Can You Be A Good Parent Without Drinking Coffee?


I love it.

I really do.

I can’t remember when I had my first coffee but I grew up with English parents who were mad on drinking tea so that was part of my culinary culture since as early as I can remember.

The Cappuccino was always listed on menus in many restaurants including family restaurants that we frequented when I was a child. Along with consuming the customary “free” after-dinner mint, ordering a cappuccino just seemed to be the done thing. The weird thing was, these would be ordered after our evening meal whilst out and about and consumed by nearly everyone who was joining my family for dinner that night. This was before the boom in the coffee culture that we have seen in recent years with a coffee house or café popping up on every street corner where there used to be public bars or taverns in “the olden days.”

What’s weirder is this;

I don’t drink coffee after midday now unless I am using the drink to help me stay awake.

International Coffee DayWhen I have driven over an hour away from home, be it for work or for pleasure, chances are I will have a coffee in the afternoon or evening because it will keep me awake and alert on the drive home. When I spend the day on our stand at a conference or exhibition I will keep the coffee coming right up until an hour before the exhibition closes for the day.

Coffee was an alternative “device” for catching up with a potential partner when I was meeting up with women who I met online when I was single and using Internet Dating services. Asking “would you like to catch up for coffee?” had a two fold purpose; the first being that I was keen to meet up with a coffee drinker, and the other being that I didn’t have to meet up with someone for “drinks” only to find out that there are a boring person when not drinking. Coffee won’t have the same effect that alcoholic drinks may have.

But where coffee came into its own for me was when I became a dad. Although I have been a “I need a coffee to start my day” kind of guy since I was still in high school, once a child came into my life, and one with the worst sleeping pattern – or lack thereof – I REALLY need a coffee to start my day each morning. But I need to take you back a few years before I go on with that…

I met my wife in August 2007. We moved in together circa late August, early September 2007. We had out first trip away late September 2007; a week in the mountains followed by a few days in the country at her mother’s property. We had our first major holiday together over the summer holiday period starting on Boxing Day 2007 and returning three weeks later. By the end of January 2008, less than six months into our relationship, she announced she was pregnant.

One of the first things that my (then girlfriend) did is take coffee out of her daily routine. Being a Naturopath who knows a thing or two about nutrition, she took to reading as much as she could about the right things and the wrong things to consume whilst pregnant. Although you can go to Google and enter “is it okay to drink coffee when pregnant” and find plenty of articles telling you studies have shown that small amounts of coffee (or caffeine to be more accurate) are okay, there are plenty that will tall you that you shouldn’t have any. And then there are some that report the finding of studies both ways.

My wife has a love/hate relationship with coffee. Sometimes it can be the answer to all that ails you, and other times it could be a case of coffee being something we drink “from the Devil’s cup”. Sometimes she tries to drag me into her self-imposed prohibitions by “suggesting” that I should also reduce or totally eliminate something from my diet or regular intake. And in February 2008, that’s exactly what she did. I was banned from drinking coffee for the whole month.

I did it out of support. I did it out of love. I did it.. well, I did it, but I wasn’t happy about it. I told her that I really need a coffee in the morning and that as soon as the first day of March was upon us, I would be taking the habit back up again. And that’s exactly what it is for most people; a habit. Just like procrastination, fidgeting, overspending, nail-biting which are all considered bad habits, coffee can become an addiction.

And then when it DOES become an addiction, it can easily be listed amongst the drug abuse, exercise addiction, food addiction, computer addiction and gambling addictions which can lead to withdrawal symptoms should you try to stop. And then with withdrawal symptoms you can see things such as anxiety, irritability, intense cravings for the substance, nausea, hallucinations, headaches, cold sweats, and tremors. Yes, I could tick some of those on my list…

March 2008 rolled around and I was back on the coffee. To make her life easier at home I took our coffee machine to my work so that the house wasn’t filled with the aroma of coffee, and I switched to instant coffee at home.

November 2008 rolled around sooner than I was ready for. Even though the pregnancy seemed to drag on forever with my wife going more than two weeks beyond her due date, when it was all-systems-go when she did go into labour, I was relying on coffee to keep me in the game well into the early hours of the morning when our son was born.

Unfortunately, although it wasn’t part of her game plan and therefore our joint birth plan, she was forced to give birth to our first born via an emergency C-section. As our little man was born as blue as a Smurf, after initial contact with my wife, he was taken to the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he was under observation for the first 24 hours of his life. I had been awake at 6am on the Friday morning my wife went into labour for the second time that week, and after dropping her at the hospital I went of to spend the morning at work before wrapping up for two weeks of paternity leave. It wasn’t until later that night that she went into labour; off memory somewhere around 9pm.

Although I am a night-owl and I don’t head off to bed all that early, that night I needed those coffees to stay awake. It was just after 2am the following morning that I was told that my wife needed to go into surgery or risk losing or doing damage to the baby. It was not too long after that notice that we were both whisked away to the operating room where our son was pulled from her. The head mid-wife informed me that my wife would need to get some rest following the major surgery that just took place and that I should follow them down to the NICU where I could sit watch. I think somewhere between getting down to that area of the hospital and leaving the operating room I managed to call my parent’s home where my mother and mother-in-law where hanging out waiting for the news; but the details of that morning were much of a blur to me.

I sat with him looking at all the hoses into his nose and arms and I was overcome with fear, excitement, grief, joy and the want of another coffee to keep my eyes open several times over the next few hours. After sleeping for about six hours, my wife was wheeled into the NICU to see our son again, but not for very long before they wheeled her back to her room. As they took her away (that sounds so harsh, like she’s a prisoner) she told me to swear to her that I wouldn’t leave our son’s side. And I didn’t. I just kept those coffees coming and sat with him for hours. Some time later that day they let me wife come down to see him once again. At this stage I had been awake for 30 hours and seeing how tired I was my wife suggested I go home for a sleep.

I was over-tired at this point. I was at that point where I was so pepped up on coffee and had been awake for so long that my body had regulated itself to think that it didn’t need sleep. I get this when I travel long distances during international air travel. At some point I get so tired I really need to sleep. Holding out for a few hours and I’m back on my feet as if I just slept through the night. Even though I hadn’t been to sleep for over 30 hours, I drove myself home without a problem.

By this stage my parents along with my mother-in-law were over at my house. Well technically they were next door as at the time we lived next to my brother and his “heavily pregnant with twins” wife. I ducked my head in next door before heading to bed for some sleep. I didn’t know how long I was going to sleep for, or even if I would get some sleep, but it didn’t take that long before I was in the land of nod. This was sometime about 1pm on Saturday afternoon.

Back at the hospital my wife was taken back to her room leaving our baby by himself in the NICU. She wasn’t impressed with this, but doctor’s orders, and their rules are what you have to play by even if you’re not in favour of their decisions. I was only asleep for two hours when my mobile phone rang. It was her. She was crying her eyes out and screaming down the phone that she needs me to come back to the hospital as soon as possible. I asked her what was wrong but she was too hysterical to understand.

At this stage I was extremely tired and was in no shape to drive myself back there so I went next door and asked my dad to drive me back. I was freaking out thinking that something had happened. My mother and mother-in-law were anxious, wanting to know what was wrong. I jumped in the car, still without my other go-to item that I need when I wake; I needed to have a shower. But there was no time for that. My dad pulled up at the front entrance to the hospital and as I open the door he grabbed my hand and told me;

“Everything will be alright…”

I rushed up to the maternity wards and after getting through security I made my way to her room where she sat up in her bed crying.

“What’s wrong? What’s the matter? What happened? What’s wrong with the baby?”

All four things seemed to spew out of my mouth at once.

“Nothing, I just missed you.”

He was given the all clear to leave the NICU first thing the next morning. I had been given permission to head home to get some real sleep, the last I would have for about five and a half years. Sunday morning, after having my morning coffee and a shower I returned to the hospital to spend the day looking at and holding my son. Our son. Not being a fan of hospitals my wife had herself discharged on Monday morning after our son was given his vitamin K.

Since then I have relied on coffee to keep me awake and active through my working days, and those nights where he just wouldn’t go to sleep. He was possibly the world’s worst sleeper until her hit the three and a half year mark by which time we had another son who decided that Daddy didn’t need that much sleep, and that coffee would be the better substitute for me.

In the almost six years since I became a father coffee has been my friend, my saving grace, and the thing that has kept me sane when there have been so many sleepless nights and early mornings.

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I love it.

I really do.

2 thoughts on “Can You Be A Good Parent Without Drinking Coffee?

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