I wrote some weeks back, in setting up this new version of my website, that my life was about to welcome in some significant changes. At 7:30am, on 14th November 2010, the most important of these changes occurred; the birth of my first son Charlie Arthur Sykes. One week later and I’m still in shock. What I’m experiencing is, I can only imagine, a thing that all other fathers have experienced beyond time. It is by turn glorious and horrifying, by turns hilarious and bone numbingly worrying. The birth itself has already become a distant memory, experienced by another me from another life.
Ah, but I am in danger of doing what I promised myself I wouldn’t in this post, to resort to the usual birth cliches. The day after the birth I made a list of the most cliched phrases that I could think of:
- Most natural thing in the world
- Everything has changed
- Looked into his eyes
These phrases are cliched for a reason of course, certainly I’ve already broken my rule with number 4. The other difficult one on the list to avoid is no. 2. Natural instinct most definitely plays a part in labour, the birth and the immediate days afterward. I would certainly not have been able to cope with the sleep depravation for any other reason (not since I hit 30 anyways). But it can be overplayed, most of things you have to do don’t come in some kind of instinctive wave of perfect biological assistance. Honestly, I think the only thing that spurs you on to do them is love, love and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. What Mrs S achieves every day with this new person is remarkable and I am sure it is managed as much through sheer force of will as ‘instinct’. That is not to underplay the difficulties of those that suffer post-natal depression, I couldn’t do all this for another persons child, so if that bond wasn’t there, well how hard it must be.
Those who follow me on Twitter have already been well regaled with horror stories from the poop end of little Charlie, so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say when it comes to processing food babies are something akin to the Tardis, surely much bigger on the inside than the outside. He sleeps, he dreams, he processes waste, he sleeps again and then very occasionally deems us with an extended bit of eye contact. In other words, the perfect accompaniment to the day.
In those first few hours I sat thinking about one of the initial decisions you must make when bringing a life into the wide world, the name. We had already decided on the first name, aside from some fine tuning, but had yet to think of a middle name. People choose names for a bewildering variety of reasons; because they sound nice, after the place of conception, after a favourite celebrity etc etc. However, I expect that mostly names, and in particular middle names, are chosen with a mind to linking that child to a family’s past. Inheritance and family memory are so important in understanding ourselves that it’s unsuprising that we choose to pass family names on in this way. In our case the first name has only distant family ties, and is largely down to it being a ‘favourite’ name. We’re not sure why it is our favourite (looks suspiciously at preponderance of a certain King in previous blog posts). People have suggested lots of reasons, most of which while amusing are wrong. We just like it. The prevarication over the first name was whether he was officially Charles or Charlie, Charles won out. He’ll be referred to as Charlie, but it gives us Charles to turn to if he’s been naughty. The middle name was for a while a less clear decision, but when when the thought came to us it was so obvious. His middle name is taken from my Grandad, who I utterly adored and who I miss very deeply at times like this. Grandad died too early, suffering from Parkinsons disease which robbed him of so much at the end. Charlie Arthur carries his memory in a name. In this way we anchor ourselves to the past.
Charlie is bringing joy and happiness every day and has even slept long enough for me to finish this post.