Monday, August 8, 2011

depression and parenting

I was going to do a very long-winded blog post about suffering depression and being a parent. I deleted it. It's funny - I don't feel comfortable sharing that much but it did get me thinking - there's so much research on post-partum depression for women but there's not much done on men suffering from post-partum depression. Maybe it's the general societal stigma attached to men suffering depression... I don't know.

"On average the studies showed, 10.4 percent of new fathers became depressed during the gestational or postpartum period. In the subset of studies that looked at paternal well-being three to six months after the baby was born, 25.6 percent of fathers were depressed."

I guess also from my own perspective I'm in a bit of a unique situation. Maybe not unique. Maybe uncommon is more correct. I know there is a rise in stay-at-home Dads worldwide - economic realities being what they are...

But for me:
- I had lost my financial independence for the first time in my adult life. I was completely and absolutely reliant on someone else to survive. And that took some coping.
- I lost my sense of self-identity. I stopped being Michael and I had become Louise & Olivia's Dad (or Mummy as some people have said).
- I battled with my new role as a parent (I will admit I do have more of a maternal role in this family)
- I had gained a substantial amount of weight and I hated myself for it (I've had body issues most of my life!)
- I felt isolated, I felt very much alone. And that was probably the hardest part of it all. There wasn't really anyone I could turn to and I felt that I had to be strong for the girls. There were moments where I did physically break down and cry because it was all just too much.
- I felt I was never going to bond with the girls. From having spoken to a few other parents (even mothers) they've felt the same way.

There are still elements of the above that I battle with but I suspect it's going to be that way for a long time! But I have strategies to deal with them. And I guess that's probably the main thing especially for men. Know that you are and get help - it doesn't make you any less manly (I don't think so at any rate) especially when there are other lives at stake.

I will say this much though. When I bonded with the girls - I bonded. Those two beautiful little girls are mine and I will do anything for them. I guess it's what unconditional love is.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And so now the real fun begins...

I don't think anything can really ever prepare anyone for being a parent... People will tell you until their blue in the face that it's hard. And I don't think until you are in the midst of it - you don't actually realise how hard it is. The sleep deprivation, the constant cycling of feeding, changing etc... It's bloody hard! I think also being a man and trying to come to terms with all this psychologically is very hard.

There's probably tomes I could write on this and one day I may... as a friend suggested I should title it How to Raise Children with Style, Grace and a Sense of Humour. Looking back at it now - I think having a sense of humour when raising children is probably the most important thing.

Larry and I never really fought. The girls were born and home and all of a sudden we were fighting almost every day. Part of it was probably the lack of sleep, the stress of dealing with twin infants, the stress of dealing with Larry trying to find a job, feeling isolated in the country. The people who promised us they'd help never really came through (I'll touch on this later too).

At this point in time it's very easy to look back and say we were very lucky. Which we were. The girls weren't sick - they had no major health complications (which for premature babies is a very good thing!). They both gained weight at the correct rate (Olivia a bit slower but she was getting there gradually... funny thing is she still won't really eat!).

So we fought and fought and fought - generally over really stupid small inconsequential things, like tracking how much the girls were eating at each feed. Why dinner was always so late (we were eating at about 9pm), the lack of sex, the amount of time Larry was spending in the garden. I will also admit I was stressed about the impending visit of my mother (which I pulled the pin on as I couldn't cope with the idea, and I honestly think if my mother and I would have been under the same roof - it would have been a complete disaster [gay men and their mothers!]). Pretty much the usual things that parents fight over.

But at the time it did just feel very hard. And I guess on the plus side we got through it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

the trip home and sundry India...

India is a weird place. Not in a bad way. I found it very warm, friendly and spiritual but we were also very much in a middle-class enclave which does come with a fair degree of security and comfort. There was a couple of funny moments. There's a couple of gift shops in the lobby of the Ramada Powaii (like most hotels worldwide) and because we have to vacate the room once a day for the cleaners to come through and do their thing we'd hang out in the lobby or the games room (they had a Wii... lesson learnt I'm crap at games!). So one of the things I found a bit weird. Babies in India are generally not taken out in public until they are 40 days old (from my understanding) and here we are with twins that are 2-3 weeks old. So we're talking to the folks in the gift shops - and they asked how old the girls were and we told them - the looks on their faces were a bit shocked! But I think being foreigners you're forgiven slight irregularities to custom...

So... the shenanigans of the trip home!
I would like to say this was easy. I would like to say something for once in India was easy. It wasn't. Far from it. So it's the 22nd of October - we get notification that the girls emergency passports and citizenship certificates are ready (you're now little Aussies - very little Aussies!). So we start the process of getting the Indian exit visas. Now of course the office to get your exit visas is located somewhere in Mumbai that if we didn't have a good driver (a few other couples had used him previously) who knew where he was going - we would have had no hope! It was in the back of Mumbai somewhere with no street signs. So anyway we find it - get our ticket/appointment etc... start the process, pay for the visas and asked to return a couple of hours later for the exit visas.

I'll backtrack for a second as this is where the real fun is. So we received your passports and citizenship certificates via courier to the hotel that morning. Something was missing though. Namely your fathers passport... as far as we could tell his passport had been sent somewhere else in Mumbai. Cue the appropriate panic from me as all of a sudden I could imagine me flying home solo with the two of you while your father was stranded in Mumbai trying to find his passport that was somewhere between Mumbai and Delhi... as per usual I needed have worried as it was delivered to our hotel later that day.

So we had a couple of hours to kill while we waited for your exit visas to be processed. So we went off the Taj Hotel in Mumbai for lunch. It was a very nice lunch - including the appropriate me ducking into the men's room to do nappy changes. It was a bit sad to see there were still parts of the Taj Hotel that had been boarded up from the terrorist bombings (that made me a bit nervous about actually being in Mumbai).

So we got your exit visas and were pretty much all set to go - barring any other disasters... delayed flights etc. But again not something we needed to have worried about. Our flight from Mumbai to Singapore left on time. No major hassles or glitches. The stewardesses on Kingfisher were all wonderful and very curious about the two of you! They were more than happy to help us - which is always a nice touch. As per usual you were both an absolute joy on the plane - but hey you were three weeks old... you didn't do much beyond sleep, eat and do what babies do!

So we change planes at Singapore. Went from Kingfisher to Singapore Airlines. We requested the bassinets but missed out on them and then we ended up with Aisle seats and you guys would have to flown home in our laps... I'm not sure if that would have worked for anyone. But the customer service manager was lovely. She had 5 babies on the flight and asked people to move so she could free up some seats so that your Dad and I could sit together and have a seat between us for the two of you. As we had your little carry cots - we used that on the seat between us for the two of you and it worked perfectly. Again you were both absolutely brilliant on the way to Melbourne.

A funny aside. We were going through security in Singapore to get on the plane. And the security guard saw that I was carrying one of you. "Oh a baby..." - she grabbed the cocoon and off she went. She sees your Dad come up with the other cocoon "and another baby..." and grabbed the cocoon and off she went again. I thought it was a rather cute moment. Then all the female security guards were clustered around the cocoons ohhing and ahhing (you had that effect on people).

So we get back to Melbourne International after the 9 hour flight from Singapore. Get through customs (took longer than we would have liked). Then we had the joy of trying to work out how to get you guys into your baby seats in the car. We'd never done it before. So um... yeah... we got there in the end.

And now one of my first parenting mistakes. We were living in Trentham so probably just over an hour from the airport. And I thought I had enough time to get you guys home before you were due your next feed. I was wrong... So we had to pull over at a service station and get some water to make up your formula. You were both howling by this point. All they had was cold water... ice cold water. It was a struggle for everyone. You guys were hungry and you were trying to feed but you ended up in pain because the water was that cold! It was a mistake and a lesson.

So we got home and you guys had your first night in your cots. Your father and I were exhausted... it had been a very long three weeks.