These were actually worrying times, the first month or so after the positive pregnancy test; which sounds strange to say I know. You would expect one long continuous party. However, blessed as I am with a large dose of realism (sometimes described as pessimism) I knew that pregnancy was never always a simple matter of fertilisation followed by delivery nine months later. Not including those close to me who had experienced the cosmic unfairness of miscarriage, or complications in pregnancy, there was a world wide web full of tales of desperation and disappointments and utter despair. So my mind filled with the worst possible endings and almost as a way of dealing with future horror I kept saying to myself that we still had a long way to go… that anything could happen.. and that whatever came our way, we would face it together.
Luckily the last eight months have been relatively horror-free.
But those first few weeks were a signpost, an indication of things to come: I am talking now about hormones, the internet and the way a woman’s mind works. Clearly when I am talking about ‘women’, I am only talking about my beautiful wife Willy and am in no way making a connection that because one person is like that, therefore everyone else is. However, I do hope that both men and women reading this will feel some comfort in knowing that these early thought processes are entirely normal and rational (or rationally irrational) and that no matter what you say the fears do not go away, but are totally necessary while your brain attempts to make sense of the life-changing period of your life.
So the main, everlasting fear is that you have started something off that will be irreversible: this isn’t a thing you can lose if you get bored or forget about if it doesn’t quite go the way you wanted. This is a living thinking individual life and it is your job to raise them so they can get on in the world without going crazy or making anyone else crazy. Now we have all grown up somehow, either with or without help, so it isn’t rocket science – but with a baby you have a blank canvas and your fear is that you will do it wrong, very wrong.
This is my fear. There is also an underlying unease that has no reason for being there except as simple human nature, and that is losing the life before it has a chance to be born. This irrational fear comes and goes, but is always present, lurking in the very depths of my being – I guess it stems from the human brain being incapable of not thinking about worst case scenarios. Every day I count my blessings: I honestly do.
These are my fears. My wife’s fears include these in some form but she has many more to deal with, which is understandable as she is this life’s sole carer for the next nine months and everything she does will have an impact on both her own body and the baby itself. On top of the rational thought processes, we have the ones running on hormones: the uncontrollable raging hormones that are ever-present and always making an impact, somewhere… not always when you expect it, but always there. My first example of this (and I use the example in a total non-judgemental sense – my wife is my hero) is: the no alcohol fear. Now I don’t mean the fear of not drinking for nine months, her abstinence is an example to all, I am talking about having alcohol without knowing.. eating food that contains ‘traces’ of alcohol.
Picture the scene if you will.. an innocent after dinner dessert: a tiramisu, and I am describing a tiramisu in a plastic pot, the sort you would have yoghurt in. Manufactured in a factory to strict EU guidelines, suitable for all ages. Willy eats her tiramisu and loves it… she then recalls that normal tiramisu that you may get at a restaurant is loaded with alcohol, so she checks the packaging of her dessert, and there it is: ‘traces’ of alcohol. And then begins a few hours, maybe a night and a morning, of panic. Controlled panic. Repeated questions. Checking the internet. More questions. More self-questioning, followed by guilt and more panic. I try my best to allay her fears, but it is difficult to make someone feel better, when the cause of their discomfort is an irrational fear not felt by the other person. You hear yourself saying: “Don’t be daft, it couldn’t do any harm – there is no alcohol in it – kids can eat it” etc. Followed by her saying “Hmmm”, but her eyes still wracked with guilt. There is acceptance in a couple of days, and it is then I remember that her responsibility at that time is 100% and if anything bad were to happen, she would feel totally at fault. Her nervousness at holding something so precious to us on her own is intense.
This fear is also always there, and I guess will never leave her – but later on it will be shared, and that is some comfort.