Subheading: All the thrills and spills.
To say having children has changed my life is probably up there with the greatest personal understatement of all time. As a first time father in my forties, I had no idea at the sheer labour intensiveness of raising a child in a loving environment.
Having lived a predominantly self-indulgent, single lifestyle for much of my twenties and thirties, with the focus on spiritual development and personal exploration, I reached a time when my life felt deeply unfulfilled and the desire to start a family began to intensify.
I remember thinking about time line parallels with my late father, whilst I was still single, childless and at that time unemployed he had been married for thirteen years and had four children, built a home and business – the contrasts were acute but I had never aspired to being like my father.
I thought about what my body would like to be doing, in the way that animals have a distinct biological clock that predetermines their phases of life, and felt the lack in my single male existence.I was also very bored by the social scene that I found myself in, the game playing of dating was wearing thin and sex in the city was as about exciting as television…
So, when I finally met the love of my life, I let nature take its course, and we were engaged and with child within about two weeks. All intellectual doubts were blown away like dust in a cyclone, and the excitement about what we had done was amazing – I suppose if you have spent so much time avoiding the fertility cycle then the moment when you surrender to it is pretty powerful. Impending parenthood is a hell of a lot easier than the actual thing, you are tapping into an incredibly well subscribed fantasy that families all over the world have celebrated since time began. Slaps on the back, wide smiles and memories of TV show scenes featuring dads and big cigars.
The births were all harrowing in their own way. My wife was so courageous throughout both labours, and the system probably let us down each time, but we, and the babies, survived. In retrospect, I now consider birth to be the most miraculous real thing that happens in the lives of humans, and I suspect most animals feel the same way.
Forget the virgin birth – it is the old fashioned sperm and egg number – when experienced in your own home, without the nurses and white sheets – that is truly amazing. The stretching of flesh, blood and sheer grit that my wife experienced over countless hours is so far beyond any male sporting achievement it begs belief. Yet, until you actually go through the experience with your partner, it does not really rate on your radar, and according to the male dominated media it is something like state of origin football, which is some sort of benchmark in the courage stakes. Maybe if they were physically pulling the footballs out of their arses before crossing over the line for a try I could agree.
When your partner finally gets that baby out it is a big moment. The build up toward this achievement is huge – nine months of expansion in all areas of both your lives. The focus shifts to the fat one; the one with the belly – and you need to quickly train yourself to become a support act, like a male ballet dancer, whose job is to lift the ballerina when required.
It can be a shock to the system because all balance goes out the door, along with the drinking and smoking – and listening to the litany of what she has to endure as this thing grows inside her is not always easy. The changes are so profound that nobody really speaks of them, and perhaps evolution includes a conspiracy of silence to ensure the survival of the species. When this miracle emerges alive smeared in blood and guts, and you have waited out the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes – it is intense, it is tears, hearts in your eyes and almost fainting stuff.
It has however only just begun for mum and dad. The fatherhood clock has only ticked a minute past midnight.
To be continued………..