Dad’s story – new dangers for parents

The world is full of new and surprising perils when you have a baby, as Bill Rayworth, dad to 11-month-old Florence, found out…

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Last week, I performed my first Heimlich manoeuvre. This basic, yet critical, piece of first aid was made necessary by a minuscule sliver of apple skin. Fortunately, since Florence was born, I’ve become highly attuned to unlikely dangers and knew what to do in a micro-second.

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The small piece of fruit shot out when I patted her back (having given her a few moments to try to dislodge the thing herself), Florence’s face returned to its usual colour from its alarming shade of crimson and she chuckled and got on with ripping to shreds a rough draft of my first novel. The whole incident took maybe two minutes from start to finish, but it reminded me that the world is full of new dangers when you become a parent.

My new alertness to hazards was in place precisely three minutes after Florence entered the world. Breathing – now there’s a hazard! I’d always taken breathing for granted as an automatic physical action. Not so. I was certain that Florence’s breathing was irregular. So, Number 1 New Danger was: make sure baby is breathing, even if this means waking her up when she’s sleeping happily.

I soon overcame my Breathing Phobia. Then I took Florence out for her first walk. Mother of God, there are madmen afoot in our cities! Almost every male appeared to me to be a psychotic pram-snatcher. And who on earth gave all these dangerous drivers their licences? Clearly, I’d have to keep Florence inside until I could build a super-safe pram out of a thick, soft, spongy, yet strong material.

But keeping a baby inside is no safer. Everything in the home is a potential danger. Everything! Drawers, cabinets, plastic bags, cleaning fluids, doors, hot liquids – some perils are obvious and you change your house accordingly. But new ones come to light as baby gets a bit mobile. They stick their fingers down the plug hole and work tiny bits of masonry from loose brickwork and eat them. Perversely, they’ll eat anything except what you want them to. A cactus is tastier than carrot. Plant dirt is nicer than pear.

The fact is, the world’s a very dangerous place if you’re a baby. So we have to watch out for them. At first, this is exhausting, as new parents tend to be over-protective. But things do get easier. Florence has eaten more dust balls than a cat, but I don’t call the doctor out any more. She’ll soon give up on them and move onto something new.

Top tips for new dads

  • As babies get a little older, change nappies as soon as they wake: they’re too dazed to scamper off.
  • Make troublesome actions into songs: the repetition soon wins your little one over: ‘Now we clean your nose, it’s fun, as we all know.’
  • Get your baby together with other babies ASAP: if one is eating heartily, you can bet that the others will copy him.
  • Let your baby ‘accidentally’ have one ‘dangerous’ toy (I gave mine a calculator), so they think they’re getting away with something.
  • Don’t go mad on rationing the TV: half an hour of The Simpsons per week can calm the worst tantrum, and you can enjoy it, too!

Listen to your family and friends:

Grandma says: ‘Move everything in your house – and I mean everything – to at least above adult nose height’

This is, of course, great advice, as babies pull anything they can reach onto themselves and the floor. As it would have cost us around £5,000, it remains an elusive dream

Best mate says: ‘Don’t wrap ’em in cotton wool or you’ll spoil them’

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Anyone who’s seen a baby pitch head first off a sofa knows this is pure hokum: you’ve got to wrap them in cotton wool. Cotton wool is good!

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