The Born Ultimatum


We knew exactly how our baby was going to be born. It would take place at our local Birth Centre, accompanied by relaxing music in a softly lit room containing a pool. Susie’s pain would be conquered by measured breathing and the generous application of my sensitive yet masculine touch.

Turns out we were wrong.

Come with me now to room three on the antenatal ward of Lewisham hospital. It’s early afternoon yet almost completely dark outside. Susie is sitting upright in bed, her worried face drained of all colour. She is surrounded by beige medical apparatus gleaming dully under fluorescent light. The due date came and went over two weeks ago and inductions have produced no result. A scan has just revealed a lack of amniotic fluid around the baby. It’s the 23rd of October, the clock is ticking and it’s tense.

A midwife enters briskly to examine Susie and tells us there has been no change: she is still only 1cm dilated. To put that in perspective I am at a constant state of 0.5cm dilation due to a hormone imbalance. If nothing happens soon we will have to discuss other options.

Early evening sneaks in unnoticed and I ask Susie if she would like something to eat. She replies “I’m not actually that huoooowwwwwaaaarrrAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHOOOOOHHHH!!!”.  She is either having a contraction or unexpectedly giving her rendition of 80’s pop classic, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. I decide that if I do ever write a blog about today this is the point at which I’ll stop writing in the present tense. I also went and and fetched a midwife.

Susie spent the next five hours doubled over in pain, locked in a private agony. If she had been a boxer the referee would have stopped the fight and the crowd would quite rightly have demanded a refund. As I massaged her back for the 476th time (my hands were a bit sore but I don’t like to mention it) she looked at me after a particularly prolonged groan and whispered “epidural”. Having spent the last three nights in hospital with very little sleep, she was worried about lack of energy when it came to the birth. As a midwife was due to examine her in 15 minutes I suggested she could try eating a banana to get her through until that point. We would then know how close she was and take things from there. Susie weighed up my suggestion while fixing me with a stare of primal ferocity. Her teeth formed a solid, unbroken block of enamel through which she hissed those three little words “Ep! Ee! Dural!” I sensed potassium rich fruit just wasn’t going to cut it on this occasion and rushed off to fetch an anaesthetist. The epidural process took about an hour to set up and seemed to provide relief straight away. A banana would have been quicker which is all I intend to say on the subject.

A trainee midwife set about the examination rather uncertainly and hesitantly diagnosed Susie had progressed to 7cm dilated. My spirits rose: this was much better than I could have hoped. The senior midwife repeated the examination and confidently announced the trainee midwife was wrong. My spirits sank: I knew it was too good to be true. She then added that actually Susie was fully 10cm dilated and the baby was on the way. My spirits gave me a ‘make your mind up’ look before soaring to the ceiling.

Frustratingly I didn’t have my camera with me as I hadn’t been home for quite some time. You are probably thinking ‘Dave / David / Gadabout author, why not just use the camera on your phone?” The fact is my phone doesn’t have a camera and I’m afraid that is something we are all going to have to come to terms with and move on.

I calculated I could get to our flat and back in 20 minutes by taxi to collect the camera. The midwife assured us that nothing would happen for at least an hour as the effect of the epidural had to wear off first. The buzzy high offered by a banana wears off almost instantly which is all I intend to say on the subject.

We decided there was no risk of me missing the birth and it was important to have a record of the moment so I rushed off and jumped in the nearest cab. I explained the situation to the driver who sported the kind of moustache worn by a man who has always had – and will always have – a moustache. He sped off with real urgency which was encouraging although a major downside was the unavoidable fact we were going in the wrong direction. Despite my protests he insisted this was the quickest route and pressed on. It eventually turned out it was indeed the quickest route but regrettably to an address other than my own. It seemed he had misheard me. Performing a U-turn that would make the Dukes of Hazzard car sick, we roared back in the direction we had come. He promised to make up the time with a ‘shortcut’ and went blazing down the backstreets. We didn’t get very far before stopping short at an aggressively stationery line of traffic.

“That’s right, the road ahead is closed. I was here earlier, I should have remembered that. The problem is I haven’t slept in over 24 hours”, explained the driver calmly.

As I thought about my anxious wife alone in hospital about to give birth while I sat trapped in a car with a stranger clearly unfit to drive, I felt a warm glow of contentment wash over me like a million silken caresses. I felt a strong urge to express this emotion by attacking and killing the driver. I restrained myself as I still needed him to transport me and because I am a physical coward.

I told him to reverse and follow my directions. We finally arrived outside my flat and I jumped out saying I would be no more than 30 seconds. 30 seconds later I was back with the camera to find him leaning against the car lighting a cigarette. I interrupted this disturbingly post-coital scene by getting in and slamming the door shut. He took a long puff, giving me a sideways ‘hello Mr Selfish’ look before begrudgingly easing his frame back behind the wheel.

After setting off in strained silence he apologised for the earlier mishaps and offered not to charge me for additional driving time and waiting period at my flat. It was all I could do to stop myself kissing him directly on the mouth in gratitude.

Eventually we screeched to a halt outside the hospital. I noticed the cab didn’t have a meter so thrust a handful of notes at him and graciously told him to keep the change. He graciously told me I was £2 short. There followed a brief and frank exchange of views during which I’m delighted to say he agreed to act as Godfather to my first born child.

I sprinted through the hospital swing doors, went bounding up the stairs to the fifth floor and burst into room three gasping for breath. Susie was stretched out on the bed in exactly the same position as I had left her. Bit lazy.

The midwives made their preparations while I stood next to Susie and gripped her hand. She looked focused, determined and much calmer than I felt. This was it. Baby stations. All hands to the bump. I knew what my role was in this situation and threw myself into it. “You’re doing really well wow that’s amazing fantastic not long now almost there you’re doing brilliantly keep going EXCELLENT WELL DONE THAT WAS BRILLIANT PUSH PUSH PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH!!”. I suddenly realised we were only 30 seconds in and I had started way too big with the encouragement leaving nowhere to go when things really started moving. I considered taking it down a notch by throwing in the odd “yeah not bad, seen better” but fortunately there was no need as with a sudden rush at 11.32pm we were joined on planet earth, Lewisham Hospital, room three by our little baby daughter, Emi.

Just before leaving the hospital.

Shortly after arriving home.

From what I had been told and read, I’d expected our newborn to look like a little blue alien creature when she first arrived. Instead here was this pink, beautiful baby with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes each evenly segregated into four clumps attached to their relevant limb-ends. For me, the moment my protective Dad instincts kicked in was four seconds after she was born when she looked at me with an expression that said “well I did not expect this when I awoke. Please explain what is happening”. The thing is I was in no position to explain anything to anyone at that moment.

I cut the cord and she was given to Susie to hold for the first time. Whatever further gadding about awaits the three of us, looking at Susie and Emi together was the most monumentally happy event in my life so far. Susie was pale, exhausted and bathed in a feminine glow (sweaty). She cradled our baby, looked up at me and laughed “I think I’m ready for that banana now”. I laughed too but unfortunately it seemed an unknown person had selfishly eaten all the bananas during the course of the evening. Despite subsequent wild accusations there is no way of proving who that individual may or may not have been and that is all I intend to say on the subject.

About a Gadabout: home of cynical travel journalism with a brutally cutting edge.


14 Responses to “The Born Ultimatum”

  1. 1 Stuart Harrison

    Outstanding, Dave. Touching and very, very funny. Have a banana!

  2. Thanks Stuart! I may well treat myself to half a banana. You only live once!

  3. 3 Alexandra Ross

    Brilliant! Congratulations!

  4. 4 Dominic long

    Hi Dave, great blog (is that what this type of thing is called?) Sorry i didn’t respond to your message will email you to try and arrange meeting up. hope Lewisham maternity was ok. Have you signed the petition/responded to the consultation concerning potentially closing it and the a & e down

  5. 6 Mark

    Nice work. Congratulations to you both and have a great Christmas with your new family unit!

  6. Congrats! Very cute looking baby.
    I’ve been missing your blog. I’ve no doubt you’ll have more time to get back to writing regular posts in approx. 18 years when your daughter leaves home.
    PS If I dare to mention it, in that topless-with-jeans-on photo you do look slightly demonic. As if you’re debating whether the baby would taste better with tomato sauce or grated chocolate on. Just look at that anguished expression on her adorable face – she’s noticed it too.

  7. Thanks very much for the congrats!

    In case of any confusion I should probably say that the only part of that photo that belongs to me is my scary head. The rest is thanks to Photoshop and this Athena poster

    In real life I am far more muscular and work that stonewashed denim look for all it’s worth.

    • I see! Well, I’m glad to hear you didn’t really put your baby through that trauma.
      But I now have to ask, by disseminating this photo of yourself publicly, are you aiming to beat the original model’s claim that he bonked over 3000 women as a result of posing for the poster? (Heaven knows how many venereal diseases he must have by now…)

      • Yes, it now takes me two weeks to reply to a comment. Sorry.

        I think I’m unlikely to beat the original model’s total as my wife tends to frown on that kind of thing the selfish killjoy. I have been running extensive investigations into the original model (ie. Googled him just now) and this is a quote directly from his kiss-battered lips:-

        “I’ve had a lot of sexual partners over the years, and it may well be 3,000 although I never kept a list. I was going to write a book about it, but it all got boring”

        I can’t see how that book could be anything other than fascinating. I imagine it would go something like ‘I done intercourse with this lady then I done another one’ repeated 3000 times. I think nominations for the Booker long list close in November so he better get on with it.

      • Judging by the kind of crud that wins prizes and becomes bestsellers these days, I think “Lust List 3000” by Mr. Athena Pokemall probably would win critical acclaim and eventually win the Nobel Prize for literature.

        Since he’s too bored to write it, maybe we should offer to team up as ghost writers for him? Top authors like Madonna and Jordan never write their own books these days.

        I’m not sure about your imagination, but I reckon I could invent at least 1,500 Athena-poster inspired shags that would keep the punters turning pages.
        1. “I dropped my stonewashed jeans, lifted her up onto the nappy-changing table and snapped off her Mothercare bra with a smooth flick of the wrist…. ” etcetera.
        2. “I bent her over the playpen, ripped down her support tights and rasped my hands roughly over her nicely-fading stretchmarks….” and so on.

        So waddya say? Are you up to the challenge?

  8. I think that’s an inspired idea. Here’s a short prologue:-


    Lust List 3000
    (Putting the ‘Sex’ into Sexually Transmitted)

    I have 63 individually defined muscles in my upper torso alone so it came as no surprise when I was asked to pose for a topless photo session. What did surprise me was that some baby had also been booked for the shoot. I have never heard of a baby with a decent six pack so the whole thing was a bloody joke. I had no choice but to take the job as I needed cash to have the denim around my crotch expertly distressed.

    When I held that baby in my arms for the very first time everything changed. I knew deep down in my heart that from now on I would get the opportunity to doink lots of hormonal women. And I mean LOTS! Probably around 3000 but that would be a guesstimate as there was no way of knowing for sure at that stage.


    If you can just pop another 70,000 words on the end of that I reckon we’ll have an international bestseller on our hands.

    • You know, reflecting on Mr. Pokemall last night, I suddenly realised last he’s obviously not the nerdy type. I reckon he got up to doing tens and units in maths and then stopped, never getting as far as hundreds and not even dreaming of thousands because he was already far too busy flexing his abdominal muscles at the primary school teacher. Therefore he doesn’t do his sums in accurate columns.
      All this means he probably didn’t really prod 3000 women. It was likely to be something more like 30, or maybe even 3.
      Nonetheless, we should not let the truth get in the way of a good commercial proposition and possibly a Booker prize.

      I’ll start working on the rest of the book and let you know how it goes….

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