Dadman begins

Tomorrow my daughter turns 4 and I’m not quite sure where the time has gone. I can still remember the day she was born clearly and how it felt to become a dad…

Insert flashback style wibbly wobbly remembering lines here

It was hot. Damn hot. Hot enough to boil a man inside his own suit. So I was glad when my wife started having contractions because I could avoid putting it on and stay home instead. Even going for a stroll in the midsummer sunshine in an attempt to speed things up was preferable to putting on a tie. Unfortunately the walk seemed to put a stop to the contractions. Arse. So on went the suit and tie, and off to work went I.

I did get to leave early though when the contractions started again during the afternoon, and I went home to check we had everything ready for the big moment.

We were both remarkably calm during the next few hours as we prepared for the hospital and timed contractions. It was only as they got stronger that we started to feel any stress. My wife has a spinal condition and it wasn’t coping well with the spasm inducing contractions that were jolting her back. Sitting on a gym ball with a TENS machine attached helped somewhat, but not much. At 2am we were ready to head to the hospital, for additional pain relief as much as delivering a baby! The taxi driver looked rather panicked when he realised that his shiny Mercedes was about to transport a woman in labour and he made my wife promise to keep her legs crossed for the next 15 minutes.

When we arrived at the maternity unit we were shown to a room and waited for the duty midwife to check my wife over. We were somewhat surprised that she was only 2cm dilated and nowhere near ready to give birth! Normally prospective parents in this situation would be sent home to wait, but the ward was quiet and the midwife told us to stay put and she’d check up on us in a couple of hours. At which point I fell asleep, sprawled across 2 mismatched plastic chairs for a couple of hours.

Note: falling asleep at this point does NOT endear you to your stressed, pained and unable to sleep wife…

When it was time we were moved down to the delivery ward and introduced to our midwife team. We had 2 midwives and a student in attendance that day, and an anesthetist who really didn’t want to be there. He took over an hour setting up the push button system for the painkillers my wife needed for her back, during which time she suffered painful spasms, jolting her spine with every contraction. I was glad when he left, I don’t think the NHS approves of expectant fathers punching their staff!

Now I’m not going to go into the gory details of the actual delivery except to say that when my daughter decided to put in an appearance, the midwife wasn’t quite ready for her. She had barely unwrapped the delivery pack and managed to put one latex glove on before DD slid out into the world, and had to catch her single handed before she went off the end of the bed! She was placed carefully onto my wife’s chest for skin-to-skin contact and wrapped gently to keep her warm. Sweaty, covered in blood, tears flowing, this was the most beautiful sight I had ever laid eyes on; my wife and my baby girl, holding each other, finally able to see the person they’d known so intimately for the previous 9 months. I got to cut the cord, welcoming our daughter to a new life, and severing the physical link that mum and baby had shared. Now it was time for her to be her own person.

I remember holding her for the first time, surprised by how small she was and how little she weighed. I talked to her as she looked up at me with her dark blue eyes, and I promised her that she would always be loved and looked after. I was overwhelmed with love for this tiny person, and four years later I still am. She may be bigger, more developed and stronger than she was all that time ago, but she will always be that tiny baby to me.

Happy birthday baby xxx

My first memories

Yesterday a Twitter friend asked what people’s first memories were and my answer was simple, but too complex to explain in 140 characters. My first memories are of my dad; Of being scared by my dad.

My parents divorced when I was about 3 years old so I don’t really remember living with my dad. I can’t tell you if it was a happy time, if he played with me and my older brother, if we went for walks, or went to the park. I simply don’t recall that part of my life. All I have are two small fragments of that time. Two tiny moments of my past. Neither of them happy.

My first memory is of walking with my dad and my brother to his preschool/nursery and being given an old five pence piece to put into one of those toy dispensers that look like giant gumball machines. I can remember turning the handle and the plastic ball that held the toy dropping to the ground and rolling away. I chased it and retrieved the ball from the gutter it had settled in, opening it to find a hopping frog inside. Pleased with my new toy, I turned to show it to my father only to see an empty pavement behind me. I remember running round the corner with tears filling my eyes and seeing another empty street. I ran towards the next corner hoping they’d be there, only to have them leap out at me shouting “boo!”. I can remember them both laughing at their joke, but I can’t remember their reactions to me bawling my eyes out thinking I’d been abandoned.

My other early memory is of sitting alone in the front room of the house we lived in before my parents split. I was playing with my army men, standing them on the table in front of me, preparing them to battle, when all of a sudden the lights went out. This is a scary enough occurrence for a small child, the sudden darkness, being alone, but what happened next left me terrified. I heard a wailing and moaning coming from the doorway and looking up I saw an evil grin and fiery eyes moving toward me. I screamed and heard the laughter of my father and my brother, and as they turned the lights back on I saw the jack o’lantern in my father’s hands.

So there you have it. My two earliest memories. Not good ones, not nice ones, but the only ones I have of life with my father as part of the family.

I suppose that these memories stand out because they evoked such strong emotions at the time. I just wonder how much they’ve influenced my relationship with my dad. We’re not estranged by any means, but we’re not particularly close. It occurs to me whilst writing this that it’s been months since I talked to him. Is it because of the memories I have? Maybe we were close when I was little, when we lived together, but I can’t remember missing him after we moved away. All I remember is being scared by him.