Tuesday, December 7, 2010

three minutes to three, december 6th

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The encroaching murmur of sleigh bells.

The due date came and went as the ice fastened and snow drifted. On our trip to the bus stop for what was officially our last antenatal appointment, all that was missing was the donkey. Magi. Three wise men overtaking us by taxi.

The wait was crippling. Or seemed so, as Scorpio fell under the centaur's arrow. And the great goat Pan up to his midriff in dirty slush; spotting by his elbow.

Whittled by uncertainty, all semblance of resolution gone in a puff of smoke, I found myself slyly coveting a random assortment of 70cl bottles on supermarket shelves. Impervious to cajoling, not one absconded in my basket. Fairweather friends. Down to the grain.

The scales stalled at tipping point. Worse, the scales sat empty.

A pregnant pause. A timing of contractions.

Well. Something had to give. The bump was having none of it, the hospital did not want to know.

"Keep an eye on those contractions, you'll know soon enough," the midwife on the line pronounced. She might easily have been an imposter. A mental patient stopping by the desk to pick up the phone.

A falsetto brute with pharmaceutically doctored balls.

Another Saturday came and went. Blanched under two feet of snow. And the madman downstairs, stamping his feet at one AM; belting out "The Sash my Father Wore". I wanted to burst him good, the unenlightened orange balloon.

I took to eavesdropping on Holy Warbles. I was too unnerved by then to even leave a comment. The Holly and the Ivy.

Pascal Comelade is a Frenchman by birth. A Catalonian by calling.

On Sunday afternoon, I was dipping into his Haikus. I pulled out "Put a Straw Under Baby" and cranked up the volume on the PC's wheezing internal speakers. So far as I was able. This apple is so elderly, it ought to have fermented into cider. Acid green and volatile. I have wanted to euthanize my disagreeable neighbour under King Tubby's dubby boom for some weeks now, but our living room echoes like the chilly wooden benches of a Siberian train station, and I have not had the heart to hard wire the woofers out of their box. The patience.

We are in limbo.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," my wife cried out. "My waters have broken! Get me up before I ruin the couch."

On arrival at the hospital she was five centimetres dilated. By 8PM, she was fully dilated and the midwives were convinced she would breathe our baby out by suppertime. Debbie and Lauren. I warmed to them almost immediately.

In my limited experience, midwives are a grounded lot. Where consultants - even nurses - routinely grate or inflame, midwives are the exception. Of course, we had time enough to establish a rapport.

It was not an entirely easy birth, though. Let me attest to that.

By 12:30 AM, as December 5th slipped into the 6th, it became alarmingly clear that my wife was not going to breathe our baby out without some kind of clinical intervention. I am ashamed to confess that after eight hours of attending her labour, I was beginning to tire. My wife kept pushing, and I kept pushing my wife.

Faintly tetchy. Craving the nicotine.

I wanted some of that diamorphine to myself.

By 1:30 AM, the decision was made to move her into theatre. I made my way down through the warren of deserted corridors for a cigarette and a lungful of freezing air while she was prepped, then put on the mandatory ridiculous hat, overshoes and gown. The old hospital is an eerie place at the best of times. The Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The Maternity Unit is a recent addition, but late on Sunday night through Monday morning, most of its wings are locked off and only the most persistant of housebreakers can negotiate admission.

Orderlies and porters are nowhere to be seen, if they retain earthly form at all.

I have visited aged relatives on their deathbeds in there; deep in the bowels of the old building. I have had wounds treated in its accident and emergency unit. Like many people, I have an aversion to hospitals in general. I care for this one even less.

It was a forceps delivery when it came right down to it.

Our son was heaved into an alien world full of halogen lights, scrubs and strange voices at three minutes to three on Monday, the sixth of December. As cleanly as I could muster, I cut the umbilical cord and placed him on his mother's chest.

Skin to skin.

He is a brave little thing, his cheeks a little marred from the steel of the instrument which was used to pry him from his mother's womb. I am told this will certainly fade. With time.

His eyes were quick to seize on mine when I spoke to him and cradled him in my arms. The tiniest bit unfocused at first, awake and mildly curious.

He has yet to grow into a name, my youngest son. Waiting on the whisper.

PASCAL COMELADE: PUT A STRAW UNDER BABY from "Haïkus de Piano" LP & CD (Les Disques du Soleil et de L'Acier / Eva Records) 1992 (France)


Ramone666 said...

Congrats to all of you Ib. Remember craving sister diamorphine myself too at the time.

ib said...

Thanks, Ramone666. It is probably just as well our urges went deprived.

And here I sit; busy bashing at the keys when I ought to be lacing the snow and ice with salt in preparation for mother and baby coming home. I have not even put up the Christmas tree.

Anonymous said...

Congrats, ib!

Suggestions for a name?

Well, on December, 6th, there's just one choíce. Nikolaus! Or Nicolas!

St Nikolaus, the patron saint of the travellers, the wrongfully accused, the sailors, the surfers and the (innocent) kids...

anonymus dude no. 2

Your driver said...

Congratulations to you and Rosa. Wow. A brilliant piece of writing too. Congratulations again. Wow again.

Nazz Nomad said...

heartiest congratulations on your new arrival. enjoy the addition!!!!!

ib said...

Jeez. These last three comments took me quite by surprise. In a very nice way, I might add.

Thank you.

Funny. I'd been thinking "Nicky" or "Nikki", earlier today. No real reason. "The Deer Hunter", possibly. Whatever. St. Nick had not occurred to me.

Thank you, Jon. You know. My first son was born in a different hospital, very close to here. They closed it down several years ago. Fiscal reasons. Cuts. The Royal is a bitch to visit. All the schools in Glasgow were off today, due to the foul weather, but we could not make it in. All four of us were there yesterday; it took us the better part of an hour just to walk through gridlocked traffic from the subway station, and two hours to get back home with all the cancelled trains. Our three older kids fell in love with their baby brother immediately.

I don't think that's an exaggeration.

Tim said...

Well, congratulations. Midwives are wonderful people, but so are Moms,Dads and yes, even doctors. That's a tough one to get through,you and the family have done well. Great piece of writing. Really man, way to go.

ib said...

Thanks, Tim. You remind me. I ought to have been grateful that my wife was in good hands, when it came to the crunch, but - in honesty - I was so upset at the intervention that I could only bridle and glare.

In hindsight, I ought to be grateful. It's the protocol which makes me wince.

Cheers, brother.

I made it down, at least, to the nearest supermarket and purchased a couple of kilos of salt. All I need to do do now is get my ass back out there and douse down the steps.



Late to the party as usual.
But as others have said before me, congrats to you & R.
Midwives are blessed but hospitals are hellish, a place of sickness & death for the most part. Our daughter was midwifed but at a birthing home (really just the midwive's home) far from the germs & decay, thanks Natas.
As to the St. Nick name, had it been me I think I would have preferred to be named Santo (just always like that weird nom).

ib said...

Brother NØ, thank you for your best wishes. A midewife's abode would have suited me just fine.

It is, though, what it is. I am just glad we all came through it.

Santo has a nice ring to it. I should not say so so publicly, perhaps, but I am drawn to *****. Odd. And walking Spanish down the hall.

That old superstition has got the better of me, I fear. And so to bed.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Name your child what ye like just so long as he answers soon to Jock.

ib said...

That reminds me. About 30 years ago, I was sinking a Carlsberg with some friends in the Swan just off Hyde Park. All women. Scots, a Mancunian, and an astrologer from Sheffield.

I noticed a burly geezer in the far corner shooting me daggers over his Bacardi and Coke. I made it through to the bar to get in a round. A challenge in itself on a Friday night, and I was a skinny f@cker way back then. And wet behind the ears. I stepped away with both hands full and the chap who had been eyeballing me walked straight in to my space.

"Fuck sake!" I growled. "You spilled my fucking pint, you cunt. Carlsberg. And a Lager Top."

He actually apppeared quite stricken.

"Sorry, Jock! Sorry. My mistake."

When anywhere south of Scotch Corner, I find, it pays to lay the accent on thick. Unless you are addressing the constabulary.

Big B said...

Hey, IB, congrats as well! As Lou Reed once sang "it's the beginning of a great adventure"

[BTW, always dig your prose.]

Tim said...

I'll give you twenty bucks if you name him after me.

Your driver said...

Ha! Twenty dollars and fifty cents if you name him after Mr. Beer N. Hockey.

ib said...

Thanks, Big B. Some kind of adventure, most definitely; it is staggering how much I have forgotten. Whoever claimed those first days of child rearing are "like riding a bike" was either full of hot air or just plain deluded.

$20 to register him as "uniplmr1" ? Oh wait, I get it. This an interesting development: a raffle, almost. Never mind Mr. Beer N. Hockey, how much does Grover Cleveland get me ?

Holly said...

Just chiming in with good thoughts and best wishes for you & your family, especially the littlest one....he's lucky to be born under the BEST sign! ;-) Is he still hiding his name from you?

ib said...

Thank you, Holly. I'm glad you chimed in.

Holy Warbles is new to me. Brimming with unexpected challenges. I chanced upon it when looking for some Luk Thung. Seems like you got the jump on me... I'm frequently the last to know.

I don't recall there ever being a Sagittarius in my family; fire signs, yes, but not this close to deep winter. Well. It was premature - winter, I mean - while our son was anything but. The thaw is on, as of this morning, but the pavements are more treacherous than ever.

I'm still not convinced about the name. It will come. He is sleeping in his Moses basket as I type, but I can hear him stirring.

jonder said...

Congratulations on your wee bairn. Had he held out in the womb for another night, he would have shared a birthday with Tom Waits. Instead he was born on the day that the Ulysses obscenity trial ended, so maybe you should name him James Joyce or Leopold Bloom. I named my younger son Myles (after Myles na gCopaleen).

Emmett said...

The hugest of congrats, IB!!! It's nice to know that your youngest and my eldest (and only so far) are near contemporaries. Let's raise a glass to them and imagine what their music blogs will be like circa 2050...

ib said...

Jonder, thank you for the insight. Joyce could write, and then some. I should blush. I have never read Brian Ó Nualláin, Flann O'Brien, or Myles na gCopaleen. "At Swim-Two-Birds" is on my list, should I ever rediscover - unbox - my reading glasses.

God knows, I need them. I have been struggling with passages of a biography on (William) Blake every night, ever since the move. Reading and rereading as the words swim in and out of focus.

Chimney sweeps and soot charred gnomes, turned naked on the streets. Sold into slavery between four and seven. Mezzotints. And angels - for the most part - gliding and ascending.

Myles is a nice name. With and without the y.

It's a pity, to some extent, my son didn't dally til the 7th. I like Tom too. The ulcerated pantomime wheeze and the poetry. Tom is a cool motherfucker. Like Kerouac, occasionally given too short shrift. As a result of overexposure, probably.

ib said...

Emmett. Thanks. The very same thought had occurred to me too, so I'm glad you broached it first.

Here's to the - as yet - nameless, and Noah. I have a Chilean grape in my glass, I possibly should refrain since it's my turn to change the nappy. Rosa's doing all the hard work.

There was a distinct pause there. Between "work" and changing that last nappy. That last one was a fiddly chore...

The changeing of the guard, I believe, lacked discipline. Here's to 2050.

Matt said...

Here I'll chime in - later than everyone, so far, of course - with my own congratulations and good wishes for you and yours and your awesome new What's-It's-Name.

ib said...

Thanks, Matt.

I don't know what the temperature is in Minneapolis right now, but I'm guessing pretty damned cold. The thaw lasted here through yesterday into this afternoon, but the streets are glazed with ice again and we're scheduled for more snow.

I had him out for the first time today, strapped in front of me in his techno papoose. More straps and buckles than a pair of Malcolm McLaren's trousers.

Men with slings look ridiculous, and I was no exception. Awkward without my hands deep in their pockets, or clutching a cigarette, and fearful the whole rig-out might come undone at a moment's notice. My son sprawled lifeless on the frozen tarmac.

For his part, it appeared to sit quite well. He did not begin to make a murmer until back inside and zipped out of his (overly large) snow suit.

Still no name. Nothing that sticks, at least.

ib said...

BTW, I just rolled in on Perceptions! Delusions? and took a look at that winter snap.

Chilling, but awful pretty.

Anonymous said...

Never to late to congrat! Funny how experiences across nations and timezones bear heavy resonance. Reading your strong touching prose brought back those phase shifting moments when my own first born arrived:
- a son, refused leaving the warmth and safety - after 3 days - and countless shifts of midwives and doctors -had to be dragged out with force - glorious red war marks across face and head from the vacuum - doc student very out of it - gave him my video to operate - oxygen hose loosing from the central pipe - tightening it and holding my wife - bloody drama - mother's pain - the 3 k screamer looking alien as nothing I'd seen - left the hospital a couple of hours for a bang - return to the stable- all was at peace - now kid is 12 - a champ - loving dub - doing remixes - all is well before teen years come tearing everything apart - or that was me - maybe this time will be different? Find your own shining path, my son - hard not to sound way too If - or is that fathers plight? Well, this was really to be about you - and your family - all the best!! Still Anon

ib said...

Well, Still Anon. Thank you.

Your visceral account of your first born's arrival slapped the wind out of my sails. I read it and reread it, and could not think of a suitable reply. Three days. That is almost unbearably hard going. Labour. Tension.

I'm glad to hear he is tearing up the dub. Twelve. A good age, but frightening looking back all the same. I find myself stealing glances at our newborn and wondering where all the time went. My older son is not too far behind your own, but still in primary school. Just.

Here's to them all.

Anonymous said...

been a while since I've popped in and what do we have here? Congrats ib & all! Marvelous news!

Reminds me of the the time my cat dropped her first on my lap ... animal instinct gone awry and as horrified as I was as she dragged that placental bag down the hall and into and onto a pile of my laundry in the bedroom, I'm running around lighting candles and looking for bowie's LOW (side 2 natch) for ambience.

The cat poked her head from around the door and gave a hell of a meow as if to say, "Hurry Up. Get in here. There's more on the way and I'm freaking out!" I heard myself say " Okay Bella (that was her name) I'm coming!"

Poor thing ... first litter and all that ... I stroked her back as one by one little kittens greeted the world.

Each time I made a move to leave her be during the births, she'd look up with "please don't go" eyes.

Damn, I miss that cat.

ib said...

Mr. K.!

Good to hear from you. It's a pity we did not live nearer to you and Bella, although our timing, too, is awry.

We had planned on procuring a kitten for the family this Christmas. Between the baby, our move, and all this snow, we did not manage it.

Speaking of Bowie, "dragging her placenta on down the hall" sounds like a quirky replacement to that line from "Queen Bitch" off "Hunky Dory". Surely one of the best LPs ever made.

Side 2 of "LOW" ? A superior slab of proto ambience, certainly. And one I have not listened to in quite a while.

Never mind the "Diamond Dogs" bollocks, all our little punks crave some fur and feline swagger.

Brushback said...

Missed the news the first time around. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

After 3 days of hard labor, wife was totally exhausted - close to comatose. Close encounter with the alien was left to me. I carried him around the corridors of the birth clinic, holding him close. We came across 8-10 firemen, dressed ready for action. Was it born a new fireman, I remember asking, not to anyone in particular. Yes, and now we are going to find out who is the father, came the quick reply. A surreal scene - among many, from the release of first born.
The father-son relationship is mythical - all the way from the Old testament onto the Road by Cormac Mccarthy.
Apart from sons of famous living or deceased musicians trodding in the footsteps, I'm not aware of good father/son performances in music. And I'm not talking about Johnny Cash or Womack and Womack dragging their offspring out on stage, sentimental American show style of the last century.
By the way, dug reading your trip to the golf course with your son a while back Ib. Good stuff!

ib said...

Thanks, Brushback. Much of the last three weeks has been a blur.


Firemen, eh. Incendiary wit. I was never much good at following my own dad's footsteps. I lacked the inclination, for better and for worse.

Glad to hear you enjoyed the golfing debacle. Tiger Woods has nothing to fear but the demands of franchise.