Two weeks after his birth, our son Kolya is getting his first taste of the outside world. We are waiting, both in hoodies, for a lift back home from the hospital. Rain pelts our heads. A woman in a pink terry-towelling dressing gown asks us for a light.
The drivers of cars and articulated lorries honk their horns on the congested M8 motorway.
“That’s right, son. Breathe it in.”
He is sound asleep for his big entrance to the flat, and seems decidedly underwhelmed when he awakes. He has been here before, I tell myself, albeit inside his mother’s womb. But still ... His first meaningful action involves peeing deftly into his own face and mine, and only narrowly missing that of Jaffar the cat, who miaows and dives under the bed.
But changing his nappies is easy, if only ￼because they’re disposable. I’m scrabbling for ways to suggest to my wife that the eco-friendly reusable versions we’ve amassed are no good, and will cause more grief than they’re worth. I mean, who really cares about the environment?
And will our own growing diaper mountain make any difference to an already dying planet? In the first few moments Kolya is awake, before he remembers his hunger, he is a joy to be around: my son, my heir. Then his hand goes into his mouth, he starts vibrating violently, and it’s time to find Mum. When she is otherwise engaged, I employ stalling tactics.
The males of the Aka Pygmies (a hunter-gatherer tribe in northern Congo) calm their babies by offering them a nipple to suck on. All very good, but my own moobs are out of bounds. I’ve already tried putting my index finger in his mouth and had the fight of my life getting it back again. There was also the horrible feeling my wife would come out of the bathroom to find me swallowed up to the elbow, reeling on the living room floor.
After eating he sleeps silently, and often scarily so, to the point where I start worrying that he might have stopped breathing. A sharp finger jab in the chest is enough to get him wailing and sobbing again, which reassures me no end.
I have the film Three Men And A Baby in mind during our first father-and-son walk to the local shops. I am Tom Selleck for the day; Kolya is the cute wee baby.
But the lavish female attention I’d been secretly hoping for is non-existent. Maybe it’s the baby suit. It’s about eight sizes too big and very fluffy, and has an enormous hood with ears on it. I can’t even see him when I look down, and I have to unzip the outfit several times to make sure he’s still in there.
It strikes me that, to passers by, I might be one of those east-end-of-Glasgow types that walks about with a teddy bear in a papoose, trying to be Tom Selleck, looking for female attention.
Bah. I pat Kolya’s back to console us both and he bursts out crying.