Happy Birthday Precious.

Seven years ago today, my first-born, my eldest daughter was born.

After what seemed like an endless wait – which no doubt seemed even longer for my wife – and a confusing, mucky and exhausting time of labour, (ditto times several thousand for my wife), our little precious bundle was born.

As we’d entered the delivery room,I’d seen one of these  ——->


It’s called an NRU, or Neonatal Resuscitation Unit, and I distinctly remember thinking two things about it:

1) Thank goodness such machines exist, and that the hospital has enough that there was one in the room, and

2) Please don’t let us need one of those!

After the usual chaotic symmetry, bizarre humour and apparently choreographed mystery that is mammalian child birth had taken place, I looked down at my daughter with shock.

I’m slightly colour-blind, but even I could tell that the grey colour of her skin was not as things should be. If I hadn’t noticed that, the complete lack of movement and spine-shuddering limpness of her body would have told me all I needed to know…

The midwifery team were excellent. With out apparent alarm, or any kind of movement that would have alerted my wife to the issue at hand, or panicked me further, they swiftly carried the unresponsive body of my daughter to the NRU, which was instantly a sea of medical staff working efficiently to bring my daughter (back) to life.

I felt as useless as a useless thing.

It is a well-noted fact that there is pretty much nothing as much a spare-part as a male partner in a birthing room: We know nothing, nothing of the female genitalia at times like these; We have no comprehension of the physical and other gymnastics our partner is going through, only that is is somehow our fault; The midwives view us – in a kindly and completely understandable way – as some kind of thankfully malleable and moveable item of furniture that has inexplicably been brought into the labour room by the mother-to-be; Our partner has finally realised that she never, ever, wants us to go anywhere near her again.

Although our right hands do offer a brief opportunity to see if the delivery hormones really do increase her strength enough to break human bone. The answer is: not quite, but there can be some impressive bruising.

But I knew my role. I was to stay enough out of the way while the messiness went on; say encouraging words like “you can do it” gently and often, (mostly, it seems to give your partner opportunity to deny this/shout obscenity back at you as often); and then to be the one who proudly wipes the sweaty hair off my wife as she holds our child for the first time.

Which didn’t happen to us.

The next few hours were blurry, tearful and strangely disconnected from anything else. Our daughter had contracted a Group B Strep infection in utero. She was revived, thankfully, quickly and taken off to the Special Care Baby Unit in the hospital, where she remained for almost 2 weeks.

Compared to most of the other babies in there – many of whom were born significantly earlier than they should have been – she was a giant; when she let out an indignant cry in response to the latest injection or test, I was glad she was around to cry.

My “Song Of The Day” * is “Wires” by Athlete; carefully chosen as it records a similar situation in the life of the songwriter (his nephew, I believe). But it has added resonance for me as it was also the song that came on as I started up the car for a long and lonely drive back to an empty house on that first night as a father. I was leaving my daughter in a plastic box, hooked up to wires. I was leaving my wife in another ward. I was meant to be happy, but i was exhausted, fearful and alone.

I turned the ignition off and wept like the proverbial baby.

My daughter fought it off – not all newborns do. To look at her now you’d have no idea, and the main legacy of it for us as a family was an increased awareness of the Group B Strep issues, and an occasional tendency to be over-protective of our children.

This song still brings tears to my eyes.

Happy Birthday precious.

* This will come on-line later today, at the time she was born 😉

A happier eating experience in E17 – the Hacienda

My wife & I ate at the Hacienda on a whim. We had heard the now famous “Mexican food made by someone who’d heard of Mexican food but never seen/tasted it” comment, but thought’d we’d try it out for ourselves.
The cocktails were nice, the starters ample if fairly straightforward, and the main courses tremendous as far as I could tell (I had the Mexican Platter & my wife had the Chimichunga).
The staff were pleasant and courteous, if not over-speedy. The waitress did insist on noting the number of the dish ordered, rather than the name, but we can cope with that.
I’m fairly certain we’ll at least use the take-away service they offer.
Overall, nothing fancy, fairly cheap, good enough quality – probably not somewhere to take your posh friends, but worth using if you fancy something Mexicanish.

Priya in E17 – an utter, utter waste of space

Have just waited almost 2 hours for a home delivery of curry from Priya in Walthamstow. We had been told it would be with us within 40 minutes.

When it eventually arrived it contained one less curry than ordered, neither of the two Naans or the extra side dish requested, and was almost sub-zero in temperature.

It arrived via Cabbie, who had been given a wrong address, and was expecting us to pay both for the delivery and possibly for his wasted time. This was news to us, as my friend had paid by card when placing the order.

Priya offered us no real apology, but did say we could have the same meal again the next day if we ordered (and presumably paid for) it.

It seems that they may, or may not, have taken the card payment; may, or may not, have charged the right amount; and ̶m̶a̶y̶, or may not, have a clue about customer service.

DON’T EVER, EVER, GO THERE. Don’t even go near it….

On a positive, I had plenty of Talisker & we got to watch the whole of the (pre Tom Hanks) Ladykillers without any tiresome interruptions for dishing up food, etc.

The food, once re-heated, was palitable.


Spending time

One of the things I find myself repeatedly challenged by as a parent is the nature and passing of time.

We all know that time is a commodity to be spent wisely. We all know of our own failings to do this: moments wasted, hours packed to overflowing with activity, days where we think about getting around to procrastination…

My girls have a radically different relationship with time to me. Obviously some of the reason for this is that I, as the parent, am frequently heavily laden with responsibility, ‘to do’ lists and soft toys; but another significant reason is that they still see time as something to be enjoyed, rather than endured or used.

I am often struck at how quick I can be to get annoyed when the 15 minute walk home from school takes even 10 minutes longer – even when there is nothing I have to rush home to do. I am always, it sometimes feels, telling one of my children to hurry up, to get a move on, even on those occasions when dawdling may actually be a bona_fide activity.

My children stop to smell (and pick) the flowers, to look at the traffic/people/litter, to ask questions about the tinned soup/falling down wall/colour of the sky; they find pebbles and leaves fascinating, want to stroke every cat they see, need to splash in every puddle. Sometimes this is annoying because I am trying to get them home before their food gets cold or the rain turns from light drizzle to hailstorm, but sometimes – often – I am perhaps more annoyed by their innocent wonder and lack of responsibility. And by their use of the precious gifts of time, environment and relationship with each other.

The Crying game

Dropped off the youngest two at nursery this morning to floods of tears.

E (1.8 years old) usually waddles in and looks for one of her favourite carers for a cuddle, some cereal and a catch up on the latest socio-political controversy. M (3.25) has decided that she’s old enough to go to her big sisters’ school, not baby-nursery, and has taken to indicate her readiness by crying as i try to leave (usually with about 3 minutes to go before I have to get B (6.25) to school.

This morning, E decided that M’s crying was too beautiful a sound to be left as a solo piece, (or perhaps she was worried about the effects of the BBC journalist strikes on her morning routine), and so a duet of tears it was.

I hate the crying game. I’ve had over 6 years now to get used to it, but it always breaks my heart. I know that once I leave they’ll both be fine – I expect that when I pick them up later today I’ll be told they both forgot I wasn’t there within 3 minutes of being given a rice-cake/favourite toy/other age-appropriate bribe. I know that it is just another example of how, to a child, each day is packed with hundreds of little crises, real and devastating as they happen, but forgotten just as quickly as they erupt.

I wonder sometimes if that’s how God feels about us. You know, when we’re kicking up one of those grumpy-pants fusses that we are all so well-practised at delivering. I wonder if he finds his head wrestling with his heart over what to do. “Leave him”, says the head, “he’ll be fine, he’s just testing you. He knows himself that he’s being silly”. “But he’s my baby”, counters the heart, “he needs a cuddle!”