Clenching my bum cheeks, so as not to spill my guts for the fifteenth time in an hour, I looked down at the little face that was screaming blue murder at me and wondered ‘what the hell have I done?’.
Meanwhile, I could hear my wife expelling from the other end upstairs and as I cast an eye across the room it was apparent the house was a veritable bomb site, with baby paraphernalia littered everywhere. It wasn’t my home anymore.
Desperately attempting to force a bottle of milk down the throat of the little thing in my arms, I projectile vomited into a handily-placed washing up bowl. The positioning of the bowl was probably the only thing that had gone right since we’d got our ‘bundle of joy’ home from the hospital.
Mobile phone perched betwixt shoulder and ear, I made an emergency call. Not for an ambulance, or the men in white coats, but for my wife’s friend who lived within walking distance. I didn’t know what else to do. I hadn’t even considered that it was only 6 am on a Sunday morning.
Thankfully, she was able to come around immediately and soon there was a knock at the door. Then she looked through the window and rather than being completely horrified at the scene, she waved pleasantly. She’d seen this all before, having had two kids herself, and my desperate state was nothing new to her.
Crouched over with babe in arms, bum cheeks still firmly clenched and (my own) sick dribbling down my chest, I shuffled to the door. My rescue angel immediately relieved me of said babe and I was able to run upstairs and just about prevent a personal accident by barging my poorly wife out of the way and planting myself firmly on the toilet.
I heard my wife vomit again. But apart from the sound of her retching, the house fell quiet. For what seemed like the first time in days, the baby wasn’t crying or screaming.
I stayed on the toilet longer than necessary to savour the tranquil moment of relative peace.
My wife’s friend shouted something upstairs about taking our baby to her house for a couple of hours. I grunted loudly back, and with that, she was gone. We had barely made it two days without our newborn having to be taken from us… Were we terrible parents already?
I have never enjoyed a shower so much. After checking on my wife, I actually got dressed for the first time in an age. I ripped off the wristband I’d been given in the hospital and realized I had another one on the other arm. I also had puncture marks, where an intravenous drip had been placed when I, myself, ended up in (another) hospital the day after we’d got our little girl home.
It turns out I’d picked up a ‘bug’ of some kind during our four days in the maternity department and had been rushed to another hospital for treatment and ‘rehydration’. Hence my sickness. Which it now appeared my wife had caught. As is the cliché, but also rooted in some truth, women are made of sterner stuff and she waited out the bug at home.
Then there was another knock at the door. ‘Shit,’ I thought, ‘it must be social services…’ Despite my sickness-amplified paranoia, it wasn’t a social worker. It was actually my mum and my sister. They entered the house wearing rubber gloves and aprons, armed with Dettol and buckets. Like an episode of ‘How Clean is Your House?’
I hugged my mum tight and probably cried. Then we both cast our eyes up the stairs, as my wife vomited again. My mum just smiled and got to work. No fuss.
I couldn’t even remember calling them. And I didn’t recall that it had been my mum and dad who had taken me to the hospital the previous day. They had come to meet their new granddaughter for the first time and ended up taking their own first born to A and E.
After hours of cleaning and me being able to eat a piece of dry toast, which felt like a huge achievement given the circumstances, my mum said she had some news for me.
I was shaking in panic, things couldn’t possibly get worse, could they? “Your dad had a heart attack,” she said. “He’s in the hospital…”
It turns out on the way home from dropping me off after my stint in A and E, my dad had a heart attack at the wheel on his own way home. He’d been very lucky not to crash. He would end up requiring a quadruple heart bypass, the wounds from which would get infected, leading to him having a spell in intensive care while hallucinating vividly. Several weeks later he would accuse me of taking former Manchester City player Mike ‘that b*****d’ Summerbee to visit him.
Christ, it was all happening. Amidst all this cleaning, revelation and general chaos, I’d momentarily forgotten that I was now a dad. That we had brought another human being into the world and we were now responsible for someone else’s life.
The moment of terror at stepping over ‘the threshold’ as we introduced our Lois to her new home, felt like years ago. So much had happened since. This wasn’t what we had read about in the countless books full of nonsense we’d consumed in the lead up to her birth.
And, where was she? Crap, I’d have to go and get her. Fear descended on me. Once I got to our friend’s house, I would have to negotiate putting Lois, her name not yet completely familiar, in the car and getting her safely home. Alone. When I could barely keep my eyes open.
And then there was a magical moment, one of countless since. As I negotiated the baby seat, I held her close and looked in her eyes. She looked back at me and I fell in love for the millionth time since her birth. This beautiful little face, all bright and full of life, was my daughter. My flesh and blood and she was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen. My heart pounded with pride and I definitely did cry this time.
We got home safely and I carried her upstairs. Her mum was asleep for the first time in days. I carefully lay next to her, with Lois in my arms. She made a noise, but for once I didn’t panic. I was contented for that moment. Filled with joy and hope. We fell asleep as she nuzzled into my chest and I cradled her with all the love I could.
As a family, we slept as one. Until I woke with a start. Covered in sick again. This time it wasn’t mine, it wasn’t my wife’s, it was Lois’. But you know what? I didn’t care. We were here and we’d surely gotten over the worst of it.
There is probably a moral to this story, maybe one about not being afraid to ask for help and to not feel shame at admitting you are struggling, but everyone goes through different experiences when they add to the human race and there is no right or wrong way to do anything.
I look at Lois now, as she tells me off and asks me what time it is for the 19th time that day and those chaotic few days seem like a whole other lifetime.
But we still share that same wonderful bond whenever I look in her gorgeous eyes. It is a love like no other and every hardship was worth it to spend time with my wonderful little girl. Whatever time it may be.