Having children is about having more life, not less

Something I wrote for the Associated Press, in time for Father’s Day

When I revealed that my wife was pregnant I didn’t expect to be told, “Well done!”. Of course I expected congratulations, but for becoming a father. Not for simply managing to successfully impregnate my wife.

My unborn son is now so unavoidably big (36 weeks and counting) that it’s like he’s here already, sharing our bath, our sofa and our bed.

But the evidence that we’re growing an actual person is still awe-inspiring, from the naive surprise I felt seeing him wake up and stretch out like a cat during his first scan to the wonder of being kicked in the side of the head from beyond the womb.

Two things instantly occurred to me when we discovered he was a boy. My desire to protect and defend him from other boys and, equally, my desire to introduce him to the magic of leg spin bowling.

When his name became obvious almost as quickly it made opening up to him even easier than opening up to his mother, and meant that this initial spark of connection has grown to the point where I already miss him.

I’m impatient to feel the weight of his little body, to take him out on my own and carry him around. To introduce him to friends, at work, or just to random passersby.

At the same time I have been more than a little scared of him. Selfishly, I want the love I feel for him to be returned in a way I can appreciate and understand. I want him to be proud of me. He will have the power to elevate me, but also to destroy me.

My biggest fear is that knowing this will encourage me to protect myself from him, and that by trying to avoid being vulnerable I’ll only succeed in putting distance between us. So that in the end he’ll never know how much I really love him.

It seems trivial to worry about how expensive babies are, or how little sleep I’ll get, or how they cry and cry and cry. The fact is I know I’ll have to stop myself waking him up just to play with him.

I can’t wait to see if he recognises my voice after all these heart-to-bump chats we’ve been having, or to start interpreting his facial expressions or his noises. I haven’t once worried about how he’ll turn out or whether we’ll be good parents. I know that all we need to do is love him and trust him.

Our lives are going to change completely but that’s why we wanted to have a baby in the first place. I’m looking forward to the hard work. I’m looking forward to our lives getting bigger, busier, noisier.

For me, having children is about having more life, not less. I know that there will always be room for the things that make me who I am. The challenge of being a father is deciding what I can live without, and what my son wouldn’t want me to live without.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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