My wife and I were together for 9 years before we tied the knot. I wanted to make sure that we had a fair idea of what we were buying into, and I never really thought of myself as the marrying kind. That’s not to say I was a “player”. Had that been the case, it’s likely the team seats would have been perfectly embossed with my bony backside from having spent so much time on the bench. I was no Lothario.
My spouse assures me that very early in our extended courtship we discussed the prospect of children. She is dead-set that I was also duly informed that she wanted more than one child. I have neither a memory capable of disputing this, nor any legal documentation to assuage her of rights to my baby juice. However, I am fairly confident that I didn’t know it would last, so probably agreed in earnest to cement access to her “special place” for what I would have assumed was an inevitably short time together. I was also, no Romeo.
Still, the realisation that I was a father came as a complete and utter shock, not out of the blue in the traditional sense, but almost by stealth. Don’t get me wrong, I was present at the birth, and for the four days of labour leading up to it – with the occasional episode of Game of Thrones for punctuation. The day our first born emerged was toward the end of a 40 hour marathon, the kind that used to be a badge of honour when in your 20s, but becomes a glance into mental illness when you’re over 35.
Up until the birth, mummy’s reaction to stubbing her toe would startle people two zip-codes away. So the quiet serenity that took her over during contractions and labour, had me expecting the delivery of a ransom note outlining demands in exchange for my actual wife’s safe return.
The little man was born in the evening of the fourth day and I was relieved that everything had gone well and that my better half’s heroic physical ordeal had concluded in this squidgy ball of delight. When the clock struck 11pm I was advised I had to leave, so I kissed mother and baby goodnight, wished them well and drove very carefully home. Once there I popped next door to tell the neighbours the news, was duly smothered in hugs and kisses and went home. I fed the cats, climbed into bed and went to sleep with my phone on silent…because after all, I was really, really, really tired.
At 5.30am my eyes crept open, sensing the bright, early morning May sunshine, but I wasn’t ready for the day yet. I glimpsed my phone laying in the spot normally occupied by my beloved. I dreamily picked it up and was greeted by a startling number of missed calls, and a litany of text messages that had silently arrived during my blissful slumber documenting the fifth, mostly sleepless night of a new mother keeping our newborn alive, alone.
That’s when it hit me, and I threw up – in shock. What followed was a wave of indignation that my life was ruined and I’d never be able to do things on the spur of the moment ever again. I began stomping around grumpily, realising I’d better pack some fresh clothes for the fleshy interloper. Combing through the vast array of newly acquired baby couture and pulling out what I thought might be agreeable to His Chubbiness and it was in that moment, my heart unfroze. The tears began to roll, my denial became redundant, and my heart began to leap.
He’s nearly three now, and we’ve just found out, we’re getting a new one…
Jamie is a screenwriter and lives in Liverpool, England with his wife and son.
Image by Bastien Jaillot/unsplash.com