‘No Flaws, Only Human’ is an international week-long campaign, that started 25th January, aimed at raising awareness for postnatal mood disorders. The purpose of this being to share information, stories and resources to help dispel shame and encourage dialogue surrounding postpartum mental health. The campaign is focused on the babywearing community, but it is not exclusive to it.
This is a subject close to my heart, as my early parental life was a struggle. When I first became a dad, I had the internal discussion about what kind of dad I wanted to be and if I would be up to the job. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the easiest of starts. No one tells you how difficult it will be and how massive the responsibility is to look after the tiny life that is passed to you. It got to me… a lot.
I had this baby that cried and I didn’t understand why. Looking back, it was no more than any other baby would, but not knowing how to soothe him, made me feel like a bad father. I found it difficult and got frustrated very easily. This frustration was born out of disappointment with myself for not living up to the preconceived idea of how fatherhood would suit me. I thought back to being in the Assisted Conception Unit whilst we were having IVF and how excited I was about being a parent, yet when Isaac arrived it seemed a million miles away from what I’d imagined.
I hadn’t had any real experience with babies and so the learning curve was huge. The first few weeks were the hardest and when I felt at my lowest. It was an emotional time generally, but there were points that I would just sit and cry. Something that I never spoke about to anyone else other than my wife.
It isn’t my intention to put dads off and make fatherhood sound traumatic. Becoming a parent is about growth; not just for your baby, but for you. I learnt many a life lesson and the most important to me was: Patience.
I stress out very easily in every part of my life and this was the case in the early days. Patience and a baby with no initial routine, taught me to take each day as it comes and not to dwell on the little things. ‘Has he drank enough milk today?’ ‘He isn’t eating very much?’ These were the types of questions that plagued my day, until I learned to let go and realised that Isaac is his own person and no babies do exactly as a book says they should.
Things got better. Understanding his semi-routine; the amount of time until he would want another feed, another nap – gave me confidence in my abilities to care for him. From here I stopped doubting and truly began to enjoy fatherhood.
Our relationship has gone from strength to strength, as I always hoped it would. I found new ways to bond, one of which is slinging. I carry my 2 year old in a sling and have done since he was 6 months. My wife found slings before me and at the beginning, I wasn’t interested in the slightest. It wasn’t until a local market that I opted to try it out for practical reasons and from there I was hooked. It increased my confidence in myself as a parent and helped me realise that my child wasn’t this daunting part of my life that I should worry about, but was in fact a beautiful and awe-inspiring little boy.
Wearing Isaac and having him close, allowed me to chat with him as we went about our business, and now at 2 years old, he chats back. It also gave the added benefit of slingy cuddles, which helped build our connection and is just a lovely feeling to get that affection.
Babywearing for me, isn’t just about the physical activity of carrying my son, but also about the support and friendship within the community. Through groups like Sheffield Slings and Sling Dads, I have met some amazing mums and dads and shared experiences. Being a part of a community has meant that questions are answered, advice is offered, friends are made and cake is eaten.
This support has attributed to the growth of me as a father and I wish I’d known about these groups from the start, because if I had, my initial journey could have been different. I wouldn’t have felt so out of place at my local children’s centre as the only man, surrounded by people that looked at me like I had wandered in by mistake. Sufficed to say, I didn’t feel very welcome or that there were any services that included me as a dad. Baby-wearing eventually filled this void and brought some much needed relief.
The most recent step in my journey was ensuring that I paid it forward, and to do this I completed my baby-wearing peer supporter training. This made me feel like I could finally pay back all that the sling community had given to me, by helping to provide advice and support to other parents.
Over the last 2 years I have seen amazing changes and milestones; eating solids, crawling, walking and his first words. He has grown from this tiny baby, into an amazing little boy. A little boy that is fearless, funny and independent. I’m so proud to have been there at every step and am even prouder to be his dad.
For more info on the ‘No Flaws, Only Human’ campaign and to find out the schedule for the week, visit the campaign website.