Monday 26th October 2009
One year ago today.
I’m supposed to be working today.
But somewhere in the alignment of the stars, and the preaching to demi-gods from past lives, things have lined up. Because it’s an admin day. And we all know what that means. I have a day off.
We’ve woken in that slightly surreal fug of monumentalism, of things never being quite the same again. That this is real, this is the rest of our lives, and that our future really began yesterday. That we’re a true, fully-fledged family. It’s official. As of yesterday.
I ring my parents. Mum picks up the phone, and we chat for a couple of minutes before I can’t hold it any longer.
“Mum, Suse and I are pregnant!” She lets out a series of guttural cries and sighs, the ones she saves for monumental announcements, when words simply won’t suffice. She loops this for a couple of minutes, before finally finding her voice again.
“How many weeks?”
“Like, bugger all. I don’t even know. We only found out yesterday.”
“Wow,” she says, a faint waver in her voice.
“Yeah,” I say, not hearing it.
We talk some more, I tell, she gushes. As I tell my parents, Suse tells hers. And then onto siblings, both of us in unison, her on her phone and me on mine. And then friends. The shrieks of joy all come at the expected places, just as you’d hope. Right on cue, everyone cooes appropriately. Everyone is happy and joyous, just as you’d hope.
Now, there is an extended version of the tale; the one about getting the tester, but added to this, more details. That this is something Suse had always wanted. That I have too. That I’d never known how much I wanted it until now. That it feels just right, and proper. That it feels just like a new beginning, a new horizon after our dog, Claude, was run over on the last day of our honeymoon. That this is the real start to our new family. And that we’d just started! This truly was beginners luck. Yep, never had sex before now. Hah, hah, hah.
Everyone laughs, everyone has smiles in their voice, everyone is elated, almost as much as were are. People are surprised by the early announcement, but shit, we don’t care. It is a sweet song to be singing, one which everyone is happy to join. We swap phones, Suse and I, resting our ears, smiling as we go, laughing in unison.
Suse is radiant.
* * * * *
I begin research in earnest.
As with all large purchases, there is a level of background research that is required. I won’t buy car insurance without doing the groundwork, so why would the care of my wife’s womb be any different?
In conversation, I begin to gain consensus on our friends’ Obstetricians. Who’s had who, where they’ve been born, what’s their manor, how touchy-feely are they? And if they’re not touch-feely, can they get you out of a tough spot?
For Suse, she wants the love. For me, I just want the baby out intact. Hey, I’m a Paediatrician. I don’t care if they never address either of us by name. If they get my baby out in good nick, they can call me Fred forever.
The balance needs to be there, obviously. The feminine and the masculine. And I’m not talking gender here. I mean, the ethereal, the unknown, versus the rational and the knowledge. The ancient balance. The yang and the yin. And here it is: the beautiful art of Obstetrics.
I listen and absorb, all yang. I go and tell Suse, who brings in the yin.
“When the shit hits the fan, he’s cool in a crisis.”
“But will he talk to me in the proceeding forty weeks?”
“I’m not sure, but what we’re buying here is insurance. Our Obstetrician is an insurance policy. He’s there for when things go wrong.”
“And will he discuss it with me? Or will he just tell me what to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“I want a woman, Mark. There’s something weird about male Obstetricians.”
I pause for a moment.
“You do realise I have delivered babies, honey? That it is a joyful, amazing experience, and that if it weren’t for the longs hours and the litigation, that I’d probably have done it as a career.”
“Uh huh,” she says, chewing on bread.
“Does that make me weird?”
“No,” she answers, plainly, as if making sense.
Our opinions float around, sparring amicably. After all, we’re pregnant. How bad can things get? Eventually, we settle on a plan. I ring Joel, a friend of mine, training as an Obstetric Registrar.
“Hey mate,” he yells back, the sounds of the hospital cafeteria chinking in the background.
“Hey, Joel,” I say. How are you?”
“Good mate, good.”
“Joel, we’re pregnant.”
“Aaaayyyy!” he says, his Italian flare winding up, “Congratulations, my friend,” he continues, all cheer and good will.
I tell the story. He listens, but I sense him quickly lose interest in the details; someone who swims in birth has trouble getting excited about the water.
“So, Joel,” I say, snapping him back, “here’s the big question for you.”
“Yeah?” He’s suddenly re-engaged.
“We’re deciding on an Obstetrician, and we’re down to three. Give me your opinion. Kath, Nina or Amy.” These three are so good, that they don’t need second names.
“Ummm…look, that’s not easy. It depends on exactly what you’re looking for.”
“I’m looking for a preserved vagina and a happy baby. Suse wants the love.”
“Okay. Well, Nina will give you the love. Definitely. She’ll sit with you for hours and you’ll never feel rushed. Same with Amy.”
“Cool in a crisis.”
“That’s what I want. And the love?”
“She’ll give it. When you ask for it. But not without asking.”
“But cool in a crisis, right?”
“Who would you have?”
“Well, we did have Nina, but Kath is also very good. It really doesn’t matter.” He takes a bite of something. “Hey, here’s a plan. Straw poll.”
I hear the sound of murmuring in the background. I can just make out his voice as he asks the group their opinion. In turn, around the table I here the vote of five females voices.
“Three Kath, two Nina. And they’re all women. You want beautiful explanation and care? Nina. You want cool in a crisis? Kath.”
“I want cool in a crisis.”
“I hear you. And not that there’s anything to split them, really. You do know that you are talking cream of the crop.”
“I know, Joel, I know. There’s got to be some sort of insider trading advantage of me being a doctor, right?”
He lets out his big Italian laugh.
“I know these guys are all good,” I continue.
“Just depends on if they’re free, though.”
“I’m not researching like a maniac for nothing. If Suse’s period wasn’t clockwork, we wouldn’t even know yet. That’s why I’m so on to it.”
“Better get booking then.”
I replay the conversation to Suse: For love, we go to Nina, for cool, we go to Kath.
I want cool. She wants both.
“They will both be both, hon. Look, we’re talking about the best here.” I screw up my eyes, before starting, “It’s like saying Federer has a shit backhand.” Her face crinkles with confusion. “They will all be all things, out of this list. They’re the top in town. But we’ve got to make a choice today. So we don’t miss out.”
“Do you know what they’ll be like?”
“No idea. I haven’t met them. So, no, I don’t.” She sighs.
“All right. Just ring.”
I ring the practice, and get straight through to the secretary.
“Hi there,” I say, “my wife is pregnant…”
“…Congratulations,” she says quickly, like it’s the first time today.
“Ah, yes, thank you,” I reply, genuinely chuffed.
“Oh, yes. I’d like – we’d like – to book in with Kath.”
”Do you know your wife’s dates?”
“Of her last period?”
“Yes,” she asks, “we need to calculate the due date.”
“Wow,” I say, “Secretaries job descriptions have expanded, haven’t they?”
“Last period?” she repeats, this time more tersely.
“Ahhh…” I scramble for numbers, before repeating them back. I hear her tapping away.
“So you’re 4 weeks and 3 days.”
I pause for a second.
“Even though conception was closer to two weeks ago?”
“The baby’s age goes on the last normal menstrual period, rather than the actual age of the conceptus.”
“Right,” I say catching up. “I must have forgotten that one from med school.” I fumble for a pen. “That’s a protocol that floats way back to antiquity, doesn’t it?”
“Well, I guess, when women have been giving birth for millions of years, the old science is hard to kick. Like the language. The talk about ‘quickenings’, and ‘shows’ and ‘cerclage’ and ‘Braxton Hicks’ makes me think that we’re lost between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance.”
There is a pause down the line, and then some heavy breathing.
“Sorry,” I say, feeling the need to apologise.
“Luckily, you got in early, so Kath is free. We’ll book you in for your ten-week appointment right now.” I reach for my diary, and mark down the date.
“Thank you very much,” I say.
“Pleasure, sir,” she says, almost meaning it. “Oh, and your due date is July 2nd, 2010. Have a nice day.”
A winter baby.
* * * * *
Suse and I head out to see a movie, or get food, or something, we’re not sure. We’re distracted, and elated and just kind of basking in the joy of it all. We end up shopping, and then heading to a bookshop to grab ourselves a copy of ‘Up the Duff’ and ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.
That night we head to bed early, sitting upright against our pillows, Suse with one book, me with the other. She sits there munching on corn chips, the licence for continuous grazing having been issued yesterday.
We sit there absorbing, holding hands intermittently, excitedly pointing out our findings, swapping facts like a studious old couple.
I place my hand on her belly, just below her book, and imagine what I can feel.
* * * * *