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Danny's Advanced Level Reading Practice - becoming a parent

Average: 3.2 (5 votes)

Last month, my son Jake celebrated his third birthday so we threw him a small party at home with around eight of his friends. This, incidentally, is not something that I would recommend to anyone who likes their house the way it is, particularly if ‘the way it is’ includes things that break easily, or things that don’t break easily but that can somehow be broken if you try hard enough, or things that are absolutely impossible to break but that can be stained, swallowed or used to break something else. The nightmare only lasted a couple of hours, but in those one hundred and twenty never-ending minutes I discovered that a handful and a half of hyperactive children between the ages of three and seven, high on Fanta and jellybeans, can make the aftermath of a week-long drunken frat-house bash seem like the work of a Victorian tea-party with the crusts cut off. There was screaming, sobbing and a near-death experience…and that was just my wife and I.


When the last evil little spawn of Satan… um… I mean, adorable little bundle of joy...had sugar-crashed into peaceful oblivion and been tossed unceremoniously into his mother’s waiting arms, my wife and I barricaded the front door, cleared away the mess, swept up the debris of what was once our living-room, and collapsed in an exhausted heap into what was left of the sofa. Jake was upstairs in bed, either asleep or unconscious.

“Next year”, my wife gasped, between swigs of red cooking wine directly from the bottle, “we’ll hire a hall”.

“Next year”, I replied, gently prising the bottle from her grasp with a crowbar “we’ll hire mercenaries”.

It wasn’t long, however, before we were taking a trip down memory lane, as the parents of young children tend to do, and having a conversation of the ‘this-time-three-years-ago’ kind.

“I can’t believe how the time has flown by”, said my wife. “Do you remember me calling you at work and telling you the baby was on its way?”

Of course I did. I had hoped to be called halfway through a lesson, just so that I could casually slip the phone back into my pocket, calmly tell my class that I was about to become a father, and saunter off with a jaunty wave. As it turned out, I was called at ten minutes to nine, just before class started, and was therefore deprived of my moment of ‘cool’...

I arrived at the hospital minutes later to find my wife sitting in bed in a ward with three other women. She was reading a book and looking bored. The other three women, however, were in various stages of labour, and were punctuating the air with the occasional scream, moan or whimper, and sucking pethidine through an oxygen mask like it was going out of fashion.

“Hey you. How’s it going?” I asked my wife cheerfully as I perched myself on the end of her bed.

She held up a finger, indicating that I should wait, and then gritted her teeth, went cross-eyed and bent the metal rod that was holding up her IV drip into an interesting S-shape. Then she let out a deep breath, and smiled.

“Not bad”, she replied. “But the contractions are coming more regu…” And then she stopped, gritted her teeth, went cross-eyed again and bent the metal stand back to its original shape. “...larly”, she finished.

“Aaaaaaaaa-@#$$!!-aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!” said the woman in the bed opposite. The other two, not to be outdone, promptly joined in.

“I guess you’ve still got that to look forward to”, I said to my wife, when the screaming had died down enough to make speaking possible.

My wife shook her head in the negative.

“I’m already further ahead than they are”, she said.

“So why aren’t you taking any pain relief?”

“I don’t want any. I’m having an epidural when it’s time”. This fact, apparently, was what was keeping my wife sane.

For those of you who don’t know, an epidural is a lovely procedure where the doctors stick a catheter into your spine and pump it full of painkiller so that you don’t feel a thing when push comes to...um...push, so to speak. And for those of you who really, really didn’t want to know...well, I guess it’s too late now.

I took a swig of the red wine myself, and smiled.

“And d’you remember how you didn’t get the epidural after all, because there was an emergency somewhere, and by the time the midwife came to check on you, it was already too late. Hehehe...”

She wasn’t smiling, so I swallowed another mouthful and shook my head sadly.

“Terrible. Absolutely terrible”, I mumbled...

So they took us to the delivery room, where my wife was eased down on to a scary-looking bed and told to relax and take it easy.

“What should I do?” I asked, feeling a bit left out.

And I was given a damp face-cloth and instructed to “mop her brow”. Since it was the only thing I was responsible for, I took it very seriously. You could have eaten your dinner off my wife’s face by the time it was all over...   

“Twenty minutes was all it took”, said my wife proudly. “Twenty minutes with no drugs and you half-suffocating me with that stupid face-cloth, and Jake was out.”

“And I cut the cord”, I added, not wanting my moment of bravery, however tiny by comparison, to be forgotten.

“And you almost cut the midwife’s thumb off too.”

“Not my fault”, I protested. “I’m left-handed. It’s very difficult to use scissors when you’re left-handed…”

… and one thing that nobody tells you is that a fountain of blood shoots up when you cut the cord. Fortunately, I was wearing a clean white shirt, so I could see exactly where it landed, which was all down my front.

“It’s a boy”, said the midwife, and handed the baby to me.

And that’s where I started to worry, because I looked down at the purple, noisy, squishy thing in my arms and felt...absolutely nothing. All the feelings of paternal pride and love that I’d been expecting were...well...they weren’t. And I began to panic.

“Nothing?” said my wife in disbelief.

“Nothing.” I confirmed.

‘I’m going to be a terrible father’, I found myself thinking. ‘Here I am with my newborn son in my arms, and I’m pretty sure that I felt stronger feelings of enthusiasm for the bowl of cereal I had for breakfast...’

“Let’s go and get him cleaned up”, said the midwife. “What are you going to name him?”

“Um...” said I.

“Jacob”, my wife said. “Jake for short.”

“J...Jacob”, I said.

And upon hearing his name, the boy opened his eyes, and looked up at me.

And everything changed. In a split second, he became my entire universe, and I went weak at the knees. Paternal instinct flooded through me like a bucket of Fanta through a living-room sofa, and I never wanted to put him down again...   

That night, three years later, as we headed up to bed, I picked Jake up from where he was lying on his bed upside-down with his head and one leg hanging over the side, and tucked him in. As I turned to leave, he called out.



He opened his eyes and smiled.

“I had a fun time today. Thank you.”

I looked at him as he fell asleep again. He still has the universe in his eyes, and I can always buy a new living-room later this year.

“You’re welcome”, I said, and went to bed.

Link: Danny's Advanced Level Reading Practice!