Monday 18 February 2008

Princess Amelie: Four glorious years

Amelies birthday is the 18th February. This year she was four. There is a fighting chance you knew that already, seeing as she has done her best to broadcast the news on all channels for the last month - her standard greeting since Christmas has been: "It is my birthday soon. I will be big. I will be four..." If she had had the budget, you would have seen television commercials.
It seems incomprehensible to me that she was born 4 years ago - it seems like it was only a few months ago that I was tentatively buckling her into her car seat to bring her home from the hospital. She seemed so small, so delicate, that its hard for me to equate that tiny newborn in the scratch mittens with the shrieking monster that routinely pummels me awake in the morning, all wild hair and big eyes and fits of the giggles.
Unlike her sister (who didn't hang about to be born) Ami took her time. Nini started her labour at on the Tuesday, and little princess firstborn finally emerged mid-afternoon on the Wednesday, nearly 36 hours later. For at least half of that time we were sat at home, eating biscuits, and waiting. I like to maintain this was as hard for me (I know it's the miracle of life and all that, but waiting for it to kick off can be so tedious) as it was for Nini, but I know she will have a slightly different viewpoint: she spent a great deal of time gently bouncing on a large inflatable yoga ball or taking slow walks around the cul-de-sac to 'get things moving'. I do recall we spent a lot of time talking about how uncomfortable she was, and whether we should go to the hospital and sit around there, or have our breakfast (then lunch, then tea) first. A copious amount of daytime television was watched. (This is the first recorded first example of our having to 'wait for Amelie' when we go anywhere, and neatly foreshadowed our current life: to this day she is incapable of getting ready when asked, and I seem to have spent a disproportionate amount of time standing in the hall with my coat on, holding a single small shoe and yelling for her to "come back here right now").
Once we did get to the hospital, the remaining time was spent watching Nini decide to get into the birthing pool, then out of the birthing pool, then into the birthing pool, then out again, then in again, then out again...all the while tooting on the 'gas and air' pipe and keeping up a steady string on invective directed at me, the midwives, the radio, me, the birds outside the window, me, the traffic, and finally me. My wife is a kind hearted, tolerant and generous woman, but even so some of the things she called me that day were unusually imaginative and cruel. She maintains she was so high on pain medication she can't really remember any of it, though she does recall lashing out physically when I suggested I had a cheeky toot on the gas-and-air when the midwives weren't looking. She is apparently choosing to forget that she also gave me a dead leg when, after I had rubbed her back exactly the way she asked her for 10 seconds, she suddenly decided that I was doing it wrong.
And then, after all the waiting and discomfort, suddenly it all happened. A sudden quickening, a lot of screaming and pushing, and at 2.40 pm in the afternoon, there were suddenly 3 of us.
"It's a girl!" said the midwife."What are you going to call here?"
"Amelie" we said.
"Emily?" she asked, this being the very first time out of approximately a thousand (and counting) that we have had to correct someone on how to pronounce her name - commonly its either mispronounced as 'Emily', or misread as 'Amelia', but I have seen every possible pronunciation and spelling variation you can imagine (my favourites being 'Amy Leah' and 'Amerlee').
And then, the moments I remember the most, the moments I know I will be talking about, teary-eyed, in my speech at her wedding: the second when I went to cut her umbilical cord, and having to suddenly pull her hand aside so she wouldn't put her suddenly thrashing fingers between the blades, and the searing rush of heat across the back of my neck for fear that any harm might come to her. My very first act as a father, and already she was causing me trouble - and already all I could think about was keeping her safe. And then, a stunned, nervous but wonderful half hour, while her mother was attended to by the nurses, sitting with her swaddled in my arms, silent and slowly pinkening, looking at me with the biggest eyes from beneath the longest eyelashes I have ever seen.
That was four years ago? Surely it can't be, every precious second is still so very clear...

So: Happy birthday, to you Amelie, sitting there in your new Disney princess dress (that your mother hates because it's nasty pink nylon, but bought because she knew you would adore it) with cake smeared around your mouth, giggling at 'Charlie and Lola'. I love you and am proud of you more than I know how to say. But please, for the sake of your Daddy - who, four years later, when he closes his eyes and thinks about your birth, can picture you in his arms so clearly he swears he feels your weight - do you think you can you grow up a little more slowly?

1 comment:

Max Halliwell said...

I'm sorry to say the process just gets faster and the memories of cute little baby just get more distant.