Baby Rose sleeps, murmurs and feeds. She has come softly amongst us.
She loves nothing better than to sleep in our arms for hours at a time. Her world, so far, has remained womb-like. She is never far from her mother, never too upset at anything: she is warm, well-fed and cared for.
Her older brother, a playful 18-month-old, seems very happy to have her around. Regularly throughout the day, he approaches her gently and kisses her on the forehead, completely of his own accord: “mwah!” He then goes back to playing with his diggers again.
Coming from a family of boys, I’ve never had a sister. Perhaps growing up with a little sister might prepare you somewhat for having a daughter. As a child, most of my cousins and friends were boys, too. As young boys, girls were in fact our enemies: if you stepped on a crack in the pavement you would fall in to a girl-pit - a terrifying fate (in later years, we stamped on those cracks – hoping for the best).
What do girls even do when they play? I vaguely recall seeing Wendy houses, pink things and dolls. Maybe it has moved on since the 1980s, but the world of female childhood remains mysterious.
There is a special protectiveness one feels for a little girl, especially as a father. Small girls seem more tender, more vulnerable. Their journey though life seems more fraught with dangers and obstacles.
A few days after Rose was born, it was the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day. There was a lot of media discussion about how the role of women had changed in those hundred years
Thinking of all that the future may hold for our little girl, it is good to know that she is entering a society where the incredible talents of women are no longer as constrained as they once were.
Hopefully, we are building a society for our children where women do not feel that they must sacrifice their femininity for equality; and where a fulfilling work life need not preclude a happy family life.
Rose’s arrival has made us deeply happy, and her presence is confirmed by little changes around the house: I see pink babygros on the line, and smile. We’ve even got a “double buggy” now. I’m usually vaguely embarrassed to be pushing the buggy, but was never so proud as when pushing the double buggy through the village today!
There’s no doubt about it: Ireland is a country that deeply loves children. Everybody we meet overflowed with unfeigned happiness on seeing the new baby: young, old and even other kids stop to coo over the little one. Our neighbours too are full of joy to have a brand-new little person living amongst them.
Ireland is changing fast, and not always for the better. Let’s hope the Irish love of life and children will not abate. There is something about a newborn baby that lifts people’s hearts, even in hard times. Where there is new life, there is hope; there is a future. There is also something spiritual about infants. In their utter innocence, they shine. They light the way for us, offering a glimpse of our own truest essence.
Witnessing a baby’s journey into life is a privilege: it is a miracle to watch a new person come slowly and beautifully to be with us, as if gradually waking from a deep sleep - each day a little more aware of the world around her.
Her essence, her soul, is already there; she is brimful of peacefulness, gentleness and inner strength. We feel that we know her already. But most of all, we know that we love her.