Day 54 - Escape From Baby Alcatraz

Escape From Baby Alcatraz

Not enjoying the handball coverage

Not enjoying the handball coverage

I’m sitting at home watching Tunisia play Qatar at handball whilst a baby who can’t pooh screams in my ear.  There’s been a lot of obscure Olympic sports watched to the soundtrack of horribly shrill, poohless baby shrieking over the last few days.  Judo, fencing, table tennis, canoe slalom, trampolining, something called radial sailing.  I am well and truly living the fatherhood/Hungarian Olympic coverage dream.  Maybe this is what heaven is like.  I’m hoping things will change moving forward, but week one of parenthood has been like when the mafia ‘go to the mattresses’ during times of gang warfare.  We’ve hardly left the house all week for fear of detonating an explodable baby bomb.

As it stands, if Mila is conscious, the only way to stop her screaming is to stuff a nipple in her mouth.  Sadly, mine appear to be dormant, so it’s my good lady wife who has to be constantly on standby with an emergency nipple bung.  But then, when the time comes to remove the nipple from our human cub's mouth, it’s like removing a pin from a WWII hand grenade that you’ve found in your back garden.  You don’t know if the hand grenade is live or not, but if it is live, you can be sure that it will take your face clean off and leave everyone around splintered with shrapnel.

This nipple stuffing technique does seem to be foolproof, but it’s pretty tough for my wife.

“I’m like an industrial cow!”  she says.  “I’m just here for milking.  I don’t think she’s even seen my face!  All she’s interested in are my tits!”  

Maybe Mila takes after her father.

“Ahh.” I reply in my most soothing voice.  “You’re not an industrial cow honey.  More like a lovely organic cow that has been well looked after by a loving farmer.”

I think for a second, before continuing with my inspirational pep talk.

“I actually like to think of you more as her favourite restaurant.  And not just any restaurant!  You’re not a Wimpy for example.  If anything you’re like a lovely little, local, healthy restaurant.  You’re probably even gluten free!”  

A thought hits me.  I haven’t seen a Wimpy for about twenty years.  I’m now worried that they may have gone the same way as the dodo, the woolly mammoth or C&A.

“But I can’t keep up with the demand!” my wife moans, close to tears as she nurses her savaged nipples.

But it’s no use, I’m not listening.  My mind is focusing on the potential extinction of Wimpy restaurants.

At that moment we are interrupted by the midwife knocking on our front door.  It’s now been six days since Mila last poohed, so we just want to check that everything is in working order.  The midwife enters, prods her little belly, pushes her legs up by her head and then puts a thermometer up her rectum.  Once she’s finished fooling around we show her to our baby.

“I think she seems fine” the midwife tells us.  “It’s often the case that newborns don’t poop much for the first week or two of their lives if they’re being breast fed.  Keep doing bicycle exercises with her little legs, massage her belly and before you’ll know it, you will have more poop than you can handle.”  The midwife then leaves, leaving us once again, with our poohless child.

“Maybe she’ll never pooh” I say.  “Maybe she's like The X-Men!  Maybe the next evolution of the human race will be a pooh-free human!  Imagine how freaked out Andrex would be!  The shit would well and truly hit the fan in their HQ, perhaps for the last time!” 

Thanks to Angelcare I can Dad without missing a second of my beloved trampolining qualifiers

Thanks to Angelcare I can Dad without missing a second of my beloved trampolining qualifiers

On Mila’s eighth day on Earth we decide to put our pooh concerns behind us, and prepare to face our fears by leaving our safe haven.  She wakes up at midday.  My wife pacifies her with a nipple.  Half an hour later she slowly removes the nipple.  Huzzah!  This grenade is not live!  We carefully place our cute little sleeping daughter in to her buggy, pop our flip-flops on and leave the flat.  Twenty metres later, Mila wakes up.  She apparently doesn’t appreciate the fact that we didn’t get her sign off for our expedition.  She screams.  Our neighbours no doubt assume that I am butchering a piglet.  We return home.

We are prisoners to our nipple obsessed little warden.   We are in Baby Alcatraz.  But never mind.  At least we can now watch India play Lithuania at badminton.

Later that evening, whilst I am helping Mila do her bicycle exercises, something shifts and things start to move.  It happens whilst I am looking directly in to the eye of the storm.  I don't think I will ever be clean again.

Hoping that Mila won't look behind our Raquel Welch poster

Hoping that Mila won't look behind our Raquel Welch poster

Day 51 - Budabreast

Budabreast

I've been trying to furiously milk myself now for hours, but so far not a drop.  I think the pump is broken.

I've been trying to furiously milk myself now for hours, but so far not a drop.  I think the pump is broken.

If you’d told me several years ago that during the summer of 2016 I’d spend a whole morning, miming the action of pumping a tit to bemused looking, elderly ladies, on the other side of Europe, I’d have been dubious.  Today this happened. 

I was traipsing around Budapest in a desperate quest for a breast pump.  From shop to shop I travelled, like J.R Hartley looking for a book on fly fishing, but with more nipples.  And you know what?  Not one person in any of the shops spoke a word of English!  What on Earth are they teaching these people in the breast pump selling schools of Budapest!?  

The situation repeatedly played out like this.

I enter a pharmacy/medical supply shop.

An elderly, gruff Hungarian woman stares at me blankly.

“Beszél Angolul (Do you speak English)?” I say.

“Nem (No)” they reply.

Bollocks.

I do the only thing I can, and look them in the eyes pleadingly, whilst pretending to grab my imaginary tits and squeeze them.

Cue a furrowed brow from the gruff Hungarian lady.

My eyes become more and more pleading as my tit squeezing mime becomes more and more elaborate.  On a few occasions they twig and answer me with a shake of the head.  On a few other occasions they just continue to stare blankly.  But, just like those man hungry Mounties, I eventually get my man/breast pump.

My search was all in preparation for my ladies finally returning home to our Buda Nest.  Mila was born four days ago, but due to the particularly savage nature of the birth, Mila ended up hurting her collar bone and my wife dislocated her arsehole (or something like that).  So they’ve been kept in until now to recuperate.  Mila also needed a blood test as she was apparently looking a bit pale.  Thankfully the results came back positive, with the midwife concluding that she was probably looking a bit pale because she was half British!  What the…!?  But today was the big day.  They’d been given the all clear!  My little lady and my even littler lady were coming home.

The message to come and collect them comes through and I’m overjoyed, despite the fact that it might disrupt my evenings, which over the last four days have consisted of me, a pair of underpants, a sofa, The Olympics and a bottle of wine.  I jump in the car and race across Budapest to collect my girls.

On route to the hospital.

Once at the hospital it becomes apparent that we now have an abundance of possessions that must go with us wherever we go.  In the past, when we’ve hosted friends with children I’ve always been incredulous or sneerful, or both (sneerdulous?) by the sheer amount of apparent ‘shit’ that they’ve hauled with them.  Sterilisers, little tubs of slop, numerous wheeled contraptions, bags, more bags, a few more bags just in case.  Now, even before our baby has arrived home, I cast my eye at our car full of ‘stuff’ and begin to calibrate with their apparent madness.  It was bursting at the seams with baby shit (not literally)!  I make a mental note to do all that I can to stop this insanity in it's tracks.  We need to be the kind of couple who put our flip-flops on, chuck the baby in a baby bag, grab our passports and toothbrushes and head to The Amazon.  This may be wishful thinking.    

We leave the hospital and drive home.  Mila screams from start to finish.  On the straights I almost reach twelve miles an hour.  After what seems like several days (but was in fact less than twenty minutes), we get home and it hits us.

What the holy fuckety fuck do we do now?

Back in The Buda Nest.  Let the games begin!

Back in The Buda Nest.  Let the games begin!

Day 47 - Mila Time

Mila Time

Mila Juno Hutchins

Mila Juno Hutchins

Ladies and gentlemen meet Mila Juno Hutchins.  Mila Juno Hutchins meet the ladies and gentlemen.

So, she’s out, and as a result I have a new found respect for women.  THAT.  WAS.  BRUTAL!  My tiny wife somehow managed to push out a 57 cm long, 8 pound 10 ounce baby.  My little wife who can still comfortably shop at Baby GAP.   I have to doff my cap to my amazing better half and also to the miracle of modern medicine, as if the events of August 4th had taken place one hundred years ago I’ve no idea how we would have got her out.  But all is well and we are both in shellshock.  Oh my God.  What a day.  What a lovely day!

It started at 0500 with The Show.

My wife wakes me up.

“Honey, The Show has started!”

The Show!  The Fucking Show!  Sounds like so much fun doesn’t it?  Visions of jazz hands, music, dancing, can-can girls and maybe even a magic trick.  But then my wife shows me The Show first hand and I can confirm that The Show is not as entertaining as it sounds, and probably wasn’t written by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The Show was shortly followed by a series of contractions that made my wife make noises that sadly, I don’t think I will ever make her make.  It’s definitely happening.  I calm my wife by charging around the flat screaming “Don’t panic!”  I am Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army. We get in the car and off we go.  Over the past month I’ve discovered that the roads of Budapest are particularly confusing at the best of times, but when you are driving along with your wife screaming in pain every five minutes, and me screaming “Don’t panic!”, I can confirm they are still fairly baffling. 

We get to the hospital and I am surrounded by rooms of women screaming and groaning,  They are no doubt either giving birth, watching pornography or watching The Walking Dead.  I mentally decide that they are watching pornography.

We get in to a room and it begins.  Zsuzsa is in pain, crying and wailing.  Given that she usually cries if she misses a train this isn’t abnormal, but I sense this is more than a missed train.  Call it intuition.  I give her a piece of chocolate and start recording her with a video.  She doesn’t appreciate this.  I stop recording.

What followed was like the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but for seven hours.  I’ve never witnessed such savagery, such brutality.  Oh the horror!  THE HORROR!    I felt as though I was starring in my own, foreign language version of SAW. 

At one point, I was holding one of my wife’s legs, a midwife was holding the other, one doctor was playing the slip fielder, while another big male doctor pressed down hard on my little wife’s belly, trying to force the baby out with some kind of crazy Hungarian toothpaste technique!  And all of this whilst not understanding a single fucking word of what anyone was saying!  Throw in an exam paper that I hadn't revised for and take away my trousers and that's my nightmare!  Right there!  I had visions beforehand of casually sitting by my lady wife’s head, holding her hand and whispering sweet nothings while the doctor did the dirty work, but I had no say in the matter.  I was at the business end.  I was in the trenches.  I probably now have trench foot.  

Outnumbered

Outnumbered

And now it’s over and I can confirm that I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.  Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.  I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhâuser Gate.  Now I’ve seen a baby's head do unmentionable things.  All of those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain.

If you are not familiar with Blade Runner you may now be thinking that I’ve been over doing it on the nitrous oxide.  Outrageously though, they don’t have nitrous oxide in Hungarian hospitals!  It was the whole reason that I got my wife pregnant in the first place!  Livid.

But she’s out.  Both mother and daughter are doing well.  Mother will hobble and sit on a rubber ring for a few weeks I’d imagine, but all is good.  We are ecstatic.  Our little family has just grown by 50% and she’s gorgeous.  I’m sure there will be tough times ahead, but for now, we are an overjoyed, mentally drained, tired, family.

I leave the hospital for the night while my wife and little Mila both try and work out how to breast feed.  I’m now out numbered by ladies, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My girls

My girls

Day 35 - Waiting for a Girl Like You

Waiting for a Girl Like You

Hands on Dad (not a painting of Freddie Mercury).

Hands on Dad (not a painting of Freddie Mercury).

Speaking as a man who is yet to witness a baby tearing his wife’s perineum apart with just its head, I think it’s the waiting that’s the hardest part.  We’ve been on tenterhooks for two weeks ever since the doctor remarked that the baby could come at any minute, but so far ‘nada’.  We can't go too far from base camp, I can't drink booze despite being surrounded by delicious Hungarian grape juice wherever I turn.   So we just sit and wait and when we’re not sitting we’re walking.  In fact, we’ve probably covered every yard of Budapest in the last week.  Which when you consider that my wife has to carry her belly in her arms, is quite a feat.  Across streets, over bridges, to fröccs and langós festivals, over hills, to a Picasso exhibition, through markets and even to a concert (Budapest Bar) she has carried that gigantic belly in her tiny arms.  She may look like an Easter Egg with legs, but I have to admire her pluck.   

In dire need of a wheelbarrow

In dire need of a wheelbarrow

But anyway, I’ve now been in Budapest for about a month and I’m with a friend at a small beer garden (Spiler) near Buda Castle.  The friend has a two year old child and he may not yet realise this, but he is my Obi-Wan Kenobi of fatherhood.  With Junior’s arrival looming large I am looking for reassurance, guidance and a few handy tips of how best to keep a human cub alive.  I’m also trying to assess just how tough the first few weeks of parenthood might be.

“You know the first couple of weeks with the baby?” I say.

He throws back the hood of his robe, leans upon his staff, looks me in the eye and then wisely replies, “Yes”.  This is good.  So far, all positive. 

“Will I be able to get any sleep?”, I ask.

At this he laughs so hard that food comes out of his nose.  I am surprised by this response.  Mainly because he wasn’t even eating at the time.

“I didn’t get any sleep for the first three months!” he snorts.  “You’re going to be so tired that you won’t be able to feel your bloody face!”.  He chortles.  “Take my advice young padawan.  Get as much sleep as you can now as you won’t be able to sleep once the baby arrives!  You’ll look and feel like SHIT!”. 

Naturally, I am thrilled by these words. 

"But still, I guess I should count my blessings that I don't have a nine to five job at the moment.  Right now every day is Saturday!", I remark, striving for an upbeat finish.

"As soon as the baby comes everyday will be a Monday!", he sneers.  

I consider whether I need a new Obi-Wan, whilst wondering if my friend has ever considered a career as a motivational speaker.  

A snap of Liberty Bridge from one of our many walks

A snap of Liberty Bridge from one of our many walks

Lazy bastards lounging on Liberty Bridge

Lazy bastards lounging on Liberty Bridge

Nevertheless I have tried to take this sagacious advice on board and have been attempting to hibernate as much as possible.  For two weeks I’ve been half man, half dormouse, but as we reach the finishing straight it’s not as easy as one would think to pop off to the land of nodsville.  The reason being is that I have discovered that once darkness falls I now achieve an unnaturally high state of alertness.  I am a cowboy sleeping with one eye open.  A praying mantis poised to strike.  A man shitting it that his wife is going to go into labour.  I think this newfound ability stems from someone once telling me that babies are most likely to come at night.  The ‘apparent’ reason being that our instincts tell us that as it’s quiet, there’s a lesser chance of predators being around.  I think this sounds like 'utter bollocks' as surely more predators come out at night, but nevertheless my subconscious mind believes them.  

Pablo Picasso The Finger Puppet.  The toy that all kids crave for.

Pablo Picasso The Finger Puppet.  The toy that all kids crave for.

It’s two in the morning.  My wife gets out of bed to empty her battered bladder.  Like a ninja I sense her stirring.  My eyes shoot open and I sit up in bed, like a meerkat on speed.

“Are you alright honey?  What’s up?”  I ask, but before she can reply I am already wearing trousers and searching for the car keys. 

“Need a wee.” she wearily replies.  My trousers are off and I am back in bed.  But I cannot sleep as I am fully alert, heart pounding.  About thirty minutes later I eventually begin to drift off.  Then up she clambers.  I’m awake again.  I’m wearing trousers.  She is weeing.  Back to bed.  Repeat every thirty minutes until dawn.  

Come on Junior!  Please don’t take after your mother and be late.  We’re waiting for you!

Nearly being a father is tougher than I’d imagined.

Budapest Bar

Budapest Bar

Day 1 - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Blending in with the natives

Blending in with the natives

It’s my first full day in Budapest.  I wake up, the sun is shining.  Yes!  Take that UK!  Shove your erratic weather right up your rainy anus!  My heavily pregnant Hungarian wife, who at this late stage of pregnancy is beginning to resemble a pregnant guppy, is in the kitchen making coffee.  I step out on to our little, but delightful balcony, survey the scenic Buda hills, take a great big contented breath of Buda air, and then it hits me.  Bloody hell, it’s hot!  Very hot.  I immediately make a calculated decision that it’s too hot for pants and this, obviously, makes me happy.

The wife

The wife

“Morning honey”, my miniature wife beams, waddles over wth her big fat belly full of baby, and hands me a piece of paper with an unusual number of ‘Zs’ on it.  I look at the paper, puzzled.  “This is your list of challenges for the morning”.  Have I woken up in The Crystal Maze?  As wondrous as that sounds, alas the answer is no.  I’ve been given a number of ‘The Apprentice’ style challenges to complete, assuming of course, that it was an episode of ‘The Apprentice’ where they were challenged to go and buy nectarines.  The thing about me, probably one of your favourite bits about me actually, is that I’m bloody brave.

“I accept your challenge!  I will buy you fruit!”

And so off I trot, to the wild plains of Buda, a warrior in flip flops, armed only with a piece of paper covered in ‘Zs’ and a mobile phone with a dodgy reception.  Shortly after stepping outside I notice something unusual about my hair.  It has become apparent that my hair and the Hungarian climate are an unusual, dare I say it, heady mix.  Back in dear old Blighty my hair is slightly wavy, but nothing too extravagant.  However, after a little under five minutes in the mid thirty, Hungarian heat, my hair has decided enough is enough and is making a play to become exceedingly extravagant.  My hair has turned in to Liberace.  Suddenly I’m a white man with an afro, or so it feels.  I need too check this bad boy out before meeting my friendly local greengrocer who I’m sure, even before meeting him, is called Laszlo.  

Being the eagle eyed swine that we both know that I am, I spot a darkened car window just a few metres ahead and on the other side of the road.  Bingo!  I momentarily wonder if there are Bingo halls in Budapest and then flip flop over to the car, looking around to avoid appearing like a preening, vain peacock wearing a David Hasselhoff wig.  With the coast seemingly clear I peer in to the dark, back seat window and begin inspecting the damage.  Verging on a code red, curly hair disaster, but I can manage this.  With a bit of spit and a fleshy five pronged comb I can tame this frantic beast.  And so I set to work.  

You know how when you’re in a lit room and the lights go out, and for a few moments everything is pitch black, but then gradually, your eyes adjust and you start to make out shapes?  Well the same is actually true for darkened car windows.  I’m leaning right in, staring so intently at my own reflection that I can count my own pores, when something moves.  It’s in the car.  I adjust my gaze slightly and then lean in further to inspect the movement.  What I see chills me to the core.  There’s somebody starring back at me.  A pair of eyes.  A startled pair of eyes.  A startled pair of female eyes.  A mother’s eyes.  A breastfeeding mother’s eyes!  I am staring intently at a breastfeeding mother, discreetly, feeding her tiny baby.  Oh, the horror!  And yet I’m still staring, like a rabbit caught in the headlights!  Must…stop…staring!  The expression on the woman seems to be changing.  Anger is replacing fear!  I do the only sensible thing that I can do.  With all of the blood drained from my face like a piece of halal meat, I mutter the words “sorry” under my breath, turn and hurriedly canter away, flip flops clopping like a mule.

Back in the safety of the flat, moments later, I tell my wife the bad news.  “All out of fruit sorry honey”.  The streets of Buda are fraught with peril.  The next twelve months could be dangerous.

The Prologue

Budapesten Élek!

I live in Budapest.  This is very odd as I don’t usually live in Budapest.  In fact, I’ve never lived outside of the UK, but here I am, sitting on a sofa in my new digs in sunny Budapest.  A soon to be forty year old, soon to be first time father, immigrant.  My heavily pregnant wife is currently on the phone, speaking to her mother in tongues.  Some Hungarian duck pate is lazily lounging on a piece of Hungarian bread on a table next to me.  All of the food products in our kitchen have an unnatural number of ‘Zs’ on their packaging.  If I look up, my view is of the Buda hills.  It’s sunny and hot outside!  No, this is definitely not London in June (which according to the grumbles and moans that I’ve read via Facebook is currently suffering rain on a biblical scale).  I arrived two days ago and still feel very much like an old cat, torn from his natural habitat and dumped in to a new home.  I’m discombobulated, sniffing all of the new corners of my home whilst resisting the urge to pee and mark my territory.  What am I doing here?

Well as all good stories should begin, it started with a brain fart.  “What if we move to Budapest for the first year of Junior’s life?”.  We initially dismissed this thought, but soon realised that it wouldn’t simply dissipate like a well behaved fart into the ether, no matter how vigorously we wafted.  

Naturally there were opposing thoughts that did their best to put us of the Budapest scent.  “What about my job?  What about our mortgage?  How would we watch Masterchef?”   But then that little brain fart slowly became a brain hurricane, battering all obstacles in it’s path and turning the opposing thoughts on their heads.  “What if I quit my day job and pursued my dreams of being a full-time writer?  Why don’t we rent our place out?  We can stream Masterchef via the old tinterweb can’t we?”  And so I did it.  I quit my lovely, secure day job in London and we found renters for our London basecamp.  What followed were several weeks of blind panic.  I’d wake up in the dead of night, mind racing and heart pumping.  My thoughts during these wee hours usually went along the lines of…

“Fucking hell!  What in the name of God have I done?!  I won’t have a job!  Nobody will understand me!  I’m going to be forty!  I will be forty seven when my child is seven.  But that’s only three years from fifty!  When I’m fifty, that’s only ten years from sixty!  I’m supposed to retire at around sixty five aren’t I?  I’m a mere half a century from the probably end and I’ve just quit my job to go and live in a country where they speak in mostly ‘consonants’ and I have a baby on the way!  Help me!”

But with the unwavering support of my miniature wife, my tiny tower of strength, I got through those dark hours, and now here I am in beautiful Budapest, trying in vain to understand what on earth everyone else is saying, whilst eating an unnatural amount of sour cream, and with a heavily pregnant little lady by my side.  The next 12 months or so should be an interesting ride, full of cultural clashes, sleepless nights, shitty nappies and me being a clueless father in a foreign land.  So like a slightly more hirsute Captain Jean-Luc Piccard, I’m going to chronicle my adventures.  Here we go…