The useless parent fallacy

Becoming a father is supposed to a happy, exciting and amazing time, and it is. Mostly. I’ll say now that I love my daughter and would do anything for her, but there are some really tough parts to becoming a new dad and if I’m honest with myself, I struggled to adjust, especially over the first few days. Everyone wants to be a good parent, but sometimes it’s hard to see how you are anything other than the opposite of that.

The “Breastfeeding Widow”

Both Mrs Heatho & I had always wanted to exclusively breastfeed our baby. We knew that there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to, but I never really acknowledged that it might become a reality. Our NCT ante-natal classes prepared us to a certain extent, but even the dedicated breast-feeding session didn’t fully prepare us for how tough the first week would be.

To start with, Little H wouldn’t latch, and having resolved that we became worried that she simply wasn’t getting enough as she was just crying endlessly and feeding cues were never-ending. There are a couple of elements of this that become hard;

  1. When your baby is permanently attached to your partner, you get less time with both of them. This made me feel quite “separated” from both my wife & my daughter.
  2. When you can’t feed your child, it often means you can’t comfort them. In the first day or two it felt as though Little H would just scream at me, and be silent the moment Mrs Heatho took over.

These two things made me feel isolated and completely useless. Frankly I felt like I was being a terrible father. Mrs Heatho wouldn’t wake me up during the night to change Little H, because she was already awake feeding, which made me feel like I wasn’t contributing to anything at all.

As a father, the first couple of days can make you feel like a hanger-on. Your wife/partner has been adopted by a limpet-type creature who is draining every ounce of her energy and occupying every moment of her thoughts. Let’s not forget for a second that being screamed at and knowing the only way to restore silence is to attach a small human to you is very hard on your partner too! The whole process is incredibly tough emotionally on both parents – you need to be prepared and support each other through it.

It’s important for me to state at this point that no matter how hard it gets, no feeling can come close to the love you have for your child. Little H already has me firmly wrapped around her tiny little finger and being a father is simply far more wonderful than it is challenging ๐Ÿ˜. The challenges & hard work will continue, but the rewards are so great it’s totally worth it ๐Ÿ˜Š.

So what can a father do?!

Put simply, everything else! Whilst it can be hard to feel as though you are doing much to contribute, even if you’re volunteering for every daytime nappy and the bottle top-up feeds, life needs to continue around your newย bundle of joy.

You both still need to eat, drink, be clothed and not live in a sty. I can’t remember a time where I’ve done more cleaning / washing / ironing / cooking / fetching of drinks. I’m now a domestic ninja ๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ – walking around the house getting Alexa to “remind me of this” and “set a timer for that”. Mrs Heatho would like tell you that there has never been a time where I’ve done so much! In our case, our poor spaniel Fern needed to be taken for walks as well!

Between all of the above, and staying up with Little H when she was asleep so Mrs Heatho could be asleep as well, it had to be pointed out to me how much I was doing to help. Even the little things, like putting out snacks and drinks for your partner overnight while they’re up nursing go a long way to making a difference. So as a new father, don’t feel you’re useless because the likelihood is that you are the exact opposite – keep doing a terrific job!

The endless queue of health professionals

One of the hardest and most surprising bits about the first week was the sheer number of health professionals we saw. Many of these were breastfeeding support workers who came to support us when we were struggling, but it meant that in the first week of Little H being here, we saw at least one person a day! On day 6, Mrs Heatho got a bit upset because we felt as though we just weren’t enjoying be able to have Little H around. Each day was geared around going to an appointment or staying in for a visitor. So I declared that on day 7 with Little H one week old (already!) that we were going out for lunch with Little H as it was the first day we weren’t seeing anyone. We got ourselves organised to leave as usual, but Mrs Heatho even managed to put some make-up on – which made her so happy (I think because while she did this Little H was screaming at me, and not her!) ๐Ÿ˜‚. Mrs Heatho has nailed getting out the door with a newborn by the way – no worries about going back to work for me when it comes to that! We had such a fab time at The Boardwalk.

The first 10 minutes we simply caught up with all the messages we had been receiving over the previous week, and whilst Little H slept in the pushchair next to us, for an hour or felt as though normality had been restored!! We were finally enjoying being a little family.

With Little H’s initial slow weight gain – we have been for a lot of appointments over these first 2 weeks. It’s important to fit them into your day, not work your day around them. Arrange them so that you can go and do something in the morning or afternoon where you can enjoy being a family – you don’t get your time again, so make it work for you.

That said – don’t be put off. The help we’ve received from midwives & support workers has been incredible and I speak for us both when I say we aren’t sure we’d have made it through the first few days without their constant guidance, help & reassurance. The whole team is amazing ๐Ÿ‘.

Top tips

  • For all the appointments the midwives wanted to know lots of information such as nappy changes, feeds, time on the breast, ml of formula etc. As a numbers man I largely took this role – and the “Baby Tracker” app has been a saviour. It’s really easy to use, syncs between phones and has become an integral part of raising Little H. Just don’t make the same mistake I did by upgrading within the app, which you then need to do for both devices costing twice as much ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ – worth buying the full version (ยฃ4.99 isn’t cheap, but the charts end up being really useful) which you can then “share” so you only pay for it once. Baby Tracker App – App Store
  • The NCT Signature Ante-natal classes are a more expensive alternative to the NHS ones, but are so worth it! Not only do you learn loads but for me the most valuable thing was meeting other parents going through the same things at the same time. Your group becomes an invaluable support network for you both, so I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the “Signature” classes to anyone. I’m so glad our friends recommended them to us.

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