The Art of Keeping Quiet (Part 1)
The art of not telling anyone about your pregnancy is a two-edged sword. One side poses: why shouldn’t we tell family and close friends? If something goes wrong, we’d need them to be there for us anyway; the other: we need three months to get used to the idea.
With my firstborn, I certainly leaned towards the latter. I couldn’t bring myself to tell people when my own head wasn’t at one with the idea. All of a sudden 32 seemed very young to be a dad. Hadn’t I always thought – without thinking too much – that 35 would be about right?
But as the weeks went on, and with the three-month scan still an age away, I grew restless. Humans, surely, are not designed to conceal such weighty information?
Tash, my partner, was feeling the same way. About one month in, she told her twin sister. Rachel was shocked, even though she’d had her suspicions. She’d started making little adjustments without a word, such as cutting up brie and not offering Tash any, and going without a glass of wine at dinner, just so Tash wasn’t the only one not drinking. And yet she didn’t ask the burning question. She bided her time, waiting to be told. The telepathy of the two was on show more than it had ever been; they knew the other’s inner sanctum as well as their own.
Although my head was clouded with all manner of weird shit, I did cover some salient ground: that there’s no perfect time; that being a dad while still being young at heart – even if there are a few creaks in the bones – will be cool. I’ll still be able to run around with the kid, take him or her to the footy, netball, ballet or singing class, and dance around like a loony at home.
Then there’s the other thing I’d never considered before: legacy. I had no will, no life insurance; nothing of material note, really, to hang my hat on. Having a child would be my gift to the world, should I exit the big dance early.
All of a sudden 32 seems very young to be a dad. Didn’t I always think – without thinking too much – that 35 would be about right?
I went to a card night at a mate’s house. Tash, who was all set to make her closest girlfriend’s day with the news of her pregnancy, suggested I tell Waz, my best mate of 15 years if I so wished. She believed confiding in a trusted friend might help me to better come to terms with the whole thing. I agreed.
As the beers and the gutter-talk flowed and my wallet lightened, my compulsion to spill the beans grew. The words bulged in my chest; I wanted to rid myself of the bulge.
Finally, after bombing out of my fourth straight game, and with Waz and I alone in the toilet, cramped and giggly and engaged in a bout of ‘sword fights’ – that wildly unnecessary game that only the most immature of drunken men play – I took the chance to blurt it out.
“Fuck,” he said, the smile spreading across his face. “That’s great news.” Not in a position to shake hands, we hugged. Then we headed back to the table to re-join the others.
The cat out of the bag, I confided in another friend, Stevo, as we stood out on the balcony, smoking. “Fuckin’ hell,” he said, obviously shocked. “That’s awesome.”
I told Stevo that I’d told Waz, but to keep it quiet otherwise. Then I got to thinking, as my card-shark mate returned to the table and I lingered on the balcony by myself, blowing bluish plumes of smoke into the night air, that this better stop. While I felt as if a weight had been lifted, I had to remember why I wanted to tell people in the first place. It was, after all, mine and Tash’s time; it wouldn’t be long until everyone knew.
Then I stopped thinking so much and went about drowning my brain cells with Melbourne Bitter until the thought of fatherhood was but a small, oarless boat in the back of my mind.