Posts Tagged ‘babies’

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.



“This baby thing is a doddle!” I whispered to my wife as we peered into his cot.  Austin was sleeping contently with his arms and legs stretched out like a starfish, damned if he was going to share this comfy space with anyone.

He’s the epitome of a bundle of joy.  A glowing, gurgling, laughing, crying, crapping, snotty, dribbling, gummy bundle of joy!

I don’t feel that there has been any colossal upheaval in our lives.  On the contrary, things, so far, seem pretty blissful.

Our animals are beginning to piss me off, though!

Now, that sounds a bit bad, but it is pretty accurate.

It’s nothing major and is probably more attention seeking than anything else, I mean, Austin does take up quite a bit of our time, but now it’s getting to the point where I think that they’re doing it out of sheer enjoyment and spite.

The dog, for example, has turned up his jealousy dial to 11.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s always exhibited some form of jealous streak: jealous of the cats, jealous of other animals, jealous of house-guests, hell, he even gets jealous of the fridge if you stare in to it for too long.  But it now seems that every moment Austin is sat, bouncing on my knee, like a baby should, the dog forcibly ensconces himself right next to me, and with a face like an RSPCA appeal, all downcast and dejected, drops his pathetic, weather-worn tennis ball at my feet.  I half expect a lonesome violin to start playing Bright Eyes.

Then we have two cats who are a real pair of moggys. One is three and the other thirteen.  We rescued them both as abandoned kittens when it looked like there was no hope for them in this cruel and bleak world.  Despite that, they are ungrateful little shits, the pair of them.  Upon rescuing them, my wife and I appear to have unwittingly submitted ourselves to a life of servitude.  The elder of the two uses a litter tray, which, if she cannot access it, she will use the upstairs carpet as a toilet.  This isn’t because she is elderly and incontinent, oh no, this is because she is a bastard!  Harsh?  Maybe, but it’s not as if she has no access to the outside world, she has a cat-flap for Christ’s sake, plus, the area of upstairs carpet she has chosen to regularly park a turd on is the area in and around my desk!

The most joy we all have together, however, is at meal times.  I feed them all at the same time for my own convenience.  It makes life easier.  Or does it?  If left to their own devices, the younger cat will start to steal the elder cat’s food, then the dog will snaffle both the younger cat’s and elder cat’s food, leaving two very hungry moggys.  Therefore, in the interest of fairness, I have taken it upon myself to police their feeding times.  So, while the rest of the world could be partaking in some exotic carnal jamboree, I’m leant against the sink like a bell-end, ensuring a happy, liberal, democratic kitchen.

Having said all that, I do like them.  They have lovely idiosyncrasies and wonderful, unique personalities.  As well as this, I want to teach Austin that animals are important and deserving of respect, compassion and empathy.  It is widely understood that an individual’s ethics towards non-human animals is correlated to the ethics inherent towards their own conspecifics.  The trouble is, at the moment, Austin is going to grow up thinking that an animal’s place in life is to be shouted at and moved.

So I promise to try harder.  I promise to set a good example for Austin.  I promise not to berate the dog when he releases a “silent but deadly” guff during meal times.  I promise not to kick the cats when they decide to weave a dance through my feet and try to kill me whilst I walk down the stairs with an armful of washing.  I promise!


“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.