April 19, 2009
A kick-start to fatherhood
By Colin Goh
I'm new to the daddy business, but I've a tip some parents-to-be might find useful.
Previously, I'd written about how long the Wife and I, bad Singaporeans that we are, had kept parenthood at bay, and expressed anxiety about finally caving in. Well, last week, things caught up with a vengeance. A very bloody vengeance.
At 2am one morning, the Wife started thwatting my shoulder. 'I think my water broke,' she said.
'Sure, not? Isn't your due date two months away?' I groaned as I rubbed my eyes. 'Could it be something else?'
'You ask me, I ask who?' she growled. 'You want to do a Google search while I sit in this unexplained puddle of fluid?' That did the trick. I flung away my bolster, bolted out of bed, and within 10 minutes, we were in the emergency room of our nearest hospital.
'Congrats, mommy,' said the doctor on duty, after a battery of checks. 'You've gone into preterm labour.' Our hearts sank, although this wasn't entirely a surprise. Several friends in Singapore, and also here in New York, had told us they'd popped their babies early, so, being kiasu Singaporeans, we'd decided to start preparing just in case it happened to us too. Only we didn't anticipate it coming 10 weeks ahead of schedule.
Neither did our obstetrician, who had turned up to explain that they would now be using drugs to try and delay the Wife's labour for several days, during which time, they would also administer a course of corticosteroids to help accelerate the development of the baby's lungs and other organs, to improve her chances of survival.
Naturally, we were both extremely worried, and a little crestfallen. Sure, we knew there'd be blood and sweat, but in the end, we'd imagined childbirth as a beatific, heartwarming, fuzzy-wuzzy experience. Never this - with the Wife wired up to a whole array of burbling tubes and beeping machines, so far away from family and friends, and heaven knows what was happening to our child.
Thankfully, over the next few days, the Wife began responding very well to the treatment. Of course, being in the moviemaking business, we should have known that just when things are going smoothly, you should expect a sudden reversal.
To help ease the Wife's tedium, I'd brought her a bunch of DVDs, and we'd started watching a yakuza movie, Crows Episode Zero, by one of our heroes, the idiosyncratic Japanese director Takashi Miike. I missed the premiere of Crows at the 2007 Tokyo International Film Festival and also a chance to meet Miike-san himself because I had to introduce a screening of our own film, so I was really looking forward to catching up.
Crows was fun - full of Miike's distinctive blend of innovative violence and insouciant humour. But we never got to finish watching it, because, right in the middle of the climactic battle, the Wife started experiencing stronger and stronger contractions. She also began making sounds I'd never heard emanating from her. I quickly summoned the nurse.
'Relax,' she said. 'The machines aren't showing anything.' Nevertheless, she lifted the Wife's blanket to check, and her face turned pale. So did mine. We both saw a tiny foot emerge. The nurse began shouting, 'She's delivering! She's delivering!' I think I swore something in Hokkien.
What happened next was a blur. A flurry of nurses and doctors coalesced around the Wife's bedside, like some scene out of E.R., so much so I wanted to whip out my Flip video and begin filming, even though I knew the Wife would have strangled me right there, and no jury on earth would have convicted her. Instead, I grabbed her hand and began babbling banalities.
The next thing, I knew, I was looking at my bloody, newborn daughter but only for a few seconds, before she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit.
I'm pleased to announce that both mother and baby are doing well - our little girl is eating happily, putting on weight and pooping regularly, just like her daddy.
'Arigato, Miike-san,' said the Wife yesterday as she changed the baby's diaper. 'Your movie must have gotten our daughter so excited, she kicked her way out. I think we can expect a lot of drama from this one.'
So, here's my tip: If watching a movie when you're about to give birth, please - choose something peaceful and heartwarming. Involving puppies, perhaps. Maybe even one of those anodyne karaoke videos with stock footage of flowers, streams or trains chugging through alpine scenery.
Otherwise, your child might get ideas - like our little Yakuza Baby.