Life As A New Dad

23 Apr 2012

One first time father reveals all

Life definitely changed for my wife and I last year with the arrival of Jake. I’ll never forget the moment the doctor asked me whether I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I refused, telling him, in no uncertain terms, that I was vastly under-qualified to snip through a piece of tubing that connected the two people that I cared most about in this world.

Until that point, the magnitude of the job of being a father hadn’t really sunk in. I’d dismissed my wife’s week-long bout of morning sickness nine months earlier as a passing bug – something that comes with a fresh move to a new part of the world with a vastly different diet, climate and lifestyle.

But it wasn’t. It was real. And somehow we both knew that as my wife headed to the bathroom armed with a pregnancy test. Neither of us wanted to know the result, and I’m fairly certain we would have both breathed a sigh of relief had it been negative.

It wasn’t. I never saw the stick with the little lines on it that say nothing but tell you everything about what the focus of the next 20 years is going to be. My wife simply yelled, “You’re going to be a father!” from the bathroom, with the grace and style of a rodeo bull hoof to the groin.
I don’t think I did too badly, considering. I didn’t fall off the bed, at least. I think I managed to say something vaguely positive, and managed to suppress the urge to vomit and run out of the building in sheer panic, partially dressed. I didn’t do any of the above but I’ll be the first to admit that I’d not been all Carey Grant about it either, sweeping my wife off her feet and showering her with balloons, ribbons, and confetti. No, I was more Hugh Grant - failing to string a coherent sentence together without sounding like a prat.

My wife said all the colour drained from my face, and that I didn’t speak for ages. I dispute that, though they do say that when presented with rather disturbing news, your mind plays tricks on you.

The truth is, although I’d had lots of practice of the first bit of the getting pregnant thing, I’d not ever thought about the consequences of actually being successful at it. Sure, there was the odd scare, but they had all turned out to be other things.

My wife had wanted this and we had discussed that we should be patient because these things can take time – particularly in your late 30s.

We’d been prepared for the long haul – the calendar counting, fertility tests and every other trick in the book to try to get pregnant. We’d even discussed adopting should the natural way prove unsuccessful. I was actually looking forward to the six months of practising, too – and had mentally set aside that time to get a few things out of the way, put some money aside and buy the stuff we needed. Ha. Fat chance. Success first go. Bosh. Time to hand out the cigars.

The nine months had zapped by. My wife had to leave Dubai to go home to Barbados during the second trimester, so I missed most of her pregnancy. Some say it’s a good thing: the mood swings, foot rubs, weird food cravings and constant discomfort – but I wish I’d been there to experience it. Internet calls and daily photos of the growing bump are no substitute for being there to run errands and for rescue missions to the bathroom.

I wasn’t sure that I’d make the delivery either. I’d halfheartedly tested the water with my wife, saying that I would probably faint or just sit there fretting while her mum mopped her brow and uttered encouraging words. She didn’t mind, but an old school friend of mine told me that I had to man up and suffer the consequences, whatever they may be.

They were right, and I’m glad I changed my mind. My wife opted for every drug going  and a mere two hours later, Jake arrived without the yelling, screaming, crying and drama that Hollywood would have you believe child birth involves. It’s no cake walk, but it’s not Knocked Up either.

While I may have refused to cut the umbilical cord, there was no doubt in my mind that this little dude was the absolute focus of everything I would do from now on. There would be no more all-night benders; no last minute flights to foreign countries; no two-seat sports car on the immediate horizon. And I’m absolutely fine with that.

Jake’s just turned nine months-old, and every day is charted with new milestones. Rolling over, sucking his own toes, smiling, laughing, eating solids, standing – all successes that brighten the day. Life has gone from nights out to 5am starts, nappy changing, supermarket runs, bath-time splash fights, baby-proofing and a thousand other things that come with being a doting parent.
Jake’s at the stage where he’s exploring the world through taste: eating or gumming everything he can get his sticky little mitts on. His favourite trick at present is to pull every DVD off the shelves and leave them in a pile on the floor. He’s days away from taking his first steps and is deeply frustrated that he can’t quite stand unaided yet.

Life has certainly changed. Like many of my friends, I used to believe that I wasn’t ready for kids, and that it would be an onerous bind that would stop life in its tracks. I’m glad I was wrong. Priorities have certainly shifted, and life is a lot different - but nothing beats that feeling of Jake snuggling up to me when he’s tired, or beaming a smile at me from his crib first thing in the morning.

Do I miss the parties and nights out? Sometimes. Would I change things? Never. Now I have something better. I have someone who calls me dad, or as he says it - ‘bububub’ - but that’s close enough.

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