When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I was initially excited. We had been planning and trying to conceive for some time, so this was excellent news.
I still remember her telling me… I had just come home from work, and she was in our bedroom. She called me in and we sat on the bed together. She told me she was pregnant and I was so happy… I even made my first “Dad” joke.
I had told her I was about to make a joke, so don’t be concerned…. I asked her if she was sure it was mine. I thought that this was hilarious… she smiled yet I am sure she didn’t think it was very funny.
After the initial excitement, the time progressed relatively quickly. Yet, it was still a game of waiting… nine months can be a long time. While my wife grew more connected to the small life growing inside her, I became more distant.
It was difficult for me to conceptualise the fact that there really was a little person inside her. I didn’t feel the sensations that she was feeling. Sure, I had seen images of something on the Ultrasound machine (they told me which parts were the head, the arms and legs… it wasn’t easy to make it out), yes, I had heard the baby’s heart beat on visits to the Obstetrician.
Yet, despite these signs, I felt no real connection. Sometimes I even doubted that it was real, that perhaps people were making up a story and I could see through it.
Months passed, and my wife’s body now showed the signs that she was pregnant, yet I still found it hard to believe. I could feel the baby’s kicks through her stomach, I could see in the Ultrasounds that there was a vaguely human shape inside, and we made plans for the day of arrival. Still, deep inside, I doubted it was really happening. I could create life? No, that couldn’t be true.
The day of arrival dawned, and my wife and I were at the hospital. I said goodbye as she was taken to the surgery for the birth, and I waited till I was called when things were ready.
I felt disconnected, like it was not real.
Eventually I was called in, and I stood at my wife’s shoulder to hold her hand and wait for the delivery.
Now, the situation was beginning to fully dawn on me.
I could be about to become a father… although I weirdly expected the doctor to announce that it was a phantom pregnancy. After a couple of minutes the baby was free and displayed to my wife and I.
The next few minutes were a dizzy haze.
I was told to watch the baby while they ran some tests on him, checking for any abnormalities. My wife gave me strict instructions to not let the baby out of my sight, so I quickly followed the new arrival to the processing room. The nurse directed me to help her to measure him, weigh him, wrap him, etc. She showed me how to do a nappy and told me how to hold him.
I suddenly realised… I was holding my son. He was real… I was a dad. I softly talked to him as I waited for my wife to be brought up. I told him who I was, and how happy I was to meet him.
A few hours later, while my wife, my son and I were in the recovery room… he soiled his first nappy. A small group of nurses assembled and chuckled as I stood before my boy. I looked at the nappy, the mess within, and briefly considered my life.
What choices had I made that brought me to this point… where I was about to change my first nappy, my son’s first nappy. I realised that this was the first real test, and I would not fail. I bravely rolled my sleaves up and set about changing my first child’s nappy.
We have had several other children since that first, and I have never felt the same amount of remoteness as I felt at the first time.
I have learned what to expect, when expecting.
Name withheld by request.