Real Talk – I’m Going to be Honest with You… Parenting is HARD

So this is going to be a bit of an honest post with you guys. I had planned on doing a Black Friday sales post today, and I may end up missing the boat because of it, which sucks because we need the money…. but I need to say this, and I wouldn’t dare burden Heather with how I’m feeling right now! She’s going through pretty much the same and it’s my job to protect her right now.

This post is going to be a live in stereo sort of thing. No major editing, no external links, no images, just me talking. It may come off a bit waffly, but this is my raw feelings right now. A bit of verbal diarrhea, but I need this now.

This is fucking hard

We’re on day 10, 7 of those have been spent at home, and the first 3 in the hospital. The first 3 days, he cried twice – for 3 seconds immediately as he was born (definitely announced his entry into the world!!) and the second was for 10seconds the next day because he was cold. We thought we were nailing this parenting stuff and had the best, quiestest baby in the world. However, since we have been home, he is forever crying for attention and crying in pain.

Last night was the second night in a row where he just screamed the entire night; baby Ezra has colic and it is causing him a lot of pain. Because of this, he was inconsolable and I didn’t get to sleep until 5.30am.

Lack of sleep

A bit of my backstory – I fell ill when I was 20 with an extremely rare stomach illness that caused me a lot of pain. I’ve had to take a fairly high dose of morphine for the past 7 years – it is the only way to be pain-free (or reduce the level of pain to a point that it is at all manageable). I’ve also had to take a lot of different medications over this time to help with the pain, and many of them helped me to sleep (one medication, called Nortriptyline, led me to sleep most nights for 11-14hours!!).

But about 4 years ago, I reduced my medication and stopped taking some pills, as I found more natural ways to fight the pain (if you think about the way that your baby momma was breathing to fight labour pains – breathing like that is the best pain killer I take!) This caused me to have some major sleep problems. I run off about 6 hours a night at best, but it usually takes me about 4 hours to fall asleep every night.

I thought I was going to be fine with the lack of sleep once baby Ezra arrived, but this is another level. I’m not just tired – I’m exhausted. And this is causing me to not just be physically tired, but mentally too. With Ezra just screaming and wailing every night, I’m also emotionally drained. It is so painful to see my son in so much pain.

Proud to be a Dad

I love being a dad; deciding to try for a baby is the single greatest decision we have ever made. I love Ezra, and there is nothing that he can do that would make me love him less. These sleepless nights, 2am baths, walking for miles to calm him down (according to my iPhone, I walked 2 miles around the house last night with him on my shoulder trying to calm him down) are all worth it for those moments where he stares up at me with nothing but love. It is just really hard regardless; my love for him will keep me walking throughout the nights, and my love for Heather will keep me taking on as much of the burden as possible.

When I look at him, I see a person with no hatred, no anger, no lust, no greed, nothing negative; just love and compassion (and a desire for breastmilk!) and this is why I think he is perfect. He is just fantastic, and this makes it all worth it.

Feeling alone

I am definitely starting to feel a little alone. Heather and I are working together and keeping communication open, but I wouldn’t burden her with all of my pains and worries and stresses. I can’t even imagine how single dads must feel when they don’t have the support system I have (my parents live close by, we have a very good group of friends near us too, all willing to drop whatever they’re doing for baby Ezra).

Even with all of this support, there are definitely feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is probably a mental health situation, and tiredness, causing me to feel like this. It is so hard to function off such little sleep and it is just making me feel shit.

That is why I want all dads to feel comfortable and supported – no one should have to feel like this, whether they’re married, dating, living with baby momma or a single parent.

Get in touch

Please, use my blog as a way to join a community and have the support system around you. You can comment on this post to start a dialogue, or you can email me directly at upcomingdad@gmail.com – I will reply to every post and every email to help dads who are feeling alone and struggling with the lack of sleep and horror of watching their baby in pain.

You can also follow me on Twitter @upcomingdad, or check out my facebook page at facebook.com/upcomingdadblog. These are all safe spaces where we can talk about what’s going on. I am dedicated to helping new dads, so please lean on me. You never know, you might be able to help me too!

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So I am no longer an upcoming dad…

SO! A bit of an update for my readers. Sunday 4th November 2018 at 5.12am my world changed. After hours of stealing the gas and air when Heather wasn’t looking, and attempting to watch as much Netflix as the contractions would allow, my son was born.

Ezra Joshua Woods

The light of my life.

For the next couple days things are going to be slow on the blog and on social media. Ezra is my first child so I not only want the time to bond, but I need the time to learn – being a dad isn’t all nerf guns and playtime. I learnt that VERY quickly.

I will attempt to get some posts out when I can (when Ezra and Heather are sleeping mostly), but Ezra is my priority for now. Thank you for being patient and understanding.

Make sure to subscribe by the way to get email updates of new posts – soon I’m going to write about how the labour was and what it was like. Try to give dads an idea of what to expect – because it was NOT what I expected. Every moment of the labour was incredible, and so surreal. I felt like I was in a dream the whole time. For upcoming dads, you need to hear this!!

Thanks for your patience guys. Have a great day

Real Talk – Dealing With Postnatal Depression

Lads, this is the real deal and where we need to step up our game. We might be tired, overwhelmed and struggling to deal with the lack of time to ourselves, but if mum is struggling with Postnatal Depression (also known as Postpartum depression), then this time following our new borns is not about us. 

If the mother of your child is struggling with Postnatal Depression, then make sure that you get yourself informed. It might also be helpful for the grandparents to learn more about it, as well as very close friends (this is a sensitive issue so reserve inviting people to help to only her closest and most trusted friends). Please send this post, or any of the articles at the bottom of this page, on to them to help them get better informed.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Post natal depression

Postpartum depression is a form of depression triggered by the hormonal and physiological and psychological changes induced by labour and the birth of your child. The risk of this is increased by a traumatic labour, and those who have suffered with depression is the past are 20times more likely to be affected.

Did you know that 10-15% of women struggle with Postnatal depression? Well, 10-15% of women report that they are struggling with Postnatal depression – this is likely to be around 5% higher the actual numbers. Which means that our baby-mamas have a horrifying 1-in-5 chance of struggling with their mental health after the biggest miracle of their lives. 

Regardless of how we are feeling, or how much we are struggling, we need to find our own outlets that will not impact the mothers. This is our time to be strong and support our women through this. It may mean we have to get up more times than you planned through the night to do another feed, we need to do more nappy/diaper changes, miss the drink after work, or put down the playstation controller and lend an ear. 

Around 58% of women with PND do not report the problem – and this will often lead to them not speaking with their spouse or partner about their emotions. This leads to a further feeling of isolation, and will eventually make the situation worse. We need to adopt a stance of emotional intelligence and keep an eye out for how they are feeling. Be present but not over bearing, ask them how they’re doing regularly but not so much that they feel smothered… All of this is quite difficult, it is a balancing act, but again this time is not about us. 

What do we need to be looking out for in this time? According to the NHS website

  • low mood
  • constant exhaustion
  • inability to cope
  • feelings of guilt regarding their inability to cope or not loving the baby enough
  • overwhelming anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • lack of appetite
  • difficulties bonding with the baby
  • relationship difficulties with the partner
  • low energy
  • low sex drive
  • social withdrawal (from family and friends)
  • crying for no reason (however ‘no reason’ is an awful way to write this)

We, as the fathers all have the skills and determination in us to identify these symptoms, and the ability to deal with it. We may not be able to remove the problem, but our role is to ease the pain. 

So how can we help combat PND? Throughout my research, the three main suggestions that I found were:

Let them rest

Sleep is the best cure, and a good sleep routine is the fastest way to apply this medicine. This may not be easy when you head back to work after your two weeks paternity leave, but make sure that you look after baby as much as possible, at the same times each day. This will allow mum to sleep and get into a good routine. 

Not only that, but getting into a good sleep routine will also help build a healthy appetite. Eating regular, healthy meals (plenty of greens, less greasy food, no ready meals and plenty of iron) will work wonders. 3500

You might be exhausted, but in the long run this is the best way to go.

Get some exercise

Walking for 30 minutes a day (more is better) will help to release the right endorphins to fight depression. Regular exercise is an incredible way to fight depression, but also a brilliant way to bond with your baby, and can be a real opportunity for mum and dad to talk things through. There is no TV distracting you, no household chores to do, just mum, dad and baby. Talking therapy sessions are known to help, so giving mum that catharsis by letting her talk things through on your walks is going to help.

time t yourself

Time for yourself

This rings true for you and mum, but it might not be easy during times of PND for you both to get the adequate time to have some ‘you space’. If mum wants to combine this with her walking, then perfect, but if not, make sure that on a daily basis, you provide an avenue for her to do something she loves. But remember, this is about her relaxing and doing something enjoyable – not having time to let her thoughts escape her. 

gaming for mumsThis relaxation time might be cooking, reading, having a long bath, shooting 14 year olds on Call Of Duty or Fortnite, whatever is her thing. Just give her the space to do what she loves.

I know that as men, we also need to have time to ourselves – it would be impossible to work a 9-5, come home and not stop all evening, get less sleep during the night to then repeat the next day – so make sure to have some you time during sleeping periods – when both mum and baby are resting. Some times you’ll need this time to tidy the house, do the washing up etc. but make sure you get at least 45minutes of you time in per day. You don’t want to be broken down – your baby needs you to be strong, and a little time each day will prevent burnout. Remember that mum and baby are our priorities here, so look after them by looking after yourself. 

Other things to note

It is important to remember that there is no shame in seeing a health care professional. They are fully trained to deal with these situations; there will be no judgement and no condemnation (if you find any doctor ever makes you feel like you’re a bad parent, or that you’re doing something wrong, make sure that you raise a complaint with the practice manager or with the PALS service). Everything that is said, is fully confidential so going to see your doctor is the best way forward. You will be shown every resource available for overcoming PND, for both Mum and Dad.

If you don’t want to, or cannot go see your doctor, then raise it with your community midwife. Similar to the doctor, they are fully trained and will help you get through this.  Finally, if you’d rather speak with someone anonymously, then there are a multitude or charitable organisations that can help, such as MIND (www.mind.org.uk) – you can call them on 0300 123 3393.

For you dad, keep yourself strong, both mentally, and physically too; making sure that mum is eating well also means eating well yourself. If you like exercising, don’t stop going running or heading to the gym – thats really important. And finally, as I’ve said above, have that time to yourself. All of this will help to combat burnout.

Remember, this will end. Your girlfriend, wife or mother of your child will beat this, it is only a matter of time. You cannot fix this, but you can be the number 1 support in her life. Be strong for this time – it will end.

If you’re an upcoming dad and want to learn more about PND, there is an excellent short film called Taketh which is backed by the charitable organisation MIND. Its a truly gripping telling of a family dealing with depression following a very traumatic birth. 

This is not an easy film to watch but will be extremely informative for you (it might not be the best film for mum to watch, either before or after the birth).

If you want to find some articles or advice for dealing with PND, then I have put together a series of resources below. Please take the time to read through them and equip yourself. Our baby-mamas are depending on us to be a pillar of strength and the best way to do this is to keep ourselves informed. 

Want more information?

What is Postnatal Depression – everydayhealth.com

Mental Health Helplines – NHS Support 

Tips for Dads During Postpartum Depressions – postpartum.com

How to help your spouse during PND – seleni.org | scarymommy.com 

What to do, and what not to do – Psychologytoday.com

Postpartum dads – postpartumdads.org