I’m like a 21st century version of the lab technician that wheeled the telly and VCR around the school on that giant steel stand except I don’t lurk in the corner and smirk when the teacher fails spectacularly to make anything appear on the screen. I am well aware of the consequences of ignoring that old adage: “don’t mock the tired woman”.
Elsa is now five weeks old and proving everyone who implored us to “cherish the early moments because they go by so quickly” entirely correct. We were also warned that parenthood was perfect for those that enjoyed eating their tea cold and with one hand and that showers and baths from here on in could be curtailed after 30 seconds or less depending on the whim of your offspring. I can confirm that all of the above is correct but what no one prepares you for, as a new Dad, is your abject uselessness.
Okay, that may be a little overdramatic; I’ve changed so many nappies as to be almost nonchalant in the face of a gigantic korma-esque explosion and my ‘Monkey In The Tree’ hold is a winner for simultaneously winding and soothing her off to sleep. It’s just that when the baby is exclusively breast-feeding there are so many times during the day when only Mum will do and as a Dad you feel a little like whichever of Harry, Ron or Hermione isn’t talking to the other two in any given chapter.
(It’s worth pointing out that it’s been a while since I read any Harry Potter books and there are probably better analogies out there but I’ve got The Goblet of Fire on the telly in the background as I write so it seems appropriate/the lazy option).
Dads literally can’t take on a lot of the responsibility due to lack of necessary equipment and experts say that mixing breast and bottle in the early days is best avoided lest you inflict the infant with nipple confusion (I’m sure I heard Nipple Confusion in session with John Peel once) so at 2:30am when Elsa is getting a hankering for a feast and Jill is utilising a family pack of Swan Vestas just to prop her weary eyes open I can do little more than trawl the iPlayer for any semblance of passable TV that we’ve not previously endured as those nocturnal minutes trudge by.
I suppose I have found a role as Assistant Beverage Provider to the Breast Feeder. Holding a glass of water with a straw in Jill’s general direction to keep her hydrated is fairly important but, compared with ensuring our baby daughter is brim-full of the nutrients that will ensure she grows strong and fit, it’s pretty small fry.
The moment you begin to feel ineffectual is much earlier though, it happens during the labour; the person you love most in the world is in unimaginable agony, more than she’s ever experienced in her life and all you can do is munch through your stash of Jaffa Cakes and meekly offer the gas and air. If you could take the burden from her then you would but aside from a bit of a hand crushing and the sting in your wallet from the hospital car parking charges, physically for the man it’s a pain-free experience.
Please don’t take this all to be some kind of whinge, it’s honestly not. We have a healthy, content child and I’m so proud of her and Jill and hugely glad that they have this truly amazing bond. I just wish I could do more; Jill is run off her feet at all hours of the day yet I’ve got time to write a blog! It’s also worth remembering that this stage only lasts for so long and I have the rest of my life to try and achieve the same closeness with my daughter that my wife has even if I have to resort to paternal bribery.
Anyone know where I can buy a pony?