Before Sasha was born, I was told repeatedly by other fathers that having a baby would completely change my life. It was the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. Nothing would ever be the same again. What they really meant, of course, was that my life would turn to shit.
For the first six weeks of Sasha's life, I was in denial about this. I still spent an hour in the bath every morning, I still went out three nights a week and I still didn't get up until 10.30am. It may have ruined your life, I thought, but mine's just as good as it's always been.
This illusion was shattered last weekend when my wife and I took the baby to a house party in Scotland. I've been going to this same house party every September for the last five years and I was damned if the presence of a mewling infant was going to stop me going this year. We'd simply have to take Sasha with us.
I had no idea what a logistical nightmare it is travelling with a newborn. The effort involved in transporting 17,000 British troops to the Gulf is nothing compared to getting a 10lb baby to Scotland. I've seen supermodels with less luggage than Sasha. In order to get to Heathrow we had to hire a minicab with one of those special pods on the roof that's usually reserved for ski equipment.
Once we actually got on the plane our real problems began. I don't think I've ever seen such a crestfallen expression as that worn by the man who had to get out of his seat so Caroline and I could squeeze past him clutching the baby. By some miracle, she wasn't actually crying at the time, but he knew it was only a matter of time. The sight of a mother carrying a newborn on a plane is only marginally less horrifying than an Arab carrying a ticking briefcase.
According to What to Expect The First Year, you're supposed to feed babies during take off and landing to help them adjust to the change in air pressure. But I challenge anyone to pull this off without producing a torrent of projectile vomit. (It gives new meaning to the term "Jet Stream".) By the time we landed at Aberdeen I don't think there was a single drop of milk in Sasha's stomach. Eight fluid ounces, on the other hand, were evenly distributed on every passenger within a 20ft radius.
When we eventually got back to London, Sasha seemed so unhappy that Caroline and I took her to our local GP for a check up. He patiently explained that "frequent vomiting", not to mention diarrhoea, was a common reaction to travelling and the sooner we got her back into her normal routine, the better. I had to break it to him that we were planning to go to France for 10 days later this week. This sojourn is something I've laughably been referring to as a "holiday". I now know that Caroline and I will be spending all our time acting out scenes from ER.
We returned home to discover something called an "Empathy Belly" waiting on our doorstep. This is a 30lb device that men can strap to their waists to get a sense of what it's like to be pregnant and the manufacturers had biked one over in the hope that I might write about it. Needless to say, Caroline immediately made me put it on and wouldn't let me take it off for the rest of the day. The one consolation is that when Sasha saw me wearing it--it includes a pair of fake breasts as well as a fake tummy--she smiled for the first time in three days. It seems I've inadvertently hit upon the only means of cheering her up. Caroline now wants us to take the "Empathy Belly" to France and has even suggested I wear it on the plane. Ah well. At least it'll protect me from the "frequent vomiting".