I Took The Long Road To Dadcore
I met my wife in early 2000 when I was at college and she was in the 6th form of school- we had encountered via a mutual friend six months prior and when we saw each other on a train station one cold February evening we started talking. We didn’t stop. We became inseparable instantly, and disappeared from our individual and mutual friend circles while we shared our eerily similar taste in films and music.
People stopped calling and texting. We still appeared at festivals and gigs but the days of going out drinking with my mates were gone 5 short months after they started, and I didn’t miss it. Occasionally a friend would be made for a year or two, but we were (and are) hard work to be around due to the insular nature of our relationship (and at least two people stopped hanging out with us because they came in the house to find the TV off, and us talking to each other- apparently that’s “weird”.)
In 2001 we got a mortgage, in 2006 we got married and in 2011 we decided we might have a baby. Well, I didn’t decide to be honest as the whole idea of being responsible for a human life froze me in fear- I went along with it because I realised it could be a weird new adventure and that the only thing putting me off was my fear of the unknown… and of breaking it somehow. Babies look easy to break.
You get told a lot of terrible lies about fatherhood. Tell a woman you’re expecting a baby and she will either regale you with tales of someone’s now defunct and smashed up vagina (the “my birthing story is worse than yours” thing which carries on seemingly until death,) show indifference or get very excited. Tell a man you’re expecting a baby and they look at you as though you’re condemned. “Hope you like cleaning shit instead of *anything you ever expressed an interest in*”/ “hoho, good luck getting her to let you play playstation now”/ “better do *anything at all* while you have the chance. No time for that once the baby arrives”… what is strange to me is that this comes from dads as well as single men; the weird and unfounded belief that babies are there to trap the man and prevent him acting like a cock all his life. This directly contradicts the other lie you are told which is
Having a baby changes you instantly and rewires your brain
Which I wanted to believe. Honestly, the idea of the amazing brain reconfiguration was the light at the end of the tunnel to me though I knew it was- if not an oncoming train, then an abandoned station (this metaphor has been tortured enough.) I was terrified throughout the pregnancy, despite my wife being really good at it (no cravings or mood swings, generally happy.) If anything her ability to carry on made me feel worse for the fear, as she and the foetus bonded and every movement was a delight, I just thought “what if I drop it” as I realised that in 29 years I had only held a baby once in my life and I had dropped it (I was 10.)
The due date came. No baby. The induction date came. No baby. Induction. No baby. A day of constant monitoring, losing the baby’s heartbeat, crash teams bursting in on us every 25 minutes and no god damned baby. Emergency caesarean section.. “don’t look at my uterus” she jokes (I did) and suddenly there’s a crying red creature being wafted over a curtain at us before being taken away. I felt no emotion at all, I held my wifes hand and made sure she was okay and after 10 minutes or so someone came out to tell us the cord had been round his neck 3 times.
“Oh” I said
“And here he is” they said, and tried to give him to me. I froze up.
“Take him” my wife instructed, so I did.
I was awkward with him for 6 weeks or so, but I had started missing him while I was at work and looking forward to carrying him around in the baby dangler while I walked the dogs. I soon fully embraced it. I was taking mornings off to take him to baby yoga and play groups, going to the zoo and the farm when he was too young to appreciate it and then last year when he was 2–3 his mum was pregnant, and me and the boy (Josh) got to spend a lot of time together. I love to take him out and just spent time with him, letting him do what he wants- toddlers can find so much fascinating and it is a joyous privilege to just tag along as they explore the world for the first time. It has made me less jaded, more willing to see the pleasure and happiness in the simple and obtainable things (to quote Kurt Vonnegut “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is”.)
I’m a full on dad now- our second came in December and my only regret is not doing parenthood sooner. I associate with other parents and it turns out I’m not the shy, quiet, awkward geek I used to think, in fact I’m a bit of an overconfident loudmouth (my wife says I always was, I just avoided people). Having children has changed me, as all the naysayers predicted, but the “new” me is just a better, happier version who finds joy in what he has, not in what is to come. Oh, and I still get to play Playstation.