Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Adventures in Fatherhood

Before the arrival of my little boy I was quite afraid. If the wife’s pregnancy and the upcoming labour wasn’t enough to keep me constantly on edge, then the advice from family, friends, work colleagues, the NCT group and random strangers down the pub about the post-birth after-life was almost enough to send me rolling down the cliff-side. All I had to look forward to from this point to the end of eternity was incessant mountains of poo, sleep deprivation, an end to all social activity and incessant mountains of poo (so important it needs to be said twice). Not to mention that if the little man had colic then I would effectively rise one morning after a month of non-stop crying as something resembling a shuffling brain-eating zombie.  

And for a time at the beginning of this new adventure I thought they would be right. At the birth, my boy came out covered in poo. Typical! He was also fairly ill for his first the ten days in the world, spending a short time in the hospitals neonatal intensive care unit (a really humbling experience) and needing a course of antibiotics to overcome the illness. The antibiotics had an unfortunate after affect. On his third day the little one would plaster my right arm with fiery orange liquid death that was fired like an Exocet missile from his tiny little bottom. It could have been a full-on chest shot except the squeak of a fart encouraged me to take a side-step. Most of the evil just arched across the room instead, destroying the wall on the other-side (a good nine feet away). I’d never seen anything like it. The tiny extra bit he squeezed out for simple chuckles after the main course still haunts me to this day. Walking into the nurses’ ward to ask for help I felt like the guy from Robocop who crashes his van into a tub of toxic waste. “Help me, I’m melting…”

Luckily, such early encounters with unbelievable amounts of baby poo have guarded me well for all future nappy changing events. Rather than freak-out like a complete goof, I made the decision that where the little one was concerned I’d simply suck it in (an intake of breath, not the poo) and get on with things. As such, I’m now a Zen master of nappy changing! More to the point it shows for all the stuff people tell you prior to the birth, you really don’t know how you’re going to deal with things until you’re actually in the danger zone. Thinking about changing nappies during the wife’s pregnancy made me feel icky; post-birth, what’s the big fucking deal!

Yes, he is a rubbish sleeper and my social activity has been reduced to virtually nothing; people were not wrong about that. I originally thought, rather naively, that babies arrived from the womb fully understanding the sleep process. Do. They. Bollocks! No, you have to train them how to sleep, which is pretty much like attempting to train a puppy not to lick their plums. Yet even here there are hidden bonuses. I’ve worked out I can survive through the day on just four hours of sleep and remain effective at work, rather than wander around like a perpetually clueless goon. Likewise, although my social-life has been stunted this has had a great effect on my physique. I feel more energised from avoiding beer, not to mention the weekend hangover has been vanquished, and I’m much thinner and fitter than before.

Which makes me question, why does no one tell you about these benefits before having a baby? Why is it always ‘covered in poo’, ‘you’ll be walking about like a zombie’ and ‘the first few months are hell’? Additionally, why does no one tell you about the wonderful things that happen as your child slowly grows into himself? Perhaps it’s down to the simple joy of letting you find out and experience the more amazing things for yourself, at undisclosed times when you’re least expecting it.

A case in point, the other week I was moving a suitcase which involved raising the metal handle into its full position so that it could be easily pulled along the floor. So, I raised the handle up, got distracted by something and slammed it back down into the hidden position. The little tinker was watching on and decided this was the funniest thing he had ever seen. The belly laugh and his chuckling were so infectious I did it again. And again. And again. In total I did this with the suitcase handle about 20 times and the little man’s uncontrolled joy never ceased; he just kept chuckling away like a gibbon. The action I was carrying out was not in the remotest bit funny, but in a child’s world it was a moment of wonder and sheer amazement. Oh, to be a child again, huh?

So, almost nine months of being a father have passed and he’s already standing himself up and cruising with the aid of furniture. It’s been an incredible journey so far. Here's to the next set of adventures as he grows into a toddler. Although, if at all possible, if you could avoid hosing me down with liquid shit again, that would be nice…!

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