For those who don't know: Susan is currently expecting our first child.
(By "expecting", I mean "growing internally". A bit like a cannabis plant, but more expensive.)
It's an exciting, disturbing and costly time. There's stuff to buy, stuff to research, stuff to prepare and book and make. And Susan's appetite, always healthy, is growing positively heroic. Having spent years learning to cook smaller portions, now I find she can eat as much in one sitting as I can. The difference being that while I typically eat only a light breakfast and/or a light lunch followed by a proper dinner, she currently eats solidly for three or more meals a day. I think of myself as following the "camel" model, whereas she's closer to "cormorant".
And it seems as if there's a carefully constructed script that we're supposed to follow. No-one has given us a copy - which is fine by me - but somehow we're meant to know it.
The midwife tells us some of it. Yesterday, for instance, S had a blood test that's supposed to tell whether she may be developing diabetes - the midwife told us about that one. And the various ultrasound scan sessions. (For some reason, it's customary to refer to the image one sees on these occasions as "perfectly formed". I don't know about anyone else's experience, but what I saw on the screen would not have looked out of place on a Halloween mask.)
And we're shopping for all the hideous paraphernalia of early parenthood. Cots and bassinets and mattresses and changing tables and strollers and child seats and day-care facilities and who knows what we've forgotten? (Apart from the people trying to sell it to us, of course.)
At this point, I'm wondering through what loophole "parenthood" has slipped into the modern world as something that's still allowed to be done by amateurs. If you want to build a house, or a bridge, or a car, or open a pub, or treat a sick animal (let alone a human), or even cut down a tree in this country - there's a whole grand checklist of things you need to know and do, and even enterprising, can-do people will take time to research it. Most of us, most of the time, will just find someone who's qualified to do it for us.
But not parenting. There are plenty of books that tell you how to do it, but there's no nationally-mandated standard or test to pass. There is no compliance certificate for children.
I'm not complaining. It just seems - incongruous, that's all. After all: the arguments for building codes - that it affects public safety and hygiene, makes a material difference to people's lives, that faults may not become apparent for many years after building, may be impossible or outrageously expensive to fix later - all apply a fortiori to raising a child.