Utter Failure

Tonight, I was to look after Liam while Leah went out to have some drinks to celebrate Jess’ birthday (Happy Birthday, Jess!). Normally, we have a routine wherein I give Liam a bath around 7-7:30, then Leah feeds him, then I’ll read him a story, sing to him, etc – put him to sleep. All this went fine. Leah left around7:30 to go off and drink cocktails. Minutes later, Liam was asleep. I knew, based on his normal behaviour, that he would wake up again in around 45 minutes for some more food. So, I went downstairs, got out a bottle and got it all prepped to be warmed up. At just before 8, he started making some “waking up noises”. So I quickly got the bottle prepped, and then went up. I gave him the bottle, about an ounce or so of milk. All was good, until he finally looked up at me while feeding. And I knew right then that he was getting upset. And boy did he ever. I guess he’s used to Leah being the one feeding him, and so on at night.

And man did he get upset. That out-of-control, wild, uncontrollable sobbing that only babies can have. For 45 minutes. I couldn’t get him to stop. No matter what I did, he just kept screaming, until he was so hoarse all he could do was cough. I warmed up another bottle, but couldn’t get him to take it. I tried laying down with him. I bounced him, sang to him. I danced with him. I cuddled him. I stood him up. I sat him down. No matter what I did, he just wouldn’t calm down. Finally, I broke down and called Leah to come home. But she didn’t hear her cell phone. I started freaking out, and left a panicked message on her voice mail. I had visions of the neighbours calling the police, concerned I was torturing my child. I called her again. I called someone else I knew would be there, in case he heard his cell phone. No dice. Thankfully, about 5 minutes later, Leah called me back, and said she’d come home. I found that if I held him and bounced him gently while walking, I could keep him to a low sob and a cough rather than a scream. And as soon as he saw Leah, he was totally fine. He took the bottle, he was calm, and after finishing feeding again, went back to sleep.

I’ve failed at plenty of things before – I’ve failed tests, exams, courses. I failed to deliver projects on time at work. I’ve disapointed friends and family before. But never, in my entire life, have I felt so low, such a failure as tonight, having completely failed Liam. I feel badly about Leah having to come early from a night out, but comparatively, that’s minor compared to how bad I feel about not being able to comfort Liam when he’s upset. And I know why I can’t – he’s not used to me being around that much, particularly at night. Because I have to work, Leah’s been very, very nice, and let me sleep through the night while she gets up to feed/comfort/put Liam back to sleep. But now I feel like I’m the dad that I really didn’t want to be – the one who’s not there, who Liam doesn’t see as a source of support and comfort, who, really, is just this nice stranger who he sees once in a while. Sure, I can make him laugh and smile, but probably lots of people can do that. I wanted to be able to be an equal to Leah in him seeing me as a source of comfort. And that’s probably wishful thinking – after all, pretty much nothing beats nursing for comforting a baby, and I definitely can’t do that, but I know I didn’t want Liam to ever be as upset as he was tonight, and not be able to help him…