There’s something rather undignified about a pregnancy test. Such a momentous occasion, such a life-changing moment, the beginning of something incredible and it starts with my new wife peeing on a stick. We stood there in the bathroom waiting to see if a blue line turned into a blue cross on a little plastic wand. “There’s no way”, I said with feigned confidence, shifting my weight from one foot to the other as we waited the designated 3 minutes. “I mean, come on, what are the chances?” Dara sneaked a peek behind her back and then turned around to show me the flag of Finland. I am going to be a father. If you read this column regularly you’ll know I have a propensity to ruin moments like these with idiotic jokes. It’s sort of a tension release mechanism. “And it’s definitely mine, then?” I asked. She almost stuck the wand up my nose.
What followed next could only be described as a pregnant pause as we both contemplated the news. “Well … I guess congratulations!” Dara said after a while. We hugged each other not knowing what to say next. We both knew we really wanted children, but we thought it would take ages (turns out I’m a bit of a stud, who knew?). I think it took us about a day for our brains to deal with the enormity of it all. That’s when the worrying started. Worrying about every conceivable problem from autism to soft cheese to the best way to keep a child level-headed and still vaguely fashionable so it doesn’t get bullied. The foetus was about the size of a pearl.
The next few days were, I imagine, typical for a newly expectant couple. We both swore secrecy, so I kept shtum while Dara went off and told her best friends, mum, and sisters. I can’t blame her, it’s a lot of fun telling people you’re going to have a baby. My mom and dad’s reaction was sweet: emotional and unforgettable. My folks found out they were going to be grandparents for the first time and they were bowled over, crying and giggling with the shock: a rare condition from my normally reserved dad, a fairly average day for my wonderfully dramatic mom who could turn a trip to Tesco into a Greek tragedy.
My younger brother is a larger-than-life beast of a man whose volume level rarely reaches below that of a Formula 1 pit, so we conspired to break the news in a restaurant we knew would be deserted for a bit of privacy. “Ok, so before you get settled, we have some news. You’re going to be an auntie” I joked. He did a real cartoony double-take and then jumped up, knocking over the table in excitement. He gave me a bone-crushing hug, screaming like he was in the studio audience of Oprah, it was a little disturbing seeing a man of that largesse so animated. By the time we had calmed him down, people were congratulating us from apartment windows across the street like it was West Side Story.
Of course those who already have kids were quick with words of congratulations, but even quicker with words of advice. Rather annoyingly, they all seem to experience a sort of religious ecstasy at the idea of me having to change nappies and deal with incessant crying and insomnia. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never really tolerated baby talk from my mates. It seems to me that if you’ve been through it, it’s all you want to talk about, and if you haven’t, you want to talk about pretty much anything else. But I’ve noticed a real schadenfreude too. People really love telling you how your life is going to be hell from now on. If one more person says “It’s all ahead of you” with a knowing smile, I might throw a tantrum myself.
I know we’ll be getting up at 4 in the morning. I know all my clothes will have little puke stains on the shoulder. I know I’ll have to cash my chips early for the next few poker nights. I know a holiday in the sun will never be the same. I know I’ll have to spend all of my spare cash on alligators that squeak and Liga. I know my wife’s body will do weird shit that will freak me out a little and I’ll have to pretend it doesn’t. I know that I will never have another worry-free day for the rest of my life. But we’re having a baby. A baby with Dara’s laughing blue eyes and my curly hair. In a few months time there will be someone new in the world to love and be loved and that’s got be worth a few restless nights. Plus, we get to get name it whatever we want. Like Leronda or Zeke. That’s awesome.