The following is an extract from Neils book Be My Baby – an honest and humorous diary detailing a mans journey to becoming a first time Dad.
Sunday, 30 March
We cannot seem to escape horror stories involving babies being dropped or dunked. Today, a lovely lady recounted the heart-warming tale of when she dropped her newborn into the bath and dunked his head underwater. She was giving her baby his first bath when he wriggled free and slipped underwater. The baby only went under for a couple of seconds, but it was enough for the hormonal first-time mother to break down and declare she was an unfit parent. Of course she wasnt. The point she was putting across was that mistakes will be made so do not worry about it. The kind-hearted soul was trying to reassure me but I left the room positively shitting myself. I cannot bang a nail into a wall without dropping the hammer and/or the nail. What chance have I got with a wriggling, wet baby?
My mum, who enjoys a scary baby story or six, loves to recount the time I was sitting in my high chair when I lurched over suddenly, fell out of the high chair and landed on my head. Apparently, I spun around for a few, not uninteresting, seconds before collapsing in a heap. I was only six months old at the time, but if her story is genuine, I might have invented break-dancing.
Around the same time, my family was posing for photographs beside the local public swimming pool when my teenage uncle decided to drop me in the name of science. He was not entirely sure whether newborn babies sank or floated. According to family reports, I did neither. Instead, I span around in circles on my back like a traumatised housefly.
My wife and I listen to most of these horror stories with a dollop of healthy scepticism. However, any story involving a baby being dropped, dunked or dipped, no matter how benign or innocuous, does trouble me. I do not plan to throw our child out of a high chair or test its buoyancy in a swimming pool but I am plagued with distressing images of me dropping it. Is it normal to have such fears? My paranoia is hardly something I can share with other parents. I cannot open a conversation with, “Yeah, well, the thing is, I keep seeing images of myself walking down the high street and, just like that, I drop my baby onto the pavement like a bag of potatoes.”
This irrational fear will not go away. Both my wife and I are generally clumsy people, but thats a facile explanation. We are creating something unique, something that weve been moving towards for over a decade. The pregnancy feels almost too good to be true and whenever I start thinking about it, I instinctively wonder what the catch is. Wheres the bump in the road? I am helping to create something special. Please God, dont let me somehow break it. The thought of holding something so precious and so perfect has assumed such an importance that I am now terrified of ever letting it go.