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The First Scan

I want to write about this today even though it actually happened a month ago. Four weeks is a long time when it comes to pregnancy, and it feels like last month is so far in the past. This whole experience is so intensely focused on the future, the next milestone, the next scan or appointment, and the one after that and the one after that. What I’m really thinking about right this minute is the haemotologist’s appointment on Wednesday and the 20-week scan and starting classes at the children’s centre and clearing out the spare room and is Steph managing okay and and and…

So, it feels a little hard to recall every detail of this momentous first encounter with my future child. All of these other memories are swirling around; things are happening to us so fast at the minute that it’s difficult to get a handhold on something if I leave it too late to write about. Which is why I started this blog, I suppose. To remember the bits I would otherwise forget.

Driving to the hospital, waiting to go in, I felt nervous, obviously, but not quite as nervous as Steph. We’re funny like that. Whenever one of us is scared or sad or worried, the other picks them up. We’ve both had our problems with depression and anxiety in the past, but instead of dragging each other down, we always seem able to bring positivity and comfort to the other when it’s needed. It’s a lucky, wonderful thing and one of the main reasons we’re so good for each other. Whether I choose to worry less without realising because I sense she needs that support, or whether it’s just that our ups and downs balance each other naturally, I don’t know. I suspect it’s a little of both. For her, and for me as well,  the prospect of the test for Down’s Syndrome loomed large, as did more general fears of something being seriously wrong, right up to the less rational end of the spectrum; what if we go in and there isn’t even anything in there? Still, only one way to find out…

We go in, and the guy doing the scan is incredibly friendly, one of those people who seems to project an air of competence that I just find baffling, because I can’t imagine ever being this relaxed about anything. He’s got his patter down, you know, the little jokes, the words honed through practice. He’s probably done hundreds, thousands of these things and we’re instantly calmer about the whole process. I sit by the side of the bed where Steph is lying. The room is darker than I thought it would be. I’m definitely holding my breath. A squirt of gel, a couple of seconds finding the right spot and then our baby is up on the screen, lying there with its little arms raised above its head in a strongman pose, and there’s the feet, there’s the head, and I had expected to cry but I don’t. I cried so hard at my own wedding that I was borderline hysterical, but now I just feel filled with that cascading, heart-tugging, floaty feeling of joy that I didn’t dare feel when she came downstairs with that pregnancy test. I can feel myself smiling ridiculously wide. The guy takes some measurements and prints off some pictures for us. We’ve barely been in there 5 minutes. Everything’s fine, he says. From what I can see here today, everything’s fine.

Triple H Pose...

Making Changes

Time’s rolling on, the weeks that are inevitably seen as numbers 1 through 40 are passing with a slowness, but we’re hitting milestones, getting closer, and I’ve been thinking a lot about making changes. Specifically, changes to myself, my habits, and the environment my kid is going to be brought into. Things like this:

My Fat Ass Needs To Lose Some Weight

A major one for me. At the minute I tip the scale at about 19 stone, and while I’m  6’5″ so it’s sort of spread out a bit, it’s still way too heavy. My aim is to lose as much of that as I reasonably can over the next 6 months. Smaller portions, plenty of exercise and less pigging out at lunchtime when I’m home alone should go a long way towards this. I’m in my late twenties and I want to take advantage of that as a parent. I want to be an energetic, active dad as much as possible. At the minute I’m dangerously close to getting out of puff taking the dogs for a half hour walk. That needs to change.

Clearing Out Clutter

We live in a decent sized house with three bedrooms (two big ones and a tiny office). The spare room will soon become the baby’s room and at the minute it’s full of our junk. I want rid of as much of it as possible, and the rest needs to move elsewhere. It’s really important to me to have the baby’s room be just for the baby, so that means getting rid of the stuff that piles up in a house over the years. I’ve already scoured through piles of CDs, DVDs and books to weed out stuff I don’t want anymore. Whatever survives will go into the little office on some new shelves I’m putting up.

Work Situation

This one is a bit more vague. All that’s really worth mentioning is that I’m working part-time in a pub at the minute. It’s not so bad when I’m there, but I feel incredibly anxious and irritable for the whole day before I go in, and what I’d really like to do is something where I can work from home. It’s all vague notions and dissatisfaction at the moment, but I want to look into proofreading as something I could potentially do that would enable me to be at home when the baby is born. It would actually be hard to earn less than I currently do, so it’s less about the money and more about finding something I’m happier with that doesn’t take me away from the house a couple of nights a week.

Those are the three main things I’d like to get sorted before the 30th October, or whenever our little bundle of sleep-deprivation turns up. Like most people, I don’t have a particularly inspiring track record when it comes to making sweeping changes to my life, but I’m gonna be a dad soon. Shit is real, motivation doesn’t get any more serious, and this is a chance to improve myself as much as it is to get things right for the baby.

Guess What…

So, after the historic first positive pregnancy test, the ensuing anxiety, and a couple of days to let it sink in… I still couldn’t believe I was actually going to be a father. No surprises there, right? I mean, I knew the test was positive, and I knew what that meant, but it still didn’t feel real. Nevertheless, life and pregnancy and everything else don’t wait around for me to decide to believe they’re happening.1 It was time to tell some people! My wife and I both agreed that we didn’t want to keep it to ourselves any longer than was necessary. The positive test being a Wednesday, we immediately plotted to tour family members and give them the news. With a bit of none-too-subtle wrangling, we managed to sort out a Saturday afternoon with her side of the family and the evening with mine. By the end of the weekend, everyone we wanted to tell before the first scan would know in one fell tactical swoop.

I was surprised by how nervous I felt about sharing this piece of perhaps the biggest and best news of our lives; the kind of news that surely nobody who loved us would react badly to. In fact, in the case of my Mum, who’d been dropping brontosaurus-sized hints about grandchildren since we got married last year, I was fully expecting a happy outburst of the kind I had previously predicted from myself. I mean, what was I worried might happen? That our loved ones’ faces would fall as they told us gravely that we’d be terrible parents, simply terrible? Ah, the mind of an anxious man; ever turning toward one imagined disaster or another.

I think part of it is that I’m bad at keeping big secrets. I proposed to my wife on the day I bought her engagement ring instead of sticking to my original plan, which was to wait a couple of weeks until our anniversary, because the second she walked in the house that day I felt so sick with the weight of it that Plan A went out of the window. I followed her upstairs and popped the question before she’d even got changed. It was the same with our pregnancy news. I wanted to confess as soon as possible.

And so on Saturday we went round to my sister-in-law’s to go for a walk and have lunch and tell her and her husband that oh Jesus Christ we were going to be parents in about 7 months.  As soon as they were both in the room my wife told them and that was that. Of course they were very happy for us, there were hugs all round and I even got the firm fellow-father’s handshake from my brother-in-law that I’m pretty sure is man code for “Congratulations on your functioning balls.” Later, my Mum-in-law popped round and we gave her the good news too. Job half done and nobody had told us we were making the biggest mistake of our lives or anything. Phew, theatrical brow swipe, right?

That evening we drove over to my sister’s new house to repeat the process. When we got there my Mum wasn’t there yet, but the second she came into the kitchen I blurted “Everyone, Steph’s having a baby!” before she’d got her coat off. Well, it worked for marriage proposal, why should’t it work here too? Sure enough, the news was met with joy from everyone, especially my two noisy sisters. I quickly phoned my third noisy sister who hadn’t been able to make it, and that was that. We’d told the family. Sorry, what was I so nervous about again?

One of the best parts about breaking the news was that my sister is also expecting her first child. She got pregnant before Christmas and so will have her baby just a couple of months before us. We were really excited about the prospect of sharing the experience together and it was great to find out that she and her husband were just as excited about becoming new parents at the same time as us. We’ll be going through all of the same things together, the highs, the lows, the fears and the excitement. Someone close by to share it with can only be a good thing.

By the end of the day, things were starting to feel a little bit more concrete. Other people knew now, which meant it wasn’t this weird secret between the two of us that we might be imagining.  I don’t know though. I think even when I’m holding my child in my arms I’ll still be expecting to wake up.

1Which is a good job, really, as at any point in the day I’m probably in denial about something or other. If the world operated on my timetable, nothing would happen. [Back]

From The Start

Okay, so, a couple of weeks ago I’m having a Wednesday much like any other. I’ve walked the dogs, been food shopping, had a quick tickle round with the hoover; the usual suburban, sub-thrilling routine.  Around 5:00 I pick up my wife from work, bravely and patiently negotiating the 5 minutes of rush hour traffic that exists between here and the hotel car park where I meet her. That’s 5 minutes each way, mind. And on the way there the heater hasn’t got going and the car is a bit cold this time of year. I mean, the steering wheel is positively chilly.1 What can I say? I am a brave soldier of the suburban routine.

Back at home, my wife goes upstairs to get changed while I get started making tea. I briefly wonder what’s taking her so long after about 15 minutes but quickly re-engross myself in the chopping of an onion or some such soon-to-be irrelevant bollocks. When she finally does come down, she says that her period is late and I recognise the look in her eyes. It’s the one she gets when she thinks she needs to ask permission for something she has no need to ask permission for. Or when she wants me to make her a hot chocolate. It doesn’t really seem like the time for hot chocolate, though, and anway she’ll spoil her tea. In a flurry of BBC’s Sherlockian realisation (complete with artful on screen typography) I quickly deduce that she’s wondering if it might be time to take a pregnancy test, and my immediate internal reaction is something along the lines of “Nonono it’s too early too short notice and I’m not ready and neither should you be and let’s just think about it for 6 or 7 months and then maybe take a test if we feel ready then.” 2 I begin to vocalise this tried and true delaying impulse into something along the lines of “Okay, well maybe we should wait a few more days to be sure and then take a test”, but by then it’s too late, she’s raising her hand, and in her hand is a Boots pregnancy test in fetching white and purple plastic, and in the windows of the test are two vertical lines, and the helpful writing along the side says that means pregnant.

OH SHI-

Note extremely faint line. It was actually a fair bit more visible than this, but has faded even more in the time it took me to get around to starting this blog.

And as quickly and simply as that, everything is different. It doesn’t matter that, of course, my brain is flicking through every possible reason and permutation of why and how the test I’m looking at could be wrong, and the fact that the line is pretty faint and maybe it’s best not to get too excited yet. And in the moments after I see that test all of this is crashing through my head in place of anything else. And I don’t react like I thought I would. Having pictured this moment in my head thousands of times, I imagined euphoria, not disbelief, tension. Fear. Not fear that it was true; fear that it wasn’t. This is something I really want. We’ve been trying for a few months. I feel ready for it. I don’t think I particularly have the sort of life that’s going to be cramped too much by having kids (I know, I know. So naïve). I want the change. I want fatherhood. And yet, when it seems like it’s happening I pretty much just freeze.

And so my reaction is muted. My wife admits that, in the same way I did, she thought my response would be more positive. More cinematic. A whoop perhaps, or a laughing lift and twirl. But I am a worrier, I suppose; a pessimist, a worst case scenario type of person, at least when it comes to things I want. In the moment, I’m not fully in the moment. It’s not a huge deal. It just didn’t happen how I’d expected. It’s all a rush in my head that barely makes sense. I never miss an opportunity to think something to death.

Later, lying in bed, I’m trying to read and unsurprisingly failing. For some reason I keep breaking out into laughter. Every few seconds, spontaneous little boy giggling, stopping and starting again. I know what’s making me laugh, I suppose, but I don’t know why. It’s all too much. Everything is different whether I believe it or not.

2 weeks on, it’s all starting to feel more real. Things are happening. There are preparations to make, appointments to attend, people to tell. Everything’s different. But I’ll get to that.

1I’ve briefly considered driving gloves. But let’s not topload this first blog post with too many of the spicier details of my private life. That particular hot tamale is best saved for an entry all of its own, I think. [Back]
2This is my reaction to most suggestions that involve doing something scary (which, to me, is nearly everything). Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow seems to be my credo. It hasn’t worked for me so far. I might think about changing my attitude at some point. But not today. [Back]