For those of you who don’t appreciate my column, my apparent cluelessness will seem less a surprise and more an overdue confirmation of what you’ve long suspected.
But, even if I did have a firmer grasp on the various events that have transpired over the last seven days, it’s highly likely that I’d appear just as aloof, given the only things I can presently conceive of are my tiny, precious baby girl and her brave, courageous and long-suffering mother.
Following months of unbearable morning sickness – through which my fiancée continued to work – countless challenges of mind, body and spirit – through which my fiancée continued to work – and more hours in labour than seems fair or mentally or physically possible, my fiancée gave birth to our beautiful daughter on Sunday evening.
It’s fair to say we are both elated, not least because the birth of a girl will allow us to explore a long-held dream we’ve had since we started a family: to have one of each.
I vividly recall the moment my partner told me she was pregnant with our second child, mainly because the announcement was preceded by her randomly asking me how I was – something that never happens in the car. I responded by telling her I was fine, but before I had even completed the sentence she interjected with the news of the pregnancy. The words “I’m pregnant” flying out of her mouth, expelled by some involuntary reflex, words encoded with a startling resonance that most
parents could recall with reliable precision.
She seemed a lot more anxious than me. Then again, she ought to be; it’s she who would have to carry the child in her belly for nine months while navigating the unpredictable and still surprisingly mysterious business of growing a human being inside you.
The morning sickness began, somewhat predictably, the very next morning, though unlike other forms of morning sickness, this sickness rigorously extended itself into every other time of the day – and night. With a one-year-old already on our hands, this presented us with a new challenge we’d never faced as a family. It tends to be, the very moment you think you are getting your head around one way of living, that nature throws a jovial curveball with the singular purpose of bamboozling you. With one parent out of action, suddenly the optimum configuration of the household was no longer available to us. Thankfully, by that point, I had already learned the hard way about idealising what being a parent would entail.
Only a year and a half earlier, prior to the birth of our first child, I envisioned myself as some kind of postmodern hunter-gatherer who would aggressively scour the gig economy as a freelancer, before arriving home every night with another kill over my shoulder, to throw on the dinner table to the delight of my loving woman. I quickly learned that my job was to bring people juice.
While it’s not unusual to find yourself daydreaming about the days when you could just get in and out of a car, make love or sleep in till 8am, such indulgence is rightly offset by the immense nature of the task at hand, the task of raising children.
But all that is nothing compared to being present when one is born. It’s hard to think of anything that concentrates the mind so proficiently. Childbirth is riddled with contradictions. In one sense, it’s natural, in another it’s usually extremely controlled, monitored and clinical. On one hand, it elicits the most potent and profound feelings of love and attachment you are likely to experience in your lifetime, on the other, it’s very frightening and, in many ways, ultra-violent – and that’s just when you’re watching someone else go through it.
There was a moment as we were escorted from the maternity triage to the labour ward, when I suddenly became aware that I was out of sync with everyone else. As we ascended in the elevator, a nurse stood by my partner’s side, behind me, while I stood saddled with various bags and cushions.
As the doors opened, and we re-entered the quiet corridors of an eerie, dimly lit hospital late at night, I turned back round to see the nurse still by my partner’s side. It was a powerful moment. There was something almost ritualistic and ancient about it. I stopped, becoming aware of the fact I had rushed ahead and when they eventually caught up, I respectfully fell in behind them. It was then I felt a sudden and profound sense of place within all of this.
Given the most I can possibly do when life is being breathed into existence by a woman is try and be as supportive, dependable and reassuring as I can from the front-row seat, I will never be in anything but deeply humbling and dumbstruck awe of any woman who embarks on this most testing and precarious of adventures.
Much like experienced mothers – keen to reassure expectant parents – will often attest, the minute you hold that tiny bundle of joy in your arms, nothing else matters. Every sinew in your body strains with pure, untainted love. You are flooded by a deluge of goodwill, of hope and optimism for the future.
The challenge of parenthood is being able to return to that natural state of being when the oxytocin dips and the daily business, embracing the fullness of life, truly begins.
I can think of nothing better to do with the rest of mine, than spend it with my partner, raising our two beautiful children.