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Hats Off to the Superdads

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

Hats Off to the Superdads

While working on the maternity wards of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, I came across many a shirtless dad doing skin-to-skin with his newborn baby, while an exhausted mum, after giving birth, had a rest that a freight train running past couldn’t have prevented. These dads had perhaps read something about skin-to-skin being a comfort to a baby and possibly the positive health effects, or maybe it had been suggested to them by a care assistant or midwife. However, I doubt that many had come across the article that didn’t get much hype from the media (surprise surprise) about the hormone dopamine being increased in fathers who did skin-to-skin with their babies – ultimately rewiring their daddy brain and enabling them to cope with a young baby much better in times of stress. Needless to say, it was an emotional sight, except that I started to come across it fairly frequently, to the point of it becoming a normal, regular thing.

What did surprise me even more were the daddies (whose babies for whatever reason were not latching onto the breast) helping their wives to hand-express their colostrum. While mum massaged and gently squeezed her own breast, daddy was standing ready with a syringe poised, catching the drops into it one by one. This clinical skill was certainly a precious bonding moment as both mum and dad strived to provide the best start for their precious and venerable new one. In these cases, where baby needed syringe feeding of colostrum, dad had usually witnessed a dramatic birth. He often took the opportunity to off-load his experience while I listened and empathised, mum sometimes explaining that she had no idea what was happening at the time. The fathers had feared for both their babies’ and their wives lives, and, in the few hours after the birth, there didn’t seem to be any emotional support available. I was thankful that I could provide just a bit of emotional support by listening to their stories, sometimes feeling very concerned about everything they had been through. Never would I have dared uttered “well, all is ok now!” or “it doesn’t matter as long as baby and mum are happy and healthy”. This would have been completely dismissive of their experiences. Instead, I lent them a listening ear.

To this day, my own dad (nearly half a century later) recalls being a new father to me and dealing with six weeks of nightly incessant crying (call it colic if you will) and bouncing me on the edge of his bed for hours and hours. He remembers as if were yesterday- “Erin, I went to work day after day like a zombie!!” and “you cried all night long”. He speaks as someone who is relaying a traumatic event. After six long weeks, they had gotten through, never forgetting, and I’m certain that the bond between my parents was strengthened with all his sleepless nights, allowing my mother the rest she so desperately needed.

One of the most precious moments in my own relationship with my husband occurred the first day I ever breastfed in public. Our newborn was hungry. We had only ventured out for a couple of hours, and I hadn’t anticipated her hunger arriving again so soon. Lunch had been enjoyable, but, as we walked through the mall, baby made her final demands be known – tight fisted and letting out a loud cry. I desperately suggested we walk very fast so that I could go feed her in the car (which was parked very far away), and to that proposal my husband said assertively, “Why don’t you just feed her here?” pointing out an empty, backless bench in the middle of a crowed mall. At first, I was shocked at the suggestion, saying that I didn’t feel comfortable feeding her in such a public place. He insisted that no one would even notice, and, if they did, “They’d have to deal with me”. In an instant, he had spontaneously and miraculously become my saviour, protector, and advocate. Not just to me, but to our daughter as well. Her needs were more important than anyone’s opinions about how and where a baby should be fed. As the scales fell from my eyes, I fed her there, in this loud, brightly-lit, place, with literally hundreds of people walking past. To my astonishment, no one seemed to notice! And from that moment on, I felt free to feed our daughter anywhere and everywhere at any time. Never again would I hesitate to do my best to meet the needs of my child. I had been empowered—and I am eternally grateful. This pivotal moment helped direct me in what I give myself to today, to be the advocate, supporter, empowerer to new mothers who are endeavouring to breastfeed. Certainly, in the country with the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, a plethora of women wouldn’t be able to even initiate it if it weren’t for the strength and encouragement of the dads backing us.

For a very long time, I’ve intended to write something about the wonderful, amazing fathers that I have had the privilege to come across in the work I’ve been doing, but it hasn’t been until now that these thoughts have taken shape in my mind so that I am able to (hypothetically) put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, in an effort to honour those who are sometimes marginalised in this, the parenting, world. IF YOU ARE READING THIS OR BEING READ TO, THEN YOU ARE WONDERFUL, AMAZING, DADDIES — THANK YOU! Happy Father’s Day.

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