x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Married Life: Changes have been much more profound than expected

The constant worry that comes with parenthood was a surprise for Hala and Mr T.

The baby gave a shiver of protest and opened her eyes. "Oh my God, she's awake again," Mr T said, looking at her with a curious mixture of love and fear.

That look on his face has become so familiar to me. I remember the first time I saw it, when he first laid eyes on her. He scooped her up in his arms - it was the first time for him to hold a newborn, or any baby under six months old - and he stared at her with that mixture of love and fear, with a little wonder thrown in for good measure.

And I felt suddenly sorry for him in his new-found happiness, sorry both for him and for myself, because I realised something at that moment.

We would never again have nothing to worry about.

Being parents is nothing at all like what we imagined it to be. She's not even mobile yet, she doesn't require discipline, she doesn't ask "why" every two minutes, and yet it's so much more hands-on than we expected. It became a 24-hour job the second she was born, and we didn't realise it would be so.

I remember when we first began discussing whether we were ready to have a baby. Our biggest argument for the decision was that things would not have to change as drastically as other parents claim. For example, unlike the majority of expats, we had family in Abu Dhabi - Mr T's mother and siblings lived here and could provide babysitting services. We'd still go out whenever we wanted, to dinners and concerts and weekends in Dubai and the movies. We'd still be us, doing the things we love to do, we assured one another.

Now that Baby A is here, ruling our emotions and dictating our lives, we can't help but laugh, quite weakly, at the idea that life wouldn't have to change so much, or that we'd have the strength to spend a single unnecessary moment away from her. Taking a hiatus from a social life that does not include her, it turns out, is just one of many, many changes to life as we knew it.

Maybe it's a good thing that we were not as aware of what we were getting into, of how much we'd adore her, of how much we'd genuinely enjoy her company, of how much life would change and alter and squeeze itself into this new mould that Baby A brought with her when she arrived into our world. Perhaps, if we'd known that sleep really is as elusive as everyone says it is, or showers really are as hard to take, or fatigue really is as solid a presence as everyone makes it out to be, then we might not have embarked on this adventure. We might have been scared away, unable to comprehend that despite all that, it's so completely 100 per cent worth it.

Years ago, I remember reading a friend's Facebook update. It said something along these lines: "Finally, two years after the twins were born, we're off to see a movie in an actual cinema." I remember thinking that not going to the movies for two years was absolutely ludicrous. I remember assuring Mr T that would never be us.

Except now, when I ask Mr T when he thinks we'd be able to leave her behind for a few hours one evening, maybe to catch a movie or enjoy a romantic dinner, he tells me, with all seriousness: "Maybe once she's 2 years old?"

Hala Khalaf is deputy Arts&Life editor at The National


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