Being a father is, so far, the most exhausting, but rewarding experience of my life.
I think the phrase ’emotional rollercoaster’ is thrown about wily-nilly, these days. All sorts of media utilise the term to try and illustrate that the author/screenwriter/actors/blah/blah take the audience on a ride they will never forget. However, if those forms of media really do give their audience a true emotional rollercoaster, then bringing up a child has higher peaks and deeper troughs than any rollercoaster known to man. In fact, the term rollercoaster is unfair in this regard, for the peaks and troughs will never be possible using modern engineering, future engineering or even arcane engineering. Even saying that bringing up a child is an emotional trek of the Himalayas is unfair. I lack the diction to truly describe it, but I’m sure by now, you understand the gist.
My daughter is currently 6 weeks old; 10lb 11oz. A veritable bundle of joy… and pain. She can make me cry with pride, then moments after, make me cry with desperation, only to make me cry with sorrow shortly after. An endless circle of endless emotional fluctuations. I’m sure I’ll get used to it; she is still brand new, in the grand scheme of things.
I have come to know a particular time in ones day as the ‘Seven Minutes of Hell’, let me enlighten you.
At the moment, my daughter sleeps an awful lot, and because of this sleeping, she forgoes the time whereby she’d be giving us the signs that she needs something. When she needs her nappy changed, she’d start to look uncomfortable and begins to move her bottom about; when she needs a feed, she starts to roll about and suck on her whole fist (no joke). These are the signs we have come to know and enjoy; they come coupled with signature groans and grunts that we’ve learned. When these signs start, my wife and I know we have limited time to prepare. With a feed, it’s getting the bottles made-up, with the nappy changing, it’s getting ‘the bag’ ready. The sleeping situation makes these signs disappear; which means we have no opportunity to prepare.
The Seven Minutes of Hell, is a specific circumstance that combines sleeping with needing to be fed. When my daughter awakens from her slumber, it’s go-time. She wants a feed, and she wants it now.
Daughter-dearest wakes up and begins
crying screaming, so my wife hits the fridge to retrieve a pre-made bottle. It’s my task to keep her stable whilst the bottle warms. This process takes seven minutes.
First, I’ll try holding her close, to let her know that everything is going to be okay. Maybe even throw in one or two kisses to calm her down
Next, I’ll sit her on my lap, facing me. This normally affords her the chance to have a good look around.
Next, I’ll try putting her down on her play-mat-come-baby-gym. She loves that place.
Next, I’ll try walking about with her held close, slowly rocking her. She sometimes likes to drift off to sleep whilst I do this.
Next, I’ll pop her down and try to make her laugh, and play with her.
Next, I’ll start to wonder if this is ever going to stop.
Next, I’ll resign myself to fate. This is my life now.
Next, I’ll start imitating her cries. Is this madness?
Next, I’m now a bunny rabbit. Hopping about the room with my wrists bent up under my chin. I say “What’s up Doc?” She doesn’t get the reference.
Next, I’ll shout at the top of my voice “HOW MANY MINUTES LEFT” – at this point, there’s usually still three minutes to go.
This is the difficult part, because now I’ve convinced myself that there’s nothing I can do. It’s the worst feeling in fatherhood that I’ve experienced so far. I’m powerless. I convince myself that it’s only to feed her, that she knows no other way to communicate, and that she’s not in any pain, or real distress, she’s just hungry; but none of that seems to hit the spot. She’s in my arms, upset, and there’s nothing I can do about it. This is about where my eyebrows tilt up at the centre, and my lips tighten, and that lump in the throat creeps into prominence.
Then, my wife enters, bottle-in-hand. A saviour.
Sometimes, after all this, the baby’ll only have an ounce, and she’s back out for the count. All that, for nothing. Well… not nothing, I get to see that little smile creep across her cheeks when she’s happy, and that makes it all worth it.