Emily Sunshine, August 3rd, 2007

by Brendan Strong

“Your face is like the sun, sinking into the ocean
Your face is like some flowers, opening in fast motion…”
(Sparklehorse [Mark Linkaus])

A Slow Start

You know the end, so let’s start at the beginning. It was a slow start, with my wife in some discomfort for some days. My last post (Waiting) was to prove somewhat prophetic, as my wife’s contractions calmed, returning at irregular intervals with differing pain levels. All of this, the hospital assured us, meant all was well, and it could be ‘any moment now’. ‘Any moment now’ are the three last words you want to hear when waiting. Whether for a coffee, Internet access, a book, traffic lights to change, a bus to leave, the queue at the airport to move. When you hear ‘Any moment now’, what actually happens is some bizarre biological reaction whereby you know it will not be any moment now. You can be quite sure whatever you’re waiting for will happen, not in any moment, but in the moment when you least expect it – as you had convinced yourself sometime before. But the words ‘Any moment now’ also do something else: instil the hope that indeed, any moment now, something will happen. Every pain, every discomfort, every moment when my wife groaned, and I turned from my work to say “Now?” she would reply “No.”
My chirpy end-of-the day jokes – derived entirely on the premise that I was working at home did not quite hit their objectives. From the spare room – the soon-to-be (any moment now) nursery to the kitchen, I would say “Hi honey I’m home”, to which my good wife, a host of impatience when uncomfortable, would say “Ha ha”. In that deadpan way. The way you know means “That’s not funny, so don’t say it again”. However, for four days (each one longer than the last for my wife), I would try the same joke with a different tone of voice. To no great effect. My wife, between physical discomfort and mental torture groaned more often, as I, in my diligent attempts to be a good husband tried to cheer her.

An Interminable Middle
On the Thursday evening, as she cooked up some chicken kievs with potato, peas and sweetcorn, it happened. I don’t know what exactly, but she knew. The pains were more regular, more intense, and were stamping out any feeling of annoyance she was feeling from the comments I was making. I offered to finish making the dinner, but my wife insisted: “If you really want to eat before we go, I suppose I should do it”. I told her that was the war spirit and she should be proud of herself. I thought of popping out for a pint or two, but thinking of the long night ahead, and the need to drive, I decided instead to make myself a fruit juice cocktail. It was both refreshing, and quite a calming drink.
My wife said “Any chance of making me one?” as she clattered plates onto the table.
I said “Mind the plates love. No, I’m sorry, we’re out of pineapple and cranberry. Here, let me get you an orange juice”.
She said “Orange juice makes me sick”.
I said, “I’ll put some ice in it”.
She said “I haven’t been able to drink orange juice for two months!”
I said “What a shame. Orange juice is so good for you.” I poured myself a glass and drank it. At this point, her look of complete frustration had given way to one of absolute pain. I had known no look like it. I knew then, this is it.
I ordered my wife to gather her things while I sat down and ate my dinner. I knew I’d need my strength if I were to make it through the night.

On The Way
Our slow progress toward the hospital prompted me to demand that my wife allow me to drive. She seemed relieved, and this made it certain in my mind that we were going to have a baby. I drove all the faster, knowing that there was nothing I could do to deal with the situation. I had to get my wife to medical professionals, and hopefully myself to a barrista before all the coffee shops closed.

In the Way
At the hospital, I bumbled around the place with bags, asking nurses where I could place them. They ignored me, preferring to talk to my wife, who at this point was almost incoherent. It was somewhat irksome, but perhaps one must realise when in Rome, one should do as the Romans. And it is well known that women don’t overly concern themselves with practical matters, such as where to deposit bags when in a panicked or emergency-type situation.
The nurses told us we had plenty of time, which meant I could leave my wife to suffer a minute while I went down to have a smoke, and spread the news via text. I asked at the desk about ordering a pizza or something, should we be there for a long time. They told me it was impossible. They weren’t covered to accept delivery of anything that wasn’t addressed to the hospital. Damned insurers have made our lives hell, and the sooner we all realise it, the sooner we might see cheaper premiums. With a smoke smoked, and texts texted, I headed back into the fray.

A Quick Delivery
Once it got moving, it got scary. Of course, this was primarily because a man in this situation can do little more than defer authority to those around him. Those who he has never met before, who seem lovely, most probably a delight were you to meet over cocktails and lite bites. However, meeting someone over your agonised wife is really quite different. It’s quite the torture. As the midwife delivered commandments to nurses and others (and presumably me, but given her gruff nature and the fact that she refused to shake my hand when we met, I was ignoring her), I could see nothing but my wife in pain. On that score, I have no more to say, as it is a subject that remains only with me.

A Strange Form of Life
And then, there she was. Emily.
But then she was gone – for a quick run of tests and a clean up.
The midwives and nurses congratulated us on our quick labour. I thanked them graciously, and had to take my wife to task for demanding recognition for the days of pain she had been through. I told my wife – they are the experts. If they said it was an hour and ten minutes (which they had), then that was that. My wife could not be persuaded on the matter, so I decided to raise the subject again when she was more agreeable to a fair and studied debate.
Back came Emily. Emily Sunshine I said as I saw her. They placed her onto my wife’s chest, to bond, while I cried and drank the tea another nurse had brought into the room. The woman informed me the tea was for my wife, and I informed her my wife could do with it as she wished, and she wished to let me drink it. Once again, the medical profession has presented a character that just rubbed me up the wrong way.
And so, now there’s Emily. Emily Sunshine.
The world is now completely changed, so fundamental is the change within me. And the need to have a small arsenal built up by the time she is fifteen, when boys with spots and chains and ridiculously shortened names turn up at the door. Still, all in its own good time. And she is beautiful, although does have a tendency to cry. Luckily my wife has a few strategies to reduce the volume and frequency of such fussing. I concentrate on the beauty. As I write this, in her apartment (which used to be mine, and still contains a few of my posessions), I watch over her, and prepare to feed her. All I can say is – it’s really quite remarkable, but I just don’t have the words to express this feeling.

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