My Son In A Year

Week 2 — The Ulterior Smile

So this week my son got himself the joint grand prize of both a cold and thrush. How? Because life’s a dick, that’s how. So now, not only does he sound like a miniature Darth Vader that’s lost his inhaler but we also have to prise his vice-like lips apart and spread medicinal gel that tastes like a baboon’s scrotal moisture after an intense workout of tree-swinging onto his tongue! Consequently, my wife also has nipple thrush and feels like a terrible mother. But she’s not, she’s brilliant, this isn’t her fault, she’s been doing her job of filling our son so much that he’s forced to sleep afterwards just to cope with the sheer volume of her dairy goodness splendidly. So screw you, thrush, you’re just a mild yeast infection anyway. YOU’RE NO BETTER THAN UNRISEN BREAD, YOU SHIT!

Oh, there’s another new thing this week as well: baby blues. You know, you hear a phrase and cast it aside casually because it sounds like depressing toddler music or doesn’t get much coverage on that Netflix thing, but when it actually hits your family it really isn’t a bloody joke! Plus the anxiety, it has been one bugger of a week! My wife went from worrying about my son’s welfare before the birth to daily anxiety plus panic attacks after he was born. Then there were the episodes of just pure emotion, where anything and everything would turn her from a sane woman into a wet Alice Cooper. One day, I went to get her some juice, turning away for thirty seconds, and genuinely came back to a pile of tears and mascara. Then there was a complete meltdown because she thought she was going to die in some horrific way and leave me alone with a hungry baby. A comforting thought, if I’m honest. I mean, we all have moments of doubt in our own mortality, but this was a whole new level of fuckeroo! A large amount of it was the grief still of her sister’s passing so when I was left to try and pick up the pieces as she sobbed on the sofa it was like doing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle with all the edge bits missing. Only incredibly old women could achieve that challenge, and I’m talking 100 years, skin like spanked leather, outliving your children kind of ancient.

Then we get to the matters of the constant need to feed during the nights, the ever-growing pile of steaming nappies that could tie themselves up and walk into the bin without the need for human intervention, the fear that someone’s going to come and take this sleeping and living bag of thrush-covered trapped squirm-wind away from us because we didn’t take our VAT receipt from the hospital and have to return him to the Flesh Police for reintegration into an Orwellian society, the dog that’s determined to lie in the baby’s empty crib and subtly choke him to death with slobber and/or hair, and just the utter guilt we succumb to whenever something goes wrong like the unstoppable tide of nappy rash and going three and half minutes without feeding him again! It’s no wonder his head’s grown a centimetre since birth; seriously, if he’d waited one more week for his actual due date I’d still be picking the shrapnel of my wife’s vagina out of the hospital wall.

And then we get onto the titular subject of this post: that smile of his. Now, if any of you have ever had a baby, or are currently experiencing the joys of the newborn status, then you’ll know that they can smile, and boy does it light up the room. But there isn’t enough processing power going on up in that weirdly shaped, soft-spotted, squidgy cranium of theirs to actually produce a smile built on the foundations of happiness like you or I would at, say, a skateboarder trying to grind along a rail and instead riding the Pain Train to Testicle Town. No no no, there’s a hidden motive behind this imposter of a facial expression and it’s the enemy of all new parents unguided in the ways of the upturned mouth corners: they’re sleepy. If you know me then you’ll know I’ve already looked this up: no it’s not trapped wind, that’s a common misconception. Moving on. It’s a biological certainty that a newborn will smile more than two month-old babies, so buckle up for that nonstop up-and-down ride of disappointment. At first he’ll simply grin that gummy grin of his, rearrange himself slightly, and go about his business, meaning you still think he’s smiling randomly at the latest dream about mummy’s mammary munchables. But then the repetitive smiling comes, most likely replacing the yawning, and soon you’ll have a very tired baby in your arms that you can’t get to sleep because you keep shoving a breast more swollen than a belt line on Christmas Day into his face or you’re rocking back and forth like the chair from The Woman in Black trying to comfort him. My way of dealing with this is to sit back, hold him close to my chest, make sure he doesn’t fall off in any way (babies have bobbleheads like you wouldn’t believe), and wait for him to pass out from sheer exhaustion. That’s fatherhood, write it down.

Finally, on a more positive note, we discovered a great new way to get rid of trapped wind, or “caged congestion”, “tushy traffic”, and “bunghole backup”. What we do is rest our son on his dinky little back, his eyes gazing wondrously up into ours in both assumed happiness and mutual distrust, grasp his little feet in our hands, and slowly bicycle his chubby legs through the air. That should loosen all that puffy goodness holed up inside, just waiting to escape and fill the atmosphere sulfurically. Then the next stage: origami baby. We take the baby’s legs and push them back until there’s a good measure of resistance. Do not go any further than this or you will be arrested. We gently rock him and back and forth in this position until the very much ungentle gusts and gales burst from him like he’s trying to warn shipping away. Sorted.

So as my son sleeps on my chest, rising and falling slowly, and my wife sleeps soundly with a snore that would make a chainsaw jealous, I look down occasionally and know that I’m doing alright as a dad, and that I’ve got one smashing family. It’s alright to feel blue, to feel like you’re doing a shit job as a mother, to think that everything’s going wrong and your baby isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. It’s alright that you’ve got thrush worse than that time in Ibiza and your baby’s mouth interior looks like a sheep’s exterior. It’s even alright if you make your baby cry by accidentally pulling his or her genitals away with a nappy that’s being changed and producing a cry so loud it’ll make your ancestors cringe (I did that). As long as your baby’s happy you’re doing a brilliant job.

Ps. My wife is extremely tolerant and approves of all these posts.

Tune in next week for whatever the hell the baby throws up or at us.

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