Being a Father with Erb’s Palsy
It’s been an interesting, challenging, at times frustrating, yet the most wonderful nine months. My son Gabriel was born in May and I’ve learned so much about parenthood already. Being a parent to a new born is hard work, there’s no two ways about it. As usual, I’ve had to adapt a little, but I’ve always found a solution to any problems that I face.
Before Gabriel was born, my wife and I attended NCT classes. It was interesting to learn a little more about child birth. We practised holding fake babies, changing nappies and tried on different types of sling. It’s only natural to feel nervous when you have a baby on the way, but I had extra underlying worries about my arm.
My sister has four children, ranging from 10 to 17 years old. I’ve always enjoyed being an Uncle, but when they were babies I often avoided holding them. Amongst other things, this was due to a fear of dropping them and not being able to pick them up properly. The same worries were going around my head leading up to Gabriel’s birth. One thing that I learned very quickly is that you just have to get on with it.
Bathing my son
For the first few months my wife Kate always bathed Gabriel, I was too self-conscious and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it properly. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to hold him with my #erbspalsy arm and wash him with my other arm. Alternatively, I couldn’t see how I was going to hold him in my “normal” arm and wash him with my Erb’s arm. I didn’t want to face it, so I avoided doing it.
"I think it’s important to understand that as frustrating as it is for you, your baby doesn’t know any different. As long as your baby is safe and healthy, that’s all that matters."
After a lot of thinking I realised that I didn’t want to be a father who doesn’t look after his son properly. That may seem like an exaggeration, but I need to be able to bath my son. My wife and I are a solid team and I needed to do my bit. It wasn’t fair that she had to do it each day. So one day I built up the courage and I gave it a go. It was certainly tricky, but over time I discovered ways of doing things. It became a lot easier when he was able to sit up in a normal bath, rather than a baby bath as I can clean him while he is sat down and I don't need to hold him up like I did before.
Now, I often bath Gabriel while Kate gets a bottle ready before bedtime. Once he’s clean I pass him over to Kate who has a towel ready. Getting him out of the bath isn’t easy for me. I struggle to get him into position and then lift him up, but somehow I manage to do it. I think it’s important to understand that as frustrating as it is for you, your baby doesn’t know any different. As long as your baby is safe and healthy, that’s all that matters.
"I often crawl behind him, but as I cant flatten my hand out properly, straighten my arm or put much weight through it, I find it quite challenging."
Issues with crawling
I want to be a good role model for my son. I want to be there to guide him while he explores the world. Now that he’s crawling, guiding is something we are doing daily. I love watching him crawl (as tiring as it is trying to stop him from opening drawer and doors) and I often reflect on how it was to crawl as a baby with #brachialplexusinjury
I often crawl behind him, but as I cant flatten my hand out properly, straighten my arm or put much weight through it, I find it quite challenging. Having Erb’s Pasy is strange because when I pick him up, I always have him on my Erb’s side and steady him with my other arm, freeing it up to open stair gates etc. After a short while my arm becomes tired and I have to put him down. I found it was tricky at the beginning when Kate used to pass him to me as I couldn’t turn him around to face me. We got into a routine very quickly of Kate turning him around to face me so that I can pick him up easier.
Gabriel was breast fed for 3 months and then we introduced bottles. Again, I was a bit worried as to how this would work with Erb’s Palsy. The good thing is that there are several positions that you can feed a baby in. I found the easiest way for me is to lay Gabriel in my Erb’s arm and hold the bottle in my right arm. You can even feed a baby one handed if your clever with positioning.
We attended a sling workshop which was really useful. There are many options out there for you to try. Some are more difficult than others to put on, but if you have a second pair of hands to help then it does make life easier. I was very nervous during the workshop, but I was honest with the lady running it that I have limited movement, so putting it on will be difficult. She was really cool about it and showed different ways to go about wearing them. The hardest thing was getting Gabriel into the sling once it was on and then taking him out. I’d suggest using them around the house if you want to have skin to skin contact in the early days. It just means you can get that time without using your effected arm.
Father and son time
I love being a father. Most of my insecurities about being a parent with Erb's Palsy have gone. I guess it's like anything... It's fear of the unknown. Once we actually face the fear, it's often never as bad as it seems. As I mentioned earlier, being a parent is hard work and a huge responsibility. I feel very blessed that I have a good relationship with my father. We used to play cricket together every weekend as I was growing up. Now, occasionally he’ll help me work on my campervan and we play golf together from time to time. Doing those types of activities with your father means a lot and the fact I can do them with Erb’s Palsy makes it even more special. I just hope that one day I will be able to do the same thing with my son and show him all I that I learned from my father.
Thanks for reading
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