I’ve written little in the last two months. It seems that preparing for a new baby whilst also looking after a 3 year old and also doing my actual job is not conducive to finding time to write. My nesting instinct also truly kicked in during the last couple of months of my wife’s pregnancy, as I tried to get every possible job around the house complete before our boy arrived. I finally ticked the last item off my list the evening before the due date, and was a surprised as anyone when he hurried into this world at 3.50 am the next day, as if he sensed we were finally ready.
The birth couldn’t have been much more different than our daughter’s. She came into this world in an operating theatre, after seemingly endless trips to and from the hospital, as contractions stopped and started over the course of more than a week. Our boy, in contrast, was born less than twenty minutes after we walked through the hospital doors, barely more than an hour after I’d been asleep at home. A few minutes later leaving the house and it’s doubtful we would even have made it as far as the delivery ward.
The birth, despite its’ speed, was far from easy, and my wife was whisked away to theatre almost immediately afterwards, leaving me unexpectedly alone with my son for an hour or two. Happy, but slightly disbelieving, wondering if, in that classic but unoriginal plot twist, it was going to turn out to have all been a dream. The tedium of waiting to be released from hospital soon put paid to that thought, but the next morning we were home to begin the new phase of our lives.
We were doubtful that bringing up a baby would be easier the second time round, as so many friends had claimed. To date though, it seems they were right. My first paternity leave was marked by worry, occasional panic, and little confidence that I had any idea what I was doing. If it had a soundtrack, it might have been Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ (“The panic, the vomit”) It took the full two weeks before I started to feel that maybe we could do this after all.
This time round, the two weeks of my paternity leave has been one of the favourite fortnights of my life. Almost as soon as we returned home it felt like all would be well. It’s been a chance to spend time with this little family we have built, and appreciate each one of them, individually and in concert. A chance to marvel that a man such as me, who never expected to find love, now has so much of it in his life. Whilst there has still been the tetchiness that comes with lack of sleep, and the drudgery of nappies and laundry is never too far away, it has been a strangely calm time, interspersed with the highest of highs.
Perhaps the happiest moment of all, and surely my lasting memory of this time was the evening of our first day back from hospital. I was briefly alone with my son, as my daughter slept in the next room and my wife readied herself for the welcome embrace of a non-hospital bed. I held him in my arms and stared into the deep blue pools of his infrequently open eyes, and watched as they scanned the room around him, trying to make sense of this strange new world. A strange feeling, to not only be responsible for a new life, but to embrace the responsibilities that brings.
Alas, paterntity leave is too short, and the less wonderful responsibilities of work call, but as I tap away at this keyboard, alone in my world of spreadsheets and figures, it is the memories like this that make it worthwhile.