Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael: move over. There’s a new Jackson Five in town and, although this bunch doesn’t yet have the same back-catalogue of chart hits to its name, it’s definitely headline news – well, in our house, at least. The reason? This time last week, “the present Mrs Jackson” (as she’s always delightfully referred to by a colleague of mine) gave birth to a beautiful, slightly shell-shocked baby girl. A girl who, according to my mum, looked like a frog when she was born (nice). To be honest, she wasn’t wrong – but then, who’s ever looked their best whilst having their photo taken close-up on a mobile phone, 13 minutes after appearing from the womb?
Having had two kids already, both of whom took many hours to arrive, my wife was in no hurry to get to the hospital last Sunday evening. She understandably didn’t relish the chance of whiling away most of the night in the Royal Surrey, so we stayed at home for the first couple of hours of labour. By the time we actually arrived, I was mildly concerned that we may not get any further than the car park. Thankfully, though, we did make it to the delivery ward, albeit no thanks to an unruly wheelchair that clearly wanted to lead us down the adjacent corridor to, rather alarmingly, the Chapel of Rest. But all was well in the end and, an hour later, Daughter Number Two (a.k.a. Child Number Three) was on the scene.
Over the last week, I’ve been reminded again of some fairly key rules about childbirth – and even made a few new observations along the way. In no particular order, my Top Ten are:
- It’s never right to share with anyone the details of how many stitches your wife had to have after the birth. No, honestly: DON’T.
- Unless it’s your own child, a baby is a relatively boring thing. To quote our four-year-old son, “Dad, is she ever awake, or does she just sleep the WHOLE time?”
- When considering if and when to make small talk with the midwife, you should apply the Taxi Driver Rule. In the same way that it’s clichéd and inadvisable to ask a taxi driver if he’s “had a busy night so far?” or “just started your shift?”, so it is futile and pointless to pose similar questions to the woman who, at that moment, has most of her forearm inside your wife because she’s trying to ascertain whether or not she is fully dilated.
- No matter what your politics, everybody should love the Labour government at least a little bit for the fact that, in 2003, they introduced paternity leave. For dads, a world without paternity leave does not bear thinking about.
- The smell of a baby’s head is, without question, the finest smell in the entire world.
- When you have a newborn baby, you should completely lower your expectations of what you can manage. Frankly, if you remember to put clothes on at all, you’ve achieved something, let alone actually getting round to washing, drying and ironing anything.
- No matter how funny you may personally find it to refer to your wife’s “breasticles”, now is really not the right time to make that joke.
- Despite what other people may tell you about it being a lovely moment of bonding with your newborn child, the dad-based ritual of “cutting the cord” is a completely gross experience that should be avoided at all costs. Ask yourself: have you ever enjoyed cutting a bit of gristle? Quite. It really is no different.
- In the first few weeks after the birth, you may well wonder whether you’ll ever get another night’s uninterrupted sleep in your lifetime. Don’t worry: it does happen. But it takes about two years, at least.
- Becoming a dad is, without doubt, the most humbling, scary and “wow, what’s the meaning of life really all about?” moment you’ll ever experience: guaranteed.
On Wednesday, the joys of paternity leave become nothing more than a memory for me – almost certainly for the very last time. So, before the madness of work returns, I’m going to enjoy these next two days. And, much as I have high ambitions for my kids, I think I’ll leave it until next week before I get them to rehearse our tribute versions of I Want You Back and ABC.