The Only Way is Up

I don’t really ever cry. I’m not really an emotional person. When my sister once rang me, in floods of tears, to inform me that a relative had died of cancer, I asked if I could ring back after the episode of Top Gear I was watching. There are only two things that are known to make me cry; the funeral at the end of the film Big Fish, and a couple of scenes in the film Up – the first being the one where Mrs Fredricksen passes, and the other later on in the film where Mr Fredericksen finds his late wife’s scrapbook. There is the possibility that E.T. would do the same to me – I seem to recall that I howled the cinema down with wracking great sobs back in 1982. Other than that, I am a cold, barren wasteland in the tear department. Well I was until last Thursday when my other half gave birth, by caesarean section, to twins; Childbirth and parenthood seem to have broken me.

I had resolutely resolved to stay steely eyed and strong throughout the whole experience. Mrs Aitchworld, on the other hand had determined that I must have no soul if I could remain unemotional during this process. She even threatened to have the pertinent scenes from Up ready to play in the birthing room if I refused to shed a tear. She needn’t have gone to all the trouble of actually arranging this – in the event, I cried like a wet-arsed jessie from the very moment the first one, Henry Herbert, entered the world. Through my tears I sobbed “he looks just like your brother” as they held him up over the cloth screen separating us from the business end of proceedings. On reflection this is probably a bit of a weird thing to have said, seeing as we live in a sleepy market town in rural Cheshire rather than Hicksville USA, but her family genes are strong in this one. Just as I was getting over this and returning to my resolve, his brother, Arthur Edward, was presented over the screen to me. We knew that these twins were fraternal, or non-identical in layman’s terms, but the difference between the two was night and day. Arthur was the spitting image of me; a proper mini me. I don’t mean a little bit; I mean he could be my (very tiny) identical twin. At first sight I was totally overwhelmed and sobbed, in much the same way I howled down the Rex in Wilmslow back in 1982.

I am sure every parent says this, but they were perfect. Some babies that are presented to the world really do have a face that only their mother could love and should go on to a successful career in radio, but it has been universally confirmed by everyone who has clapped eyes on them, that my new-born offspring are incredibly cute and impossibly beautiful, even though in some lights, a few days down the line, the first born looks like a cross between me, Mrs Aitchworld and Nigel Farage. This is fleeting though and sometimes even we look at them and wonder how we managed to create something so good looking.

The birth itself was relatively drama free. I much prefer the term elective C-Section to emergency C-Section; the latter rather gives the impression of, well, an emergency. Planned seems more serene, well, as serene as slicing someone open from side to side and taking out two babies can be. I stayed up at the head end, sitting down low on a stool, safely behind the cloth screen away from the business end. After a few minutes a baby would be held up in a cloth, its bits flashed at us so that we knew what flavour they were. The boys arrived within two minutes of each other. They were taken to far corners of the delivery theatre and placed under heat lamps, cleaned up, checked over and their lungs given a work over. At this point I was asked if I would like to take some pictures, which of course I did, so I went over with my DSLR for some fancy shots and my phone for some instant snaps to upload to Facebook for an instant announcement to friends and family once I found a signal. It was only afterwards I regretted not doing any selfies but Poundland had sold out of Selfie Sticks.

All of this photography business is incidental. You see, the areas in which the boys were being worked on and looked after was at the foot end of proceedings. After taking a pile of pictures of Henry, I turned to walk over to Arthur. Schoolboy error, I know, but as I was crossing the room, I glanced over to where the surgical team were sewing up Mrs Aitchworld. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. I assumed, as I had been allowed to traverse to that end of the room, that most of the work had been done and there would be nothing to see here. What I hadn’t expected was to look into a gaping hole, something akin to an abattoir, where a baby bump had been less than half an hour earlier. Normally I would have instantly fainted at the site of such a scene, managing a huge vomit before I hit the floor, because I’m not good with blood and gore, or needles and surgical procedures in general. I must have been running on adrenaline and high emotion because it didn’t bother me in the slightest, other than more than a little concern for my other half of course. I didn’t go in for a closer look or point my camera or anything; I just turned away and walked over to Arthur for his close ups.

Once Mrs Aitchworld was all sewn up, it was off to recovery. No one really explained what was going on and I was so dazed I didn’t think to ask. In fact there were a lot of things that people neglected to tell me, of which I will come back to at a later date in another missive. But in particular, the one thing that no-one warn me about were the black tar poos. Actually, a friend who had given birth a few months before did kind of mention them, but I wasn’t really listening and thought she was taking about a band she had been to see and they didn’t sound like my cup of Bovril.

To anyone reading this who is about to become a parent for the first time, listen out for the words from a midwife or nurse along the lines of “Daddy, it is time to change your first nappy”. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for the contents of this first nappy. For those of us that learned to drive in the late ‘80s, in relics of cars from the ‘70s, will no doubt recall the Autumn ritual of using Holts underseal to protect what was left of the underside of your Allegro from the winter elements ahead and hold all the rust together. Well the first poo of a baby looks exactly the same, but in reality is far tougher than this ever was. You could mend a bitumen roof with it. You could fix potholes with it far more effectively than using Tarmacadam. If there was a way of harvesting this stuff and sell it to councils, everybody’s council tax would decrease in an instant as all road repairs would last double the amount of time as currently. It has also totally put me off Marmite – I used to love it, but I won’t be spreading it on my toast again any time soon!

I scrubbed away with a wet wipe for what felt like days, trying to remove this stuff, seemingly in vain. I asked for a Brillo pad, or at the very least a scouring sponge, but this is frowned upon, apparently. The same goes for blow torches, which is what I used to use in the good old days. In between scrubs the boy concerned would release a shower of wee into the air to demonstrate he was unhappy about the situation and to remind Daddy to hurry up and get his (rather impressively sized, considering) knob and bollocks covered up. The pressure was immense and that was before even attempting to unfold a nappy and wrap it around something constantly wriggling and how to open a nappy disposal sack (poo bags for humans instead of dogs) one-handed. Fortunately I was doing all of this on a changing mat on the floor, as I figure it is hard to drop something off the floor, but at one point I was even doubting this was true. And we had twins, so I had to go through this ritual twice!

In total Mrs Aitchworld and the boys spent five nights in hospital. I wimped out after four nights of sleeping for only an hour or so at a time in a chair, waking up on day five by running faster than Mo Farrah to the toilet, where I began throwing up nothing. I was running on less than empty. According to the trip computer, my car is able to do this. I wasn’t. When I returned to the hospital later that evening I was sent straight home because I was shaking so badly there was no way they would let me hold a baby, even if it was lying on the floor. Most of what happened during these five days and nights is a blur and I remember only milestone moments, such as the aforementioned nappy, the first time each of the boys gripped my finger, counting and recounting the number of fingers each of them had, comparing their noses and ears to Mrs Aitchworld’s and mine, and marvelling at how big their feet were and wondering whether my pot had got mixed up with a clown’s in the IVF clinic.

Back to where this chapter opened, the crying thing, the floodgates have now been opened. I’m crying at anything. Four days after they were born Mrs Aitchworld found me staring into the cot, looking at the boys, sobbing my heart out. When one of the midwives in the hospital told me I was doing an amazing job, I began whimpering. And when it was time to say goodbye to the staff when we left hospital, the lump came back to my throat and the tears welled. And as we pulled away in the car, I was reminded of that Midge Ure classic, “Driving, with tears in my eyes, dreaming of the Marmite, from life gone by…” I haven’t dared watch any telly yet since I’ve been home – I’m worried that I might start wailing if one of the people featured on Homes Under The Hammer don’t make the profit they are expecting or something!

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