Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairy tales
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding the wind
When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles
She gives to me free
It’s alright, she says
Take anything you want from me
Fly on, little wing
11 January 1988 was a special day.
I was singing Little Wing (a Jimi Hendrix song) to myself, walking home from St John’s hospital, Chelmsford. Our daughter Lauren was just a few hours old.
Our firstborn. It was a hitherto-unknown feeling of elation. My feet hardly touched the ground. A strange space where nothing could ever be the same again, responsibility looming, yet I was bouncing along, carefree, heading home to feed the cat and grab some sleep before heading back to the maternity ward next morning.
Watching Lauren’s birth had been unforgettable. After a day when it became clear to my wife that the time had come, Maureen’s friend Jackie drove us to the hospital. We were made comfortable in a cosy room, with a calming picture of a forest walk hanging on the wall. The midwives were kind and helpful. Maureen seemed to take it all in her stride, walking up and down to assimilate the contractions, using the gas and air provided, holding my hand, asking for the occasional massage. She was a natural. No unbearable pains as the birth approached – although it’s easy for me to say that!
Lauren was born about three hours after we arrived. I can still vividly remember seeing her head emerge, and then the body. Suddenly she was there. Covered in green, alien-like vernix.
The word awesome is over-used, but awesome it was. Magical. Heart-stoppingly beautiful. Very quickly this gorgeous child was being held by her mum. It was startling how there were now three of us in the world. Just like that. Lauren weighed in at 8lb 5 oz.
Her and Maureen stayed in the maternity ward for a week, bonding amid the other mums and babies, so there must have been less pressure on the NHS back then. Lauren had a habit, very early on, of holding out her arms in front of her, fingers moving as she tried to touch whatever was in her limited gaze. One of her first noises was a kind of prolonged ‘laaa’. She was a demanding feeder; and showed signs of being a restless character. We loved her to bits. Still do. Maureen’s song that brings back that time at St John’s is Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘Sign Your Name Across My Heart’.
Everything was new, transformed. But life went on. Mum and baby came home. I had to be a dad. Mentally scary, because I was a total novice in terms of childcare (although I was good with the cat). Luckily my wife was a nursery nurse and nanny. I listened hard to any instructions and complied. It seemed to work.
I had been a milkman for around 21 months; and would carry on delivering the pints for another five years or so. It was a great job in that I could be home early and take my share of the childcare. One of my best achievements, looking back.
In the intervening years, I’ve always tried to be a hands-off dad. Supportive, available, but listening and responding rather than steering.
It’s been such a pleasure and privilege to witness the Little Wing learn to fly. Here are some pics that show Lauren’s growth from baby to woman.