I was poking around a few old directories on my desktop computer when I found a little piece I had written in 1993.
As I read it, I had to smile because it brought back bittersweet memories.
It was a small article I wrote about the birth of my eldest lad, Stephen.
At the time, I was married to my ex-wife, the mother of my two boys. I shall refer to her as W.
The memories conjured up by my words are bittersweet simply because I was overcome with joy at the birth of my first born child but, as you will no doubt have guessed, our marriage didn’t last and ended in some acrimony.
Nevertheless, both myself and W appear to have come to terms with those dark days and now we get along reasonably well. We both made a pact to put the boys ahead of anything else and, despite initial bitter recriminations we are philosophical about it all; we still continue to put the boys welfare above all else.
We split up almost twelve years ago – it seems like such a long time.
Anyway, I’m not one for dwelling on the past so I am going to use this post to show off my kids a little.
My eldest is Stephen and he is 17 – which incidentally makes me feel very old. My youngest lad is Michael and he is 14. Both of them are wonderful and I am so proud of them.
I find it very hard to treat them as adults and spend all of my time with them fooling around – so much in fact that I have been told to “grow up” on numerous occasions (you can read about it here). It is difficult for me to grasp that Stephen is 18 in June next year and will, hopefully, disappear off to university soon afterwards.
Anyway, here is the article I wrote and I apologise in advance to Stephen for this account of how he entered the world. He has been known to read this blog and even make the odd comment.
In my defence, at the time, I was almost certainly an absolute wreck, riding a rollercoaster of conflicting emotions. The experience obviously had a profound effect, hence my desire to get the words down way back in 1993.
Here's the article:
I thought that I was fully prepared for fatherhood until I walked in the house and found my wife, W, in labour. I had been to all of the ante-natal classes, read books on the subject and even seen a video of a birth. Naively, I believed that the delivery of our first child would be relatively straightforward and that I would easily be able to cope.
How wrong I was.
One of my main problems was seeing how uncomfortable W was. I understood that child birth could be painful but when I saw her, I didn’t know how to react. My original plan was to reassure her and calmly drive her to the hospital. What I could not predict was how I would feel about it. Rather than trying to comfort W, I found that I couldn’t think straight and spent a fruitless ten minutes rushing aimlessly around the house trying to sort everything out. In fact, W seemed more composed than I was and, in between contractions, helped me to organise everything.
Up until that point, I had felt as if I was not participating in the pregnancy. W had carried our baby for nine months and, although I had seen the baby grow and felt him kicking, I considered myself to be an outsider. After all, W had carried the baby, suffered from morning sickness and spent several uncomfortable months with backache and sleepless nights. My only contribution was to take over the housework and do the shopping. Now was the time when I would be involved and I was filled with apprehension.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was relieved that W was now in the hands of the experts, though I was still extremely nervous. We had a scare because W’s waters broke shortly after she had been examined for the first time. The baby became distressed and W was almost rushed into the operating theatre for an emergency Caesarean section. Fortunately the baby’s condition stabilised.
We started the long wait in the delivery room. A foetal monitor echoed the baby’s heart beat. It was the first time I had heard the rhythmic electronic pulse from the machine and it brought home to me the fact that there really was another member of our small family on the way.
In many ways, the waiting was the worst thing. The midwife told us that the baby would come when he was ready. I was hoping he would as impatient as I was and would make an early entrance.
W and I passed the time listening to music, reading and talking, although I have to confess that my mind was elsewhere throughout. I couldn’t help thinking about things which could go wrong and worrying about the condition of my wife and child. In contrast, W seemed remarkably at ease under the circumstances. I wondered how she could talk to me and smile during those long and painful hours.
Eventually, a midwife persuaded me to go and get something to eat. As I sat pushing my food aimlessly around the plate in the hospital canteen, I reflected on how the arrival of our child would change our lives. I wondered how we would cope with sleepless nights, bottles and teats and dirty nappies.
Had we got the right equipment?
Would I be able to hold the baby correctly?
How would we bathe him?
What if he became ill?
In the end anxiety won the battle over my appetite and I went back to the delivery room with half my meal untouched.
There were times when I thought that W was not getting the attention she needed. I felt that there should be somebody monitoring the situation constantly. However, when something did happen, the hospital staff were there in force. In what seemed like seconds, the delivery room was filled with doctors, anaesthetists, midwives and paediatricians. The moment seemed to have arrived.
Everybody in the room was playing an important role, that is, everyone except me. At that moment, I felt more inadequate than I have ever felt in my life. I was completely helpless, my only contribution being to hold W’s hand and look extremely worried.
W had wanted to give birth naturally but, when it came to the final push, the baby was just too big. The doctor said that an emergency caesarean section was necessary because the baby was becoming distressed again. Husbands can be present at these operations but because this was an emergency, I was told that I had to wait outside.
A midwife said “Say goodbye to your wife,”
And I did with tears in my eyes.
I’m sure the midwife didn’t mean to make it sound as if this was the last goodbye – but that’s the way her words registered when my addled mind tried to make sense of them.
All I could do was watch as W was wheeled into the operating theatre, the doors shutting behind her with a firm bang that seemed to confirm my mind’s interpretation of the situation.
I remember seeing old films with men pacing up and down the hospital corridor, chain-smoking packets of cigarettes while waiting for the nurse to come out with news of the birth. Looking back, I was just like those men, except I was guzzling glasses of blackcurrant juice rather than smoking. Every time a door opened I would whirl around thinking that the midwife was coming out to give me the news. I felt like the operation took two or three hours, when in reality it took probably half that amount of time.
Eventually the midwife led me into a small room to see my son for the first time. My first thought was that he looked pink and healthy, although his head was slightly misshapen and bruised. All I could do was stare at him with an inane grin on my face. The midwife told me that he was a big baby, weighing 8lbs 10oz, and asked what he would be called. W and I had disagreed about the name but at that moment I was so proud of her that I gave the midwife my wife’s choice: Stephen.
Shortly afterwards, I was allowed to hold Stephen while W recovered. All my fears about how to hold a baby were vanquished as I cradled Stephen in my arms. Wrapped in a blanket and wearing a little hat, Stephen looked at me and his surroundings with his big blue eyes. I held him close and spoke gently to him.
At that point I was the happiest man on earth and couldn’t wait for the next chapter in the life of our family.
Thankfully, Michael’s birth was far less traumatic. Because Stephen was born via an emergency caesarean section, Michael came into the world in a nice orderly planned caesarean section. I was there, in the operating theatre when it happened and there is nothing more to tell apart from my being so scared at the prospect of blood that I almost passed out.
Finally, I want to apologise once more to Stephen and now extend my apology to Michael.
Because I am going to publish a couple of embarrassing photographs below.
Stephen in the bath - as you can see, I gave him a great hairstyle.
Michael thought he had got away with it - how wrong he was.
Michael on the beach.
Stephen at his fifth birthday party.
Michael, Stephen and me at Blackpool in 2006.
Last year in Majorca - crikey I feel old!!
So, lads, if you are reading this, I'm really sorry for publishing a couple of embarrassing pictures.
I will grow up one day - honestly.