“Have you noticed that one of his testicles seems bigger than the other?”
Years ago, the sort of questions my husband used to ask me over dinner were things about interesting articles he’d read, or a new film coming out. With kids, if the questions are not about why a three month’s old poo seems to have grass in it, or if throwing a duvet over a child is an appropriate response to a tantrum, it’s about bits of their anatomy.
I pause, trying to picture my 2 year old’s testicles, and instinctively lower the meatball that was heading mouth-wards back to my plate.
“Hmmm. Maybe.” To be fair, I am not a testicle expert and nor do I want to be. I have met a few pairs in my time, anything from nodding acquaintance to a more intimate, long term relationship, but I have to say, I do not spend hours gazing at my son’s privates. Testicles were never meant to be stared at, let’s face it. They are the ugly, saggy pillows on which a length of manhood is presented; always the bridesmaid and never the bride. And now I have a mental image of a willy in a white veil, which should never, ever have happened…
So at the next nappy change, we both peer at my son’s balls, prodding, poking and comparing. His right one seems fine, a little marble draped in creped skin. His left looks more like someone had inflated it with a foot pump. “I’ll call the GP in the morning,” I say and sigh, because a conversation that starts with those words scarcely ends well.
And so, there we are, sitting in the GP’s room as I explain the problem. I strip B off from the waist down and the GP requests that she examine him with him standing up. This presents a few more logistical problems than a supine position, as I can already see my son has the ‘you touch my willy and all hell will break loose’ look in his eye. So I sit in the chair, he stands on my thighs holding onto my shoulders whilst doing everything he possibly can to make it impossible to get ball access, and the GP tries to manoeuvre herself between us both to cop a feel.
She is there a long time, doing whatever it is she is trying to do, and I am starting to sweat with the exertion of keeping B from wriggling away. Finally, she straightens up. “I can’t find his right testicle,” she says with a frown. I begin to wonder if she is a GP or I actually sat down with the receptionist by accident, because I definitely saw it yesterday, and unless the testicle thief paid him a visit last night, it should still be there. (In case you were wondering, the testicle thief is the maverick cousin of the tooth fairy, whose life is a tragic example of what happens when fairies fall in with the wrong crowd). “But the left one is swollen,” the GP states. Blimey, there are no flies on her, are there? Mind you, if B is forced to stay here much longer with his tackle dangling in the breeze, the same won’t be able to be said about him.
“I think he should be seen by the paediatrician at the local A&E,” she concludes, at which point I see my day of work rapidly turning into a bucket of shit. So off we go, hospital bound. B, at this point, is starting to cheer up, as he is realising that what started as a routine day in nursery has turned out to be a magical mystery tour with his mummy, involving talk of snacks and a bag full of toys. I am slightly less cheerful as I give up trying to find a parking space in the hospital grounds because they have seen fit to build a new wing across half the car park without making the cunning deduction that what they actually then need is more parking spaces, rather than less. I end up parking in a dingy, dank multi storey opposite the hospital. Ah well, I think, as I shovel the best part of a tenner into the ticket machine, at least if I get stabbed in the stair well I could probably make it to A&E under my own steam.
We reach children’s A&E and wait. Toy Story is playing on the TV with the sound just too low to actually hear it, and it entertains B for barely two minutes. We wait some more. Then they weigh him by making him sit on a chair, and he cries. Well, it gives him something to do for a while. Then we do a bit more waiting. At some point, I am given what is in essence a large sanitary towel to put in his nappy in case they need a sample, so I change him, singing the Bodyform advert to him to get him in the mood. He is seemingly unimpressed. Then it is back to those hard, uncomfortable chairs for some more waiting. The A&E waiting room is a strange, other-worldly place. Time is in stasis between these four walls. The windows are covered so anyone inside cannot see life progressing forward outside, there is no reception for my phone and the levels of boredom are so acute that miniscule events become the centre of this tiny, static universe: someone actually entering the room causes a frission of excitement amongst the current occupants akin to the arrival of royalty. Shame it’s just a nurse carrying a urine sample.
At the point at which B has exhausted all the toys we bought, the toys on offer in the room, most of his snacks and me, we get called to see the doctor. Twenty pages of questions later, she finally examines him.
“Well, that’s a relief, there’s his right testicle,” she says. “I was very concerned when I read it was missing.”
“I think it had just rolled under the chair when the GP examined him,” I quipped. She looked at me for a moment, then referred back to her notes. Note to self: don’t try to be funny with medical staff. You are likely be sectioned.
“There is nothing to worry about,” she continues. “It is a small hernia and he’ll need a small procedure to sort it out. You will have to go to a London hospital as we don’t do this procedure on under fives.”
I am relieved that it is not serious, that he is going to have his two testicles remain intact, and that (and this might be the largest proportion of relief) we can finally leave this god-forsaken hell hole. I mean, esteemed medical establishment.
“I just need to call them to refer you, so please take a seat and I will tell you when I have spoken to them.”
Noooooooooo. I want to scream, but in A&E no one can hear you scream, apparently, as there are too many other sods screaming as well.
It is at this point I make a very foolish decision. I blame the four hours I have spent trying to entertain a two year old in a confined space. I think it has turned my brain to mush. I decide to get us some lunch in the hospital cafe. There is not much on offer, but I choose a baked potato for B, and a sandwich for me. I mean, no one can fuck up a jacket spud, right? Wrong. Apparently, they can. B valiantly eats about a quarter of it, then pushes the plate away. He then tries a bite of my sandwich whilst I sample his potato. Because I am an adult, and have been taught a little about socially acceptable behaviour, I chew the disgusting, dry, metallic-flavoured potato and swallow it with a grimace. But my son, being two, takes one chew of my foul, slimy sandwich and promptly starts to ineptly spit it out, dangling his tongue out, shaking his head and scraping desperately at his mouth with his fingers. Which was what I wanted to do when I first tried it, to be fair. So grim was the taste and texture, he even let me wipe his tongue with a wet wipe rather than have a morsel of that foodstuff remain on his tongue.
We abort lunch and return to the waiting room, still hungry and now even more fed up. I still have the Bodyform tune in my head and I think I am starting to go a little insane, until finally, the doctor appears and tells us she has spoken to the hospital and they will contact us, so we can go. I am so soporific with waiting for five hours, I don’t even question why we had to wait around for that. I just nod dumbly and head for the exit.
The fresh air and rain hit me full on in the face, but I didn’t really care. We had survived the first chapter of the Great Testicle Adventure alive, with both balls intact. But next time, I’m packing a stash of Kendal Mint Cake, an inflatable cushion and a distress flare.