On 19 December 2007 I became, for the first time, a father. And life, as they say, will never be quite the same again.
Having passed my forty-third birthday without having troubled the scorers in the reproduction stakes I was probably typical in being dismissive of much of the hype surrounding childbirth. After all, there are some 300,000 babies born every day in the world!
Well, I guess like a lot of statistics, this has little resonance until you are directly affected. Somehow parenthood seems a little less commonplace when it is your tiny little child that you hold gingerly in your arms for the very first time.
“Your life will never be the same again” was the refrain I heard time and time again from friends who were already parents as D-Day approached, as if my wife and I had not considered this to be the very reason we passionately wished to become parents.
When people remark how I have taken fatherhood in my stride I have contemplated that it might be something to do with a normal sense of detachment. But in reality I think not – it now seems like the most natural state in the world.
Young Frederick William Crispian Field is of course the most gorgeous little boy to have graced this planet. Well that at least is the story I am sticking to!
I must confess that if someone had extolled the virtues only one short month ago, of early morning feeding I should have regarded them as mad.
But one of the most magical experiences for me of recent weeks has been feeding this little helpless bundle with a bottle in the early hours. On occasion, in order to give my wife much needed rest, my son and I are alone in the stillness of the night. Whilst he feeds hungrily on the bottle of breast milk I talk to him knowing that he is taking even less notice of my words than my colleagues who have to listen to my speeches in the House of Commons.
I have always been fortunate to manage on fewer hours of sleep than many and I have normally been able to get back to sleep quickly after being awoken in the middle of the night. In that respect I have some value as the father of a newborn!
Any life-changing experience brings new perspective so it is for me with fatherhood. The challenges and problems facing our planet are that bit less theoretical and more personal. Bringing new life into this world makes more urgent and immediate a desire that my values and outlook shape the future of my nation to best effect.
My late father passed away at the age of fifty-eight. Since that sad day almost 17 years ago my psychological horizons about my own life span have been framed by my surviving to any greater age as being something of a bonus. No longer. Whilst I should not anticipate being around to see the dawning of a new century, I fervently hope – and expect – my son to see in his ninety-third year. Suddenly international targets and global co-operation with a timeframe to 2050 and beyond no longer seem so academic.
Whilst my infant son sleeps and gathers his strength, there is work to do to make this world, his world, a better place.