So, just over nine months ago I received confirmation I was to become a Dad. Since then my son has been born and I’m now typing this through eyeballs that feel like they’ve been put through the spin cycle of my washing machine.
They say nothing prepares you for being a Dad. That, however, has not stopped the NHS from trying to put together a course that does. Antenatal classes and their more expensive counterpart, the NCT course are a good idea in theory. Attempting to prepare individuals for the rigours of parenthood, they are however a minefield for fathers reluctant to be pigeonholed as responsible for the agony their spouse is about to go through. For a start, and lets be honest here, there really is very little men can usefully contribute. Patting your partner’s hand and saying ‘breathe’ whilst she attempts to pass a bowling ball sized person out of her body seems woefully inadequate. Like being reminded to duck just before a punch is thrown at your head.
What bothered me more was how inappropriate some of the lessons were. Recently I was required (for required, read ordered) by my wife to accompany her to a class on breast feeding.
“I’m sorry Dear, let me get this right, you want me to attend a class on how to breast feed our child?”
(Looking down), “I can already foresee a problem with that my sweet. Possibly a couple.”
“Certainly, and perhaps after that you might come with me to the Doctors for a prostate examination. I believe they’re doing two for one.”
“Don’t get smart with me.”
If there is anything more ridiculous than holding a plastic doll to my chest pretending to let it suckle, then I don’t know what it is but alas that, along with seven other dutifully expectant fathers, was what I was to find myself doing shortly after.
Afterwards all the couples were asked to pour over a tabletop selection of photographs showing bare chested women from around the world breastfeeding their children. We were then asked to select a picture and sit in a circle before telling everyone else why we enjoyed that picture so much.
I started to sweat. Having a man decide, in front of his wife, which picture of a woman’s breasts he likes the most is like asking which mine in a minefield he’d like to have blow his legs off. Furthermore being asked why I like that picture so much seemed tantamount to marital suicide. This is where it is important to choose your
audience. Down the pub with your mates: stock reply ‐ ‘because she’s got great tits’‐ fine. In an antenatal class ‐ not so good.
Later on we were shown a cutaway diagram of the female form during pregnancy. We were then given a selection of magnetic stickers upon which were written the names of various organs, to be correctly located on the diagram: a sort of grim anatomical game of pin the tail on the donkey.
As mentioned previously I have a vaguely scientific background so when as a group we were asked to call out where we thought each one went, modesty forbids, but I was not found wanting. I regret however attempting to add some levity to the proceedings when upon being asked ‘What is the Fundus?’ I replied ‘I don’t know but they make great crispy pancakes.’ The look I received from my wife sat on the other side of the room is one I shan’t forget. Like I said choose your audience.
At quite an early stage of pregnancy the midwife asked me if, when my child is born, would I like to cut the umbilical chord? My reply of ‘not really’ was met with something of shock. How could I pass up such an opportunity? What kind of father was I going to be? Perhaps child services should be informed. I really don’t understand this and maybe it’s the Yorkshire grump in me but I fail to see how the severing of an anatomically defunct piece of equipment is such a momentous occasion. I have in the past had the misfortune of having my wisdom teeth removed and never felt the need to ask the dentist if I might have the honour of wrenching them out myself.
As we neared the due date it became apparent we were going to need a whole new catalogue of equipment. Having never really paid attention to the baby section of John Lewis, I found our visit exasperating. If you’re already a parent you will be aware of the bewildering array not to mention cost of some buggies on the market. The one we (my wife) eventually decided on was over a thousand pounds. For that price I expect to be able to travel in it myself.
The problem is that babies require a wide range of transport options. In the car a specially designed seat is necessary. One that offers side impact protection and air bags but that holds them so tightly as to cripple them if they stay in it beyond two hours (a bit like flying economy). So once they reach their destination they must be transferred to a much roomier pram that they can lie flat in. However beyond six months they are likely to outgrow it and require a more upright pushchair type device. If, like us, you have a hyperactive Springer spaniel that needs walking and no relatives to drop ‘said’ baby off with, you will need something more off‐road. This means abandoning the pram and depositing your offspring in a baby carrier, a sort of front facing rucksack that when modelled in the store affords you no dignity whatsoever. My suggestion that it might be less hassle just to hire a fucking Sedan Chair and a couple of porters did not go down well. The end result is that a day out in the car with my son is reminiscent of Apollo 13’s progress through the stratosphere, shedding one transportation capsule after another until all you’re left with is a frayed temper and a wife who doesn’t appreciate sarcasm.
And on that note I’ll sign off before I fall asleep at the keyb…