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.

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They asked me to cut the cord and it took me by surprise.  High on the joy of seeing my daughter safely into this world, I chuckled to myself and thought it such a cliché   I took the scissors in hand and tried my best not to fumble or appear squeamish.  Blood and guts don’t really disturb me, I had even dissected a human placenta many years ago.

I cut the cord and thought about the theatre of it all.  Why did they ask me?  Was it to include me in the process; me the man.  Surrounded by the midwives I felt a sensation that maybe they still felt that this was a woman’s world, and I was an alien.  The lovely Sharon reassured me that this was not the case by pulling me in towards her and grasping me with strength I thought she was incapable of.  Our son’s birth did not have any of this theatre.  His birth seems a long time ago and it is a long way removed from the little lady’s birth. He, and his well sized head, got stuck.  This caused stress to both himself and his mother.  I was never asked to cut the cord.  It was cut by a surgeon with reflexed speed while he was briefly laid on his mother’s chest.  It was a split second.  Then he was whipped away and placed under a team of experts who kept him pumped with oxygen before he took his first breath many minutes later.

Our daughter arrived more calmly.  In first aid they now talk about the signs of life instead of breathing and pulse, and I now think I know what they mean.  She never screamed or raised her voice, simply looked mildly confused as she was tucked in under her mother’s night dress. As soon as I as I saw her face I knew she was kicking and screaming on the inside.  On the outside she was simply trying to maintain her composure.

When I see an animal being born it always surprises me how quickly they try to stand up.  The desire to be independent is fiercely burning inside them.  Then there is us; we humans.  We who are fragile and vulnerable and don’t even attempt to make a walking effort for about a year.  We who are wholly dependent on other’s care.

I cut her tether and thought  to myself at the bizarreness of it.  She is still tethered to us, and I am still tethered to my mother and father.  The tether waxes and wanes as the tide of life pulls and pushes us away and toward them, but we are still tethered.