When it was time to take Missy from the hospital, there was a strange mixture in the pit my stomach. It’s partly the joy of getting away from the sterile atmosphere but mostly the kind of fear that driving at night with your headlights off might create.
The first problem was how to get home. Luckily my wife is somewhat of an organizational freak, so we had all the necessary tools to safely transport our pristine hand grenade. But as the front door closed behind me, I stood, looking. What do we do now? No call button to summon help; no nursery to get an hour or two rest. We were alone in our flat with a brand new person who expected us to cater to her every need.
So what are these needs? If you read a book, it will likely tell you to learn your baby’s cry. One cry for hungry, one cry for tired, one cry for nappy change, one cry just because they can. While I don’t dispute most mothers might get this down pat pretty quickly, for me and I suspect for most men, this concept is ludicrous.
Men just hear things differently to women. “Can you wash the dishes,” clearly comes through to me as “can you watch the football,” and “please pick up the shopping on this list,” seems to enter my head as “please pick up some of the shopping on this list – and a case of beer.”
So when Missy cries, I find myself as useful as a bowling ball is to a drowning man. If your wife is breastfeeding then compounding the confusion is the most likely need of your newborn is beyond reach.
Which brings us to a pleasing twist of evolutionary marvel: Men cannot breastfeed. As food for a baby is reasonably important, it makes me the proverbial third wheel. That’s just as well, as these days the football and cricket seasons tend to overlap so I really don’t have the time.
The fine art of breastfeeding is depicted in movies and magazines as an idyllic and tranquil event between a Victoria Secret model and a gurgling baby. The reality is more in the vein of bleary eyes, cracked nipples and screaming infants.
So what’s my job during these grueling sessions? As the father, my function is to get in the way. To offer advice like I actually have an idea what is needed and to nod my approval when things seem to go right. It is critical to offer these pearls of wisdom from outside your wife’s left hook reach, as women, apparently, don’t take kindly to advice on these matters. Strange.
So Missy gets fed, washed, changed and cuddled, eventually. It might not happen in the correct order and it may not be a well-oiled machine just yet, but so far, no serious injuries have been recorded. With that, I think I’ll go help with the next feed, as soon as I find my headgear.