I thought I had the full kit. As far as human emotion ran, I was pretty sure my sticker album was full. For a good few years I thought I’d felt it all, and there’d be nothing fresh until the umpie called stumps.
Then a midwife named Bianca bent down, scooped you up and stuck you on your mother’s chest.
Ten weeks later and I still don’t know what I experienced when I first tried to make sense of you. Those big, black, unblinking saucers fixed on your mother, who cried gently. I stood there mute, letting the women get on with it. There seemed so much to do as they fussed around you. Your dad was just privileged to be a part of it, and apart from it. It had been a long day.
At some point your mum said to me: “This is your daughter. This is Lola.”
I could tell you some stories about her. Sixteen years ago I set eyes on your mother for the first time. She was barefoot, sashaying across a stage in a white blouse and a black leather skirt with an acoustic guitar strapped to her stomach. I sat cross-legged on the carpet.
There was something about your mother.
Two years later I was putting together a band and she answered an ad in [Perth magazine] X-Press. It doesn’t seem important now, but since my placement of that ad is responsible for your very existence, I’m going to tell you what it said:-
Bass player & female singer sought by guitarist to form original band. Inf: Mazzy Star & Radiohead. Ph 9249 2241
I think of the wording of that ad and wonder what would have happened had I used different bands. Garbage maybe, I quite liked them, or U2. Would the words have had the same feel? Would your mum have picked up the phone?
I was 22 years old.
Our union has been a bit like a footy team: periods of success, periods of failure, periods when you thought it might fold and periods when you thought the good times would never end. At the moment it’s in a rebuilding phase, but we’re committed and the foundation is strong.
I had to be dragged into the concept of parenthood – I never felt like I needed you to complete me.
I remember having a chat with my own mother, who was expressing her horror regarding some celebrity she’d read about who had said he didn’t want to have kids. She was outraged.
“I mean, why wouldn’t you want to leave something behind?”
And I still remember the look in my mother’s eye, gravely ill, when we told her your mum and I were trying for a child. I’d never see her that happy again.
Even once we’d made the decision to have you, you didn’t come easy. But for the grace of modern medicine … You’re our little petri dish delight. The day you were ‘implanted’ was probably the best of the entire IVF experience. Your mum and me, not knowing what to expect, looking up at a slide with three perfect, intertwined circles in it.
Our specialist said: “You make very nice embryos.”
“C’mon,” your mum said, legs akimbo, “I bet you say that to everyone.”
“No. I don’t,” she replied. I believed her.
And so, 10 weeks into your life, some things are beginning to become apparent. Things like:
– Farting for you seems to be very hard labour. Rest assured, that will get easier but no less fun.
– High-pitched, sing-song voices elicit smiles and the occasional giggle, which is like music.
– My Sean Connery and Bob Hoskins impersonations tickle you but just when I think I’ve found a guaranteed way to make you smile, you get bored and change things up. Keeping me on my toes.
– No matter how bad a night has been, the day is always better.
– Breast milk seems to fix everything.
– You have funky-smelling hands when they’ve been inside mittens all day, and your feet are like lint magnets.
– There seems to be a direct relationship between sneezing and bowel movements.
– And it’s all magic.
I’m sorry your dad’s not much use at this stage of the game. I can change a nappy and settle you for your mum so she can get a couple of hours kip before I come to bed. Sometimes I’ll read to you, and others I’ll just put you in your little vibrating chair and rock you with my toe. Once you’re settled I can have a read of the paper, or rat-tat-tat on the laptop, trying to string some words together.
I’m looking forward to being able to share more of myself as you get older. No doubt you’ll hold Rocky in the same affectionate contempt with which I held Shane, my dad’s favourite movie. That’s the way it’s meant to be.
But when I’m old and infirm and you’ve packed me away to a retirement village, I’ll always have that image of you, just so born, looking up at your mum in the half light.