During Noah’s first year of life, he had very intense gastro-oesophageal reflux. I wrote a number of posts during that time reflecting on what I was learning through that difficult and seemingly endless season (see some here). There were times during that year Sam and I struggled to stay sane. Coming to terms with a baby that spends a disproportionate amount of its days and nights screaming inconsolably is hard.
Yes, it passes.
Yes, these babies are generally still healthy.
They won’t remember it.
You’ll move on from it.
These are some of the things people remind you.
And they are true.
But to be honest, they just aren’t helpful things to hear when you are in the thick of it. Really, you just want someone who understands.
You just don’t want to feel alone in it.
That’s not just true of reflux — it’s part of what it means to be human.
As we prepared to meet our second baby, our experiences with Noah were obviously present in our minds. Will our experience be more ‘normal’ this time? Will we have one of those babies that sleeps? I am ever the optimist — but in this case the odds were stacked against Leo (as my father, myself and both of my brothers all had bad reflux when we were bubs).
Three weeks into Leo’s life and it seems fairly apparent that his journey may be similar. His early days have begun to move in a direction we are familiar with. Short patches of being settled (10-15 minutes), followed by long bouts of crying and screaming, settled by a feed, then repeat the process. When precious sleep arrives, it is often interrupted early by stomach acid coming up little throat.
I have been reminding myself that similaries do not mean same. Whether reflux this time round lasts 1 month, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months does not change the fact that Leo is not Noah. Whether or not we use the same coping strategies, or find different ones, Leo is not Noah. Leo’s first week, first month, first year of life is his own. And whilst we may find ourselves walking through similar territory we have trudged through before, we will remind ourselves that we have not been here before. This is new. This is difficult. This is beautiful. This may be familiar, but this is fresh. When I find myself wondering ‘how will we survive that again?’, I tell myself that is not what is happening here. This may stretch and test us, but this is a new path, we walk together as four of us. And it will have its own highs and lows to navigate.
Like this profound moment last night,
this memory I am drilling into my brain,
this lesson I do not want to miss.
Leo was in one of his worst bouts of reflux screaming yet. Sam was preparing some dinner and I was just holding the little guy and rocking in the rocking chair while he screamed. After 20 minutes or so of his cries, Noah came over to me, and climbed up to sit on my right leg, while Leo rested on my left shoulder. For a good couple minutes Leo continued to cry, Noah snuggled in, and he gently touched Leo a couple of times, while he watched him struggle.
In many ways, it was ordinary. It was something I could have missed. A blur between loads of washing, changing nappies, keeping little and big humans fed and watered.
But here is why I noticed it.
So far during Leo’s short life my impulse has been to want to shield Noah from Leo’s cries. Obviously this is somewhat unavoidable - but where ever possible I have tried to take Leo outside to walk up and down the driveway when he is in discomfort, or I have encouraged Noah that he can play in his room if he feels uncomfortable when Leo is crying. I know how my insides can feel after a long session of baby screams, so I can’t imagine what they feel like for a two year old who has only ever lived with two adults so far and did not have any choice in sharing life and blood and bedroom with this new housemate.
But, last night on the rocking chair I had given up trying to ‘resolve’ the crying. I just held my roaring lion and gently rocked back and forth, trying to be present with him in his pain. And Noah, chose to engage by moving closer to suffering. He climbed up to share lap with screaming brother. Without a word he gently touched Leo’s shoulder, and back and forth we rocked, we three. Authentic. Messy. Wonderful.
And moments like this speak truth deeper than themselves don’t they?
A Dad, a rocking chair, a toddler and a crying baby.
But more than that, a window into what happens when we stop trying to fix each other’s pain. When we sit together, rock together, presence ourselves exactly where we are. Awake and aware.
And even here, we will find beauty.
Even here, we will find grace.
named after lion
May your roar be unleashed;
you were not made to be silent
May your roar be unleashed,
but may your claws stay in hiding
Recently, we moved house.
There were numerous lessons in this.
There was the confronting experience of realising just how many items we had managed to accumulate. When you load the hired truck for the fourth time and there are still odd bits and pieces left in the house that you will need to come back for tomorrow…you start disliking your stuff and asking some hard questions about why you have so much of it.
In the previous post, I shared 'Three things that have changed since I became a parent', reflecting on how much taking care of a tiny human can flip your world inside out.
Well, almost everything.
Note: After posting this it was brought to my attention that this piece of writing may seem insensitive to those who have had difficult experiences on the road to becoming a parent - or who have desired parenthood but have not been able to fulfil this desire. There are many people in my close circles who have these stories, and if this is your story , I want to acknowledge your grief and loss. My story has its own scars (which I've written about in earlier posts), but it also has enormous privileges that I know are not shared by all. This is intended as a lighthearted and humorous reflection on things that may impact the decision to try and have a child, but it is not intended to make light of the difficult road this can be.
There's no two ways about it.
The rumours are true.
Becoming responsible for a tiny human flips your life upside down,
shakes it like a snow-globe,
waits for you to think the contents are just about to settle...
then shakes it all again.
It changes...pretty much everything.
Well, not quite everything.
So, it’s been one whole year now, doing this Dad thing.
I guess you could say, in ‘Dad years’, I’m still a baby. But I’m starting to crawl pretty quick and learning lots of new sounds.
The brain of my one-year-old boy is so flexible, malleable, open. He is learning from every surface, every texture, every sound, every moment. And I’m trying to do the same as a parent. To learn from every cry, every babble, every mess, every bath, every twinkle and tear in little eye, every movement of little hand, every ripple of little laughter. I’m trying to be flexible, malleable, open.
This isn’t always easy or natural.
It’s Monday morning. Wind sweeps through the leaves out the window, and the Spring sunshine I basked in yesterday is now a dreary grey.
In my world, Monday is day off. It is rest. This means phone is switched off, emails are off limits, textbooks are closed and my activity throughout the day is slow and thoughtful. I think at a different pace and spend more time reflecting and trying to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Senses feel heightened on this day, as I notice what my food tastes like, marvel in the glory of a carefully chosen craft beer and let background music come to the foreground, hearing all the detail in a song I would often miss.
In my reflective state, I think back over the weekend that has just passed. Like many of my weekends, the one just gone was filled with contrasting contexts that seem almost comical when they’re placed next to each other.
This morning, like most mornings, I was involuntarily awoken at 6am.
This isn't the first involuntary wakeup of the night, but it is the last.
This is the one where the bundle of boy is beaming. Crawling across my head, eating keys from my bedside table, and making noises that signal a general zest for life. There is no going back to sleep from here. It is now officially daytime. I begrudgingly pull my self out of warm blanket nest. I do not share Noah's enthusiasm for 6am.
Before I was a Dad, the children’s book ‘Go the F*#k to sleep’ seemed offensive at best and ludicrous at worst. Hearing Samuel L Jackson read it on YouTube may have added some extra comedic value, but I probably stuck up my nose and thought it was a ridiculous title written by a terrible parent with a heart of stone.
Fast forward to a time when these words have left my own lips feeling more like a desperate prayer than a satirical children’s book, and my perspective has been stretched a little. Even Psalm 137:9 looks different (the one about dashing babies heads on rocks). Ok, so that’s probably one of the most bleak reflections of humanity in all recorded literature, but I’m going to give the dude the benefit of the doubt and assume he had just been woken up for the fourteenth time in half as many hours by a nearby infant. It can make you think (and write) some crazy things.
This is a piece of writing about the S word.
A lot of people in this world don't have great Dads. Some are abusive. Some leave. Some are around but really not around. I don’t know what those things are like. Some people do have great Dads. And I am lucky to be one of them. Your Papa/My Dad, is a good man. A great Dad.
Noah, I want to be your great Dad.