I am soon to become a big cousin. This is excellent news and I am looking forward to imparting my knowledge of the world as I guide my little relative through their early days. I am also, quite frankly, very pleased at the prospect of some decent conversation; I am fed up of listening to Mother’s pointless monologues about such meaningless topics as the relative calorie content of half a tub of ice-cream: ‘If it melts, do the calories disappear too?’.
Mother is also excited at the imminent arrival of her niece or nephew, mostly, I suspect, because it gives her the chance to show off her (questionable) parenting know-how which she is forcibly imposing upon my aunty. Any excuse to relive the alleged agonies of my birth: ‘No sis,’ I heard her say. ‘It isn’t the same as having a big poo. It really isn’t.’
One of the topics upon which Mother has taken it upon herself to lecture her sister is what to pack in her hospital bag. I noticed that my aunty looked less than grateful as Mother forced upon her a carefully typed out list. ‘I got it laminated so you won’t lose it,’ she warned, bossily.
I strongly suspect that Mother’s list will be somewhat different from the reality of what she packed to go to hospital. From my vague recollections of that time, and from Father’s tales since, I don’t think Mother’s valise offered the practical accoutrements that they or I needed. So, here is my checklist of what to and what not to pack for that all important D(elivery)-Day….
According to Father, I began my final descent into the world when he was halfway through a sausage baguette. Mid-mouthful, the midwife announced that ‘baby is coming NOW.’ ‘He had tears in his eyes,’ I heard Mother confide to my aunty. ‘But I think that was more because he was in the middle of bloody lunch and was worried about going hungry.’ I can believe that. Whenever I see Father, he is chomping on something and is always concerned about where his next meal is coming from. ‘What shall we have for dinner?’ he’ll ask, immediately after lunch. Privately, I fear that I share this trait with him as I too can get consumed by food-related concern, often without warning. Such is the hunger-related terror that engulfs me that I have no choice but to scream as loudly as I can. ‘You owe me a sandwich,’ Father ‘jokes’ with me frequently. ‘I didn’t eat for hours,’ he laments sadly. There are moments when I think that Father’s main memory of the day is having his lunch interrupted. And so, to avoid such a scenario scarring your baby’s special day, I would highly recommend packing a selection of food items to keep you going.
You would think ‘what a stupid thing to suggest. Who wouldn’t pack nappies?’ And indeed, my parents did ensure that they came equipped with nappies….all five of them. ‘I thought she’d only need changing a couple of times a day,’ Mother had sobbed. ‘A couple? I thought one nappy would do it. We only wear one pair of pants every day, after all,’ Father added, a comment which I could only put down to his extreme exhaustion and confusion. Fortunately, a shop at the hospital was open for nappy provisions – but not before a rather unfortunate ‘incident’ over Mother.
Change of outfit
Mother had always presumed that she’d be ‘in and out in a couple of hours, tops.’ As usual, her breath-taking naivety (some might say, eye-watering stupidity) got her into trouble. ‘But I didn’t bring a change of outfit, ‘she complained, as it became clear that her previous dress was unwearable due to a ‘water-breaking’ incident. As a result, she was forced to walk around in one of the hospital issue gowns. Which was not a problem as such for her but spare a thought for the poor member of staff who got an unwelcome flash of her bottom when he was innocently serving tea on the ward.
It’s a good idea to bring a pair of slippers to walk around the ward. It is not a good idea to bring oversized novelty slippers. ‘What were you thinking?’ asked Father, aghast as he picked Mother up off the floor, having tripped over her own feet. ‘I heard you should bring an old pair of slippers so I thought these will do.’ They definitely didn’t ‘do’ and at one day old, I was embarrassed to be seen with her sporting fluffy bunnies at the end of her feet.
Father was bemused that he didn’t get offered a drink from the little trolley that came round. ‘You haven’t just given birth,’ Mother sniffed, self-importantly. Fortunately for Father there was a café on site which he seemed to be pleased to get away to. I suspect they served fabulous coffee, that could be the only explanation for his eagerness to head off when I was in the middle of a meltdown.
Mother had gone to the effort of ordering me a very special and stylish Babygro for my first day on planet earth. Sadly, it didn’t fit but Mother persevered anyway. ‘That’ll be all right,’ she said, gently rolling my sleeves up. ‘I want her to travel home in style.’ Unfortunately, her fashionable aspirations were ruined by my projectile vomiting incident which covered me in sick. Mother was upset for a moment but then it soon became very clear that she had bigger issues to worry about now as an explosion also presented itself from my rear.
Mother has said that she packed make-up as she had read somewhere that you needed it so she could be ‘camera ready’ for photos. Which is fine in principle but Mother applied it at 5am, having lost her contact lenses, and the end result was that she ended up looking like a clown. The photos of her sporting misshapen red circles on her cheeks and thick, dark eyeshadow, which resembled two crawling slugs, still make her cringe.
‘You’re not on a five star spa break,’ the midwife had ridiculed as Mother lamented that she hadn’t had a chance to break the spine on her new magazine or open the cellophane on the box of chocolates she’d packed. ‘I thought I’d get a bit of rest,’ she whined. ‘I heard babies sleep a lot,’ she added, looking at me accusingly.
Mother also packed a guide to parenting. ‘It says here,’ she said. ‘That baby will signal to you what they want through their cries or gestures.’ Not long after Mother had read that out, confidently and knowledgably, the book went flying through the air and into the bin. ‘She won’t stop bloody crying,’ she’d sobbed whilst Father had looked on, equally bemused.
Mother had packed a rather large fluffy teddy bear which was ‘given’ to me shortly after I had arrived. I was most unsettled by this weird looking creature staring me out. As if this new world I had entered into wasn’t odd enough, my parents decided to make it even stranger by placing a funny, slightly scary, toy next to me. And they wondered why I cried. Their idiocy knows no bounds. N.B. It was only later, when I met my good friend and teddy bear RoRo, when I stopped being unnerved by such bears.
So there you have it. It you pack the opposite of what Mother and Father packed then you won’t feel hugely underprepared and you also won’t be accused of ‘woeful stupidity and poor planning’ by the terrifying midwife.