We have a baby. I’m tired.
But I’m not as tired as my partner. My partner who is getting up in the night to feed and comfort sometimes 8 or 9 times. Sometimes waking me for nappies, sometimes letting my troubled sleep continue. 11pm to 5am is the witching hour – time passes in slow motion. Of course she deals with it 1,000% better than me – I look like a corpse whose been dragged through a hedge when I take the dog for a walk, she looks radiant and beautiful. When I get tired I sink, I get sad and lose focus and am a mess. She, it would seem, becomes even better.
Of course everyone said it’d be like this. “Better get that sleep in while you can” they’d say, as if sleep can be accumulated and then deposited in an account for a rainy day. And, of course, we’d laugh it off, in the back of my mind I thought, definitely arrogantly, “for our child it’ll be different”, as if simply by birth rite they’d have a clear idea of what daddy needs to function. 8 hours of shut eye followed by a flat white and porridge.
I can’t speak for my partner, so here’s my take, one week in.
The first night was horrific. Every gurgle an alarm bell in the back of your mind: Are they okay? Are they breathing? Are they breathing enough? You keep creeping over to “double check” the blanket is tucked in properly, that they’re still okay, even though you checked 5 minutes earlier. Then they cry and you jump into action, like an incompetent superhero, one who has no real idea what he’s doing but fuck it, you’re going to save the day.
Do they need food? No.
Too hot? No.
Too cold? No.
Is there shit all up their back? Problem found.
In the morning you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. You’re on google researching sleep aids, the sleep cycle of new-borns, the age at which they’ll sleep. You’re wondering what you’ve done wrong – sure, you’ve read stories like this before… But you never thought it’d happen to you…
Night two. The unicorn. He sleeps from 11pm to 3am, then 4am to 8am. We are refreshed. I decide that we have beaten parenting. Fuck those people encouraging us to bank sleep. You don’t need a sleep bank if you’ve beaten the system. All we’ll do is repeat what we did yesterday exactly until they’re, let’s say 18, and we’ll have nailed this parenting lark while also sleeping well(ish) too.
Night three and four. Horror show. Night four he needs a shit. He knows it, I know it, my partner knows it. But it just won’t come, no matter how much he strains, and pushes, and his face grimaces. Five hours of needing the toilet. Five hours of being awake and uncomfortable. Five hours of nothing being soothing.
It was like a shower. Or a river. A torrent. And he is calmed and instantly wants food again.
We’ve come up with a plan by now. We’re going to play to our strengths. I’m not 100% sure I have any strengths I protest, but it’s decided. My partner will take the night shift, aided by early evening naps and long lie ins. I’ll sort sterilising, bottle making, cleaning, dog walking – the stuff that supports my partner who is keeping a child alive. She is Lewis Hamilton, I am the tyre warming man. She is David Beckham’s right foot. I am his shin pad.
So far it’s been a rollercoaster.
That’s how lots of recent new parents describe it. A rollercoaster. And it’s so true. I’ve been thinking about what the five things I’ve learnt as a dad are for sleeping so far and I think they’re these.
1 – Be the supporting role so that the lead can flourish. You can be Steve Buscemi.
2 – Prepare too much. Make sure you’re on top of the sterilising and the formula making. Everything in its right place at the right moment.
3 – Be tidy. Mess starts to emerge everywhere. Tissues, bottle lids, half drunk cups of tea. Keep on top of the dishwasher and wash dishes.
4 – Probably give up drinking for a bit. Honestly, this is hard enough without a stinking headache.
5 – Check the supplies. Make sure you know your essentials. Nappies and feed. That’s the top line. Shortly followed by chocolate.
My next door neighbour asked me when I took the dog for a walk today how we were getting on. I said great and then she asked if I could do what my partner has done – given birth, be a rock essentially. I replied that if it’d all been on me (I didn’t say men, I’m sure some men are great and the generalisation is painful) then the human race wouldn’t last long.
That’s all for tonight. I’m going to blog semi-regularly I think. So, join my e-mail list (click here) and tweet me if you’ve enjoyed this.