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The look that breaks your heart


Diary of a First-Time Dad
Edwin McGreal

As a parent, you become very attuned to the different cries your baby makes.
When Frankie is very tired, she falls over much easier and, frustrated with her lot, whimpers. That problem is easily solved: Put her down to bed.
A fall that sees her hitting her head generates more fear in her – and in her parents. Give her a bit of comforting and put on some music she likes, though, and she’s usually right as rain again.  The worst cries we’ve experienced are those that happen when Frankie visits the doctor’s or the hospital.
Aisling has brought Frankie for her various vaccinations. Now, before the needle is even produced, Frankie knows what’s coming. She snuggles into her mother for protection. The needle will go in, there might be a second or two’s delay, and then she wails, looking helplessly at her mother.
She might be tender for a few hours after and not quite herself, whimpering, which is hard to see and harder to do anything about. But it is just a temporary swing from her usually great mood.
It is Aisling that is exposed to the worst of these episodes. However, I had my turn when Frankie was sick and needed to go to hospital last summer.
As luck would have it, Aisling was away for the weekend and so when Frankie woke at 6am on a Sunday morning, crying, I was immediately worried. When she projectile vomited five minutes later I knew we were in trouble.
A trip to the doctor saw us sent to Castlebar and into A&E. Nothing was staying down and Frankie was coughing badly. Turns out she had both a tummy bug and bronchiolitis. It necessitated a couple of nights in hospital, but the hardest part was the first hour.
In order to help to clear her airwaves, the nurses gave me a saline nebuliser to put over Frankie’s mouth and nose.
I would have to hold it myself. Within five seconds she was bawling and, unlike the trip to get her vaccinations, it wasn’t a nurse doing it to her but one of her own parents.
Frankie can’t talk yet, but I’m pretty sure she was thinking: ‘Why are you doing this to me Daddy?’ And if she could swear, I’m sure she would have too.
I was an emotional wreck myself. Then the nurse came and told me I should do it for ten minutes at a time. Ten minutes? I nearly had to be admitted!
With time Frankie got more used to the neb’, thankfully. We know we’re very lucky that Frankie’s health issue was a relatively straightforward. Too many people have much greater problems with their children. No parent wants to hear their baby cry; we all just hope it is a temporary blip and they’ll return to their carefree ways as quickly as it takes you to find their favourite toy.

In his fortnightly column, first-time-father Edwin McGreal  charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.

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