As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will know I recently became a Granddad for the first time. Earlier this week my beautiful daughter, Ruby, gave birth to an equally beautiful little girl who is going to be called Ivy. It has been an amazing emotional roller coaster for all of us. My chest swells with pride every time I think about this new dynamic duo. I will spare you any further mawkish details or insights into my then or present state of mind.
Our daughter lives in Cambodia with her Cambodian partner. When she became pregnant we all agreed Ruby would come home to have the baby. It was either that or Glenys, my wife, would go and live in Cambodia for an indeterminate amount of time because, by mutual consent, no way were mother and daughter going to be apart during those first weeks after the baby arrived. Glenys’ mum had moved in with us after both our children were born. It’s a mother-daughter thing and we were incredibly grateful for it. Ruby was very keen for Glenys to be on hand for her. Even if Ruby had been having her baby on the Moon Glenys would have been there.
The collective assumption was that Ruby’s partner, Lee, would be able to come over a week or so before the due date and be with Ruby as the baby was born, just as I had been with Glenys when our two made their entrance. That was the plan but we hadn’t reckoned with the vagaries, and the cruelties, of the UK Immigration Service. Long story short Lee couldn’t get a visitor’s visa. We railed and wailed against it. Irrespective of the airlines’ rules on these matters, Ruby all but upped sticks and went back to Cambodia despite her pregnancy being very advanced. In the end, though, it was clear it was better for Ruby (and Glenys) to stay here, as originally planned. With heavy hearts we became reconciled to Lee not being with us.
Came the fateful day – Monday – Skype and an iPad stepped in.
Glenys and Zoe, Ruby’s best friend, were the birthing partners. They were in the birthing suite throughout. I wasn’t. It’s not a place for Granddads. Obviously the iPad was not turned on for the labour or the actual birth but, thanks to Zoe, the iPad was running Skype within a minute of Ivy arriving, while she was still attached to the umbilical cord and resting on her smiling but exhausted mother’s chest. With the iPad brought up close some of the first sounds Ivy heard were of her Dad speaking to her in Khmer. The battle hardened midwives, Glenys and Zoe all blubbed at this point.
The iPad remained in service as Ivy went through the routine checks that are carried out immediately after a child is born. Mum and Dad were both fully engaged. I haven’t spoken to Lee about it but my guess is he was hugely reassured to see Ruby and his daughter were well and passing all the tests.
So as near as dammit Lee was there. By all accounts a real sense of intimacy did develop in that room between distant Dad, happy Mum and squawking new born. I was a couple of miles away at the critical time but went straight around as soon as I received the text telling me the news and summonsing me to the presence.
I guess the whole scene might have looked a little bizarre to an uninformed bystander, had there been one, and it would, of course, have been far, far better for Lee to have been in the birthing suite like any good, modern Dad should be. But the fact is it sort of worked, or at any rate the technology made the separation seem somehow more bearable, less painful.
I am sure we are not the first family to have used Skype and an iPad in this way but I thought this story was a rather wonderful illustration of a beneficial unforeseen consequence of the emergence of the internet and its associated technologies. I am really glad I had the opportunity to write about it.