The road to parenthood becoming a fruitful reality is approximately 40 weeks long. Try as you may, you just cannot go above the nature-regulated speed limit. This journey, to me, is a bit like a board game. More often than not, you go from the starting point to the winner's circle on a set path, and lady luck occasionally throws you a few lucky rolls of the dice, the outcomes of which are anybody's guess.
As a father, I see pregnancy as five complex yet beautiful phases.
Phase 1: Wonderful beginnings
From a man's point of view, this stage almost always starts with either a "Yay, we're pregnant!" or a "I'm pregnant with your child".
"Be prepared for a lot of 'Do I look fat in this?' or 'I don't fit into those jeans anymore'."
Great, you're expecting! This has to be amazing news. Both of you are excited beyond words, and suddenly everywhere you turn, you can't help but notice expectant couples. You personally want to shout out the news from the top of a very high building, but you do somehow keep the news to only immediate family/friends. You dote on your partner and are available at her beck and call. Her tiniest ooh, her smallest aah has you in a flurry of concern. If you are a couple that enjoy the occasional drink, you voluntarily vow to take a detox along with the mother until the little one(s) is/are out. This phase usually lasts until the first proper scan.
Phase 2: Ups & downs
You've just accompanied your partner for her first scan. As much as you hate to admit it, you've been jittery for the past couple of days -- after all, this scan is black and white proof of your impending parenthood. The scan goes well, your excitement is confirmed, and you've now officially got an ultrasound image of something that resembles a cross between a mid-size squashed coffee bean and a baby chimp. Though you are vividly aware of both the scan technician and your better half squealing in delight at the apparent features of your baby, you probably are squinting at the screen, unable to differentiate the baby's head from its feet. Fear not, for research has shown that men struggle with inkblot tests, which would probably go some way to explain our lack of skill in this field.
However, the ride is not entirely stress-free. As your baby grows, so does your partner, albeit very slowly. And invariably so do your partner's pregnancy-related syndromes -- nausea, tiredness, an absolute aversion to some previously well-liked aromas, to name just a few.
To add to your misery, your partner now starts to show signs of weight gain; unfortunately the worst part of this is that she now starts to look more overweight than pregnant. So be prepared for a lot of "Do I look fat in this?" or "I don't fit into those jeans anymore".
Be patient -- she deserves to complain. However, this is where the luck of the dice starts to come into play for the first time in this board game of pregnancy. Your partner could have all, some or none of these symptoms at all. This phase also sets off a round of maternity-related purchases --maternity clothes, baby toys and so on.
Phase 3: Calm before the storm
As a couple, you are now approximately seven months into your pregnancy. In all likelihood, your partner has now been set free from the vicious hold of the initial pregnancy -related symptoms. Or perhaps, the two of you have made peace with them and accepted them as part and parcel of this wonderful journey.
"At approximately eight-plus months starts the penultimate leg of this lovely journey. Be prepared to hear this phrase, at least once a day: 'I hate you!'"
By now, the signs of pregnancy are really starting to show -- she with her cute round bump and you with those monstrous dark circles under your eyes as well as your overall dishevelled state. Personally this is one of the best stages of the pregnancy -- your partner gets a lot of attention from everyone, loads of congratulatory messages and plenty of "You look so beautiful / You're glowing" messages. It's great because these feed her ego, and hence you are inevitably much more relaxed.
However, you can't secretly help but wonder if you should invest in a king-size bed, in the hope that this might stop you from being kicked out at night. Have fun while this lasts.
Phase 4: "I hate you... and everything else"
At approximately eight-plus months starts the penultimate leg of this lovely journey. Be prepared to hear this phrase, at least once a day: "I hate you!"
She finds it difficult to breathe, and everything part of her body that can swell, will. Maternity clothes stop fitting and she even finds it an arduous task to wear any kind of footwear that involves straps or a pair of laces. And you find yourself at the receiving end of every single outburst. You're torn between wanting to take care of her, and secretly wanting to stay a bit longer at work -- until she goes to bed, perhaps. But at this stage, even a simple thing like a nap is excruciatingly difficult for her to come by.
Once again, be patient. We men can whine and whinge all we want when we are able to do what she is doing - growing a life. Until then, be as loving and kind as you can be. At this point, though, your resolve to abstain from alcohol (refer Phase 1) is beginning to falter, especially when you hear for the millionth time from friends and well-wishers: "Haven't you guys had the baby yet?"
Phase 4 culminates with both of you secretly harbouring the same thoughts - "I don't care if that baby needs to be pulled out through the ears, I just wish it'd hurry up!"
Phase 5: The miracle of birth
This phase often starts with a long resounding aaah from your better half, which progressively gets repeated every 10 minutes or so. So you do the best thing possible -- call the maternity wing and let them know you think the bun has been in the over long enough.
Depending on your luck, you'll either be asked to come in straight away, or the duty nurse will insist on speaking to the mother-to-be to assess the situation. Eventually, your partner will make it to the hospital. She'll be "comfortably" (yeah, right!) settled on the hospital bed, dressed in a traditional maternity gown, bed at a half-elevated position. As for you, you're just sitting around by the bed, waiting for the inevitable. Besides the occasional visits from the maternity nurse and the doctor-on-call, the two of you have some quality time to pass. Unfortunately, neither of you are in the mood to have lengthy philosophical or romantic conversations.
Sooner or later, the fated moment will materialise, and riding on these waves of pushes and deep breaths shall arrive the answer to the age-old travel question, "are we there yet?": Your little bundle of joy!
Sounds simple, doesn't it?