A collection of thoughts and advice from the perspective of a new father. From the birth to the first birthday these insights are a reflection of the changing role of the father in modern society and all that comes with it. This book is for the parent who feels lost in their new role.
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|Publisher:||Soul Rocks Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)|
About the Author
A writer, a father and a human constantly on a quest to destroy his own ego, Sam writes about the internal journey of fatherhood as well as the metaphysical existence we all experience as a race. He writes to make people think, he writes to make people laugh, he writes for the open-minded and the freethinking. He lives in London, UK.
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Sometimes You Have to Bite the Dog
One Father's Journey One Year with my Daughter
By Sam Coleman
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2013 Sam Coleman
All rights reserved.
The Birth Diaries
(A collection of recollections on the birth of our daughter)
She's here. She's been here for some time now. After all the time we spent talking about her, waiting patiently and somewhat naively for her arrival. Contemplating what life would be like with her around was a sheer impossibility. There is nothing that can prepare you for it. In many ways we chose to let go. To let the situation evolve by itself. If chaos was coming with all its baggage, then trying to make some space to fit it all in seemed pointless. I'm talking mentally here, but it very quickly became a physical space consideration as well, thanks to all the equipment needed to house a newborn baby.
All we had was each day as a singular moment. Some days were excruciating. Some were baffling. Some were miraculous in their own way. In the grand scheme of things it's hardly the first time anything like this has happened before, but in all honesty the entire experience from the very beginning has been a time for reflection, analysis and endless guilt. A change, however subtle, is a change after all. And there is nothing subtle about having a baby. The scale of it is unknown and often terrifying.
As I write this I'm very much looking forward to the weekend. Not for the self-annihilation or the freedom to pack in as many minutes of very little, if any, activity whatsoever (a luxury I am a fully qualified expert in). It's the mornings with my daughter that excite me. It's the soothing contemplation of the entire day stretching and filling out in front of me. Minutes and hours swell with a random flux only to be filled with wonder, joy and relentless appeasement. Conversations with a being at this age prove fruitful, illuminating and consistently surprising. I could happily spend hours in bed talking with my daughter as she analyses the proceedings of the day and starts to decide exactly what she wants to do. The blissful hours in bed watching her eyelids flutter open fill every waking moment. It's almost as if the world doesn't exist and for that I can only be grateful to her. Grateful to her for giving me a reason to exist for a fit purpose as opposed to drinking heavily, writhing in vitriol about the state of the world and complaining endlessly about trivialities.
There is, however, a part of me that realises that these moments are short-lived, acutely profound and only the tip of an iceberg some would deem to be incomprehensible in scale. With no doubt in my mind I can state that my daughter is fiendishly intelligent at just over nine weeks old. With no doubt in my mind I can state that I am in trouble.
List of Things to Remember
Our daughter was born on December 12th 2011 at 13:47. As I write this I have forgotten her weight and feel a pang of guilt about that. Perhaps I am overthinking it, but now there always seems to be something else to feel guilty about.
We visited the hospital upon first feeling contractions. Unfortunately our daughter was only vaguely interested about coming out and, without going into details, was somewhat induced; persuaded; cajoled even. Regardless, we tentatively left the hospital and, within a few hours, were back within the beeping depths of the maternity unit.
At this point the entire world stopped turning. Either it stopped or started spinning at a speed at which the outside world ceased to exist.
List of things to consider and remember as a father when your partner is in labour:
1. You will need patience – lots of it. I sat beside my wife for nearly 24 hours. During the time at her side I was constantly battling my emotions. Time loses all meaning, and you need to be aware of that. Your thoughts get darkly creative at times and you need to keep them to yourself – for her benefit as much as yours.
2. Remember, if you want to leave the room you can. And you should. If you start to hear a voice inside your head saying "You're really not dealing with this very well are you?" then it's time to leave the room. Always make sure your partner knows where you're going and how long you'll be.
3. Keep an eye on the midwives. Ask questions. Try and understand everything that is happening. Your partner's mental faculties are vulnerable at best. You need to be a prophet. She needs you more than she perhaps will ever need you.
4. Don't ever think the worst but be prepared to be brave. Courage is what you need, and what you will always need, as a father and as a parent.
5. Smile at her when she wakes up. Don't be afraid to touch her. Make eye contact.
6. Remember that you will never understand what she is going through.
This last one is of particular importance. She is about to show you a side of her she has preserved since the day she told you she was pregnant. She most likely has no real comprehension of how much physical, emotional and psychological pain she is about to go through. She'll be terrified. You'll be terrified. But you aren't about to eject a living being out of your body. A living being you've been keeping alive inside you for almost a year. That's the difference. It sounds obvious but it's easy to forget as we are, as a race, naturally selfish.
Be assured that she is about to amaze, delight and terrify you in equal measures. She will look into your eyes in a way you will never, if ever, see again.
Believe in her. That's all she needs from you.
The day of your first baby's arrival is something you will never forget. No single experience can come close to matching the vast range of emotions that carry you through the experience.
The first part of the process, which pumps the first of many litres of endorphins into your brain, is the sight of your partner in pain – sheer agonising pain. And the worst thing about it is there's very little you can do to help. I had to keep reminding myself that just being there, in the literal sense of being a partner, was as much help as I could give. It still felt like I was doing very little.
When the contractions first started I saw a look of panic in her eyes. We were at home attempting to distract ourselves with mindless activity when the first one struck. Doubled up in pain I saw the first stage of panic rush over her. Instinctively I rushed to help.
And then she changed almost immediately. Once she started to understand how a contraction felt, the panic left her. She suddenly became a lot calmer than I was. I called a taxi and did all I could to calm the situation, which mostly involved pacing and asking the throbbing air around me what was taking the taxi so long. This was little help to anybody and I suddenly began to feel hideously unprepared.
Once arriving at the hospital and being ushered through the maternity ward, I remember the first room we went into feeling very small and contained for an event of such magnitude. Everyone feels that their baby's arrival should carry some importance and impact but, for walls that have seen countless lives arriving into the world, the importance drains away. This, strangely, was a comfort in itself.
Something I never took into account was the rota change for the accompanying midwives. We were happy with the first midwives as they explained the process clearly and precisely and went over all the options available to us. We were extremely unhappy with the next round of midwives as they patronised, insulted and maltreated us.
After flatly denying my wife the precious gas and air she so obviously needed they then proceeded to break her waters without asking or advising either of us. It was then that the heart rate of our baby, once beeping happily in the background, started to fluctuate wildly. An emergency situation was declared and before we could breathe the room was filled with doctors. Pipes, fluids, injections, questions. Hands everywhere. My wife was being prodded, moved, pushed and pulled in all directions.
It was at this point she turned to me and asked me out of the corner of her mouth, "Do you have any idea what's going on?"
The world started to speed up.
After the room started to empty of doctors, nurses, anaesthetists and other midwives, we were suddenly dealing with a very different situation. We still had the lingering midwives haunting the room but they were starting to feel irrelevant. Among the legion of doctors that had examined the beeping machinery and knowingly stroked their chins, there were some friendly faces who took the time to explain to both of us what exactly was happening. We felt a whole lot better despite the fact our midwives were still sneering at us.
The very act of breaking my wife's waters had caused our daughter's heart rate to accelerate rapidly before dipping rather alarmingly. However, it was starting to stabilise now and an air of calm was beginning to fall.
I was completely focused on my wife. Nothing so far had alarmed or scared me. Or at least that was the impression I was giving her. All I could do was hold her hand, rub her feet and adhere to her every whim. I remember wanting to take all of the pain she was feeling and hold it for her. Just for a short while. Just enough to give her a break from the enormity of what her body was going through. I remember feeling so very proud of her and so awfully numb at the same time.
Anticipation is sometimes the most enjoyable stage of an event but in this case, not knowing what the outcome would be, I was scared. But I couldn't let her know I was scared. So I froze. I hid the fear beneath open honesty and a constant smile. But all that time I knew in the deepest of my understanding of her that she could feel how scared I was without even telling me. We were suddenly reassuring each other, without even talking, that everything was going to be all right. It felt like a rippling circular connection between us.
The midwives, one of whom I should mention was ironically named "Joy", mostly ignored us as our daughter slowly made her way into the world. I had to keep leaving the room to stay awake and reopen my mind. To revitalise my senses. In total I think I slept for ten minutes.
I remember idly thinking about an interview I'd read recently with the legendary author Alan Moore. I had read his discussion of the concept of time existing with a non-linear structure. How time wraps and bends around reality rather than running to a straight linear formation. The clock on the wall became meaningless as hours sped by then abruptly slowed to a halt. The walls throbbed as we coexisted in our time vacuum.
Sitting at my wife's side I then started reading a comic book she had just bought me as an early Christmas present, about the adventures of a trio of mechanical animals. After I'd finished it, and as my wife slept through an epidural haze, I wept. I wept because the story was heartbreaking. I also wept at the realisation of the sheer strength of the connection between my wife and me. In that quiet moment I felt the strength of our relationship take form inside me. It is only in an hour, potential or otherwise, of departure that we realise how much we love one another. The fact that she knew me well enough to buy me a comic book she knew I'd adore was a feat of such enormous magnitude it took me over entirely. Love is a shapeless thing, but at that point I realised I had only really been skimming the surface.
Onwards we went. Sunlight started to fill the room. The midwives' rota changed and in walked our new companions for the final stage. I could have kissed them.
The End and the Beginning
The world was beginning to wake up. Sunlight streamed through the windows as dawn began to break. Our new midwives bustled happily around us as my wife approached the final stages of her labour. Everything had stabilised. The atmosphere, simply because we had two midwives with us who were friendly, experienced and interested in us, had changed for the better.
I could go into detail here about the machinery and the process and the breathing but really it all became a whirr of emotion. My mother called the hospital desk asking after us. As a worrying parent this meant a lot to me but it also made me remember that I was still, and always would be, her child. Even in a private, character-building personal situation such as this I still had my own mother checking on me.
The last few minutes felt like watching fire being born. The slow pulses of pain suddenly erupting into spasms were written into my wife's entire body. Her ever-sharp and bright eyes showed her complete engagement in giving birth. Every second ebbed and flowed like water splashing off a sun-stained rock.
And still she smiled.
Still she laughed and joked with the midwives. In that situation while bereft of any scrap of integrity or privacy she looked at me and smiled. When the final contraction rushed through her she started to laugh and made a flippant comment. I was so proud of her. Even to this day she astonishes me.
And then she arrived. Just like that. After all the chemicals and pushing and encouraging and soft words and hard words and hand squeezing and relentless anxiety, she arrived. Even as I write this I can remember exactly how she moved when she came out. I can remember her hand reaching out to pull the cord away from her neck. I can remember the joyful welcome she received when she started crying. I can remember the smell of the room and the voices of the midwives rolling through the air like a springtime thunderstorm.
I think about that exact moment quite regularly. My brain instinctively lets me relive the whole sensory experience. The warmth, the hormones, the voices, the rush, the sight of our daughter suddenly being present in the world. And my beautiful beautiful wife. She had never looked so ethereally beautiful. The entire experience centred me and I lived in it. I breathed it. I swam through it and emerged gasping and breathless at the shore of a new world. Our baby. Our baby girl had arrived.
Format, Re-record and Press Play
She had arrived in an instant. If I think about her being held up in the shimmering light I can feel that same wonder stirring in the pit of my stomach. Nothing can describe the feelings I experienced in that moment. There is no singular event that can make you feel that way. I can't even put it into words. Maybe it was the mass of hormones spinning through the air. It could have been the sheer fatigue pulsing through my entire body. It felt like a cloud of electric snowflakes dancing gently on the air.
When she arrived it felt like she'd always been here. When she arrived it felt as if she'd been meaning to come earlier but she'd had important things to do. It was like seeing a friend I hadn't seen for years. How close we felt in those tiny flashing moments. How entwined we felt. She was greeted with a rousing "Welcome" from our midwives in arms. I greeted her with a "Where have you been? I've missed you so much!"
The world slid away and came roaring back at us with a low-pitched rolling boom. Everything changed in those little moments. She was handed to my wife while I sped off to call loved ones. I came back to find her awake, clothed and bathing in the heat from the incubator. I gazed at her. She gazed right back at me. I looked at her and saw in those deep dark eyes everything that had been missing from my life. I could hear my wife chattering away to the midwives while she was stitched, cleaned and congratulated. We even had an offer of purchase for our newly born little girl. All the fatigue, all the angst, all the worry melted away as we were finally united as a family. A family. I now truly understood the literal meaning of the word.
Then I had to pick her up. Then came the doubt and the fear and the "OhmywhathavewedoneI'mafraidImightbreakherI'm afraidImightdropherohmyGodI'mafraid". She felt too tender and fragile to squeeze and, coupled with an overwhelming desire to hug her so tightly, I felt like I was about to burst. All that nervous, frenetic, fizzing energy, and nowhere to place it. It gets to the point where you just want to hug everyone to bring yourself back down to earth.
But fear was banished from the room. We were gathered up by our midwife as she handled our daughter like a true professional. She showed us how to hold her and how best to support her tiny head. A complete stranger did that. We placed our daughter's life in the hands of a complete stranger. We placed our entire lives in the hands of a complete stranger. We'll probably never see our midwives again. This is an emotional complexity in itself. How can a person play such a vital part in your new family's life then move onto the next family? How many times has her heart been broken only to mend itself in the deep sleep before her next shift?
Excerpted from Sometimes You Have to Bite the Dog by Sam Coleman. Copyright © 2013 Sam Coleman. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Birth Diaries – A collection of recollections on the birth of our
Insights – Personal insights in relation to fatherhood.................... 15
The Milk Diaries – An imagined diary written from our daughter's
One Year – Letting go.................... 69
One Father – Insights from my father.................... 73