Having determined the ground rules for paternity leave the first time with explosive consequences (see “Well you know where your perineum is now”), I was optimistic that everything would be different the second time around. Expectations had been lowered. I wasn’t angling for a push-present* or even a gushing Facebook status. I settled into maternity leave with the comforting anticipation of the endless rounds of tea and carb-loaded meals to come. Any anxieties were soothed, just as a cabbage leaf** relieves an engorged breast and not a chilli in sight. Perfect.
Around 2 days after the Small One’s (S1) birth, my husband decided that he was going to build a shed.
I won’t mention that he had been suffering with back pain for several months previously, nor that endless rounds of physio had failed. I won’t relate his daily complaints of agony nor the empty boxes of anti-inflammatory pills scattered throughout the house with no avail. I will mention my strong warning which went unheeded, “If you carry on with this you risk doing yourself serious long term damage”, and the following inventory as testament to what followed:
- ¾ tonne of sand, cement and aggregate
- 4 broken suspension springs on our small family car
- 1 shed, flat-packed
- 1 severely herniated spinal disc (L5-S1 to those in the know and their long-suffering carers)
- 3 weeks lying prostrate
- 4000+ Lego bricks (the perfect hobby for the opiate-addled, but patient horizontal invalid )
- 1 failed epidural (his, not mine)
- Ability to stand for no longer than 30 seconds
- Ability to sit for no longer than 5 seconds
- 3 episodes of abuse from the GP’s receptionist***. I smiled politely and thanked her for her time after every occasion.
- 10 car journeys to and from the hospital with the passenger’s seat reclined flat
- 8 trips to the pharmacist
- Major back surgery
- 5 weeks off work
- Growth of 1 beard (his, not mine)
- Unknown quantities of Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Gabapentin, Co-codamol, Codeine, Morphine, Diazepam, and Tramadol****
*Another example of terminology I eschew in day-to-day life.
**Commonly bandied as a ‘cure-all’ when it comes to lactation-related pain. I’m not sure if it’s something anyone has actually tried. Perhaps it’s proposed as a kind of dare to desperate new mothers?
***“Unless your husband’s ninety, which I doubt, he won’t be getting a home visit”. This is presumptuous on four grounds: 1. She looked at me with my two young children and assumed that my husband could not be ninety. We are seeing a trend for older fathers these days – septuagenarian Mick Jagger famously fathered a child only last year. A quick reference to the Guiness Book of World Records reveals that Les Colley was in fact the oldest man to have ever fathered a child, aged 92 (Les, not the child ). 2. She assumed my husband was also the father of my children. 3. She assumed that I was a lot younger than ninety and ergo would be uninterested in a ninety-year old husband. 4. She assumed that my bed-ridden husband, whose only trip in days had been from the bed to the toilet, was less able to come to the surgery than an actual ninety year old. Granted she was correct on points one to three, but number four! She definitely got that wrong. Presumptuous so-and-so.
****This list could make for less-glamorous alternative lyrics to the Queens of the Stone Age classic, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”