He scrubs up ok

The moment the forceps came out, he fainted, clean on to the floor.
Waking, he stumbled out of the delivery suite and in to the hospital hallway, desperately seeking an exit.
He pushed through a door, hoping to be hit by a blast of fresh air.
Instead, he found himself in the placenta room, slops of afterbirth dotted around the benches.
Vomiting into his own mouth, he made a quick exit from there too.
Where was I while all this was going on?
I sure as heck wasn’t the one with her legs up in stirrups pushing a baby out.
Nope, I was the tiny baby in question, trying to force her way out of her mother’s body.
The man I’m talking about was my dad.
We’ve all heard stories about men during childbirth.
“He was my rock.”
“He passed out and needed his own bed.”
“He was terrified.”
“He hated seeing me in such pain.”
“He couldn’t stop laughing, hysterically.”
“He had no idea what to do.”
“He knew exactly what to do.”
I had no male anecdote of my own from when Master Seven was born.
The moment he emerged, my two hands were being tightly squeezed by my mother and one of my best friends.
And, besides my friend spending my labour nervously gobbling down the whole box of chocolates she’d bought for me, I have no real stories to tell.
They didn’t faint, didn’t seem frightened.
They just did what I’m sure most expectant fathers do in those last moments – watched and waited.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Learner Dad.
I knew he’d worry about the pain I’d experience but that he’d be there every step of the way.
As it turned out, an induction quickly turned into an emergency caesarean so the visions I’d had of him trying to help me through painful contractions quickly dissipated.
Now neither of us knew what to expect.
I was suddenly flat on my back, being stripped of my clothes, the midwife furiously scrubbing nail polish off my toes as a nurse tried to quickly insert a catheter.
Learner Dad was ushered into a bathroom to put on scrubs.
Terrified tears slid out the corners of my eyes as I stared at the bathroom door, willing him to emerge.
Coming out to a panicked partner, distraught at the prospect of having her tummy cut open, he started making jokes.
He wandered over to me, telling all the ladies in the room he looked like George Clooney from ER.
He didn’t.
He looked better.
In fact I’ve never found Learner Dad to be more handsome than on the night our Li’l Fatty was born.
You see, I don’t think there’s anything sexier than seeing a man become a father.
Women spend so much time being strong and capable, running a family.
Being a single mother had made me particularly independent.
But that night I’d discovered what it was like to just let go and rely on someone.
With Learner Dad sitting next to me in the operating theatre, I knew he’d make sure everything was ok.
And when Li’l Fatty decided to hold his breath in protest at being born, I didn’t hesitate in telling Learner Dad to ‘follow that humidicrib’.
Sure, I needed him.
But our baby did more.
And so, from the very first second of our new son’s life, I was experiencing what it was like to have a co-parent, someone with an equal share in the human being you just created.
I barely saw Li’l Fatty for the first 24 hours of his life, but you know what?
I slept peacefully.
Because he was with his dad.


A no-win situation

“I fucking hate West Coast!”
Learner Dad and I looked at each other.
Actually I glared at him.
No, no, he wasn’t the one who said it.
The words had come soaring out of Master Seven’s mouth, after he lost a game of AFL Live to his dad on the Playstation.
No excuses, that language is not allowed in our house and he got into trouble.
But Learner Dad is, now please pardon MY language, a massive shit stirrer.
Pre-Learner Dad, the little Master and I would play many a board or ball game.
If he won (which, back then, was usually only when I let him), I’d shrug and congratulate him.
Even now, I take losing on Mario Kart (which I don’t do deliberately) with good grace.
So, led by example, he’s always been a pretty good sport.
Now, when he and Learner Dad began bonding over the Playstation, Master Seven rarely won.
This created an opportunity for Learner Dad to quickly rack up some worship points.
He was winning and Master Seven was not only a good sport about it, he was in awe of his new father’s abilities.
But eventually the tables turned.
Master Seven started winning.
I’d hear mutterings of ‘shit-vers’ or ‘bloody oath’ as Learner Dad threw his remote aside or slammed it on the floor.
He’d turn the TV off before the Collingwood victory song kicked in and go to work, leaving a confused Master Seven wondering what all the fuss was about.
Months later, there was another game change.
Learner Dad began winning again.
And while his attitude to losing left a lot to be desired, his attitude to winning was worse, a cue for constant ‘yesssss’-ing and laps around the loungeroom as a forlorn little Master watched on.
Only this time he’d finally had enough, blurting out: “I fucking hate West Coast!”
After reprimanding him, I told Master Seven to go make his bed.
Learner Dad loudly stifled a chuckle.
Was he serious?
Was this guy really almost 30?
He looked at me, knowing he’d gone too far.
“I thought I was marrying a man, not adopting another child!” I said, exasperated.
And yet, I wasn’t going to ask Learner Dad to change his behaviour.
Because my boys will come across sore losers and arrogant winners constantly in life.
Learning to ignore them is what will make them strong young men.
Recently, playing Checkers, Master Seven made a terrible move.
“Wait,” came a small voice as he realised his mistake.
But he’d taken his hand off the piece and Learner Dad was allowing no second chances, quickly triple jumping the despondent seven-year-old.
As a result, the game eventually came down to Learner Dad’s six kings versus Master Seven’s two.
But bit by bit, piece by piece, Master Seven cleaned his father up.
And believe me, the “good effort Brenno” he politely offered up at the end of the game, those three genuinely expressed sympathetic words, rubbed more salt into the gaping wound in Learner Dad’s pride than any arrogant taunt could have.
That’s my boy!

Mummy gets the last word

“I hear he’s saying ‘daddy’ now,” the aunties gushed at Learner Dad, who nodded proudly.
I tried not to roll my eyes.
I warned you, didn’t I?
I warned him.
Right here, in this blog.
I said it was simply the sound babies make first, the same sound Master Seven first blurted out even though, back then, he had no ‘da-da’ to speak of.
Learner Dad heard it, read it, acknowledged it.
But now that Li’l Fatty’s saying it, he doesn’t care.
“Don’t you think it’s funny that you’re the only one he ‘talks’ to?” I asked, after he proudly posted a video of Li’l Fatty saying ‘da-da’ on Facebook.
“Nope, he just loves me the most,” he declared happily.
“But I’m the one who’s with him all the time,” I countered.
“Yes and he obviously spends all that time with you talking about me,” he said.
For a while it was almost unbearable.
“Yes, yes, daddy’s here,” he’d say as Li’l Fatty muttered tired ‘da-da’s’ over dinner.
Or “I’m coming little man” he’d yell out, on hearing Li’l Fatty booming out ‘da-da-da-da-da’ from the bath.
But then I began to embrace it.
“Honey, he’s done a poo, right up his back, and seems to want ‘da-da’ to fix it,” I’d interrupt him, as he chatted on the phone to a work mate.
Or “He won’t go to sleep, wants ‘da-da’ apparently,” I’d say, flopping back down in front of the TV while he reluctantly got up to settle his son.
Li’l Fatty doesn’t look even slightly close to saying ‘mum-mum’.
In fact, the way his grandfather’s going, ‘pop-pop’ might just get a run before me too.
But you know what? It’s ok.
Because I can guarantee that once he does work out how to call me, he’ll be racking up ‘I want Mummy’s’ faster than you can say: “Go ‘way Daddy, don’t want you.”
Then we’ll see who’s boss.

Keep ’em guessing

“I know what you’ve got me, the 2013 sports diary,” Learner Dad said, as we were sitting wrapping presents for the Christmas tree.
“No, I haven’t actually,” I lied.
“Did you really not buy it for me?” Learner Dad asked.
“Nope, I got you something else,” I answered.
“Ok, I better order one then so I have it in time for the new year.”
“You do that.”
“Right, I’ll go and order it right now then.”
Learner Dad got up and left the loungeroom.
I tried to call his bluff but couldn’t do it.
“Ok, ok, stuff you!” I yelled after him. “I got you the damn sports diary. Happy?”
“Did you really?” he grinned, poking his head back in the door.
Every birthday, every Christmas, Learner Dad likes to take an accurate stab at what I’ve bought him and it drives me mad.
The sports diary doesn’t sound much but it was the only present I was giving him from me.
The rest were from the boys and fortunately remained unguessed (I suppose he was too scared to try after the sports diary).
But only three weeks later he’s been at it again.
Today is Learner Dad’s birthday.
And I had three fantastic presents in mind from the outset.
The first, to be from Li’l Fatty, was a brainwave.
Or so I thought.
I spent a whole afternoon dragging the boys around Eastlands looking for a Blu Ray copy of Episodes, season two.
I knew Learner Dad loved the first season, perhaps didn’t even know they’d made another, and would be absolutely rapt.
But that very night, Learner Dad decided for no apparent reason to tell his parents about two TV shows we’d recently watched and enjoyed.
One of them was Episodes.
“And Ali is going to buy me season two for my birthday. Aren’t you?” he asked, nudging me.
I looked away, gutted.
The second present was to be from me.
“I reckon you’ve got us a new bed,” he said, snuggled up to me one night.
“No I haven’t,” I said quickly. “You won’t be getting one of those on your birthday.”
In fact, he’d be getting it three weeks later, due to delivery complications.
I’d symbolically wrapped up a new sheet set for him instead.
Damn him!
The final present was to be from Master Seven.
I was extremely confident Learner Dad wouldn’t guess this one.
It was a legal certificate showing Master Seven now shared the same surname as his dad.
And, judging by the tears in his eyes and the shocked look on his face, I think we got Learner Dad a beauty.
That’ll teach you honey.
Happy birthday x

Learner Dad puts foot in mouth

Foot-and-mouth disease (Aphthae epizooticae) is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.

This, my readers, is what Learner Dad solemnly told Li’l Fatty he’d get if he didn’t stop sucking his toes.
No, seriously.
And I don’t mean ‘no, seriously, he actually said that’.
I mean ‘no, seriously, he actually thought that’.
Well actually he thought it was called Foot IN Mouth, which is obviously what had got him confused in the first place.
“You can blog about it all you like,” he retorted when I teased him.
“Do you even know what it is yourself?”
“I’ll google it to check exactly but I know people who have it aren’t walking around with feet in their mouths,” I said.
“I tell you, it’s an infection that’s passed from the foot to the mouth,” was his answer.
To be fair to Learner Dad, there is actually a human condition called ‘Hand, Foot and Mouth disease’, which does affect babies and children.
But, rather than from sucking his own toes, Li’l Fatty would only get it if he sucked on the snot, saliva or poo of an already infected child.
He would then end up with lesions on his hands, feet and, you guessed it, in his mouth.
There is of course very little Li’l Fatty can do wrong in his glowing father’s eyes.
But one thing that gets Learner Dad every time is the sucking, be it hands or feet.
“Take your fingers out of your mouth,” he’ll order crossly, while Li’l Fatty sits, smiles and continues to slurp in response.
It took both my mother and Learner Dad’s mother to convince him it was actually quite harmless and certainly normal for babies to suck ferociously on their digits.
Li’l Fatty’s hands are probably better off in his mouth anyway – prevents him from smacking himself around and winding up with ‘Slap Cheek’ syndrome.
Sorry Learner Dad, I couldn’t resist.
But on a serious note, I must away and pack up our baby’s little toy farm.
I wouldn’t want him to contract mad cow or chickenpox…
Ah, it’s good to be back.