The calm before the storm

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I’m about to become a father again. I say ‘about to’ as we are currently waiting for her, today as I write this we are at the due date (7th July) and she’s not made an appearance so far. The mother in law is here, she speaks only Russian, I don’t speak much Russian at all; it’s a little awkward. For the last week I have felt like I’m in a constant International conference, but where only the things they want me to know are translated, the rest I have to guess or ask about.

The mother in law and I have found ourselves a common ground, we are both scrutinising my wife’s face as we all sit in a bilingual semi-silence, looking for giveaway signs of pain, twinges or general changes in expression that even a trained psychologist might miss. I’ve been informed that if I ask how she’s feeling one more time, she’ll go insane; I’ve decided to just do what any British person would do in such a situation, so I’m making tea, lots of tea (with milk of course).

Fear is understandable in these situations, giving birth is a big thing and it’s natural to feel scared, a little insecure and generally apprehensive; I’m sure my wife feels the same. But I make no secret of the fact I’m petrified of the birth, of being there, close enough to experience all but not in control of anything. There are a million scenarios going through my head, that if I were to dwell on them I’d probably be reaching for the gas and air the minute we arrived at the clinic.

The birth of my son was so much easier to deal with. Living in Moscow, Russia at the time, I was not allowed to be at the birth. The strict guidelines and protocol surrounding anything medical, forbids the husbands or boyfriends from being present, due to health risks, privacy of other women and so on. At the time I was told the situation, I respected these rules, despite the pressure from friends to push for access, some even suggesting I was about to do the unthinkable by UK standards by not attending; joining the ranks of the drunken, intentionally jobless and absent fathers who shirk such responsibility in our country. I stood firm with the reasons I was presented with by the medical professionals as my ammunition, until I found out later that all these valid reasons for non-attendance could be swept under the Soviet-esque 1970s patterned carpet for only 80,000 rubles (1400 Euros), amazing that isn’t it.

So for me, the long labour, the painful birth and the stress of seeing someone you loved going through the trauma of this natural yet gruelling process was spared by my shallow pockets at the time. The first time I saw my son was a couple of hours after the birth, on a WhatsApp picture message whilst I was sat at an ostentatious bar in a swanky Spanish style steakhouse in Belorusskaya, with my Mum and Brother, sipping cocktails, drinking wine and enjoying tapas. In spite of my physical distance, I will never forget that night, I will never forget the feeling of seeing my first born, whether in the flesh or in pixels, it was incredibly special and I’m pleased I shared it with my family.

This time I have no such excuses: I can be there, I want to be there, I have to be there. I have devised a survival plan consisting of a fully charged tablet computer and a bag of jellies. My route to the birthing clinic has been planned with a military precision that takes into account the time of day, the volume and regularity of noises coming from my wife and the weather (I’m British remember), it is also constantly being updated to accommodate every new road that is dug up in Tallinn as the days go by.

You see for me it’s not the actual birth that fills me with fear, it’s the window of time between the first serious contraction and the clinic door, rightly or wrongly I have taken full responsibility for it, I even bought a new car for it, incase the old one broke down, because that was very likely. My dreams are dominated by me driving my contracting wife to the clinic in various vehicles, various routes and with various nightmare scenarios and challenges; mentally I have trained for this, be sure about that. There is nothing left to buy, nothing left to do, I daren’t go out, I’ve turned down work, if I do go out I race around like a headless chicken, coming home with what has become the standard shopping list of watermelons, chocolate and savory biscuits, luckily not consumed together — yet.

There is a small part of me that can’t forget the words of friends and relatives, warning of the failure to savour this calm before the storm. A second baby coming into a house with a small child can be chaotic they say, one friend in particular said he doesn’t know how he got through the first six months, another when quizzed just played nervously with his beer bottle and wished me all the luck he could. Bring it on I say, the waiting and uncertainty is not for me, I’ve always been an impatient person, and I think we are both ready.

By the time this is printed or posted online, I hope she will have arrived, but who knows. All I know is that this time around I can be the husband that I felt I wasn’t able to be last time, I can experience the feelings that so many of my friends and acquaintances have gushed about, the reality of becoming a father laid out right before my eyes. Praying that all goes well and that everyone is safe, all we can do now is sit and wait, trying not to ask too many annoying questions whilst developing the skills to spot any signs as early as possible. Once we are at the clinic I’m sure I’ll be fine, and I’ll try to get through it without the use of any medical drugs. I do have just one word of advice though, there is chance that when you read this we are still waiting, so if in the next few days you should see a dark green Volvo in your rearview mirror, with a desperate yet determined looking man behind the wheel… I’d get out of the way pretty quickly, it’ll probably be me!

First published in Postimees, 18th July 2015