As a parent, I always promised myself that I would never start sentences “as a parent”. And, unless the trance-like fog of sleep deprivation has descended over me and taken control of my ability to construct thoughts using words, I’m pretty sure I’ve kept to that rule.
A rush of air. A gurgle of fluid. And then there was a wailing, grating, gnarly little sound rising above everything in the operating theatre. You think that you process the world through your eyes, and only your eyes, but then there comes a sound like that. I – we; there is no real “I” at the moment – felt the slush of tears fall over my eyes.
This is happening; this is really happening.
People say you change straight away. I don’t think changed much last Wednesday afternoon, at six minutes past one; every second that passed since, though, has felt new. As a parent, I’d never say that you only understand being a parent as a parent, because you don’t. But things do change. You change, not because you choose to, but because choice is taken away from you. Certain choices leave you. When to sleep. When to be awake. When you can just walk out of a room. When you can go and have a piss. That’s just how it is, and how it’s going to be.
I’m writing this in the half-light of a dull, drizzly Monday afternoon. The school holidays, so I’m off work. Usually you’d hear kids outside on bicycles heading off down the river, but the rain has chased them away, and all that’s left is a grey, murky quiet. Just the laptop screen glowing in the dark. Two metres away, there’s the occasional snuffle and puff of breathing. And still it doesn’t seem real. But this is happening; this is really happening. Raindrops trickle down the windows. Wet washing, left out too long, flaps lazily, heavily in a whisper of breeze.
You find a connection you always knew was there, to your parents, and their parents, but which hadn’t always been so obvious. Every petty argument, every fight, every tear you shed, is seen through the feelings you’re having right now. It starts to make a kind of sense. We’re all just trying to make a job of it, and no one really knows what they’re doing. And if they say they know what they’re doing, they definitely don’t. Am I doing this right? Am I doing anything right? Can I cope with this? Can I really do this? This is happening; this is really happening.
A lot of things go wrong. You make mistakes, and you learn and start again. It’s frustrating and demoralising and difficult, but you do it because you have to, because there isn’t another choice, because you wanted to, because this is what you still want so much, because this is how it is, and how it’s going to be. There is no sudden epiphany where you look into the eyes of your child and you feel an amazing overwhelming heart-bursting sense of love. It’s there, it’s always been there and it will always be there. You don’t need to realise something that you know is there. But you clean up tarry black shit from a helpless bum, because that’s your job, and it seems like the most purposeful thing in the world, the most important job that anyone could ever do – and you’ve been given the job.
The whirr of the laptop fills the room. My baby daughter squeaks, lying back, helpless, arms raised up to the sky, already growing towards it. And I’ve got to stop writing, because writing doesn’t mean anything sometimes.