"Oh, really? Are you sure?" We stare at it - the blue cross. Does blue mean it's a boy? I'm entering a world I do not understand.
Hours pass, or perhaps it was months. I don't know if I've watched too many sci-fi films, but there's something unnerving about it, something other... Is that a hand? A foot? I don't really want to touch, but know I should. My wife laughs at me. I like feeling him now he's bigger – I put my face against his skin shell and talk to him, he goes quiet and listens, or at least that's what I like to think.
I'm not really worried until about a week beforehand. I've got it planned out: 1) start new job, do that for 4 weeks; 2) baby arrives, check he's functioning as expected; 3) go back to work, no other changes required. My spidey senses tell me this may not be true, I remember my be-dadded mates saying something about "ooo, it's really quite different" - I haven't seen them in a long time, what are they doing?
“Jacob!” Water, everywhere! I sit-up like a mousetrap going off. My body immediately pulsates with adrenaline – I run downstairs, get the mop, towels, cleaner. “What are you doing? Don’t worry about cleaning it up now!”. That’s not what my brain is telling me, I’m fairly sure amniotic fluid can rot through a mattress in a matter of minutes, stripping varnish from the floors, searing through metal, wood and brick leaving visitors to look up through the holes in the floor expecting to see Sigourney Weaver staring back at them.
We make a trip to hospital, they put a monitor on, everything is fine – contractions slow down, “go home”. Can’t you just poke him out with a stick – I sensibly keep this thought to myself. Nothing. By this time we’ve been awake for 48 hours, we decide to go to bed.
One Born Every minute is heavily edited I think to myself. I'm standing, looking at my wife, she's on the floor, attempting to rout dust mites from the carpet by lying face down, mooing at them. The mooing gets louder and longer. I write down timings, it's a very important job - medical professionals will be checking my work, must make my handwriting neat.
I suggest a bath – I think I saw a lady in a bath once on a TV programme and she seemed quite relaxed. Bath seems good, relaxing, peaceful. “Er, I think we should go to the hospital again” says my wife. “What do you mean you can’t get out!” I exclaim. What’s with these contractions, making life so difficult. Can’t you just hold them in for a second? No, no you cannot it turns out. We make it to the car.
Come on, come on, come on. We’re sitting at a T-junction. Let me out scumbags, can’t you see I’m carrying a pregnant lady here about to give birth! Stop all the cars, the traffic, turn the lights to green, a baby is coming! We probably only waited a minute. I drive the half a mile to the hospital. Hobbling across the car-park – pausing for contractions. Don’t mind us, yes, many knowing looks from strangers. They know what’s coming, we mercifully, do not.
This is it, I check everything. The snacks, the drinks, the music. Some sort of clothes for the baby – probably be useful. The room seems nice, like a Travelodge for people who make a lot of mess and require wipe down floors and surfaces. I try to think of helpful things to say as the paper flows out of the machine, providing a seismic trace of my wife’s body attempting to eject the baby.
I eat too many biscuits, cake, peanut M&Ms – I have a sugar crash, giving birth is hard work. I can’t keep my eyes open, not much happening anyway. I’ll go to sleep for a bit. “We’re having a baby…” those words penetrate my slumber, I sit-up with a shot. My wife and two midwives look at me like an idiot. “No, not yet.”
They’re coming thick and fast, some real pushing going on now. It can’t be much longer, he doesn’t seem to want to come all the way out. Stuck in some sort of U-bend. A consultant turns up brandishing what looks like the plunger off of a baby Dalek. He tries that, doesn’t seem to work. Another suction device comes out, I think the first one was just for show. He attaches it to baby’s head. It’s hooked up to a diesel generator. That doesn’t work either. He takes out what looks like a baby extracting wrench. The consultant braces his feet against the bed – his muscles bulge, the midwife holds him by the waste. It’s like some awful human centipede. I expect a second midwife to join in on the end. It’s not required. The baby is out!
My mind keeps saying “It’s a baby, it’s a baby”. I’m not sure what I thought he’d be. I am filled with love, tension releases, he’s so small. I can’t believe he is made from both of us. He lies on my wife’s chest, cuddling in, absorbing the warmth, acclimatising to planet Earth. Suddenly, we’re alone in the room – I feel slightly nervous, do they know they’ve left us in here with a newborn baby? I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I hold him while my wife has a bath. My eyes become strangely damp, my brain is creating new portmanteaus of feeling. I feel unprelated, exciervous and lovxious. I’m so happy he’s here, in my arms, a tiny new life and I am instantly, unassailably, in love.