Dad of a newborn Part IV- the rage
Rage is a scary word when it comes to being a dad. It brings to mind a host of violent images of men with women, children and any other physically smaller persons who happen to be around them.
But rage doesn't have to be violent. Rage can just be felt.
I feel rage at times as a dad.
Firstly, there's the baby who I just want to sleep or settle but won't. Who knows why. Reflux? Colic? Teething? Growth spurt? You can spend hours, your back gradually falling apart, holding and rocking and sshhh-ing and patting, in the darkness of the night, and still they squirm as soon as you start to put them down. You know you have work in the morning. You know your partner is trying to sleep. You know you need sleep. You know your toddler could be disturbed or wake up early.
I may start off eager to do my bit, to help out, perhaps to come to the rescue. But this initial eagerness soon gives way to boredom, frustration and then anger. We've tried so much already, asked so many people for advice, had so much help already. Why can't we do it still?
I start to feel angry at my partner. Why is she making me do this? I'm the one with work in the morning. Why did she get at me earlier? Why can't she just do it - she's the one with the maternal instincts! Patriarchy seems so appealing now.
I feel angry at the baby. Why don't you just go down? Are you playing me to get me to hold you more? Get over it! Why won't you settle?!
I feel angry at the experts who give contradictory advice, set our expectations high so that we just feel like failures, ask us if we've tried this or that as of it's our fault.
But it's no-one's fault. It's just how it is.
And this is the hardest pill to swallow.
For this is the pill of being utterly cast at sea upon the waves of an uncontrollable, unpredictable, unsettled newborn. It's the sea of a cry that pierces through your head and can't be silenced. It's the sea of being disturbed just as you finally drift off in some sort of cosmic torture. It's the sea of having your life, your relationship, your dreams so utterly at the mercy of someone who just doesn't care, and nor should they.
And if I continue to fight, to try to cling to independence, competence and being able to make everything better with enough skill and technology, I will fight and fight and anger expands to rage.
And at some point, I notice what's happening, swallow the pill, pray for help just to get through the night and possibly work tomorrow, and return to being a dad in the reality of the chaos of life. Sshh. Rock. Pat.