Freelance writer John Weldon anticipates his graduation from first-time expectant father to actual father.
John Weldon is a freelance writer. The following column "In Praise of Dad’s Labour of Love" first appeared in the Age.
Fatherhood is a truly wonderful experience, so they tell me, and it is one I am certainly looking forward to exploring, as and when it happens, which, as it happens in my case, will probably be sometime around 10 weeks from now.
To hold that little baby in my arms as I sit through endless hours of late night TV evangelism, desperately trying to lull it to sleep, will undoubtedly be a sublime experience.
However, there is another reason, and a much more selfish one, why I am so looking forward to the birth, and that is that it will mark my graduation from first-time expectant father to actual father, and that is a change of monumental proportions, for there is no one lower in the parental food chain than the first-time dad-to-be.
It’s like starting high school all over again; everybody knows more than you. All those in the higher grades, i.e. those who already have children, feel it is incumbent on them to put the fear of God into you with respect to how horribly your life is about to change. Even women who have never given birth will go on about how you couldn’t possibly understand that which they’ve never gone through themselves.
Mothers of young babies will gleefully recount that fact that they’ve only had sex three times in the two years since junior’s birth. "There just isn’t time," they say "what with the feeding bathing, washing, crying, sleeping, vomiting, (and that’s just the parents) sterilising, folding, ironing, and fighting over whose turn it is to get up and so on."
Father’s will wince and their faces will twist with remembered pain as they tell you how beautiful the birthing experience was, and how they wouldn’t have missed it for the world, even though at the time they were mainly focussed on remaining up right and conscious above all else.
What’s worse, as soon as you announce to the world that junior is on the way, you will cease to be the centre of anybody’s world anymore, except for your own of course – nothing could ever change that.
Quite surprisingly, people will want to talk to your partner about the impending birth more than they do you, even though it was your ‘boys’ that did all the hard work of getting the conception business going in the first place. Even your own mother, will show remarkably more interest in the unborn child, and its mother, than she does in you. When you pop around for tea from then on, rather than receiving steaming bowls of your favourite dessert you’ll be given a cot blanket and a pair of booties for the baby and a lecture along the lines of "it’s alright for the father to say cloth nappies are better for the environment, you won’t be the one changing them all day."
In fact everybody who has ever seen a baby, let alone had one, will feel it is their duty to give you the benefit of their experiences in the matter, while assuming at the same time that you are incapable of comprehending any of it.
Your societal worth will continue to diminish in inverse proportion to the increasing size of your partner’s belly, until that magical day when her swelling subsides and suddenly, you’re cradling your newborn baby in your arms and you realise that it’s all over. You’ve done the hard work and you can now enjoy the benefits of your labours, well her labour anyway.