Learning I was going to be a dad

As our son swiftly approaches his first birthday, I’ve been thinking back over so many things to do with his birth and how he has become such a big part of our life over the last twelve months. In fact, I’ve also been thinking back to the day when I found out that I was going to become a father.

Back in August 2012, the Summer Olympics were taking place in London. I was in the UK for the first half of the games and watched some of the big events live on television with my wife, including a Saturday evening of athletics in which the UK won three gold medals. However, I was in Paris for the second week of the Olympics. In some ways, this seemed kind of ironic as Paris had been London’s main rival in the battle to host the games.

As I teach French at a university in Wales, France is a country that I visit fairly regularly. In August 2012, I was doing some research about multiculturalism and comedy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (the National Library of France). I was in daily contact with my wife via phone, text and Skype during this time, mainly in the evenings after I’d completed a day of reading and note-taking in the archives.

La Bibliothèque nationale de France, a place that took on a new significance for me in August 2012...

La Bibliothèque nationale de France, a place that took on a new significance for me in August 2012…

On the last day of my stay in Paris, my wife tried to ring me on my mobile in the middle of the afternoon. Being a responsible library user, I had my phone on silent. As we’d mainly been chatting in the evenings during my stay, I was a bit curious as to why my wife had decided to ring me at a different time when she knew that I’d be likely to be in the library. Due to my curiosity, I gathered my papers and laptop together and went out into a part of the library where using mobile phones was permitted.

When I phoned my wife, I got the feeling that she was excited and had some news that she wanted to share. Her way of doing so was to suggest that I didn’t bring home any unpasteurised French cheese from France. Thankfully I was aware of the fact that  UK guidelines to pregnant woman include a recommendation to avoid unpasteurised cheese, so this perhaps roundabout way of breaking the news certainly did not leave me feeling mystified. I’m sure that I’d promised to bring home some tasty French cheese during the trip, as I often do when I go to France, and we’d probably even discussed what sorts to get.

My wife had been planning to do the pregnancy test once I’d got back from France but she was getting increasingly emotional and excited about the possibility of being pregnant. It wasn’t just us potentially becoming parents that she’d been getting emotional about. Indeed, one of the things that had made her think that we were within nine months of welcoming a child into the world was that she had – unusually for her – been getting emotional watching some of the sports events that were part of the London Olympics.

On my most recent trip to France last month I didn't have to worry about whether or not the cheeses I was buying were pasteurised

On my most recent trip to France last month I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the cheeses I was buying were pasteurised

After talking to her about the great news on the phone, I too was incredibly excited and pleased. In fact, it wasn’t all that easy to focus on finishing of my research in the library that afternoon (…and not because I was trying to remember which of our favourite French cheeses were pasteurised and unpasteurised!). After managing to finish reading that material I wanted to get through on the last day of my research trip, I left the library and headed for central Paris.

I had thought that the highlight of the last full day of my trip to Paris was going to be seeing the French Olympic team being paraded down the Champs-Elysées. However, that event had now been significantly upstaged. As I waited among the crowds to see the French Olympians arrive aboard red, white and blue open-topped buses, I kept thinking about how my wife and I now had something to celebrate too.

France's 2012 Olympic team arrive back in Paris

France’s 2012 Olympic team arrive back in Paris

Before the athletes arrived, a sports manufacturer that has a shop on the Champs-Elysées was handing out French Olympic flags and I had ended up with two of them. As I was making my way to the correct platform of a métro station after watching the Olympians’ arrival, a man who looked like he was on the way home from work noticed that I had more than one of the flags that had been given out and asked if I’d mind giving him one that he could take home and give to his son. I instantly obliged as it seemed like the right thing to do even leaving aside the fatherhood solidarity side of things.

On my return from Paris, my parents were the first people with whom I shared the good news about a new family member being on the way. In fact, I did so in a similarly indirect manner to the way in which my wife had told me the news on the phone. When we had got married earlier in 2012, my mum had stitched together a quilt for us out of  patches that had been made by many of the guests at our wedding. So when we were chatting to my parents on Skype, I referred to the quilt and asked her if she could make us another but a much smaller version. Thankfully, she understood instantly and she had given us a beautiful handmade quilt some months before our son arrived.


If you are a parent, are there any places or events that you associate with the time you discovered that you were going to become a parent? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

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