Oliver Driver's best worst night
Oliver Driver is back with another series of columns on fatherhood: the joy, the wonder, and the scary moments that ultimately shape us.
I had been feeling sick all day. Sore tummy, cold and then hot. I wanted to crawl into bed and disappear but the wife was going to Adele and had been dealing with a teething baby on her own too many nights recently, while I was out working or rehearsing or - in one case – partying, so I was damn sure not going to do anything but pull myself together and look after the baby.
I say “baby”, she’s over one now. Naughty, cheeky, loves to hug, you know … the best baby in the world. She hadn’t eaten much all day so I tried super hard to get her to have dinner but neither of us were hungry and the food sat uneaten as I got her in the bath, then her PJs and finally into bed. I sat on the couch trying to work out if I was going to throw up when her screams came over the monitor. It was only 6.45pm. Her bedtime is more like 7.30pm so I knew I was pushing it, but I was ill and I needed to sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself. I went in and laid her down but that wasn’t going to fly so I picked her up and sat in the armchair by her bed to see if I could calm her down. And that’s when she power-chucked all over me and the chair and the floor. I raced to the bathroom, just in time as she went full exorcist and literally covered everything in a jet of vomit. Amazing thing, being a parent. I was no longer sick, not even a bit. I hugged her tight, both of us slick with vomit, and with one hand ran the bath.
The temptation to call her mother was a very real thing. I had to fight it with all my might. Generally a hypochondriac, I also thought about hospital, but this too I pushed out of my head.
I call my sister. Thank GOD for older sisters with kids and calm voices. It’s okay, right? I’m gonna bath her and get her warm. You okay? Yes … No. Adele, how I hate your once-in-a-lifetime concert.
She is now naked in the bath and I am in my boxers trying to get the vomit out of her mouth and nose. I get her dry, dressed and warm and pull some clothes on myself. More screaming. Every time I calm her down she starts up again. Of course she does, she must have a sore throat and a mouth full of bad taste but she refuses water and I am running out of options. I get into bed with her and read a story. This works, I’ve done it.
Chickens counted, damn. She’s screaming again and I’m no longer sure if I am handling this. I put her in her cot and for some unknown reason start to clean up the vomit in the bathroom. She screams next door while I wipe the floor with my old T-shirt, in sort of a daze.
Phone rings. Sisters, am I right? How you doing?
I don’t know, she won’t stop screaming. Can I give her Pamol? Yes. Give her Pamol and a cracker, maybe try water again. You okay? Yes … No.
She spits the Pamol straight back up. Third try and I get my first small victory, hollow as it is when you can’t hear it over the crying. This will work. It doesn’t work. We walk around the house and try the way I used to rock her to sleep months ago but she is a salmon in my arms. I don’t think I am coping with this. At what point do you call it inconsolable?
The grandparents are at Adele too. Do I call my wife? So tempting. She will come, she will be calm and take care of us. But I am not this husband, I am not this father. I hold her in my arms and grab a cracker and the water in her mum’s bottle that she is only allowed every now and then so it is special. I turn on the TV and put on The Muppets. She watched it for the first time today and was entranced. She is again. She nibbles on the cracker and leans into me. She takes a drink from the special bottle and looks at me, calm.
I’m okay, Dad. We’re okay. She eats the cracker and snuggles in to me. Maybe she will fall asleep. But soon the bright light of the television is doing the opposite - she wants to crawl and explore, it’s late now, 8.30pm but she is okay.
I am her father and she is okay. I carry her into her room and lie her down. She looks at me and rolls over. Asleep. Asleep. Finally asleep. I sit on the couch, text my sister: Thanks sis, for all your advice and your calm words. You okay? Yes … Yes.
That was hard but that’s parenting, right? It’s not all cuddles and swimming lessons. It’s vomit and screaming and dealing with stuff on your own so your wife can have a break and dance to Adele.
Next day she rings me at work … We’re pregnant, again. Oh boy.
Oliver Driver mostly directs television, film and theatre. He also loves dogs and motorcycles. He has made many things in his life but he is most proud of his one-year-old daughter and yet-to-be-born second child.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 38 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW