The neverending journey

Today I’m a father. Actually I became a father weeks ago but today is the first opportunity to write about it. Becoming a parent gives you a great deal, but what it doesn’t give you is opportunity.

If you’ve a child on the way here is a suggestion. Take 10 minutes to sit down, grab a piece of paper, and note everything you want to do with the baby once it’s born. Sketch out those first few fledging weeks then take the paper and place it somewhere safe in a drawer or on a shelf.

In 12 months you’ll accidentally find the note and laugh yourself silly at how naive you were, thinking you’d have time to do anything.

From the first cry (a heart-melting moment) everything you do is now governed by someone else. Your need for sleep and subsistence are secondary concerns. Squeezed into fleeting moments when your new ruler decrees you may nourish yourself in order to continue to serve them effectively.

It isn’t just priorities that change. Everything sight, every sound, every situation is now filtered through the prism of potential baby harm. Is that light too bright? Is the room too cold or too warm? When visiting local cafés you’re acutely aware of those with pram-friendly doorways and those which are now off-limits.

Adapting to a new a baby is like hanging onto the back of a runaway train. Cry, eat, sleep, cry, eat, sleep, and so on, and so on, and so on. Every 2 hours without respite. Three in the morning? Cry, eat, sleep. Eight in the evening? Cry, eat, sleep.

Four days in I sat on the sofa at two in the morning staring at my daughter, who was refusing to sleep in my arms. I suddenly realised I couldn’t remember her name. Sleep deprivation had claimed me. My partner had already gone to bed, attempting some much-needed rest, so I couldn’t ask them. After a frantic few minutes going through a mental address book of every name I could think of I resorted to opening Facebook and looking her name up.

This goes on for weeks, endless weeks. A pattern that never quite gets comfortable.And then something different happens. One day your child looks at you with a smile. Not the fool’s gold facial muscle contortion of trapped wind, but a real smile. One that says ‘I know you, and I know you like seeing me smile.’. Then, like during that first cry, your heart melts all over again.


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