Having a child is not a right. Nor is it an obligation. Its a blessing. An often hungry, frequently snotty, very smelly and incredibly expensive blessing, but a gift from God nonetheless. This has been my philosophy for the last eighteen years as I have struggled to raise our five little angels and its probably the only thing that has kept them alive at times.
I remember my introduction to parenthood as if it were yesterday. My wife and I were only children ourselves at the time, scratching out a living from our love nest in Leichhardt. She looked at me one evening, her beautiful blue eyes brimming with love and desire, and sensuously suggested that we should have a baby. I stared back into those shimmering azure pools and offered to buy her a dog.
Tip 1: Do not attempt humour at the height of romantic congress. There are too many exposed body parts within striking distance.
Eventually the change in blood flow direction awoke the ‘little brain’ and No.1 son was on the way.
My wife looked absolutely beautiful each and every time she was pregnant. Although the rosy glow in her cheeks can be attributed to the burst capillaries from months of early morning regurgitation; and the dark, brooding eyes had more to do with lack of sleep than expertly applied mascara, she honestly looked fantastic.
I always like to refer to those glorious trimesters as ‘our pregnancy’. Yes this has resulted in some eyebrow raising, choice language and the odd lashing out by many female friends and family members, but Blue Eyes and I have a very special bond that helped me to partake in the joy of carrying a child. As a man it was physically impossible for me to bear the burden or gestation and labour, only Arnold Schwarzenegger has had that privilege (what were you thinking Emma Thompson?). In spite of our physical differences though I was determined to be a part of this wonderful experience. As our child grew and her stomach expanded I gorged myself on beer and fast food in order to achieve the same result. This had the double effect of allowing me to participate in the rituals of morning sickness, although mine was met with less respect, and helped me to share in the constipation and flatulence.
Tip 2: Stick to your guns boys. This is ‘your’ pregnancy just as much as it was ‘your’ wedding 😉
One thing I couldn’t replicate though was the ‘nesting’ phase. By the time the third trimester was well underway Blue Eyes was busy painting rooms, laying shag pile, building cribs and shopping for baby clothes. Target and Ikea became our second home and her energy levels were boundless. The only problem was that iDad was so full of fried chicken by this stage that the best I could do was offer a lot of advice. Unfortunately with my choice in colour, clothing and carpet not being ‘right for the baby’, iDad was eventually shuffled off to watch the cricket and as Alan Border smashed another ‘six’ over mid-wicket I couldn’t help but feel a little left out.
Then I heard the most frightening phrase in the English language,
‘Honey, my waters broke.’
Watching your wife give birth is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Early in the process Blue Eyes lay on her side moaning through the pethidine haze whilst iDad was busy running around the bed in a vain attempt to comfort her.
“Where are you honey?” [plaintive question]
“I’m behind you, rubbing your back.”
“But I can’t see you.” [muffled growl]
Lap number 32.
“Would you like some ice sweetheart?” [stupid question]
“Mum can give me ice. I need you to rub my back.” [louder growl]
Lap number 33
I vowed to bring a mirror next time.
With contractions less than a minute apart and painted fingernails permanently embedded in my forearm I told her to breathe – big mistake. Fortunately the baby’s head crowned before the blow landed and ten minutes later our nine-pounder let everyone in Darlinghurst know he had arrived. iDad was both in shock and awe at what I had just witnessed.
As any man who has ever been there will attest watching the love of your life go through such agony, which you are powerless to prevent, is soul wracking. For all our years of evolution men are still very primitive mammals. We hunt, we gather, we propagate our species and we protect our clan; and when these four functions are out of our control we are lost.
iDad was no exception. My eyes were like saucers when Ridley Scott’s Alien burst forth from the chest of John Hurt and screamed at the stunned shipmates. But as I waited for the little monster to run off into the bowels of the Nostromo and slowly begin its rampage against the survivors, a strange thing happened. Our protesting progeny was wrapped up and presented to his mother as a macabre, mucus covered pass-the-parcel and all at once the noises stopped. There was no moaning, no screaming, no ‘get out of the way you stupid man’, even the machine that goes ‘ping’ ceased ponging and all that was left was the cooing of a proud new mum to her little bundle of joy.
Two new grandmothers stood alongside iDad as we all shed a tear together. Then Blue Eyes uttered the second most frightening phrase in the English language,
“I could do that again.”
Wetting the Baby’s Head.
Within a few short days of becoming a father I submitted my illustrious entry to the ‘Husband of the Year’ competition. A couple of beers with the boys turned into a soppy, yet immensely inebriated 2am telephone call to the delivery ward at St Margaret’s Hospital. The sisters were not happy to hear from me and my wife…. well I’m sure you can imagine her response.
Tip 3: A drunken ‘I love you’ should never be used in any circumstance whatsoever.
The next day I showed up at the hospital incredibly hungover. We missed her grandmother’s funeral and the new mum got to drive hubby and bub home. iDad was off to a flying start.
You’re on Your Own
In one of my more lucid moments during our pregnancy I had agreed to move in with my in-laws to get some assistance with the rearing of No. 1 son. Prenatal classes only pass on so much knowledge and with iDad expecting ‘Parent Craft’ to teach you how to build bedroom furniture, as opposed to folding techniques for cloth nappies, well we needed a heck of a lot of help.
My wife’s grandmother was an amazing woman. She emigrated from Lebanon at the age of fifteen, walked with her husband and growing family from Sydney to Charleville, and proceeded to raise eleven children in the dry Queensland outback. Its an incredible tale of courage, love and sacrifice that deserves its own story. Suffice to say that her funeral in Toowoomba was attended by hundreds of family and friends including our entire support base.
Blue Eyes and I stood all alone in the renovated garage cuddling our hungry bundle with an astonished look of bewilderment on our faces.
“What do we do now?” I said.
“Why are you asking me?” Was the reply.
“Because you’re a mother aren’t you?”
Tip 4: Women do not suffer fools at the best of times. Exhausted women with sore breasts and a pile of dirty nappies to clean are prone to violence.
My wife blinked rapidly as the stupidity of my statement hit home. I close mine and waited for the punch. To her credit she simply pushed past me muttering to herself.
“Great! Now I have two children.”
As the little lump began squawking for his dinner I stood all alone in the nursery. The crib, the mobile hanging from the ceiling and the change table in the corner all took turns in mocking me until finally a very deep voice inside my head said,
“You’re a dad now. Get used to it.”
It was a phrase that would become my own personal slogan over the years.
I headed upstairs to prepare a cup of tea for Blue Eyes as No.1 began his four hourly gorging process. A quick kiss on the forehead with a sheepish ‘I love you’ was reciprocated with a look that told me I had been forgiven.
We fed, burped, bathed and put our little one to bed before collapsing onto the couch. A lasagna had been left in the fridge for us and as we munched happily on the reheated pasta, pausing occasionally to sip some red wine, I reflected on the fact that day one, which had started with a headache, had finished with a life changing revelation.
This truly was the first day of the rest of our lives.
Coming soon iDad 1.1 – No.1 Finds His Voice
iDad © Matthew Green 2010