Diary of a First Time Dad Sleeping with one eye open

The milestones keep falling and our baby girl is now a wizened three-month-old but we’re only getting started, writes Patrick McCarry.

I ALWAYS RECALL my mother being a remarkably light sleeper. If you ever crept into her room with a question, request or complaint [to the management], she would respond to your whisper by opening her eyes and springing from the bed. “I’m up!”

My mum has five children — all fully grown — but I am now experiencing that troposphere of uneasy sleep that comes with being a parent. Our one and only daughter, Caitlin, has just come through her first bout of the sniffles but the circus noises coming from her Moses basket had us on edge for a few fitful nights.

Myself and Cat, my wife, have surged past the three-month mark and Caitlin is doing amazingly well. Friends, relatives and strangers remark on how good [hassle-free] a child she is but Caitlin must take most of the credit for that. We’re still learning as we go.

Our daughter was born on a Wednesday evening and each and every that Wednesday that passed found us going for a stroll with the pram, reassuring each other ‘two weeks’, ‘four weeks’, etc. We’ve stopped counting time now, aware that we’re in for the long, crazy haul.

I read the superb column from Andrea Mara — ‘Five things I swore I’d never do if I had kids…’ — this week and can identify with the stories on cloistering the first-born. With each passing day, however, we are becoming ourselves again, chilling out and taking time out to enjoy our rapidly growing child. Night-time feeds often consisted of the two of us springing up and going through a three-act production to get Caitlin fed. Sorbet, silver service and napkins. She is starting to sleep through the night now, probably wondering where the 4am costume changes and strolls around the kitchen have gone.

The first six weeks were a blur as we set up Baby HQ in the sitting room. Once every few days we would get caught without a kettle-ful of boiled, sterilised water. Boiling water just to cool it down, all amid a tumult of yelps and tears. Insanity. Jiggling Caitlin on my knees for hours when all she wanted to do was sleep. The nappy changes that saw us go through three vests and four baby-grows after pukes, pee and poo. The sound of Cat laughing upstairs as I slumped on my knees, yelling ‘Noooooo. Not again! Why? Why?’

imageCaitlin gets stuck into her new soother. Pic: Patrick McCarry

It is amazing how quickly you get used to have a child in your midst. We have evolved from high-fiving each other in the middle of the night because she pooed to raising a lazy eyebrow as she rolls from her back to her belly. It takes a lot to impress us now!

The soother made an appearance after about seven weeks but, we assured each other, it was just to help her sleep at bed-time. Caitlin now owns four soothers and each one gets a fair crack.

We both crashed, within 48 hours of each other, around the six-week mark. The change in lifestyle, sleeping habits, constant state of hyper-awareness and general fatigue caught up with us.  We recovered in time for Christmas and Caitlin had her first visit from Santa, who must have assumed she liked toy bunnies.

The best days for father-daughter bonding have been when Cat gets a few hours out of the house. She headed off to London on an overnight last week and I got to fully experience the sun-rise to sun-set job of caring for the little Miss. I’m taking responsibility, too, for her 1980s general knowledge and have her watching episodes of Magnum P.I and North and South [the Patrick Swayze tour-de-force] during feeds.

YouTube credit: cmtecarvalho

Caitlin was christened a couple of weeks ago and we had a fantastic day and evening with friends and family. The church, in Sallins, was within walking distance and husband and wife headed over, arm-in-arm. We reflected that this was, by far, the most grown-up event of our lives. Neither of us spoke for several moments before Cat asked, “Where’s Caitlin?” “I dunno,” I replied. “With your grandparents, I think.”

We are 107 days into parenthood and I already have a moment that will be hard to beat. A few days before Christmas, myself and Cat, with Caitlin lying in between us, lay back in the spare bedroom to watch A River Runs Through It on the projector screen. Cat would have readily swapped me for the fly-fishing Brad Pitt but I wouldn’t change the evening for anything in the world.

@patmccarry is sports reporter and rugby correspondent for Playwright of shows that have appeared at Vicar Street, Electric Picnic, Bulmers Comedy Festival and New Zealand Comedy Festival. He is a Dubliner, living in Kildare. Happily married for 18 months and counting.

Diary of a First Time Dad: We’ve got company!

Column: Five things I swore I’d never do if I had kids…

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