Calling all dads!

I jumped onto #PNDHour on Twitter tonight (hosted by the fabulous Rosey @PNDandMe) and it got me thinking about how little I know about Pre / Post Natal Depression (PND), and how unprepared I am to be able to support people going through it (www.nhs.uk estimates that about 1 in 7 women experience some level of depression in the first three months after a baby is born)

It also got me thinking about how I could use social media to help raise awareness on PND. 

With the rubbish, gloomy weather outside it felt like an appropriate time of year to be talking about this issue, and particularly now with the excellent initiative #Timetotalk day approaching fast on February 6th (check out the lovely www.mamababybliss.com for more information on #timetotalk)

So as a result,  I am thinking of running a series of posts on PND.

And the angle I want to take is to try and collect a series of articles from dads whose partners have / are suffering from PND. 

I am both looking for dads who can write from the heart with empathy and understanding, and dads who can write from the head to provide insights, tips and ideas on how to provide support to loved ones affected by PND.

If this is you, and you want to get involved, please get in touch; The_Secret_Father@hotmail.com or Twitter; @Secret_Father.

Let’s get talking.

 

PS if you want to write something anonymously then that is fine too

#PND

#PNDHour

#Timetotalk

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Moments that mattered

It wasn’t a beautiful day, but then again it wasn’t dreadful either. A typical English summer day; a little overcast, a little drizzle, the mercury hovering around 18C.

We had been invited by friends to go camping with them and their kids, which we had accepted.

The kids were excited and if I am honest, so was I.

The reason for this is that I love being outside. And I love being outside with the kids.

Outside there are no walls, no perimeters and no parameters. The kids can run free in a field and I can relax for a few hours, knowing that they are safe.

Everything is better outside.

For me connecting with nature is so important, and there is no better way to connect than being outdoors on a camping trip.

The sights, sounds and smell of a campsite are part of the experience too.

The high pitched rip of a zip, the flap of canvas and the pungent smell of fresh grass, woodsmoke and freshly brewed coffee all combine into a heady mix.

And when you are camping everything ebbs and flows with the rise and fall of the sun. And at night, as the sun drifts below the horizon, the infinite expanse of the universe unfolds with celestial majesty, mind-bending in its vastness.

Just one night out in the elements and the mind can become untethered from the daily routine, released from the shackles of the flickering electric box in the corner of the living room and the piles of bills, letters and reminders that enslave us on a daily basis.

Camping is communal living, how humans would have co-existed many hundreds of years ago, before office blocks, air conditioning and artificial strip lighting. For me this is part of the allure; to get back to basics, however temporary.

And we are fortunate in that we have a phenomenal campsite nearby. There is something magical about this campsite, nestled in the shadow of a white horse, carved in chalk on a hillside dotted with lush and ancient deciduous woodland.

Once we had arrived and found our friends, the tent went up reasonably easily and the kids got to run around, liberated, urgent and red faced, constructing imaginary universes and populating them with imaginative abandon.

The drizzle stopped and the afternoon blended lazily into the evening. As the sun went down groups of people began to gather around freshly lit fires. With the kids so content, some of our group chanced an early drink.

The bedtime routine went well, and the adults in our group had, by now, started to sink into their chairs around the fire, faces lit and glowing amber as the flames licked and danced. Only one child remained awake, my daughter.

It wasn’t the kind of awake that was problematic though. There were no tears, no tantrums. It was a gentle kind of awake, driven by curiosity and an active mind.

After a few failed attempts to settle her into her camp bed, I decided to bring her around the camp fire. It was a risk. By now we were firmly into adult time, and the addition of a child may have been looked upon dimly by my peers.

But within a few minutes it became apparent that my daughter was content to sit quietly on my lap, settling into the hypnotic soundtrack of the night;

There were snatches of conversations from around the camp fire; I could hear a story being shared, an offer of more food, a bottle being opened.

And there was also the sound of a guitar and a soft but beautiful voice singing a quiet refrain.

The sound of a tent zip punctuated the air, and a lone blackbird piped melancholy from the tree tops.

I could hear a peel of laughter from across the field, a group bonding over a joke or story, and all of this was set to the gentle hiss and crackle of our fire fanned by the night breeze.

My daughter cuddled in tight, her curls falling on my lap, and at once I felt utterly content, at peace, my heart melting into the fire.

I realised she had probably never seen the night sky like this before, pitch dark and bottomless, so I asked her to look up at the stars. She lifted her head and fixed her wide eyes on the sparkling canvas above.

It took her a minute to take it all in, and then the questions started; magnificent questions driven by the young, pure and inquisitive mind of a three year old.

I don’t know how long we spoke for, but it was beautiful. A father and daughter huddled close amongst friends, cuddling under a vast night canopy and warmed by a fire, repeating a conversation that humans have been having through the millennia.

I sat with her, talking in whispered tones, long into the night, not even moving when she eventually fell asleep on my lap.

It was too perfect, magic, and I didn’t want to move, lest the spell be broken.

And my enduring memory from the night was of my daughters angelic eyes, facing skywards, reflecting the embers of the fire, desperate for knowledge, her mind beginning to tangle with some of life’s imponderables.

And for me it was a deep and profound connection with my little baby, a truly rare moment in the normally frantic rat race of everyday life.

Since that night I have realised that my daughter is growing up fast, and these moments will become less and less.

There will become a time when she will leave my side and stride out into the big wide world on her own. And when that does happen, she won’t know it, but my heart will go with her.

But for this one night, I was able to savour this moment, a primal bonding between father and daughter, a moment so precious and pure that it will stay with me until I die.

This was for me the moment of 2013.

A moment that mattered.

This post has been created for the lovely Mummy’s little Monkey and is part of a competition she is running on her site designed to get people writing about moments from 2013 that mattered to them. If you have read this post, or any of the other posts in the moments that matter series on her site, and feel inspired to contribute your own moment that mattered, then please do. You could even be in the running to win an iPad mini courtesy of those good people at Lloyds www.lloydsbank.com who are doing a sterling job in supporting the blogging community.

 

A Red Demon Rising

photo

There is a knot of tension rising in my chest.

My son is writhing and planking on the change table, his eyes screwed tight shut, screaming like a dentist drill. He is tired beyond logic and reason.

It’s been a really tough couple of months, it’s the end of a really hard day, and I am exhausted myself. But I am just about holding it together.

I try to put his pyjama trousers on and his flailing feet kick me in the stomach, right in the solar plexus. The pain makes me feel sick.

His screaming is bouncing around my head, and my brain is throbbing. I haven’t eaten or drunk enough fluids today. My needs are secondary these days.

But I am still holding it together.

I’m now trying to put his pyjama top on and he is getting furious. I try the usual placating moves, the false choices, the soothing voice, the singing, the tickling, but my patience is wearing gossamer thin and he is going nuclear.

Suddenly he lunges forward and hits me on the nose. It hurts. It really hurts.

Still he screams and writhes.

I’ve tried hard to suppress the anger but my skin is beginning to flush and my ears ringing. I’m starting to feel removed from my body.

I try to stay calm and in control. I’m holding him now, still trying to negotiate the pyjamas.

He opens his mouth and clamps his teeth down on the soft skin between my neck and shoulder.

The extreme pain causes a flash of bright red light in my head, and a surge of rage courses through my veins.

Now I’ve lost it.

I’m properly yelling at him now. The force of my voice scares even me.

There are flames burning up my back and neck, my head is swimming, my ears ringing and my heart racing. My boy is still screaming. My daughter has retreated to a corner. Her fingers in her mouth and her eyes wide open. She looks horrified.

But I am full of fury.

The red demon has risen.

The red demon is me.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My wife comes in and tells me to leave the room. But I am full of fury. I’ve snapped

And the demon is jumping up and down, gibbering manically on my shoulder, gleeful at the chaos.

My wife tells me to leave the room again.

Suddenly I realise what I have done. I take a horrified step back.

I leave the room, shaking with adrenalin.

++++++++++++++++++++++

I am out running in the cold streets. The rain is on my face. It’s refreshing. My heart rate is up and my breathing rhythmic. I am scanning my body and physically I feel good.

Emotionally however I am shot through.

The red demon is still present but with each step I take the flames are subsiding, the fiery rage dissipating. His embers are still glowing but the demon is skulking in the darkness now, whispering to the shadows in forked tongues.

But his legacy is strong. I feel filthy, polluted, toxic.

I am going over the incident in my head, reflecting and analysing.

I am making excuses. I know I am stressed. I know the last few months have been really hard. I know I am exhausted, and yes, my boy was acting up. But the one thing I keep coming back to is that there is no excuse.

There is no excuse for losing my temper. There is no excuse for yelling at a two year old child. There is simply no excuse.

Anger is an important reflex in the story of human survival and evolution, and if harnessed correctly should continue to play a role in inspiring us to strive to be better as individuals and as a society. But it needs to be managed.

The cold night air is in my lungs, in my head. I can see things incredibly clearly. I was totally in the wrong. There are no excuses.

Much to the demon’s disgust I begin to harness the aggression constructively. I am starting to feel grateful.

I am grateful for my wife’s understanding and quiet, calming presence. Not just tonight, but at all times.

I am grateful that this is the first incident where anger has got the better of me in close to four years of being a father.

I am grateful that this incident has made me determined to be an even better father. To love my little boy even harder.

I am grateful that I can use this to show my children how important it is to apologise when I have done something bad, to show them how truly sorry I am – to hug them, kiss them and breathe them in. To show them that I am also vulnerable and prone to error.

I am grateful that I can use this to learn and grow. I will be able to identify the warning signs in future. I will be able to harness the powerful emotion of anger correctly.

My feet are moving quickly over the concrete now. The demon is squealing and shrinking, and in its place a pure white light is growing.

I am running faster. I want to get home. I want to see my children. I want them to see my vulnerability. I want them to see me apologising.

And I want them to see a light burning in my eyes.

But instead of the red light of anger I want them to see a glorious, luminescent glow of pure love blazing from my soul.

Because that is what I feel right now.

The light of love in my heart finally engulfs the demon. I am sprinting to my front door.