“I think I might be pregnant” she said.
“Well, that’s ridiculous” I replied before adding “Let’s go and get a pregnancy test”.
So, we jumped into the car and headed for Waitrose…other supermarkets are available. On the way there I was thinking about how disappointed she was going to be when this proved to be a false alarm. I had been married once before, for ten years, and it had never happened. She who must not be named had been for some sort of fertility test and had assured me the problem lay with me. I had just assumed it couldn’t happen and set about dealing with that.
Now here I was racing through the night to get a pregnancy test when I knew full well what the result would be. We had discussed this before we had married and had agreed that we would try for the first year and if it didn’t happen then we would resign ourselves to not having children. I wasn’t interested in adoption or in IVF…the desire to have a child wasn’t strong enough to deal with the trauma of either of those. Six months into this wonderful new relationship and the reality of not being able to have children was about to hit home…I had long since learned to deal with it and was comfortable with it and loved my selfish life. How would she cope when she discovered that it was more than just a possibility? Would this be the start of something awful?
Home we came with the test and she headed for the bathroom.
“It’s positive” she said.
“Positive. I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a baby.”
A really long silence…or at least it seemed to be really long.
We just looked at each other.
Then a hug.
Then some whooping and cheering.
A little bit more silence.
A couple of tears…happy tears?
We went and lay down on the bed in the dark. Side by side. Holding hands.
Nobody said anything.
It was a very strange evening. It didn’t seem real. We worked back to when it must have happened. We asked each other “How do you feel?” about 37 times. We cuddled. We lay staring at the ceiling. We felt confused. We felt happy. We felt frightened.
We had been married for six months and things were good. Our life was very comfortable. We both worked full time. We shopped in Waitrose! Now there was a little bundle of stuff inside her tummy that was growing into a human bean and that was going to arrive in 9 months and turn everything upside down.
I was 38 and when people asked me if I had children I said “No”. Now when people asked me I was going to have to say “No…but there is one on the way.” I was really afraid. Could I be a dad? How would things change? Would the baby be healthy? What if there were problems? Could we afford a baby? Would we need to move house? Questions piled up on top of questions and slowly the initial panic and hysteria faded and we fell asleep.
The very next day I bought a book called “The Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide – Everything You Need to Know”. That is a very reassuring title to a book for a man who has just discovered he is about to become a father…survival was at the top of my list of priorities and the idea that it would contain EVERYTHING I would need to know was an added bonus.
Of course the reality is that the book should be entitled “Here is How I Got Through My Wife’s Pregnancy and Maybe It Will Help You Too – Good Luck”. All of the advice was sound but the truth is that nothing can prepare you for pregnancy or for becoming a father. NOTHING. Oh sure…everyone has lots and lots of advice for you, even people who haven’t been through it themselves. Everyone is suddenly an expert on your situation. Everyone has seen this AMAZING thing on “One Born Every Minute”. Everyone has read this article on mumsnet. Blah. Blah. Blah. None of it is any use. You are in the middle of a tsunami of emotional, psychological and, for the woman at least, physical change on a level that you cannot comprehend or keep up with.
My overriding emotion throughout the pregnancy was fear.
I was afraid I wasn’t being supportive enough.
I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen…every day I thought about how we would cope if something terrible did happen. Every day.
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be a “good” dad…whatever that meant.
I had a nagging suspicion that everything I was doing was wrong and that instead of being there for my wife…she was there for me and was coaching me through her pregnancy.
On the day that my daughter was to be born I woke up to find that the fear was gone.
In its place was terror.
And blind panic.
This was it.
There was no going back.
It wasn’t a dream.
In a few hours I was going to be a dad.
Also…my wife was about to undergo a fairly intrusive surgical procedure which would culminate with a human being removed from inside of her body.
As I entered the operating room I saw my wife laying on the bed thingy.
She looked remarkably calm.
I tried to look calm too.
I sat down in a seat by her head and held her hand as hospital people started doing stuff behind a screen that was there to protect me from seeing anything.
“Are you alright?”
That’s my wife…not me.
“Yeah. Good. Although I think I’m going to faint.”
THAT was me.
“I think I’m going to faint.”
“Not really. This isn’t really the time for jokes. It’s not really about you at this point.”
At this point somebody dressed all in green appeared and said to me “Are you alright dad?”.
I told this chap I was going to faint too. He told me to put my head between my legs.
When I woke up I was lying on the floor of the operating room.
Hospital people were stepping over me and carrying on with their business.
I could see my wife.
She didn’t seem particularly concerned about me.
“Rude.” I thought to myself.
When someone eventually noticed I was conscious they helped me up and took me into a side room. I lay down on a bed and started to shake violently. Shock I suppose. I was given a digestive biscuit and a glass of water. I could hear things being said in the operating room. Then I heard a baby crying.
“Who let a baby into an operating room” I thought to myself “That can’t be hygenic…or safe for the baby.”
Then I realised that it was my baby.
The terror went.
The panic went.
The fear went.
My little girl was brought into the room wrapped up in blankets.
I felt really good.
Everything was going to be alright.
She was beautiful.
Her mum was beautiful.
I was still unprepared and an idiot but I knew it was all going to work out.
That lasted for about 20 minutes until I was left on my own with my wife who couldn’t walk and my infant daughter…then the fear, the panic and the terror reappeared and that wonderful, blissful, all encompassing sense of calm said “You’re on your own chum. Cheerio.”
So, now it is nearly two years later and although there is fear and panic and terror at times the overriding emotion is joy.
Joy as I listen to her laugh.
Joy as I watch her cuddling her mum.
Joy as she demands “Noddy” for the thirteenth time in one hour.
Joy as she munches on a bowl of peas.
Joy as she splashes in the bath.
Joy when she says “Daddy funny”.
Joy as she wakes up in the middle of the night, stumbles into our room and I lift her into the big bed to snuggle in between us.
No doubt there will be more fear along the way, more panic and maybe even more terror.
Work, lovelife, miscellaneous and all the extraneous.
But there will be joyous moments too…and that’s what gets you through.