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The Jesus Syndrome

February 10, 2010

Author’s Note: Due to sleeplessness, this has not been edited for grammar, comprehension ro clarity.

The big day arrived! We were full of excitement and anticipation. On the way to the clinic we didn’t even say a word to each other, mainly because Maria was on a bus and I was in a taxi, having realised at the bus stop that I had left the camera at home and rushed back to get it.

Hospitals are lousy places to go to, but we weren’t in one. The clinic was like a 4 star hotel, just full of sick people, but with an outstanding newly opened maternity ward.

The delivery, by caesarean section, was scheduled for 1.30pm. A large drape was put in front of Maria’s head to hide her sight from the operation though you could see most of the operation from the reflection off the stainless steel lamps. I was placed on a seat next to Maria’s head.

I had never been inside an operating theatre while conscious.  Any second I was sure to hear the sound of the scalpel working its way against the skin’s soft resistance as the doctor cut into the abdomen to get the “dag” out.

In contrast, there was suddenly the strong smell of burning and smoke filled the air. My wife was stressed enough without having to deal with this, so I kept my thoughts to myself and tried not to add to the general stress of the situation.

“Huh? What on earth? Whoa!”

“What?” my wife said.


“Why is there smoke?”

“Not sure. I’ll have a look.”

I peaked around the drape and the doctors were using what looked like a welding iron to open the abdomen, as if a bunch of sailors were working on a boat hull. They were burning my wife open. Not what I expected, but I did realise no one was bothered by my voyeurism.

Once open, the stomach transformed into a giant salamander’s mouth as if it had just eaten a little child that had to be pulled back out.

It is a fascinating procedure to watch, but I pulled my head back behind the drape twice. Once when the surgeon was pushing down so hard on something that I thought is face would explode, and once when the head of my daughter finally popped out and was purple with the umbilical cord around her neck. That was just not worth watching.

Yet in the end all went well, and once stitches were put into place, all three of us were reunited.

Mr Oldest Friend flew into town for 24 hours to help wet the baby’s head and help buy nappies, although only the former was done. It was also a chance for him to have a break from his own three daughters. I showed him the newborn, which was crying in my arms horizontally. Generously I let him hold her, and he took her nonchalantly, turned her vertically and held her to his chest with the head crouched between the shoulder and the neck. Instantly Alika stopped crying.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

He’s a lot smarter than me on these things. The child has just spent 9 months cuddled in a womb, close to a heartbeat, warm and secure. They don’t generally like being held out in front and prefer to be tightly grasped against a warm body with a heartbeat. This is obvious to anyone with a child.

Mr. Oldest Friend calls it the Jesus Syndrome – icons and paintings of the messiah always show the child vertical in the arms of Mary so we can gaze upon the baby’s face. It’s a perfect perspective for the artist, and provides us with our first idea of how kids are held, but it is actually a crap way to hold a baby.

But it all went well and the five days in the hospital with all the attendees was our decompression chamber for the transition back our flat with Alika. We were not completely devoid of help. The Swiss insurance company pays for a midwife to visit regularly in the first month. The first visit was scheduled for Monday.

This comes with a bit of pressure for new parents. I imagined that we would face scrutiny and judgement, with marks given for layout (just pass as the bath is too far from the changing table), temperature (complete fail – far too cold), ambiance, changing technique and overall presentation. Her visit made me nervous.

The expected arrival was at 10am, and at 9.58am, we experienced what professionals call a “Poo Explosion.” I had only noticed this bleak occurrence when Maria turned Alika over to show me how the white pyjamas were now half brown. The nappy had burst asunder from a god-almighty-movement from the nether regions. Two minutes to go, and even experienced parents would have taken ten minutes to fixed this up. It reckoned it would take Maria and I all morning.

And then the doorbell rang. My initial reaction was to hide Alika under the bed, but that would defeat the purpose of the midwife’s visit. And I was sure she would scream and give her position away. I was resigned to the midwife reporting us to the Federation of Really Useless Parents.

The midwife was quite cool, and I watched something that will never bore me – a person completely confident and calm around a young baby – as she summed up the situation in a heartbeat and competently put the situation right in four minutes. A record that won’t be broken in this flat for a while.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 11, 2010 1:49 pm

    aaaaaw… so sweet! And touching. And amusing to see you AT LAST have to go through it all first-hand.
    (Fred is right, cradling a new baby horizontally is a recipe for disaster, tuck them into your shoulder – make sure the head is not at the bottom. They smell good too.)

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