Sometimes things don’t work out like you plan. Actually, most of the time things don’t work out like you plan. That’s probably a good philosophy to take into the world… Plan. And plan for the plan to change – you can quote me on that. But for me, this is where the most unforgettable things happen. In the unexpected… the pleasant and not so pleasant surprises, the random encounters, people and events that inevitably leave a scar on you memory that will never fade or disappear.
When I was growing up, our family would always go away for a summer holiday. And 1995 was no exception. When school broke, we headed up the coast for a two-week holiday by the beach. Before Christmas and before the mad rush of the post-Christmas city exodus that saw these quiet coastal towns swamped and swarming with every Bogan, Bushie and ‘burb Dweller in Australia. These holidays we filled with great memories… day after day spending the whole day at the beach (heaven), body boarding, swimming, eating ice blocks, early morning fishing, BBQ’s, bush walks, the best times with my brothers and my mum and dad. Summer 1995 was a truly unique one.
My dad decided towards the end of our holiday that it would be a good idea to wake us all up at stupid o’clock and go and watch the sunrise over the ocean. No… he didn’t think it was a good idea, he thought it was a GREAT idea. We didn’t agree, mainly because waking up at 5am just for the fun of it is never a great idea in the eyes of 13, 11 and 9 year old boys. Nevertheless, my dad being my dad over ruled the unruly bunch.
The next morning Dad stormed into our room at 5am, excited and full of energy, turned on the light and started hurling our clothes at us. We grumbled, we moaned, slowly got dressed and stumbled towards the living room where our heavily pregnant mother was looking equally unimpressed. We stumbled out to the car in the dark, all the while Dad hurrying us, saying “Quick! Or we’ll miss it!”
As we drove the 15 minutes down to Fingal Bay- Dad’s desired sunrise watching location – it became apparent as the light started to change with the coming of the dawn that it was overcast. Not just slightly, but a blanket of cloud cover over the entire sky. This is exactly what we needed! “Daaaaddd! Its cloudy lets go home.” “Come on, we’re not gonna see anything let’s turn round.” “Yeah, lets go back to bed.” But Dad was unmoving:
“NO!!! We are going to watch the sun rise!”
So on we drove, and on we moaned. Dad parked the car. Still we moaned. We got out and walked the 100m to the beach, on and on the three of us boys grumbled. We stood there on the sand as the light gradually changed for what must have been 20 minutes or so, until the light stopped changing and we became aware, by default, that the sun had risen. At which point my brothers and I all began to laugh hearty fits of laughter. We thought it hilarious that we had come to watch the sunrise and hadn’t seen a single thing. This was too much for my dad to bear, he was absolutely furious and shouted: “Get back in the car!!! NOW!!!” He drove home without saying a word, fury written all over his face.
The next morning was like déjà vu… It must have been even earlier, 4:30am… Dad burst into our room, switched on the light and said: “Boys, wake up get dressed, we have to go, mum’s having the baby.” Nice try Dad, we’re not falling for that. Leave us alone. We’re not getting up to watch another one of your bloody sunrises. Dad frantically moved around the room, again throwing clothes at us, saying “Get up! Get up! This is not a joke.” At which point we saw he was even more stressed than usual and in quite a panic.
He was right. Mum was having the baby. It wasn’t due for another three weeks but all the excitement of the failed sunrise the previous morning must have given it the hurry up. Or maybe it just didn’t want to miss the last few days of our family holiday. Dad rushed us out the door, half dressed and half asleep, and we pilled into the car and started racing back to Sydney, a full three hours drive south of where we were staying. Mum insisted she wouldn’t be having the baby in some rural coastal hospital.
As we sped down the freeway towards Sydney, we hit the massive mouth of the Hawkesbury River and saw the most beautiful sunrise. Vibrant orange and yellow bursting from the horizon over the ocean and across the river right down to the huge bridge we were crossing. I distinctly remember my dad saying: “I don’t think the baby wanted us to miss this one” he looked across at my mum and smiled. She smiled back. “Shame your brothers are missing it.” Sure enough, I looked at both my brothers on either side of me and they were both sound asleep.
An hour later we stormed into the emergency bay, Dad jumped out and grabbed mum a wheelchair. I hustled my brothers and into the hospital we went. A lovely nurse took us to a waiting room all to ourselves where we watched cartoons for hours and hours. I remember thinking, what was all the rush? We had plenty of time. We must’ve been in that waiting room for eight or 10 hours before my Dad came to the door and said: “Boys come and meet your new baby brother.”
He was 15 minutes old. I remember he looked like he had been shoved up a bloody snotty nose… and nothing like babies on TV; his skin was really pink too. The nurse said that it’s good for the baby to leave all the goo on for a while. The three of us stared wide-eyed at our new bloody, snotty baby brother. The nurse asked us if we would like to see the placenta, we nodded, not really knowing what she was talking about. She bent down and produced a saucer sized, somewhat flat, deep purple, wobbly thing… I didn’t like the look of it… She told us “this is what keeps the baby alive while it’s in the womb.” And then went on to say: “In some cultures, after the mother gives birth she eats it.” This was too much for me… “I don’t feel so good” I said… and like lightening she retrieved a silver tray from her trolley and handed it to me just in time to catch my vomit.
Photos by Rob Hodgson