Generally speaking, babies just aren’t on my list of things I like. They have screams that cut through the most productive thoughts, they smell of milk and sweat, they can’t hold a proper conversation and they turn previously interesting people into kid-obsessed, suburban messes with a newfound interest in taping foam padding to every corner in their toy-filled houses.
So to anyone who thinks I’m a dick after reading that first paragraph, you’re right. But you can relax, because I’ve now joined the Dark Side. It took us a little longer than most of my friends who by now are hunting for good schools and bicycles for Christmas, but I’m happy to say we have a baby of our own.
Here he is: cute, eh?
He smells of milk and sweat, but it’s sweet. When his screams pierce my thoughts I start cooing to calm him down. We laugh while changing his shitty diapers, I love mixing milk formula at 3AM and of course we can communicate perfectly through sign language while I learn to speak baby talk.
All the people whose babies I ignored over the years are fawning over him on Facebook, adding guilt to my conflicted emotions. And I’ve started scoping out our apartment to ID any corners that might need padding.
It is too late for me now. He’s used his baby Jedi mind powers on me and I’ll do anything he wants, with pleasure.
Being thirtysomething is strange enough. You realize you’re not as cool as you wanted to be, you never will be, and you don’t care anyway. For some, there’s a journey of apostasy covering everything from political views to what counts as reasonable employment and good music. Tolerance for challenging things, like Art and university students’ opinions, may plummet.
I’ve been through this. But the switch was flipped to adulthood and soldered in place in the space of five minutes in September. It was after midnight. My wife had just given birth after a long labor and was in need of repair, to which the doctors were attending. It was a busy night in the maternity ward and the staff had other things to do once they’d washed and weighed him. I was the typical useless new Dad with a spare pair of hands and nothing to do, so they left me there with my new son, alone in the room and in semi-darkness, until everyone was ready to see him again.
He’d stopped crying by then, and was staring at me in a pose not unlike the one in the photo.
And it occurred to me: how many men ever get the opportunity to be all alone in a room with another human who’s been in the world less than 10 minutes? Probably not as many as you’d think. I was completely unprepared–surely there’s a speech you’re supposed to deliver in this situation, a responsibility to say something profound. So I did. I don’t remember the exact words but they were probably so mawkish they shouldn’t be repeated here. Sacred words from a father to his brand-new son; a wish for a wonderful life and a promise to do the right thing. A warning that the world is something you often need protection from. Wondering what could possibly be going on in a mind that was immersed in warm amnionic fluid until just an hour before, and now needed to comprehend a very different place.
Such moments in such a cocoon will change a man whether he invites it or not. So, please forgive me for getting all sentimental and trying to put it into words. I’m really not 100% OK with my new body yet and I’m not sure if the effects are permanent. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to write or enjoy another horror story without feeling actual horror. I will promise, though, this is the last time I’ll blog about parenting. Others are really much better at it and it’s best left to them.