Daddying while dyspraxic | John Lyon - UK (Scotland)
I became a dad the year before last. I also suffer from the learning disability called Dyspraxia. The best way I can describe it is basically that you are always off balance. It is often called-clumsy child syndrome. You struggle with a lot of basic stuff and are often falling over and walking into things, at least this is how it manifests in myself. It can have some effects on your learning and organisation. I often struggle to remember things in my short term memory unless I am really mindful. If I put something down without really paying attention to remember where it is, then I am often in danger of losing things. I try to leave my keys in the same spot every day. If I rush and put them down, the next day leaving for work can get derailed until I find them, often in bizarre places. Dyspraxia is a lesser-known learning difficulty, and because it affects organisation but also your ability to do what others sometimes regard as basic physical tasks, I wanted to write about how it is being a new father with a baby as babies have a reputation for being rather demanding.
As I mentioned, a big part of being dyspraxic is that you can be very clumsy. I have spilled enough tea over my lifetime to fill a swimming pool and I have had days in the last year where I have walked into a door at work twice in one day.
Naturally, holding a fragile little baby was a daunting thought. The first time I held him, I was sitting down, which was reassuring slightly. He was born via Episiotomy and pulled out with giant tongs. When he came out, he was gray, covered in blood and didn’t cry right away.We were told that they aren’t pink, perky and yelling straight away, contrary to media portrayal, and the blood was due to the surgery on
Deborah but it was still a lot to take in. He got cleaned up, started breathing properly and the medical team handed him to me. I felt nailed to the floor but was very happy. I was handed this little grunting, pink ball wrapped in thick wool blankets with bright blonde eyebrows. At that moment I wondered if I could just hold him sitting down for the first few years of his life. I eventually got much better and much more comfortable at holding the baby. I am now comfortable doing lots of holds and using one arm as long as I feel steady.
The first nappy: Deborah had to have surgery as part of her birth and she was bed bound for a full day. This meant that I had to deal with the first nappy. To any parent out there you know that the first nappy is something to behold. To those of you not in the know; I am going to let you see behind the curtain. The first nappy is filled with a substance known as Meconium. It is a dark and viscous substance. It is basically as though your baby has swallowed tar and passed it out undigested. I initially struggled with getting the nappy fully lined up straight and up high enough. Sometimes Corin would end up like a little mosher baby with a really low sitting nappy. I would then have to adjust it. I eventually got relatively decent at it but would sometimes have to do a fair bit of adjustment here and there.
Recently, nappy changing has started to become quite challenging again as he is becoming wriggly. He is also becoming quite prone to kicking and grabbing random stuff off the changing table. I always give him a toy dinosaur or leprechaun but he quite often decides that he wants to grab his waiting new nappy or the bag of nappy wipes.
Dressing the baby has been quite a challenge for me at times. I sometimes feel as though I can barely dress myself. I have on more than one occasion in my adult life (and my life post baby being born) gone into work with clothes on inside out or on backwards. I have yet to put a nappy on backwards but on a number of occasions, Deborah has gone to change the baby on days I have dressed him and found that he has his trousers on backwards a good few times.
A lot of baby clothes are fastened together by button poppers/ snap fasteners. Something that has happened to me quite a few times is that I have buttoned up all the buttons to see that there is one loose. Undoing and doing again to see another loose button on that other side. I have lost track of the amount of times I have had this happen to me.
I am not particularly effective at tying. One time Deborah was going to her pole class (She also wrote a blog about doing pole while she was pregnant) and I was looking after Corin. I went to change him. I managed to get his nappy changed but then I realised that his trousers had to be tied at the front. I tried a couple of times but couldn’t get it sorted so I had to give up on it and just give him a new set of trousers. Things like this happen all the time. Sometimes I go to change Corin and realise Deborah has put him in trousers that required tying and I resign myself to failure. I always try to make sure and put him in trousers that require no tying. That depends on a washing schedule that is carefully managed and sometimes I find myself having to put on tie trousers. I do my best by making some sort of monstrosity of a knot or asking Debz to do it if she is around.
Going out can be a challenge sometimes just in terms of getting stuff organised (like writing this blog, it has taken me a long time). Taking your baby out for the day is a logistics mission. There are wipes and toys and creams and spare versions of every piece of clothing. Sometimes you are taking bottles and medicines with you. Sometimes when I am out and looking for stuff in the changing bag, I feel as though I am about to pull a light stand out in the style of Mary Poppins. Getting him and and out of the pram is something I also struggle with. Being very tall and dyspraxic don’t help with pulling a baby out of things. When half of the body is floppy and the other half is rigid, there are straps in the way and you have awful coordination it can feel like a game of twister from hell.
Sometimes preparing bottles can present some difficulties. Corin is breastfed so we just pour the milk in a sterilised bottle and heat it up in a pot surrounded by boiling water. Some of the bottles are much more difficult to screw in. Some times I have spent close to the same amount of time it takes to sterilise a new bottle to get a bottle ready. Sometimes I go to take a bottle out of the steriliser and see that it is one of the hard to screw ones and I feel as though Deborah has cursed me for some unknown slight. I always make sure to avoid that particular bottle when possible.
We signed Corin up for baby swimming classes, called Water Babies, before he was born and started taking him in November, when he was 4 months old. Swimming helped me improve my coordination and discipline when I was younger. This and the fact that it is an essential life skill made it a no brainer to sign him up. They have you dunking the wee ones within the first couple of weeks. It is terrifying the first few times but you and the baby both get used to it very quickly. I would thoroughly recommend doing it.
One of the other challenges around Water babies has been getting the baby changed. Like I mentioned earlier, getting him (and even myself) changed can take a good while for me. Any parent struggles with changing a crying child but I really struggle to change him after water babies. We are both wet and I have to get all our stuff out and get us dressed while he is often crying. Thankfully, the other Dads and often random strangers help me out in the changing room for which I am forever grateful. As a general rule I would say that if you are a Dad, you should never be afraid to ask for help, whether you struggle with disability or not.
As a parent, you worry about damn near everything. I did and do still worry about Corin potentially having dyspraxia. I know that I have struggled with lots of things, often very basic things to many people, which has caused me lots of problems. Children can be vicious, so being a kind of weird quiet kid who struggles with lots of basic stuff, especially around basic personal presentation and some basic skills around coordination are like red meat to those inclined to making other people’s life kind of crappy.
In conclusion, being a Dad has been a huge change in my life. I feel as though I am really good at some parts though I do struggle with a lot of the physical aspects. It takes me a bit longer to do a lot of things and that will probably always be the case but I enjoy pushing myself to do things, even if I have to make some alterations due to my dyspraxia, be that changing the baby bottles or refusing to use trousers that need tying, and I can live with that because I want to be a good Dad. Equally I won’t let myself be shamed for taking a bit longer or needing extra help.