Wednesday 5 September 2007

For Neve: Happy birthday, baby girl

Our shower curtain needs replacing - some of the material around the eyelets that the curtain hooks go through have torn, and now every time you draw the curtain it tears a little bit more. The damage started a year ago, to the day.
I know that for a certainty, because it was the day Genevieve was born. That means it was the day that I had to hurriedly tear the shower curtain of its rail (damaging it in the process) and drag it into the master bedroom, on the instructions of the emergency midwife (who was thinking it would protect our carpet), because Nini had gone suddenly from a standing start into fullblown labour and there was no way - no way - I would be able to get her to hospital on time. So we had little choice but to 'have the show right here' - a swift, dramatic, but most of all, unplanned home birth. If we had tied to get to the hospital then Neve would probably have been delivered in a traffic jam on the A41, in the footwell of an unwashed Ford Focus, by her Daddy...who even now gets a cold sweat just thinking about what might have been...

Now its exactly a year later, so: Happy Birthday, Genevieve! (a.k.a Neve, a.k.a Nevey, a.k.a Jellybean). This message is for you. Today seems like a good day for me to properly tell you the story of the day you were born...

You were late in arriving. Nini's due date was the 27th August, to coincide with my birthday, but we were now 9 days passed that date and it was looking more and more likely that she was going to have to be induced. Her mum, (that is: your mums' mum, your Grangee) had been staying with us for 10 days at this point, expecting at every minute that she would be pressed into babysitting service for Amelie while we rushed to the maternity unit. During the course of the visit she had had some chest pains, so Alan (your Pops) had come down to stay as well to help out. I think they were both about ready to go home - I had been working out my office in the loft for the last 3 weeks just in case the big day arrived early, and as my office doubled as the spare room, I had been turfing them out of their bedroom every morning...
After a restless night, with your mum feeling contractions a good 20-30 minutes apart, she got up about 6.a.m and went downstairs. I fell back asleep - sleep being a precious commodity that you would rob us of in the coming year, and I wanted to stock up.
Ninety minutes later she woke me up again:
M: "My waters have broken, it's time to go."
D: "Meh? Wha...whassamatter? Wuh?" (Daddy is not good in the mornings, though he hides it so well that you probably haven't noticed yet)
M:"Up! Up! Baby! Hospital! Now!"
D: "OK, OK. How far apart are your contractions?"
M: "About 6-8 minutes, which is the time the midwife said to leave for the hospital"
D: "OK, you phone and let them know we're coming in, I'll get dressed."
M: "Yes. Please. For everybodies sake." (Do you see Neve? Even in moments of great stress, your mother can take a few minutes out to mock me. I do hope you won't turn out the same way...)

Your mum made the call. The hospital were very unconcerned, and told her to take her time - they reckoned probably we would have a good long wait yet, and even suggested she have some breakfast before setting out, as she'd need her strength. As soon as Mummy had agreed, and hung up the phone, her contractions started coming every 2 minutes. This was not good.
D: "Um, I think we had better go right now."
M: "We won't make it. The traffic is too bad. How long will it take to get to Watford in rush hour traffic?
D: "On a good day - an hour. On a bad day - much, much longer..."
M: "Let's phone the emergency midwife."
We did. She said she was getting in the car to come over immediately, because you were on your way and would be here in probably the next hour. In fact, she warned that it was going to be a bit touch-and-go whether she got here before you did...

We then panicked for bit, to be honest. Your mum did the panting/groaning/yelping thing in the bedroom, your Grangee and Pops put 'Finding Nemo' on the DVD player for Amelie to watch (turning it up a fraction every time your Mummy screamed, in a vain attempt to drown out the noise) and your Daddy ran about fruitlessly, sweating. Halfway through this, the postman knocked at the front door:
Postie: "Delivery for Mr.Collins?"
D: (glancing upstairs) "Yeah, any minute now, apparently"
He looked confused, as well he might. He glanced down at the box in his hands, which had a Japanese customs label and was prominently marked 'secondhand videogame'. Upstairs, your Mummy chose this moment to howl like a wounded animal for a full seven seconds. It was clear to me me that were talking at cross-purposes, but I guess from the postmans point of view he just thought I was a nutter with a screaming woman upstairs.
D: (trying to smile reassuringly, but with the sweaty brow and frantic darting eyes of an axe maniac) "My wife is having a baby. Now. In this house. Upstairs."
There was a (haha!) pregnant pause, during which the sound of 'Finding Nemo' edged up another notch in the front room, to window-shaking levels.
Postie: (slowly) "O.....K... if you can just sign here..."

The midwife arrived within about 40 minutes, and after a brief assessment phoned for backup because it was clear that your were going to arrive very, very soon. This is when Daddy was told to fetch the shower curtain, and oxygen cansisters from her car, and some black bin bags. We didn't have any black bin bags, so Daddy had to go and ask Max and Sue to borrow some. When Sue answered the door, Daddy said something like; "Niniisinlabourandwecan'tgettohospitalintime, sothebabyisbeingbornrightnow, andwedonthavethethingsweneed, socanwepleasehavesomeblackbinliners?", sweating and shaking throughout. Fortunately Sue seemed used to listening to streams of drivel (perhaps due to being married to Max) and knew just what was needed.
We had just enough time to spread the shower curtain on the floor, and some towels, and it all happened. You were born with almost minimal fuss, with masses of shiny copper hair leading the way. From the time Mummy went into labour until you were born was just 89 minutes. From the time that the midwife arrived until you were born, just 22 minutes. From the time that the second midwife arrived until you were born, it was 8 minutes - she barely had time to put her rubber gloves on. It all happened so quickly that I don't think your sister realised what was happening, as she had just got to the end of 'Nemo' when she was whisked upstairs to meet her new baby sister, and be presented with the teddy bear you had so thoughtfully brought with you. (At the time of writing she has yet to question how you chose it, paid for it, got it delivered to Mummys uterus and then brought it with you along the birth canal on the big day). You were born at 8:10 in the morning, weighing 8 pounds 11 and a half ounces, and had rosy pink birthmarks on your eyelids that made you look like you were wearing eyeshadow.
And now you are a year old, and a toddler - the eyeshadow has faded but you have long curls of copper hair and ruddy cheeks, and are the happiest, smiliest little thing - unless you don't get your own way, and then we can see early signs of a fiery redheaded temper. When I come in from work and you toddle excitedly along the hall to me, beaming with delight, my heart just sings. It is going to be the most wonderful, fascinating privilege to watch you grow up. Happy Birthday, Nevey: your Daddy loves you.

But I do think it's fair that you pay for a new shower curtain. I have taken it out of your pocket money...