I write this with my son in my arms: just a few days old, pressed to my chest, a new life, carried into this world by his incredible mother, and through the expertise, dedication, and kindness of our midwives and consultant. He is perfect, helpless, and i am utterly in love.
It has been a steep learning curve: before he was born, i found myself in the strange situation of feeling generally ‘ready’, without any actual specific knowledge or capability. I was ready ‘in principle’, but am now immersed in the practice.
Alongside learning about diapers, wind, and how to survive without sleep, i’m learning about his smiles, chirps, and the way i get lost in his eyes for hours upon end.
Also: how to type with one hand as he is cradled in my arms, playing with my beard as he snuffles in his sleep, his breathing synchronised with mine, and just the occasional snort to indicate that my tranquil time may soon be disrupted by the eternal quest for food.
I’ve never been around babies much before: the odd cuddle with nieces and nephews, and the children of dear friends. But i’ve never had this responsibility before. A new life, totally dependent upon us.
It has been the strangest thing: in utero, we ascribed an identity and personality to this dream, and now he has become a person. A small one, admittedly, but a real one, who threatens to turn out even more stubborn than me.
The worries that i carried into birth were, i guess, common ones, ranging from hoping he was healthy, to worrying about whether i could ‘do it’, as if something would flip like a switch when he arrived. As if the starting gun would fire, my old life would fall away, and a new one start.
Except strangely it has not been like that: my old life is still here, but there is a new one within it. In some ways, the last week has felt entirely normal. With more pooh, i will admit.
As a father, one feels a certain pressure to ‘fall in love at first sight’: people say this, that you will look at your new baby, and be instantly smitten, but i would not describe it like that. In the first instance, as he was born, i knew that i was expected to catch him. Before the event, i held crazy concerns: how would i feel about any blood, how would i feel if he was not ‘clean’. Would i know what to do, would i even know how to hold a slippery baby? But come the time, there was no thinking: my hands simply reached out and caught him.
In that moment, i could not describe ‘feeling’ at all. It was almost as though something deeper was acting, indeed, much of our time together feels like that: i do not ‘think’ about whether to comfort him, to clean him, to talk to him. It’s just how things are. It has taken me time to know him though: to learn how to stroke his cheek, to cradle his foot in my hand, to pull him close. To come to know him as a person, not the idea of a person.
There is a deep comfort in this new life: a sense not of maturity, but of completeness.
His face, as i look at him, prototypes the expressions that will create his emotional world, but for now, they simply create a pastiche of feelings, tumbled one upon the other: fear, anger, comfort, exhaustion, love. He has the grammar but, as yet, no verse.
I hope he will grow to be kind and compassionate, but most of all, i hope he changes the lives of those that he touches, and is changed by them too. I hope that he is a fearsome defender of others. I hope that, through his mistakes, he will always grow. I hope, as i think it natural, that he will be a better man than me.
I had to wait a week before i could write this, simply overwhelmed by it all. But now i feel i must write it, as it’s through this story that i can find my new self: partner, father, family. He is my son, and i love him absolutely.
This story is written with deepest gratitude, respect, and thanks, to our incredible National Health Service, and especially for Abi, Amy, and Suen, who guided him into our lives.