There have been more mysterious occurrences, but these are of the everyday variety that I imagine every parent experiences. Despite having dozens of muslins, they inexplicably vanish the very moment you need one. I sterilise six bottles and before you can say ‘deja vu’ I’m sterilising six bottles again. And last night we spent an hour looking for an errant nipple shield that we discovered had somehow leapt from Lizzie’s lap all the way into the dog’s bed on the other side of the room and chewed itself up. Weird.
Once you’ve entered the twilight zone, you rapidly lose your connection to the world around you. Before Izzie was born I would always know the time of day, the day of the week, and the date of the month. Now these things seem irrelevant, as important to me as if someone told me there’s been a coup in a country I’ve never heard of on the other side of the world. What difference does it make to my life if it’s Tuesday and not Monday? I think of the me that checked his watch every five minutes and think, ‘How quaint.’
Enhancing this sense of dissociation from the world is the fluidity of your identity. The cornerstones of who you are, those things that anchored you to life, pull out of the earth and you find yourself adrift.
Before the birth I had a great idea. I would scale back who I am, get rid of Gillan the author, Gillan the partner, Gillan the lover, Gillan the artist, Gillan the student, Gillan the charity worker, Gillan the model-maker, and all the other Gillans, and simply become Gillan the dad. Then I wouldn’t become frustrated at not being able to do all the things I wanted to do, because I was doing everything that Gillan the dad needed to do. Over time I’d let the other Gillans back in, but for the foreseeable future I was a dad and no more.
It was a dumb idea. Painfully, naively dumb. I never ceased being Gillan the partner, and in fact I could not be Gillan the dad without being Gillan the partner – the two are inseparable. And Gillan the dad is such a new identity that it could blow away on the breeze.
It’s also unhealthy to be nothing but a dad, or indeed a mum. You’d quickly burn out if that was all you did, and then you’d be no good to anyone. The few minutes I steal here and there throughout the day to write this blog, giving Gillan the author his due, keep me identifiably me. It grants me a hold on my life, tenuous though it may be. Without it, I’d be drifting through a sea of nappies and bottles in ill-fitting clothes, facing reflections I didn’t recognise.
I’d recommend all new parents keep one part of your life to yourself in the early weeks: it makes you a better parent. Instead of dividing yourself into different personalities, acting how you think you ought to act, just be you. Gillan the dad, Gillan the partner, and all the other Gillans, stem from Gillan the man. And so long as I remember that, I’ll get us all through this wilderness unscathed.
That said, Gillan the lover might be taking a back seat for a while.