I am sitting up in bed, grandly composing eloquent birth announcements all beginning: "To Brian and Jaqui, unbelievably, a son!"
"You CAN'T," said my husband, "put that!" Two days ago, in the first flush of fresh fatherhood, he would have denied me nothing; today reason is rearing its head once more.
"Why not?" I demand, stubbornly. To me the birth of our son is the most incredible of events; I am still happily suspended in a state of delighted disbelief. There cannot be many mothers, I imagine, who actually argue with the midwife over the sex of
a new baby.
"It's a boy!" she announced triumphantly, over the agonised yelps of a new life. "You mean a girl," I corrected her, automatically. "No, no, a boy!"
she insisted, working in a fluster of flurrying fingers at the foot of the bed. I can see my husband, hovering at the side of the bed, his face cracked across by a grin so wide that I can't help thinking he looks remarkably like the Cheshire Cat in Anne's
Alice in Wonderland book.
"It is a boy, really," says the Cheshire Cat. The fact that the effects of gas and air upon me made his head appear to float about six
inches above his shoulders not only heightened his likeness to Alice's enigmatic friend but also lent an air of incredibility to his words. "It can't be," I told him, sternly. They had to show me my son in all his naked masculinity, before I was prepared to
His sisters, sharp-eared and wakeful, tumbled into the bedroom at five in the morning. "We heard him crying! We knew he was here!" they exclaimed,
crowding around the bundle in the carry-cot, then hurled themselves at me, like three flailing windmills. "We always wanted a brother," Anne breathed, ecstatically into my untidy hair. I know very well that if it had been a sister, she would have been saying,
just as definitely, that we had "always wanted a sister." Life's like that.
As other visitors began to look in, it became obvious that nobody took very seriously
my protestations throughout my pregnancy that I did not mind if this baby was a boy or a girl. "We knew you really wanted a boy," they said, as one, bending over the cot with smugly happy smiles as if somehow they had a part in engineering the whole tiny miracle
from the beginning. After all, who can be sure of the power of so many good wishes?
No one seemed to share my surprise at finding myself the mother of a son. Only
the doctor was as doubting as I, insisting on checking the credentials of his newest patient before conceding that he was, indeed "a handsome bloke."
of all was our tiny son; one would never guess to look at him, sleeping so peacefully, that his arrival was preceded by a panicky 60 mile car drive to get home in time, culminating in a broken fan belt, a dried up water tank and a breakdown on the approach
to the M4. "It must be a boy," the midwife said, dryly, on my eventual safe arrival home, "Only a man could cause so much trouble!"
School on Monday led Anne and
Hilary to discover some of the less obvious advantages to having a new baby in the family. Their teachers, well aware that, in certain circumstances, older childen react badly to a demanding new rival, took pains to show special favours to my daughters.
"Miss McNeill made me calendar monitor today," said Anne, "because I've got a new baby brother."
"I had the spare milk today," said Hilary, not to be outdone, "because I've got a new baby brother, too."
"I wonder," added Anne, thoughtfully, "how long
all this will last?"
Little Nan wonders too. Her "baby bruvver's" arrival has led to one completely unforeseen complication; every day she exhorts me to "get up
today!" making me feel almost guilty about my enforced lie-in. Not that I am completely steeped in idleness - I still have to write a birth announcement which will meet with husbandly approval.
In the end, I leave out all the wordy flourishes and it reads: "To Brian and Jaqui, the precious gift of a son, Steven John, a brother for Anne, for Hilary and for Little Nan."
I have to admit it, where certain messages are concerned, whatever the wording, the meaning is the same.