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Sunday, December 27, 2009

6 Months in…

So as you may or may not care, I thought I would tell you about my recent adventures in Fatherhood, or as it is known in some cultures: “that man who lives in the same house as your mom, who you ask for things when mom has already said ‘No’”

Thankfully, as my title suggests, my little treasure is a tad too young to manipulate me in such a common but none the less devious way. However in such a short time she has managed to rap me around her little finger – and given the size of her little finger; that’s a whole lot of me!

I think I will spare you the grisly details of the first few hours of her life because, well, I’m not in a gory mood just now… But I will say this, I thought I would be one of those husbands in the delivery room, standing well away from the scene of the crime, trying desperately not to be a witness or even a suspect but I rather surprised myself and the Midwife who later praised me for my valuable contribution to the proceedings… in fact I was ready to do it all again, except my wife didn’t share my enthusiasm!

Let us fast forward… my partner in crime was busy with the Doctor people so I got to do the Skin to Skin for an hour. What is Skin to Skin when you’re not at home but sitting in a cold maternity ward full of pain and joy? Well, it’s that fun part where you get to take off your shirt and sit there with a naked baby on your chest. But not just any baby – you’re own personal copyrighted human manuscript. And wow, what an experience. You sit there with this bundle of big deep-blue-sea eyes looking at you with a quizzical look that suggests she’s still trying to figure out who you are and why are you looking at her so intensely? We were two strangers brought together in the first major crisis of her life - her eviction from the first and only home she had ever known…

Oh yeah, I was meant to be telling you why she was naked and I was shirtless. While it sounds strange and conjures up images of corny nappy ads where a doting Dad looks down at a dopey baby, its scientific purpose is so that your Germy Jims (or bacteria) can migrate from your body to hers. It’s fantastic for their immunity and gives the parent a chance to form a bond with the baby (as if I hadn’t already).

We must have sat there for an eternity getting to know each other through the communication of confused expressions. But the eternity soon evaporated into six months later and I’m wondering where it all went. You know the expression, the cliché “They grow up so fast” and unfortunately no matter how many times you hear it from those who have gone down the parental track before you, they are not lying and there’s no more precise way to put it, they really do go from there to here in a flash of light. While you go to work to slog it out and the days seem to drag on and you can’t wait until the holidays your little carbon copy is mutating from one form to the next as each week sprinkles through your fingers…

We left the hospital like a person carrying an egg a hundred miles on the edge of a fork – very carefully, and brought her home to the applause of family and friends who had helped me clean the house in preparation after I had spent the last few nights camped out on the couch. But then the guests leave and it’s just the two new parents, proud, stunned and not quite sure what to do next! The rest of that month is a blur of moments that have no context in time but hang in your mind like pictures in a long corridor… the waking up throughout the night to foreign squawks that demand attention; the cry that sounded like the word “Nooooooooooo” as if to say you’ve got it all wrong and all she really wants is a candy floss and not the sleepy rocking you’re repeating without success, curving her mouth into a frown and emitting a soft “Wahaaaa, wahaaa.”

Six weeks went out with the tide and just when we thought we couldn’t handle another sleepless night something miraculous happened. We woke up at six in the morning after six hours of actual sleep and shot out of bed in a panicked rush to the bassinet because something must have been wrong but no, there she was, sound asleep dreaming baby dreams as if the nightmare that had been the last six weeks had never happened.

I have to admit at this point that I was a bad Dad and slept through most of it while my wife did the thing that only a mother can do. I recall a certain sense of uselessness at times when it was obvious that I could not deliver the one thing she wanted most in the world for lack of lactation on my part.

However she does seem to have a certain amount of respect for dear young Dad in that somehow, miraculously, she manages to save the second variety of nappy antics for Mum! I’m not one of those Dad’s who shy’s away from nappy labor but its either luck or pure baby genius (or malice) that 90 percent of the time she saves her worst for Mum while I am at work and for once I’m happy to have missed out on at least this part of her progress!

Except there was that one time that I was lying on the couch and had her hovering over me in the air when suddenly something hot and acrid hit me square in the face that came from her mouth with a burp. I was left there stunned, my baby poised in mid flight while I yelled out to my wife to come and rescue me with a flannel, but instead she dashed out to get a camera to permanently capture Dad with spew on his face. At least my Facebook had a decent profile pic for a few weeks after.

In fact this is a regular occurrence in church every Sunday morning. We have it down to a routine. We arrive, my wife feeds her in the mother’s room during the singing, brings her out and during the sermon she brings it all up again on my Sunday best to the chuckles and applause of the family sitting in the row behind me. It’s always the same family too… but I’ve learned, don’t jiggle your baby or give her flying lessons after she’s had a feed because it’s bound to end up with someone’s dignity getting hurt!

Please don’t mistake me for a Crass Dad, but the truth is babies are born with no sense of decorum and need to learn it – although much later in life. For the time being you put up with tummy rumbles that might as well have come from a small elephant and gas that is so loud that the first time I heard it I leapt from my couch in genuine fright as if a small bomb had just been detonated beside me. The up shot of that of course being that I now finally have someone else to blame when my wife gives me that suspicious look during a movie…

And it’s not just that side of her either. She has become the “raspberry princess” in recent times. Somewhere in that developing intelligence of hers I am sure she thinks she is telling me about her many adventures when she purses her lips together, pokes out her tongue and blows a torrent of “raspberries” that last longer than a lecture on Egyptology. Not that I mind; it sounds like she has a lot of interesting things she is trying to say.

I began this adventure wanting this baby period to skip ahead to the toddler phase where she cries out “Daddy!” when I come home at the end of the day but her evident personality, her uniqueness and the exhilarating sense of discovery that comes from witnessing her do something new every week makes me want to hold time at gun point and order it to stop or else! She smiles now whenever she sees me. She loves to see her daddy play Silly Billies when he jumps up and down like a gorilla, growls like a tiger or barks like a dog just to get a giggle out of that little round bald headed face; and I love the feeling of having an audience of one that would give me a standing ovation if she could only stand…

In a way having a baby has been very much like owning a cellular phone – once upon a time we got on perfectly without them but have one for six months and you know you couldn’t possibly live without it…

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