Going Gently into That Good Parenthood

Do not go gentle into that good night – Dylan Thomas

So, that poem is a bit more morbid than this entry deserves, it is after all about death. But I just love that line so much.

I’m probably an older dad. I say probably because at the birth classes we went to in December, there were a lot of cracking knees when we had to get off the floor after one exercise. I’m 41 and Pip is my first child. My father was 26 when I was born, and my mother 31 – which was quite old for a first child back in 1971. In fact, my father was this age when his third child was born.

But there’s something to be said for being an older dad. Being a parent involves a lot of sitting around at home, looking after a kid and one’s partner. Which is, you know, kinda similar to what I was doing before Pip came along. My days of going out late drinking or spending evenings in disreputable bars listening to live music were already over before I had a kid. And I don’t mind, I’ve done a lot of stuff in the twenty three or so years I’ve been an adult.

Some examples. In February 1997, I saw Something for Kate’s 4th ever gig. In late 1990, early 1991 I spent three weeks at a party in Hobart (of all places). I’ve traveled around the world – literally – MEL-SYD-LAX then Washington, NY, London, Paris, Berlin, Prague, Lausanne Switzerland, Phnom Penh. I’ve seen the inside of the United Nations building, including the security council chamber. I’ve barbecued snake at a restaurant in Siem Reap, ridden the NY subways, stood outside the White House. I’ve been to concerts by Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, Ben Harper, Primus, The Melvin’s, Public Enemy (6 times over 20 years), Bob Dylan, Devo, and hosts of other bands like TISM, Blood Duster, The Beasts of Bourbon, Regurgitator, and Pre_Shrunk. I’ve seen the stage at the old Punters Club set on fire by some fire-breathing gone wrong. I once carried a small Japanese singer on my shoulders at a gig at the Tote.

I’ve acquired a huge collection of music and books, I’ve been in eight or so major relationships, I’ve lived in five share houses over 13 years, I’ve hosted many a party and been to probably hundreds more. I’ve made (and lost) more friends than I can keep track of, and had what must be thousands of conversations over the years. I’ve had my own radio show on a student-run radio station, I ran a small group of direct-action activists for a period, met the artist Vali Myers, been interviewed on the radio by Red Symons, got married in front of a cardboard TARDIS, ridden a bike through the Burnley Tunnel and… Well, you get the idea, I’ve done stuff.

And I suspect if I tried to relive any of this stuff, I’d be disappointed. I suspect that if I dragged myself to one of my old favourite music haunts, I’d probably find the bands reminiscent of something I’d heard years before.

So, now, I’m pretty content to be at home with my new and interesting hobby – staring at a small baby.

Some days I do think of things I haven’t done and would like to. The band Einstürzende Neubauten, whom I have been listening to since about 1991, are doing a very rare Australian tour. They’ll be in my town in a few weeks. I’ve never seen them play live, but this early in Pip’s life, I can’t spare the time. More importantly, I can’t leave D here alone for a whole night just to go to a gig. And…. I suspect I’d be disappointed. The band has changed a lot over the years, and what I really want is to see them playing under a highway underpass in 1982. So if anyone has a time machine…. I will probably still get a tattoo of their logo.

Suddenly: Baby!

So, somewhat unexpectedly, although not technically early, we had a baby in the early morning of Sunday the 20th of January. Pip’s due date was February 1st, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, due dates are A Tissue of Lies! Pip turning up at 38 weeks and 2 days is therefore perfectly normal.

I will write a much longer post on the subject soon. I was planning a post about how labour never really follows the traditional, clichéd, movie and TV scenario. Which goes roughly:

  1. Waters Break
  2. Contractions start
  3. Mad dash to hospital
  4. A great deal of screaming and squeezing of hands
  5. Baby appears

I was going to say how rare this actually is and all births are different and so on, as if four birthing classes have made me some kind of expert.

But for us is this more or less exactly what happened! Complete with screaming mother-to-be in the back seat of the car!

Will flesh out the story soon, maybe once I’ve got some – some! – of my sleep debt erased*.

(* this never happens.)

Cats and Babies

I have a mad cat. Well, all cats are slightly mad, goes with being a cat. But whilst many cats are timid and retiring and wouldn’t harm their owners, Marvin my cat… Well, here’s some video evidence:

Here’s a cat for whom playing often means drawing blood. A cat who, rather than fearing dogs, would actively stalk them. He once chased a lost puppy down our street. Another doggy visitor was on the other side of a fly screen door…. Marvin tried to claw his way through it. He stayed with my cousin, cornered her in the kitchen, scratched both her children, and scared their dog so badly she shat on the floor! This is the cat that regarded any open door as an invitation to wander in like he owned the place. And, if you’re lucky, he’d also relieve you of your goldfish. A great mouser, but also a great killer of birds.

(Random aside: this video caused me to have a strange Twitter exchange with channel 9 news reader Peter Hitchener about how awesome cats are!)

Marvin is 5.5 kilos of angry muscular cat, who liked to stalk my partner in the back garden, sometimes leaping into the air and attacking her at thigh level. But he is also devoted to me to the point of obsession. He loved to curl up with anything with my smell – my clothes, by bag – and sleep on it.

I acquired Marvin in late 2007 as an adult cat. His previous owner is a friend of mine, who had moved into an apartment and couldn’t have a cat. She in turn got him from the guy who acquired him from the RSPCA as a kitten – when by all reports he was completely mad all the time.

We lived together as bachelor and bachelor cat before we eventually both moved in with D.

You can probably see where this is going. Marvin doesn’t like kids. We’re having a kid soon. Something was going to have to give. We put out the call… can anyone take an FIV positive cat who can’t be around children, dogs or other cats? I began to have bad feelings about how this might turn out.

And then we had a huge stroke of luck. His previous owner had decided to move house, in part so she could have a cat again. Here was the perfect solution – An owner Marvin already knows, and who more importantly is familiar with Marvin’s quirks, who was looking for a cat!

So we packed up all his stuff into our car.

Cat stuff

A car full of Cat stuff!

(Yes, we spoiled him, that’s a Catnip bush, there’s also a cat water fountain in there.)

And we rendered him to his new home.

I miss him. He’s completely psycho, but it’s nice to come home to a small mammal who is completely devoted to you. Mind you, I’ll have another small mammal devoted to me around the house soon… Hopefully little Pip doesn’t also chase mice…!

And… He’s happy. Hooray. I’m so pleased this worked out for him, I hate to think what we would have had to do if no home had been forthcoming.

Marvin at his new home

Marvin at his new home

Scenes from the Nesting

Nesting is continuing apace. I’m back at work, but I get reports from my increasingly manic partner every day.

I also spent five long long hours on the weekend removing weeds from all the cement areas around our house. Whilst I appreciate all the cement reduces the amount of lawn I have to mow, they could at least have laid it without gaps. Gaps just wide enough for robust virulent weeds to thrive!

D, my partner, dropped everything in the middle of dinner the other night, fixed me with an intense stare and said “these kitchen cupboards are filthy! Then she scrubbed them cleaner than they’ve been since we moved in. They say nesting is a sign the baby is due… So when she squealed that the kitchen light switch needed cleaning and proceeded to scrub it… I assumed the contractions had started. But no. I do worry where this is going to go before the baby finally appears!

The Pregnant Lady who cried Woof

So, I as mentioned, we’ve hit 37 weeks.

My heavily pregnant partner has a habit of being quite enthusiastic about a lot of things, which means she often starts sentences excitedly with “Guess what!”. This is has been fine up to now, but in the last couple of days she’s done it a couple of times and I’ve immediately thought “Ah! She must be in labour!”. But no, it’s usually something else entirely – she bought a cool baby thing at the mall, or someone else has announced they’re pregnant. Or she had a really good nap, you know things of far less importance.

This nesting mode she’s in also means she liable to call me twice a day. Often breathlessly starting her calls with a burst of excitement.

So, I have made her swear that she’ll try and keep the excitement contained so that I, the daddy to be, doesn’t get all excited and starts loading bags into the car or running the bath or something!

Strange Baby DVD is Strange

We were given a DVD in a bag of stuff from the hospital, which also seems to play in a loop in the hospital waiting room. It was all about having a baby, oh, and all the stuff that Certain Companies sell for babies.

The whole thing was put together in a chatty talk-show format, hosted in a beige set by a woman with far too much eyebrow activity for my liking. Too often I was watching them rise and fall at odd points in her sentences.

Happy White People have a baby.

Happy White People have a baby.

There’s also a scene where a mother demonstrates the delights of an electric breast pump… Does that sound to anyone else like a strange way of trying to enhance one’s cup size?

So, what did we learn children?

Firstly, that my partner is nesting which made her make me watch this.

Second, happy people with happy babies have happy brand-name baby stuff.

Third, the colour of your nursery is important and should be the first thing you do.

Fourth, it’s probably a good idea to learn Baby CPR!

Right, probably no the best source of information… I think I’d have taken it more seriously if it had been recorded in an a baby’s room at 3AM by a bleary-eyed mother, whose outfit was covered in stains and fresh baby vomit. With the father being asleep on the floor from exhaustion, so out of it he gets used as a change table and doesn’t even stir…

Days or Weeks to go

This Friday, the 11th of January, my partner will hit 37 weeks. Which is, apparently, considered full term. Or full term-ish! That due date they give you? Means nothing. The baby will turn up when the baby is ready, and that can be anything from 37 weeks through to 42 weeks.

So we wait. We could have a baby this weekend. Or we could have a baby around Valentines day. The “due date” (or “tissue of lies” as it shall be referred to from here on) was given to us with such confidence – we conceived through IVF so the date of conception is known almost down to the second. But here we are in the range we’re in the end game, we’re reaching project completion. Actually I’d complain if this was a project I was working on, I mean, come on, better end date estimates people!

Anyway, all our ducks are in a row, we have a car seat and a cot and a pram and all the other baby paraphernalia one needs. Almost half a house full of stuff for a baby who will be, what, 3.5 kilos at birth? Even rock bands don’t have that much luggage…