Thursday, December 1, 2011

The first 4 months of fatherhood

Well, it's been a long time folks, but I'm back and ready to join the blogging world once more!  My absence has been due to a number factors such as my family visiting from England, various sporting commitments, a change in schedule at work and mental fatigue resulting from my little family expanding by 1 person.  However, now things have settled into a regular(ish) routine, I'll be subjecting you all to my various musings that I know you've all missed so much!  As Isabella is probably the most interesting development over the last 3 months, I should probably start there, so let me share with you my tips in bringing up ickle ones,  from Daddy's point of view.

1.  Let the girls do everything, your time will come

Before Bella was born, I thought I'd get stuck into bathing her, changing her clothes and nappies and feeding her (from the bottle I hasten to add).  However, I quickly learned that babies want mummy.  Also, the female side of the family are only too happy to take over as their mothering instincts kick in.  At first, I was a little annoyed as I wanted that contact time and those opportunities to get to know my little treasure a bit more but several things happened to change my thinking.  To start with, getting the angle right and actually getting the bottle into her mouth were surprisingly difficult.  To make matters worse, she decided to practice her projectile vomiting after I fed her 2 of the worst (I mean first) 3 times.  After that, both dad and child were cautious around feeding time and relieved smiles appeared on both faces at the appearance of mum, mother in-law or auntie.

Now, I'm happy to feed her as she's a bit older.  That's probably only because I was forced to feed her last week as Hanh went to Da Lat and Nha Trang leaving me alone with our little one for a few hours for 4 days before help arrived in the evenings!  We're both (Issy & I) much more comfortable around dinner time and she now knows her dad isn't a useless offe!  Changing nappies has never been a problem, even if it is a smelly task and dressing her is cumbersome and awkward, though not impossible. 

2.  Sleep in a different room, rest is a God send

I'm one of the lucky ones.  Most of the time, my sister in-law, mother in-law or perfect wife sleep in the living room with Bella, while I sleep peacefully in our bedroom.  You might ask why she doesn't sleep in the bedroom with us and that would be a good question.  Fortunately I have a good answer other than the fact I just need my beauty sleep.  As Vietnam is so hot, air conditioning is a life saver.  The cot for Bella is rather large, and there's only one place that it can go in our bedroom.  This spot happens to be directly under the a/c unit which isn't the best place for her to sleep, so her crib is positioned in the middle of the living room.  I'm pretty sure she's happy being in the centre of the room as she's gets a good view of the TV and is the centre of attention without even trying!

That being said, my sleep time is very important.  Firstly, the simple fact is someone has to earn and teaching is pretty exhausting in terms of energy.  If I'm flat in the classroom, it's likely that the students will also be lethargic.  Therefore, it's essential for me to have uninterrupted snooze to do my job as well as possible.  Secondly, until recently, Bella has only really wanted women's attention.  I've struggled to feed her, settle her and get her off to sleep.  If she decides she wants something, she generally gets it, usually by bawling her eyes out and testing her lungs.  Now it's changed somewhat as she's much more comfortable with me and with Hanh returning to work soon, I'm sure I'll be taking more responsibility during the night shift, but until now, I've been enjoying sweet dreams!

3.  Learn the locations and opening hours of all shops that stock nappies, baby milk and wet wipes

For those who don't know, babies are machines.  They drink milk and get through nappies quicker than you'd every imagine!  If they're on the breast, I guess trips to the store are less frequent but if they develop a taste for formula, you're off to the store every 10 days!  Bella drinks both variety of milk, and seems indifferent to which she prefers.  However, the cost of baby milk is adding up.  One carton costs about $20, which I guess is cheap for 10 days worth of food, but still!  Nappies spin a similar story.

The main problem is that you don't always keep on top of how much milk or how many nappies you have left.  It could be 9pm when you suddenly realise that you don't have enough supplies to get you through the night!  Therefore, having an encyclopedic knowledge of baby-ware shops is essential.  We have several outlets close by and fortunately we've not been caught out in the wee small hours of the morning.  However, it's always best to be prepared as you don't want to be driving around desperately, half asleep searching for shops which may or may not be open or supplying what you require.

4.  They're not made of china

This was probably the single best piece of advice that my doctor gave me when I went to the doc for Bella's first month checkup.  In the first month, I was always so scared of picking her up.  I always had visions of me forgetting to support her head resulting in it falling off.  Fortunately, that didn't happen.  Trying to get the right combination of being firm but gentle was something that I initially found particular tricky.  Obviously, as they get older, things become much easier as their muscles develop and you get more comfortable handling them.  Having said that, it's easier said than done to have a firm hand when they're so small!

5.  Crying is a good thing

Babies are supposed to cry.  It's what they do!  Crying just means they need something.  In antenatal classes we were told waterworks are due to hunger, need of a cuddle, changing time, being too hot or cold, being too tired or being gassy.  Therefore, all you have to do is figure out which one it is!  The problem is, they generally follow each other.  After sleeping, she just wants attention.  A few minutes later she's hungry.  While she's eating she usually attends to a call of nature so a pit stop is required.  Then she wants more food or is gassy.  After that it's either play time or nap time.  At any stage, tears and screams are to be expected.

In the early months, crying was a relief to me.  She used to sleep so peacefully and deeply that she barely moved.  I constantly put my head over her nose and mouth, just to check she was breathing.  Later, I put my hand on her stomach to feel it going up and down.  Crying signified life which I think is all new parents think about.  Now, her lungs have developed I feel a little differently, especially when I can't settle her down.  That being said, you can't be angry and although it can be frustrating at times, you can't help but smile.