Tuesday 9 June 2009

Foot loss, gridlock and a late dawning

14st 10lb, 4.4 units. I woke this morning after the most refreshing night’s sleep I have enjoyed for ages, marred only by a remembered early morning dream in which I was much troubled by a huge, black growth on my foot, within which vividly lime green circular bodies could be seen swimming around, like tadpoles in a pond. I asked Mrs H what she thought it could mean and she instantly replied “You’re f***ed, you’re going to have your foot amputated”, which seemed fair enough as it is precisely what I have advised her whenever she has complained about the swollen feet that are apparently one of the side-effects of pregnancy no-one bothers to warn you about. Not that she will necessarily be troubled by those too much longer. Yesterday afternoon we drove to the local hospital for some routine ante-natal appointments and found the site in a state of gridlock that could only be explained if they issue all their patients with precisely the same appointment time, or have visiting hours in all wards that start at precisely 2.30 p.m. Mrs H waddled off to her clinic while I queued at a car park barrier that was operating on a “One Out, One In” basis. Most people just gave up and left their vehicles parked haphazardly on double yellow lines, pavements or grass verges. I imagine that the widely advertised £30 penalty charge for this sort of behaviour constitutes a pretty major slice of the hospital’s income. Still, I need not have worried about missing anything important, since when I finally parked the car Mrs H was still sitting waiting for her first appointment. A position which she maintained for the best part of an hour. “You see now,” she said with her customary accuracy “why coming here is not compatible with working. They should really forget about appointment times and just tell everyone to turn up for the afternoon and write it off.” I was about to make some pithy observations about this sort of thing never being allowed to happen in the private sector, when I reflected that John Lewis is in the private sector and is a world leader in wasting the time of its customers. On the other hand it is also a quasi-socialist co-operative run for the benefit of its worker “partners”. Which sounds pretty similar to the NHS, now I come to think about it. We were finally invited into a consultation about Mrs H’s gestational diabetes with a very PLU (as in People Like Us) physician who had not seen Mrs H before and asked her how long she had been in the country as “she didn’t really sound Iranian”; in fact, hardly foreign at all. I think this was intended as a compliment. She took some pleasure in pointing out that this might have something to do with the fact that was born here. He went on to enquire about the medical history of her “father in Iran” as though she might be harbouring another father somewhere else; she pointed out that he was not so much in Iran as North Wales. The team prevaricated about what to do to treat her condition for so long that I offered them a coin to toss to sort it out. Worryingly, they very nearly accepted. In our next consultation there was even more of an issue with accents as we saw a very softly-spoken African gentlemen whose pronouncements took a while for both of us to decipher. This made for a splendidly comic delayed reaction when he said what we finally worked out to be “Has anyone spoken to you about delivery?” Because it turned out that the hospital normally likes to induce women with gestational diabetes after 38 weeks. I could see Mrs H’s eyes widening as her accountant’s razor-sharp brain worked through the numbers and brought her to the inevitable conclusion: “F*** me, that’s NEXT week!” After a predictably expensive recuperative tour of Mothercare and various other retail outlets, we returned home to walk the dog and Mrs H told me that she was only just waking up to the idea of actually having a baby. I suggested that most people might have taken having a bloody great bump on their front for the last few months as a pretty reliable indicator of this outcome, but it now appears that she does not much fancy any of the available options for childbirth, and does not think that she is ready to be a mother. At least, having me as her partner, she is able to accept that she is infinitely more ready to be a mother than I am to be a father. It seems small consolation, but I can only hope that it will help.

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