Tom Wrigglesworth on fatherhood
PUBLISHED: 20:18 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 20:18 30 October 2017
New dad Tom finds his twin daughters are chips off the old block
Hello dear readers, can I begin this month by apologising in advance if I fall foul of hesitation, deviation, or repetition at any point in this column. I’m not using this as a audition to appear on Radio 4’s ‘Just a Minute’, but rather this is the first thing I’ve written since becoming a father. Of twins. I was certainly not prepared for the perspective shifting, priority reordering, or brain melting effect that childbirth and subsequent sleep deprivation has given me.
The first new dad faux pas I made was within hours of their birth. My wife and I were in our own room in the hospital, with our babies asleep in a cot next to the bed. Because the children arrived via a cesarean section it is strongly advised that the mother wears surgical stockings for several weeks after the operation. As I helped my wife force her legs into the extremely tight medical hosiery it crossed my mind that the pushing you avoid by not having a natural birth is more than made up for by the pushing needed to get into the stockings. Just as they were firmly dragged up to my wife’s knees, one of the babies started crying so I went over and put a little hat on her head.
To my surprise, this was equally as tight and restrictive as the stockings had been, so I convinced myself that the hats they give to babies must be tight for verified medical reasons. Who am I to question trained professionals? However, the tight fitting hat seemed to make the baby cry even more so I sought out the help of a midwife. The midwife came in and fussed over the baby, who stopped crying immediately. “What did you do?” I asked gratefully, as the room was plunged into silence. “Oh it was quite simple,” the midwife replied. “I just took the mitten off her head.”
The midwives, in fact all the staff, were incredible to the point of heroic, and I mean that so adamantly that it leads me to think that midwifery is the only real proper job. Everyone else is just filling in time before we die.
It’s a difficult position to argue so you might well accuse me of hesitation at this point, but from our house, you can see one of the most sought-after areas of Sheffield, full of beautiful properties that are snapped up by bankers and football players. As stressful as counting money and hoofing bags of air might be, are these professions really worth 50 times the salary of midwives, who deliver actual babies, while reassuring and educating parents who are banging their heads at the coal face of chaos.
Also, no one ever told me that the babies would be handed over to us with a white plastic clip over their umbilical cord. It’s the sort of clip that I’ve only previously seen on bags of frozen food.
You really have to keep your guard up when you’re suddenly dealing with a raft of new chores having had nothing more than snippets of sleep, and I’m embarrassed to admit that one night, I put a clean nappy on a bag of oven chips.
Names had been a massive topic of conversation in our house during lead up to ‘touch-down’. It seems everyone has an opinion and my advice which I hope to live by in future is to keep such advice to oneself. I became so weary with people sticking their oar in when I disclosed our potential names that I began saying my favourites were Adolf and Robert. (Adolf after the eminent mathematician, Adolf Mayer, and Robert after Mugabe). The confusion that this created was a joy to watch, but sadly my plan was scuppered as my wife gave birth to two girls.
One thing I was mindful of was to avoid a name that condemns the wearer to a lifetime of people getting it wrong, asking to repeat it, or encouraging multiple personalities by offering to spell it in half a dozen different ways. I’ve even heard of new parents actually changing the name of their baby by deed poll, when after months of correcting people, they realised that the heady mix of exhaustion and excitement had caused them to name their child something that sounded midway between an antibiotic medicine and a type of leather.
So with Astrid and Mabel sitting in my lap, I settled in for my first night alone with ‘the girls’ to watch England play Lithuania. As we watched another dismal England team limp over the line and qualify for the World Cup, I wandered outside with Mabel (now known as McCain following the oven chip incident) and looked across the valley as the posh houses twinkled in the distance. “You know, if I had my way, one day you could afford to live in one of those massive houses”. Mabel coughed in acknowledgment so I continued. “Mind you, you’d have to be a midwife to be able to afford one of those”. I’ll take the fact that Mabel threw up on my shoulder as a sign of complete agreement.