The dreaded hour has arrived. I “gown up”, along with a dozen other people, and head into the operating theatre. Yes, I did say a dozen. Maybe that’s why they call it the delivery room – with all these blighters milling about, I’m half expecting a Fedex parcel and a crate of milk to arrive as well. Who are all these people? Surgeons, surgeons’ assistants, knife sharpening trainees, a couple of lads from the job centre, a school girl on work experience…
‘This feels like washing up in my tummy,’ says Melissa, as the scrum on the other side of the curtain test their weapons. Then, before I can say Theo Hudson Davies, there is a gurgle. And another. Seconds later, a small chap appears, covered from head to toe in whale fat. Wow! No cloven hoofs, no dislocated neck. He’s a placid, perfectly-formed boy, weighing in at 8lbs 2oz – the absolute newt’s testicles, or whatever the expression is. And he’s handed to me without a manual.
‘Aah, he’s got big feet,’ says the female anaesthetist, smiling at the adorable ray of sunshine in my arms. Well, more of a blob, actually. ‘Big feet, massive cock,’ I splutter, shattering the ice into a thousand shards, rather than politely breaking it. Melissa tuts disapprovingly. ‘Or is the expression “cold hands, warm heart”?’ I add, gabbling now from frayed nerves. The anaesthetist pointedly ignores me.
We amble into the recovery room together, Theo and I, to, well, recover, I suppose. Melissa’s still fooling about in the theatre, being sewn up and no doubt apologising to the girls on my behalf. So it’s just the two of us – and one of us is technically a grown-up. Now I don’t mind admitting that this is one of those moments when the old tear ducts leak a bit. OK, so I’m trading the taunting of Namibian on the Shakira Tour for nipple shields and nappies, but, By George, it’s worth it. Yep, I look rather dishy in these nipple shields.
‘He looks totally like you, and nothing like me,’ complains Melissa, her itchy nose still wrinkling from the morphine. ‘So I want a maternity test.’ Well, I’m not so sure he does. For starters, I don’t wear a nappy during the day any more; and secondly, when he lies on his back, waggling his legs in the air, he’s the spitting image of his mother. Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. And, to be fair, he really only looks like me during periods of bodily disquiet – exactly the same facial expression, I’m told.
A few days pass. A foot of snow builds up on the motorcar outside, and we while away the hours drinking tepid, health-and-safety-temperature tea. At some arbitrary hour, decent reading material exhausted and a heavy-lidded torpor stealing upon me, I open the leaflet entitled, “Guide for New Dads”. Good lord, the NHS has a sense of humour: ‘The sudden loss of a sex life can be very frustrating for a man,’ it reads, stating the bloody obvious. ‘But it’s OK to ask your partner for a potentially exciting cuddle, as long as she doesn’t spit daggers.’ Mmm, no comment.
As we leave the hospital, potentially exciting cuddles in eminently short supply, a thought occurs: we haven’t got a receipt for Theo. Isn’t that odd? Well, maybe it isn’t – after all, some people are still searching in vain for a name at this point. And in this town, that’s a rum thing; I did hear of a couple who thought Chlamydia was a lovely name for a girl. Well, I suppose it does roll off the tongue…
Would you join me in a toast? Firstly, three cheers for Melissa, for such a sterling job. And secondly, altogether now after three: ‘Whatho Theo!’