I'm home after a long day at work - my third in a new job - and have been prattling on about it to my wife for a good 15 minutes. 'Shhh. Close your eyes. Hold out your hand.' She's surprised me with unscheduled pressies before, so, grinning like - as it turns out - an idiot, I do as she says. An object is placed in my right hand. It's light, oblong, feels like plastic.
I open my eyes and look down. 'Oh,' I manage. Then add, with a hasty stab at enthusiasm, 'A pen!' In my head, I'm thinking: It's not even a rollerball. Nice one, wife.
She's looking at me oddly; I peer again. Hang about, what's this? Where on other, lewder pens you might find a tiny lady doing a striptease, on this one is etched a delicate, light-blue cross. Isn't that the national flag of Finland? Could this be the official pen of the Finnish Tourist Board? (My wife works in travel, so this isn't as moronic as it sounds.) Finally, with the velocity of a milk float, the realisation arrives: this is no pen I hold in my hand. 'Dear God,' I think, 'this is a baby.' And then, 'Dear God – this has been weed on.'
Our pregnancy isn't exactly unplanned, but I don't think either of us expected it quite so quickly - potting the black off the break, as it were. And no matter how prepared for The Moment you think you are, discovering your inner dad is a disorienting business. I spend the first couple of minutes in a sledgehammer daze - 'Wow… I mean: wow… This is so, just, wow…', etc. The subsequent five are devoted to reassuring my wife that, yes, I really do think this is great news. But next comes the deep-level shock of life undergoing a tectonic shift, the tremors of which are sure to intensify over the coming seven months.
These feelings are dizzying and hard to decode, but are all classifiable under the broad heading 'yikes'. Three in particular bob to the surface:
'This doesn't seem real': an odd sensation, considering fatherhood is one of the realest events that can happen. I'm dealing with this by thinking about my mates who have recently become dads - they are shuffling, sleep-deprived shadows of their former selves; being a dad is clearly a puking, pooing, 3am-screaming reality for them. But they are, to a man, deliriously happy. They have told me it's the best experience in the world, and they are my friends, so I believe them.
'My life is spinning out of control'. Pregnancy is often seen as a torpedo sent to scupper all your grand plans and half-finished projects. I am trying hard to remember that, really, the opposite is true: one glance inside our fridge would tell you that for us life has always been slightly haphazard and unmanageable. But from now on all will be be guided under the reins of a proper purpose. Routine! Budgeting! Responsible parenting! Bring it on!
A swell of paternal pride: not for the baby that's now underway in my wife's belly - it hasn't done anything worthy of note yet, other than latch on - but pride instead for my reproductive cells, those intrepid little downstairs adventurers that made it all happen in the first place. They actually work. Amazing. The thought gives me my first inkling of the glow a father feels when he sees his child master a bicycle, or bring home a glowing school report, or come a close third at triple-jump on sports day. Well done, Team Fertile. That's my boys.