Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sunswept shadows in fluttering dreams
Fly by like the gems of wisdom past.
Fairys and hopes on whispering wings,
Dart in and out and in-between.
Things to come,
Who knows best,
What will be and then the rest.
Sunswept shadows in fluttering dreams,
Bring hope into life like the whisper of fairy wings.

Elizabeth S. Tyree

My wife has started to feel our baby moving around inside her.  Unfortunately, I am unable to join in with this miracle as I cannot feel a thing just yet, despite being encouraged to hold, prod and poke around her gradually swelling midriff.

I will confess to a certain discomfort when engaging in this.  She is more than happy to squeeze and cajole in an attempt to feel this growing human; I, on the other hand, am terrified that somehow I will hurt our child.  They are still so tiny - although according to the iPhone app yesterday now the weight of a turnip with a bony, rather than cartilaginous, skeleton - and I all this poking worries me.  If I am honest, I find the idea of the first few months fairly anxious until they become a bit more robust.  I am sure I will get used to it.

It feels like we are now coming out of a strange few months, a kind of limbo.  My wife is beginning to 'show', she is now feeling Junior move around, we should be hearing the heartbeat next week.  Everything is becoming more real, and more public, and more pressing.  We are weeks away from Christmas and then when Christmas is done, we will be a few short months away from arrival.  

These are strange but exciting times.  I remember when Junior would have only been a couple of centimetres, now he is over 13 and weighs more than 100g.  I sense that this will be a feeling for the next couple of decades as our progeny grows and develops and we are left thinking "they grow up so fast".  Junior hasn't even arrived yet and already I find it amazing how quickly things change and move on!  In my head I have vowed to appreciate each moment, I do not want to waste time in the now thinking about what is past, or what is to come.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

We are fifteen weeks in and beginning to be faced by some tough decisions.  Will the baby's room be painted yellow or cream?  Exactly what multi-system pram will be purchasing to ferry our newly birthed child around in?  Will it be brand new or second hand?  And, sweet mercy, what are we going to call it when it arrives?

I love my wife dearly.  I need to make that clear from the outset.  But having a baby is testing - there are a number of areas to be agreed upon by two independent minds with their own opinions which, so far, appear to have little in the way of common ground.  Let's take my opening paragraph:

Yellow or cream?  This of course is not actually about an argument in the B&Q aisle on a Sunday trying to decide which shade of paint we should pick.  We are approaching our 20 week scan and we need to decide, if the option is there, whether or not to find out the sex of our child.  I am of the opinion yes, it will help us to prepare better for Junior's arrival.  My wife thinks no, she would like that particular question to be a surprise for the both of us after her efforts in labour.  Both equally valid, and in my reflective moments I can see both sides.  However, they are mutually exclusive.

Which pram?  How can anyone ever be expected to pick a pram?  The wealth of options there are, designs, clever gadgets that can be built in and range of prices make it staggeringly difficult.  Luckily we both agree on a few things - robust, spacious so there is room to move, adaptable so it can be slept in if we happen to be out and (this is the really important one) facing the parents. 

Why, oh why, do parents buy prams that face the baby away from them?  Humans learn language through interaction, modelling and imitation.  Babies can only do this with people who are responsive to them and they need attuned carers responding to their early efforts (and certainly not the television - another bugbear of mine). So babies, in their early months, should ALWAYS be facing the carer who can talk to them and respond to them and make eye contact.  Let them watch you move all your facial muscles around to form words and expressions.  Let them imitate the sounds and see how delighted you are when you try to talk to them, or smile, or look.  Let them feel safe because they can see someone they trust.  When they are a bit older, and taking an interest in the world around them, then yes face them outwards.  But for those first few months have them facing you.  Diatribe over.

But back to the real crux of the matter.  Brand new or second hand?  I think second hand - why cough up hundreds of extra pounds - it's like buying a brand new car, think how much you lose simply driving it away.  Guess what my wife thinks...

And then finally, we have returned to the issue of names.  I am delighted to announce we have reached a consensus on a single, possible boy's name.  Maybe.  A straw poll of dads last night at a friend's wedding suggested the best strategy is to have a few names on the table and to make the final decision when you meet your offspring for the first time.  If my wife and I don't pull our fingers out we may need to resort to the Native American naming tradition of picking whatever we see outside the room after Junior's arrival.  Welcome to the world Tired-grandparent-sipping-vending-machine-coffee.  Rolls of the tongue nicely I think...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Pregnant? Us? YES!

Today we saw our child for the very first time.  It was so much more than I expected.  Our baby was moving, responding to the outside world (junior wouldn't get into position for some measurements, but we certainly saw the after effects of my wife's very best hula-hooping!), had an umbilical cord connected to mummy, a heartbeat and, this was amazing, the hiccups!  I'm not sure anything could have prepared me for seeing our child moving about.  And the key word there is - OUR.  I could have watched all the You Tube videos, looked at all the Google images and talked to all the experienced parents in the world and they would not have prepared me for viewing my child for the first time.  Our baby is alive, is growing and is most definitely there.

Junior is 5.5cm long, approximately 11 weeks and six days old and due on the 20th April.  No longer is he a kiddie bean sized bundle of cells; he is a foetus that is interacting with his environment.  I have been able to tell people (and believe me since 12:30 today I have told A LOT of people!) and talk about the fact I'm going ot be a dad.  She has all her limbs, a nose, an active lifestyle and a busy few months ahead of her.

I won't see him for another eight weeks.  And already I'm missing him.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Pregnant? Us? Ummm...

It has been a while since I wrote.  Not because nothing has been happening - quite the opposite for the little one - but because nothing has been happening for my wife and me.  We are in a particularly awkward time.  Our first scan is Thursday and we decided to keep a general lid on the news until then.  You may feel otherwise, but we wanted to ensure things were moving in the right direction before it became public knowledge.  It has been a very hard secret to keep!  Our parents are desperate to tell their friends about impending grandparenthood and we are desperate to tell everybody about the happiest piece of news we have ever had. So come Thursday, we will be shouting from the rooftops for all to hear.

But so far, we have kept quiet.  Which is very difficult when people ask you continuously about whether you are trying, or not.  Conversations tend to look something like:

Friend: "So, any news on the baby front for you?"
Me: "No, we're still trying, which is a lot of fun but nothing yet!"

However, my mental dialogue is:

Me: "YES!  We're having a baby!  We aren't trying anymore because she feels tired and nauseous and if I so much as look at her growing breasts she winces because they're so sore - but all of this is happening because she is growing our child!  How awesome is that!  We're due in April, thank you for asking.  No, no names decided upon yet.  Don't know if we'll find out what it is.  But none of that matters yet because right now all that we care about is that we are going to bring a child into the world!  Of course you can tell people - tell everyone! Write to the papers, why is this not on the national news? Ooohh...I've got to go and update my Facebook status..."

Safe to say I cannot wait for Thursday to arrive.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What's in a name?

For about four years now my wife has been pestering me about children's names.  I no longer have a reason not to enter these discussions.  With those magic pee sticks telling me that I'm going to be a father it is time to enter the world of picking a name for our future child.  God help me.

My wife has very clear ideas about names.  Unfortunately, our ideas differ.  Even worse, for me, is that she's got a good four years headstart on me, so I am going to be forever playing catch up.  Until this stage I have been able to say "no, I don't like it" to most any name she presented that she had heard and liked.  I no longer have that opt out, it's time to step up, be a man and play my part.

Names are so important.  I'm of the belief that they should mean something; they should be more than a verbal tag that you identify your child with.  My wife likes ones that 'sound right'.  Her favourites basically match the top names list.  She wants to make sure they have something that ends in, or can be abbreviated to end in, an 'ee' sound.  I think we should ensure they cannot be abbreviated into something that will lead to my child being mocked growing up.  I get the distinct impression that this might be a futile undertaking, however, as nobody can match the twisted brilliance of children for warping names into something that can inflict damage on a person.  How can I protect my child from the hundreds of devilishly fiendish minds they will face in their path to adulthood?

The simple answer is, of course, I cannot.  So from the offset it is about damage limitation.  Part of me would like to wait until the child arrives, in the hope that it will arrive with a name tag sewn in somewhere.  However, the other part of me is terrified that nothing will be immediately obvious, and our child won't have an identity for the first few days of his or her life.

Anyway, I've probably spent enough time writing this - I've got over 120 000 000 websites to trawl through to find the perfect name.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Diets and detritus

We had our first midwife appointment this week.  This, unfortunately, was not quite exciting as I hoped.  Not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it consisted of:

1)  Paperwork - with some homework as each page needs a sticky label attached to it.  Somehow I feel we should have moved beyond this by now.
2)  My wife peeing in a pot.  Again.  Why does peeing into or onto things seem to be such a key part of the pregnancy process?  It is like doctors and evolution have conspired to take this beautiful, magical moment that arises from a sexual encounter and attempt to ensure it never happens again - sore boobs, spousal wind, peeing on anything that doesn't move and nausea.  I foolishly asked "why's that then?" when my wife was asked for a 'mid-stream' urine sample.  The simple answer was to wash out the (and I quote) "detritus" that might be in the initial drops.  That sound is another nail being banged into the coffin of our sex lives.
3)  And the latest fairground attraction - weigh the wife!

What happens next?  There is a blood test after ten weeks (we are now eight), the first scan at twelve, then a full anatomy scan at twenty.  I have come to a growing realisation that the first twelve weeks are a rather frustrating time.  All we have so far to confirm this miracle of developing life is two faint lines.  Everything else is side effects, and none reveal what is actually happening.  We're going to be a third of the way to bringing a child into the world before anyone in the medical professions actually confirms there is one there!

Things could be worse though.  Our midwife seems lovely, my wife's in-the-loop colleagues are being incredibly understanding and I haven't had to hold her hair back.  Yet.  Although any plans I have for healthy eating are out of the window.  She can stomach: sweets, McDonalds, potatoes, cheese, flavoured milk and crisps.  I have the breaking strain of a KitKat, so with those lying around salads are looking a lot less inviting.

Tips from me at this stage:
1)  Sort out some light exercise you can do together - you will need something to burn off the sweet-encrusted Big Macs.
2)  Go to bed early - there are a number of toilet trips that are likely to disturb the both of you.
3)  Cook things that you are going to want to eat - this might sound selfish, but if your wife is off her food, nothing you cook will be palatable and a good dinner will help you avoid the artery clogging foods your wife is enjoying.
4)  Invest in some good books - you will be spending a lot of time with a very tired wife curled up on you, needing strokes, and a good book can help the time pass enjoyably for the both of you.

I cannot wait for our first scan so we will have evidence to show people who exactly is making mummy so uncomfortable (and daddy fatter)!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Letter to a blueberry

To my child,

School started today.  Across the country thousands of children walked through the school gates for the first time.  I cannot wait to hold your hand on your way to school for the first time.  Hopefully you will enjoy it and be excited - I imagine it will be me that gets upset as you run in to face the exciting new challenges of the day, and I am left to walk home, wondering why it is you have grown up so quick.

Until then, though, you have a lot of growing to do!  That day is five years away.  You are (apparently - I haven't got the equipment to check) the size of a blueberry at the moment - a long way away from the 3.5' you're likely to be when you start school.  Although I am excited about that day, I am excited about every one of the 1825 days between now and then.  Each day you are growing at a rate you will never match once outside the womb.  In the last fortnight you have gone from being the size of a sesame seed to that of a blueberry.  Miraculous!

And in those 1825 days there are so many amazing events I want to see.  Your first breath, feed, smile, Christmas, birthday, words, tooth, tantrum, steps, words, and so on.  Each day will bring new and exciting experiences for you and I plan on being there to share them with you.

I hope one day that you will be able to look back upon these words - there isn't a day goes by now that I don't think about you.  These next eight months, before I can meet you properly, are going to go very slowly - but you take your time.  Just because mummy and daddy might get impatient to meet you, we don't want you to come until you feel ready.  We've got the rest of our lives to get to know you better.  If I could want anything for you, my child, it would be for you to know yourself.

Sleep well, grow strong and I will see you in April.



Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Do my boobs look big in this?

Never have I been asked to examine my wife's breasts more.  Never has it been less sexy.

Gentlemen, you need to be aware of this.  The body of the mother of your baby is about to go through the most dramatic change it has experienced since puberty.  And if your partner is like mine, you will be exposed to a level of detail and inspection you thought only happened in a medical environment. Last night I was asked to review and comment on the new white skin on her nipples.

Some of these changes are amazing.  One friend of ours, who is now in on the news, told us that when he saw her, he thought her boobs had grown.  But unfortunately it is an aesthetic pleasure only, as this growth is accompanied by soreness and a declining libido.  I am reassured that this is only temporary, but if ever there was evidence that a supreme being had a quirky sense of humour, this time in our lives would be irrefutable.

We have also hit a nausea patch - not complete expulsion of stomach contents (yet?), but a relationship with food that is unusual to say the least.  My wife is now unable to cope with the smell of food, yet is hungry and nauseous simultaneously.  This means I will be preparing meals for the next eight months whilst she hides until it is on the table, then leaps out and attempts to shovel nutrition in before her olfactory senses cotton on to what is happening.  I then attempt to be supportive by not eating what she has left, in case she can stomach more later.  I am not sure if this is appreciated, or even noticed.

I think the payback for this period of her life will arrive when it is nappy changing time.  I have met very few men able to stomach the contents of their progeny's less-than solid offerings (see this for evidence: Dads and nappies).  Personally, it is an aspect of fatherhood I dread.  My dad was unable to remain in the room with me when it was time.

So for now I am going to be as supportive as possible, offering stomach strokes, back rubs and catering to every culinary whim that I am able to in the hope that I will collect enough brownie points that I can avoid nappy times altogether.  Failing that, I am going to start searching for a HazMat suit on eBay. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

When does the rapidly growing and sub-dividing set of cells within my wife's body become life?  This seems a rather philosophical question (and I am thinking of it in terms of philosophy - or spirituality - and not biology), but it is one that has been niggling me for the last couple of days.  This is my difficulty.  You would happily call a plant alive (after all, we've all overwatered them and seen them die), but surely all it is, is a set of chemical responses to certain environmental stimuli?  A plant will grow towards light - but do any of us think there is choice in that?  My wife tells me that a foetus in vitro will turn away from light shone on the mother's tummy - is that a choice or a biological response?

Ultimately, my question is: when does my child develop a consciousness?  This is quite a nice short article - - and it is the first time I've heard of the primitive streak.  With our growing baby at around six weeks, this suggests its central nervous system is already in place.  Not fully developed but in place.  So has my child started to have primitive thoughts? 

This person says no:  Apparently integration of our cognitive circuits, which enable us to think, dream and so on, happens between the 24th and 28th week.  So does this mean my child is not 'in there' until the third trimester?  Yet premature babies as young as 22 weeks have lived - so there is a life in there before this time.  So I still don't have a satisfactory answer.  And nor, I suspect, is there a likelihood of me getting one.

(Quick note: I don't actually agree with some of the author's assumptions, particularly the newborn not being self-aware and that sleep lacks any form of consciousness, but then he is a biologist and I am a psychologist.  But I would say it is worth a read and some of the comments are very interesting if this kind of thing floats your boat!)

But why is any of this important?  I want to know my child.  And, for me, that begins with consciousness, as this is what it separates my little boy or girl from a collection of biological and chemical processes.  This is an entirely subjective belief; it is not one based in evidence.  But I want to know if child is responding to the world.  When do I start speaking to a swelling tummy with confidence that there is someone, rather than something, in there?  I want to know when the child, that I am already beginning to love, is home.  And I want them to feel safe and dream dreams of colour, movement, tranquility.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Taxi for one!

I'm going to be a father!  A dad; daddy cool.  Pops, pa, papa.  Or, when my child is older, an embarrassment.  But until then, I'm going to be a dad.  Easily the most exciting, and terrifying, moment of my life.

How did we find out?  Pee on a stick.  I find it somewhat strange that the most magical thing that can happen in a couple's liftime, the one thing that will ensure my wife and I are connected for the rest of our lives (I could, and have, get divorced - I will always be this child's father and she will always be the mother), tends to be discovered by weeing on a plastic wand.  And was it convincing?  Did we get a nice thick, bold pink line on our spatula of love?  Nope.  We got a faint, washed out tracing that was barely discernible to the naked eye.  But I will always remember that faint line - it was the first time I knew a child could be on its (at only five weeks, it's barely a tadpole - I've got no idea what the gender is! Wife thinks boy; mother-in-law thinks girl; I'm hoping baby) way.

Cue panic.

We're having a baby!  Probably.  It's so faint.  Does that mean yes?  Or is this a cruel imagining?  Quick - to the Google machine!  A faint line does mean pregnancy!  (Probably.  Be aware of the cruel deception of chemical pregnancies.)  A rapid dialling of numbers and we have an appointment to see the GP.  There may be those of you who have been through this and are thinking "silly sods".  I'll admit, I was thinking the same.  I'm a professional, I'm in my thirties, yet I was giddy with nerves and possibilities and needed somebody to tell me it would be ok.  And the very nice doctor said "congratulations, I'll make an appointment with the midwife, but there's nothing more I can really do at this stage".  He was lovely, but there really was nothing more he could do.  Apart from advise us to take another test, just to rule out the chemical risk.

A second slightly darker line.  Still what you would likely class as pale.  Where's my thick, convincing statement of virility?!  No matter - this urine bat stayed in my pocket (with the plastic cap on, I'm not a tramp) for the next couple of days as we told the precious few that have been let into the secret so far.  We are waiting for the midwife appointment before we announce the news publicly.

The final confirmation arrived, or, more appropriately didn't arrive, in an absence of menstruation.  The test of millennia past.  We really are pregnant.  We're going to have a baby.  I've got a taxi driver for the next eight months!

(Don't let this be the first thing you say on discovery of this news.  I just cannot see it being a great start.)

So on these pages I will be charting my journey through pregnancy - highlighting the things I find out, the mistakes I make, and, where relevant, pointing readers in the direction of useful references or amusing diversions.  I want this to serve as a journal for what happens so that I can look back in the future and recapture these moments, but also to help others who are travelling on the same journey.

I'm going to be a daddy. :-)