For about only the third time in my life, I have been wrong about something. I said I would dress the boys up in baby-grows until they were at least into their teens, but I have found out there is a very big flaw in this plan. Or rather tiny fiddly flaws, and lots of them. I refer of course to the buttons or the poppers that do them up. The bigger the baby, the larger the baby-grow and therefore exponentially, the number of fasteners on them. And of course, the older the baby, the more mobile they become. Trying to put a nappy on Henry in particular is like trying to wrap a live squid in baking parchment, this is before doing up the poppers on his vest and trying to get a baby-grow fastened up. Just before bath time Arthur looks like he could fall asleep, but as soon as he is out of the water he is the most wide awake baby in the world and getting a baby-grow on him is like having a wrestling match with a very determined dwarf. We even made the mistake of trying the ones with buttons on, but that was an act of sheer folly. I have, however, spotted, in the boxes of hand-me-downs that they boys are yet to grow into, a few baby-grows with zips down the front of them, so my plan might not necessarily yet be thwarted.
On Christmas Eve Satan delivered a present to our two offspring. No, I’m not an exdyslic and I did mean Satan not Santa, because teeth were delivered to our boys. From what I’ve read on the internet, this particular development can turn children into the devil incarnate. They don’t sleep at night, at all, ever again, they don’t eat, and they turn, overnight, from little angels into evil sprites. Our two mustn’t have received the memo though, because other than the occasional high temperature and a couple of wake ups in the night, they have coped admirably so far. Henry has got two bottom teeth, which are growing fast and he looks like an upside down rabbit. Arthur has only the one bottom tooth so far, which is making him look like an upside down Nanny McPhee.
In other news, and according to everyone we have spoken to, it had to happen sooner or later, because every parent does it apparently, we have broken one of the babies. I mean properly broken as in needing hospital attention. I know we have a spare one in events such as this, but that’s not the point really… I was about to write that we should have been more careful to finish that last sentence, but the reality is that there is nothing that we could have reasonably done to prevent it – the incident was a complete accident and there was little more that could have been done to prevent it.
We had been out for a very agreeable brunch at a local café one rainy Saturday morning back in mid December. It is located on the top floor of an old Victorian Mill, which is now given over to what can only really be described as a Flea Market – each room is adorned with antique tat, all of it for sale at ridiculously high Cheshire prices and none of it is the sort of thing any normal and sane person would want on display in their house. It should have been a sign, because the whole visit started on the wrong foot – there are some other businesses located within the mill and one of them makes ornate plaster cast display pieces featuring the foot and hand prints of babies. As we entered the building one of the ladies on reception said to Mrs Aitchworld, “Oh you’re the lady with the twins…” like we are the only people in town with twins, “we are doing the footprints for you”. This was going to be a surprise Christmas present for me from Mrs Aitchworld. Was going to be…
Anyway we had a lovely brunch on the top floor and then we were going to go home and start removing our kitchen as we had sold it on a well-known auction site a couple of days before and thought it might be advisable to actually dismantle it to some degree before it was collected in a few days’ time. Victorian buildings don’t tend to have lifts, so we had carried the boys up there, and carried them back down again. In hindsight, we could have possibly carried them in their car seats and maybe what followed could have been prevented, but they are heavy enough already so we carried them as they were. When we exited the building, bidding farewell to the receptionists that ruined my Christmas surprise it was raining heavily, but no biggie, we were parked right outside the door. The mill is located on a steep slope of a street and as Mrs Aitchworld crossed the pavement to walk around to the far side of the car to put Henry in his car seat, she slipped on the kerbstone, falling in the process.
It happened in a flash. I only glimpsed part of it out of the corner of my eye as I was heading to the car to put Arthur in his seat, so it was kind of in my blind spot. By the time I turned round Mrs Aitchworld and Henry were both lying on the floor in front of our parked car, her with her knee very mashed up, it transpired, and Henry howling in (what we thought was) shock.
Henry continued to howl all afternoon. Calpol (other pain relief treatments are available) didn’t touch it but we couldn’t see any visible signs of injury. I had a man to man chat with him, but he didn’t man up and deal with the trauma of a fall so Mrs Aitchworld took him to A&E. Even they thought it was just a trauma until a nurse spotted a tiny bruise on his knee and despite thinking it wasn’t indicative of anything serious, thought it prudent to get his leg X-rayed.
It was serious. Henry’s femur was fractured in two places and he was immediately put in a cast. Or a pot, if you are from Yorkshire. Doctors surmised that as Mrs Aitchworld fell, her natural reaction was to pull Henry close to her. He on the other hand would be leaning back and away from her to brace himself as they both fell, which bent his leg to the point that his bone fractured.
At that point, the guilt was overwhelming. On my part it was because I hadn’t believed that when Henry was crying so hard, there was anything really wrong with him. On Mrs Aitchworld’s part it was because it was her that happened to fall and that she was holding the boy when it happened. The reality was that it could have been either one of us, and either one of the boys that this happened to.
I’m normally a big advocate for the NHS; they have fixed me up on a number of occasions following DIY accidents, so much so I was known on sight at our local A&E and had my own chair on standby for me, but what followed was complete farce. A farce that ran into being six days long. Mrs Aitchworld had taken Henry to our nearest A&E. The fracture he had was of such a nature that the consultant there decided that he needed a special cast applying, called a Spica (pronounced “spiker”) cast, which meant that the cast they had already applied was only temporary. The hospital he was in couldn’t actually do these casts, so he would have to go up to the Childrens’ hospital at Alder Hey in Liverpool. No problem, you would think; get us up there, get the bucket out and get some plaster mixed…
It’s not as simple as that, apparently. Fitting a cast of this nature has to be done under general anaesthetic. This is a procedure that has to be booked in, and the next available appointment was on Wednesday, in five days’ time. We were told Henry could go home in his temporary cast until the operation date, then we were told he had to stay in hospital because he would lose his appointment at Alder Hey if he left NHS care. When we queried this, a consultant came back into the hospital after leaving to go home without even speaking to us or seeing his patient personally, to tell us that we were misinformed and the real reason that Henry couldn’t come home was that he had to be observed for 72 hours. This may have been so, but although the procedure was booked, a bed wasn’t available and if one didn’t become available in time then the appointment would be delayed yet further and there was no guarantee that Henry would be released from prison NHS “care” in the meantime.
Eventually, after six long days, Henry came out of hospital in his Spica cast, which resembled a pair of chaps made out of plaster. Nappies had to have the tabs cut off and shoved up and wedged underneath the cast, baths were out of the question and Henry would have to be moved every four hours in the night to prevent bed sores. In those intervening six days Mrs Aitchworld spent the entire time with Henry, spending the first few nights on a ZedBed and the last two on a sofa, as Alder Hey don’t have even folding beds for parents to sleep on. I say sleep, but with all the interruptions that are involved with hospital “observation”, there wasn’t much sleep to be had. Social Service, to whom the injury was reported, rang me a few days after the incident to say that although they were entirely satisfied that the whole thing was nothing more than an unfortunate accident, given that Mrs Aitchworld had a mashed up knee as evidence, the staff at Alder Hey were concerned with the way she responded to interrogation on occasion. Yeah, well five nights without proper sleep can kind of do that!
I became a single dad to Arthur for a few days, and in trying to juggle doing work, looking after Arthur (which admittedly involved dumping him in a nursery for a few afternoons for someone else to look after him), gave me a new found respect for Mrs Aitchworld and how hard she has worked on her maternity leave looking after the boys. And I was only looking after one of them. I didn’t think that I had suffered undue stress and that I coped admirably, but my chiropractor disagreed with this, saying my back was incredibly tense and the treatment, immediately following this whole event, hurt. I mean really hurt. I nearly had an unmanly moment and cried.
The ordeal is over now – Henry had the cast on for four weeks and it came off this Tuesday. While it was on, he coped marvellously and even though he was effectively immobilised from the waist down, he was even trying to crawl, dragging himself along the bars of his cot. Since it has come off though, his personality has been transformed and he seems so much happier. The first thing we did when we got him home was give him a bath. He was so excited and he splashed so much that me, Mrs Aitchworld and the whole bathroom were soaked. He’s got to wait a couple of weeks before he is allowed in the Jumparoo, but I suspect he will bounce it off its springs once he is let loose!