A little after midnight on a Friday, almost a week into the new year, our daughter was born. Our first child, she entered the world in a flurry of flailing limbs, eyes wide in surprise at being wrenched from the warmth of the womb, howling like a freight train out of control on dark tracks. It was indeed an entry I will never forget.
She calmed quickly though, and spent the next hour and a half lying on my wife’s chest as we smiled and looked at each other, and her, in disbelief. Of course, we’d known of her impending arrival for quite some time, and yet in the cold, harsh light of the hospital delivery room, the reality of what was happening was almost too much to comprehend. And yet, as many will appreciate, it’s a shock that’s edged with awe and excitement – the thrilling possibility of life with this little creature far outweighing any fear or anxiety.
In the days since her birth, I’ve found little pockets of time in which to think on the life-changing consequences of her arrival into our lives. Of course, ‘life-changing’ is the operative phrase here – among other large changes, most of them sleep-related, I regularly find myself standing, with raised eyebrow, considering the almost inhuman amount of poo in yet another nappy. Indeed, things are different now.
With this new joy (and poo-related disbelief), also comes a healthy dose of worry, as I’ve quickly ascertained. I worry about small things, like whether or not that noise she just made in her sleep was a death rattle (it wasn’t); whether or not she’s warm enough at night (she is, it’s hot as hell at the moment); whether or not she’s cool enough (she’s probably not, none of us are, it’s hot as hell at the moment); whether or not our friend’s nine-year-old will drop her (he didn’t, he plays a lot of footy and has a safe pair of hands).
And, naturally, I worry about big things. I worry about what sort of world she’ll be growing up in, a world that largely denies climate change despite worsening natural disaster; a world that elects a misogynistic blowhard as leader of the most powerful country on the planet; a world where, here at home, politicians spend more time bickering with each other and frivolously spending tax dollars, than they do actually governing for a better future.
I also worry about the age-old issue of equality, whether she’ll be afforded every opportunity she would have were she born a male. Will she be treated differently because of her sex, or have we made enough inroads into what, in this day and age, should be a non-issue, so she’ll thrive in life, able to do and achieve whatever she sets her mind to, regardless of her gender?
Worrying, it seems, is the parent’s lot. When I catch myself getting carried away with thoughts like this though, I try and put the brakes on, focus on the here and now and the new life that’s been wrought for us. Look on the positive side, I tell myself – she has the requisite number of fingers and toes, she’s eating well, she’s healthy, she (mostly) sleeps well. She also looks more like me than my wife, which is actually another worry, at least for her.
The best we can do then, is just love and support her. Protect her from life’s evils as best we can, set her up to deal with challenges and obstacles in the best manner possible so she can thrive as she gets older. Some of the best advice I received prior to her birth, was not to take on anyone else’s advice. Listen to everything, it was suggested, and then ignore it, instead taking it all as it comes and listening to her and each other, forming your own ways of doing things. It’s this advice I’m taking to heart, when it comes to how she’ll grow up.
As such, one hopes, no matter what ugly paths the world may turn down, no matter how inept those in power seem to be when it comes to ensuring safety and prosperity for us all into the coming years, she’ll be ready to face whatever comes.
Just let me get some more sleep first though.
Samuel J. Fell