They say that having children brings life to a house. They never said they would bring a film crew. Just a week after the littlest man was born, a children’s television film crew descended upon the cottage to film the little man and the little lady either cleaning their teeth or looking at the stars, depending on the weather. For weeks now I have worried about this as usually teeth cleaning would end up with lots of crying and the little lady and I falling out over our different viewpoints on dental hygiene.
They arrived in the early evening and began unpacking their things. The cottage was suddenly filled with people, kit bags, cameras and sound equipment. The little man was excited and talkative, showing the crew his Lego. The little lady sat with a fever of thirty nine degrees, she curled up beside her granny and would not be the star of the show. The littlest man lay oblivious in his Moses basket. The crew cooed and smiled at him, but he just slept, indifferent to the prospect of fame.
They kept us, and the little man, away as they decorated the bathroom and his bedroom. During this they constantly stepped into the freezing winter air to check the twilight sky. Coming from London, they were astounded by the lack of light pollution and remoteness of the cottage. Eventually the teeth cleaning was abandoned as the stars began to come out. We started filming in the little man’s bedroom which was now covered in stars; glow in the dark stars, star lights on a string, star duvet, star covered pillow and star pyjamas. Then we headed out into the night. This phase of filming required a parent to be on film. It was always the intention that the lovely Sharon would do this as I hate the concept of being in front of an audience, never mind television. However, she refused and played the ‘I’ve just given birth’ card. How could I argue, childbirth trumps…….everything. We looked up at the stars, at the plough and the moon. We talked about how they twinkle and tried to count them. Then back to the bedroom to talk about the stars in his room. Some voice over recording was called for after the footage was reviewed by the crew, then talking about stars while going to bed. Filming for little people is a long process as the regulations are strict regarding film time and breaks. The breaks were filled with Lego, and tv, and fish fingers, and chips. By the time the bedtime filming was done, he really did want to go to bed. The film crew withdrew and packed up with professional silence as I read stories before he drifted off to dream of stars and stardom.
Over half way on the long commute from the country to the town I got the call, “Come back. I don’t want to be on my own.” When a pregnant woman commands, you obey by reflex. I spun the car around and rushed back. Past experience (the little man) has taught me that these things can happen very slowly and rushing is futile. Then another past experience(the little lady) has taught me not to drag my feet and dither, these things can happen fast and catch you out. Experience has taught me nothing.
Back at the cottage the lovely Sharon was convinced that things had begun and a new soul would arrive any time between soon to several days…….
We went for a walk. It was a slow walk near shops, supermarkets, civilisation and the closeness of hospital care. We walked and talked and waited. Later we picked up the little people and headed back home to try and pretend everything was normal.
In the morning nothing happened and we pretended again. The usual Saturday pancakes, the usual Saturday lunch. We went walking again, this time beside the river to try and let it wash away our worry. I remember the water was high and chaotic: a torrent in full force after weeks of building volume saturating everything around it. I remember it that it felt like my anxiety. It didn’t sit with me like a metaphor. Too real. Too raw.
After the walk I dropped the lovely Sharon off at the hospital and drove off with the little people leaving her alone. That was difficult.
Granny and Granda arrived to look after the little people and I returned to the hospital to join the waiting. We waited and waited until I had to leave the ward. They gave me a blanket to sleep in the waiting room. The room was full of light and noise, and cold. Outside in the night was dark and much colder. I choose my down sleeping bag in the frozen car, until the lovely Sharon’s fancy motion detector car alarm threw me out and back to the waiting room. Another expectant father slept beside me with his portable radio and his snoring. I few hours later I fell asleep for a half hour until my phone rang: the pain had begun.
So much pain. Nobody can ever know someone else’s pain. We can pretend to sympathise and empathise but it is nothing and futile. I can’t begin to understand as I have never experienced it.
I cried when I heard his first cry. His was a reflex of breath and a gasp at the air, a grasp at the life around him. Mine was a reflex of my anxiety and joy bursting in an uncontrollable way. It caught me by surprise but was glad to feel it. I cut the cord and the cutting merged old memories with new ones.
Two days later we were all home and we were a family again; a bigger one. I honestly can’t remember what we did for those few days at home. I guess we reminded ourselves how to look after a tiny baby. We didn’t venture very far as it felt like our whole world was there at home with the little people and the new, littlest, man.