Fourteen³ - June 2016
Sonnets XCIX-CXII -
On Two Becoming Three, 15/09/15-13/05/16
These verses are for you, my infant son,
A simple story of a life begun:
I cannot say if it be false or true,
It’s just a tired father’s point of view.
XCIX. A normal journey home, the normal way;
A normal kiss hello and cup of tea;
A normal slump; a normal, stressful day;
Abnormal gift your Mummy gave to me.
A plastic stick, the indicator red,
I searched for words to say. “Oh, cool,” I said.
I found I didn't know how I should feel,
Or feelings, when I felt them, seemed unreal.
And every well intentioned question asked
For me to lie - impossibly pretend
That I could know or come to comprehend
The task with which I’d chosen to be tasked:
New life, so long desired, but when it came
I only knew life wouldn’t be the same.
18th June 2016
C. And tiny chains of acid wove and spun
And from the darkness of your mummy’s womb
They knit the parts together for a son,
As we prepared in hearts and house the room,
And read the blogs and magazines to know
(Or try to know) how pregnancy should go.
I tried to catch the fleeting moment’s kick
But often found the movement was too quick;
It did not come enough and so began
A pattern we would come to know too well:
Relief which followed eighteen hours’ hell.
You would not move for days, we’d have a scan
And see you well in shades of black and grey,
So fear could start again a different day.
20th June 2016
CI. The week before the date when you were due
Your mummy went in for another scan.
A pattern so familiar, we knew
We still had time to finalise our plan
Of what we'd do, of who we'd need to call:
We still had time to think about it all.
I caught the bus. Went to the shop and bought
Some dinner. Just a normal day, I thought.
Then she came home and split our lives apart -
They'd asked her to go in to be induced
And all our plans were suddenly reduced
To how we'd eat, then pack, and then depart.
Ten years we'd had, but time was racing on.
We'd always still had time, ‘til it was gone.
23rd June 2016
CII. They told us it could take about three days,
They said we should prepare ourselves to wait.
They told us all about the different ways
They’d use to help your birth initiate.
They tried the first; I headed home to bed,
And tried to calm the chaos in my head.
At work I found I had no words to share,
To tell our news to all the people there.
So when I could, I caught a bus, returned
To where your Mummy lay in wait for you.
I’d soon go home: we had three days, we knew.
The midwife came, to our surprise we learned
That three days wait had not been close to right;
That two could turn to three that very night.
25th June 2016
CIII. They put a needle in your Mummy’s arm,
And dripped a drug to make the process start.
And so we’d know you hadn’t come to harm
They wired her up so we could hear your heart,
And made their measurements so we would know
How close you were, how far there was to go.
We sat and waited. Sat and watched TV.
We sat and chatted. Sat and drank some tea.
A little cramp, at first, and then it grew -
No posture soothed, nor breathing gas and air -
I just stood by: I was so helpless there.
And in it all I lost all sight of you.
I could not think what good there was to gain,
To watch my wife endure such awful pain.
26th June 2016
CIV. And when the pain became too much to bear,
They made another measurement to see,
How far you’d come and learned, to our despair,
No progress had been made from nine to three.
She cried out for an epidural then,
An hour passed ‘til all was ready, when
Your heartbeat stopped: just wires out of place
Which started panic to restore the trace.
“Keep still,” they said as they prepared to stick,
A needle deep inside your Mummy’s back
While midwives fought to get the trace on track.
I held her shaking head, her breathing thick,
My fear reflected in her tearful eyes;
I prayed I could maintain a brave disguise.
26th June 2016
CV. When it was done, and calm had come again,
I left her dozing peacefully and went
To clear the staleness from lungs and brain,
To let all of my pent up feelings vent.
I found the empty chapel: silent, calm,
A Bible open to a treasured psalm:
“The Lord’s my shepherd...He restores my soul,
And in the darkness will my fears console.”
The words exploded in my heart and head
As I was deluged by the force of love,
Of peace and comfort from my God above.
I drenched my face in heavy tears I shed,
And prayed for her, myself and you, my son,
For all there’d been, and all still to be done.
27th June 2016
CVI. Now pain was gone, a peacefulness could fall:
We dozed until the early morning light
Spilled softly in, illuminating all
The wreckage of a long and restless night.
And hour into hour seemed to drift,
As midwife after midwife changed their shift
They made their measurements once more, to tell
That things had been progressing very well.
The morning passed with sitcoms on TV,
To keep the weary tedium at bay.
The midwives changed again before midday,
They made their measurements, once more, to see
If there was any progress to detect:
Things hadn’t changed at all since last they checked.
28th June 2016
CVII. So, talk then turned to what the risks could be.
The doctor said the time to wait had passed
And that we should consider surgery.
Then things began to happen very fast:
Your Mummy’s pain had started to return,
As they brought things to read and sign and learn
About the dangers which could soon unfold,
So we could never claim we’d not been told.
We met the surgeon and anesthetist
Who told us all the things that they had planned
And which we couldn't hope to understand -
Too tired to think or question or resist.
They whisked us to the operating room,
So they could cut you from your Mummy's womb.
29th June 2016
CVIII. They put a curtain up to shield the view.
I sat beside your Mummy as she asked
A thousand questions to the midwives who
Kept all their negative responses masked
And told her what they wanted her to hear.
What happened next is not precisely clear.
I did not seek an early glimpse of you,
But stayed where her first look would be mine too:
The secrets of the curtain all were kept,
Until they held above a baby boy,
And overcome with tiredness and joy,
I raised my thanks to heaven as I wept.
Your Mummy heard, turned her exhausted head
And smiled. “I knew that you would cry,” she said.
29th June 2016
CIX. They laid you on your Mummy, skin-to-skin,
We sang, as all around us seemed to cease,
A blessing song, so that you would begin
By being kept in gracious love and peace.
And then, so that the surgeons would be free
To operate, they handed you to me,
I found that I did not know what to do,
So I just held and made this vow to you:
I told you of the things that you would learn,
Of science, art and how to be a man,
I promised that I’ll teach you all I can,
And in the things that I cannot discern
I’ll help you seek to walk in wisdom’s way;
And love you richly ‘til my dying day.
29th June 2016
CX. They put you by a window in a cot,
And gave your Mummy morphine for the pain,
Which turned her into someone she is not.
But through the haziness of blunted brain
“I do not want him to be cold,” she said,
As the officious midwife stood and read,
The questions for the form she had to fill,
And would not ease her pain or do her will.
And I stood by, ignored and out of place,
They made it clear that I was in the way,
I felt more lonely, then, than I can say,
I wished that I could see a friendly face.
For I was just the father - void of worth -
The least important person at the birth.
28th June 2016
CXI. I had to go and leave your Mummy there,
In her discomfort, sadness and distress
With people who I did not trust to care;
Who could not see beyond their busyness.
I travelled home, too tired to talk or think.
I poured a joyless celebration drink
To wet your head. Before I took a sip
I had succumbed to deepest slumber’s grip.
I woke up in an empty house; conveyed
Myself to catch the morning bus. I still
Was so exhausted I felt almost ill.
I found the room where you and Mummy stayed,
And weariness was washed away, I knew
That home was coming back to both of you.
30th June 2016
CXII. I sat and wrote a poem by the bed,
As you and Mummy took your chance to sleep:
I played with rhyme and rhythm in my head,
And tried to not disturb, but could not keep
From standing silent next to where you lay
And letting all creation fade away,
As I looked down, divorced from time and space,
And studied every contour of your face.
I looked, and looking somehow started to -
In ways I cannot fathom to explain -
Rebuild the architecture of my brain,
Reveal new realms of love I never knew:
A love which now could be the only plan,
That's how new life, both yours and ours, began.
30th June 2016