Freefall: Going Boob-less

Life would be so much easier if I had boobs.

There, I said it.

So much easier.

It seems to me slightly unfair that only women are equipped in this area. Dads like me would certainly feel a lot more useful if we were given breasts.

Cue the jokes about how I’ve got man-boobs already.

Thanks for that.

The thing is, I’m being serious.

New dads, when you talk to them, often recite the same issue: the feeling of being useless.

Well not ‘useless’ exactly. We’re good at making cups of tea for mum and moving heavy things about. But when it comes to the bread and butter of looking after a baby – we’re often completely surplus to requirements.

I want to stop here and make an acknowledgement. I’m very well aware that there are a whole host of mothers who do not or cannot breastfeed. I am in no way implying that by not breastfeeding these amazing parents are surplus to requirements. Far from it. As someone who spent a good period of time in a neonatal unit, as premature son wrestled with the task of breastfeeding I do know how hard and frustrating it can be. Being able to feed a child by one specific method is not a mark of whether one is a good parent or not. Mothers everywhere I salute you and the valiant work you do.

Which brings me back to my point. For better or for worse, my son is being breastfed. Which in so many ways puts a massive weight of responsibility on my partner. A weight, much as I’d like to, I can’t take from her.

I’ve tried. Lord, have I tried.

You see Sam, like most babies, doesn’t just feed when he’s hungry. He feeds when he’s upset or feeling unwell or surprised or tired or bored…

…you get the picture.

It’s a comfort thing. Essentially Sam turns to milk at all the intervals when I would have a pint or inhale a tube of Pringles. This means that my other half gets all the extremes of emotion. This is exhausting for her and it’s exhausting to watch.

It’s a difficult position for the father to find himself in. It takes me back to Sam’s birth, in an operating theatre, via C-section. Sam wasn’t doing well and was rushed into intensive care. Meanwhile my partner had a large hole in her. Suddenly I had two people to care for, look after and protect. The thing was they were physically heading in different directions. I couldn’t be with both. So I did what any parent would and went with Sam.

I feel a similar strain here. I want Sam to be happy and content, but I also see how tired this makes my partner and frankly I want to protect her from it.

Hence the boobs.

Men with boobs may not be the best idea. I mean, as a teenager, I’d have never left the house! I would, however, like to be able to help more.

We’re weaning Sam at the moment and so going through the Titanic – I don’t use that word lightly – struggle to get him to take the bottle from me. We have screaming, arching of the back, bulging blood vessels and dry retching – and that’s just me.

Seriously. It’s not easy. Apparently, babies can smell milk from their mother if she’s nearby and will thus refuse to feed from a bottle. I’d heard that sharks can smell a drop of blood in an ocean, Sam’s sense has got to be far more powerful than this! My other half has hidden in the kitchen, gone upstairs and even out for a walk, but the little man still seems able to sense her proximity. I’m sure that, even in full camouflage gear, he’d spot her in an instant.

It’s been quite a battle of wills. I want to help the boy, I also don’t want him upset. None of this would happen if he could feed directly from me when his mum is at work.  I’m reminded of the man-boob that Robert DeNiro sports in Meet the Fockers. I’d thought it ridiculous at the time. These days if Amazon sold them I’d be buying one right away – no second thoughts.

I can only hope that as Sam gets older, I’ll be able to pull my weight a little more. I’ll be happy to sit through all those dull conversations about Power Rangers while my partner puts her feet up. I promise. I might even pretend to be interested in football if it’ll make him happy and give her some time off.

In the meantime I’m relegated to providing tea and sympathy. Mothers, breastfeeding or not, are amazing and I take my hat off to them all!

That’s all for now.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

The Precipice…

So here we are then.

I knew this moment would come. I’ve been building up to this for over a year, but, as with many things in life, I can’t say that I’m ready.

Have I ever been ready for anything? Probably not?

Don’t worry I’m not talking about the birth. We’ve done that. Finished. My son Sam is now just under 7 months old. He’s a lovely little ball of liveliness – going through the screeching phase. If you don’t know it, this is the bit where the baby just screeches, for hours on end, for no other reason than to hear the sound of their own voice. It makes scraping your nails on a blackboard sound positively relaxing in comparison. Trust me. I do not exaggerate here!

So what’s all this precipice nonsense? Good question.

Let me explain my set up. I’m a writer, by trade – cue the “Couldn’t tell by this!” gags.

OK. Are we done?

Well that’s what I am, my partner is a scientist, and analyst with a proper job. So the plan was always that I was going to take over a lion’s share of childcare when she went back to work. It’s by far the most sensible thing to do.

It’s just… well… I never really thought that her maternity leave was going to end. And, well, it’s about to and I’m suddenly going to be responsible.

It’s a horrible word, isn’t it? ‘Responsible’. I’ve never really been the type to embody it. If the word in question was ‘sarcastic’ then, traditionally, I was your man. But ‘responsible’… I’m not so sure.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not being thrust into childcare unwillingly,  I’m not. In one way I’m looking forward to it – there will be a nursery involved too, so I’m not doing this alone. It’s just my other half is so good with Sam and I’m… more than a little bit nervous.

I’m sure there are other dads out there that can feel my pain? You see, I’m part of a generation that somehow sees being ‘a dad’ very differently to how my own father did. I’m a different kind of bloke to my old man and his peers – I don’t have a mustache, pipe, Ford Sierra or mate called ‘Roy’ (who has all 3).

I spent ages in education and then went to the work in the media – God I do sound like a bit of cliche!  No, I don’t spend all my time in Hoxton – I live in Devon these days. I’m not what you’d call ‘handy’, I’m useless at DIY. I don’t spend my Saturday’s playing football, I can’t stand the game. I’ve never lent my next door neighbour jump leads – I don’t have a car (I am learning to drive at 37). Basically I see very little of my father in me. When things go wrong I still look for a ‘grown up’, I tend to forget I’m already one myself.

So when it comes to taking on long term part time parenting (while my partner works) I do feel a little out of my depth.

An Out of Depth Dad… about to go over the precipice.

I’m sure it’ll all go well. It’s just I can’t help feeling a bit nervous.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you updated on what happens. Warts and all.

Chris

The Out of Depth Dad.

@Outofdepth_Dad