The first year of fatherhood has been a real game-changer.
The first two chapters of this series of blogs are targeted toward those who aspire to this punishing – yet rewarding – platform. They chart the course my particular ship was navigating – the choppy waters of the first year of my child’s life.
A neverending torrent of vomit, sleepless nights resulting in days endured solely on autopilot – and nappies, mountains, endless mountains of nappies filled with what can only be described as the Devil’s own mixture.
No matter what your loved ones, friends and colleagues tell you, it cannot do justice to how thoroughly you must invest yourself. These titbits, passed down from people you know who have first-hand experience, are helpful and paint a picture of what to expect – but the colours, sights and smells are nowhere near as vivid as when you experience them yourself.
This goes for the positives too.
I can testify that when my son smiles at me, or when he clapped his hands for the first time, or when he leans in to give me a crumb-filled, saliva-topped kiss, are the moments that drag you through. I’ve had days at work that have been a real trial to get through – not helped of course by the two hours of sleep you managed to steal the night before – but it is all forgotten when I walk in the door and he turns around, recognises it’s me and he smiles.
That smile, the same for all kids of his age, is untainted by ulterior motives. It is the purest thing in the world, and it is given to me. It never fails to lift me, even when I have the knowledge that after a full day at work, I must feed, play, bathe, change, and send off to sleep a child who is more than adept at making these run of the mill tasks infinitely more difficult.
So, imagine my surprise when my wife told me that she was pregnant again.
I had my head in my hands for ten minutes.
I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do this again.
My son had pushed me to every conceivable limit I had, and yet I was still standing, still eager to get home and see that smile bestowed on me again.
Yes, the gap between kids will be small. The prospect of clashing sleeping patterns, resources stretched thinner than an excuse from the Brexit negotiation team, and double the amount of nappies carrying baby napalm, did nothing to enhance enthusiasm for this impending bundle.
I should have tied a knot in it, I should have stayed in a storage facility for a year, staving off any danger of accidental conception.
Yet, here we are.
We have another on the way, and just as I was on the verge of scaling this insurmountable peak, I see another on the horizon.
I see having a child as some form of brain condition really. You are strained at every turn, every effort you make to restore some of your vitality is met with yet another task. You are on the verge, looking down the barrel, but you carry on and are happy to. It is kind of like Stockholm Syndrome – you end up having affection for the one who keeps you captive.
No matter how addled your brain becomes though, you end up picking up skills along the way. I can change a nappy and entertain the deliverer of the funk at the same time. My nose is now immune to smells that are better placed seeping out of unholy places.
For every negative you must endure, you always have that smile, that moment they pick up something new. My son makes me laugh more than any comedian I’ve ever seen.
Exhaustion does funny things to you, and this new arrival will no doubt bring the pain.
As long as they smile at me though, I think I have enough to see me through.