A journey that started almost 9 months ago is slowly coming to an end, we're about to reach our final destination: the birth of our daughter. Frankly, I can't wait to see her, I can't wait to hold her in my arms and I can't wait to see my wife's condition returning back to normal.
It's been an extraordinary journey, the first of this kind for both of us and it has changed us, it brought us closer. When we decided to have our first child a year ago, it was a very logical and natural process. Both of us are in our 30s and waiting few more years would've not really made sense anymore, because having children is something we both always wanted. But a year ago my life was a whirlwind of emotions, I was visibly exhausted from first job in Taiwan and I was longing for a change. I managed to successfully transfer to a better company, but the lifestyle remained pretty much the same at that time - high pressure, long working hours. That affected both of us and I wasn't really sure, if having a baby in such tough period was a good idea. But then one day it suddenly happened: My wife got pregnant and everything changed. It's hard to describe what goes through someone's head in that moment, but it's definitely a lot of things, because something completely unknown to us was about to happen.
We started to read related articles, bought books and consulted friends, but we soon realized, that every woman and every couple have their own story, that might be completely foreign and unrelated to our experience. Based on what I know now, a pregnancy can be divided in three stages and each stage lasts approximately three months. The first stage is where the pregnancy is invisible on the outside, but the female body goes through various internal changes, which caused my wife to have severe nausea almost all the time. Other women may have the legendary morning sickness, some are lucky and don't suffer from anything. But for me it was quite challenging: It was a very hot Taipei summer and most of the time my wife had to lay down and rest. She was feeling very uncomfortable, her face expression was often very sour and I felt helpless. There was nothing we could do but just wait until it passes and try to make the best of it.
The second stage from fourth to sixth month was the best. The nausea was gone and my wife got the smile on her face again. That was the time, when we decided to visit my parents in Slovenia and enjoy a vacation together - it was our highlight of 2012. Close to the end of this stage she started to get a small tummy. She was still able to make it disappear with proper clothes, but for me this was the first very obvious sign, that a baby is growing inside her and that I'm becoming a father.
The third stage begun, when we returned from Europe. As her tummy began to grow more and more, she became more and more tired. The previously occasional medical checks became regular and have recently turned into a weekly affair. So far our daughter is doing fine, she's healthy, growing steadily and increasingly kicking my wife in the ribs. The often unpleasant kicks are in a way good news, because an active baby is a healthy baby. But my wife is now very round on the equator, a fact that's not very soothing to a soul of a woman, who always deeply cared about her waistline. "This is part of the process", I often comfort her and add words like: "You will soon be as slim as before."
In all truthfulness, the last stage is the most challenging. What appeared to be like kayaking in calm waters in the beginning now feels like approaching a waterfall. Her back hurts, she has trouble breathing smoothly at night, she gets exhausted very easily. In the beginning she was shy to sit on the priority seats in the Taipei's Metro and even hid her tummy, but now she's actively going for the blue seat. Hiding the pregnancy is impossible at this point, even if she'd put a lot of clothes on. The last time we visited the doctor he told us, that our daughter might come any time now - my wife's body is ready. She was advised to avoid eating rice, bread and noodles at this stage and instead eat more fruits and vegetables in order to avoid making our daughter heavier, which would cause a more difficult delivery. We believe, that we are now around two weeks away from the big moment, but we are not sure. It might happen a little earlier, perhaps next week, or a little later. Despite my wife's tough condition, the doctor advised her to exercise in order to be more fit for the delivery. Luckily the Lunar New Year (and a week long vacation) is just around the corner, which means we can go on a few little walks somewhere around Taipei and I hope, that we can strengthen our bodies and lift our spirits.
Becoming a father looks easy on the outside, but in my case it wasn't. I'm generally an emotional and passionate person and often terrible at keeping my feelings behind a poker face. This nearly nine months long journey of closely observing how new life is forming inside my wife has changed me in a very profound way. In the beginning I was full of doubts whether it was the right time to have a baby and this period continued well into the second stage. It was when I saw my dear ones in Slovenia again, that I started to shift my mind from focusing on job and career to family. When we returned to Taiwan and I saw the first 3D ultrasound images of my daughter, my mind completely shifted. The grey clouds passed and I became more and more excited about the new member of our small family. I started to observe other kids with their fathers and imagined me with my future daughter, the Facebook baby photos suddenly seemed less bothersome, I begun to ask my wife all kinds of questions related to babies - I was surprised how quickly all these changes happened.
It's liberating, when you finally come to terms with your inner skeptic, but it also brings new concerns to the table. The last few weeks have been full of sleepless nights for me, because I just contemplate to much about various challenges that I might face right before labour and right after our daughter arrives. We prepared some things in advance like the baby bed, blankets, diapers and a baby carrier; our friends were so kind to send us tons of baby clothes and there is lots of other gifts on the way (to all the friends who sent us something: Thank you!). But you can only prepare so much. I've never thought, that something so trivial like buying a mattress for the baby bed would be so challenging: You have to think about everything. If the mattress is too soft, the baby might choke on it, if it's too firm, it won't be comfortable. It took me a lot of time to decide on one and I'm still not sure, if it's the right one or not. Sometimes it's best not to google baby stuff, because you get so many reviews, that completely contradict each other - it can drive you crazy.
Creating new life is the ultimate adult thing to do. Perhaps I'm realizing, that I'm now entering the second half of my life and that the young version of me is departing for good. Being responsible for such a fragile and innocent living being is a huge challenge and responsibility, especially for someone, who's never done it before. I guess I will be learning on the job and I will make mistakes, but I know I will find my way - we both will. Sometimes at night when I'm thinking about all these things I tend to forget that I'm not alone in this - I have a great partner and I know we will be just fine, because we are a great team. Keep your fingers crossed for us, it's crunch time.