My son entered the world a little more than four months ago – and has proceeded to rip apart any notions I had of parenting in his short time on this planet.
My parents imparted wisdom and warned me of tough times, but fret not, everything will be worth it, I was told. These little bundles radiate joy and the rewards will be bountiful.
My parent-friends and colleagues became broody at the mere mention of my wife’s bump. That’s a good sign right? Surely these people who have been through the parenting process cooing over my unborn son means it can’t be that bad?
I was foretold of sleep deprivation and money being so tight that entering Greggs seemed like a jaunt to Monaco. I knew this before my son was born.
It is the other things that make even the easiest tasks a real ordeal.
I think that everyone who is at the stage in their relationships when the thought of creating life is so alluring – should have all the facts at their disposal. Before their particular favourite method of birth control becomes redundant. Before they fall unwittingly into a scenario that will test the very fibre of their being.
First and foremost, say sayonara to sleep.
Yes, this is common knowledge. We’ve all had rough nights where daylight greets us with its smarmy shine and we feel like a soggy cornflake. Coffee is the only thing that drags us through these days, and we daydream about our jogging bottoms – or as guests on the Jeremy Kyle Show call them, “my jobseekers interview clothes.”
So, we know what it’s like. Sleep deprivation is a bitch, but we can muddle through it.
Some of you will have kids that miraculously sleep in neat patterns that allow a modicum of a life to slip through.
The majority will end up catching zeds on your toilet seat, at work and any available surface that doesn’t have a screaming child within 10ft.
Here’s an interesting fact; we spoke to our local midwife who told us that as a baby gets more tired, they actually become more alert? They stray further away from the land of nod and instead mire themselves in a routine of screams, peeing and a strange sound that sounds like tyres screeching in a cheesy US detective show where the cop often flouts the rules, but on helium.
It’s an unsettling combination and one that will rid you of any deep sleep. You know the kind, the sleep that allows you to function like a regular adult? Like you aren’t the missing link in evolution and even the most primitive of tools aren’t beyond your comprehension?
You will miss your cognitive abilities, but you soon adapt, don’t worry. You kind of end up ‘surfing.’ You find a way to avoid tasks that stretch your already thinning grey matter and instead you coast through the troughs and surf the peaks when your four cups of coffee have shaken your brain from its reverie and you’re briefly back to normal.
You will manage. Then you will come home after a day at work that you are proud to have navigated through, only for your REAL job to begin.
Your bed becomes manna from heaven, or the speedboat prize from Bullseye. It is both the source of pain (simply from wanting it too much) and also joy. Deep joy. Unbridled.
When you finally manage to lay your weary head upon the pillow, you will notice just how soft the duvet is. How comforting your pillow really is. How welcome and rare silence really is. You’ll relish every part of the bedtime experience, and you’ll wonder how your beloved offspring somehow despises sleep. How could anyone hate this beautiful thing?
Then, just as your eyelids meet in a wondrous dance of slumber, your child will remind you in their own signature way how much they need you.
You become autonomous, crafting the bottle of milk without seemingly being present in your own body. It is almost the highest state of zen you can reach. You’re there, but you’re not ‘there.’
And don’t think for a moment that the daytime will provide windows for nap time. Oh no. There is no escape from the sleep ninja that is your son/daughter.
And if they do give in against their will and sleep? That doesn’t mean you can do the same. All the jobs that have accumulated as you tend to your newborn are now waiting for you, you lucky thing. The dishwasher needs packing, the bottles need washing and sanitising, the clothes need washing, ironing. But you’ll also learn how to do this in a different way, as it creates too much noise if you do it the conventional, or ‘normal’ way. No, instead, think about how you would unpack dishes and cutlery quietly? Yup, it means it’s as awkward as a reboot of Jim’ll Fix It.
So, no. You do NOT know what sleep deprivation is like, what it will do to your work, your relationships – be prepared for plenty of ‘sass’ aimed squarely at each other – and your face.
Oh yes, your visage will bear the brunt of your campaign against catching forty winks. Right now, the bags under my eyes could contain every item bagged in a series of ‘Supermarket Sweep.’
You’ll be on the edge, but you’ll cope. I hope you all have a supportive group of family and friends, because they really do have a massive impact.
Don’t forget the most important fact of all though.
When they learn to smile, it will become perhaps the best three seconds of your entire life, every time they beam their gummy grin at you. When they gurgle at you, it melts away at the plaque that is sleep deprivation, and you instantly forget that you could sleep on a tightrope.
Nothing else matters.
So, please think twice before you make the beast with two backs, with the intention to create a mini you. Unless you go into this with an iron will, your child will chew you up quicker than Boris Johnson rips up a Brexit promise.