My baby daughter Mary had her 16-week jabs the other day. This is a set of injections every newborn must have to prevent them contracting serious conditions such as diphtheria, whooping cough, or an allegiance to Manchester United.
The NHS website says that ‘few’ babies will suffer side effects such as pain and redness, fever, abnormal crying and irritability. Mary, predictably, got them all.
Unfortunately, badly underestimating what was to come, I took the day off work at Mrs Canavan’s request, for she had heard from friends that it can be a tricky time.
Mary had the jabs at 10am, and quite brutal they are too. I had to hold on to her while a nurse rammed three large needles in her hips.
Mary’s face crumpled and she let out a heartbreaking yelp – similar to the noise our dog made when he got hit by a Honda Civic on the main road – then stared at me as if I’d betrayed her.
Such was the look of hatred in her eyes, I’m pretty sure she’ll still hold it against me when she’s in her late 30s. She then proceeded to cry at eye-watering volume for the remainder of the morning.
‘I’m sorry darling,’ I said to Mrs Canavan around midday, slapping my hand against my head in mock frustration. ‘But there’s a meeting at work I clean forgot I had to go to.’
Amazingly she fell for it – one of the things I most admire about Mrs Canavan is her child-like gullibility. I went to a local coffee shop where I spent four very pleasant hours reading the paper and eating scones.
Mary was still screaming when I returned home, something that continued all night too.
At 1am, I was the very model of a sympathetic and caring parent: ‘There, there darling, settle down, daddy loves you, coochy-coo’...
By 3am I was slightly less patient. ‘Okay Mary, enough’s enough now, can you stop goddamn crying and go to sleep?’
By 5am I wanted to pick her up and throw her in the dustbin. ‘Mary, do you realise how selfish you’re being?’ I bellowed at her, stood in my satin pyjamas at just gone 6am, exhausted, wide-eyed and rapidly losing the plot.
‘You’re not a child any more. You’re 16 weeks old now and it’s about time that you grew up and started thinking of others.’
She gawped blankly at me, then opened her gob and began screaming even more loudly than before.
I reached for the weapon of choice for every parent – Calpol – but this had no effect whatsoever other than to make her breath smell of slightly stale strawberries. In desperation I went on the internet and googled: ‘How to soothe a crying baby’.
It led me to a website called Babycentre, where the top two tips were to ‘let your baby cry for a few minutes out of range of your hearing’ – tricky as we live in a terraced house, she was screaming so loudly I’d have had to drive to the local park two miles away for her to be out of hearing range – and ‘if you and your baby are both upset and you’ve tried everything, call a friend for support’.
This is excellent advice, though I’m not sure my closest friend Dave, a brickie, would have appreciated a 6am call: ‘Hi mate. Sorry to wake you but my baby’s been crying all night and I wondered if you would come round to support me?’
I fear the second word of his reply might have been ‘off’.
Eventually, at some point mid-morning, Mary stopped bawling – most likely through pure exhaustion – and Mrs Canavan and I were able to enjoy some precious respite.
Mercifully there are no more injections now until she is a year-old. Note to self: book a holiday for that week.