Welcome to omaniblogg at blogs.ie.
This is my first blog. I’ve been thinking about it for many weeks. Finally I’ve stumbled into a clearing. It has been no easy matter to reach here and start to write. Only now, after several posts, have I learned how to edit an entry.
This is a revision of what first appeared. Over the next few days I’ll try to make clear what this blog is all about.
It is certainly about change because I feel I’m living change like never before, relishing change for perhaps the first time in my life. Anywhere I look I see change.
RE-MIGRATING I don’t ever use capitals to make a point, but I’m making an exception because I feel as if I am inventing a word. If I am, I’m delighted. I clicked on “lookup” which is the on-line dictionary connected with the place where I write this before publishing it. All I found was “re: migrating”. An entirely different matter. So maybe there is hope for re-migrating.
I’m struggling to get set up. This is to see whether I’ve cracked it.
Very early in our experience as parents, Edel and I went in for division of labour: she would do the night feed. I would sleep through so that I could take charge in the morning and she could lie in and recover. If this meant me going into the spare room, taking my snores with me, that was an acceptable price to pay, for the moment.
This was a pretty obvious move when E. was breastfeeding. When we went over to bottles, we could have changed it but didn’t. I seemed to be inclined to sleep soundly through Grace’s wakening at 2.30-3.30.
But I had to take my turn and prove I could hack it in the middle of the night. Last night I was in charge: fed her at 22.30 and was responsible for dealing with her no matter what time she woke next.
Before I record what happened, this is what happened last time:
Daddy in charge
(Written on Thursday, 06 October 2005 @ 0633)
I look down at your head and see half your night feed mixed in with hair. Caked strands of auburn. Two wide blue eyes look through me as if I was wallpaper. It’s hard to tell whether you are about to collapse into sleep or pop open with energy. A few seconds should provide an answer. That’ll tell me whether I have to continue poking at this keyboard with an index finger or might have a chance to touch type.
The night began well: I woke you up just after ten. Left you to come to by unswaddling your legs and letting in some air, popping a few poppers on your pink babygrow. The light full on, you did your usual yawning stretches, a real gym routine, for five minutes. Meanwhile, I measured six scoops into a cold bottle, six pre-boiled fluid ounces of Bath water. SMA Gold, the stuff that colours your poo. After I’d screwed the teet on to the bottle, one vigourous shake, followed by thirty seconds suspension in a cup of hot water, was enough to set me up for feeding you. Surely you wouldn’t take nearly as much as 6 oz at five weeks?
Hah,hah… You left a smidgeon in the bottom, half an ounce at most. (Ever since you’ve gone on to Formula this week, you’ve been guzzling without inhibition.) The beauty of it was that I was then able to say to myself that you were well set up for a long sleep: it would take hours to digest all that.
Checked your nappy: no need for change. You were awake and calm. I said nothing to you, just as the book advised. No excitement during the 15 minutes before evening sleep. All I had to do was offer you the remaining drop. You went down with open eyes and heavy lids. It was easy to tuck you in, fold the curtain over your cot, and pull the door ajar as I left your bedroom.
So, the night began well. I was in charge. Well, almost in charge: Edel had done various things in preparation for the middle of the night: boiled water, sterilized bottles and teats, measured supply of golden powder – all taken into parental bedroom in custom-made container. She’d set me up, so she could sleep through the night. Edel went to sleep; I went down and switched on the TV for a few minutes, just to chill out before bed.
Over an hour later I turned off the film and cursed that I wasn’t asleep preserving energy. But I still believed I’d hear you cry during the night. No matter what happened I would not sleep through and leave you to Edel. That was about 1.15… You woke sometime after 3, and cried out at 3.20. Edel heard you first and was out of the bed heading in your direction when I said “it’s OK. Leave it to me…”
You took two ounces and slumped. I put you down and slipped back to bed a bit concerned about whether you’d last until your scheduled call at 7 AM. But hopeful.
What happened next is a bit of a haze, or a maze. I certainly got lost. You cried out. I went to you quickly intending to nip any distress in the bud. You cried some more. I lifted you and you drank. I tried to get some wind out of you, but I held back from squeezing really hard, in case I’d break something. You let out one burp; I was tired and satisfied. You went down. I scuttled back under the duvet almost crashing into Edel. More cries. “What’s happening. She never cries like this.” Edel was awake now. I waiting, listening in hope that you’d shut up. I was cross. This was all going wrong.
I remember Edel coming back to bed saying that you’d spewed up, that you’d brought up lots of milk all over your cot, that she’d changed all your bedding and clothes. Somehow I’d missed all that. Just nodded off. It was getting on towards 5AM. I sank into my pillow wishing you silence for the next few hours. You had other ideas. Howling ideas. Damsel in distress, come and get me. My first instinct was hope: hope your idea would disappear, hope you would be grabbed by a captivating dream, and turned off.
I got up and smelled you from the doorway. You were high. I’ll spare you the details. (My private diary contains a colourful description, an aspiring Proustian effort.) That was why you’d been calling out for attention! No it wasn’t. You wanted to be up and you wanted the light on. Because after I cleaned you up, and went back to bed, you would not settle down. I told Edel I was getting up and not coming back to bed.
You took a swig from your bottle and pushed out the teat with your tongue. “I’m not interested in that; I want light.” There was no way I could put you down in the dark unless I wanted to hear your protest. When I lit your room and opened the shutters, you lay back looking out through the bars, totally at ease. So that’s how I got a cup of tea. That’s how I got to see the food in your hair. That’s how I got to type with you alert on one arm. That’s the story of the night I was in charge.
I’ve just been told I missed you being in bed with us. I probably missed half the night. You’ll have to ask Edel about the rest.
Your loving dad.
0644: Grace is awake listening to the music from the mobile which hangs over her cot. She’s quiet while the music plays. when it stops she makes noise. E. is asleep after not enough sleep during the night. I don’t want her woken. I’m in the spare room writing this. Grace is loudening up now and her sounds are getting joined up. Any minute now they’ll be constant.
I got up and went into her. Lifted and changed her wet nappy. Put her back into her cot with soother and went down to the kitchen to make her 0700 bottle. I was afraid she’d start up again crying out while I was there. But no, there was no sound and when I went back with cup of tea in the other hand, she was happily staring intently at her book sucking away. She didn’t look at me when I looked in, so I bid a hasty retreat in here to write.
The cry that says “come change my wet and uncomfortable nappy” is the one I find hardest to distinguish. In fact I can’t yet recognise it. It would be easy if you could feel the wet around the nappy but these days nappies are pretty absorbent, so it’s hard to tell how wet they are and whether the wet is cold.
After the change (nappy wet but no poo) I put her down and she was quiet – for a few minutes. The voice of a righteous babe announcing “breakfast time, it is time for food” is impossible for me to withstand. So I lifted her onto the chair which we keep in the corner specially for this job.
The chair is part of Edel’s dowry, one of a set of 6 dining table chairs. They’re the last thing you’d normally think of as suitable for sitting on while you feed a baby. But, if I prop my elbow up against the marble top unit on which we change her, I can wriggle into position to straighten her back while she sucks.
The day has come. The day Edel flies to Limerick (Shannon) with Grace is here. And it is a great relief. The lead up to moving has been difficult. I have been grumpy, agitated, irritated and irritating during these recent days. They say that moving is high on the stress rickter scale and they are right.
One of the most bothersome aspects has been my inability to make time to write. Writing gives me a release from the emotions, gives me a chance to paint experience on a canvas and look at it with a degree of detatchment. It’s also a release.
Right now @ 0902, Grace has just been put down and she is complaining. Edel and Joanne (her sister) are heading into town to do last minute shopping. I’m in charge again. This reminds me of another day, much earlier when I listened while she wouldn’t sleep for 90 minutes. Hope fully she’s settle soon.
This space gives me something I crave, the blank page. Bliss to have time for the blank page. I’ve learned to start anywhere and just see what comes out without worrying about anything. During the summer I used to write, almost every day, “A diary for Itsy”. There I usually began with the weather and how the sun rose over the blossom tree or how the shadow of morning cast a shape on the day.
Silence at 0907 – just after Joanne said “she’s not having any of it..” Goes to prove again that infants do what you least expect.
I’ve been hovering on the edge of writing a piece on how only one theoretical framework seems to adequately fit with the experience of caring for a newborn: chaos theory.
I did indeed. The crying got too much for me. I went in and spoke soothing words to her while opening the curtains. I moved the mobile which plays tunes, so that she is now in her cot looking intently up at a bear, a giraffe, horse and something else. She is saying nothing. I can hear nothing and now I’ll go back in to re-wind the music.
A duck, that’s it. Perhaps she is in love with the duck? Now I have a content baby who has been used to sleeping at this time. So today is different. Every bit as different as she is different. Overnight she has transformed into a newly constituted collectivity of cells. She has re-invented herself. A radical morph… I have a fresh challenge to face. How can I decide what to do?
The key I’ve stumbled into is to do something that didn’t work before, something I’d given up as hopeless. That has a better chance of working than anything else, especially if I can’t remember doing it before.
The smile, the extraordinary mechanism that babies use to enthrawl adults, the way they wind us round their little dimples, melting us to distraction. She beamed up as I re-winded the spring. I got a hit, a buzz. The “I am a good father” buzz. The “I have the most beautiful girl in the world” buzz. I left the bedroom captured, completely unable to remember what I was trying to write and where I’d got to with it.
You must do something you don’t think will work. Because you are dealing with a re-constituted infant, if you do the same as last time, you will fail. The result will be different. You got peace last time; do the same and you will get tears.
The molecules with which you are interacting are in a different state of flux; you are in a different place yourself (even though you may deny it). Seeking the same result is like digging for buried treasure in the same place: it’s either not there or you’ve found it already.
Chaos theory suggests that a minute difference can make a huge difference through a chain of interacting variables. The butterfly in Patrickswell flapped its wings and there was a hurricane in the ocean off Mumbai.
The connection is impossible to trace.
Traceless links criss-cross
an ocean of feeling there
twixt mother and child
waves in every feed
thunderstorms within mite’s burp
beaming smile breaks through
we dance without steps
singing without melody
etching fresh daylight
father and child smile
each delighted and joyful
the fairy creeps away.
I wrote a piece on the relevance of Chaos Theory to caring for an infant. It got lost. I had it ready to publish when I noticed a tab I’d paid no attention to before: it said “write page”, so I clicked it and another proforma came up. I decided to write the next chapter there. That was a stupid thing to do, venture into the unknown without covering my tracks: I forgot to save what I’d already written.
If I was Proust, I could write the full account to what happened next over 40 pages. Today, it is enough to lament that I wiped all my evidential basis for trusting Chaos Theory. I lost the argument. So there is a hole in this blog = between the last two entries, there was an entry that is no more. Never again will I approach the subject in the same manner. If, and when, I elaborate those thoughts that have been dogging me for weeks, I shall write something different towards the same end.
This morning I found myself with time and space to write. I shared that place with Grace because as soon as I began she started up, complaining about her incarceration in her cot during daylight hours. She hates being awake in the dark during the day. The nights don’t bother her.
So I wrote about how important it is to be counter-intuitive when seeking to repeat a successful bit of childcare. And I interlaced each paragraph with an account of the battle between Grace’s wails and my humour.
This reminded me of another day that I spent 90 minutes attending to Grace while she cried her refusal to sleep. I’ll put that episode on record next.
What sort of father will I be to my new daughter?
A ferocious Wotan or an ubersexual, multitasking pram-pusher?
Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian 12.09.05
– a response from another father.
(written on) Wednesday, 14 September 2005 @ 0829
I put you (Grace Violetta Clancy O’Mahony, born 31 08.05) down in your cot. You cry as if devastated. You cry as if protesting. You howl. You keep it up, taking in a breath between desperate sounds.
0830 you keep going, on and on. It feels as if half an hour has passed in a minute. You have such energy. You are tired, I know that. Your eyes were shutting. You shout in your own way. This is no singing.
0831 and so you go on, pulling at my heart strings: I am a cruel, cold, unforgiving father. I can listen to you and not be moved to burst back in through the door and switch on the light and cuddle you to bring you solace.
0832 the time is moving faster now. I am about 10 yards from you, one door open, another shut. You are crying all the time, barely pausing to breathe in another roaring breath. You are a strong headstrong little thing. However beautiful you are, you are fierce. You will probably have a fierce temper. You certainly have stamina…
0834 another minute gone, more energy spent. You can’t keep this up for ever. You are well fed. You are well cared for. You need sleep. You are protesting. You don’t agree. You are going on and on. Do I detect a slight lowering of the tone. Do I notice a greater gap between howls? Yes, there is a quietening happening, but only I would notice it. To anyone else you sound in terrible distress. I hear you as a strong voice, in protest, marching for a cause without fear and loaded with anger to vent. You are indeed venting.
0837 this is now seven minutes during which you howled six minutes twenty seconds and the rest of the time you sucked in breath to fuel.
Silence. I don’t believe it. That was a define halt, a hesitation, like “just a minute”. You definitely stopped for a couple of seconds. There, you did it again.
0838 there is no way you can resume and carry on without me knowing that you must be tiring and calming. But you won’t give in easily. Silence, and this is going on and on and on. Now you start again. You can keep it up. I hear your voice vowing not to give in and to stay fighting to the bitter end. You might be a prisoner but there is no way you’ll accept the demands of your gaolers. Another silence. This time a pause rather than a silence. Is there more to come…?
12 minutes and your mum can’t listen to you. You have found more energy from somewhere. I have a bottle here beside me. Do I give it to you and calm you, or do I listen on and rely on you to calm yourself down? Do I trust you to do it for yourself or do I rescue you from your distress? You need sleep. You howl, howl, howl. You go on and on and I think it is time to stop you going on and on, and I think I will give in. but you are quieting and perhaps I should wait a bit longer….
850 I cracked. I went and lifted you and you went quiet at once. I gave you a suck from the bottle. You took it and then you came off it and I gave you no more. I sat for a minute on the blue ball and you were still. I put you down and you stayed still. I closed the curtains ever tighter and you cried. You cried as I closed the door.
851 you cry. You cry with a lower howl but it is still a howl. You protest still. You keep up your end of the argument. You are not a quitter. You have a long protest to make and you have not yet reached your punchline. But that was a pause. I heard the loud sound of a pause. It stood out to me more than the sound of your cries. Now you change the rhythm of the cry. A bit of staccato and bit of a strong note there. You are mixing it up rather than repeating the old points. How much longer can you keep this up? You have been going on 24 minutes including the 4 minutes I was in with you. You want to keep awake. You do not want to be down.
I am fed up with the sound now. It is past a joke, no fun any more. You are irritating me. I have heard enough. You have made your point. Stop please. Stop, for the love of mercy. Be fair Grace, we gave you a decent bit of attention over breakfast. It’s not fair for you to demand every last drop of sympathy from me. I am getting so fed up I feel like going downstairs for a refill of coffee. Refuel needed. Enough, stop now. I’m telling you I’m going to stop your pocket money if you going on making this fuss. I have heard enough of you for today. I am going to want you quiet for the next 24 hours. It is now 58.
Oh please don’t go on past 9 o’clock. That is the end and I won’t take any more. If you are still crying at 9, I am going to go back in to you and and and cuddle you, you poor thing. It must be awful to be abandoned like this. To be left alone in your room without any companion to pass the space with. Time that goes on for ever and ever. Time and space without end. Abandoned for ever. You don’t know for sure whether anyone is ever going to come back. You need re-assurance….
905 You sleep.. I lifted you and you stopped crying. I carried you over to the ball and I sat down on it and rocked you up and down and you quietened totally. You slept. I moved you about on my shoulder, on my lap, against my chest and back to my lap again. I simulated the position you’d be in on the mattress. You stayed asleep. I laid you down and tucked you in and didn’t stir. You are gone. You have given up your protest. You have made your point. You have won, again. You are indeed a winner. Bless you.
Coffee, coffee, give me strong coffee. Peace at last. …
But wait, isn’t that her again? 0915… indeed it is. Is she cold? Isn’t she swaddled? Shouldn’t I give her the dummy, the soother? Dermot’s rug, that might do it; at least she won’t be cold with that on. I go tuck you in with that. You cry. You haven’t kicked off your clothes. This nothing but protest. Rank protest. I have no sympathy for you. You have gone over the top, you precious creature. You are so delicate, yet so insistent. You have the strength of an ox. There is no stopping you. I am not lifting you again. If I lift you, you will go quiet and limp.
But you are not going to prepare for life by being lifted every time you feel uncomfortable or want to sleep in my arms. You are going to have to look after your own needs a bit. Bit by bit, every day, you are going to grow up and develop an ability to care for yourself. You are yourself as well as dependent on me. I love you by not picking you up. It will do you good to struggle with this. There is an easy way out, but I am not going to do it for you.
Quiet, quiet yourself. Calm down, it is getting late and it will soon be time to wake you up again and you won’t have slept. Maybe I should not have put you down in the first place. That is what Edel said and I think she is right. I am certainly not right. I have got this all wrong. All my notions are rubbish. There must be another way.
I’ve picked you up again. I’ve offered you the soother. You are peaceful as if you are exactly where you want to be. You are in my left arm. Your eyes are open. You are glazed. There is not a flicker of energy escaping from you.. . It is 0934. you are sleeping in my arms with one eye closing ever so slowly. At last you have gone out and there is nothing I can do except celebrate your persistence. Wretched demanding, wearing me out and down.
0937 eye open. We go on in this bubble you and me. One finger typing, soother in my mouth, my nose smelling your urine not knowing if there is poo too. You awake still, now moving your neck towards the light. Your breath audible now. Are you a bit nasally? Now you head slumps backwards as if signalling your move to another realm.
0941 the mouth moves as if conjuring up its own satisfaction. You are open-mouthed one second, and suddenly go limply into sleep-posture. It has all been posturing: you never intended to srop out of society, and go companyless into the night of sleep. You are a character in a drama but this time you have been the conductor.
0944 eyes wide shut; you heard everything I know, even my most quiet thoughts and feelings You have been reading me like an easy book. Lolling over my arm, your tummy warm against mine, your hands inside your clothes, you have me at your mercy.
947 hurry up 10 oclock. Then it will be time to wake you for your next feed. Then it will be your mother’s turn to sing your tune. You are a divil, not a devil as spellcheck suggests. A real divil. One of the little people who rule the world. You are now grimacing and twisting your face, as if you want me to make eye contact with you. You are resuming the command position but I am on to you and I am going to hold on until it is handover time. You have shut those tricky eyes again. Another bit of subterfuge for me to discern.
948 My back is killing me. You are heavy lump now; you are straining me more than ever. I can withstand the psychological games you beat me at, but I can’t stand the aching back. I must stand up from the laptop and walk round to relieve the pain.
This has been one hell of a 90 minutes. You have vanquished all my plans, actions, thoughts and feelings. You have reduced me to a humble unsuccessful one of a couple of parents who are dedicating all their life to you. And I wish you would settle for most of my attention. A wee bit for me next time Grace, please.
0958 and I am watching the seconds tick down to the dregs in the bottle of spirit with which I began this vigil. It is always like this, only it looks and feels different. What changes? I have been tested and I will be tested again. Bless you Time: you have at least arrived when you promised.