First-time dads may hide it well, but they’re just as nervous as the mum to be! Aiden Smith lays the male psyche bare on his quest to find the perfect dad-to-be self-help book…
Hoarding tat. It’s a bloke thing. I will use any excuse to buy myself a book, CD or DVD. I call my space-scoffing collection ‘a library’ to justify its presence in our home. So, naturally, at the first sign of my wife Kate’s pregnancy, I sniffed a book buying opportunity. A non-patronising guide to being a father can’t be more than a few mouse clicks away, can it? My initial internet trawl was disappointing at best. I typed in ‘father’. Up came My Father was a Serial Killer. Not quite what I was looking for. I tried ‘dad’. The Pocket Idiot’s Guide popped up. Surely some mistake.
The Bible seemed a logical place to try. Surely the earthly father of Christ could lend me a few words of wisdom? Nada. In the whole of the New Testament, you don’t get a peep out of Joseph. But perhaps Joseph wasn’t the greatest of role models. After all, one of a new dad’s responsibilities is to ensure a peaceful environment after the birth. But what does Joseph do? Within minutes he has the place overrun with shepherds and wise men bearing bling. Joseph’s idea of a post-birth sanctuary is clearly far removed from mine.
Next stop was classic literature. Ernest Hemingway had loitered on my shelves for a while now, but surely a man with the nickname ‘Papa’ would provide fatherly advice? A Farewell to Arms? A hello to grey hair, more like. Towards the end of this novel, there’s the kind of Caesarean that wouldn’t be out of place in Sweeney Todd. Does it give me nightmares? Only when I’m asleep. All this could make me sound like I wasn’t taking impending fatherhood seriously. But here’s another bloke thing: wrapping gags around pregnancy helps mask the fact that most of us are terrified. Idiotic humour is just our coping mechanism. Take my antenatal NCT class, for example. We were asked to split into male and female groups to discuss different aspects of the birth. What were the blokes doing? Roaring with laughter. We’re just praying that the power of laughter will kick fear into touch. Mind you, fear can be a good thing too: it’s because I was terrified that I was looking for a book in the first place!
Kate eventually came to my rescue. She had become a pregnancy bookworm, devouring tome after tome, and would now be an invaluable addition to a pub quiz team (retention of pointless facts? Another bloke thing). The book that she thrust in my direction was Dr. Miriam Stoppard’s Conception, Pregnancy & Birth. I remembered Stoppard from the TV of my childhood, and she proved to be as comforting now as she was then, addressing the dad in a direct and non-patronising way. Here was my book – and one for any dad-to-be. My experience is now scored into my brain, and I’ve started an online fatherhood blog packed with information unravelling the mysteries of fatherhood. Well, almost. I’ve put together a load of gags, a rant about pubs and a brilliant picture of my lovely baby clutching a Bob Dylan record, amongst other things. As I said, it’s a bloke thing.
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