Monday, 19 February 2018

Daddy day care

The early days with River were hard; I felt my most vulnerable both physically and emotionally. Adjusting to what my body had been through was difficult and the responsibility of being a mum was so overwhelming. What I didn’t appreciate was the impact on Jason.
Not only was he thrown in to life with a newborn, he also had me to look after. Neither of us really knew what we were doing. For Jason it was difficult to feel as much of a bond with River as I did; mostly because he hadn't baked him in the belly-oven and didn't have him hanging off his tit every second of the day. Jason found himself being a househusband during his paternity leave, which mainly involved getting me food and listening to me cry because I’d looked in the mirror and seen Ursula from The Little Mermaid (no amount of mental preparation can help when you first see your deflated belly and swollen boobs.)

When River was born, Jason had some skin to skin cuddles which was a lovely moment of bonding; although a bit of a shit moment for me considering I was the other side of the room with my legs in stirrups, hysterically crying with the doctor stitching me up and talking to me about pig assholes - Apparently that's what they practice on. Reassuring.
The fact I was breastfeeding left Jason with limited windows of opportunity after that to create a real bond with River and I was so wrapped up in it all that I neglected to see that he felt like a spare part. It also didn’t help that every attempt he made at changing Riv’s dirty nappy resulted in retching and running to the bathroom to throw up. He did kindly do it in a nappy bag once and handed it to me which I suppose was a step up but I’m convinced Riv may have done a better job at changing himself.
Things that are obvious to mums can be cryptic for dads. So many times, Jason has asked me ‘why does he stop crying for you and not me?’ And there isn’t really any magic trick other than I’m his mum and I’ve got the milk taps. I spend all day with Riv so I get to know his cues for sleep or food or boredom or tooth pain, but for Jason it’s a guessing game and leaves him with what he calls ‘Dad Guilt’ when he has to hand him back to me.

Almost six months down the line and it’s changed a lot. Jason tells me every day how much he loves him. The fact that River now engages with him and interacts with toys has given them the opportunities that Jason needed to bond. These days, Riv is always watching Jason from across the room, laughing at him, shouting at him and pulling at his beard whenever he’s close enough. They’re becoming proper mates and it makes me melt. Whenever I leave them together I do worry about the acrobatics that go on at daddy day care, but Riv seems to love it so I let it go.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a baby who wants his mum when he’s tired or upset (Riv, not Jason) but it’s a battle that’s getting easier and he’s coping for longer periods of time with Jason comforting him. It’s too tempting to swoop in like supermum and sort him out. I’ve learnt that I can’t take over all the time and I need to let them keep working on that bond.

The biggest difference between me and Jason is that he can’t wait for River to be a bit older and be able to do more things but I CAN wait. I want to hold on to his baby days for as long as I can. Although I imagine cradling a ten year old in a baby sling won’t be very well received so I’ll need to let go at some point, I guess.

p.s He can do the shitty nappies no problem now

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