Being In Charge

When Dylan told me last year he was going to go to the Dive Show for the day, I waved him off to get his train and didn’t really think anything more of it. My best friend Amanda was coming over for the day and I was looking forward to that. At some point during the afternoon, he called me. I thought it was to tell me he’d found a wetsuit but no – he’d found a holiday he wanted to go on. We had a brief chat about it and he booked it that day.

At this point we knew we were expecting Max so I knew I’d be at home with a 2 year old and a baby of roughly six months. Dylan’s been diving for a long, long time and in fact when we went abroad last year spent a couple of days under water so it wasn’t really a surprise that he was heading out by himself for just over a week.

I had a lot of negative reactions to him going with many saying they wouldn’t ‘let’ their husband go and leave them alone for 8 days. My response to that is well he’s an adult, I can’t really stop him doing anything and if I have a strop about it then he’s only going to resent me trying to stop him enjoying his hobby. Plus 51 weeks this year he’s been a hands-on dad and a great supportive husband so who am I to deny him one week where it’s just about him?!

So roll on September and I was bidding him goodbye on an early Friday morning as he headed to the airport. I of course was shitting myself. Clearly I can keep two children alive and fed for a day but the thought of also being in sole charge every night too was something else. I had an irrational fear that Max would suddenly reherniate and we’d end up in hospital again and I’d have to try and juggle caring for Alex around that (To explain that one, I am a life-long sufferer of anxiety and I am absolutely excellent at imagining the worst possible disaster scenarios all the time. I’m also a mother and that comes with a constant worry that your child may get sick, injured or blind your other child with a crayon, right?).

I think the biggest issue was the fact I knew he’d basically be out of contact for most of the week. He was on a liveboard in the middle of the Red Sea and apparently they’re not well known for the excellent wifi out there. I did manage to speak to him briefly twice I think while he was out there (once when he was about to come home), but for the rest of the week there were no phone calls to say ‘what do you fancy for dinner?’ or ‘guess what your child’s done now?’ Despite the fact we’ve spoken the majority of days since we met in September 2009, I didn’t realise how much I relied on him until that week.

Max came down with a cold which was the major complication of the week really. I had envisaged a week of dealing with toddler tantrums but in reality our oldest was excellent (she obviously had a couple of moments where she was less than golden but on the whole I can’t complain at all). However the night before Dylan went, Max transformed himself from a baby sleeping for 11 hours at night to one waking up at the slightest sound and needing patting/dummy/comfort about 50 times before the morning.

I’d get up to express, get downstairs and have to go back up to settle him down. Repeat this process about five or six times every time I went down! At first I thought it was just his cold but as that cleared I became convinced his reflux medication wasn’t working as effectively as it’s weight based and he’d put on a few pounds since it had been increased last (once it was increased he started sleeping again so I was right).

I had some help in the week – firstly staying overnight at my parents’ house which was lovely and then Amanda stopped over one of the nights.

I cried twice. And I missed Dylan A LOT. In fact I think absence made the heart grow fonder and I sure as hell appreciated everything he does a lot more in the weeks after he came home! But on the whole I kinda had my shit together and that was a nice feeling when I looked back at the end of the week and realised I’d done it.

It sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? So many people cope on their own with children, or have partners who work away a lot. But I guess it was just a big change from us to go from having daddy around to not being able to call him. It’s definitely made me take my metaphorical hat off to anyone going it alone though!

(Oh and before I get the ‘when are you having a week away?’ comment, I’ve deferred mine until the kids are teenagers and then I will gleefully board a plane and leave Dylan to fend for himself with two feral youths!)

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Men on Maternity Wards

Alexandra's blissfully unaware daddy's gone home and mommy's in charge!

Alexandra’s blissfully unaware daddy’s gone home and mommy’s in charge!

I’m on a parenting forum (not THAT one!) and very often interesting discussions come up about all sorts of topics relating to babies, parenting and more. A few weeks back (I write down ideas for posts and then tend to sit down and pen a couple in one go so as a result I’m sometimes massively behind the times!) there was one which got me thinking hence deciding to write a post on it.

They were talking about the rights and wrongs of having male partners staying overnight on a maternity ward. Personally my experience is the two nights after I had Alexandra I was in a four-bed bay and Dylan had to go home overnight. Once I became unwell, I was moved into a private room and we were then given a camp bed for him to sleep on and he stayed every night until our discharge 12 days after Alex was born, even on the nights we were moved back up to the labour ward.
Personally I couldn’t have coped without him at that point, especially as I was becoming so unwell it was often up to him to do the lion’s share of the childcare. If he hadn’t been there I would have needed much more input from the midwives and healthcare assistants who were already speaking a disproportionate amount of their time with me due to the extra needs I had compared to most women they see.
I completely get that it’s not practical to always allow men to stay on the wards, especially when their partners are on a ward rather than in a side room. After all, the other women might want their privacy after having given birth themselves. But from a mental health point of view (and a physical one too where it’s been a traumatic birth) I think there’s a real argument for men being there.
It’s one thing a woman who’s had a straightforward birth and is likely to be out after a day spending that one night on her own with the baby (although to be honest even the thought of that while I was pregnant scared the hell out of me) but quite another if they’ve had a section or something go wrong or they or the baby are unwell. Having a partner there to support you, get up and see to the baby or even just to calm you when you’re worrying about something in the middle of the night is pretty essential in my books.
Of course in an ideal world we’d all be back at home super quick and have that early time to bond as a family, but we all know it doesn’t work like that! Also in an ideal world they’d be enough midwives to go round and all the rooms would be private rather than shared bays. But now I’m really getting into the realms of fantasy!
Harriet and Alexandra X