In 2013 my world changed forever. I became a dad.
I became a dad a little sooner than I thought. My daughter was due to be born on 9 December, but she arrived five-and-a-half weeks early on 1 November.
Her mother’s pregnancy had not been an easy one – plagued with morning sickness that covered afternoons, evenings and nights: one long, unrelenting bout of excruciating vomiting and at least three stays in hospital. She spent so much time in hospital that I forget now how many times she got booked in.
On 31 October we had a routine midwife appointment. The sickness had stopped by then and we were busily planning the best birth imaginable. There would be hypnobirthing. It would be a water birth. There would probably be candles and women in togas playing harps.
The appointment went well until we got to the standard procedure of checking Mum’s blood pressure.
It was sky high. And high blood pressure plus pregnancy equal preeclampsia – neither a good thing for mother or baby.
The next thing we knew, we were back at Medway Maritime Hospital and being ushered into a private room. Soon Mum-to-be was being hooked up to all kinds of devices and having all kinds of injections – including some kind of steroid that would help baby’s lungs develop.
There were regular blood pressure checks. If things didn’t settle down, baby would be coming sooner rather than later. Much sooner. It wasn’t long before a doctor was saying with no little amount of certainty: ‘You’ll be having your baby today.’
‘No I’m not,’ said the baby’s mother as defiantly as she could.
She was right. Baby came the next day.
For all our dreams of hypo-water births, what we got was rather different. More prosaic: a sterile, functional theatre, surrounded by masked surgeons and anaesthetists, nurses and midwives and MICHAEL BLOODY BUBLÉ playing on Heart FM.
It was magical nonetheless.
Caitlin Eva Morris was tiny when she emerged – untimely ripped – from behind the gown-cum-curtain that had been arranged across her mummy’s tummy to save us the sight of gory innards on display. Three pounds fourteen ounces.
We gave her a kiss each, they popped a little pink woolly hat (the ultimate confirmation of her established femininity) on her and whisked her off to an incubator. I was then ushered away while the sewed mum up.
I sat near an unused bed. There was another new dad sitting across from me. He was holding his new baby. I felt rather bereft that I wasn’t able to do the same.
It was a couple of hours before I got to see my daughter again – even longer for mum. I was called down to the Intensive Care Unit and, though I had only seen her briefly once already, I knew immediately which tiny baby was my tiny baby before anyone told me. Because you do.
‘What’s baby’s name?’ a nurse asked me.
‘Caitlin,’ I replied. I remember being terrified that I’d get the spelling of her name wrong as they wrote it on her incubator. It was the first time anyone had written her name down. It felt like an important ritual.
We were told the following morning that our daughter had screamed the night through. I kind of felt obliged to apologise and make a crack about blaming the parents.
Obviously, it was actually the hospital who was to blame; they’d been the ones who’d insisted on injecting lung-enhancing steroids into Caitlin’s mother’s blood stream.
Caitlin was in hospital for three weeks. The main issue was trying to get her to regulate her own temperature. They would pile blanket upon blanket upon blanket to make her warm enough when they moved her from the incubator to a giant casserole dish.
The staff at the Oliver Fisher Baby Care Unit were amazing. They still are amazing. Obviously. Caitlin was positively perky and utterly healthy compared to some of the tiny babies she shared a ward with. And the doctors and nurses did a smashing job with every single one of them.
One afternoon I waited in the waiting room while Caitlin’s grandparents visited the new addition to the family. I did the only sensible thing I could think of doing: I looked up the number one single for her birthday.
It was ‘Royals’ by Lorde.
I can live with that.
It’s better than MICHAEL BLOODY BUBLÉ any day of the week.