Speaking as a man who is yet to witness a baby tearing his wife’s perineum apart with just its head, I think it’s the waiting that’s the hardest part.
We’ve been on tenterhooks for two weeks ever since the doctor remarked that the baby could come at any minute, but so far ‘nada’. We can’t go too far from base camp, I can’t drink booze despite being surrounded by delicious Hungarian grape juice wherever I turn. So we just sit and wait and when we’re not sitting we’re walking.
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In fact, we’ve probably covered every yard of city in the last week.
Which when you consider that my wife’s belly is now so big that she has to carry it in her arms, is quite a feat. Across streets, over bridges, to wine festivals, over hills, to an exhibition, through markets and even to a concert she has carried that gigantic belly in her tiny arms. She may look like an Easter Egg with legs, but I have to admire her pluck.
But anyway, I’ve now been in Budapest for about a month (we moved from London on a whim, on the eve of my 40th birthday when my midlife crisis struck) and I’m with a friend at a small beer garden near Buda Castle. The friend has a two-year-old child and he may not yet realise this, but he is my Obi-Wan Kenobi of fatherhood. With Junior’s arrival looming large I am looking for reassurance, guidance and a few handy tips of how best to keep a human cub alive. I’m also trying to assess just how tough the first few weeks of parenthood might be.
“You know the first couple of weeks with the baby?” I say.
He throws back the hood of his robe, leans upon his staff, looks me in the eye and then wisely replies, “Yes”. This is good. So far, all positive.
“Will I be able to get any sleep?”, I ask.
At this he laughs. He laughs so hard that food comes out of his nose. I am surprised by this response. Mainly because he wasn’t even eating at the time.
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“I didn’t get any sleep for the first three months!” he snorts. “You’re going to be so tired that you won’t be able to feel your bloody face!” he chortles. “Take my advice young padawan. Get as much sleep as you can now as you won’t be able to sleep once the baby arrives! You’ll look and feel like SH*T!”
Naturally, I am thrilled by these words.
“But still, I guess I should count my blessings that I don’t have a nine to five job at the moment. Right now every day is Saturday!”, I remark, striving for an upbeat finish.
“As soon as the baby comes everyday will be a Monday!”, he sneers.
I consider whether I need a new Obi-Wan, whilst wondering if my friend has ever considered a career as a motivational speaker.
Nevertheless I have tried to take this sagacious advice on board and have been attempting to hibernate as much as possible. For two weeks I’ve been half man, half dormouse, but as we reach the finishing straight it’s not as easy as one would think to pop off to the land of Nodsville. The reason being is, I have discovered that once darkness falls I now achieve an unnaturally high state of alertness.
I am a cowboy sleeping with one eye open. A praying mantis poised to strike. A man shitting it that his wife is going to go into labour. I think this newfound ability stems from someone once telling me that babies are most likely to come at night. The ‘apparent’ reason being that our instincts tells us that as it’s quiet, there’s a lesser chance of predators being around. I think this sounds like ‘utter bollocks as surely more predators come out at night, but nevertheless my subconscious mind believes them.
It’s two in the morning. My wife gets out of bed to empty her battered bladder. Like a ninja I sense her stirring. My eyes shoot open and I sit up in bed, like a meerkat on speed.
“Are you alright honey? What’s up?” I ask, but before she can reply I am already wearing trousers and searching for the car keys.
“Need a wee.” she wearily replies. My trousers are off and I am back in bed. But I cannot sleep as I am fully alert, heart pounding. About thirty minutes later I eventually begin to drift off. Then up she clambers. I’m awake again. I’m wearing trousers. She is weeing. Back to bed. Repeat every thirty minutes until dawn.
Come on Junior! Please don’t take after your mother and be late. We’re waiting for you!
Nearly being a father is tougher than I’d imagined.