Will Lodge: Parenthood’s a dream - mostly
Preparing for parenthood, and fatherhood, is easy, isn’t it?
There are so many books out there covering everything from dealing with your partner’s mood swings and cravings to how to wash your baby when it arrives, you can’t go wrong.
Some of these have even become films, and on top of that there are the ante-natal classes, leaflets and age-old advice dispensed by family notably Mum: “Well, when you were a baby...” and friends alike.
So ahead of becoming a new father* for the first time I felt as ready as I ever could be.
*I should explain.
Despite being a proud father to three beautiful boys aged five, seven and 11 from my wife’s first marriage, I had never dealt with a proper baby. My experience kicked in at two-and-a-half and did not include nappies, night feeds or even holding a baby.
That was until July 16 when our daughter (a surprise to us all) arrived, and we welcomed Mila Ava to the world weighing in at 8lbs 3oz.
It was then I realised no matter how much I had read, and gleaned from constantly asking my wife stupid questions about babies, there are some things you just cannot prepare for.
For example – how heavy is a baby? You know what the weights are roughly, but I had never stopped to equate that to real-life objects (and how much even is a “bag of sugar” these days?).
It turns out they feel surprisingly heavy, though that is mostly added weight of responsibility and morbid fear – I will not drop the baby at all costs. Though after a few days I already felt like a dab hand.
Nappy changing was broadly as it had been when I practised on a doll, though with more wriggling and opportunity for feet to be dipped in nappy contents.
However the one thing I was completely unprepared for was the dreaming.
I had anticipated sleepless nights with slumber replaced with bottles of milk.
I had even expected not to sleep for the first few nights as I constantly woke up in a panic that something was wrong (Why do babies breathe so quietly anyway?).
But the real shock were the vivid, recurring dreams of horrible things happening to the newest addition to our family.
These often varied, though remained tied to a central theme whereby Mila was variously slipping out of my hands, out of her brothers’ hands, was lying in our bed and about to be crushed by me or my wife, suffocated by the duvet, or even by our pet cats.
On several occasions my wife was woken by me frantically patting her down searching for the baby, or reassurance it was a dream.
Fortunately these have waned as time goes on. And they weren’t all doom and gloom. In some Mila was wearing a yellow jersey (a clear influence from watching the Tour de France during feeds).
But if I were to give one bit of advice to expectant dads it is this: it is all well worth it.