Southerly by David Haywood

A Bit of a Worry

When spending time with my nieces or nephew, I am often frustrated in my attempts to point out interesting or educational features of the landscape. A typical encounter might go like this:

Me: Oh look, a three-legged dog!

Niece or Nephew: [excitedly] Where?

Me: Just there, where I'm pointing.

Niece or Nephew: [looking in completely the wrong place] I don't see it!

Me: Just right there, on the other side of the road -- right where I'm pointing.

Niece or Nephew: [looking everywhere but where I'm pointing] I still don't see it!

[Dog hobbles out of sight]

Me: It's gone now.

Niece or Nephew: [disappointed] Oh, I missed it...

But I find myself on the other side of the conversation when it comes to sightings of my own offspring:

Jennifer: Oh, the baby's kicking...

Me: [excitedly] Where?

Jennifer: Just put your hand there -- do you feel it?

Me: No.

Jennifer: What about there -- you must feel that! I can even see it moving.

Me: [neither seeing nor feeling any movement at all] Er...

Jennifer: Oh, it's stopped now...

And the ultrasound scans of our unborn child are, if anything, even more frustrating:

Technician: As you can see, this is the baby's head...

Me: Where?

Technician: And here's an even better view of its nose and lips. Clear as day.

Me: The bit at the top left?

Technician: [exasperated] No, that's just a smudge on the screen -- the nose and lips are at the bottom right. [Turns to Jennifer] Surely you can see the nose and lips?

Jennifer: Well, maybe a hint of a lip.

[Technician leaves the room to print the image]

Me: Could you really see the baby's lip?

Jennifer: I only said it because I felt sorry for the technician.

Despite the invisibility of our baby (except, of course, for the enormous bump protruding from Jennifer's midriff) it still manages to make its presence felt. In the manner of a dysfunctional ex-couple who communicate through their lawyer, the baby and I exchange information via Jennifer. For example:

Jennifer: The baby wants fish and chips for dinner.

Me: Can the baby wait until I've finished watching Top Gear?

Jennifer: The baby says no.

Over the past few months the baby's demands have become increasingly forceful, and have included requests to:

  • Straighten pictures which are annoying the baby because they're crooked.
  • Make midnight visits to the 24-hour petrol station to procure salt & vinegar crisps for the baby.
  • Cook a "delicious pudding" for the baby.
  • Buy the baby a 10 megapixel camera with 6X optical zoom.

Despite the baby's expensive taste in camera equipment -- and obvious megalomaniac tendencies -- I find that I have become rather fond of it. Somewhere along the line we seem to have become a family. When we go to sleep at night, I give Jennifer a kiss, and say: "Goodnight, Jennifer". And then I give the bump on her stomach a little pat, and say: "Goodnight, baby".

Which is why recent developments have been rather distressing. Last week the midwife took Jennifer's blood pressure, and said: "Hmm... it's probably nothing, but I'll just send you for some medical tests".

Then she looked at the test results, and said: "It's probably nothing, but I'll just send you to a specialist". The specialist took some more blood, and said: "Well, it's probably nothing, but I'll just put you in hospital for 24 hours of observation."

And at the end of the 24 hours, when I was ready to take Jennifer home, the hospital registrar gave a merry laugh, and said: "Don't be silly -- you can't take her home. Not in her condition." And so, for the past few days, I've been turning up at the maternity ward first thing in the morning.

Jennifer is instantly recognizable as the only patient sitting up in bed and doing statistical analysis on a laptop. I'm always very pleased to see her, and she always looks pleased to see me too -- which cheers me up no end. At ten o'clock in the evening the midwife commandant turfs me out, and I go home to bed.

The idea of hospitalization is to keep the baby in the womb for as long as possible. Sometimes it looks as though it will stay inside, and sometimes not. It changes from hour to hour. Of course, a premature delivery wouldn't really be a serious concern at our stage in proceedings, as the baby would require only the mildest level of neonatal care.

But still, I must confess, it's all a bit of a worry...