‘How big is a baby dinosaur?’ my son asks. ‘It depends,’ I say, ‘but that’s not really what we…’
‘Will it be green?’
‘No, we’re trying to tell you…’
‘Will it be as big as a bus?’
Conversations like this have been relatively frequent for the past few weeks, since my wife and I told our son that we are expecting… a baby. I guess we’re telling you now, too. Congratulations us! We’re thrilled, to be honest. We’d had a hard go of it second time round and were beginning to think it wasn’t to be. But then all of a sudden, it was, and now, it is.
She’s a little girl and, at 27 weeks, we don’t know an awful lot about her. She seems nice, has fingers and toes in the right places and appears to have a passion for thumbsucking. We also know she’s categorically not a dinosaur, but it’s taking her older brother a while to get used to this.
We’d already broken the one rule of these things – which is not to phrase the news as a question. ‘Would you like a little brother or sister?’ we’d asked him, which received a cheerfully adamant, ‘No!’ a couple of months ago. Luckily, we’d caught him in an off moment, so by the time my wife started visibly showing we were able to ‘tell’ him for the first time all over again. In fact we ended up having to telltold him for the first time on three or four occasions. I don’t know what we expected. Ambivalence, I suppose. Resentment? Disbelief? But all we got was delight, interrogation and a good deal of poking and prodding.
Some nights he bounds over, lacking the tact usually desirable when charging towards a pregnant woman and plants his ear to his mum’s stomach, tuning out the world and hearing, well, not very much at all. The fact that she will be a little girl seems exciting to him, albeit a source of confusion. He still refers to people of all genders as ‘he’, with a patriarchal mindset we hope to dislodge through careful social programming. Mostly, however, she’s ‘it’.
‘Will it have blue eyes and red hair?’ he asks, on those evenings he has grasped she will not be a dinosaur. We tell him we don’t know and ask what he would prefer. He thinks she should be bright white, but with black eyes, and her name should be ‘Pizza’. This preference will last a few minutes before he decides her name should be ‘Pea’, then ‘Minnie’, then ‘baby Alexander’, with no reason given for such choices. He conjures these while belly-eared, like an eavesdropping butler in an Edwardian farce, or a survivalist listening to the ground for news of a storm. He says thoughtful, adoring things like ‘Hello’ and ‘Shhhh’ and ‘What are you?’ He has even been known to sidle up and kiss said belly in a display so self-consciously adorable it’s hard not to believe he knows exactly what he’s doing.
As we consider the pitfalls and anxieties of going round the newborn carousel again, we’re not sure what to think ourselves. ‘Can it be a dog?’ my son asks. Sure, we have concerns and worries of our own. But other questions take precedence for now.
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78
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