Written by Olly Ruff
Staring down at the soiled nappy, I fought a rising sense of panic. The look in my partner’s eyes told me they felt the same. We were completely ill-equipped to deal with what looked like a blob of pesto. Two adults overwhelmed by something so small. Reduced to sweaty-palmed, quivering wrecks by a tiny nappy and its even tinier contents. So, we did what any self-respecting member of an Expectant Fathers’ Programme would do – we giggled through the whole experience and went to the pub.
I don’t know how much I learned with those eight perspiring men, stood around a table, fumbling with plastic dolls, nappies and a popular Italian sauce. But I do know that my expectations of fatherhood became a little more realistic. Back in the earlier days of my wife’s pregnancy, I had a rose-tinted, TV commercial view of family life. Long winter walks in the park with the baby strapped snugly to a warm adult chest, lazy afternoons on the sofa watching films by the fire, chestnuts roasting, that sort out thing. I had never roasted a chestnut in my life – if I tried it would probably be a major health hazard.
Before our little bundle of excretions – sorry, joy – arrived, I was actually pretty squeamish about all that stuff. I’m the sort of person for whom getting dog poo stuck in the sole of a shoe is a major and disgusting inconvenience. The marathon of pungent poos, voluminous vomits and wild wees, which always hit the carpet no matter how fast my ninja-style reactions are – these were vague and far off concerns that I pushed to the back of my mind.
Fast forward a couple of months and I can proudly say I just go with the flow. The steady flow of pee, poo and vomit – you name it, it’s on the clothes I’m wearing right now. And the funny thing is, I’m OK with that. Last week, I wandered around in public with a large sick stain on the shoulder of my jumper, and I just shrugged it off (with the aid of a high temperature wash; my shrugs are not that powerful).
So what was my cunning plan to overcome my squeamishness, you ask? What subtle strategy did I employ? Well, I can tell you – in the best male tradition I ignored the problem and hoped it would go away. And do you know what? It did. When our little boy arrived and it came to changing his nappy for the first time, it was as if some weird switch in my head had flipped. Because it was his poo, it wasn’t like any other poo. It was special poo. And not just because the meconium and subsequent excretions were actually a lot more pleasant than adult productions; our parent/child bond obviously extended to everything about him.
Don’t get me wrong – I have not turned into an overnight poo fan. But when he smiles at me, before dropping a huge load into his nappy, I feel as though we are forming a close and lasting bond. I wear his sick stains as a sign of love and mop up his wildly uncontrolled pees with pride. These things are as much a part of being a dad for me as the walks in the park and lazy afternoons on the sofa. And I’m fine with that. He’s two months old now and I don’t know what to expect from the next two months, or even weeks – but he seems happy, which means my wife and I are too. We even managed to get to the Italian for our first date night. I gave the pesto a miss, though.