the ‘real’

October 16, 2006

The problem at the moment is that it just doesn’t seem very, well, real. Here I am, banging away at a keyboard, and several thousand miles away, A is sitting around (looking at the time, I hope she’s asleep), carrying our child. But for me, currently, there isn’t really much discernible difference in my life compared to how it was say five months ago. I suppose this follows on really from yesterday’s thoughts about the female ownership of pregnancy, and subsequent male marginalisation, but with a possibly more whimsical tone.

I’ve heard it said that I am already a father, in the sense that the baby is there, growing, and just biding its time before popping out into the big wide world. That’s not intended as a statement one way or another on the nature of ante-natal ‘rights’ or abortion issues, it’s just something someone said to me. But if true, I feel I should be rather more ‘fatherly’ than I am currently. A is minding her diet, and I, despite my best intentions, regularly ransack the cupboards for an overlooked cake. A’s belly is getting fatter, and mine, despite the evidence of the previous sentence, is staying resolutely the same.

I must confess that I paused after that last paragraph to collect a parcel that just arrived. I ordered a second-hand copy of Frederick Leboyer’s book ‘Birth without violence’, apparently a classic, but one I had never heard of until A recommended I join her in reading it. At least the title is a good start, since I’m not sure who would contest such an idea, though one of my friends noted it sounded like the Scientologists. That rang a distant bell for me, since I recall hearing somewhere how Scientologists demand ‘silent’ births (if you are indeed a Scientologist, or simply a stickler for facts, please don’t be offended if this is a gross misrepresentation). But from what I could gather after a brief internet search, Leboyer seems more concerned with easing the newborn’s transition into a world without womb-like comfort than maintaining monastic silence throughout childbirth. There are plenty of pictures and white spaces in the text, so it shouldn’t take too long to read, and I’ll be sure to note down anything particularly interesting along the way.

But where was I?


Ah, yes. So, for me, there is a distinct element of the unreal about all of this. I mean, I talk about it all the time, I read books on it, I pray for the safety of mother and child, I sit down and write things like this, and yet…Shouldn’t I be feeling something stupendous if not all the time, at least for quite a lot of it? Shouldn’t I be using every waking hour to glean nuggets of wisdom from experience hands at this parenting game, or sit in contemplative silence meditating on the identity of fatherhood? But I’m not – for the casual fly-on-the-wall who’s given up trying to escape this hermetically sealed double-glazed house, it all seems to be business as usual for this young father-to-be. Perhaps ‘reality’ will seem more real when we’re out buying things for the new baby, setting up a room with a cot, dangling mobiles, and sympathetic colour schemes. Perhaps I will be suddenly and unexpectedly bowled over by the force of this new life in a surprise epiphany as I receive the 33rd cuddly toy gift. Or perhaps I will only really feel it to be real when I hold the newborn in my arms and look straight into his or her bleary eyes. It’s possible. But I have a sneaky suspicion that actually, it might never feel real, that I might be sitting there, in years to come, balancing a growing toddler on my knee and typing an email with the other hand, yet inside my head I am still a little boy myself – or a student, or a relatively care-free 20-something working out if he has enough beer money for a final pint before closing time.


One Response to “the ‘real’”

  1. […] I’ve realised that my whole approach to the unborn baby, to birth, even to the newborn, has undergone a fundamental shift in recent months. Perhaps because I am a man, perhaps because of particular social conditioning – but I was inclined to view pregnancy and child birth as quite a clinical scientific process. Mysterious sure, but all the same, it came down to what were the required mechanics of getting a new life on the scene. But now…I think I can probably cite two specific contributions to my change in outlook – reading Leboyer’s ‘Birth without violence’, a work I referred to in a previous post. Leboyer was passionate about restoring the mystery and beauty of giving birth, not so much for the parents’ benefit, but for the child him/herself, and while I’m not really in a position to do a comparative study on its scientific or even psychological merits, it certainly shook up my attitude towards the whole child birth experience. I use the word experience here, because I initially thought of the word “procedure”, and then realised that the difference between the two is precisely the kind of paradigm shift that I am trying to articulate. And if you think all of this sounds just fine coming from the man who won’t have to undergo labour, well, I was recommended this book by A in the first place. […]

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