Thirty one years ago tomorrow, at just gone 3am, I became a father for the first time when my son Jonathon made a belated appearance at a Bedfordshire hospital.
His arrival followed a harrowing seven hours for his mum, and me shouting myself hoarse with frequent cries of “Heave!”….. An unhelpful yell that, in hindsight, probably made it appear there was a rugby scrum playing out in the delivery room at that time.
Towards the end of her long labour, the doctor and midwife informed my wife Karen and I there was a requirement to use a ventouse, to aid in the delivery of our child.
GJ Strachan shocked at this revelation as, in my early morning tiredness, I misheard this as mongoose. The thought of the birthing process being aided by a meerkat like carnivore, more famous for fighting cobras, deeply alarmed me.
Whispered these concerns to Karen, through gritted teeth and substantial pain, she growled back “They said ventouse you idiot, not mongoose!”
“What type of animal is a ventouse?” I inquired, now even more confused at what the midwifery team were planning to utilise to deliver our, as yet, unborn child.
“It’s not an animal you fool!….. Its a suction device that’s attached to the baby’s head, assisting in the delivery.” my understandably irritated and exhausted wife snapped back.
“So it’s nothing like a meerkat, then?” I asked, seeking further re-assurance.
“Don’t be so bloody stupid!…… How the hell would a meerkat be able to help deliver a child?” she replied, red of face, teeth still gritted as the contraction pain returned in waves.
I’m unsure why, but at this point of the proceedings yours truly sensed I might been starting to antagonise my long-suffering spouse. Although potentially overthinking the situation, at this juncture I concluded there may indeed be something to the adage ‘Hell has no fury like a woman being antagonised during childbirth’.
Personally, I deemed my behaviour as nothing but supportive towards my wife and child’s wellbeing. However, my spouse’s recent delivery room demeanour hinted she’d contradictory feelings about the value of my input.
Desperate to appease her, I then had the inspirational epiphany of whistling Karen a medley of songs from her favourite musical The Sound of Music.
She remained tight lipped while I implemented the musical strategy aimed at distracting her through the pain of labour. However, when she elbowed me in the testicles halfway through an enthusiastically tooted version of ‘(These Are A Few Of) My Favourite Things‘, it became clear whistling shrilly in her lughole wasn’t one of her favourite things.
Even my movingly emotive rendition of Edelweiss, which at one point had a nurse welling up with tears, didn’t seem to be appreciated by my ungrateful missus. What’s wrong with her I thought to myself, she’s never this high maintenance.
As Karen concentrated at the task ahead, the midwife inquired “Do you know ‘So Long, Farewell’, Gary’?”……… Responding “Yes, do you want me to whistle it?“, she replied tersely “No, but if you don’t stop arsing around its advice you’re gonna have to adhere to!”
Not long after the midwife’s warning, my son was born…….. We’d already decided on the name Jonathon, after the ex-Grandstand presenter Frank Bough.
It was moving to see my exhausted Karen smile as she cradled her baby boy in her arms. While I stood on the periphery capturing the moment with my Olympus Trip 35mm camera, my son lay peacefully gazing back up to his mother through the blurred vision of a newborn child.
After a short time bonding with her infant, Karen passed me my boy to hold for the first time. It was a clumsy exchange during which I nearly dropped the baby and she nearly broke my Olympus Trip camera.
My inaugural cradling of my son was an emotional experience, during which he gurgled back at me as I took hold of him. Sadly the peacefulness was fleeting as it wasn’t long before Jonathon burst into tears in my arms……… How the hell was I suppose to know he wouldn’t like me whistling him ‘High On A Hill Lived A Lonely Goat Herd‘?!