It was a good life way back in the early 90’s. Mates, beers, utes and Acca Dacca belting out of the stereo. No responsibilities in life and freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with who I wanted…well as much as the Army allowed me anyway.
Then came those words that ended it all. Those two little words which instantly induce bowel clenching, scrotum tightening horror in any carefree young man.
“I’m pregnant”, she says.
“Shit” I says.
And from there life did a full one eighty degree turn. All of a sudden I was responsible for something, or even scarier, someone. Some little bugger, through no fault of his own, was going to be relying on me to keep him alive and kicking. Up to that point my total experience with kids was playing around with a couple of nephews. How the fuck was I going to do this?
“How is it that you arrived at the predicament” I hear you ask. Let’s just say this is where I learned the most important lesson in life. You see there are only two pretty much fail-safe methods of avoiding conception. One, obviously, is to take things in hand, so to speak. But that’s about as fulfilling as playing totem tennis, solo (how’s that for imagery). So while whacking the ball back and forth (too much?) and imagining Anna Kournakova hitting back is ok, actually having someone playing with you is much more fun, and saves a bit of effort to.
But, outsourcing brings an unpredictable variable into the equation. Now, you can employ the second nearly fail-safe method of wrapping the little bloke in rubber. Does the job but let’s face it, do you really want to go swimming in a wetsuit when the water is just right? Hell no. Anyway, she’s on the pill………..isn’t she.
This, my friends, is the lesson learned. Do not put your faith in the pill to be effective, or in the other half to take it regularly. Forget this lesson and you too will experience the “oh shit” moment.
Now all the fancy books will tell you that a pregnancy lasts nine months to allow the future mud magnet to get to a sufficient level of development to enable it to pretty much survive on its own.
The pregnancy lasts nine months to allow the average prospective father to go through the full rollercoaster from the “oh fuck” moment to the “oh well here we go” moment. This usually involves, depending on the individual, stops of varying lengths along the way at such places as “maybe I could just go for a drive and not stop”, “what are the chances it’s someone else’s” and maybe even “hey I’m in the army, surely there’s a war going on somewhere”.
My introduction to this foreign world was somewhat softened by the mother in this equation. As long as she dressed the little tacker, changed nappies and provided a bit of boob time then I could just get on with my role of working and being the provider for my newly instated family. Or so I thought.
Apparently that kind of parenting arrangement went out the window somewhere in the 50’s or 60’s and insisting on its reinstatement in 1995 makes a bloke a chauvinistic arsehole. So I was in it up to my elbows whether I liked it or not.
Fortunately by the time the pregnancy was at its end I had pretty much come around to liking the idea. Especially as the ultra sound had shown it was likely to be a boy child. “Sweet,” I thought. “I know young blokes. I went to school with a heap of them.” With this new found information I was having visions of footy, wrestling, camping and building cars together. But that was all to come a bit further down the track.
So with the big day approaching, I was actually starting to get keen on this idea. I started counting down the weeks, then the days, then the hours……..and then the due date passed with nary a sign that the little bugga was planning on moving anytime soon. First he was a day late, then two days, this stretched into three, four etc until at the two week mark the doctors basically said “Bugger this. Time to give him an eviction notice.”
So at 9:00am on 16th August 1995 the doc administered the childbirth laxative and got the ball rolling. Thankfully I wasn’t required for this early stage of things, so I got to work for the day and avoided the first few hours of the process.
With no emergency calls throughout the day, after work I headed over to the hospital with the appropriate amount of haste – ie via Macca’s for a quick artery hardener, ‘cause I was pretty sure the hospital wasn’t likely to cater for a hungry dad to be. I rolled in, found the right room and casually asked how it was going.
Alright fellas, listen closely now. The integrity of your wedding tackle may one day depend on following this one bit of advice. When your missus has just had the previous eight hours in labour, without your attendance, do not casually ask “How’s it going.” Fortunately for me, I was standing just out of arms reach, so the hay-maker completely missed. However, I wasn’t lucky enough to be out of ear shot. I had to endure the next hour, listening to stories of weird objects being inserted into areas which had previously been my private domain. This child birth gig is tough for blokes.
At some stage it was decided that she might be a bit more comfortable, and things might progress a bit faster, if I were to take her for a walk around the wards. Being the dutiful and caring husband I obviously was, I agreed. And what a good thing it was that I did. Because I was patiently waiting in the hallway while she was curled up with a contraction, and who should I see coming the other way? It was Dools, the corporal in charge of my section of the workshop. Dools was in a similar predicament, except he was pushing his missus in a wheel chair. And just at that point, she too was having a contraction.
“How’s it going Dools?”
“Mate, we’ve been here for three hours already.” He replied.
“I know how ya feel. I come here straight from the workshop, and bugger all has happened since.” Then I leaned in closer and whispered “Is it just me, or is this whole process a bit bloody boring?”
“I reckon. I’ve been trying to do a cross word to pass the time, but whenever I tell her to help with an answer she calls be a bastard. Apparently I’m expected to just sit there and twiddle me thumbs” he said in frustration.
I was about to console him when a vice-like grip on my knackers suggested it was time to wind up this happy little reunion. So back to the labour suite it was.
The next few hours passed with a seemingly endless number of doctors and midwives coming and going, and not much more happening. At about 10pm, the main doc reckoned it was about time to “bust the waters”. I was thinking that maybe that was some kind of medical euphemism for having a beer, so I jumped on that bandwagon as quick as I could. Turns out I was wrong, and after the procedure was performed, and the floor mopped up, it was back to waiting. And more waiting.
The hands on the clock slowly wound their way around to 2am. That’s in the morning. That’s nineteen hours since I last had a kip. This labour caper was getting bloody tiring, yet when I decided it’d be fun to have a go at the medicinal laughing gas, she voiced her displeasure, muttering something about it being there to ease her pain, not to entertain me. Bit bloody selfish I reckon.
Mercifully it was around this time that the doc advised me to go home and get a few hours’ sleep as there still wasn’t much movement at the station. So I headed home, had a quick shower and jumped into the sack in record time. Then, just as I was about to slip into blissful sleep and punch out the first Z, the phone rang. I briefly considered pretending that I didn’t hear it, but a strong sense of self-preservation compelled me to answer it.
As I feared, it was the doctor telling me that I’d better get back there pretty quick as things were starting to move.
So I hurriedly got dressed.
Ran to the car.
Zooooomed to the hospital.
Sprinted into the labour suite………….and was told that there still wasn’t much happening. Bastards were just messing with me I reckon.
There followed another couple of hours of waiting, feeling better because of the realisation that this long night was going to be ample justification for not going in to work tomorrow. Things were looking up.
Then all hell broke loose.
At around four in the morning the youngn’s heart rate dropped from 140 beats per minute down to 40. The was haemorrhaging, panicking doctors, forms shoved under my nose authorising emergency cesareans, and anaesthetists administering epidurals and everyone was whisked out into the operating room. All joking aside, it was a toss of the coin as to whether I would lose either one of them or even both.
I was lucky enough to be allowed into the theatre, but had to get dressed up in some funky blue pyjamas beforehand. Naturally I was rockin’ the new threads.
Now if you’re looking for surreal situations, nothing beats sitting beside someone’s head while they’re lying on a surgery bed, casually talking, while on the other side of a small screen they’re literally being cut open.
That’s how Mortimer (not his real name) came into the world; late, maximum amount of stuffing everyone around and then out through the sun roof, as a mate of mine once put it.
A couple of years later, something even more terrifying than a young boy came crashing into my life. Yup, a young girl. What the fuck am I supposed to do with a young girl? At least I knew something of the wants and needs of a young bloke. But a sheila? A mini-nag? Oh Jesus.
Fortunately, unlike her brother, Brenda’s entry into this world was much less dramatic, although she too decided that the top hatch was preferable to the torpedo tube. “Beautiful,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this means she won’t be such an annoying, cheeky little shit”. Alas, she was just messing with me. Lulling me into a false sense of security, as in later years she would be the cheekiest and most annoying of all. But for now, just a sweet, gurgling little girl-child.
But fate was not done messing with me yet. What could possibly be worse than one cheeky smart-arsed boy-child and one cute yet cheeky girl-child? That’s right, one cheeky smart-arsed boy-child and one cute yet cheeky girl-child and the unexpected arrival of a stubborn, loud and cheeky child. This one was of the female persuasion as well. The god’s must’ve been pissing themselves laughing by this stage. I didn’t know what to do with one girl, now they were expecting me to raise two of them? I kinda hoped they’d be like puppies and I could put them out in the back yard and they could raise themselves. Apparently the Law has issues with that kind of parenting though.
Kertrude had followed the, by now, established tradition of going over the top, rather than tunnelling her way out. But again, hers was an easy and mostly uneventful entry into the world. A peace and tranquillity which was to be short lived as she was destined to become the loudest of the three.
So there you go. That will do by way of introduction to my tribe. Keep reading and I’ll regale you with anecdotes and stories of how I manage to drag these three helpless tax deductions into semi-reasonable human beings, and maybe even give a bit of advice, based on knowledge gained on the battlefield along the way.
Tune in next week as I stumble my way through those tough early years getting to know how to do this parenting thing.
Until then, take it easy.