It seemed crazy to me that they just let us walk out of the hospital, new parents with our first baby, without at least having passed some sort of exam first.
I kept looking behind for someone to stop us, to shout “Hey, you! What do you think you’re doing, just taking that baby home? You don’t have the first idea what you’re doing!”
But instead they smile and wish you luck and wave you out the door.
And the worries start as soon as you step outside. You’re carrying the baby, and the bag, and trying to look after your partner and is the rug tight enough round the baby? Or too tight? Is the sun too bright? You should have brought a sunshade, oh God, and now you’re moving the baby around too much. What if the car breaks down on the way home? What if you get a flat tyre?
OK. Breathe. One step at a time.
Don’t forget to pay the car parking, and then you’re all set, you’ve just got to put the baby into the car seat.
Well that’s a horrible experience the first time you do it, let me tell you.
You’ve got your seat ready, of course, and by now you should be very comfortable with how it works. Now is not the time to be struggling with the seat. You won’t have enough reserves at this point to deal with anything too complicated, so make sure you know and know well how this works before you’re putting your baby in it for the first time.
You need to make sure the straps are tight enough because if they’re not then the seat won’t do what it’s supposed to do – ie, protect the baby if you have an accident. It’s worth mentioning this, I think, because there’s a real temptation to just leave them very loose – because your newborn is unbelievably soft and fragile and it just feels so so wrong to be strapping them down – you feel like you’re going to break your little baby. I don’t know what to tell you on this, I found it incredibly difficult to strap her in for at least the first few weeks – to find that balance that meant she was safe but comfortable. Thankfully it’s not long before they’ve got a bit of muscle tone and then they’ll be wrestling you as you try and strap them down…
And now there’s an extra person in the car. The most precious cargo you’ll ever carry.
Now you’re ready to go and you just hope you don’t break down or get a puncture.
Nah, what’re the chances of that?
For the briefest of instants as we pulled out of the carpark I thought maybe I was mistaken or overreacting due to my nerves but no: there was no doubt something was wrong, and when I pulled the car over it was clear. A rear right puncture. Must have been some glass in the car park.
So there we are, just outside the hospital, brand new baby and all you want to do is get it home safely. So, baby out of the car, on the side of the road (thank goodness it wasn’t raining) and me, exhausted, tired and worried with a flat to change.
After the stresses of the previous two days it was almost too much.
But you can’t just give up – you’re a Dad now and you’ve got to look after this family you’ve been given. So you take a deep breath, and you dig deep and you start jacking up the car.
Unless you’re very unlucky, this won’t happen to you. But something else will, it’s bound to. And it’s going to happen at the worst time, when you’re exhausted and worried and you’ll have to find reserves you didn’t know you had, find a way to keep it together. So all I can say is take that breath, take a minute, know that you can do it – whatever it is – and then, when you set to it, do it extremely carefully. This was not a time to make a mistake, it’s not a time to cut corners. So I changed the tyre, very slowly, very methodically, checking everything twice.
And then I thought about the journey home – which was 40 minutes on a motorway – and I thought about the baby in the backseat and the space saver tyre that I just attached onto a new car I didn’t wholly trust and that I’d owned for all of a week and then I ticked the box on google maps that said “avoid motorways” and home we crawled, unbelieveably slowly, me almost weeping with gratitude at the driver behind us who obviously sensed that all was not quite right and stayed a generous distance behind us the whole way back.
And I rolled the car up the drive – and it’s then you’ve got to be most careful because those silly accidents happen when you’re almost home and your guard drops – and I carefully pulled on the handbrake and turned off the engine and then I just collapsed forward onto the steering wheel.
But not for long though – because there’s no time for you now: you’ve got to look after that little person peacefully snoozing in the backseat, blissfully unaware of what it’s doing to your composure – and you’ve got to look after your partner, also sat in the backseat, at least twice as exhausted as you are and with twice us much work ahead of her.
So you take them into the house, help them upstairs and get them comfortable, you make them a cup of tea and then, then, you relax – but just for a little while, because you’ve got a lot of on the job learning to do.
So no, there’s no exam before they let you take the baby home, but rest assured you’re going to be tested plenty.
Hope you’ve got something in the freezer you can microwave for dinner.