A ten-ton mountain of eagerness and, even though his question is absurd, there’s no way to really mock him because to dull the keen shine behind his genuine eyes would be like kicking a gangly St Bernard puppy. “Yes,” the midwife confirms with an impressively well-trained poker face, “if you see the head please call an ambulance immediately.”
We are sitting in Parent Craft, mummy and daddy school, I’m scribbling notes while the storm air licks the corners of the creaking library windows, feeling warm and a little bit smug about my choice of birth partner. Another dad-to-be, who hasn’t voiced a word, now pipes up, “so, like, is it all going to go back to normal down there?” The midwife keeps fixed her best smile. “And when is that going to be?” Attempting to haul all the men with him onto his sinking ship, he adds quickly, “I mean, I think that’s what we all really want to know.” Clifford laughs before immediately becoming fixated by some dirt on the side of his trainer. “A lot of people don’t have as much information as we do,” he reasoned later, as we ate our packed lunch in the car, trying to be diplomatic. “Yeah and some people are just dicks,” I remind him.
Parent Craft, the hospital free one-day antennal class, is the class the midwives forcefully encourage if they find out you aren’t attending any other classes. NCT is the most popular class to do, it’s a charity, so naively I thought it would be free but you have to book a space in order to be sent the price… which was £371! Considering you learn all the same things in the free hospital class, which is run by midwives while NCT isn’t, you’re basically paying a business for a support network. While I agree that this is very important for new mums especially, we both felt that £371 friends would need to be top dollar individuals, who like all the same things as us, were incredibly fun and funny and would invite us to their holiday home in the Alps anytime we wanted. Any less and I’d feel cheated.
Clifford was right though, we probably did have more information than the soppy St Bernard dad and the dickhead Dad combined. For Christmas my parents had bought us a Hypnobirthing course, which due to cancellations had turned out to be just us and the teacher, and had been a lot more practical about labour than we had first thought it could be. I’d also taken a Sunday evening movement class, which was perfectly placed in the week to tackle the deep, growing feeling of fear that time was running out. Sunday night’s became about relaxation and grounding, with a dash of knowledge on what to expect in labour thrown in. And pregnancy yoga, although the first class I went to in Blackheath (for six weeks because you had to pay upfront) I had found a bit too serious as every session ended darkly lit with only one candle flickering and quite a solemn goodbye to the next ready-to-pop woman, akin I felt to each leaving one by one for Room 101.
We’d also had a couple of test runs to the hospital, all providing their own little trials to learn from, like the Lewisham labour ward/delivery suite phone number being unreliable and unhelpful(!), and that no one will see you without your A4 pregnancy book. The baby could be hanging out, swinging freely in the air as our friend from Parent Craft anticipates, and they’ll turn you back around with a, “But where’s your book? We can’t see you without your pregnancy book!” I’m not in any real hurry to get rid of Nugget from by body, my bump is small and very “neat” apparently and he causes me very little day to day hassle really, apart from the tiredness and the hiccups, which feel exactly like a tiny person hiccuping inside your belly, but I will be happy not to carry that bloody pregnancy book around with me anymore.
“If you ever don’t feel yourself, you should always come in,” the doctor told me,“as this is your first pregnancy we want to make sure everything is okay…” but in the same breath he also lectured that “you should know your body and why certain things are happening.” I used to know my body, before it was taken over and run in a completely different way that often makes absolutely no logical sense.
Generally, we feel prepared for labour but not massively prepared for anything that is coming after, the much more important part… But maybe that’s sort of like learning your theory and actually driving the car. Nugget was 6lbs 1oz at the final scan and now we’ve entered the five-week-window of the baby cannon, this period in which he is fully cooked and ready to arrive at any time he chooses. Unfortunately, babies don’t respect due dates or business hours. But the hospital bag is packed and Clifford is now preparing for the biggest DJ set of his life, providing the soundtrack for Nugget’s arrival… I have every faith that he’ll be great… And if a head pops out he knows to call an ambulance.