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So there we were, rambling very nicely through out egocentric lives when we had a baby.
Well, it won't change much, we thought. Just means that we'll have to stop swearing at home as much and occasionally shut the bathroom door.
This, we discovered, was wrong. The swearing, bizarrely, increased and we now find that not only do we forget to shut the door but that it's a positive advantage as we usually have to emerge from the bathroom very, very quickly.
I was 36 when Tom was born and Jane was 34. Just.
She was pleased about this as it meant that she swept under the radar for 'geriatric' mothers, a label that apparently attaches ever so terrifyingly after the age of 35+. Not geriatric then, but not as young as others. There are problems with this, as indeed there are bonuses. I'm sure it will be a source of ever-increasing chagrin to Thomas, our son, as he grows up. Already there are generational warnings. I recall that I initially assumed The O.C. to be another reality TV show in the vein of Big Brother but with some poor bloke endlessly washing his hands. But I am as excited about the World Cup as younger fathers; I like The Simpsons and I still think it's funny to fart in a lift. I'm just reminded of the old joke about Charlie Chaplin. Yes he was still having kids in his 80's; he just couldn't pick them up.
Thomas Finlay Fouracre was born at home, on the 12th September 2005. Jane missed her label by two days after going into full labour at six in the morning. Tom was out just after nine. This sounds pretty good but it could have been even better. The midwives who attended were sure that he was popping along fairly swiftly but then ......nothing. Except the crying, screaming, panting and swearing of course.
Turns out he was an OP birth. This is a medical definition: 'A baby is most commonly delivered in the occiput anterior position - head first facing the mother's spine. When the foetus is in the occiput posterior (OP) position, facing away from the mother's spine, labour can be prolonged.'
Yes. Prolonged. Quite. But it's also (I realise that I am speaking at one remove here) a little painful. I'm paraphrasing here but in some births you might imagine you are attempting to divest yourself of an inconvenient watermelon. Now imagine it's sideways. Of course babies in OP aren't sideways, but Jane has always felt that Tom might as well have been. And wearing a full stormtrooper outfit. Certainly our friendship with Sam, a birth partner, has never fully recovered from the tirade of abuse Jane flung at her that morning. The upshot is that our lovely, wonderful boy, this bundle of fun and light that has entered our lives and taken them over so dramatically, was born on the toilet.
You see, it's a bit cramped in OP and a toilet is specifically designed to separate certain anatomical parts. Well, it seemed the best idea on offer that morning. Jane astride, the midwives in front, two crouched runners under starter's orders, Sam crouching in the bath stage right and me behind, perched on the shelf, straddling Jane's upper body, like the imp in Henry Fuseli's painting The Nightmare. A beautiful moment.
His head was misshapen -a common happenstance in OP births- but luckily we had a mother of two in Sam. 'Eva's head was like a cone for weeks!' she relayed merrily and this eased our immediate worries. It took over a month before his head finally started to look less like the terraces of Angkor Wat but by then we had already started noticing other, odd features. Such as the fact that he was clearly the most gorgeous baby we'd ever seen. This might seem to be the standard subjective view of any new father and I understand completely when people try to explain to me how each parent believes that their child is the most stunning the world has ever seen. I nod, smile sheepishly and agree. But in my heart I know they're wrong and I'm right. He's gorgeous, unfeasibly so. I'm no-one's idea of an oil painting, unless of course I just qualify under Fuseli's rules, but Jane's quite pretty. Still, Tom's amazing.
He's nine months old now and tearing through his milestones at a frantic rate. I keep telling him that he'll use them up soon and won't have any more to hit. Who'll be sorry then? I ask. He usually laughs at this. But then he usually laughs when I ask him, for the fifth time, not to throw himself onto his belly as I'm changing him. He likes a good laugh. Yesterday he was lying at my side, squibbling around, as I lay shirtless on his bedroom floor, enjoying the heat of the afternoon. As he started to clamber onto my midriff I felt a warm paternal joy in his newly found ability to crawl forwards. Then he grabbed two meaty handfuls of my chest hair and hoisted himself onto my chest. I assume that he made it but can't be totally sure as I think I may have passed out. However, somewhere, in the bowels of our terraced house I'm sure I heard Jane chortling, 'Now imagine that while you're also attempting to divest yourself of an inconvenient, sideways watermelon.'
June 17 2006
Dave Fouracre aka "Dave the Dad" is a regular feature writer here at thebabywebsite.com.
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