Babe: 3 years outside
Babeling: 7 months inside

I wonder if anyone saw a programme on BBC2 back in March about a Turkish family who walked on all fours.

I wanted to scream throughout. These irritating, insensitive scientists descended on a family struggling with six severely disabled grown-up children, who were already shunned by the rest of their community, and pontificated about their being a missing link in the history of human evolution.

Finally, at the end, and only after some nagging from their interpreter, the scientists did something help. They installed parallel bars in the family’s garden to allow them to practise walking upright. The siblings all promptly improved and the seemingly most hopeless one was filmed walking unaided – could we be witnessing a replay of the first steps of mankind? Oh, for goodness’ sake.

Anyway, the same interpreter (apparently, the only human member of the BBC team) got talking to the mother of this family and asked her how she felt about her children. I can’t forget how her reply was translated:

‘They are my bones – my guts.’

That might sound odd, but I knew exactly what she meant. It’s probably the closest description I’ve heard of my own feelings for the babe. I love her fiercely, violently, unquestioningly, but I have always been shocked by how very biological my love is for her.

It feels as if in some way she has never left my body. To remove the bond I have with her, you would have to do surgery, somewhere around my abdominal region. But even that wouldn’t work, because she has somehow genetically modified me so that while a single cell remains in my body it will be imprinted with her self. How did that happen? I never used to be altruistic, but now I can easily imagine putting the babe’s life before my own. Motherhood is an amazing thing. Especially as this bond thing arrived fully formed, from nowhere, a few hours after she was born.

Can anyone tell me if it feels the same to be a father? Or an adoptive parent? Do you have to have given birth to get it? I have a hunch that the answer is no, but I’d be interested to know.

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