Ordeals and obstetricians
My partner Tash is six weeks. This means it’s time for our first appointment with the obstetrician.
The receptionist looks at me approvingly before directing us to the waiting room. “It’s always nice to see fathers coming along for support,” she says.
I plonk down next to Tash in the waiting room, thinking it’s not that big a deal. I mean, working from home made it easy for me to tag along, but shouldn’t all first-time fathers take time off work to meet with the person responsible for their child’s safe entry into the world? Am I a point of difference, even in this era of the ‘new-age’ guy? Or does my presence further underline my general lack of purpose – or standing – in the world?
There are several other women in the waiting room, presumably pregnant, but no blokes. I leaf through a New Idea. A two-page spread about Victoria Beckham grabs my attention, as much as I will it not to.
Yep… I’m a point of difference, alright.
The backlog moves at a snail’s pace. Tash fidgets in her seat. She starts sighing, her cheeks reddening with each passing minute. She tells me she’s got a client meeting to get to. I take on some of her stress, mixing it with my own. I want to check out a bookshop for research afterwards; I wonder how much actual writing I’ll get done today, given I also have a class to attend.
We continue waging our own ridiculous battles until Tash’s name is called, roughly 30 minutes later. We get up, dust ourselves off, and scold ourselves inwardly at our selfishness and impatience.
Our doctor makes some effort to share the excitement of our news. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she hadn’t. We were, after all, just another two green faces in the never-ending factory of expectant parents. But she’s thorough in her explanations and every dumb question I throw her way is met with enthusiasm; nothing fazes or surprises.
Can the baby drown in all that fluid?
What is the fluid made up of?
Is the baby really the size of a tadpole?
Does it eat yet? If so, where does its poo go?
Like Wilson in Castaway, I’m relegated to the support role.
But the meeting is, of course, all about Tash. It’s not the first time – and I know it won’t be the last – that I’ll play second fiddle. While Tash and the doctor chat about upcoming milestones and the final preparations in the lead-up to the main event in seven-and-a-bit months’ time, I sit there feeling like some sperm-donating right-hand man. Like Wilson in Castaway, I’m relegated to the support role.
“And how are you feeling about it all?” the doctor asks, as if reading my thoughts.
“Good,” I say, more out of automatic reaction than with conviction. “A little nervous, but good.”
Tash chimes in: “He’s still getting used to the idea.”
I deploy the obligatory embarrassed chuckle to support Tash’s statement, but I haven’t told the doctor a lie. I am, in fact, good about the whole thing, even if I don’t want to look too far ahead. I’m just happy that all seems OK – or, at least, normal – so far.
Funny how that word – normal – is one I previously despised. Now it was beginning to mean everything to me.
Afterwards, while walking back to the car, I ask Tash if I’d peppered the doctor too much. “Not at all,” she says. “I’m glad you asked those questions. I have no idea either.”
She drops me off at my bookshop in the city, but once I get inside I forgot which book I want to check out, and for what purpose. I retreat to a café and think about Tash and, for the first time, consider the questions that must be clouding her mind. While I’ve no doubts she’ll make a great mother, I realise she shares many of my concerns and fears. Despite my (some might say chauvinistic) assertion that women have more of a natural inclination to babies, and, by extension, motherhood, she is, in fact, as green at the caper as I am. Any questions I have simply reaffirm things in her mind.
Most importantly, it proves to her that I’m sharing the load – even if I’m not carrying one in the physical sense.