I was chatting to a friend of mine.
His wife is expecting their first child.
“Do you know what it is?”
“Yeah, we’re having a little girl.”
And I got all misty-eyed. And drifted back in time. About 19½ years back in time…
“How are you feeling?”
“Tired. Hot. Fed up. Thinking it would be a good idea if men gave birth.”
“We wouldn’t be here if men gave birth. If men gave birth every family would have one child.”
“Well, I’m fed up. Nine months is too long.”
“I’ll have a word with God. Only five days to go. You sit there and I’ll make the chilli.”
Yep, we were at that stage. We’d tried driving across the cobbles on the seafront. We’d tried sex – not very successfully with Tom howling in the next room. And now I was making chilli. A hot one.
Not that it would do any good. Tom had been 10 days late. This would be the same.
We’d be here until the middle of August – and with the heat wave due to continue.
No wonder my wife was fed up.
“I’m going to bed,” she announced at nine. “See if I can manage to sleep for more than 30 minutes.”
Some time around eleven Jane jabbed me in the ribs.
“What? I’m asleep.”
“I think this might be it.”
“Seriously? It’s five days early. Six days early. Is it midnight?” I wasn’t at my most logical.
“Rub my back will you?”
“Yes, of course.”
And I’ve been ashamed of this for 19½ years. I may as well unburden myself at last.
My first thought was that I didn’t fancy rubbing her back all night if nothing was going to happen. Can I plead exhaustion? I didn’t think so.
But I didn’t have to worry about rubbing her back.
“We need to go to hospital.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m absolutely certain.”
The fastest taxi in town was despatched to collect Granny.
We dived into the car. (‘Dived’ obviously being a relative term if you’re nine months pregnant.)
“I can’t go through a red light.”
“Yes you can. I’m not giving birth in the car.”
And I wasn’t up to delivering a baby. I went through the red light.
“The lift. We need the lift. Don’t forget my bag.”
“I know. I know. The lift’s coming.”
“So’s the baby.”
“Well at least it’s a hospital lift.”
“I work in this hospital. I am not giving birth in the lift and having some damn hospital porter smirking at me for the next thirty years.”
Fortunately Jane was too pre-occupied to kick me.
We made it. Just.
Twenty minutes in the delivery room and there she was.
I was expecting another baby that looked like Tom.
But she was tiny. Wide eyed. Aware. Looking around her.
“Ohhh,” said the midwife. “This one’s an old soul. She’s been here before.”
And born with the caul over her face.
“She’ll never drown,” our midwife-turned-soothsayer told us.
I held my daughter.
Unlike her brother, she had the good manners not to wee all over me.
And this time I was ready for it. I gazed down at her and the flood of love washed over me.
I was home by half past five.
“What’s happened?” Mum said. “Why have you come home? Was it a false alarm?”
“No,” I said. “Not at all. You’ve a granddaughter. Five pounds, twelve ounces.
“We’re going to call her Jessica.”
Later that day, I sat Tom in his high chair.
“You’ve got a baby sister,” I said. “And she’s beautiful.”
“Waaahhh!” he screamed.
And hurled his spaghetti hoops on the floor…