Monday, September 13, 2010


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.


mumsie said...

The "new parent business" has really taken off in your life time. When we were in your situation nearly everything came as hand-me-downs from friends and acquaintances. We bought a new mattress for the very good wooden cot that had served 3 little girls, then served your brothers and you very well before finding a new appreciative home. The large "nanny" prams then in use also served several families in turn.

My mother refurbished the beautiful "moses-basket" she had prepared for my arrival, etc.etc.
I don't think the term "parenting" had been coined, we just got on with it. Maybe that is why I have always felt that new parents should be allowed to have their first baby on trial, or loan for say, a year, then send the little treasure back and start again!

Susan is lucky; she gets on well with her own mother who lives within reach and is relatively young.

Look after her, and if you can stop her "eating for two" so much the better. For the rest, enjoy this happy time of anticipation.

I'm glad they hadn't started doing routine scans; feeling the baby kicking around was so exciting AND private.

Deadlyjelly said...

Great to hear everything is progressing well. You poor man: everyone says it's the woman has all the hard work in procreation, but don't be fooled. Make sure you make Susan give you regular foot rubs.


vet said...

mumsie, nice thought, we could do with a heirloom Moses basket about now... But shipping it would probably be a lot more trouble than it's worth. You know what biosecurity is like in this country - by the time it got here, the kid would probably be about ready for school.

DJ, thanks for your sympathy. I don't know how you knew, but I sprained my ankle clearing stuff out of the spare room last weekend. So yeah, now I'm getting regular ankle rubs with Deep Heat.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that this was a great read throughout. Playful and quick language and so on...