Tuesday 23 June 2009

It's true: your own are different

I have long accepted the platitude that nothing is more tedious than other people banging on about their children, apart from meeting the little darlings in person.

I dreaded the piping of infant voices in trains, pubs and restaurants, and had no idea what to say when I encountered them in my friends’ homes. Almost the only green claim I could make for myself was that I had no offspring, and was most unlikely ever to do so.

Then my fiancĂ©e announced that she was pregnant, and exhaustive interrogation failed to identify anyone else who could be to blame. But still I drew firm lines in the sand; I was most certainly not going to be present at the birth, and envisaged the sort of domestic set-up in which the nursery lies behind a thoroughly soundproofed green baize door, and a well-scrubbed child is ushered into father’s study for ten minutes every evening, to be patted on the head and given a few words of warning or encouragement.

It was the birthing aspect of my plan that seemed to excite the most outrage, particularly among feminists of a certain age. I particularly enjoyed their reaction to my wife’s well-rehearsed reply: “To be fair, I wouldn’t be present at the birth either, if I didn’t have to be.” Male reactions were invariably one of two extremes: I would be missing the most wonderful experience of my life, or “You lucky [insert expletive of your own choice]! How on earth have you got away with that?”

So I drove my wife to the maternity unit on Thursday morning with a light heart and a good book to read while she was doing her stuff. Having been assured that an induced delivery tends to be a long process, I even nipped home at lunchtime to take the dog for a walk and have a bite to eat.

I returned in perfect time to witness the first serious contraction, after which my wife turned to her mother, her chosen birthing partner, and advised that she had better make the most of her coming grandchild as there most certainly wasn’t going to be another one. Shortly afterwards all hell broke loose and I made the critical mistake of accompanying the ladies into the delivery room to afford some initial encouragement.

I had not reckoned on my hand being seized in a vice-like grip that left me no hope of extricating myself, and made me wonder whether I would ever be able to type again. There was more than one Hann’s cries of pain echoing down the hospital corridor that afternoon.

Given that Mrs H is not noted either for doing things quickly, or for taking advice, I was amazed by how readily she accepted the midwife’s suggestion that screaming is a waste of good energy that could be applied to pushing. In less than an hour I was looking in amazement at a perfectly formed baby. And yes, reader, I cried, as all the textbooks told me I would.

The placenta looked like something dreamt up by the props department of a particularly low budget 1960s British horror film, and I would not mind at all if I never saw another one, but other than that it was a perfectly civilised and hugely uplifting experience. Though with hindsight, the most remarkable departure from plan was not my presence but Mrs Hann’s failure to consume the shed full of painkilling drugs she had promised herself, since it was all over so quickly that she forgot to ask for them.

Now I am spending a lot of time cradling a tiny son on my knee, something I never expected to write, and can provide authoritative confirmation of another of those sayings directed at sceptics about the joys of parenthood: it really is different with your own.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.


Anonymous said...

Many congratulations to you both! (Well, all three I guess...)

CC said...

Heartiest congratulations to all three of you.
And he is a beautiful baby!!
Well done.