‘What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high?’
Now, you may not be familiar with that lyric from the Pavement song ‘Stereo’, you may not even be familiar with the band Pavement, arguably the greatest shambolic alternative rock band of the 90’s, but that lyric, and the fact my daughter Ruby is approaching her 1st birthday, has made me reminisce about the day I found out I was going to be a father.
It was December 2009, I was living with my Australian partner Emma in North West London. That month I had purchased tickets to see my favourite band Pavement who had reformed after a ten year hiatus. The gig was in May 2010, a long way off, but surely things couldn’t change so drastically that I wouldn’t be able to go. That was highly unlikely.
I should also mention that Emma was 3 weeks late for her period. We weren’t that concerned, she had never been regular; we even chuckled along in high spirits as she did an on-line ‘Are you pregnant?’ questionnaire. Surely not we laughed, it’s just a coincidence you match most of the symptoms we guffawed.
Then Emma did a pregnancy test. We even talked about what we’d do if it came back positive; Of course, we’d have to move back to Australia so she could be close to her family.
It never entered my head it would be positive though, I’d indulged in so much binge drinking over the past 10 years that I was sure to be firing blanks.
I was confused when she exited the bathroom giggling nervously.
‘So what’s the verdict?’
‘Go and see’
So I walked into the bathroom and looked at the pregnancy tester. Two solid purple lines stood out across the diameter of the results indicator.
I frantically fumbled with the instructions to the kit, screaming ‘Wait, what does this mean?’
I knew full well what it meant; struggling for breath I lunged for the toilet bowl, consumed with nausea and anxiety. Then a sudden moment of calm hit me before a thought sprang into my head. It was:
‘Oh shit, this means I’m going to miss seeing Pavement’
That was not how I’d imagined I’d react to the life changing news that I was probably going to be a father, and you would be correct in assuming my priorities in life were slightly out of order at that time. To be honest, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel scared, I just felt overwhelmed as I walked from the bathroom to the living room, sank to my knees and buried my head in the sofa cushions.
What followed was a blur of hospital appointments and breaking the news to friends and family. All were ecstatic, but I could tell by the voices of some that they realised what it meant; that I’d have to move half way across the world to Australia to do this. After all, a support network was needed for Emma that just wasn’t there in London.
So for me, this joyous news was tinged with sadness; I didn’t want to leave the rain soaked and beer sodden shores of my much loved home country of England, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
So it was with a heavy heart and cheeks well moistened with tears that I boarded the plane to Sydney on the 28th April. Just for the record, Pavement played on the 11th May.
But as well as feeling happy and proud I was to become a father I was also consumed by fear. How could I possibly risk getting human faeces on my hands when changing a nappy? What if she vomits on me (which of course was inevitable)? How to I deal with the stump of the umbilical cord after she’s born? What about the fontanel? Surely it’s not safe to face the world without a fully formed skull.
The due date of 28th July came and passed and finally the induction was scheduled to take place. 8th August 4pm at Gosford hospital it was, and it was a long and uncomfortable night we had to endure.
The sofa bed I had to sleep on in the hospital room was especially uncomfortable, some would say Emma had it worse; going through excruciating contractions every 10 minutes is no picnic, but I do feel women milk it on these occasions.
Then it all began to happen. Obviously experiencing the final stage of labour is something I’ll never go through, but helplessly witnessing a loved one in excruciating pain is the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. The Gas and Air didn’t help me at all.
At the closing stages the room suddenly filled up with people, one of the midwives grabbed me and pulled me to the foot of the bed so I had a full view of the frankly bizarre sight of Ruby’s head appearing and the final push when she was ejected from safety into the world at large.
I vividly remember the moment of panic, waiting to hear Ruby cry so I’d know she was alive and well. When she did, it was the greatest relief I’d experienced in my life up to that point, and as I looked down in awe at what we had created, I knew straight away I would do anything for her, I would bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for her, and I would love her with all my heart and soul for the remainder of my days.
All my ridiculous fears and squeamishness disappeared instantly. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, there would be many sleepless nights, there would be frustration, anger and fear as well as joy and happiness, but I knew I could deal with it, and witnessing this commonplace miracle (after all it happens every minute of every day), I finally knew what it was to be a man, and I wouldn’t have exchanged this moment for anything in the gamut of human experience, well except for seeing Pavement at Brixton Academy.