Every morning, for the past year or so, I’ve reluctantly dragged myself out of bed at some time between four and six, retrieved my crying daughter from her cot and blearily trudged downstairs. There, we lie on the settee and fall asleep: me on my back, her on my chest, snoozing until the rest of the family wakes up.
In fact, you know that famous L’Enfant photo, the one in which the topless guy with the shiny pecs is holding a baby? It’s the perfect image of masculinity and fatherhood, and makes women everywhere weak at the knees. Well, it looks nothing like that. Nothing at all.
Back when we first started snoozing, it was great. Jemima was just a few months old, her arm span narrower than the width of my chest, and she’d perch on my sternum like she was on some kind of huge fleshy cushion. It was a father-daughter bonding thing, and I’d spend ages gently prodding her chubby cheeks as she slept, or stroking her palms with my fingertips.
Now, at seventeen months – and more than a little butch – she sprawls across my chest and stomach, breathing manky baby morning breath in my face, writhing around, kneeing me in the crotch, and generally being far too heavy for it to be at all comfortable. Those little palms, which were once so innocent, are now slapped against my nose whenever I dare drift off to sleep; and, on more than one occasion, she’s headbutted me in the face…and I can’t be sure that it was entirely accidental.
The problem is we’re in a routine, and it’s so well established that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to get out of it. We can either endure mornings of screaming and crying (from her), or keep things as they are and endure mornings of screaming and crying (from me). Basically, it’ll be like that form of medieval torture in which criminals were crushed to death, only instead of a bunch of rocks it’s a giant baby.