Okay, let us slow down for a second and take stock of where we are now, and more importantly, what we thought before we got here. I have re-read the first entries of this Blog and was interested to see that my frame of mind then was quite clear: I knew that in the future I would have no time to myself and my first concern above anything else was to be my newborn son.
This is interesting because although I had typed out those words and must have believed what I was writing, I actually had no clue whatsoever what they actually meant. Obviously I understood the sense of it, but until you actually experience the blur that is looking after a baby, you cannot fully understand what it really takes.
It is like this: when I was a child, a classmate’s mother died. That day I asked myself how would I feel if his experience had been mine… how would losing a parent affect me? Of course I said I would have been devastated and inconsolable, however, I used the words without really knowing what they meant, or their physical impact. It is sympathy not empathy. The truth is you have to go through these experiences to really know what they are about: anything less is just conjecture. Opinions based solely on guessing how you would feel are simply, worthless.
So I read my words with a smile, wishing I could tap me on the shoulder and say: “You don’t understand anything yet”. Now I do. And the funny thing is those of you reading this with children will understand, and those planning a family, will think they do… but you don’t. You child-free readers will have been told by everyone at the point you let them know you are expecting, how hard it is and now many sleepless nights you will have, and you will say “Yeah, I know” – I did exactly that – but you don’t know. Know that. Just know that you do not know and it will probably be less of a shock later. Okay I couldn’t have put that in a more patronising way, sorry. Believe me I would not have listened to these words of reason either, and frankly even if I had, it wouldn’t have made a difference. You get to where you going in your own time; and that is the truth.
So to recap, read these words again: “I would have no time to myself and my first concern above anything else was to be my newborn son”. Just think what no time to yourself actually means. If you have no children, for a bit of fun, imagine now what you do in a 24 hour period: I would guess that from midnight to 7:00 you will sleep soundly and either wake when your alarm goes off or just naturally; you may then eat breakfast, get washed and clothed and go to work, or if it is a weekend, holiday or you do not work, you will generally fill the day with things you like to do. You may just sit and watch TV or listen to music, or go out shopping, or to the cinema or to the pub. At lunchtime you will feel hungry and you will eat something. The afternoon goes along much like the morning. You will then come home and think about your evening meal, or you will go out for a meal. You may have a few drinks and feel drunk. You will come home and fall into bed, have sex possibly and fall asleep, safe in the knowledge that everything is ok. There will be times when you have to do the household chores like washing or food shopping or cleaning, but you can at least choose when you carry them out, to balance your life between the fun and the mundane. It is a very uncomplicated existence, with all events centred on you. Good or bad, you only have to concern yourself with you.
Now, looking at all the events in a single day, imagine that before you do any of them, you have to make sure that your baby is ok first. And by ‘any’ event I actually mean, ‘all’. Everything you do now has a pre-fix; a small mantra if you will – is he ok? And that is the easiest consideration. Depending on the answer it will then open up a myriad of sub-answers that all have to be cross referenced. In essence then, you can’t go to the toilet; dress; have a shower; make a cup of coffee; make a sandwich; go to the shop; sleep; watch TV; in fact you can’t do anything without firstly making sure your baby is ok. You may just want to re-read that again so it sinks in. By the way, “Is he OK” later changes to, “Is he still OK”, but more on that in the future… you are not ready for that yet.
The funny thing is that on paper the situation is a simple one: you have a baby that needs feeding and then cleaning. How hard can that be? The answer is… really, really hard, but day by day it does get easier. I don’t know whether it becomes less hard because you get better at it, or you worry less as the weeks roll on, or whether the baby actually gets better so you don’t have to work so hard. I just know this, the first few weeks as a father, I was a basket case. As prepared as I thought I was, I was not. I don’t know if anything prepares you for it, or whether it is something you have to work through and endure. But read the next instalment for the gory details.