About four months ago I got my girlfriend up the duff.
Apparently this is life-altering news which will completely change my outlook on everything that’s ever existed in the history of this 4,500 year old earth. When my outlook will change, however, is anyone’s guess because I’m still stuck in what I’m reliably informed to be the ‘Wow, pregnant? Big day. What’s for tea?’ phase.
I can almost hear the swell of disapproving voices, or stifled laughter accompanied by the ‘he has absolutely no idea what’s coming…’ lecture from the po-faced matter-of-facters. While I appreciate and sense that all the giddiness and otherworldly excitement is in the post and will at some point be heading my way, at this precise moment in time it seems I’m caught in the limbo between the initial feelings of shock, awe, glee and wonder, and the finger-tapping humdrum feelings of ‘now what?’ Apparently this feeling of abject uselessness is completely normal for the father-to-be because, as a father-to-be, the only thing I can really do is sit and feel utterly useless watching my poor girlfriend implode from the effects of her pregnancy. This is because my poor embattled partner, Laura, is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum which was unfortunately popularised as THE pregnancy illness to wish for after ghekko-faced, shape-shifting lizard-woman Kate Middleton was lumbered with it when she was knocked up with her evil offspring, Prince Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie. And it’s utterly grim stuff.
For the first few weeks of this intense illness, Laura was violently sick multiple times – not just multiple times a day, but multiple times an hour – consumed nothing but jelly, a bowlful of which would last her up to a week, as well as having such violent feelings of intense nausea that I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d asked me to euthanise her in order to put her out of her misery. This was all day and all night, and culminated in several trips to hospital via several trips to the doctor’s. And while the effects of this misery are currently not as monumental as those first couple of months – or Laura’s putting a stupendously brave face on if they are – she’s still in a constant state of exhaustion, sickness, lethargy and constant unease. Being the utter marvel that she is, however, she’s still managing to work full time, run a household, and look after her 4 year old son, Max – the ‘metre-high whirlwind’ as she delightfully refers to him – as well as put up with my constant whinging about everything and everyone like the absolute male that I am. How she manages to do it completely boggles the mind especially with me not having a sodding clue how to help her feel better thus feeling completely irritable and tetchy.
And let me be clear: this isn’t just morning sickness. All wazzed up women get that. This is unrelenting, unremitting, merciless, all-singing, all-dancing hell. on. earth. But Laura just gets on with it. I should probably start helping out a bit more instead of shouting at her to keep the noise down in the kitchen when I’m watching the football.
Anyway, to get back on point, I’m still waiting for that giddy moment of glee that awakens in me the realisation that I’m going to be a dad. Because it still hasn’t struck home yet. Friends and family have informed me that the moment I hold my future offspring in my arms when it’s a newborn will be the moment that life as I know it will never be the same again; I’ll fall instantly in love with a squidgy ball of flesh and not feel at all disgusted that it’s screaming at me, vomming on me, or shitting on me. Or a sprightly combination of all three. As a gambling man, I would proffer decent odds against immediately experiencing pangs of adoration for something that was doing all of that at me.
Furthermore, I’m still harbouring feelings of intense suspicion towards my nearest and dearest after they all confidently assured me that when I was learning to drive everything would just ‘click’ and I’d be an annoying boy racer in no time. Spoiler alert: it didn’t, and I’ve abandoned all thoughts of driving after my confidence and finances were utterly crushed with nothing to show for it. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t take their word as gospel when it comes to me experiencing appropriate emotion towards my future son or daughter.
Thankfully, however, all is not lost, and there is hope for me growing a soul and developing into a proper human father as I’ve recently been in intense training on how to be a new dad with Laura’s delightful little boy, Max. For the most part, Max and I are best buds. We laugh, joke and wind each other up, have spectacular lightsaber battles, create entire universes with his vast array of Lego blocks, and can wax lyrical for ages about the finer points of Star Wars, Peter Rabbit and what he’s going to get for Christmas off me for the next decade or so. Admittedly, there are moments when things aren’t all as rosy as can be: a constant war of attrition when Max clambers into our bed in the middle of the night, asserting his territorial dominance and booting me in the back 400 times over the course of the night resulting in me relocating to the floor in the spare room is just one of the more stickier moments in our relationship. As all parents can appreciate, when things go well, things are wonderful. But when they don’t, it’s unadulterated terror. I’m slowly but surely learning this but I’m still some way off appreciating just what the fuck is going on.
One of the more disarming things I’ve found about training to be a dad with a 4 year old child is the newly-discovered brevity and concise nature of my everyday vernacular. Where once I’d offer emphatic declarations of awe and affectations of amazement at a messily coloured picture, or a box of Lego successfully constructed, the consequences of hearing my name repeated 400 times an hour, being yelled at to ‘look at MEEEE NOWWWW!’ every 12 seconds, and being attacked with improvised weaponry made out of cardboard has understandably dulled my enthusiasm to respond with apparent fervour. The result of this is my responses to whatever activity Max is immersed in now simply consist of raised eyebrows, a nod of the head and elongated, one word responses – ‘Wowwwww!’ ‘Woooaahhhh!’ ‘Cooool!’ – while hoping I won’t get screamed at if I don’t stand instantly to attention.
Furthermore, I’ve often found myself, with much amazement and wonder, caught in deep conversation with Max before the discourse has really even begun. I regularly have little chats with him, the dialogue of which unfolds something like this:
Me: ‘Yes, Max?’
Max: ‘Chris… Um…?’
Me: ‘Yes, Max?’
Max: ‘Chris! Chris!’
Max: ‘Um…Chris, Chris…?’
Me: ‘Max, Max… yes?’
Max: ‘Um… Um… Um… Chris?’
And so on and so forth. Chats like these happen over the course of about 12 seconds. Obviously this is just his little brain working overtime and getting overexcited, trying to get everything out at once before he can launch himself into another mini-adventure involving attacking my lower body with his lightsaber and repeatedly informing me that I’ll soon be experiencing a bloody and gruesome death involving the removal of several limbs and my head. For a 4 year old, getting overexcited is something that comes as naturally to him as hiding in the bathroom with the door locked does to Laura and me. What I find
terrifying fascinating is the process in which the over-excitement presents itself when Max wants to play a game. Especially if he’s very tired and knows that time is at a premium. Below is a conversation I typed out when I happened to be working at my laptop right at the time Max was asking me to play with him as bedtime was approaching:
Max: ‘Chris! Chris! Chris!’
Me: ‘Yes, Max?
Max: ‘Chris! Chris! Will you… Chris! CHRIS! Will you..?’
Me: ‘What, Max? Will I… what?’
Max: ‘CHRIS! Chris! CHRIS! CHRIIIIIIIS! Will you…? Will you…? CHRIIIIIIIS!’ CHRIS! LOOK AT ME! CHRIS! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!’
Me: ‘Yes, Max, I’m looking!’
Max: ‘Will you… Will you play a game with me? Chris, will you play a game with me? Will you play Lego with me?’
Me: ‘I’ll be twooooo seconds, duuuude…’
Max: ‘Ah-ahhhh! Play Lego with me now, Chris! Chris! Chrisss!’
Me: ‘Okay, Max, what shall we build?’
Max: ‘We have to play Lego. Chris, will you play Lego with me?’
Me: ‘Yes, Max. We’re playing. What shall we build?’
Max: ‘Okay, okay, okay. Chris, Chris, Chris… We have to build Lego men. Chris, Chris, Chris, you need to make a Lego man with a gun and I need to make a Lego man with a sword. Chris, Chris, CHRIS! CHRIIIIIIIIIS! CHRRRRRIIIIIIIIISSSS! Noooooooo! You’re doing it wrong!!! CHRISSSSSSSS! NOOOOO! CHRISSSS!’
Me: ‘Well, show me how to do it, Max.’
Max: ‘That Lego man CAN’T have A SWOOOOOORD! He has to have a gun!!! Aaaarrrrrrrgh! CHRRRRIIIIISSSSSSSSSS!’
On occasion there would follow an explosive scream of frustration, tears and a mini-tantrum which sometimes incorporates an off-the-scale screech that causes the neighbour’s cat to go and drown itself in the nearest garden pond.
Another arresting situation that I’ve found myself being privy to is as a central part of a deep and meaningful conversation while Max is ‘having a poo-poo’. Nowadays he seems incapable of doing his business without me being there to accompany him as he goes through the motions, all the while discussing the salient concerns of which is the most powerful Ninjago character, and how cool it would be to be able ‘spinjitzu’ up and down the stairs. Call me naive, but this was a scenario I never, ever thought I’d be involved in when Laura and I first got together. More recently it’s become an inescapable necessity that I be the one to undertake this eye-opening task, and the times when I’m unable to, or suggest that he’s more than capable of doing it all by himself, can occasionally result in an ‘incident’. A shouty one. So this is something I’m just going to have to come to terms with. Deep discussion and putting the world to rights in the bathroom amid the aromas and symphony of a small boy having a shit.
And I don’t think there’s anything that can prepare you for the shock of watching a child sitting on the toilet doing Chewbacca impressions before standing, baring his wee backside and shouting, ‘FINIIIIIISHED!’ while demanding you wipe his bum without gagging.
But this is all excellent training I suppose. I should expect I’ll be changing nappies and cleaning up throughout the wee small hours when the new offspring arrives in July. You can’t even imagine how much I’m looking forward to doing that especially if there’s live boxing or UFC being broadcast from America at stupid o’clock in the morning. Obviously. And then there’s all the vomit and stuff but, again, I’m getting completely used to all that what with poor Laura hugging the porcelain every day.
No doubt I’ll be posting regular updates about all this and I’ll be sure to let you know if I grow a soul…