Sunday, April 16, 2006

Je ne suis pas le père

The first few days I’ve been helping the friend move to the new apartment and settle down. Really, those who’s not been pregnant before can’t imagine how difficult it can be doing everyday tasks. I’m learning everyday about the untold hardships, from experience, and from the complaints (and whines) of my friend. Everything has to be done slowly, and carefully. It’s not just one life, but two lives, that are at stake here now, as I often say. I try to make the diet as varied and balanced as possible, but it’s difficult since my friend was warned after a blood test that her blood sugar is overly high. There’s many things that she can’t or should only eat in moderation…rice, bread, and fruits even! Calcium-rich products are a must, since the baby takes a lot of it away, and a deficiency can cause cramps that leave my friend screaming in pain in the middle of the night. Cookies, sweeties and chocolates are definite no-no’s. She’s often quite hungry, as the baby grows the most in the final month or so of pregnancy. And it’s best to have a little bit more than the daily recommended allowance of nutrition for an adult, but not too much more, spread over many meals in one day.

I look at my friend, often as she sleeps. Pregnancy takes a lot out of a person…physically, emotionally and psychologically. The fact that the stomach gets bigger is obvious, but then all the pains and cramps associated with that, and constantly carrying a 5kg sack around adds a lot of strain. And there are the nauseas, the constant need to ‘answer nature’s call’, the ugly cobweb-like stretch marks and lines strewn all over the body due to the bloated belly. And then there are the fears and uncertainties. How will the birth be? What about after birth, and the process of growing up? A mother’s heart and worries are never at ease. All the while, hormones are raging, and the baby constantly wriggles and kicks, seemingly purposely just as the mother is trying to get some rest. It’s sweet and touching to see a mother with a baby on a bus or strolling in the park…and it’s surprising the kind of things that a child could do or say, but what you don’t see is all the hidden pains and difficulties that make those idyllic scenes possible. It’s a full time job, which requires a lot of commitment, patience… and most of all, love.

Being with my big bellied friend, to be honest, is a little embarrassing at times. Whenever I accompanied my friend to the hospital, I’d mentally rehearse the phrase “Je ne suis pas le père” (I am not the father). The look in people’s eyes every time someone looks at us walking side by side, feels as if they thinking that I’m the ‘responsible one’. The more I think about it the more I feel stupid and somewhat selfish to be worrying about what other people might think. I mean, as a single parent my friend has a lot more to be worried about. It’s just that the thought that I could ‘father’ another being into this world seems really terrifying. I’ve never imagined that I’d be able be a father, despite what others say about my caring and attentive nature. And this past week taking care of my friend made me even more certain about my doubts of ever being able to father a child. It’s all so intimate, so intense, and so physical…it all feels so, put mildly, off-putting.

I discovered more about myself the past week or so. I’m glad to be helping a friend, because it is really in helping others that I find purpose in my life. And the many expressions of gratitude and praises of my ‘sacrifices’ are to me unnecessary. At one moment, while I was busy in the kitchen, my friend suddenly cried out and beckoned me to go to her quickly. On the dew-covered window “David is an angle” appeared out of nowhere. A most unsuspected divination, we both joked. I felt embarrassed, lost for words, and even a little ashamed, for no reason.

But I don’t feel like an angel, despite what many others have said about me. Sure I help, sure I am there when my friend is in need, but as the days go by I seem to grow tired, and at times irritated. Perhaps it’s the fact that you spent so much time together with one person in a confined space, in which wherever you turn the person is to be see…perhaps it’s the whole depressing atmosphere, made worse at times by more grumbles and grievances…or perhaps it’s just me, being distracted and torn and preoccupied with thoughts of what little I have accomplished ever since I got back to Europe. Those ‘grand plans’ and visions of getting a job and once and for all settling for a study seem so far away now.

Another day, another moment gone by.

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