Tuesday 21 February 2012

The miracle of new life that made me grow up - well, almost

The physical ageing process is inexorable, but for most of us intellectual development reaches a full stop quite early in our lives.

In an extreme case, Nancy Mitford nicknamed her sister Deborah, now the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, “Nine” in honour of her mental age. When I visited my mother in her nursing home shortly before she died, wheelchair bound after losing two legs to diabetes and with her sight now failing, she said sadly, “The worst of it is, inside I still feel like I did when I was 17.”

While my wife, like every girlfriend who preceded her, repeatedly points out that I have the mind of a 14-year-old boy trapped in the body of a middle-aged man.

Yet on Valentine’s Day 2012 I thought I had finally overcome my limitations when I strode nervously into the operating theatre where a crack team of obstetricians stood ready to perform their version of that popular old conjuring trick of sawing the lady in half.

When first asked whether I would like to accompany my wife during her Caesarean, my instinctive reaction was to ask how much she would fancy being present if I were having my appendix out. I thought pacing a corridor like a 1950s father was much more my style.

Fortunately a friend with vastly more experience in the wives and children department advised me that, from the male point of view, a Caesarean is an altogether less stressful experience than a natural birth. How right he was. I did not feel a thing (and, more importantly, nor did Mrs Hann) as the surgeon went to work. We could not see anything, either, though our prayers for the baby definitely alternated with ones that the gaffer tape holding our screen in place would not come loose.

Then came that first cry which, as every new parent will tell you, is simply the most moving and wonderful sound you can possibly hear. Shortly followed by the first sight of a tiny but perfectly formed human being, seriously hacked off at having his rest so cruelly disturbed.

In that amazing moment, I knew at once that nothing else in life mattered in the slightest. I was still marvelling at my new sense of perspective as I drove into my office the following morning. I was also trying to pin down that other unusual sensation I was experiencing. I finally worked it out: I was happy. Perhaps, at long last, I had finally and belatedly graduated into adulthood.

After visiting the hospital that evening, I spent a very long time slaving away with an Allen key to assemble the cot I had left in its packaging until baby Jamie was born, for fear of tempting fate. As a result I was still awake when my phone rang shortly before midnight, and a client reported that he had just signed a £1.5 billion deal. We hoped to announce it at a civilised hour the next morning, but it proved to have already leaked.

In consequence, I found myself welcoming a newborn baby into the house after a night on my own in which I had managed just three hours’ sleep, wondering whether this set some sort of record.

James George Frederick Hann is a delightful little chap, even if he does bear a disturbing resemblance to the octogenarian Queen Victoria, and has touched off a slightly wearisome upsurge in attention-seeking behaviour by his elder brother.

After a long first day with both our boys at home, my wife and I flopped gratefully on the sofa in front of the television, holding hands and revelling in our great good luck. Then the appearance of a female weather presenter prompted me to make a light-hearted but typically politically incorrect comment.

My wife sighed, as she has so often done before. “Are you ever going to grow up?” she enquired.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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