For a while now I have been writing about the ups and downs, trials and tribulations of an expectant parent. Well, since I last put pen to paper, or random keystrokes to Microsoft Word document, this expectant parent has become actual parent again. And the feeling is just as bloody wondrous as I remember.
However, there are several aspects of early parenthood I must have forgotten. It seems this new dad has had an epiphany: someway along the evolutionary process, we must have developed an ability to conveniently forget what early parenthood entails – proven by the fact that we do not automatically roll into a ball at the merest whiff of a possible life-creating encounter. The first few weeks are HARD.
The perils of the first stage proper of parenthood are well-noted, ie the delivery. It’s not called ‘labour’ for nothing – despite being the most impressive and inspiring thing a person can do it’s a bloody hard slog. It goes without saying, I was absolutely in awe of my wife’s determination and inner strength during the ten hours in which she was pushing a human out of her body. It is a pretty bloody and brutal way to begin life as a mum, and a humbling one for a dad.
Onto the current big issue at hand. My wife is breastfeeding our now four-week-old son, and though I have always thought that ‘breast is best’, it has been a major source of some of our early difficulties.
‘The boob’ means I am pretty much surplus to requirements in the eyes of my boy. I’m sure he looks at me at just thinks “why are you here? Where’s that one who brings forth milk for me from her nipples?”. He screams, rages, and I can do nothing. I feel about as useful as a bacon sandwich at a Bar-Mitzvah. This proves of particular irritation to us both during the night-time – when the responsibility of ensuring Zachary remains fed continues to fall squarely on the shoulders, and breasts, of my wife through the late hours – and the early cluster feeds where basically baby and breast become one inseparable entity.
I do what I can to remain useful, whether it be on hand to pounce into action as soon as a ‘Code Brown’ warning has been issued, rocking him to sleep in a sling to give Frankie some much-needed respite, looking after our daughter Matilda or turning waiter and providing water and tea on demand. The relief from being an effectively superfluous part of this new dimension to the family is the knowledge that it is temporary. He will want me eventually…I hope.
But despite these early niggles with fatherhood, my experience so far is really positive. I had little time early on with our first child as I was a trainee teacher and was denied paternity leave (much to my frustration), whereas now I am my own boss and have been fairly generous in dishing out my time off. This has allowed me to feel far more a part of little Zachary’s life than I was able to with Matilda during the same period. I have had the opportunity to get to know him and be more of a support to my wife during some testing and tiring times. I don’t feel the guilt of four years ago as I spent not only days on end in the classroom, but night after night locked away planning what turned out to be lessons that were mediocre at best, at the expense of being a husband and dad.
I have seen Zachary turn from a bleary-eyed ball of baby into a proper little person with his own developing personality, for which I am so grateful. And although I currently stand on the periphery, like the nervous understudy waiting in the wings for his moment, the time will come when the spotlight shines upon me. Here’s hoping I don’t fluff my lines.
Jake Rusby | Rusby Media