Here is the opening chapter of my latest work in progress, DIARY OF A FLUMMOXED FATHER. It is a non-fiction collection of essays based on my experience of fatherhood.
THE BEAST WITH TWO BACKS
I believe my wife and I, Sally, were staring lovingly at one another over two mountainous Yorkshire puddings at the sticky-floored, iconic British chain restaurant ,Toby Carvery, when we broached the subject of babies.
“I want to have a baby,” said Sally.
I simply nodded.
Although I knew, at that moment, we had just made a monumental decision that would forever change our lives, it was impossible to know just how colossally chaotic every day of my life was destined to become. I had always hoped to be a father—even expected to be—but was a nebulous concept like being old and grey, or out of the EU. It was inevitable, yet always in the future. Never quite here.
Sally and I met in our early twenties, breaking-up twice before finding a welcome harmony that halted our devastating arguments and egotistical posturing. That harmony was called Lexapro and it transformed me from the emotionally-volatile caveman of my early-twenties into the civilised, affable gentleman that is writing these words for you today. Medication, likewise, transformed Sally from an irritable, defensive shrew into a less irritable, defensive shrew who I now thoroughly adore (let’s leave it at that).
Today, many years removed from those tumultuous early days, our relationship is genuinely one that people are jealous of. Our marriage is full of love, support, and most importantly, fidelity, yet the truth of how we got to this exalted place of matrimonial happiness is unknown to me. We’re just lucky, I suppose, that we found someone we are willing to tolerate forever.
As it was, by the time we discussed babies in that sticky-floored branch of Toby Carvery, I was in no doubt that we would provide a loving and stable home for a child or seven (how naive I was). I was 30 years of age, a successful-ish author, and in possession of enough free time to be the kind of family man I wanted to be. Sally was a strong, successful businesswoman with the most admirable moral compass of anyone I had ever known. Happily married and financially stable… What was there to think about?
How could we have known?
With our broodiness in full swing, we devoured our Yorkshire puddings and raced home at once to watch television and discuss the matter further. I am very much a go-with-the-flow type of fellow (one of the many things I share with Hollywood heart throb Cheech Marin), but my wife likes to think out loud, and so our living room became a war room that night, where we proceeded to plot out every caveat, addendum, and action that would deliver us our baby in due course.
About three weeks later we had sex.
Boy, did we have sex.
Never in my life have I been any less a fan of sex. It started off well, performed in the bedroom after a particularly arousing episode of River Monsters with Jeremy Wade (A real man, no one would argue). It was loving and special, but after doing it sixteen times in the space of an afternoon, the act grew somewhat tedious (and chafing). We needed to spice things up a little, I’m sure you can understand. By the end of the week I was performing in a bunny costume with nipple tassels, and I think at one point Sally might have gone so far as to wear heels. We were frightfully debauched, I can tell you.
Eventually, there was nothing less but to play the waiting game.
Today, I say with relative surety, that any father will most likely tell you they have never doubted their self worth as much as during their attempts to ‘seed’ a woman. Each morning Sally would urinate on a stick of paper, and every morning I would condemn my own manhood as the result came up ‘sans baby’. Why had God forsaken me? Was it the atheism? But my wife is Christian enough for the both of us, I would shout at the skies. My mother-in-law who happens to be a vicar was not a fan of me doing that.
According to ancient Vatican records (I’m assuming), one of the signs of demon behaviour is compulsive and repetitive behaviour. The demon that had obviously got into my wife that month was causing her to purchase bulk bags of pregnancy tests off the Internet that she would then proceed to urinate upon at least ten times a day. The demon would then seek to convince all of the ‘non-believers’ that there was, in fact, an incredibly faint red line on these sticks, despite nobody else seeing a thing. I was close to bringing in a priest.
But then, one day, while we had builders in destroying our kitchen, Sally accosted me on the landing. She seized my wrist and looked me in the eyes with a maniacal grin.
“There’s a line,” she said. “Look at it.”
“Of course there is, honey,” I said, patting her on the head. This was routine by now. A little game we played each morning, afternoon, late-afternoon, early evening, dusk, and night. And sometimes at 3AM in the morning.
But this time it was true. When she waved the urine soaked paper in my face, there was indeed a line. Sally was pregnant.
Woohoo. My seed was potent. My manhood was virile. Back of the net!
Feeling more elated than ever at this miracle of life, at this marvel of human biology, I nodded to my wife and said, “I need to go deal with the builders.”
We spoke later.
Much champagne was spilled.
We were going to be a family.