I don’t want to go all New Age tree-hugger on you, but having a baby changes your perspective. As someone set in his ways, and a bit of a cynic with it, I figured my attitudes wouldn’t change much – none of that wishy-washy heal-the-world tosh. But loathe as I am to admit it, having a baby alters your perspective on things you were sure you had pegged.
That national treasure known as the NHS, for example. From the perspective of one who’s never used it, it’s the best of Britain, albeit sadly dying under the dual weights of lack of funding and mismanagement. From the perspective of a dad who spent a week visiting his newborn daughter and her mother, it’s already dead. I can’t fault the staff that work there, but one midwife covering a ward of twenty-five beds? That’s not just dangerous understaffing, it borders on criminality!
My perspective has changed on people too. Some of the ones I thought before the birth would be the greatest help have been conspicuous only by their absence, while others I thought were a waste of space have given generously of their time and effort and stepped up to the plate. It’s amazing how a little thing like a baby can bring out the true nature of people. I guess it’s done that to me.
I’ve changed my stance on public breastfeeding. Whenever I heard about somebody being asked to stop breastfeeding in a restaurant, or swimming pool, or public library, I’d go all Daily Mail and agree. ‘Too bloody right,’ I’d think. ‘There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing.’ But after watching Lizzie whip her boobs out in front of all and sundry, and the relief it gives to the baby, I really can’t understand what the fuss is all about.
And single mothers. Let nobody say that being a single mother on benefits is easy. This parenting lark is hard enough with two people, let alone one. So now, when I see a woman on Channel 5 with three kids under four by different dads, instead of right-wing indignation I wonder how she’s able to cope and if she’s getting enough sleep. Before you know it, I’ll be reading The Guardian!
My perspective on my parents has changed too. I look at my little baby, so perfectly formed, so pristine, and I wonder if one day she’ll want to deface her skin, or punch holes in her body parts. I speak as somebody with four tattoos who had his ears, nose and tongue pierced by the age of twenty. I understand now why my parents were so against it. It’s not because they’re culturally-arrested conservatives who can’t appreciate artistic self-expression, it’s because they can’t bear to watch you damage the body they’ve been protecting since the day you were born. Sorry mum and dad – my bad.
There are a host of behavioural changes too. When I’m out driving with precious cargo, I hesitate at junctions and roundabouts, passing up gaps I would have taken four weeks ago because now they seem too risky. It takes me forever to cross a road with the pram, waiting until there’s absolutely nothing coming before I make my move. The cat isn’t even allowed in the same room as Izzie, and when people come to visit I wonder how good their personal hygiene is, and what germs they might be bringing into my home. My perception of risk has changed the world into a significantly more dangerous place.
And my emotions have changed. Never a proud man, when I push the pram I feel a burst of pride; never sentimental, if I see a cute outfit I go all gooey inside and have to buy it; and never possessive of anything in my life, if somebody’s been holding my baby too long, I have to fight the urge to claw their eyes out while screaming, ‘Get your grubby hands off my daughter! She’s mine, mine, mine!’
And along with all these other changes, having a baby has changed my perspective on cliches. I hated all that guff about how ‘you’ll feel differently when you have kids of your own,’ and, ‘until you have a baby you’ll never understand.’ I hate it even more now because, from my perspective, it turns out that it was right.