Friday the 30th of September 2011 started as a pretty typical day for the school holidays. Got up, quietly got myself ready so I could trudge off to work, when the beloved says, "I don't think you should go to work today."
"What are you doing awake?" was my surprised response
Turns out that she had a feeling that things weren't quite ho-hum-I've-got-pregnancy-pains and were altogether different and more like I-reckon-I'm-going-into-labour-pains.
Stay calm...do things in a quick yet reassured and confident manner. Mustn't panic. That won't help.
Kids? Er. Dump them with awesome friend. Tick.
Bag of stuff needed for hospital and birth etc. Tick.
Wondrous wife with large (but not really, she just thinks it is) belly. Tick.
Phone hospital. Tell us to wait. Pretty typical and expected.
Wait. Read paper.
An hour goes by. Light-of-my-life suggests we should go.
It was about 11 am when we got in. By 2:30 pm labour was well advanced. 2:55 pm and the obstetrician was not happy, I was scared, the wife confused and in more pain than I can imagine. I know she'll be fine. She was the other two times, and women do this every minute of every day and have since the beginning of time. But as a husband the feeling of uselessness (and not the standard "You're useless" kind of husband thing either) is almost unbearable. To see your best friend, the love of you life, in agony and being able to do nothing is maddening and frightening. A couple of pointless, soothing words and a rub of the hand of the back, perhaps a mop of the brow with an icy face-washer. Big deal. I want to take her pain away. I'll take it on instead. Anything to help her.
2:57 and the Doc says this baby has to come out now! There's sirens blaring, orderlies appearing from nowhere, nurses rambling about emergency caesers, sign here. Up an elevator, gown on, silly hat on, and shoe covers. "Everything will be fine hun."
A hand shoves me in the chest, "Sorry mate.You can't go in. Doctor's can't be distracted by you."
A nurse pulls me away. I manage to touch my beloved. "I love you....."
I'm in the nurses staff room. Stupid coffee mugs abound. Smiley faces, union symbols, world's best mum . A nurse, lovely girl, was saying all the right things and offering me coffee. I mumbled polite things, and made stupid jokes. Anything to try and hide from my fear. My unborn baby isn't going to make it, and my wife might not either. I'm irrational, I know it but I can't stop myself. I start thinking about being a single parent and raising two kids by myself. How do I tell them what's happened? By this stage I'm the one rambling and I'm a mess. It's taking hours. And all I can do is worry and feel sick. The longer it takes to hear something the harder it gets. The fear builds and it gnaws upon me.
A nurse walks in, a new one, she's holding something. "Sir.Would you like to hold your new baby?"
It's too much. Emotionally the plot is lost, who knows when I'll find it. I grab for the offered small, swaddled package and simultaneously ask, "How's my wife?" She's fine. Huge sigh. The doctor's were just finishing up and she'll be in recovery in 20 minutes.
I glance at my watch as I look upon the face of my child, 3:07; only 10 minutes since the alarm sounded what seemed an eternity ago. She (as I was to learn later) was gorgeous. Spitting image of the other two. They could be triplets separated years.
I've never been that scared in my life. I really hope I never have to go through it again. Afterwards I found out the gorgeous little one was in very real danger. It was an extremely high risk birth, and we got lucky.
I got to hold her, and refused frequent requests about her name, for that was the wife's job to reveal not mine, for about 2 and a half hours before the beloved groggily woke from drug induced sleep.
And the Grand Final? Well I managed to watch it. The first half at home with the two older kids whilst I let the exhausted one rest with the littlest one, and the second half on the exhausted one's hospital bed, she was relegated to a chair. The Cats won. All up, a pretty sensational weekend.
Friday was my last day at work. Last day for 8 months. It's a little surreal actually. I mean I've been working for some 15 years in the same type of job, at a desk, in front of a computer. Suddenly all that changes. Now my 'office' is my home. I don't have to go to work, I'll already be there. I don't sit in front of a computer, I do stuff (lots of different stuff) in my home, and quite possibly drink lots of hot chocolates (can't stand coffee) at lots of cafes around the local area.
I felt both excited, and nervous. Excited at doing something so different and hopefully personally rewarding and fulfilling, and nervous because, whilst I've been a parent for 10 years, being a fulltime parent is new. Will I cope? Will I the kids cope? Will my wife cope?
I was speaking about it with a colleague at work and he quite aptly described it as stepping off the ledge and into the unknown. Going from the comfort zone where I know what to expect and how things work, to, well something completely different. It made me feel a little like the whale in this clip from the 1981 BBC TV version of Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.