It took me a long time to realise I wanted to have a kid – I genuinely wasn’t sold for many years. Once I finally decided it might be a grand idea, of course it wasn’t that simple. We weren’t sure we’d be actually be able to; there was a fantasy back up plan in case we couldn’t (an apartment in Walsh Bay, complete with child unfriendly decor and lifestyle). But unbelievably, thrillingly and terrifyingly we found out she was on her way two Easters ago; due to arrive the following Christmas. Our little holiday baby.
The pregnancy was awesome for me. I had no morning sickness and although tired it was nothing unbearable. I didn’t show until well after six months (and then it all happened one weekend, just like that. I rocked up at work on Monday and it was like I got knocked up, immediately and enormously, over the weekend). For the vast bulk of it I was bursting with energy, although I maintain that it was more likely the fact that I was off the turps for the longest time since…well, let’s not count. (At one stage during said pregnancy, I told Tim I felt so great that I was considering never drinking again. Exhibit A: red wine in my hand as I type. Sigh.)
It wasn’t so great for our girl though. Halfway through, we found out that one of her kidneys hadn’t developed properly. We started going for more regular check ups, and at each appointment the news got worse. The kidney was pelvic, non-functioning. There were a lot of cysts throughout her wee body and it was hard to tell which organs were affected and what the outcome would be. Her bowel may not have developed, or may have blockages, potentially requiring surgery immediately after birth and then throughout her young life. I was advised to go on a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit to prepare myself (and did, right before a fairly important work meeting. Worst diary management ever).
On the scale of problems that we could have had it was completely manageable; she was always going to make it and there is so much worse that can happen. But it was devastating in its way and after waiting a long time for her it was hard to understand, to rationalise. Uncharacteristically we made an effort to discuss it with people, mainly to prepare ourselves. Unsurprisingly everyone was lovely about it; people always are. But what did surprise me was the number of people who – in a completely non-callous way – sort of shrugged it off, said it wouldn’t matter and that all would be well. At the time I was a little affronted; I knew they didn’t mean it dismissively but it wasn’t until she came along that I really understood the intent.
Because, of course, none of that matters at all. She could have been perfectly healthy, and we would have loved her completely. She could have been terribly unwell, and we would have felt exactly the same. Other than wanting her to be as pain free as possible, her health or any other variable factors don’t matter at all. As it happens, her scenario is one of the better cases presented to us – only one kidney and a bunch of cysts, but an excellent long term prognosis (she needs to be careful around salt, but that just means her mama will take the hot chips for the team). I guess I could not fully understand this prior to her arriving, even though everyone tells you that’s how you’ll feel, but we couldn’t love her any more than we do.
She turns one tomorrow. Like all parents say, it’s been both the longest and the swiftest year of my life. There have been monumental events, like our move to The Europes, which would have been unlikely to occur without her being born. There have been less dramatic but nonetheless life changing events, like the first time she belly laughed, which was the single best sound I’ve ever heard (and the thrill has not worn off; I suspect she’ll be belly laughing at fifty and I’ll be loving it the most).
As always, my feelings are better encapsulated by someone else, in this case her father. There was a night, early on, when we’d been up multiple times with her for hours on end and we were both exhausted – nothing new for parents of small babies. Tim turned to me, bleary eyed at about 4am and said ‘she’s brought so much love into our lives’. And for that, our little one year old Adelaide Thea, we are the luckiest people in the world.
“There have been less dramatic but nonetheless life changing events, like the first time she belly laughed”
I, too, have a favourite moment like that. She was playing peek-a-boo from behind the couch and would give a giggle just before popping her head out with an enormous grin on her face.
That will stay with me for a long time.