Happy New Year everyone, I hope you all enjoyed the time off with family and friends. Michelle and I certainly enjoyed spending some quality time with Ella through what was her second Christmas.
This blog looks back to my Paternity leave…I hope you enjoy!
I took the decision to have three weeks off of work, two weeks Paternity and a week’s annual leave. The last time I’d had three weeks off work was for our honeymoon a few years prior, so I was looking forward to doing so again for another special reason!
Michelle was having a planned C-section and so the Doctors had explained she would be less mobile than normal for a few weeks, hence I wanted to be around to help out as much as I could. Given we didn’t breastfeed Ella this also meant I could get involved in the innumerable feeds a baby has throughout the day (and night) as well as changing nappies, etc.
It was really important to me to be able to share the burden with Michelle; she had carried our little angel for the best part of a year and so now was my chance to get involved. It was also a chance to start bonding with my little girl.
The birth itself went without a glitch. The delivery team were brilliant, Chelle was amazing and within what felt like a few minutes you hear this little cry and know she’s arrived!
They cleaned her up, weighed her, and then she was handed over to me by the delivery nurse…looking back at the photos I just looked in shock! There was an element of that, mixed with relief that Mummy and baby were fine, but also I was just overwhelmed with emotions…she was soooo tiny, so helpless. Words cannot describe the wave of emotions that hit you when you see your little baby for the first time…even now as I write this I can feel them.
A few days later and we were back home. Michelle certainly had to take it easy for a week or so. Full recovery from a C-section takes around 6 weeks, although the first week is toughest as the abdomen is still very week, and so simple tasks like getting in and out of bed, up from the sofa, etc are very challenging and very painful. Michelle was an absolute warrior and insisted on being as active as possible throughout, and I am sure she was driving after a few weeks (bloody stubborn!). I’d have milked that for all it was worth…lying in bed ringing a service bell for a good month! I done what I could, helping keep the house tidy, making dinner, taking Ella out of the house if Chelle needed a quiet moment, etc…and again just trying to be their for her as a husband to provide emotional support. Pregnancy/giving birth brings with it such a huge change for a woman, not just emotionally, but physically and certainly it can knock their confidence. For Dad’s all you can do is reassure, and tell them how beautiful and amazing they still are.
Truth be told, babies don’t really do much more than drink milk, sleep and poo during the first month, So for me this period was about adjusting to life with our new addition, supporting Michelle’s recovery and bonding with Ella.
Spending time playing, sleeping, cuddling, reading with Ella for those few weeks is something I will always cherish and the only downside was having to go back to work. I could spend half a morning watching her sleep, listening to the weird noises she made, smelling her (babies smell amazing, but I’d advise against smelling random babies as the parents may find it odd), and just talking to her and trying anything I could to get her to smile.
We took turns with night feeds, and although it is tiring, you enjoy the quality time and the cuddles afterwards as they drift back off to sleep for a few hours. We’d end up taking her downstairs for these feeds so the other one of us could attempt to sleep. to be fair she was a really good baby sleep-wise for the first several months.
The one thing I was less enthusiastic about was changing her dirty nappies. They say practice makes perfect, and I have no issue in changing Ella at all, and do so regularly, but even now when there’s a poo smell in the air I am guilty of trying to delegate that particular nappy change to Michelle. Ella I think nowadays is aware of this and I am convinced she saves her worst poos for me when Michelle isn’t around.
It was a magical three weeks for me and I’d have had longer if I could have gotten more time off of work. Truth be told, it’s not the hardest period of bringing up a baby; as I mentioned earlier they don’t do much, can’t really move anywhere (still remember literally propping her head up to burp her as she wasn’t strong enough to do it herself). the real challenge comes sadly midway through the maternity leave as they become more mobile, sleep less, crave more interaction…and at that point it’s all down to the mother
What are my thoughts on the parental leave system in the UK? You effectively get up to two weeks paid parental leave with the recent addition of shared parental leave, allowing you to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between you and your wife, but good luck to the man brave enough to have that conversation! Jokes aside, I think the UK is behind the curve on this topic and needs to modernise it drastically to reflect the changing dynamics of parenthood in a (supposedly) forward thinking western society. I think there should be a mandatory fully paid leave period of two weeks, followed by a staggered pay and leave system of up to 3 months. This would go some way to removing the stigma of people taking time off of work as well as support those financially who want to take off a longer period.
Anyway, that’s it on this topic…I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed recalling more fond memories of Ella.
The next main blog is about the adjustment period we faced first when I went back to work, then when Michelle went back to work. I walk through our experience of how two working parents bringing up a baby impacts on your personal wellbeing, work-life balance, finances, and how it changes the dynamic of your relationship as husband and wife – and what we have done to learn, grow and be better parents and people through this process. A bit of a darker blog in truth, but something I feel is extremely important to talk about openly.
There will be a couple of smaller blogs either side of this looking at some more recent family outings! Until then, thank you very much for reading the blog and as always, any feedback is appreciated.