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Just after my wife gave birth she was whipped off to surgery because her placenta wasn’t quite playing ball (it was fine, don’t worry), leaving me alone for the first time with my newborn son. He was precisely 7 minutes old, there had been a bustle of activity during delivery, but suddenly all was quiet. A midwife told me “not to fret” and “to get him dressed” as she walked out of the door leaving us alone, but I didn’t know how to get him dressed and I was fretting – he was as foreign to me as I was to him, and I thought if I began manipulating clothes onto him, he might break, and how would I be able to explain that?
So instead, I clumsily rolled him up in a blanket and took a seat like I was waiting for a bus, and we enjoyed our first shared moment together – me staring at him with wide bloodshot eyes, occasionally making strange squeaking noises at him because I knew he couldn’t understand English yet, him gently squirming, gripping my massive finger with his tiny hands. For a minute I regressed from being “dad” or “husband” or even “man”, to being “son” or “boy”, both elated and unsure. Frightened and a bit lost.
I wracked my brains as to how to style out the situation, to morph into a vague approximation of “assured DAD”. I wanted to transform fear and uncertainty into an appropriate welcome into the world for the fruit of my loins – he still had my finger in his hand, he was blindly looking for guidance of some sort, so I decided to play him some music. I trawled through my phone in search of a track (which would be his first ever) with appropriate levels of joy and social positivity to ensure a lifetime of optimism and open-mindedness. I balanced him in one arm, and eventually settled on “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” by Jimmy Cliff.
We then sat in St Thomas’s Hospital in London, just the two of us with an insane view of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament, listening to uplifting reggae at 7am on a chilly January morning. He was under an hour old, I was singing along fractionally out of tune, quite a lot out of time, and I was crying tears of bewilderment and joy throughout. It was wicked.