Archive for the ‘Birth’ Category

When Three Became Four

Posted: June 17, 2015 in Babies, Birth, Family
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The child known as Austin is now comfortably in his 3rd year on Earth. He is doing well. He is bright, funny, kind, gentle and delightfully brash—as of writing, he has taken to calling me by my first name (I blame his mother). As one half of his parents I believe we have done a superlative and thoroughly gilt-edged job of raising him to such competitive standards. For example, we haven’t once exposed him to sunlight or fed him after midnight. We did, however, inadvertently get him wet once and, as elucidated by the Speilbergian Theory of Evolution, a small furry bud did begin to grow off of Austin and from that tiny bud blossomed Arlo Dene Gallagher.

Arlo had a rather troubled start to life. As soon as he was born he was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he remained for almost three weeks over the Christmas period, struggling with his oxygen uptake, fighting off various infections, trying to stabilise his blood sugar and regularly being invaded with a variety of tubes and needles; not the best way to hit the ground running. But to look at his lambent, scrunched up smiley eyes and enormous crab-apple cheeks as he carefully studies our faces, like some beautiful, benevolent, blinky being from another world, it is clear that, despite his unsettled beginnings, he is a happy little fellow, and for that, Mrs Gallagher and myself will be eternally grateful to the magnificent National Health Service and its staff for everything that they did for us: long may it reign.

There are very few individuals who have such a wonderful and tactile tenderness for Arlo than his big brother. From the early morning ‘til the end of the day, Austin is always there to offer his somewhat heavy-handed—but always well meaning—hugs, kisses, tickles, bounces and getting as close as possible to Arlo’s face whilst shouting “HELLO! HELLO!” It is clear from this that Austin loves Arlo dearly and Arlo has a bemused and rather nervous affection for Austin; brotherly love.

It is our hope that these two are going to have a joyous and spirited journey from now to whenever and to wherever, and always keep that kinship dear. They are amigos, compadres, Butch and Sundance, Starsky and Hutch; to quote children’s author Marc Brown: “Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero”.

As parents it is our job, not to shape them, but to guide them. Who they ultimately become is up to them. We have no business telling them which paths to travel, which hills to climb, we can only show them where the path starts and then, for the first few years of their lives, walk with them to ensure they don’t stumble into the road. But it is imperative that those paths lead them to good, happy and healthy places.

Looking at today’s society, however, it seems that that particular goal is becoming an increasingly difficult one to achieve. There certainly doesn’t appear to be a great deal to aspire to in terms of compassion and humanity of late. We seem to be living in a society that triumphs suspicion and disdain towards our neighbours and fellow earthlings at every given turn; a cultural plague that sets out to demonize the less fortunate and less able, but to canonise the rich and powerful. That was never the world I envisioned living in and it certainly isn’t the one in which I am happy to let my children inherit.

But, inherit it they must. So here’s to hoping that they, as the bright new beacons of the future, the fierce lion cubs of the tomorrow-world, the Luke Skywalkers to our Yodas, get the opportunity to instigate a real change for the good. Or at the very least get to be the generation that pushes Ian Duncan Smith into the bog of eternal stench once and for all.

Here’s to hoping.

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This week marks the 32nd week of our pregnancy.  I am, as you can imagine, basking in the glow of imminent fatherhood, and Sharon is basking in the glow of ongoing heartburn.  But as we attended the latest ultrasound scan and I saw Austin’s little face, with his blinky little eyes, and crab apple cheeks, I pondered about his future; what would the world that he was about to affiliate himself with foist upon him throughout his life?

It was that very morning, after reading the paper, I’d found myself betwixt feelings of concern and foreboding and delight and wonder.

Thursday 26th April 2012: It appears that the country has belly-flopped into a double dip recession from which recovery is certainly no mean feat, particularly with the dip-shit duo – Condom Face and his sidekick Ball-Bag Nose (See Steve Bell cartoons for details) – running the show.  I must apologise to you, Austin.  Apologise for being a member of a society that, somehow, could not prevent this party of infuriating turds from running amok with the political and financial structure of your future.  They dwell within their plush offices, at the heart of power, bending over their Fornasetti Architettura Trumeau desks while big business, bankers and media moguls have their wicked way with them.  All the while, folks like us sit at home contemplating the day when we’ll be existing on a meals of turkey & duck Kit-e-Kat in a Bisto jus, served on a bed of wheelie-bin pasta.

Then we had some monumental fuckwit from ‘Coalition for Marriage’ urging state funded Catholic secondary schools to encourage their students to sign a petition against gay marriage.  Again, Austin, I apologise.  I cannot understand what is wrong with these people.  Religions the world over insist that their way is the way of ‘love’, except when that ‘love’ is one that they don’t like, then they bring out their special brand of ‘hate’ and stamp all over it.

A simple turn of the page, however, found a story that gave me cause for excitement about your future.  A collaboration between British and American scientists has proposed a mission to send a probe on a journey of almost one billion miles to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and once there it will land in its vast methane seas and for three months collect data on extra-terrestrial oceanography.  How wonderful it is to see the human race endeavouring to explore and understand rather than insulate and ignore.  To have witnessed some of these awe-inspiring achievements myself has been astonishing enough, but it fills me with great joy – and some envy – at the scientific wonders that you’ll witness.

Sadly that was the only positive story in the whole paper (well it was the guardian so they have to be balanced), but I concluded that, within the bad, there is many a good thing in life: literature, film, music (not Coldplay), science, nature and, of course, Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory when she wears those pyjama shorts.  The list is endless!  But you need to have the confidence and the presence of mind to imbibe the good and to gob out the bad.

So I thought I’d compose a list of advice that I hope will set you out on your lifelong odyssey; the 10 commandments of Dad if you like:

  1. Authority does not command respect.  It earns it reciprocally.  Never be afraid to challenge and question authority, and never defer to it.  Being in a position of authority does not make a person better than anyone else.
  2. In matters of faith and religion follow your own path.  Never be swayed or inveigled by anyone (including me) regarding religious beliefs.  That is nobody’s decision but yours.
  3. Never touch my vinyl collection.
  4. Embrace science.  Science is a conduit for understanding and reason.  Science can, and will, explain everything about existence from the quantum to the cosmological within our four dimensional universe and beyond.  Nothing can progress humanity as valiantly and triumphantly as science.
  5. Try not to be quite the grumpy misanthrope your father is.  People, on the whole, are good and amiable.  It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that they have a tendency to irk me when they do particular things such as talk or move.  But you have the opportunity to see the rainbow of potential within them.
  6. Have great respect and compassion for animals.  We share the planet with them and they have the same right to be here as we do.  Those individuals who burble on about ‘animals being put here on Earth for us’ are knob-ends!  Knob-ends who clearly have no concept of prehistory or evolutionary lineage and who occupy a very shallow end of the gene pool.
  7. Oppose capital punishment in all of its guises.  It is barbaric, inhumane and serves no purpose within civilised society; it de-civilises us.  There can be no intellectual or judicial reason for state-sanctioned murder (for possible exceptions see commandment 3).
  8. Prejudice and bigotry are abhorrent.  They do not belong in any society.  Educate yourself on the consequences of prejudice – and, sadly, there are many examples – fight against it and disassociate yourself from prejudiced individuals.
  9. Growing older is inevitable.  Growing up is not.  So don’t!  As a child you will have a spark of wonder within, which society will try to extinguish as you age.  Don’t let them.  Carry and protect that spark throughout your entire life and try to illuminate others with it.
  10. Tracksuits are to be worn only on occasions of sporting prowess.  Under no circumstances must they be worn as casual day-to-day attire.  Burberry caps are forbidden.

John

“What the hell are our neighbours going to think?”  This question was loaded with a genuine and socially awkward concern on my part.  My wife’s thoughts, on the other hand? Well, the nonchalant shoulder-shrug spoke volumes.

“These walls are very thin.” She informed me “And they are going to have to get used to loud, screamy noises!”

To clarify, she was watching a particular television programme that she has become engrossed in due to a particular situation that we have both become embroiled in: we are pregnant!  I say ‘we’, but common-sense should dictate that, clearly, I’m not pregnant – and after watching several episodes of this programme at length, it’s not a situation that I hope medical science ever achieves.

            The programme in question is One Born Every Minute (or OBEM).  This visceral ‘fly-on-the-wall’ docu-serial shows life in a maternity ward with lots of couples having lots of babies in graphic High Definition close-ups and Dolby surround sound screaming.

            My wife absolutely loves the programme!  She excitedly anticipates its scheduling; sitting moist-eyed and engrossed, riding shotgun alongside every mum-to-be as they howl, thrust and gurn their way to parenthood.   I, on the other hand find it a very difficult viewing.  One episode alone can induce such a powerful wincing reflex that, by the end I have the haggard crow’s feet of a ninety year old.  But that minimal level of discomfort is the highest I’m going to feel in relation to the pregnancy compared to my wife (unless I stand, barefoot, on a Lego brick in the maternity ward, because we all know how much that hurts).  She will, in three months, get the full, personal OBEM experience with all of its tears, stretches and evacuations, which makes it all the more puzzling for me as to why she wants to watch it. I once watched a YouTube video of a root canal operation in an attempt to allay my fears regarding an upcoming dental visit; it wasn’t my greatest idea to date.

            Still, this horrific assault on a human body produces an absolutely wonderful conclusion that makes life all the more sweet and colourful.  A bit like twatting your head on the corner of a kitchen cupboard door when you’re looking for a Pot Noodle; it’s gonna hurt like hell, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

John