It’s said that a third childbirth can be the most unpredictable of all, and that certainly seems to be true in our case. Having been round this particular block twice before, both Heather and I were confident of an early arrival. Here we are now, 15 days overdue – or 16 (or 17), depending whether you use the Gregorian or NHS calendar (no one can seem to agree on the exact day count) – and still said would-be-newborn remains resolutely unborn.
To say we are drifting in a state of limbo would be putting it mildly – a genuine pregnant pause, if you will. Having planned a home birth – both Isaac and Toby were born at home – we’re now facing up to the looming prospect of a potentially lengthy stay in hospital to initiate an induced birth. As expectant grandparents, my parents have been sitting by the phone – literally, I suspect – for the best part of a month now. It’s a long time to wait for nothing to happen, no matter how patient and enthusiastic you are.
Being so long overdue means even more time being unable to make any plans which involve (a) driving any real distance or (b) a decent amount of alcohol. The sum total of our adventuring over the past four weeks or so has been a couple of parks, a soft play centre and local friends’ houses. And where we have made plans, many of those have been scuppered too. I was supposed to be going to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow for my first live Arsenal game for a few years. Not any more.
I’m not complaining (too much) about the delay. The only thing that really matters, of course, is that the birth happens at some point, hopefully without complications, and preferably at home. But it is a trifle dull. So, half-seriously, half with tongue in cheek, here are a few observations from a father’s perspective of existing in a state of what the Italians might call in limbo bambino (if they were looking to describe it in a slightly naff play on words, that is):
1. Trying to ensure you have tied up all the loose ends at the end of every working day and jauntily reminding colleagues that you “might not be in tomorrow” wears really thin really quickly – for them as well as you.
2. Resign yourself to an extended period of curfew, where you have to remain sober enough to do an emergency run to hospital, just in case, and can’t stray more than a certain distance away from home, for similar reasons. At least you don’t have to wear one of those ankle bracelets.
3. As every additional day past the due date ticks over, the number of concerned people who will stop to ask you how your wife is doing will increase exponentially. Everyone else will send you SMS messages or requests for Facebook updates. You will never have enough time to answer them all, and when the baby finally arrives you are bound to forget someone.
4. Friends and colleagues with due dates one, two or even three weeks after you will inevitably give birth before you. This is mildly amusing when the first one does so, much less so the second time, and grin-and-bear-it painful by the third. It’s just about the only time in life when you can’t really criticise a queue-jumper.
5. All of a sudden, any location known to be a mobile reception black-spot – Legoland Windsor, say – is transformed from a minor inconvenience that means you can’t check Facebook or Twitter to a strict no-go area. (Sorry, Zac.)
6. I thought I was being really organised scheduling a load of meetings for the next week or so, in the expectation that I would long since have returned from paternity leave. I’ve spent the last few days doing them over the phone, handing them off to other people or trying to reschedule them. Great idea, Tim. Babies don’t respond to Lotus Notes meeting invites. (Microsoft Outlook, maybe.)
I’m lacking the inspiration to come up with much more than that. That’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling for the last week or so. For now, would you mind moving along, please? Nothing to see here.