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Sea Biscuit
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Babies, budgets and bedlam

08 April 2013, 19:27
Kim Dae-jung.  Who?  My sentiments exactly. 

It should have been me who walked off with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. 
All Kim Dae-jung did was work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and promote peace and reconciliation with North Korea.

And that’s considered a big deal because…?
I too campaigned tirelessly for democracy and human rights.  I too advocated peace and reconciliation.  Yes, 12 years ago, I too was in the trenches. 

In 2000 I lived with - and survived – an expectant woman.

Granted, living with a pregnant woman is not as dangerous as pruning roses without the proper protective gloves, but it can still be a thorny affair at times.

Even though I tried to make the experience as enjoyable and life affirming for my wife as possible, I got the impression that she was in a constant mood of irrational irritation with everyone and everything.  But mainly with me. 
I got through this difficult time by agreeing with everything Tara said –

“Yes dear, whatever you say dear.”

“I’ll never have another beer for as long as I live dear.”

“I think it’s excellent that your mother wants to come and stay for the weekend, dear.”

I was even able to muster a smile when Tara handed me the “list.” 
I say a list.  It was more a catalogue of “essentials” for first time mothers.  And we’re not just talking a few receiving blankets, a bottle brush and a carry cot.

A cursory glance at the 70 or so “must haves” revealed that I was going to have to fork out the kind of money that would feed all the impoverished children of a small third world country for a month. 
Panic set in.  I was seriously considering auctioning off an organ on eBay. 

Having children is an expensive hobby, but it’s not all about dipping into your overdraft or reaching for the chequebook.  And a certain pop princess agrees with me.

Whinnying on that "it's not about the money, money, money," Jessie J captures the essence of parenthood beautifully with her song “Price Tag.”    (Although, if you live in a kraal somewhere in Bophuthatswana and your only earthly possession is a listless Saanen dairy goat, it’s probably a good idea not to have too many ankle biters roaming around).

Over time and through hard work and perseverance, Tara and I were able to tick off most of the items on the list.   The baby shower and our parents’ generosity also alleviated the burden and thankfully I was able to keep my kidneys.

My point is this - A man of money can only do so much.  What a woman with a bun in the oven really craves is empathy.  You have to be supportive on an emotional and spiritual level.  When Carolyn was born, I gave Tara a gift that no money could ever buy.  It was the gift of self-sacrifice.

I took a step back so that I could extricate myself from the beautiful bonding process between mother and daughter.  
My wife, still doe eyed and slightly feral on account of her hormones being out sync, didn’t appreciate this selfless gesture.

Tara was annoyed that she was the one having to get up at 02:38 when Carolyn cried for her bottle or needed her nappy changed.

Through subtle persuasion the  dictator, er I mean wife, convinced me that dodging the draft was not an option.  I was forced to enlist and became another casualty of the dreaded pyjama drill.

For the first few days it was more maddening than trying to open a childproof medicine bottle, but by using shortcuts and relying on my ingenuity, I could soon change a nappy with military precision.

Did you know that a stapler has many more uses than just keeping a stack of paper together?  Carolyn’s Pampers Extra Dry were never snugger, I’m sure.

I never thought I would have to remember any of this stuff, but I’m so glad I do.

Twelve years is a long time. Can you blame me for thinking that my little soldiers had packed their bags and gone home?  Given up the war so to speak?

They obviously still had plenty of fight left in them, because at the ripe old age of 39, I am to become a conscript yet again. 
“Dad’s Army,” here I come!

It’s still early days (my wife is only nine weeks pregnant) but our household is already abuzz of excitement.
Tara and I, grizzled veterans that we are, know what to expect.  After all, we did a fine job of raising our firstborn.
Carolyn doesn’t smoke.  She doesn’t drink.  And there is no mass hysteria in our house when a Justin Bieber video airs on MTV.
Okay, so Carolyn is only 11 years old, but still…children are very impressionable.

Having a child changes your priorities completely.
Yes, chances are pretty good that I’ll be staring bankruptcy in the face.  Yes, there will be sleep deprivation. And yes, our social life just flew out of the window.

But I know we'll cope.

When you look down on that rosy, sleeping face, it is of absolutely no importance that your bank balance is nil, the only luxury in the grocery cupboard is a tin of baked beans and that you haven’t had more than a couple of hours sleep for a week.

My to do list:  Vasectomies.  Get  as many opinions as possible. Still undecided.  A so-called "expert" on some or other website said it doesn't hurt as much as giving birth.  Not reassuring at all.

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