The Casual Father: Words can’t describe baby’s arrival

Michael Steward

Michael Steward - Credit: Archant

So after nine long, trying months building up to a date that is etched in your mind as a potentially momentous occasion, when it finally arrives, it’s a bigger anti-climax than England’s performance in this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The big due date also happened to coincide with my birthday, cue lots of “What a present you could have!” type comments, but baby’s late arrival means the only thing I end up cradling in my arms is a collection of new socks to be filed away in the drawer.

During the following days, very much the calm before the storm, I give my impending new role a bit of thought, and all of a sudden I feel painfully unqualified.

I haven’t read anything much about newborn babies, nor have I watched any television programmes or documentaries on the subject, and despite my wife’s requests, I have also not attended antenatal classes of any kind.

Witnessing grown men learning to moan and breathe in time with their heavily pregnant wives is something that I decided would quickly see me lose all respect for the male species.

But before you begin to judge me too harshly (I did put the cot together, and paint the top coat on the nursery wall by the way), I do have one mitigating factor in all of this.

My wife also happens to be a midwife.

Most Read

I still haven’t completely made my mind up about whether this is a good or bad thing, but the fact remains that she knows quite a lot about looking after babies.

Hence my slight apathy towards learning my trade before the bun is out of the oven. Anything other men go to books, the internet or television for, I can ask the wife can’t I? It was then that it dawned on me, an epiphany if you like, that I don’t have the single, foggiest clue what I’m doing.

But arriving at the hospital, the nerves and unease are overwhelmed by feelings of excitement that sooner rather than later I will be meeting my son or daughter.

Although it was probably later rather than sooner. Who knew these things could take so long? In most of the films I’ve watched, the waters break and one minute later, you meet the child. Perhaps they would have told me this at birthing class.

I am reduced to trying to amuse myself for hours while the wife sucks on gas and air. I discuss cocktails with our two midwives after reading a guide to making the perfect James Bond Martini in the paper, I do Sudoku, I scroll through the internet on my phone, and I offer words of support to the wife, which are mostly responded to with grunts.

The anaesthetist provides a bit of light relief for me when he enters the room by bearing more than a passing resemblance to former Pakistan cricketer and pace bowler Waqar Younis.

I mention the likeness to the now drugged up wife and midwives, who haven’t the faintest idea who or even what I’m talking about. It doesn’t stop me from dropping in “Well, we do want a quick delivery!”

The looks from all else present in the room are that of disdain, bewilderment and embarrassment, in that order. Well they do say comedy is all about knowing your audience.

When it eventually kicks off, it all happens quite quickly. The wife pushes with a look of vengeance on her face that I have certainly never seen before and at 7.33pm on October 16 we have a beautiful baby girl.

I would love to be able to articulate my feelings to you in this column, but in truth I really cannot. Not a single adjective I can think of would get anywhere near the sense of overwhelming joy and pride I felt from welcoming Elizabeth Mae into the world.

My thoughts soon turn to wondering what she will look like, or whether she will play an instrument, or if the piercing crying sound she is making in my arms will last forever. Good, healthy set of lungs my Elizabeth.

“So what do we do now?” I ask the wife and her reply fills me with a mixture of relief, fear and confidence all at the same time. “We work it out as we go along.”