Southerly by David Haywood


A Slow Journey and a Quick Arrival

The last few weeks in hospital have cultivated Jennifer's gracious side. She now receives visitors to her sick-bed in the manner of the Queen welcoming a head-of-state into Buckingham Palace.

"This is my bed," says Jennifer with a regal wave. "This is my food-tray. This is my emergency button. This is my chest of drawers -- only wood veneer, but as you can see, very roomy and convenient."

Saly [sic], Jennifer's previous room-mate, gave birth some days ago and has already gone home. She provided drama right up until the last moment, when she point-blank refused to go to the birthing suite unless she was allowed to smoke a ciggie beforehand.

It was slightly frustrating to see Saly move on without us. Despite the daily assurances from the doctors that the baby would "probably be induced tomorrow", we were both beginning to think that Jennifer's incarceration in the antenatal ward might go on for years.

By dawn on Friday, however, certain signs and portents had become unmistakable. The first sign was Jennifer's dream (recounted to me by telephone early Friday morning) that Russell Brown had sent her a big parcel of cheese. According to Jennifer, the cheese was: "The most delicious cheese in the world".

I can't put my finger on it, but there is something fishy about this dream. I know that I should probably laugh it off -- but Jennifer's lingering account of the deliciousness of the cheese gave me a strong urge to fly up to Auckland, punch Russell Brown on the nose, and tell him to keep his damn cheese to himself in future.

Fortunately perhaps, all thoughts of cheese were driven from my mind by the second sign, which occurred during my morning bus ride into the hospital. One of my fellow passengers arose from his seat, pointed a shaking finger towards the window, and cried in a sepulchral voice: "Look! The sun is like a giant red orb, dripping with blood!" In fact, the sun was in the opposite direction -- and the passenger's wildly bloodshot eyes were focussed on a traffic light. But, if you ask me, this still counts as a portent.

I came across the third sign as I walked through Hagley park from the bus stop to the hospital. It was, quite literally, an actual sign.

Above: A mysterious sign in Hagley Park.

I have devoted considerable thought to this sign. It might be acceptable for a cleaning company to advertise: Houses Luxed Out. P.S. We Also Do Venetians. I might even employ a company with the slogan: Houses Luxed Out: Venetians a Speciality. But a company which only luxes venetians seems (to me, at any rate) to be specialized to the point of stupidity.

For example, here is a simple question -- how often in your life have you heard a variation on this sentence: "Merv, I can lux out the rest of the house, no problem at all. But frankly, those venetians are beyond me. We'll have to get someone in to do them."? Nope, me neither. I rest my case.

The fourth sign was an exciting package from Paul Brislen at Vodafone. Paul had read of Jennifer's lack-of-internet-access-in-hospital plight on Public Address. He generously loaned Jennifer a Vodafone Mobile Connect card for her laptop, which he sent by courier from Auckland. "Oh, and don't worry about the traffic charges," he said breezily, "I'll take care of those".

By the time I arrived in hospital, Jennifer had already downloaded a mini-library of journal articles about her medical condition, and was ploughing her way through them. Paul's act of kindness to strangers had made her a very happy woman.

The fifth sign occurred on Friday evening, when I was raving to Jennifer about The L.e.d.s new album.

Me: So, anyway, I'd liken their first album to maybe a Mk.I Austin-Healey Sprite, or perhaps a Karmann Ghia coupé. You know, the sort of car you love to drive because it's just so cool and quirky. But their new album is like an Austin-Healey Sprite or a Karmann Ghia that's been totally pimped by Lotus: race-tuned suspension; re-worked engine; makes a noise like a dive-bombing Stuka. It's just this massive wall of sound -- completely awe-inspiring."

Jennifer: Hmm... I think I might be in labour.

The full manifestation of this fifth and final sign occurred when the hospital midwife connected Jennifer to the CTG machine. "Nope, no contractions, I'm afraid," said the midwife. "Just a few Prostin niggles, I'd say."

"Are you sure?" said Jennifer, wincing as she replied to another message from her 300-plus email backlog. "They're really quite painful."

"You wait until you're really in labour", said the midwife with a condescending chuckle. "You won't be playing around on your computer then, lovey. No, I'm afraid this baby won't be arriving for another couple of days at least."

Thirty minutes later our son, Robert, was born.

Above: Robert Haywood (aged one hour) -- a quick arrival.

I won't give details of the thirty minutes of 'official' labour, except to mention these three points:

  1. Jennifer had the great pleasure of pressing the emergency button, which -- she later confessed -- she'd been longing to do ever since she arrived in hospital.
  2. Our midwife arrived just in time to catch the baby -- another thirty seconds and she'd have been too late.
  3. If a bloke went through an ordeal equivalent to childbirth, he would (at the very least) be awarded a medal by the Governor-General, a ticker-tape parade down Queen Street, and a frenzied mobbing by radio and television journalists asking: "How do you feel?".

Women are truly remarkable.


The above words were written two weeks ago, while Jennifer was still in hospital. Subsequently, Robert developed complications which required admission to the intensive care unit. Happily, however, after 10 days, I was able to bring both him and his mother back home -- Jennifer having been in hospital for just short of a month. My thanks to everyone who has sent concerned emails. A very long and worrying pregnancy is finally over.

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