Better men than I (e.g. Mark Woods: follow him here on Twitter and/or buy his book, it’s ace) have tackled the thorny issue of how to deal with a pregnant wife (delicately, on eggshells, with food – in my case bacon – in hand, like you’d treat an unpredictable Staffie). The NCT exists to prepare couples for the process of pregnancy and birth. The NHS is there (as it always is) to facilitate the process. So, much is there to help you cope with everything up to and including Day Zero. And yet, there is very little that can prepare you for the sheer terror, panic and cluelessness of Day One.
Day One is a bit like one of those Federer returns, a fast ball from Shrubsole or a Ronaldo free kick – you know it’s coming but you look like a total, useless arse when it arrives. And NO ONE is more useless than a First Time Father on Day One. I distinctly remember walking through our front door with our (incessantly) screaming bundle of sheets, looking at the terrified face of my wife and – rather than soothing her and using my epic initiative to find a DIY solution – saying: “I’ll find the Night Nanny’s number”.
NOTE: the Night Nanny is a middle-class cop-out that (cf. dummy) we’d agreed to shun prior to childbirth but who, when push came to shove (no pun intended), we embraced like a drunken student embraces their last chance pull in the kebab shop queue.
My uselessness didn’t stop at outsourcing to a Night Nanny. It was an underlying theme of Day One (and a fair bit beyond). You find yourself in the weird situation of having more responsibility than you’ve ever had in your life without being able to do anything important. You can’t breast feed. You can’t soothe the baby (they scream, I mean really SCREAM, for their mother). So you can’t really spend any time alone with the baby. You get pretty proficient at ‘popping to the shops’, ‘feeding your wife’ and ‘listening patiently’, which basically makes you a bit like a Royal butler – a critical, peripheral, sycophantic (and sadly forlorn) figure.
Night Nannies and general uselessness aside, I have little recollection of Day One (other than complaining about a lack of sleep to my wife, who’d been in a noisy hospital for 2 nights AND given birth – bit of advice, don’t do that…). It’s a haze of sights, sounds and smells for which you can’t prepare – the first sighting of babyshit (or is it fondue cheese?), a level of crying that would serve the US military well at Guantanamo and smells (more milk and vomit than this) that will turn your nostrils inside out.
My advice? If you can’t teleport back to an early 00s Slipknot gig, where the combination of screaming, anal & oral body fluids and heavy drug use would be perfect prep, then: a) get used to a ceremonial role & make like a lion (we all know that the Lioness does all the work and that King of the Jungle is just a natty title); b) NEVER show panic – like a bear or a bull, babies & new mothers are programmed to smell it out and destroy you with it; and c) like a poor woman’s Jack Reacher, take sleep wherever you can get it.