Fatherhood, not for the Faint of Heart.
The big day had finally arrived. The day I was to become a dad for the first time. It was surreal. How could I be a dad? I wasn’t even a full adult yet. I mean, I was 32 and married. Hardly a teen pregnancy scenario, but I still felt too immature for this.
As it happened through Covid times, Dads weren’t allowed into consultations and I’d been to no prenatal meetings. So it didn’t quite feel real. Suddenly, me - a large child - was in the socially distanced dad queue outside the Rotunda, waiting on my call. My call to become a parent.
In the past, I’d been squeamish around blood, and hospitals. I even fainted once getting a blood test when I was 16. But I’d decided this was the moment I stepped up to adulthood. This was the day I left that childlike side of me behind. I’d even turned down a kind offer from my dad to drive us to and from the hospital. I’d been too reliant on my parents through my extended adolescence, so I would drive us myself.
My call eventually came from Laura, telling me it was time, and that I was to head up. We were having a cesarean, so it was a bit more controlled timewise. I had a pep in my step, as I strided up to the hospital bouncer. But neither my pep or my step lasted long.
“Where’d ya think you’re going?”
Said the bouncer lad, looking me up and down. I felt like he knew I wasn’t mature enough for this. That, or Covid had given this hospital doorman more power than he’d ever possessed.
“Just got the call from my wife to head up…”
I said over-the-moon. But he brought me straight back down to Earth.
“She doesn’t make that call, the nurse has to.”
I told him my name, which should be waiting at the door. But he wouldn’t budge. I was stumbling at the first step. Laura rang again, wondering where I was, a sense of trepidation in her voice. Eventually, an angry nurse arrived at the door, calling my name. She gave the doorman a dirty look - he’s obviously been abusing power a little too often. I walked by him, giving him a dismissive look.
The midwife talked me through the process. I can’t remember her name, but she was incredibly nice. She even told me I looked “too young” to be a dad. Said in a nice way.
She brought me through to the little waiting area outside surgery. I thought about my role today. I told myself to just play an unselfish part. This was Laura’s time to shine, I'm the support staff. I told myself to just do anything I can to be supportive to her.
Now dressed in full hospital garb, the nitty details of where I was sunk in. I was very aware of my squeamish past, and how graphic and intensive this procedure was. But, I told myself, I’d sit through anything to meet my boy. Plus, I was assured that you couldn’t see anything. I was to be safely sat beside Laura, with a divider between us and the action.
“Sam, it’s time.”
The really nice midwife called me in. Game time.
I sat next to Laura’s head. She was more calm and composed than she’d ever been. Five years my junior, but she was acting like a true adult. Calm, composed, controlled. And, actually, for the entirety of the birth, so was I. I talked Laura through it, held her hand - it was a special moment.
“We see a bum.”
We heard from the opposite side of the separator.
“And he’s here.”
Our boy had arrived. The dashing surgeon who looked exactly like the Duke from Bridgerton held him up, as they told us he was perfectly healthy. I breathed a sigh of relief. Mainly, because he had arrived healthy. But also because I’d lasted without even feeling faint. Maybe I was an adult now, maybe I was ready to be a dad.
A nurse invited me to meet my son, as she cleaned him up. More excited than I’d ever been, I stood up, attempting not to trip over any wires connected to Laura. I’d obviously got up a little too quickly, as suddenly, I noticed how intensely hot the room was, and how little air I was getting in the surgery mask.
I made it over to see “Freddie”. We’d named him months ago. I looked at him with an overwhelming feeling of pride, and gratitude. I also had another overwhelming feeling. One I hadn’t felt since that blood test when I was 16.
The nurse began talking to me as she cleaned him up. I have no idea what about, as by now, it was getting muffled. I was using every fiber in my body not to faint, as I got hotter, and hotter, and everything got darker and darker.
I awoke on the ground, nurses and doctors rushing around me. I’d hit my head pretty bad on the way down apparently. My attempts to get up and hide my embarrassment were swatted away, as I was made to lie there for a full 10 minutes with my feet up on a chair. Absolutely humiliated.
While doctors swarmed around me, poor Laura was left, still cut open and exposed. As she heard the bang, she’d initially panicked that the baby was dropped, before looking over to see her husband, laid on the floor, eyes rolled up in head. For a short time before I jolted back into action; she thought she may have to go it alone as a single mother.
I was finally allowed to get up, as I was brought back to the waiting area. They placed me lying on a trolley, and brought me toast with butter and jam, coffee, and chocolate to get my blood sugar levels back up. Three nurses tending to my every need, all thinking this was the funniest thing they’ve ever seen.
“Daddy’s a fainter” “Daddy hit the deck” “We’ve another one.”
They’d all excitedly tell other nurses and passers by. Literally anyone who’d listen. I laughed along, knowing it was funny, but still mortified. Finally, the nice nurse who’s name I can’t remember arrived.
“It happens all the time. We had a dad last week who didn’t even make it past the waiting room.”
She really was a nice woman. She told me Laura was doing great, and that she’d bring Freddie in to see me. When she did, about three nurses hovered around me, all asking me if I was ok to hold him, eyes glued on me. Probably terrified I was going to faint again.
When I got to hold him, the nice nurse told me that he was more alert and awake than any little baby boy that she’d seen before. Hopefully not alert enough to see his dad knock himself out.
My numerous attempts to leave were thwarted, as because I’d hit my head, they couldn’t release me alone. So, as I reverted back to my adolescence, I called my dad to ask him to come pick me up. And like he always did, he said yes.
Any attempt to walk out of there with my head held high was dashed, as I wasn’t even allowed to walk. I was wheeled out by a young lad footman, who also excitedly told every passerby that I was a fainter.
In true Dad fashion, my dad added to my embarrassment by being late. Meaning I had to wait in reception with the young lad footman, as every other dad walked by me, giving me funny looks. Eventually, my dad’s trusty Qashqai pulled up outside. But, not before one last shot to my confidence. The young lad footman rolled me out by the Doorman who wouldn’t let me in, as he looked down at me dismissively. The final indignity.
I got my head checked out and it was fine. Later that day - probably against my best judgement - I drove the car home. As I drove home alone, I thought about the day, and how I’d never forget it, nor would I live it down. I thought about how I’d stolen all the attention, and how this story would be told on Freddie’s birthday each year.
But mainly, I thought about my son. And how’d I’d lasted about 10 seconds before I’d done something to embarrass him.
You know what, maybe I was ready to be a dad after all…