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"How can you sleep so soundly?" A letter to every new father, from the mother of your child.

Dear new father.

You’re going to get a divorce (or split… you know, if you just never felt like marriage was for you). 

Not today, probably not tomorrow or next week. Not even likely next year. But the next, or five years from now, or ten…fifteen…

You’ll think it’s the infidelity, or the emotional detachment, or that the spark was lost, or that your partner changed, or any of the other oh so common reasons people dream up and convince themselves was the downfall of such things. 

But the truth is, the end of your partnership happened now, a long time ago, with a shade that lives in your wife’s shadow. 

The thing you can’t put your finger on that lurks in the dark circles under your wife’s eyes is resentment, and it’s fed daily by a myriad infinitesimal inactions that pass you by.

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Dear new father. 

How did your wife get a nine-month head start?

She was sick and tired, maybe scared and emotional, she went to appointment after appointment, changed her diet, her daily routine, followed every instruction and still found time to read books and research what was happening and what was to come. 

How many books did you read? 

How is it that they placed a baby into your arms first, and your face was so surprised, as though you didn’t understand she grew a human while you meandered in your thoughts as if nine months were nine years and you had all the time in the world?

She didn’t see it then, so flushed with joy and in love with how enamoured you are with the being you made together. But later, in the dark, alone, she’ll wonder… 

You knew you were pregnant, so why didn’t you do anything?

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Dear new father.

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How can you sleep so soundly, while your partner sits exhausted in the dark, endlessly feeding, burping, changing and furiously swiping at tears because when she finally begged for you to wake you sniped and rolled over, snoring on?

When you point out you have to work; when you prioritise your sleep over hers because you have a job and she has nothing better to do than stay home and look after your child… 

Oh, how those terse words will haunt her for the decade to come, every time she wakes in the night and hears your breath, peaceful in slumber, long after the sleepless nights are done. 

She didn’t see it then, in her exhaustion and depression, but all those seconds and minutes alone in the dark will bloom into stars that fill the gaping darkness of her resentment and light it on fire. 

Dear new father.

When you shower for an hour, or sit on the toilet scrolling on your phone, or you stay late for beers with the boys after work, or you sit in the car and just don’t come inside because you can’t put up with the baby crying, or your partner nagging and you just want some peace: your partner has no peace.

Your partner cradles your baby close, minute after hour after day after week while the colic bleeds life into the ghost living inside her and it grows and grows, this bitterness that something that was supposed to be "us" is just "me". 

"Your partner has no peace." Image: Canva.

Your partner is learning when you’re unaware you’re even teaching; that she is alone, and that you choose, with every minute you sit in the car, for it to be that way. 

She’ll ask then, for your help. You’ll make her beg. You’ll make her nag, and then you’ll use the nagging as the catalyst for your own rage. She’ll become the reason you don’t have what you want, be it time, love, sex, freedom… And you’ll say that magically stupid phrase all new fathers eventually shout in their spite: ‘Well you wanted it’. 

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It. 

The reduction of your child to a thing. The limiting of your love to a moment in time. 

The assumption that because she wanted a child she must give up all those things you are so unwilling to trade yourself, when you could have chosen to share the discord and kept each of those most treasured pieces of one another. 

But far worse, and what she will remember when the resentment yawns too wide to ever breach the chasm, implicit in your words is that you didn’t want it. This. Any of it.

Dear new father. 

Your time is your love letter to your child. 

Each moment is a word, each hour a sentence, each day a paragraph. Not only to your child, but a whispered prayer for your partner that feeds the empty well in her heart and reminds her why she chose you. 

Dear new father. 

Your love letter is empty. Instead, your partner has a blank sheet of granite, weighing down her soul, and years from now, maybe five or ten or fifteen, she will write the words of your divorce on that stone. 

Get up. Put down your phone. Read a book, or ten. Learn. Do something. It doesn’t even matter what you do. 

Just do something.

Feature Image: Canva.

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