Do I really want to be a dad?

By author Nick Duerden

Nick Duerden had a struggle to get keen on fatherhood, as he explains in these extracts from his book, The Reluctant Father’s Club*. “Don’t worry if you don’t like other people’s kids,” I’m told. “Nobody does. Generally speaking, other people’s kids are horrible little b******s. That doesn’t mean you won’t like your own. Your own are something else entirely.” “I’m not sure if it’s morning or night…it could be Thursday, Monday, or we may already be into the weekend.

We are in the bedroom, curtains drawn. Amaya is wailing in her cot…Elena is dressed in the same nightgown she had on in the hospital and which she seems to wear all the time now. There are dried breastmilk stains on its front, alongside other stains too: snot, saliva, upchuck…the crying stops, at which point Elena immediately climbs back into bed and into instant sleep, leaving me alone… I feel aimless, half the man I used to be.”

“When someone has a baby, friends from far and wide pay a visit, a variation of the three wise men story but in a kind of excitable conga line. For almost three weeks, we have a steady succession of visitors every evening… They come with their cuddly toys and colour-coordinated baby clothes, the women keen to hold her, the men reluctantly accepting when she is suddenly thrust forward, though they keep her at arm’s length as if she were a bomb that needed to be thrown through the nearest window at a moment’s notice.” “We buy muslin squares, though I have no clear idea yet what function they will fulfil, and the funny towel with the hood, the ears, the eyes and the nose. We buy a changing bag, which has more compartments than any bag I have ever seen… in the living room, we pull the sofa a foot away from the wall, and pile the baby stuff behind it.

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This is a good idea for many reasons, not least of which is that I don’t have to see it staring back at me on a daily basis.” "Our baby is the house guest that won’t leave, the mysterious stranger with the antisocial night-time habits. Her appearance begins to worry me. She is forever malfunctioning. A few weeks after her birth, what little hair she did have has come out in clumps, leaving patches of baldness on her pale skull. She starts to suffer from spots, teenage-style yellowheads clustering angrily around her cheeks and forehead. She is always coughing, sneezing, hiccupping.

She regularly vomits… One morning, she wakes with a rash, angry red splashed across her body and face. She looks radioactive, sounds nuclear, and I fear picking her up in case something falls off." “Our very first family expedition. I slip on my coat and trainers and hold the door open, ready to leave.

Twenty minutes later, now impatient, I am still stood in the same position. Elena, increasingly impatient herself, instructs me to close the b****y door and come upstairs where I might be of some help…By the time Amaya is ready to be transferred downstairs, she resembles a pass-the-parcel package, twice her usual size and width… “Ready?” I ask wearily. A stupid question, for now the pushchair has to be prepared. Into the changing bag that will attach to the buggy’s frame, Elena inserts some muslin squares, three nappies, a pack of nappy sacks, baby wipes, anti-rash cream, a bottle of milk and a full change of clothes. I’d thought we were simply going for a gentle stroll, but all this preparation suggests we could be away till March.” “Thank God for those TV channels and a merciful half an hour in front of a soft putty world of honking puppets and dayglo colours. I am sat alongside Amaya on the sofa for this, and she is pressed up tight against me, my arm around her, my hand in both of hers.

My gaze falls not on the television but rather her profile, in all its button-nosed perfection. She is quiet and concentrated…it’s a temporary state only, but a wonderful thing to see.” “I have a daughter, and she is everything to me…I’m glad she’s here. I used to be filled with a terrible foreboding of the idea of fatherhood and the responsibilities that came with it. But right now I’m holding it together.

All I do know for sure is this: the pessimist in me is starting to get optimistic. And I wasn’t, once. The only thing that could disrupt this blissful equilibrium now is if we had another one.” Nick and Elena Duerden’s second daughter, Evie, was born in 2008. Starting next month, read Nick’s blog on a dad’s life – and if you’d like to share your memorable Dad moments, contact us here. *Extracts taken from The Reluctant Fathers’ Club by Nick Duerden, published by Short Books, available from Amazon at the reduced price of Ј6.59 here

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