Before I start, let’s be clear, this is not an anti Baby School rant, my argument here is purely with those upstairs. It’s all well and good giving the midwives a list of subjects which have been decided on by a committee, but if it’s the wrong subject matter what are they supposed to do?
When I was at school we learnt stuff, got tested on it and got shoved out of the revolving door to find a use for this new found knowledge. Now I conceed that my life hasn’t benefited massively from knowing how to tell a Roman legionnaire that the dog is in the garden (canis est in horta), but I believed the speel, Latin would give me a better grounding for the multitude of foreign languages I don’t speak (although I still stand my ground on the argument that raged following Latinoralexamgate, when Mr Butler savagely ripped into my accent. Suffice to say that, whilst you could ‘eff and blind’ at him on the football pitch, as one of the staff team’s three permitted ringers, you absolutely could not suggest he “wheel out a centurio” to prove my hard C’s were a little off).
Of course, my grades have become largely irrelevant nowadays, as you’d get a fairly high mark for getting the spelling of dog close(probably in either language, so as not to offend). I was the generation who courted controversy amongst tea drinking Daily Mailists by first taking calculators into maths exams, (had I been allowed to ‘take’ Paul Arcangeli into my Latin exam I’d have romped it, as it stands I spent two hours reflecting that whilst copying Paul’s written work had freed up valuable time to work on my hard C’s it did leave me a little screwed in the exam) but back then we also had to actually get a decent mark to get a decent grade (how wacky and thoroughly old fashioned). Now everything seems so dumbed down that it’s hard to see the point in learning it, and certainly not in testing it…
Anyway, Baby School, we sat uncomfortably, staring nervously at the floor through four classes, in 40c heat (an odd decision by the powers that be to have the heating set to “surface of the sun” in a room full of very pregnant woman and very drowsy men), and left feeling slightly better informed than had we just arrived from Mars, Devon or 1790. And so to the point of this essay, it occurs to me that there’s a gulf of knowledge which wasn’t even touched on at Baby School and as a willing champion of the people allow me to rectify the Top Ten Omissions:
1. If you are the owner of a mobile phone with ‘push notifications’ – turn them off. This should be done as a matter of urgency upon commencement of labour (1. Water breaks, 2. Turn off push notifications 3. Consider heading for hospital…), because, when you have negotiated the maze of corridors leading to a safe zone (where the world will not end if you turn on said mobile device) you will receive on average 126 text messages, individually. The kind thoughts of friends and loved ones are somewhat lost when you have to close each one individually before you can make or receive the call you went out for(and all because you wouldn’t wait for a decent upgrade to become available, and were instead wooed by the glitz and glamour of Jobs’ devil phone). Another fabulous feature the midwives won’t tell you about is, the ‘close’ message feature is, in iWorld, far more important than the ‘answer incoming call’ feature (and as such the background will flash with “Someone You Desperately Need To Speak To – CALLING” as you frantically tap ‘close’ ‘close’ ‘close’… no amount of youthful ‘Track And Field’ in the bus station arcade will enable you to answer that call so give up now).
2. An absolutely essential piece of equipment for the aspiring ’embarrassing dad’ is a decent notepad and pen for recording important dates, cherished memories and potentially useful anecdotes, you will have plenty on your plate in the coming weeks and there’s no garauntee that you’ll remember the midwives choice nickname for little Beyonce (Imagine the devastation in years to come if you weren’t able to share ‘Little Chunk’ with her friends at B’s 18th, wedding or borstal). These early days will be full of useful subject matter and it’s now that ‘Embarassing Dad’ can lay his foundations in a sure and professional manner.
3. If you are tempted to utilise the marvellously ironic “Patient Line” telephone system think carefully. Researchers have proven that it is actually cheaper to pay a team of bedouin tribesmen to carry your messages back and forth by camel train(by which system a typical six ‘leg’ message can be completed well before you would have ever been connected).
4. It is an urban myth that the father to be will need shorts and a t-shirt for the grand arrival(a rumour created by retailers and Vaynol Arms Bar Managers to sell more clothes and occupy their tiny minds, respectively) and if, for example, the “f2b” were to ask where he should get changed the midwife team will, hypothetically, look at him like he’s mental. However, in an ironic twist the mother and baby ward itself will be kept at a constant 39 c and as such the wise father will opt for beach wear (and ideally comedy beer helmet with isotonic sports drinks) for all future visits.
5. Do not underestimate the distance your child’s poo can cover. Only the most gung ho of parents would even consider changing a nappy from the feet end, once they’ve experienced the indignity and gut twisting disgust of being sprayed by their offspring.
6. In the run up to baby everyone you have ever met will ask you about names, this will generally be followed by a half(probably nearer quarter) joke that you should use their name (this is rarely gender specific, “I think Marta or Martin are good names”). When baby arrives DO NOT, under any circumstance, be tempted to pretend that you have gone with their suggestion on any level(“He’s called Carlos Yaya Marta Box”). The awkwardness of the moment when you jovially say “Not really” is something that could mentally scar the cruelest of despots.
7. Within midwifery circles they bizarrely refer to baby school as ‘parenting class’, this is worth remembering when referring to it to midwives after baby is born (particularly any midwives who may, for instance live around the corner from you and have already referred to you as ‘cocky’).
8. When packing your ‘hospital bag’ remember to safely pack £2.90 for the hospital restaurant’s* excellent fish and chips. Hospital food is not only appalling, but the portion size is woefully inadequate and when mum’s dinner comes round there will be very little left for her once you’ve ‘got some of your strength back’ (Do not dwell on the fact that they price individual items, Fish £1.93, chips 72p… because this, as demonstrated by The Bar Manager will scar you for years to come and ensure that any future conversations about Hospitals, children, fish and/or chips will always descend into a bizarre furious rant).
9. Take a moment to walk the corridors reading the signs (for context) and enjoy the simple genius of the ‘Eye Clinic’ door sign being written at least 8 font sizes bigger. (The fact that the maps and general signage is printed so confusingly that MI5 operatives wouldn’t be able to find the clinic in the first place is somewhat irrelevent).
10. Resist at all costs suggestions by the ‘Doctors’ that any form of assisted delivery may be necessary. You may, like me, have the chiselled features to make pale blue scrubs and pink surgical caps look good, but no one should have to deal with the memory of this miraculous occasion being tarnished by having to wear yellow Crocs.
* At Ysbty Gwynedd do not be fooled by the WRVS Snackbar THIS IS NOT THE RESTAURANT and you will be forced to make do with a tiny roll libellously described as a “deep filled bap” which would not serve to mask the hunger pangs of your newborn child, let alone it’s emaciated father.