The Twilight Zone (pt II)

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.

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The Twilight Zone

Day and night have blurred into an endless, formless twilight and time has lost all meaning. The rhythms of hunger and sleep have replaced the arbitrary units mankind imposes upon Nature. And things have taken a turn towards the surreal.

It started on Friday night when I woke Lizzie to watch the most impressive electrical storm either of us had ever seen. In every direction the sky convulsed, the lightning tearing apart the fabric of reality. The thunder claps rolled on top of each other in a continuous wave and the rain, when it came, was a foretaste of the end of the world.

Except Lizzie didn’t see it. Come the morning, she said to me, ‘Apparently there was a storm last night. I must have slept through it.’ So I’m now doing the night shifts. If she can forget witnessing someone crack open the gates of heaven, then she needs more sleep. Whether from tiredness or because I’ve been inducted into a mysterious dimension populated by shadows, and shapes, and the shadows of shapes, I’ve started to notice that the world is behaving a little odd: the inanimate, the animal and the Izzie.

When I make up bottles of formula in the night they scream at me like dying ghosts. The bedroom smells like curry powder for no reason I can grasp. A globe decided to jump off the window sill and roll down the stairs yesterday, denting the South Pacific and making a split across Asia. What does all this mean? Nothing, probably.

The animals are weirder. For some reason, the patio has become a cruising ground for earthworms, which at the moment are obsessed with sex. At 5.30 yesterday morning, a flock of seagulls descended on the street, and they were making so much noise I went out to scare them away, only to find they had opened the binbags and were spreading Izzie’s nappies all over the road. And our cocker spaniel Ozzie has become strangely suicidal, stopping in front of the pram every three seconds and asking me to run him over, or hiding under the sofa cushions as if he wants to be sat on.

More alarmingly, Izzie is doing things that I didn’t think babies could or should be doing. She’s beats me in stare-out contests and at eighteen days she’s already learned her first word: if you’re not making her milk fast enough, the hungry ‘ow-a, ow-a, ow-a’ turns into ‘now-a, now-a, now-a!’

I’m also starting to wonder if she’s in training to be a comic book supervillain. She dug her little fingers into my chest so hard the other day that she drew blood. If I’m cuddling her and she’s hungry she’s got a mean left hook on her. And while her farts smell like sulphur, her poo is like burnt ash.

The scariest thing was yesterday when I put her on my belly for some skin-to-skin. She put her feet in my belt, pushed herself up on her elbows and crawled up my body until she clamped her gummy mouth to my neck like a de-fanged Dracula. I moved her back to my belly; she wriggled back up to my jugular. Thank God she doesn’t have teeth yet!

I’m sure this sense of things being wrong with the world will dissipate like morning mist in the sunshine. Now I think of it, though, it might be less a case of tiredness and more the fact that when I was pushing Izzie round the village a few days ago, watching my feet so I didn’t trip up, I cracked the side of my head on a speed limit sign…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.