June 9, 2013 by Dadinator
We wake up in the morning in an ‘H’ formation. I occupy the bed’s southern flank, lying close to the edge. Sometimes cold due to a lack of blankets, sometimes over warm because I have stolen them all through involuntary night rolling and sometimes with a stray arm dangling out of the bed. The Mamanator lies on the northern side, surrounded by the ruins of her pillow fort. When she goes to sleep it is neatly arranged, each cushion has its place. One braces her belly, one under her ribs and one between her legs. By morning they are everywhere. Her fort is rent apart by her own attempts to get comfortable.
Between us is mostly empty space. Most of the stuff around us is actually empty space, you know, gaps between protons and electrons, but I digress. The pair of us will have started the night in an embrace of some kind. We usually float apart in the course of the night, as couples do. Once upon a time we would drift back together in the wakeful hours of the early morning. These days it is different. If you look closely you will see the space between us isn’t so empty. Lying across the bed is a bluish blob with red hair, The Lad in his pyjamas. Usually his feet are towards The Mamanator and his head pointed squarely at my chest, but not always… Again he has ended up in bed with us through the course of the night. He started in his cot, but as always he became inconsolable at some stage and I have brought him into our room. By morning he sits as a kind of spacer between the pair of us. A wall, a wedge, a barrier or some other metaphorical distance increasing thingy betwixt his parents, completing the ‘H’ I mentioned earlier.
Having kids changes your relationship. If you don’t accept that before they arrive you will be in for a rough time when they do. I look back on dinner dates, cinemas, quiet coffees and parties with an sense of nostalgia. We do not get much time alone now days. We are a long way away from grandparents, no one around to drop him on while we enjoy couples time. So we snatch what we can when we can. Watching DVDs in the couch. Chatting on weekend afternoons while he sleeps. Talking as he trundles along beside us or between us.
I knew when The Lad arrived that The Mamanator’s primary concern would be him. His safety, welfare and emotional well-being. He would be number one. I didn’t know how I would cope with that, but I knew it would happen, and that i was going to have to adapt to it. To do any less would be grossly unfair to the woman who just carried him for 9 months, endured horrible pain to bring him in to the world and now had to spend what seemed like half her waking hours feeding him from her sore boobs.
What I didn’t realise was that The Lad would become my number one too. Oh I probably realised it would happen, but I didn’t realise what it meant. Like a man possessed, I wanted to get right into everything parenty. To change nappies, to rock him to sleep, to play, to chat and to do all that stuff; but not bathe him, that scared the crap out of me. I don’t know why that specific thing was so terrifying at first, but it was. I got over it.
I remember in the hospital I was holding him. The Mamanator was seeing a physio to see if there were any muscle separation issues. There were not, in case you were curious. It was me and The Lad. He cried. I looked forlornly around. A nurse/midwife stuck her head in and said, take him for a walk or sing to him. I did, and he settled. At the end of 3 tumultuous days of birth and other adventures, of seeing him emerge, of cord cutting and of staring into his eyes, that was the moment: I was a dad. The memory of it makes the tears well up a bit, to be honest.
So, since then we have worked side by side as parents. We support him, love him and nurture him. In doing so we support, love and nurture each other too. It is easy to say that becoming parents can dull the flames of passion, that it can drive you apart or that it can signal an end to your freedom. Some say the same thing about marriage. I don’t agree, on either count. We are closer to each other than ever, maybe it comes from swapping war stories about nappy changes and bed time, or maybe it comes from watching The Lads eyes light up when he sees his mama and the immense joy it fills me with. We are also more in love. Our life together is harder than it has ever been, it is a lot work and as The Mamanator’s belly grows and she gets more tired the workload will only increase for both of us. Then suddenly we’ll have two to worry about, and we will hark back to the easy days when it was just the three of us and we had so much time on our hands. And some nights we will probably wake in a demented “M” formation. Our kids connecting us to one another.
Anyway, I guess I should give some advice. Dad blogs are about advice, right? Have an open mind, put your kids first, but still remember to take care of yourself, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You will have sex again, you will get to sleep again and one day you will be able to go out for a nice dinner, just the two of you, and you’ll talk about your kids the whole time.