Saturday, July 16, 2005


In Nick Hornby's novel "High Fidelity", our hero's travails (sic) revolve around his list of his "top 5 ex-girlfriends" (or is it "top 5 break-ups"?). In fact the propensity to make lists of "top 5 this" and "top 5 that" seem to dominate the male persona of Hornby's creations.

So he'd be pleased that I have finally given in and drawn up a list of my top 3 (and 3 is enough) fears about the impending event. These are the concerns that have dominated my thoughts, rightly or wrongly. Of course, I could dwell on all sorts of terrible possibilities, but I have generally tried to be positive and my concerns are dominated by worries that arise from the real-life experiences of friends with young children.

1. Lack of sleep and its fallout.
I love my sleep. My wild partying days are behind me and we tend to go to bed before 11pm and get up after 7am. That's a good 8 hours of sleep on a good night. And even now (despite Hayley's large bump and increased nocturnal bathroom visits) good nights are plentiful. These 8 hours might sound like luxury, and maybe they are, but I wake up feeling fresh, enjoy cycling to and from work and feel pretty good all day. (Most days anyway.) This contrasts with how I felt in my 20s when I had to rise and shine earlier to commute 40 miles by car and often battled drooping eyes after lunch.

If my nightly quota of sleep slips down to less than 6 hours I start to feel rough. And if it falls as low as 4 hours the effects are rather gruesome. I suffer from IBS and it seems to flare up badly when I am sleep deprived or my sleep pattern is badly disrupted.

On top of this I have a job which requires the retention of many small pieces of information about lots of different things. My recall starts to fall as my fatigue rises. I once read that the human brain can not reasonably manage more than 5 pieces of information at any one time. I dare say that it wouldn't take a mountain of research to show that this number falls the less sleep you have.

As well as my bowels and my work potentially suffering I dislike the thought of Hayley and I becoming impatient and snappy with each other, which strikes me as not at all unlikely if we are both exhausted and struggling to pacify a screaming infant at 4am. I'm expecting the first few months to be a like war zone (battling exhaustion rather than each other) and I've already apologised in advance to Hayley in case the person she loves disappears for a few months (metaphorically, not physically!).

So the arrival of human alarm clock going off every few hours at times of his/her choosing is my number one concern, unavoidable as it is!

2. Hayley taking the strain.
After the avalanche of advice it will come as no surprise that we plan to breast-feed our baby. However, the recent advice from the midwives not to express any milk for the first 6 weeks would mean that Hayley would be entirely alone in the front line of the feeding battle for that time. Of course there is always the option to switch to formula, but we're hoping to avoid that for a while at least. (The professionals' advice is to stick to only breast milk for 6 months. It remains to be seen whether we achieve that!)

After the first two weeks my paternity leave will end and I will be waving good-bye in the morning, leaving Hayley to fend for herself. Her family live 180 miles away and most of her friends in this area work full-time, so her support network will be very small. Perhaps only two or three friends / fellow new mothers. I feel pretty rotten having to leave her to it like that. So my second fear is that despite all the 21st century talk of sharing the responsibilities, Hayley will suffer disproportionately.

3. Projectile poo!
OK, there are probably other things higher up the list, but the general messiness of babies is something I am finding hard to gauge and I do find myself wondering how much poo / pee / vomit I will be picking out of my hair / eye / clothes. I hear stories from colleagues of projectile poo hitting the opposite wall of the room. How can they do that! I guess I may find out in a few weeks.