Oh for the birthing bag ...

The Bag. Where is The Bag? It’s my one responsibility. Not only have I not packed The Bag, I haven’t even got it down from the top shelf of the hall cupboard. 

In fact, I’m not actually sure it’s in there. It’s definitely not under the bed, because I’ve already looked there maniacally and scared the bejeezus out of our decrepit cat, Jaffar. I’ve known I was to take responsibility for The Hospital Bag since last August, when I read about it in the Baby Bible. 

Handily, the book has a detailed checklist of what should be in The Bag. But now I can’t find the bloody book. I remember it had something about pyjamas and snacks, but nothing else.

Some music to listen to, no doubt, and some light reading: the unabridged Proust for those unnaturally long labours. (Luckily we’ve already hired a Ukrainian string quartet to play Salt-N- Pepa’s Push It with ascending urgency on the edge of the birthing pool, followed by my own spoons-on-knees version of I Want To Break Free). 

But The Bag ...

I need to crack this seemingly easy- to-crack nut before Labour Day. If not, it’s going to be a mad last-minute scramble followed by a hideous sense of failure and self-loathing at the hospital.

“Look, I brought you a tin of lentils, and your 2003 year planner, and a pile of dirty underwear from the bathroom floor.”

I will be shunned as a Bad Father, sent home with The Bag; I’ll be told to pack my things in it and leave.

It’s not in the hall cupboard. Jaffar cries for attention and I’m forced to postpone the search. I remember the moment I thought that fatherhood would be like looking after Jaffar – a bit of attention now and then, a rub on the belly whenever needed, a few biscuits and a sachet of congealed tuna every evening.

Or rather, I remember when I realised that fatherhood – however it pans out – will be nothing like caring for Jaffar. What in God’s name was I thinking? He doesn’t even need a bag. He’s a cat. And a potential liability.

My mum has made it clear, during all of our recent phone conversations, that Jaffar will want to sleep on the baby’s face; that this has always been his secret, and insidious, raison d’être.

Never mind that Jaffar is 14, with only four teeth and a belly that trails along the floor, he will overcome obstacles and leap eight times his own body height – anything for a kip on Baby’s coupon.

Accordingly, we have been warned to coat Baby’s cot with tinfoil – because cats don’t like it and, if we’re ever forced to cook the cot with spuds and tomatoes, we can stick it straight in the oven at 200C, then snap off its wooden legs and munch away. 

A little chewy, perhaps, but no worse than the finger food of our friendly neighbour, who has eaten the placentas from her first three pregnancies with increasing gusto. I’ve since looked at a vast selection of placenta pics online and can’t quite see the appeal – they remind me of the time I had those pancreas pancakes, right after a bowl of colon cornflakes.

Bag or no Bag, I’m going to pack that tin of lentils.


First published in The Sunday Herald, 2009.