Birth – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Henry was our last born of our four children. He is the baby of the family.

It is strange.

There is something magical about conception. Every single time we made love that resulted in a pregnancy, it was magical. I could feel that life start from that instant. Something amazing happened. I could feel it.

This was no drunken moment, no mistake or condom failure, nothing mundane or inconsequential; this was magic.

I felt this with all four of our children – something mystical. I knew we were starting a new life.

Henry was born at home.

I was watching football, not a cup final, as with Hester’s birth, but some European match, late in the evening. Liz was sitting on the settee and the first thing we knew was when her waters broke. She had to quickly put a cushion under her as the fluid poured out. Only then did she start having mild contractions. I went and called the mid-wife. We were having a home delivery and I didn’t want the sort of mess up we’d had with Barnaby’s birth (where the midwife had gone to pieces) so I’d vetted the mid-wife. She was good. She’d passed the test.

She came and examined Liz and found that she really wasn’t very dilated. As the contractions were mild it was decided that nothing much was likely to happen that night. The midwife, optimistically, thought that it was best to go to bed and try to get some sleep, or else Liz would be too tired to push Henry out the next day. The midwife assured us that the contractions would die down if she could sleep.

We went to bed. I cuddled up to Liz and put my hands on her big belly. I could feel the contractions going through her belly and making her uterus hard. They were not hurting too much and we tried to get some sleep, but we were both too excited. It was strange to think of our other three kids asleep in their beds down the corridor. I wanted to wake them up to share in the excitement.

I didn’t though. They slept and we lay awake talking and feeling the contractions. Soon we would have another baby. There would be another human being in the world.

The sad thing was that my dad was not going to be there to hold him. He was not going to be able to chase him around threatening to ‘cut off his tail’ as he had done with the others. He was not going to hear him squeal with delight as he was chased.

Far from dying down, the contractions were becoming stronger. It became obvious that we were not going to get any sleep, indeed we were not going to last until morning. Henry was coming. I eventually gave up trying to sleep and called the mid-wife back.

It was a smooth and easy delivery.

Henry was born in the early hours of the morning.

Our family was complete.

Our genes were passed on into the next gene pool.

Our purpose was all but over. All we had to do was get them to adulthood in a state where they were able to breed. We then had to sit back and wait for the grandchildren to arrive.

That was biology for you – the natural imperative.

I took Henry’s placenta into school the next morning. My 6th Form Biology group had a look at it and were all a bit horrified. We bottled it and it sits on the shelf in the Biology lab to this very day, eighteen years on.

What is maybe more important, than a bunch of genes, is to pass on to them some of the wonder of life. What is it for? What do we do with it?

As you can see I don’t have a clue!

Hey kids – it’s out there! There is a thing called life! You’re living it! Experience all you can, be fulfilled, but don’t for fuck’s sake kill yourself. There’s awe and wonder out there, don’t lead a boring life, don’t get bogged down in religion. It’s bollocks.

But then, that’s just an opinion based on my view of history and humans. People are basically good but we’re all flawed. Given half a chance we’ll mess everything up. You could do worse than spending your life trying to put it right or doing something purposeful or creative.

What do I know?

I am your father. I love you. I am proud of you.

My father was proud of me for some unfathomable reason. I guess that goes with the territory. My father is dead. I will die. That is natural. I hope I die before you. But I’d love to meet the grandchildren first. We’ll see.

Remember me.

I spent my life trying to make sense of what to do with the life I was given. I didn’t do so bad! I could have done a lot worse.



Could any of us have done it any better? Who’s to judge? In the final end, I suppose we all have to judge ourselves!


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