I’m a great one for punctuality. I hate being late for anything and I certainly hate being kept waiting by others. However, it can’t always be helped and a certain amount of tardiness is forgivable, for example when an unborn baby would rather stay snug in the womb than make a prompt appearance on the date the doctor told you to circle in your diary.
Both of my boys were 2 weeks late making their debut on the world stage, and because of this my wife had to be induced on each occasion. When the time came for our eldest to be born, we were remarkably calm and relaxed, albeit a little excited. So on a December morning 21 years ago we arrived at our appointment at the maternity unit (on time too I might add), dressed in loose fitting cotton as advised by the hospital, and carrying a bag of clothes for both my wife and the baby. His clothing was mostly either yellow or green, these colours having been chosen because we still had no idea whether a boy or a girl was on its way. We were quite happy not knowing, which was just as well, because we couldn’t have found out if we’d wanted to. At the antenatal unit there was a sign on the wall of the scanning department saying “We won’t tell you, so don’t ask!” So it’s not entirely our fault that the boy looked like a wrinkled citrus fruit until he was big enough for new babygros (or grow bags as I wittily used to call them) in proper boys’ blue.
My wife was taken off to a side room to be checked over while I waited across the corridor, and just at this time an emergency admission was wheeled to the bed next to my wife by an ambulance crew. The poor woman on the trolley was clearly in agony and close to giving birth, yet her husband found the whole thing hilarious and was busy taking photos of her. Oh how I laughed when a few moments later the idiot fainted, and having crashed through the curtains onto my wife’s bed, he was led back to the waiting room by a nurse telling him to sit down and put his head between his legs. Before long he fainted once more, so I called for a nurse to come and help while he lay on the floor. I wish now I’d used his camera to take a few photos of him lying there; it would have made a nice memento for his wife.
I’m sure you don’t want to hear all the details of my son’s birth; suffice to say I was indispensable to his mother. Whenever she needed someone to shout at, or to blame for all the agony (of which I was obviously the sole cause), or to say helpful things like “breathe”, I was there. Of course I can’t blame her for ranting and swearing at me. Giving birth did look like it must sting a bit, so I don’t hold it against her at all, and nowadays I hardly ever mention it. I also don’t mention that on leaving the hospital that evening, I was treated to pint after pint of Guinness at my local pub, which combined with my general state of euphoria led to some difficulty in talking coherently.
Three days later my wife and son were back home. The Christmas tree was up, the house was warm and cosy, there may even have been carols on the radio. I was sitting down with my brand new child in my arms and completely out of the blue I started to cry. It was the first and only time I have ever cried with happiness. For me it remains a moment to treasure; for him it’s something faintly embarrassing that I’m never to mention in front of his mates or his girlfriend. Kids, eh?