Colum­nist Greg Bruce re­flects on his fan­tasy of a big fam­ily

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

In the early days of our re­la­tion­ship, and then more fre­quently dur­ing Zanna’s first preg­nancy, we used to have the type of silly, fan­tasy con­ver­sa­tions about our fam­ily-tobe that I imag­ine all ig­no­rant soon-to-be par­ents have. In it, we fan­ta­sised about a fam­ily life of love and happy movie nights that, we know now, does not ex­ist. When peo­ple asked us about our fam­ily plans, as they in­creas­ingly did while Zanna’s belly swelled with what would be­come Tal­lu­lah, I found my­self throw­ing around the num­ber four. Four chil­dren! What was I think­ing? By the time Tal­lu­lah was six months old and not sleep­ing through the night or even any sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of it, I had re­duced that num­ber to one, and I won­dered if even that was too much. Zanna had never specif­i­cally ruled out the num­ber four but her own pref­er­ence had al­ways been for three. None of that mat­tered be­cause, by the time we were deep in the dark­ness that was Tal­lu­lah’s night-wak­ings, we dis­cussed nei­ther the num­ber of chil­dren we wanted nor al­most any­thing else. We were too tired, too dis­traught. Zanna kept telling me that this was all tem­po­rary, the ter­ri­ble sleep­ing and the ex­is­ten­tial de­spair that went with it, that one day it would just feel like the hor­ri­ble night­mare it was. I sus­pected that she was prob­a­bly right, but that fu­ture felt so far off as to be fun­da­men­tally worth­less. As time went by, though, I guess Zanna be­gan to adapt faster than me, be­cause she started ag­i­tat­ing for a sec­ond child. I would deal with it by mak­ing jokes, by chang­ing the sub­ject, by shut­ting my eyes tightly and pre­tend­ing to be asleep. While I was do­ing my best to avoid the sub­ject, Zanna some­how got preg­nant again. There was some­thing lovely about her preg­nancy with Clara, although much of that love­li­ness was be­cause preg­nancy had brought with it an­other fan­tasy: this one about our proper fam­ily, a lit­tle brother or sis­ter for Tal­lu­lah to love. We had Clara a lit­tle over a year ago. From the start, she was a great sleeper, able to be put down and left in the cot for long pe­ri­ods. And, of course, Zanna was right about Tal­lu­lah. Now three, her sleep is­sues are mostly sorted and those dark days would be ba­si­cally for­got­ten. But, in the mean­time, we have dis­cov­ered that the chal­lenges of hav­ing two chil­dren are about more than sleep­less­ness. Our days are now spent mostly in me­di­a­tion over sib­ling con­flict. Leav­ing them alone in the lounge for just the few sec­onds it takes to, say, rinse poo out of a nappy, you can count down from five and guar­an­tee you will never get to zero be­fore some­body starts yelling at you. Still, the fan­tasy is not al­ways so far from re­al­ity. When­ever I try to ex­plain the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a par­ent of two, the word “thick­ness” comes to mind. Some­times it is hard, but that’s not all it is. Still, there are lim­its. When I tell peo­ple now about how I once wanted four chil­dren, I say it with a shake of my head. It’s a funny story, about an id­iot, and peo­ple gen­er­ally look at me with shock. Af­ter we had Clara, Zanna’s dad said, “That’s enough now.” Things weren’t easy at that stage, but still I wasn’t to­tally sure if I agreed with him. Two months ago, Zanna told me she was preg­nant. To some ex­tent, it was a sur­prise, but on an­other level, it was in­evitable. As the shock be­gan to fade, I started to fan­ta­sise about the mael­strom of fam­ily life that lay nine months away. I felt happy; I felt done. As she de­scended over the fol­low­ing weeks into the morn­ing sick­ness that is the de­fault state of all her preg­nan­cies, she looked at me and said, “You can get the snip now”. I had sel­dom, if ever, been so in love with her. 

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