will make your heart swell with unconditional love. All these feelings come wrapped up in one and you have no control over any of it.

JGL: I’m still not sure I understand.

BW: Let me think of an analogy. Have you seen the film ‘Looper’?

JGL: If you are really me from the future you know that I haven’t.

BW: Oh yeah, never thought of that. That’s a shame, I had a really good idea where you could be played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt.

JGL: Oh I like him. Look I’d better go. Have you got any advice for the next 24 hours?

BW: One thing. If you get asked to wear some shoes that pinch a little, don’t make a big deal about it. There is going to be someone else in the room in much more pain and you may come across as a bit of a princess.

JGL: Thanks mate.

BW: Good luck. I know you are going to be OK.

End scene

This post might make more sense if you read my original post about the day George was born.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

A Day in the Life

I work compressed hours so that I can take every other Monday off to spend with George. I love this time with him and look forward to our days together. I take photos of him all the time mainly to show his Momma what we have been doing all day but also so I can look at them when we are apart and relive our day. This was our day.

Posted in I'm the Daddy, Sport & Fitness

George Says No To Meningitis

With George in the neonatal intensive care unit

Regular readers of my blog will already know about George’s battle with meningitis. If you also read his Momma’s blog you will know that a few weeks ago George received a clean bill of health and we were told to ‘run off into the distance’ with him. Although we have seen a huge improvement in his health since the first week of his life it was a huge relief to get this news. We are very aware that not everyone gets this news and the long-term effects of meningitis can be severe.

Since George came home from hospital I have been thinking about ways I can raise money for a charity that helps families affected by this disease. I have chosen The Meningitis Trust as they work hard to ensure that everyone whose life has been affected by meningitis gets access to the support that they need, where they need it and for as long as they need it.

In three weeks time I will be tackling Hell Down South – 10-12 miles of mud, hills, cold bogs and sticky swamps. To encourage me not to give up and raise some money for The Meningitis Trust I would be very grateful if you could spare a couple of quid to sponsor me.

Donate now on my online giving page

Anyone who is kind enough to make a donation will receive a photo of George, our gratitude and the chance to send me smug messages while I wade chest-deep through a freezing cold bog.

Thank you.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

No Good Advice

Now that George is five months old I feel like I can cautiously sit back and say that I am getting the hang of this parenting lark. It helps that I am backed by George’s ever lovely Momma who invariably knows the right thing to do for our little bear. She always tells me to trust my instincts (‘use the force Luke’) and because of that I have always been happy to look after him by myself.  I have learnt huge amounts in a short period of time and although I’m sure things will change I feel like I’ve made a good start.

To add to my knowledge I have read blog posts from a variety of interesting and inspiring bloggers, dipped into books/magazines and compared experiences with friends. I’m still mainly bewildered by ‘parenting types’ and have only the vaguest idea what most of them are but I’m starting to think this is a good thing.  Despite all this increased knowledge I still don’t have any good advice for any new parents.

I mentioned this to a friend and she asked ‘is this because you still feel like you are winging it?’ The answer is of course ‘yes’ and I would be surprised if that ever goes away but that isn’t the whole story. The main reason is because I don’t feel anything I do is universal. I just don’t buy the idea that some things work with all children (except possibly ‘In the Night Garden’). It seems that unwelcome advice can be a plague for many parents but I still don’t understand why anyone could have such unshakable belief to want to force their random pearls of wisdom on folk.

George takes a nap

Sleeping seems to be an area that brings out the instinct to interfere. Every time I hear a story from a friend about the patronising suggestions and unhelpful comments they are offered to get their babies to sleep I wonder why they don’t offer a swift smack in the chops in return. I’m aware I may get my own high five in the face for revealing this, but George is a sleeper. Although we give him a routine and somewhere comfy to lay his head we are essentially helping him to do something he wants to do already. I firmly believe you ‘get what you’re given’ and we got a little boy who loves a good snooze.

As a result I don’t feel what we do would definitely work with any baby other than George and this is true for most parts of his life. Maybe it is my naivety or lack of experience that makes me think like this. Either way I’m not going to worry, as there isn’t a queue of people at my front door begging me for the secrets of good parenting and not feeling the need to buy a Gina Ford book will save me money.

Do you feel ready to give out your own advice? Is there a secret to good parenting? Do you think I have got away with using a Girls Aloud song to title this post? Comments in the usual place.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

The Day After

On Sunday I wrote a post about the day George was born. Writing that post was one of the main reasons I started my blog but I had been putting it off because I found it too painful to think about. I only started writing on Sunday because my lovely wife had written her post about the same day and it brought it all back. It was time to get my thoughts out of my head and start to move on.

The part I found hardest to write was about telling George everything was going to be alright while he lay in NICU. I am an optimist and I only tell people ‘things are going to be alright’ if I really mean it. To have to say that to my day old son and not know if I believed has stuck in my chest ever since. I felt like I let him down and needed to get these feelings out in the open.

I posted to my blog, breathed a sigh of relief and waited for the catharsis that didn’t come. I felt incredibly low. I simultaneously wanted everyone to read it and no one to read it. I can’t really explain why. After a miserable Sunday I woke up on Monday morning feeling even worse. Couldn’t shake my mood or really explain why I was feeling like this.

This all began to change when we started sharing our blog posts with a number of charities, most notably The Meningitis Trust and Group B Strep Support. Their reaction and their willingness to share our story with their supporters was really important to me. Knowing that the post I wrote could help to support the good work they were doing made me feel so much better. Now I feel much more able to put the trauma of George’s birth behind me and focus on the beautiful little boy in my arms.

Despite a third of women carrying Group B Strep, not all pregnant women are routinely screened for it. This is a shocking fact, considering the quite devastating consequences of it being undetected and untreated. Had it not been for the swift administration of antibiotics, my story may have not had such a happy ending. Please sign the petition to make this test routine for all pregnant women.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

The Day That You Came

I have been holding off writing about the day George was born as I am still finding it hard to deal with. It was traumatic and the feelings from that day have been a tight ball inside that I haven’t been able to release. One of the reasons for starting this blog was to give me a place to vent these emotions. The only way I could think of doing this was by writing a letter to George telling him about the day he was born. So here goes.

Dear George

We knew you were going to be ill before you were born. The doctors were worried about your high heart rate and your Momma’s high temperature. When we were given the choice to bring you out by caesarean section we didn’t hesitate. We had to get you out.

From behind the screen I heard them say you were out and we held our breath waiting for the scream. You cried and we exhaled together. The first time I saw you I knew you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I’ve never been more certain of anything. When they told me you would need antibiotics to fight your infection it didn’t puncture the bubble of euphoria. I had you in my arms now, nothing could go wrong.

After a few blissful hours with you and your Momma, the lack of sleep caught up with me and I went home to rest. I hadn’t been there long when I was called back because the doctors were worried. They were doing a lumbar puncture to check for Meningitis. ‘It’s precautionary’ I said, ‘I’m glad they are being careful’ I said, ‘he’ll be fine’ I said. We waited hours for the result that finally proved me wrong. You had Meningitis. I don’t remember being shocked, I don’t remember feeling anything.

The next morning I woke in a panic. My heart raced but I couldn’t move. When I arrived at the hospital you had already been taken down to neonatal intensive care. Your Momma was too ill to walk so I took her to you in a wheelchair. You lay still while the monitors beeped away and the medicine dripped into your veins. I can’t remember anything the doctors told me apart from how to touch you – ‘positive pressure’ was the phrase they used. My right hand went across the top of your head from ear to ear and my left covered your stomach like a blanket.

I told you everything was going to be alright and we were going to take you home soon. I didn’t know if I believed what I was saying so I pushed that doubt down as hard as I could. I daren’t ask the doctors what the effects of Meningitis were as I was scared of the answers. The elephant in the room said ‘Meningitis can kill you, right?’ I ignored it.

Your Momma was too upset to get any words out so I tried to fill the gap by telling you about all the people who were waiting to meet you and the places you would go. I made up stories and sang you songs. One song that popped into my head was ‘Be my baby’ by the Ronnettes, the lyrics seemed appropriate. ‘The night we met I knew I needed you so and if I the chance I’d never let you go’.

In my voice it became a plea. ‘So won’t you say you love me, I’ll make you so proud of me. So won’t you please be my, be my baby. Be my little baby, save me my darling. Be my baby now.

It became a promise. ‘I’ll make you happy baby, just wait and see. For every kiss you give me I’ll give you three. Since the day I saw you, I have been waiting for you. You know I will adore you for eternity.

Hours by your side flashed by in what seemed like minutes. I left the hospital for a few hours to give you and your Momma some time to rest. Time stood still. I called my Mum and cried down the phone to her. The only thing I remember saying to her is ‘he’s so beautiful Mum, he’s so beautiful’. In a desperate attempt to distract myself I foolishly checked my work email, read a snotty email from a colleague and fired off an angry, aggressive response. Something to regret later. Six more hours with you flashed by and then I had to leave you again.

The next day you were improving. The medicine was working and you were starting to become more alert. Our hearts filled with hope as you started to feed more and visibly grow stronger. The hours continued to flash by as we carried on reading, talking and singing to you. That night we had a room by your ward so we could feed you in the night. The joy of being able to fulfil this simple task was incredible.

It was a while before we took you home as no one had noticed how ill your Momma was and you both ended up being pumped full of medicine. The two of you recovered together and eventually we all came home together.

Love always

Your Daddy xxxx

PS. Your beautiful Momma has also blogged about the day you were born as well.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Last of the Famous International Playboys

Last week my baby boy took his first steps to becoming part of the international jet set by boarding a plane for his first flight. His first trip abroad may have only been a short hop over the Irish Sea but I hope this was the first of many new countries he visits. Without getting too Dr Seuss about it I do love dreaming about the places he will go and I really hope the travel bug bites him hard. I can’t wait for him to start exploring.

The thing that amused my most about his the trip was applying for his very first passport.  I had assumed you could still put a baby on your own passport but he needs his own. The idea of a tiny baby with a passport always makes me laugh and sends my train of thought into imaginary scenes of planes full of babies drinking duty free and chatting up the air hostess.  The rules for his photo are very strange, being asleep is OK but any sign of my hands holding him up is not allowed. The end result is this fantastic picture that will be used to identify him at international borders for the next five years.

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I didn’t get my first passport until I was nine so this is one of the many things George gets to do earlier than I did.  Sadly I couldn’t find my first passport, which had two photos allowing my travel companions to mock both my pre and post pubescent 80s hair and clothing tragedies.  I did find my second passport with a photo of me aged 19 and in my first year at university. I thought this was a great photo at the time but now I am not so sure.

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Do you have great memories of your first trip abroad? Where have you taken your kids on their first trip? Tell me, tell me, tell me!

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Fish Wrestling and other tips for Dads

I was inspired to write this after reading an excellent blog post on finding out if you are ready to have a baby which included some excellent tips to help prospective parents achieve ‘actual baby readiness’.   My favourite tip was to ‘practice wrestling a large, slippery fish three times a week’ – we laugh because it’s true. My first thought was to start a list of ‘Baby Readiness’ tips that other Dads could add to but then I realised I had very little advice to give. Instead I have written what I would like to say to myself before my baby was born I and maybe this will help some other ‘Dads to be’ reading this post.

Don’t worry so much about the big day – I thought very hard about the emotional and practical support I could give my wife the day she went into labour. I thought I could be a decisive, resourceful, well prepared and above all adaptable partner for her. In reality my preparations proved to be useless within half an hour of arriving at the hospital and I have never felt so helpless. It was like sending the two people you love most in the world – one of whom you haven’t met yet – into a car crash and sitting back to watch. It was over a week later before I found out that I had done everything my wife wanted me too. Merely sitting by her side and holding her hand made her feel like she wasn’t going through it alone  and this was the most important thing I could do.

You won’t be able to prepare for the first moment you see your baby – I had also been preparing myself for the possibility of being disgusted by the sight of my baby after watching too many gruesome birth videos. I didn’t want the horror of clapping eyes on my blood and snot covered offspring to show on my face. The reality was love at first sight. I knew that most parents feel their child is the cutest, most adorable little bundle of joy but I had put this down to bias. When I first saw my son I only needed to use the evidence of my own eyes so see that he was the most beautiful baby the world had ever seen. Without a hint of bias I knew this was a cast iron certainty and any thought of managing my emotions flew out the window.

Assemble all baby equipment in private long before you need it – Despite the many claims of the manufacturers it does sometimes feel like you need an engineering degree to assemble the average ‘travel system’.  A friend of mine tried to assemble his car seat at the hospital and was forced to endure a very public 20 minutes of graceless wrestling with his recalcitrant equipment. I side stepped this land mine but frequently leave everything until this last minute and end up assembling in the dark whilst desperately wishing toggle G would fit in slat F.

Get used to singing stupid songs – I break into song so frequently it is like living in an extremely low-budget musical. My baby addled mind reaches out and grasps the strangest songs leaving me to adapt them for the situation. Most disturbingly this frequently happens at nappy time and I find myself belting out such classics as ‘Saving all my poo for you’ and adapting ‘Moves like Jagger’  by Maroon 5 to become ‘poo like Daddy, you’re gonna pooooooooo like Daddy’.  My latest inspiration hit while I was giving George some gripe water and before I knew it I was spinning round the kitchen singing ‘The Mayor of Brightwater’ which in my version was ‘The Mayor of Gripewater’. This is a song I learnt in my rugby days and it is no way fit for any sort of polite company so I really need to ditch it before George can learn the words. Learning the odd nursery rhyme or having a stock of Motown numbers could have really helped me.

That is all I can think of for the moment but please leave any extra suggestions in the comments box below.