Firstly, let me direct your attention to the Wonderland film that appeared on BBC recently. It follows three dads (and bumps into another couple along the way) through the last few weeks of pregnancy and first few weeks of their new child's life. Watch it here. It is beautiful and moving.
Watching things like this, reflecting on the impending reality of our baby's arrival, always makes me miss my dad. One of the most touching scenes in Wonderland is when James, who is pressuring himself into knowing everything and terryifying himself in the process, talks to his dad about how he knew what to do. Obviously his dad didn't have books and films, he relied upon instincts and common sense. There is a hole in my life as I can no longer have those conversations. I feel so incredibly lucky that my dad showed me such a fine example of being a father, he was caring, attentive and proud of his family. He was prepared to discuss emotions and was sensitive and supportive. I just wish he was around to help me take those first steps. I am also lucky that my father-in-law is a fine and caring man, so I do still have somebody I can talk to; he just isn't my dad.
And the other thing that I have not been prepared for is the strain it places on your pre-birth relationship. Becoming a parent, let alone being one, is incredibly hard. Massively difficult. It is difficult to understand the changes being wrought in my wife's body, the tiredness, the hormonal chaos, plus her own nerves. I honestly don't know how women do it, they have my utmost respect. My wife has been incredible, and I probably don't tell her enough how much I admire her. Yet two increasingly tired adults facing their own worries and trying not to burden the other can make it difficult to be close. I'm not saying we are failing at it, but it has been surprisingly hard work and I don't think either of us expected it.
This feels like a dark post today. It isn't, it's just that I have found myself reflecting on the difficulties and the harder emotional side of being a father. It isn't always easy, but we are both still very excited by the prospect of being parents and welcoming our new child into the world. I do not think anything can fully prepare you for what it means. All the people in the world can tell you about the tiredness and the effort required, but until you live with it you don't understand it. I know we haven't got our baby in our arms yet, so it is bound to get harder still, but the challenges do not simply begin when the baby has arrived. I understand James's concern about 'getting it right' but I think Viktor had it right. That kind of thinking starts you on a path that is ultimately futile and will make it worse for you. You can never have all the information, and most of the information is simply that - information. Babies don't come with user guides, nor should they. All you can do is your best. And I hope my best will be good enough, for my wife and baby.
Time to give my wife (who is my best friend, soulmate and has offered tireless support during the recent months despite everything that she is also going through) and bump a cuddle.