There's a theory that the manner of a child's birth forever affects their personalities. A traumatic birth creates an anxious little person; a relaxed birth leads to an easy-going child.
For my own part, I have a different theory. Having witnessed three children make their grand entrance into the world in their own inimitable styles, I can't help thinking that a child's personality affects the manner of their birth. Easy-going children relax and enjoy the ride; anxious children dither and get stuck; awkward children stick out their arms and legs and dare you to come in and get them...
Bearing this in mind, Rob shouldn't have too hard a time of it. Kate gave birth to a nine pound baby boy on Saturday and, by all accounts, things went as smoothly as you could really expect given the basic logistics of getting an object that large through a hole that small. It's somehow fitting, however, that the contractions started for real in the games section of HMV. Rob saw it as a good excuse to avoid losing the Guitar Hero III battle they were having on a demo-pod. Through gritted teeth, Kate pretty much told him to go eat his own whammy bar, and then riffed him into the ground.
They were probably lucky that Squirtle didn't come out holding a Game Boy.
Yep, he's still called Squirtle. They haven't quite decided on a name yet. It's on their to-do list, apparently.
I went to visit on the second evening they were in hospital. The ward had four beds in it. A selection of tired-looking mums and dads were showing their new offspring to enthusiastic relatives. It was a chaos of flowers, balloons and teddy bears. It was also far too hot. Fortunately, I'd come prepared and had slipped into Bermuda shorts and my Mr Incredible t-shirt on arrival. Kate was off having a shower and Rob was left holding the baby in a slightly tense kind of way.
"Who chose that outfit?" I asked.
"It was some of the guys from work."
Squirtle was wearing a brown towelling robe, a white cloak and green hat with large, pointy ears. "Know you well, they do," I said.
"Yeah, maybe," he said, gently rocking his little baby Yoda. "They weren't totally sure, so they got a couple of others too. There's a Darth Vader one for days when Squirtle's feeling evil and a Princess Leia one for days when I am."
"You can't dress the poor kid up as Princess Leia."
"It's not as if he's going to know," said Rob, "and you should see the hat. It's superb. Have a look in the bag. There. See!"
He pointed to bag overflowing with cottonwool, nappies and babygros and I had a rummage around inside. After quite a search, I pulled out a dark brown skull-cap with snake-like coils of fabric on the earflaps. I stared at it. "That is quite something," I managed eventually, ready to beat it with a bedpan if it started to move. "Still, you might want to save it in case the next one's a girl."
"Give us a chance."
"Well, now you've got the costume... And you really can't put it on Squirtle. Someone will take a photo and he'll never live it down."
Rob looked slightly crestfallen. "Like you're a fashion guru."
"Hey, at least I'm not melting," I said and pulled straight some of the creases in my Incredi-shirt. "Are you any closer with a name yet?"
"Traditionally, all the men in Kate's family are called Robert but that's confusing enough as it is. Kate's kinda keen on Ben but neither of us is that convinced. I had Frodo shot down in flames earlier. I don't know. We'll think of something - we've got a few weeks."
"Three, actually. Less than three now, in fact. If we were in England, you'd have longer. What are the other babies called?"
Rob nodded his head in the direction of the other families in the room. "Jack, Jack and Lewis. The next ward is Lewis, Jack, Sophie and Jack. I'm thinking, not Jack."
"You want to cuddle him?" he said, offering Squirtle to me.
I held up my hands to ward off the snotty little Jedi. "Not really. Been there, done that. Besides, let sleeping babies lie."
"If only," Rob sighed. "The minute I put him down, he wakes up and starts screaming."
"The ones that keep screaming even when you're holding them are worse."
Rob nodded but gave the impression that that wasn't really what he needed to hear. He was looking tired already.
"How are you doing?" I asked gently.
He couldn't speak for a moment. Emotions wrestled with each other across his face. Then he sort of shrugged and said, "I'm a dad." There was a mix of fear, joy, astonishment, pride and confusion in his voice.
"I know what you mean," I said. I remember very clearly that's how I felt when I first held Fraser. Heck, I still feel like that if I think about it. "If you ever need help or advice..." The words trailed off. The rest didn't need said and, besides, we might have ended up hugging or something...
"Thanks," said Rob and then, after a slightly awkward pause, he added, "He does need his nappy changed, if you're interested."
"Forget that," I said. "It'll be full of slimy tar. Dealing with that stuff is a rite of passage for new parents. I wouldn't want to deprive you."
"Some help you are."
He was about to start thinking about opening the changing bag when Kate returned. She looked clean and refreshed. Rob handed Squirtle over. Squirtle woke up and was immediately a little bit sick on her. She didn't look too thrilled. Then she gave the kid a sniff and realised she'd been duped as well. At that moment, Rob's parents arrived.
I decided it was a good time to make my farewells.
Wish I'd remembered to change out of my shorts before leaving the building...
Yours in a woman's world,