Bassinets. Bouncers. Ladies walking with prams. Big tacky cars with baby signs. Baby formula in supermarket aisles. Debates about breastfeeding in public and government paid parental leave.
These were all things that I previously filtered out of my everyday conscious as background noise. Short of giving up my seat on the train for pregnant women, or turning up my iPod on a flight to drown out a screaming baby, babies were just not on my everyday radar.
For the record, I like kids. I loved watching the babies of my friends and siblings grow and smile and develop their tiny brains. I support the right of women to breastfeed in public, because what sort of red-blooded male is disgusted by boobs? I like the funny things kids say and I love their imaginations and their innocent ideals.
This was all just always kind of at arm’s length. Something other people did. There were trips and trials and tribulations I wanted to undergo myself first, like doing a PhD and living in a foreign country. Above all, I still felt like a kid myself, so how could I think about having one? Sure, I’d be good for some Likes on Facebook for my mates who had reproduced, because why not? They looked like they might need it.
Despite all that, I’d always wanted kids, and as I hit my mid 30s and still didn’t really feel any more adulty, I thought I had better start planning for one regardless. And what another world has opened up before me.
Now I truly know the miracle of nature that is the female body. (Well, I kind of knew it previously, but turns out it had quite a few auxillary capabilities that I was not aware of.)
I know about the different brands of prams and their relative attributes. I know about health insurance policies and obstetrics. I now truly understand the structure of a pelvis- it turns out there’s a baby-sized hole at the bottom. You’d never know unless you’d taken a skeleton and looked at it from an unusual angle.
Despite being crap at origami I have learnt how wrap a baby-sized doll. I’ve chuckled at old-fashioned-sounding words like “confinement” and “midwife”. I know now that “meconium” is not a place for the higher study of Meccano and “midwifery” is not a moderately intense fart.
To some degree, I now understand the apprehension and pain of miscarriage and I feel for those couples for whom infertility is an issue. I feel relief that after all these years, my swimmers were in fact swimming and had the strength of constitution to swim off in more-or-less the right direction, despite the confusion they must have felt at some of the places I’d set them loose in the past.
I now know the magic of watching your wife’s body changing. Of seeing her become more beautiful than you ever thought possible. Of watching her tummy move and contort while she sleeps, and knowing that there’s a little guy in there banging on the walls who is probably restless and eager to learn and explore the universe like his daddy was (and still is). Of being able to hear his amazing little heartbeat going at 150 beats-per-minute when I put my ear to his mum’s tummy. Of knowing that we somehow created life despite having no knowledge of brain-wiring or nerve-circuitry. Of wondering whether he is as surprised and amazed as I to suddenly find himself awake and conscious and defying the laws of entropy.
I still don’t really know what it will be like to be his daddy, but soon I’ll know that too.
Now I walk through Christmas sales and shopping malls and see toys and books that I love because I imagine that he will love them too. I leaf through my old books and toys and music with renewed vigour and wonder if my son will love them as much as me, or whether he’ll have different tastes. I see quadcopters and action cameras and modern technology and think, not only is that some cool shit, but it looks like a fun thing for Daddy and Son to do together (and Mummy too, if she wants). I think of camping trips and the beach and the mountains and rather than think “wow, that would be a great adventure to go on,” I think “that would be a great adventure to go on with my son”.
I have begun to see that the birth of my son is not just a challenge to me to grow up, but as an opportunity to relive the wonderment of childhood with and through another. And for my wife and I to grow and learn as we nurture and teach.
My Son! I am just so excited to meet you.