For years, I’ve heard stories of how holding your newborn child in your arms is the best experience of your life. And I always believed them. Until, that is, I actually held my newborn child in my arms and felt only exhaustion, with an undercurrent of fear mixed in for good measure. As time has passed, of course, I’ve felt the elation of being a father, and now, eight months down the line, I can’t imagine what I did before my daughter was born. But in that maternity ward, having spent two whole days waiting, pacing, snatching 5 minute bursts of sleep in a chair, hearing my wife howl in agony, gagging as I looked at the blood, mucus, and other oozing bodily fluids, when that wrinkled, purple bundle was thrust into my arms, I wasn’t in any mood to experience any kind of beautiful, memorable moment.
But my slightly belated paternal instinct isn’t why I’m writing this. We are gathered here today, gentle reader, to give much-deserved credit to one of the media’s favourite punching bags: the NHS. If our friends at a the nation’s leading right-wing newspapers are to be believed, then the NHS stands not for National Health Service, but Noxious Horrific Scum, and is home to fifty year waiting lists, killer viruses dripping from the hands and scalpels of surgeons, surly, matronly nurses who poke the eyes and twist the noses of disabled pensioners, and incompetent, unqualified Doctors, who enjoy nothing more than making their patients miserable, uncomfortable, and sicker than when they arrived at Hospital.
It may come as a surprise, therefore, what with the system being such a shambles, that since that fateful morning when my wife announced that her waters had broken and I had to come to terms with the fact that the huge bulge around her midriff was in fact a child, and not severe bloatage from a particualarly vicious Madras, the NHS have been completely and utterly magnificent. During the lengthy period between the aforementioned water-breakage and wrinkled, purple bundle, the midwives were kind and attentive; numerous Doctors popped in to say ‘Hi’ (and to carry out important examinations), and together, they made a grim experience bearable with their constact help, positivity, and good humour. And when the anasthesiologist administered the epidural, finally taking the lion’s share of my wife’s agony away, I could’ve kissed the man, taken him to Barbados for a fortnight, and massaged his feet with coconut oil every day. I am exaggerating, by the way: I could never afford two weeks in Barbados.
The best, and most impressive part of this is yet to come, for I have yet to mention the fact that all of this occurred over two slightly special days: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So, all those Doctors and midwives who were so lovely, warm, and efficient when they were, no doubt, keeping an eye on the clock and the chance to start Christmas with their families, I am forever grateful to you for the fantastic service you provided. And, those of you unfortunate enough to buy in to the sensationalism and scaremongering employed by particular right-wing newspapers: count yourselves fortunate that you live in a country where such a service exists. And the next time they help you or a loved one, make sure you tell as many people as possible, as I have, in a bid to dispel the myth that the NHS is there to kill you, not cure you.