Labour Guilt From A Dad-To-BeJune 16, 2012 No Comments
So, we’re having this baby. It’s due in a few weeks and we’re trying to get organized with all the supplies and equipment – sanitary, sartorial and vehicular – that a campaign of this length and intensity seems to require. We’ve read the usual range of confusing and contradictory books, we’ve thought, argued and remained undecided about names, and we’ve had a long day of briefings up at the maternity ward on all the grisly things that happen when babies come out, returning only partially convinced that what seems like a serious design flaw in humanoids is in fact “the most natural thing in the world.” (As the midwives said: pregnancy isn’t an illness. Well, while I appreciate the sentiment, I’m glad all the same that it isn’t catching.)
And yesterday, we went to buy a stroller. Of course, I was prepared for the serried ranks of wagons lining the walls of the showroom; and I knew this was going to cost more than all the dental bills I’ve had in my life till now (and I’m Scottish, so that’s no small expectation). And I even knew that, having made the gun-to-the-head choice of just how much I thought it was worth to ensure our child’s vehicular safety, I nonetheless couldn’t afford to let my concentration wander when it came to choosing the colour of receptacle that would provide that safety – for such could be taken as an indication of “losing interest.” But what I was not expecting was that this would only increase the pressure I feel at the events about to overtake me.
I had thought that, having secured at least one major element of the logistical operation involved in being a parent these days, I would feel some sort of relief – at least we now also had the car seat (there was a deal on with the buggies), so we would actually be permitted to take the kid home with us from the hospital. And while there are still a few things to acquire before D-Day (end of July), I had seen a lot of cots, baby monitors, bottle sterilizers, diapers, rompers, dummies and rattles, and I knew it was all within our grasp and achievable before the ultimate deadline. But getting the stroller just seemed to make it all more real.
Of course, every new father must feel like this, and it’s still exciting to think of all the fun and games we have in store – getting peed on, being rendered psychotic through sleep denial, turning up at meetings for work with unidentified yet still very obviously scatological stains on my hair and clothing. But in spite of all the joy this event promises, a nameless dread still dogs me. And I think it’s guilt. Because no matter how involved I get in the parenting of this child, I’m not the one giving birth to it. Of course, it’s easy to point out that many women willingly do it more than once; so, while it’s no doubt a hellishly difficult and traumatizing experience, they must be all basically right with the arrangement. But we’re still at this end of the whole thing – and while we’re still at this end, I can’t help but feel terrible for the things my partner’s about to go through.
Please don’t think I’m in any way comparing my lot to hers – and, while I may feel guilty at the division of labour, so to speak, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to change it if I could. But that doesn’t make it any less worrying. So I’ll just say this: Mrs Lobster, I salute you.
Anyway, I should stop all this navel-gazing. Soon enough I’ll have an umbilical cord to cut, and I have to work on resisting the temptation to say “I declare this baby open” in a voice like the Queen’s, to avoid years of recrimination at having spoiled a special family moment through nervous facetiousness.
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