A few hours ago, after a long enjoyable, exhausting day at Archie’s birthday party, I was sitting on the couch, watching the present opening through the lens of a video camera, noting how Archie’s eyes widened in surprise at each new present before he discarded it and started, feverishly, on the next one, and I couldn’t stop myself from remembering various scenes from his birth – five years ago today – and right now, with the kids in bed and the mournful yet uplifting sounds of Guru Josh’s Infinity washing over me, I have a desire, for the first time ever, to send myself back in time to write about it.
Archie appears in the world sporting a cone-head bruised from his posterior birthing position. His skin is purple-ish, and guck-covered, but it is his withdrawn, Elmer Fudd-ish chin that steals my attention, and even though I was fully aware that a baby was coming today I am still so surprised – as well as knackered and exhausted and traumatized from my role as a bit player in this thirty-hour, harrowing labor– that my first stuttering words to the nurse are,
It occurs to me, only a second later, that saying something so lame may become my greatest, irreparable mistake, because Archie isn’t breathing, and as the nurses and doctors whisk him away to work on him in the corner of the room, and as I fight back the desire to knock them down and take over, I look to Reservoir Mum, who, after lasting an ordeal that would have killed Muhammad Ali, Genghis Kahn and at least one John Farnham comeback concert, is moving her head slowly from side to side, eyes closed, totally at the mercy of yet another doctor, who is trying to stem her relentless hemorrhaging, and I can only watch helplessly, and hope – with whatever I have left – that Archie will breath and that Reservoir Mum will not bleed out, and that my lame first words to Archie will be something trivial and funny to talk to them about in the years to come, and not the last horrible thing I ever say to them.
This wine is a good drop. I scored it at a family wedding, for free, several years ago and as I pour myself another glass, Human Leagues Don’t You want Me – which is a good song, but lacking in its ability to evoke a reflective mood – begins to remove me from the immediacy of Archie’s traumatic birth, and so I return to Guru Josh and set Infinity to repeat itself, for as long as is necessary for this confession to feel complete.
At least a litre of blood has pooled under Reservoir Mum’s bed and there are no sounds coming from the tiny operating table in the corner of the room and a sense of horror is beginning to steal the strength from my legs, and my hands are shaking, and I am seriously – perhaps irrationally – considering that I may be leaving here alone and reentering the world as a man who does not have everything he wants, and does not consider himself to be luckiest of the luckiest.
As a human often does, I begin to imagine the worst possible tragedy and the room begins to cool and harden, the doctors and nurses become nothing but strangers, officials, incapable of offering comfort or condolence and everything is beginning to blur and fade and I am certain that I am going to lose it, lose everything, but just as the possibility of leaving here without my baby boy and the love of my life drives me to the near side of hysteria, I hear the first tiny squeak of a new life, and as I hold my breath to listen more closely, the doctor managing Reservoir Mum’s hemorrhage says, nonchalantly, ‘There we go,’ and begins removing her bloodied gloves for the bin, and then the squeak becomes a siren and a baby is finally placed upon Reservoir Mum’s chest – which I am thrilled to see is rising and falling with her steady breathing – and when she opens her eyes and looks directly at me, I experience something I’ve never experienced before – complete, authentic relief.
Although I still feel like I’m going to fall I manage to tell the nurse, ‘We might call him, Archie,’ and even though I remain stoic, and restrict a public showing of emotion – by appearing outwardly relaxed while contracting inwardly at my duodenum – I know that I am only a familiar bed and some ‘me-time’ away from total meltdown.
As I finish the last drop of wine the need to write begins to wane and I feel I have finally purged myself of one of the most traumatic events of my life and I decide that it’s time to listen to something more uplifting and reflective of today’s successful, joyous party. I settle on Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic, and within seconds, I’m smiling.
I remember the look on Archie’s face when he saw Reservoir Mum’s Giant Cookie Cake, and how he laughed as two little girls, Lucy and Lily, chased him around the Playcentre to claim him as their friend, with a kiss on the cheek. I remember how Lewis screamed in a jealous rage and tried to tear a hole in the mesh of the ball-pit, as Archie ran past with Aiden and Fayez and the twins, and how, for the whole day, he was surrounded by family and friends who were transparent in their desire to hang out with him, because he’s just a great kid, he really is – one of the most thoughtful, loving, considerate, energetic, creative, brilliant kids ever – and I don’t need a bottle of wine or a cool playlist of 80’s classics to know this about him, or to know, that I am the luckiest of the luckiest to be his Dad, and to have this time with him.