April 2012. S is almost 3 weeks old.
We’ve been out of hospital just under a week. We have an appointment today to register her birth.
Because I am not married to S’s father, he needs to be at the appointment in order to be listed on the birth certificate.
|S enjoying some skin to skin while her father wasn’t looking
Things have been strained between us. He wants me to look after his children over night this weekend while he works. I can barely stand and walk in a straight line. I don’t want to do it; he senses this and is cross with me. I agreed when I was pregnant that I would look after his children overnight sometimes; I have to honour that agreement and stop making such a fuss over it. It’s just a baby. I’m making mountains out of molehills and I need to stop it.
We get ready to go to the appointment at the registry office. It’s only a couple of blocks away from where I live. I dress S in her usual, over-sized vest and babygro. She is so tiny, even the “tiny baby” clothes are too big and this depresses me. Once she is dressed, she has to be wrapped in a blanket. I know this, because her father tells me so.
After that blanket, she needs another. And then she is put into the pram, with another blanket over the top. Once she is all wrapped up in there, you can barely see her. Personally, I had thought it was quite warm today; I never realised babies needed to be so well wrapped before they were allowed into an already insulated pram to walk two blocks and then sit in an over-heated council office. I know nothing about babies though. This man already has several children; he knows all there is to know. My intuition isn’t knowledge; it’s just me having stupid thoughts. I do that a lot, and they’re usually wrong.
We carry the pram down the steps from the flat, and head off to the registry office. When we get there, the lady tells us the waiting room is upstairs, and we need to leave the pram in this space here. I go to pick up my daughter, but her father gets there first. He wraps the third blanket around her, until she looks more like a bundle of blankets than a child. The blankets must go over her head as well as around her body, even though she was already wearing a hat. You can barely see her face.
We walk to the waiting room in silence, and sit there. In silence. For ten minutes. I ask to hold my child, but he tells me I have all the time in the world to hold her; he has to go home to his other children this evening so he should get to hold her while he’s here.
A nice lady called Dee comes to take us into the room to register the birth. She pulls up our record from the hospital on her computer screen, and goes through some basic information with us. Then we give her the name we have chosen for our beautiful little girl. She comments on what a lovely name it is, and we have the conversation we always have with new people about the origin of her name, which is unusual. He tells her it means “friend.” I am fairly sure this is not true; that is the Arabic translation of the mis-pronounciation of her name his work colleague used the other day. I daren’t correct him on this though; that would probably constitute “being a dick” and I don’t want to make him angry while he’s holding the most precious thing in my life.
The lady fills in the form on her computer. She looks directly at me and tells me, “as the mother of this child, it is your decision who is named as the father, and what her last name will be.” I nod. She says it again, phrased slightly differently. She asks if I am sure about my decision. And then she says it all again. Three times, I tell her that yes, this man is the father of my child; he is to be named on her birth certificate and she will have his surname. Any hope of approval from him for this confirmation is dashed when I look at him and realise he is cross with me that the lady thought I needed to be told so many times.
Dee prints the form and hands it to me to sign. Then he has to sign, which means I get to hold my baby. With so many blankest around her, she doesn’t feel like a baby; she feels like a bundle of cloth. I am used to having her laying on my lap or chest in the fewest clothes possible. When he is not there, we are naughty and she sleeps on me in just her babygro. When he is there, I have to turn the heating right up and put blankets over her while she sleeps in the bouncy chair or on him.
She is fast asleep and oblivious. As soon as he has signed the register, he takes her from me again. I am handed copies of the birth certificate to put in a safe place. Because my baby is so tiny (even with the extra blankets), they will fit in the end of her pram.
We leave the office, thanking the lady as we go. My daughter is put safely back into her pram, and I am allowed to push her most of the way home.
He helps me carry the pram back up the stairs to the flat, and then makes himself a cup of tea while I feed her.
Within a week, he has left us.