Kokes is a new father living in Poland who is sharing his experiences during his 8-week parental leave.
In my previous post, I mentioned that my approach towards taking care of a child is best summed as: “what’s the worst that can happen?”. It’s a phrase that’s mostly served me well, but in this post I’d like to briefly describe a couple of situations where “worst things” did indeed happen to me when I was one-on-one with my baby boy. I do need to stress that I have been blessed with my time with him, I have never had any serious concerns about his well-being, and my son was also never seriously ill.
I know there are lots of men out there who are truly afraid of these kinds situations. Here is what happened and how I dealt with what was going on.
Bottle Feeding Hazards
When Roch and his mother returned home from the hospital I made a decision to encourage her to leave house as often as possible, but still within realistic timeframes. I wanted her to go shopping, go for walks, just leave the house. Roch was breastfed every 2-3 hours, so that gave her a couple of hours of free time between feedings.I remember perfectly well when she was leaving the house for the first time, leaving me alone with Roch. I was thinking: “Kokes, what are you doing?”. She also asked if I was sure and I just told her to leave before I change my mind. This was so out of my comfort zone. But, I knew it was the best way forward for everyone involved and I knew the sooner this happened, the sooner I would get comfortable looking after Roch.
After several weeks of being breastfed, we decided we’d like to feed him using a bottle. For some reason I didn’t like it. I didn’t like feeding Roch. I was always afraid he would choke on the milk. Nevertheless, my wife always pushed me to try this as often as possible so that I could be as “autonomous” with Roch as possible. As an added benefit, it would allow her to stay away from home for longer periods of time.
One time, when I was feeding the two-month-old Roch, as you may expect, he started choking. In the pre-birth classes we covered such situations. But this was real life, real stress. I needed to act immediately. I gently turned him around and started clapping his back. After several seconds I turned him back around and I noticed his face was getting red. This really was the worst that could happen. I repeated the procedure: turned him around, clapped his back. After several seconds I heard the most beautiful sound in the world…. the sound of child’s cry. We were home. Uff.
Although we continued to feed Roch with the bottle, he never really “got it”. Neither did I. Roch was never fond of bottles and after three or four months we decided to drop it completely.
To me choking is perhaps the most terrifying thing that can happen. And I know it will happen in the future. Since we started expanding Roch’s diet and teaching him how to drink from a cup, I don’t remember how many times I’ve clapped his back or put fingers into his mouth to remove food.A father just needs to get accustomed to the thought that he’ll need to step in and assist (the last time my son choked was yesterday). Therefore, knowing what to do is paramount. I always encourage dads-to-be to read up about basic first aid actions before their child is born. Please do it. It will save you a lot of stress and perhaps your child’s life.
Far From Home
The second situation was kind of funny, although I certainly was not amused when it happened. When Roch was around one month old, we started going for walks. The first walk lasted around 30 seconds. He was awake when we put him into a pram and once we left the apartment he started crying. We literally left the staircase and turned around. Thirty seconds max. We decided we need to get him accustomed to being laid down in the pram. For the next few days we would take him around the apartment in the pram, he would play, rest and sleep there too.
Eventually, the situation improved significantly so that he was ok with being in the pram. But still, he was not ok being outdoors in the pram. We therefore decided to go out when he was sleeping.
He would still cry when he woke up, but we noticed that he slept for roughly 30 minute stretches while in the pram, so we walked around the neighborhood. Always in close proximity to the apartment, should need arise to get home quickly.
As time went on, Roch’s sleeping time extended slightly to 45 minutes, but he’d still cry when waking up. Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks of regular walks with Roch and my wife, I was feeling adventurous. It was time to take him out on my own.
At first, I’d only scoot around the neighborhood, but as my confidence grew I started pushing it. One time I decided to go to the nearest petrol (gas) station, which was around 1.5 km away from our apartment. At that time this place seemed like being beyond seven seas. I thought I could cover the distance there and back within 45 minutes easily. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
We reached the petrol station after 20 minutes of walking. I was proud. I took a picture of that important event to show off to my family. I turned around to go home and after only a hundred meters, Roch woke up.
I couldn’t take him out of the pram because it was only slightly above freezing; definitely too cold for a newborn. I also knew that the only thing that would calm him down was my wife’s breast. I only had one choice: ‘Run, Kokes, Run!!”.
So I did. I just texted my wife “he’s crying” and sprinted home.
When I reached the apartment, I saw my wife holding the door open (bless her) so that I didn’t waste time looking for keys and struggling to open the door solo. I was sweating. I thought I’d never do it again. But then again, when I cooled down I realized fear wasn’t the best way forward. Ok, my “adventurism” was slightly dented, but I didn’t want this event to put me down.
The next day or day after that we were out again, but this time closer home. As the weather improved we started taking longer walks, and my wife also was able to breastfeed Roch outside if he woke up crying. Concurrently, when I was one-on-one with him and he’s start feeling bad I was able to take him out of the pram and carry him home. He seemed very content with this and would always feel more secure on my chest. Of course, physically carrying a child and pushing the pram was a bit of a challenge, but going out with Roch was more important to me than these temporary inconveniences. Only around late May / early June did Roch start waking up without crying in the pram. This was great as I could further and farther explore what the city I live has to offer.
Do not let temporary setbacks discourage you. Kids change all the time, often for no apparent reason. Just embrace the change and uncertainty and carry on. They will grow out of it… I hope!
Take The Time highly recommends taking a childcare first aid course before your baby is born. For starters, take a look at the Red Cross options in your country: