Our daughter, Felicity Foreman, arrived at 11:13pm, six months before Christmas Day, which may very well be the optimal present-distribution-distance. Childbirth is similar to war; nothing much happens for quite a while, then punctuated by moments of stress or triumph.
We had hoped for a shorter labour; 23 hours of contractions is not something I think we would have volunteered for, but then you don’t get to make the choices about what your uterus is doing. It’s hard to be sat there, feeling ineffectual while your wife makes loud noises, but thankfully that was only for a short part of the whole experience. We’d hoped to avoid an epidural, but at 5pm that began to look inevitable, and we’d hoped for a natural birth, but by 11pm, with mother and baby both growing worn out (dilation wasn’t "progressing", which makes my wife’s body sound like a broken down Rolls Royce) it wouldn’t have been sensible to carry on pushing when a caesarean was available.
So we went from a fully natural, hypnobirthing approach to a c-section, which is probably as far apart as you can get. However, that doesn’t invalidate the approach we started off with; it provided us lots of ways to cope through the process, and we never got to a point where I ran screaming from the room or fainted, so that’s all good. If we hadn’t had our calming midwife with us for the whole thing, it might have been a bit different.
Both Felicity and her mother are fine, if a little exhausted by the process. As I told Felicity as she cuddled up to me last night, she has a lot of adjusting to get used to. No more placental delivery of dinner, for a start. I tried to explain to my daughter about penguins and the correct time to eat peanuts (only on aircraft) and Marmite, before my wife could return and brainwash her, but I was going a bit loopy from the day’s events and the sleep deprivation, so I’m not sure how far I got with inculcating these values in her. Fortunately, it appears all that time reading detective novels to my wife has paid off, as Felicity already seems quite accustomed to my voice.
The three of us were reunited before 1am, and then we dozed intermittently until morning.
Felicity came out weighing 6.44 pounds, which is an adorable level of precision for imperial units, and is either 21 cm or 42 inches long, depending on whether I was paying attention or not.
As Sean Hughes said, childbirth is unique among social occasions as you’re allowed to remark about somebody’s weight. If I told you about my wife’s weight, for instance, she might get quite cross. And now there’s two ladies in the household, it would be an even bigger lapse in strategy.
So, mother and baby both doing fine. There’s been what feels like an endless stream of staff coming to make checks, prod baby or mother, or ask me what I want for breakfast. This is better than being stuck in a room somewhere and being forgotten about, but occasionally the parade of people feels like a bit much.
So now I sit and watch my daughter (day old babies don’t actually do much – conversations are one-sided, she doesn’t show much interest in the financial newspapers or my reports on the weather) and my wife occasionally concocts new things to tell me, like pointing out that I’m a babydaddy, like some sort of ragga superstar, or suggesting we have a cocktail in between breastfeeds. I wonder if that behaviour wears off…