So, fatherhood is upon me and I have learnt two things. You cannot, no matter how desperate you are at two o’clock in the morning negotiate, with a screaming one-week-old and that, contrary to what the movie Jurassic Park teaches us, it is not dinosaurs but in fact sleeping infants whose vision is based on movement. Palaeontologists will argue this fact but if you’ve ever tried to creep away from a crib, within which you have just tried to deposit a hard fought sleeping baby then you will know it to be true. It’s fair to say that I have what could be described at times as a stressful job, occasionally exposed to circumstances of a disturbing nature. I have not however yet come across anything as terrifying as standing at the nursery door and turning round to meet the cold blue steel of my sons eyes, that only moments earlier had been glued tightly shut and are now open wide, viewing me impassively with a look that says, ‘you thought you’d made it didn’t you father; so close.’
Let me state categorically that I am completely smitten with my son and from the moment he was born knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. There are times however that his resemblance to an arch Bond villain is as close as can be achieved without him actually been sat up in his crib, sinisterly stroking a cat and saying ‘I’ve been expecting you father, come see what I have for you in my nappy.’
Since becoming a Dad I have developed the stealthy motion of a marine sniper, taking whole hours to creep the distance away from the foot of his crib to the open door of the nursery. I know wars that have been settled quicker. If by chance his eyes flash open in a scene reminiscent of the film Chucky, I have no choice but to freeze in mid-movement. My wife has on several occasions, after eventually noticing my absence, found me standing statue like in the middle of the nursery a cross between a Ninja and a sleep deprived Marcel Marceau as I desperately mouth to her save yourself.
I have since been told that two-week-old babies are not capable of simple emotions such as love, humour and laughter and that what we think is a smile is actually wind. I know this is not true because my son enjoys nothing better than playing a game called ‘lets scare the crap out of Daddy’ (copyright pending). This involves him late at night pretending to choke whilst asleep in his crib, precipitating Daddy’s frantic entanglement with the duvet as he catapults himself out of the bed, in the manner of someone being goosed with a cattle prod, only to find said son sound asleep with a mischievous smile spread demurely across his lips.
As mentioned previously, the NCT class for parents is deficient in mentioning a number of things and for the benefit of those about to become fathers I’d like to take the opportunity to mention them here:
1. Your child is born at a fraction of your own body weight and is slight in appearance. On being picked up he/she will appear, at first, light as a feather. Do not be fooled; after being held for anything longer than five minutes they will inexplicably gain the poundage of a Miami Dolphins line backer. Don’t be a hero and never try to style it out. Your child knows that Newton was wrong and that gravity acts five times more on a baby being held aloft by its father than on any other celestial object.
2. You think you’re being clever by removing a baby-boys used nappy then quickly putting it back because, as your friends told you, when exposed to the air, he is likely to pee. Unfortunately your boy knows this as well and can keep his powder dry, so to speak. He knows, to the second, how long it takes you to discard the old nappy, wet wipe his arse and retrieve a new one. The experience is not dissimilar to standing in front of a firing squad. Accept your fate and keep your mouth shut.
3. Midwives and other health professionals are highly trained but patently unable to agree on how best to ensure your child’s health. Advice can be conflicting, however they will all agree breast-feeding is best for your child – no argument. But fear not, contrary to what they might say if you do choose to bottle-feed your child, he/she will not become a serial killer. By contrast and despite what the NHS would have you believe, if your partner does exclusively breast feed it is no guarantee your child is destined for a Nobel prize and recognition for the saviour of humanity. At the end of the day its breast milk, not some magic fucking elixir from Hogwarts.
4. You will be told that a baby should never fall asleep with a dummy in its mouth. However, attempting to abstract it from an apparently unconscious child before he is ready is very literally tantamount to pulling the pin from a grenade. If you are so patient as to allow it to fall from his/her trembling lips before retrieving it, short of being lowered from the ceiling on a sling, mission impossible style, there is no guaranteed method by which to do so that will prevent his eyes flying open the second they feel the plastic leave their chin.
5. When feeding you only have two hands. One to hold your baby and the other to hold the bottle. It is guaranteed the second he gets a latch on you will develop an uncontrollable itch and an urge to scratch some far flung part of your body, forcing you into contortions that would have Cirque du Soleil gasping in admiration.
6. Google is both your friend and enemy. The same symptoms that describe trapped wind will, unaccountably, apply to those for Lassa fever or some obscure tropical disease not seen in this country for at least a hundred years. Hard to believe but it’s probably trapped wind.
7. If your wife does choose to express breast milk by attaching herself to a mobile milking parlour, addressing her as Buttercup in a West Country accent and bringing her a plate of grass for dinner will never be taken in the spirit it was intended.
8. Even if you have no experience of children, previously had no interest in them and really didn’t see what all the fuss was all about, you will, as I have done, fall head over heals in love with them. A sentiment I write in the hope that if my writing is ever one day recognised my Son might, when he’s old enough read this and know what he means to me.
Good luck all.