I woke up earlier than usual. In a couple of hours I would get the train to London to fulfil a lifelong ambition – a day’s cricket at Lord’s. I’m easily pleased.
I had a weird hand-me-down phone that was years out of date, and when it was charging it made no sound when somebody phoned or texted. I picked my phone up and saw “33 missed calls, 1 text message.” Somehow there was something a lot more menacing about the one text message than the 33 calls. I opened the message and read. “Calum, you have to pick up. I’m pregnant.”
What do you do when your girlfriend of three months tells you she’s pregnant?
If I am being totally honest, during those first few seconds there was a fairly big part of me that thought, “Shit, no cricket.”
Having called Hedda back and assured her that everything would be ok (Probably. Possibly. “It could have been an AIDS test.”), I had a leisurely shower and strolled down the Cowley Road to her flat. I’m not trying to make myself sound cool, I mean my stomach was starting to dance around a bit by now, but it’s not like she was waiting on CPR or something, and I figured rushing about like a lunatic wouldn’t help my mental state. Besides, it was too late to make her unpregnant. I even had time to let my friend know that “something’s come up” and to have a good day at the cricket.
Anyway, she stood teary-eyed in the doorway when I arrived, but that’s about as far as I’ll take that day. I remember it was pushing 30 degrees outside.
Caught in that awkward stage between being feckless teenagers at one end, and financially comfortable within a stable and established relationship at the other, it nevertheless seemed the only option was to prepare ourselves to become parents a little earlier than we’d have planned. Sometimes I look at my son and am frightened to think about my initial instinct on finding out Hedda was pregnant, which didn’t exactly welcome the prospect with open arms.
I would need to write a series of books to fully describe the next four years, but it has included two countries, five homes – of varying quality, one property purchase, language courses with classmates from about every modern war zone (“Where in Libya are you from?” “Tripoli.” “Big city.” “Shit city.”), countless job interviews, a hideous carbon footprint, many, many tantrums (a few from my son as well), and just to keep us on our toes, another baby. I finally got round to popping the question to Hedda last summer, trying desperately hard to concentrate as Johan tried his utmost to uproot a potted tree in the background.
The grey hairs that first appeared at the tender age of 26 are a small price to pay for what Johan has brought to my life. One of the best things about parenthood is that you stop taking your own self so seriously and concentrate more on the things that really matter. It’s often stressful, at times extremely so, and certainly the hardest thing I have ever done, but I guess in the end the aim is to give him a better life than I have had (which hasn’t been bad at all). I don’t beat myself up about anything as much as being a Dad – did I play with him enough today, was I too harsh at dinner-time, did I get shampoo in his eye, does he like his birthday presents, is this apartment big enough for him, does he notice that I’m stressed? But you just try to tell yourself you’re doing your best, and try to minimise the psychological damage your many flaws will inflict on him. I never quite understood that cliche about not being able to remember a time before your children came along. I do – quite a lot happened. But it does seem a little emptier at times. Not at 6am on a Sunday though.
It’s not just the physical looking after of children, it’s the fact that just about everything you do is in some way connected to the aim of making their existence – both today and in the future – as comfortable and happy as possible, often putting yourself through things you wouldn’t have dreamt of doing previously. I stood in the rain and cold for an hour yesterday morning and watched Johan go down the same slide for the 67th time. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else in the world.
I have still never been to Lord’s.