As my beautiful wife sits here beside me she is ten days overdue our first child. I've been thinking that it’s a little like preparing for a big championship match.
You’re readying in every way you can and are filled with eager anticipation and with no shortage of nerves. But you don’t know when the game is. Or who you are playing. Or what position you will fill. And you don’t know the rules. Or the name of your team.
Then I cop on and realise that it’s nothing like football. Sport has the potential to elevate us from the more mundane plains of this world. But it can’t compare with bringing a new life into the world.
If I was to keep up the football analogy, I’d have to point out that I would only be playing the part of a water-boy: forever running up and down the sideline trying to look like the game couldn’t possibly go on without me, while having no impact on the outcome. Maggie is the star of this game, and she’s been playing a blinder all season.
I once assisted a local vet in an emergency C-Section on my brother’s pedigree Charolais cow. Maggie hates when I tell people this. I pretend it has prepared me for the birthing experience.
It’s a front to deflect from the fact that I am flying head first into the unknown. It’s the fear of being completely useless that petrifies me. Useless in the delivery room, useless as a dad.
It’s the perfectionist in me. A good friend reassured me that there’s no such thing as a perfect dad, you can only do your best. I should know this, I had the perfect example. Dad was as far from perfect as a man could be but he always did his best and we loved him for it.
There’s so much focus on a birth these days. The mounting anticipation as Maggie has gone over her due date has been exhausting for her. I think it only adds to an already anxious time. Do people really think that she has forgotten to tell them that she’s had her first child?
Her consultant noted last week that the average first-time mother in Ireland goes eight days beyond her due date. Then why not make the due date eight days later?
I try to reassure Maggie that mum gave birth to 12 little ones and kept her sense of humour. I don’t know if it’s a good example to bring up, all things considered. I’m not suggesting we aim for a dozen of our own. I’m a bit late to the race for that. Anyway, I know we need to walk before we can run.
I’ve used never like to walk when I could run. It used to frustrate Maggie. I’d suggest that we’d go out to Howth Head on a sunny Sunday and I’d take off running instead of walking by her side. Like a puppy dog I’d race ahead and return, race ahead and return, as she patiently walked the trail at her leisure. The bump has slowed me down and changed my perspective more than she.
Now, long slow walks side by side on Dollymount Strand are the order of the day. It’s a great time for conversation, to really engage with one and other. To find out what your loved one is thinking and feeling.
I still make her stop every now and then so I can do a few squats or press-ups or some stretches on one of the benches. It mortifies her. It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks, but he’ll still want to play a few of his old ones.
It’s been a wonder to watch this beautiful, petite woman, bloom into her full fecundity. She’s all bump now but still very mobile (prenatal yoga is the way to go). The last few weeks have drawn out a little but the extra time has offered us the opportunity to spend some quality time together and to do a little nesting.
Most things have come intuitively to Maggie. I suppose that’s one of the big differences between women and men ….. the maternal instinct. Her transformation has happened as the changing of the seasons.
I have tried to imagine how I would be were my body to change and alter in ways that appears to defy the imagined elasticity of the skin. Cantankerous is the word that comes to mind. And frustrated, especially at not being as mobile as I like to be. Certainly not social and charming and joyful. I hope our daughter takes after her mother.