It’s Thursday, and today’s the day I am scheduled to turn from a dashing young lad about town to an old codger with a dodgy knee sitting in cafes talking about my grand-daughter. For today I am scheduled to become a grandpa. Todays cafe theme: “y’know, it seems like yesterday I was holding this little baby girl in my hands and today she is due to deliver her own little baby….. woah! back up the horses, like this is pretty trippy man”.
But at least I can be confident that our job, as Sam’s parents, has been a job well done. All our years of perfect parenting has brought Sam to this point where she is now a well-trained and responsible mother-in-waiting. She has diligently avoided all shellfish during her pregnancy. Ava also avoided all shellfish during her pregnancy, except for oysters of course; you can’t get fanatical about these things. Sam has also totally given up coffee, unless it is at Butler’s Cafe where they give a free chocolate with every cup; and, naturally, Samara has been alcohol-free since the day she was first aware of the impending event. Her mother, again, was her role model in this. Ava gave up drinking alcohol the moment her waters broke. I exaggerate for humorous effect, although there is a cab driver in town who might question whether I was exaggerating. I was on transfer up in Christchurch in the weeks before the birth, staying with Jan and Mike. We had discovered a very acceptable red wine, called Babich’s dry red, to accompany Jan’s specialty roasts; as a bonus, this wine was also produced in real bang-for-your-buck half-gallon flagons. The tragedy was that soon after it was discovered we learned that it was at the end of it’s vintage and no longer available in Christchurch. A bit of pre-google research (I think we phoned around, on a landline) came up with the news that the last available three crates of it were at the Robbie Burns in Dunedin. We knew we would need a few cheeky reds to celebrate the birth so an emergency phone call (or maybe a telegram, I don’t remember the detail) was made to Ava and, good sport that she was, she took a taxi down to the Robbie Burns and got the cabbie to wait while she, eight and a half months pregnant, loaded up the last three crates of Babich’s dry red on the planet into his boot and headed home again.
I made it back to Dunedin just a few hours before the big arrival and did wonder why Ava suddenly had a craving for red grapes. That is when I realised she had just gone cold turkey on the Babich’s dry red. Then, down at the Queen Mary hospital, I was asked if I wanted to be in the delivery suite. I would have stopped for a pie at Palmerston if I had known they were going to put that pressure on me. That sort of new age thing was all a bit weird, even creepy, to me. I succumbed to the judgemental stare of the nurses and agreed, but I definitely spent the time in there, during the birth, taking an unusually keen interest in the subtle tones and excellent workmanship of the paint on the walls. Sam had a doctor deliver her. Mid-wives were pagans back then, akin to witch doctors. Doctor Alex Borrie wandered down about ten minutes before the arrival, quite excited that he had been at the John McGlashan School fair and got himself a bagful of second grade soap at an extraordinarily good price. He raved on to me about it as he led me into the suite, (I think old doctor Borrie also thought it a bit queer that I was going in there) then he raved on to the nurse about the soap as he swirled his forceps in animation and he left a few minutes after the birth still talking about going back to the fair to see if he could get any more. Then the nurse handed me Sam, which was a pretty cool moment. Where did this little prune come from, I wondered? It was like I was at a magician’s show and a rabbit had popped out of a hat. All sleight of hand and I never saw a thing. I wondered what to do next. The Lion King had not been produced then so I was not even aware of the nahhhhh zavingahhhhh primal acknowledgement to the circle of life. Just as well because if I had thrust Sam above my head and chanted I would have a mouthful of purple poop. The wheelbarrow full of red grapes that Ava had gorged a few hours ago came back to greet me, right down my arm. So I just said ‘hello, I am your dad, just sing out if there’s anything you need” then I gave her back and went out to clean up my arm and make a couple of calls to the grannies. Her granddad was at golf, well it was a Saturday. Thirty years prior I was also born on a Saturday and on that day he was on the harbour, rowing. Well it was the Otago Champs.
Apparently things have changed from those simple days. I recall this because Corey just told me he is under the same pressure from Sam’s midwife to attend in the birthing suite. Corey is puzzled. He loves hunting and if the midwife had asked him to bring her back a leg of wild pork he would do it with pleasure. But he would not expect her to be there to witness him sticking and gutting the beast as her moral duty before being given the leg of pork. She was a midwife and being well paid for her services. If he had wanted to be a nurse he would have chosen that career path. He didn’t want to be a nurse, had no qualifications in nursing, so precisely what exactly was his role to be? Applauding her? But I know that she will just stand there glaring at him, as if to say ‘you made this mess young man and you will stay here and watch me have to clean it up!’
And nowadays it doesn’t stop with the father of the baby being there. The grandparents and other whanau are apparently now also ‘warmly invited’ to attend in the birthing suite. What is that all about? Apart from anything else, it could yet be a Saturday. But it isn’t a big room so if any of you, dear readers, are wanting a good seat, I would get onto TicketDirect pretty smartly.
All well and good in the moment. But then it hit me (as it will Corey) that daughters come with no instruction manual. You don’t need one for a boy; everyone knows how boys work. But little girls? And don’t expect any midwife help now. She is solely focused on looking after the mother and her wee bairn. You just stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done young man!
I did get a sort of a manual when Sam was born. A neighbour took pity and gave me a copy of Linda Goodman’s guide for parents. This was the dawning of the age of Aquarius and Linda was an astrologer. Being the father of a Scorpio I was advised to build a very, very sturdy playpen and then climb inside it. Good advice, to a point. But Sam could still make eye contact through a playpen and as long as she had eye contact, she had control. A scorpion can get you through a playpen, make no mistake.
This time our new wee family member will be an Aries. Aries have a tendency towards liking to be the boss and they get a bit on the moody side if that doesn’t happen. I know Corey is flat out on nice home renovations in preparation for the new arrival. May I suggest, young fella, that, while Sam is still in the maternity home, a secret bunker under the garage floor should be incorporated into the reno; I really don’t think a sturdy playpen is going to cut the mustard with an Aries. And that assumes she does arrive before the 20th after which time she will turn into a Taurus; and if that happens I suggest the bunker be built way out in the woods; a Taurus is going to find the one under the floorboards before she is two.
But back to the big day, which we are still planning is today or within acceptable extensions of today. I was born at 1am on the 18th of March but my nana insisted that was still St Patrick’s day in Ireland. Bless the Irish but, she was right, up until noon on Friday it will still be Thursday the 14th somewhere in the world. Sam and Corey will never forget the overwhelming joy of the first moment they first meet their little baby and feel the softness of a new born’s skin. But I will bet any money that Corey will still be able to tell me exactly where all the paint blemishes are on the walls of the birthing suite.