9 May 2012
Wow. That hurt.
After a mere 10 hours from first contractions to ventouse-assisted emergence, Michael was born, weighing in at a surprising 8 lb 4 oz, or 3.74 kg for Canadians and Continentals. (Though I was not as surprised as the woman in the adjacent bed: 10 lb 14, when she was predicted between 7 and 8 ... Hello! )
When they put him into my arms, he slowly opened one blue eye to give me a sceptical Cyclops stare.He did and didn’t look like I’d imagined. I was surprised at how sweet he smelled. I had seen him before, in two and three dimensions, but these were images through a screen, darkly; now, we were face to face.
Before the first scan, I wait in trepidation, alarmed by posters in the waiting room. One bore a rather porny image of a pregnant woman in a negligee, advertising photo shoots. My partner makes an elaborate show of writing down the number to make me laugh. I don’t mind; he was, to be fair, the only man present who was not fiddling like a teenager with his phone or arguing withhis other half. When we are finally shown into the examination room, we watch in wonder as a wiggly creature appears on screen. I cry. He says “is that the umbilical cord? Ah, good – I was a bit worried it was a tail”, which makes me cry again. The kindly sonographer pats my arm and takes the photos when the little bean is raising a hand, so it looks like he’s waving.
We don’t, of course, at this point know he is a boy.We get this information, tentatively, at the second scan. By this time, we are more confident about procedures, so we ask if they will be able to tell the gender. “That’s not what we’re looking for,” says this sonographer, sternly. We understand why, but we feel a bit chastised.At the end of the scan, she exclaims to her colleague “Is that a scrotum?”The other bounds over: “That’s a scrotum!” They don’t say this directly to us; we just happen to be in the room. As I’m cleaning ultrasound goo off my exposed midriff, the first one takes an inopportune moment to make light conversation: “Where are you from? You have an accent.” I carry on wiping, but wonder whether I should point out that we all have accents, sweetie. I confess I am Canadian, but have lived here for 20 years. This, predictably, triggers the response that she didn’t know if I was Canadian or American, and didn’t want to say in case I was offended. Heavy sigh. My partner weighs in to state, using his best, politely frosty southern English tones, that I am equally a British citizen, thanks to my parentage. This seems to reassure them that I am not a foreigner taking advantage of the NHS. Theygive us a printout of the baby’s measurements, all of which are plumb down the middle, or average, as they put it. “Average?” says my partner. “That’s the last time you hope to hear thatabout your child!”We laugh; they don’t, just as they don’t confirm 100% that we are having a child of the malepersuasion.
At the third scan, there are no inappropriate questions about nationality, as everyone there is from somewhere else. We are participating in a global study about fetal measurement, so we are privileged to see a 3D image of our little chap, whose gender is rapidly confirmed by the jolly Greek obstetrician: “See that –that’s a willy!” The lack of technical language is refreshing, as is the conversation we have with the Italian obstetrician about coffee. “I give them Lavazza”, he says, pointing at his colleagues, “and I make do with Illy until my mother comes from Naples.”
When we get home, there are four magpies strutting stiffly outside, like ushers at a mafia wedding. Four for a boy, says the folklore, so we are reassured by science and by superstition. And from the first moment he regarded me suspiciously, he looks decidedly like a little man, made up of his father’s brow and feet, my eyes, his grandfather’s Yorkshire farmer Viking hands, and his own cheeky personality.