When I was growing up there were certain life moments I tried to imagine experiencing. Admittedly, in the early years they didn't go much beyond wanting to be Marco van Basten (Dutch footballer, played for AC Milan in the '90s. Genius. Never mind!), but as I got older I began picturing those big “real-life” moments: asking someone to marry me, moving into my first home, holding my child for the first time – that kind of thing.
When thinking about those moments it is often more about fear than enjoyment – what if she says no? What if I drop the bub? When it comes to proposals, we men spend years mentally rehearsing to make sure we get it right on the night. We plan glorious, over-the-top, unique, romantic occasions – only to spend five minutes on YouTube and realise all our ideas are lame and definitely not unique.
The baby news... or blues
One such moment is finding out that you’re going to be a dad. It’s difficult to explain the pressure involved in perfecting your pregnancy-reaction-face (or PRF, as we in the know call it) – get it right and it’s non-alcoholic celebrations all round, but get it wrong and it’s weeks, even years, of recriminations.
We’ve all seen the moment a thousand times on stage and screen. Two people sit down for ‘that’ conversation. Whether one or both of them is having an affair, they’re newlyweds or they’ve been on IVF for 10 years, we sit there in judgment waiting to see how the man will react. The camera closes in and we linger as we try to divine the emotions behind the expression. Within moments we know whether he’s a hero or villain.
Consequently, when my wife told me she was pregnant I was well-prepared and donned my PRF. I was all smiles, hugs, and joyful words (I hope), but behind the scenes I was afraid, filled with self-doubt and pretty close to outright panic. Not because it was unwelcome news, but because I was so afraid of getting being a dad wrong.
Pain, pleasure and poo
Now, nearly two years since that moment, my daughter is here and I see how wrong I was to be afraid. Yes, the first few months were tough, but they were much tougher on my wife. Yes, full nappies are gross, but over time you learn to laugh while you’re gagging. And yes, I’m still worried about the day she leaves home, walks down the stairs in a miniskirt or brings her first boyfriend home.
But, until those days come, I am enjoying her as much as possible. Every babble, stumble and smile is a joy in itself.
So, should my wife ever come to me again with a piece of news that requires me to dust off my PRF, all I’ll need to do is picture my daughter grinning at the top of the stairs and sticking her arms out for a hug, and it will be a genuinely happy PRF indeed.