Sunday, August 31, 2008


Yesterday we went to a party in Cambridge but most of us there felt old. Looking around we were all grown up, or at least getting there.  And it was a little worrying.

Our friend, Chris, turned 30 at midnight and got engaged to our friend Andrea a few weeks ago. The engagement didn't seem to affect Andrea regarding age but the party did.  Knowing that there were engaged couples, married couples, expectant couples and parent couples - and their children - turning up was a worry to her.  She didn't like that we were all becoming responsible adults. I think a few glasses of wine put pay to that though. 

Obviously Erin and I are in the 3rd category (and 2nd. Oh, and have been in the first. And, er, are soon to be in the latter).  We met some great people and had some fun chats with people in all the categories, learning a lot from the 4th.  It's quite amazing really that when your wife is pregnant, conversations are very easy. People ask how things are going - alluding to the bump - and it flows from there.  If you're talking to a couple or person who has a child it's even easier, but the questions come from you rather than the other way round.  Also, nothing is out of bounds: bodily functions, body parts, anything, literally anything.  There's definitely a pregnancy community - a pregmunity?  

We were part of this at the party with instant offers of advice, books and maternity clothes.  We took up all three offers and picked up a few things before we left Cambridge this morning, very happily - thank you Zoe and Andy.

And the advice? Here's what we learned:

Women tend not to be able to think past the birth, it's easier for men to do. 
Men: Go to the loo before the labor so you don't miss anything and you may be needed. 
St. Thomas' Hospital (ours) Pregnancy Yoga on the 8th floor is great.
Women: Make sure you really know how to relax your muscles at the birth.  It'll make everything so much easier.

When the baby comes along:
You might want to be as eco-friendly using reusable nappies but forget that at the beginning. Get the disposable ones, they'll fit better for the first 6 weeks.
The first weeks are tough, not just because of lack of sleep but the lack of response from the little one.  Once you get smiled at it's heaven. 
Baby gyms are a godsend. Get a cheap travel one so they can be stored, thrown in the corner of the lounge and got at as you wish.
Breast-feeding can be difficult, and if it doesn't work out, don't get depressed about it. Plenty of children have been brought up without it.
There's a great children's drop-in centre in Kennington - just round the corner from our house.
Life goes on, you can go out to eat when the baby comes along, just do it at lunchtime.

Erin in Cambridge

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's official

Erin was excited tonight as she was eating her dessert.  It wasn't the dessert but the memory of the morning: 'Someone stood up for me on the tube today.'

It's official, she must look pregnant.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meet the kicking one

Blowing bubbles?

From out of nowhere

The reason why I didn't post anything about our second scan this weeekend was because Erin and I went up to Durham with Si and Sarah and stayed with Si's parents (Sorry for causing any worry Joey). 

The last time we were all together was just before we made the official announcement that Erin was pregnant. Everyone around the dinner table therefore knew before most people and that night Si's mum regaled us with a load of fun pregnancy and childhood stories about both her boys. We all shared a lot of belly laughs (even the often embarrassed Simon).

This time there was less baby talk which suited us just fine.  

There was the odd time though such as when Si was out of the room and his mum spoke about how even two children in the same family can be very different.  She said one of hers was a rebel but the other 'would even wear frilly knickers if I'd told him to'. Which, of course, she didn't. And neither did he.  We uncontrollably giggled at this but I think you had to be there as Si proved when he walked back in the kitchen.

There was another story too.

We came in from a walking tour of Durham in need of refreshment and to see what the football results were. Well, Si and I did anyway. The girls were all talking and Simon's mum was telling them about different parts of her pregnancy.  Si immediately switched off as boys are wont to do when their mothers are telling stories about them. I had one ear on the story and the other on a match summary. After hearing a 'really?' and trying to diffuse the words wonder goal from nowhere and this arm came from nowhere I asked for the story to be retold.

The context is that Erin was describing how she's feeling the baby a lot now. It's gone from feelings of waves to punchy kicks or kicky punches.  From what I can feel on the outside they are tiny taps. On the inside they are apparently not so tiny. Anyway, Erin had explained this and Si's mum went on to say that at the end of her pregnancy with Simon he literally made a full turn and 'from out of nowhere' she saw the imprint of a hand for a brief second from inside her belly.

And the kicks I can feel are impressive.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2nd scan - a guided tour

On Friday Erin and I went for our second scan. We set off early to avoid any elevator worries and got to the 8th floor with plenty to time to wait around and watch the room's tiny television in the corner which contained laser-focussed baby adverts, baby advice and one random fact.

Among the ads for Bjorn Baby carriers, Tomy Toys and Bugaboo prams we were told by some government-parental-advice-giving-body about breast feeding and diaper changing.  And the advice to dads? Not to worry too much, help around the house and give the mum-to-be as many massages as she requires.  I Will do - but I do think that was written by a woman who had just been pregnant whose husband had worried too much, hadn't helped out enough and needed a nudge in the direction to give massages.

After a while, as there was a nurse off sick, we were taken into our scan-room by our nurse, Helen.  She sat us down, chatted nicely to us, then squirted gooey stuff all over Erin’s belly.

Once the scanner got through the gooey stuff the little life inside Erin started performing on screen for us. Second scans are quite different to the first as the baby is now too big to be on screen all at once.  So, we were given a guided tour around the baby's body. We were first shown the spine where we could see each individual vertebrae, then onto the kidneys, the heart, and the head. The head had two little bumps on it. This would have been worrying if the nurse hadn't said, ‘Oh look it’s got its hands over its eyes.’

Must be shy.

Not too shy however, as it showed us everything we needed to see, which was unlike the other babies who the nurse had seen that day. But shy enough to have its legs crossed so even if we did want to know if it was a boy or girl - which we didn’t and don't - it would have been a struggle to find out.

After we’d looked at the arms then came the legs and feet.  The legs were measured then the nurse manoeuvred the scan so two little feet were revealed. It was as if they were poking out of a blanket.

At the last scan the heartbeat was the highlight for me, this time it was the feet. That and the fact that we learned that polar bears are left handed - and you thought I'd forgotten the random fact.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

2nd midwife visit - a spectator sport

Today we went to see the midwife for the second time.   

We were brought in by lets-call-her Nicola who's the second substitute midwife we've seen out of two substitute midwives.  She was very nice and asked Erin how she was and caught up with the pregnancy with a few questions as well as studying Erin's records book.  She then took Erin through her blood test results which all look normal, negative or healthy - this is normal, positive and healthy.

I just smiled and nodded. It really did feel like a spectator sport.  I felt a little out of sorts in the midwife's room as, even though I'm quite an active researcher on pregnancy, try to be a hands on dad-to-be, and the midwife was professional and friendly,  it all seemed nothing to do with me.  I was a spare part.  A simple smiler and nodder.  I'm not complaining.  Erin is the one doing all the hard work.  But have any other dads-to-be reading this felt this way?

Erin's record book was filled in with the blood test results and then it was time for her to hop on the bed and get measured.  A lot of people have commented how Erin is hardly showing and that was a bit of a concern of ours before we went into the clinic.  However, when Erin was measured, she was 21 cms from the top of her bump to her pelvic bone which is a perfect measurement - it's 1 cm for every week.  

We also heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time.  The choo-choo audio from my grandad's collection of British Rail Sounds Of Train Stations vinyls were brought back to me as the baby's 158 heart-rate boomed around the room.  It was emotionally staggering. (Don't ask about the British Rail Sound Of Train Stations vinyls. They entertained a 4 year Jay but luckily didn't leave any lasting trainspotter scares.)

Erin's 21 weeks and a day now and we booked ourselves in 10 weeks ago.  Last time we took a bunch of questions which were answered easily with astounding reassurance and we left proudly bouncing all the way to the coffee shop where we reflected on what had happened. However, the 10 weeks since seeing the midwife has been a long time to dwell on other worries and another list of question were drawn up on Tuesday night.

They were nothing that hadn't been asked before so we asked them and they were answered:

The right side of Erin's bump seems to be bigger, is this normal?

Babies often start lying on the right but will move over as it gets bigger as more organs are on that side. It'll get more central.

How do you stop heartburn?

There's a natural acid build up during pregnancy.  Eat little but often and also milk before bedtime could work to reduce the acid build up.

Can we call an ambulance if we think things are going too fast on the day, especially as the waters could break in the Christmas period? 

Yes, but they prefer you not to.  If it's an emergency it's all right. Call around for taxis before the big day as some taxis don't take you when the waters have broken.

There were more but I'll save you those.

At the end, again, we walked out with an excited jump in our step.  Tomorrow's the scan.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kick off

It's been a big weekend of sport.  The Olympics continued with Britain doing better than expected and the English Football Premier League started. Erin went up to Scotland to visit our friends Sarah and Robin and my mate JB came to London. 

John and I did the ridiculously boyish thing of setting the alarm clock for Rebecca Addlington's second gold medal chance, aimed to stay up and watch Paula Radcliffe in the marathon which started just after midnight on Saturday, and set the alarm again in the middle of the night to watch Michael Phelps' 8th gold medal race.  We let Paula down by giving up and falling asleep in the marathon but saw the live swimming.

Erin, up in Scotland, seemed to have a great time and kept texting me as such throughout.  On the way back one took me by surprise: 'I wish you could feel what I'm feeling and when I come home, maybe you will.'

When she did get home we caught up and chatted and laughed about what we'd got up to and then when it was time to relax a little she told me to do what I'd got excited but forgotten about doing earlier.

'Did you feel it?'
'Move your hand down a little?.'
'There? And again.'
'Yes, and yes.'

I closed my eyes to imagine what was going.  A kick? Or punch? Or a stretch? Who knows? It was just incredible to think what is going on in there.  A growth of life.  Is this where the verb to describe feelings, moving, comes from? 

It was even better than the strike scored against Sunderland for Liverpool to secure their first win of the season.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The difference between boys and girls

Last weekend we spent time with our friends James and Claire.  They have a new niece called Maia. James and Claire each have the below pictures as their screensavers.

Guess who has which.

Did you aah then smile?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A rockin' and a rollin'

'Jay, Jay, come here and calm the baby down.' This was Erin's call to me from the bedroom as she wasn't feeling too good yesterday morning and went for a little extra sleep in the morning. 

'It's a rockin' and a rollin' in there,' she said looking at me mischievously. 

She told me to talk to it so I started by saying that it shouldn't try to be Michael Phelps or Rebecca Adlington just yet and rubbed Erin's belly with soothing cream. She said that the fluttery feelings have now turned into waves of movement. We are sure we could see where her head was. I gave an extra gentle rub.

I think she's about to pop and show a lot more soon.

The little one in there just wants more space.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A wobble

If Erin hadn't gone into her chosen profession I think she could have been in the FBI - remember she is American - or just been a plain and simple spy.  She's ridiculously intelligent, calm under pressure, good at learning languages and is very discrete. For me on the other hand it's a different story.  Being a bit thick and freaking out at tiny things are just two reasons why not. So it came as a surprise to me when Erin had a slight wobble on Sunday night, which caused more than a tremor of a wobble in our place.  

I could see something happening when she was on the phone with her dad.  Erin's mum wasn't in when she made the weekly phone call home but her dad was.  They talked together about a few things then she asked how quickly it took for the kids to appear after the waters broke - conversations like these are popping up all over the place at the moment. 

She wanted to hear about the first born but he told a story about the third instead. He said: 'Originally when we got to the hospital with Robyn, we were told we would be waiting a while, adding it could even be up to 2 days when she would enter the world.  You're mum was told that she wasn't ready yet.'  

That information wasn't quite correct, however.  10 minutes later the third of the De Vos clan was all cuddled up and making her presence know.

(We haven't got her mum's account to verify this yet but as soon as we do I'll let you know.)

We don't have a car and our baby could be born on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Eve or Day. And we've been told by a paediatrician friend that you should listen to your parents' stories as they are the closest you are going to get to retrospective advice.  Erin put these two thoughts together and quietly started the panic machine ticking.  Later, after obviously mulling it over while we were watching The Tudors, we started talking.

The following questions and statements were then asked by the both of us, not sure by who though for most of them:

What if the baby's born on Christmas day? 
What will we do?
What if there are no taxis?  
Could we take an ambulance? 
It could be born in the ambulance! 
Or worse, taxi! 
'I may have to deliver it!', I definitely said this, not Erin.
I continued, 'I'll have to take a class on how to deliver babies!'
We don't have any friends with cars here to help us! 
What are we going to do? 
We're not ready! 
We haven't planned enough!  
We haven't done anything! 

There was more and it took a lot shorter for us to say it all than you took reading it.

We eventually calmed down and Erin said: 'Up until now it's been easy, now it's just going to get more difficult. I'm about to get a lot bigger and this fluttery feeling I keep having is going to start kicking and moving.  (It really is.) But we'll be all right.'

We breathed and hugged.

It was a major reality check for us.  We are planning and will be ready. But sometimes doubts rise to the surface.   

I now have a list of taxi firms at hand and a list of questions - including can we call an ambulance if we think the arrival is imminent? - for the midwife when we see her next week.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Should I stop?

I went for a run this afternoon. On the north bank of the Thames near Embankment I saw a couple pushing a Bugaboo Bee pram. We're interested in getting one of these and there are a few on ebay at the moment so I stopped and asked them what they thought of it. Half way through my question I lost my breath and had to repeat the question. I must have come across as a stalker. They were very nice though, saying it's the best investment they had made and that the pram is very light and great for the city. They added that they are much lighter than Cameleons. Great, it's always good to get real life opinions, not just on-line reviews. But should I stop people like that or stop stopping people like that?

The green dinosaurs

Our friends, James and Claire, stayed over at our house last night.  They went to a wedding celebration in the afternoon then came to ours in the evening.  James was parking up when Claire came in.  She gave Erin a huge hug, then it was my turn, but she rubbed my belly too saying 'this is what we should do isn't it?' I was confused, and slightly self conscious - actually, very self conscious and know that pregnant women must feel ten times worse.  Then James came in with his own usual fanfare and the hugs were given with the following belly rub; once could have been a mistake, twice was an obvious ploy.  

I looked at them both and they said: 'We know the rules. We shouldn't rub Erin's belly, we know, we've been reading the blog on the way down here. So we thought we'd treat you.'  

Thanks guys.

James had printed the whole thing out and read it to Claire in the car.  Poor Claire.  And throughout the evening I heard my words quoted back to me about Angry Pregnant, conditions, and of course, belly rubbing.

The conversation stayed with babies for a while as the celebration they had come from was, apparently, teaming with little tykes.  James had been playing with a few of the toddlers and ended halfway up a chimney 'in the search for dinosaurs'.  So did he see any? 'No, I can't, silly, we adults can't see them but the kids tell me they are green.'  


They've just recently had the arrival of their niece, Maia.  We were shown the photos from their Facebook page and on James' phone.  She was gorgeous.  I don't know what has happened to me since finding out about our pregnancy.  (I used to think they all looked like a very tired, beaten up, Winston Churchill, but now they seem to be adorable.  I'm obviously losing it.)  James gave us an insight into the first two weeks of a baby's life: 'They don't react to you, no smiles, they are just crying and shitting machines.'

As the weekend progressed I'd love to say the conversation did too. But aside from a little Olympics, Russia/Georgia issue and general catch up, with them living very near to their god daughters, we had lots of lively debates about how to bring up children.  It was great, but it's these conversations I'm only just getting used to joining in with. It was unchartered territory until only a few months ago. 

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Half way point

When I was training for my marathon, halfway through my runs, a very welcome little voice appeared in my Ipod saying half way point after which the young lady counted down the miles then meters to the end.

Well this is where we're at with Erin's pregnancy. We've had the warm up, muscles are now getting used to the exercise and Erin is in full swing, ready for the tougher more energy sapping part heading to the finish line.

She's now almost 20 weeks in and according to our emails from she's about to get more fluttering sensations, which Erin is talking about getting a little at the moment. These feel a little weird but worse aches and pains are apparently going to begin soon (Oh no, but this really does sound like marathon training).

The baby should now have a cream film over it called vernix. It protects him from becoming waterlogged by the amniotic fluid. Premature babies have this over them when they come out but if our little one arrives at the right time the film will have gone. The arms and legs should be in the correct proportion and he's developing a layer of fat to keep him warm. If he's a girl she is now carrying half her eggs, which will help her, eventually, make Erin a grandma - not too soon though, hopefully.

From now on we are going to shoot a video each week of Erin - reluctantly might I add - walking around to show her state of pregnancy. Some weeks I'll put it up on the blog, others I won't. At the end though, I'll thread it together and we'll have a film of Erin walking through London, different parts of England and bits of Europe, but more importantly through her pregnancy. It's got a working title of Not Quite A Walk In The Park. Here's the first...

Friday, August 8, 2008

A distant chance of naming the baby after a distant relative

Erin's dad, Bud, has just sent us an email with two name ideas for boys.

His family has a distant connection to England in the baby's great-great-grandfather who was called Orville. So he's put this name up for proposal, as well as his last name, Tyler.

Erin's brother's middle name is Tyler so we would have to ask uncle Seth if he wouldn't mind, which incidently, Erin and I have considered.  

As for Orville, who Bud did follow up saying that he should be a pilot or at least design planes. I have my concerns.  British people will know exactly what I mean when I sing - altogether now:

I wish I could fly
right upto the sky
but I can't
You can
I can't

Orville was a ventriloquist's puppet duck from a dubious comic in the 1980s. Actually, here's the song.

Tyler, maybe. But no to Orville for our child, I'm afraid.

But, I ask Bud, what about if she's a girl? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Junior kick start*

Erin an I were in bed last night chatting about Seth's wedding when she said: 'I think I just felt the baby kick.' With a slight pause, probably to reduce my imminent over-excitement, she followed up with 'but it was probably just wind'.

She said it felt like a tiny little bubbly-air-push in the lower area of her belly. Hopefully it was a kick, maybe it was a little sucker punch. As Erin's going into her 19th week she's dues to feel something. We were only talking earlier, with a hint of worry, that she hadn't felt anything and that the pregnancy magazines and books all mention it could possibly start in week 18.

To get the baby kicking it's apparently a good idea to down a glass of cold water. We were going to do that before Erin felt it independently. I'm glad I forgot to put the water in the fridge.

*Note.  Junior kick Start was a TV favourite of young boys in the early 80s in the UK featuring a motorbike competition with lots of mud during summer holidays.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Girly time...with me too

On Saturday night after we'd had a feast of food, too many laughs - you may think you can never have too many but after Indian food, believe me, you can - and played a game, things were settling down when Alison said to Erin that she should go with her and Kirsty.

Alison was born to be a mother.  She also loves to pass on advice and anything else, if she can. In this instance it was maternity clothes.  She'd mentioned that Erin could have a few clothes, which Erin was very grateful for, so off they went upstairs.

I went up a few minutes later to see what was going on and they were just finishing with the first large sackful of clothes. Alison had stored  her clothes as well as some from a few other friends. There were maternity PJs, skirts, trousers - the elasticated ones which would be great for any fat person - jeans, fleeces, tight tops, loose tops, classy-dressy-dresses and loungey-softy-comfy-joggers.  The lot.

I was also told to try on the baby carrier.  It took three women, manhandling me like I've never been before, for a good few minutes, to get it on but once it was on and a teddy bear was stuffed in it I walked around almost as proud as I will be when I'm walking around London with my little one.

After this, most people left and we were on our way too but not before we got a lesson in nappies (or diapers).  Alison and Railton use the reusable ones which are good for the environment. We'd like to too and so got Alison to give us the lowdown.  We left feeling a little more knowledgeable. And for those days when you just need to use disposable ones, apparently the discount supermarket Lidl does a large pack for a fiver. 

Boy talk

I work with a lot of women and most of my London male friends, and female friends for that matter, don't have children. So on Saturday night when we went to see a group of our friends, some with young children, I spied that it was my chance to see what men think about pregnancy and impending fatherhood.

I'm not sure I was ready for the conversation we were about to have though.

We were in the garden passing a football around (for those in the US we were kicking a round ball).  After we stopped the sport  - both doing and talking about it, and we'd made sure everyone's jobs were as mundane as everyone else's, I asked what it was like to have a little one around 24/7. 

Railton said it's something you just know you have to get used to, do get used to and end up not being able to live without. Simon agreed.  They both talked about it being the best thing they've ever done. 

They asked if we were going find out the sex of the baby, which we're not. They didn't want to either but Railton and Alison were told at their second scan.  It was because of potential difficulties but they weren't told in a very nice way. Something like you do know it's a boy don't you.

Simon then spoke about, in his words, the worst thing about the whole thing - childbirth. 

But you weren't the one who had to go through it, I thought.  I said, 'Why was this then, mate?'

He then took a deep breath and started. 'When Kirsty's waters broke I called the hospital and told them, they said we should wait for regular contractions. And here's my first bit of advice,' he said and paused, 'Wait as long as you physically think is possible to go to the hospital.  You can be relaxed at home.  When you're at the hospital you just want it over and done with.

'We waited quite a while and eventually went to hospital. Everything was going really well until right at the very end and the little one got stuck. The doctor and midwife were taking their time, being very patient, no one was panicking but I was getting very worried.  They eventually said that they were going to have to operate and that I should get some scrubs on.

'When I was ready I went to the operating theatre but they wouldn't let me in.  This was the worst period of time in my life. Ever. I don't know how long it took but it felt longer than forever. When I got in, all I saw was a huge mess and blood around Kirsty.  The little one was dragged out with a  vacuum extractor - it's pretty much a medical plunger. It was terrifying. When she had been born the next thing I saw was a big middle eastern looking doctor around Kirsty giving her stitches. I shudder at the memory.  

'The midwife and nurses were great and calmed me down by offering me a beef sandwich. Kirsty hardly remembers a thing.

'So I would advise Erin to get any and all the painkillers they are offering.  For all that pain, apart from the baby, there's no other reward.  I wouldn't be a hero.'

He then breathed again.  I don't know if he always tells that story or has been storing it up for a while but it was uttered with high octane energy.

I went in the house a bit later to order some food.  I told Erin she might not want to talk to Kirsty about her childbirth.  She said: 'I know, I've already heard.'

North-south divide

We've been up north this weekend vitising friends and family. On Saturday afternoon we went for a walk around two reservoirs. It was great to see lots of young families out and about. Erin and my dad had me playing the name-the-buggy game. As opposed to London's many Bugaboo Cameleons there were an awful lot of Silver Cross and Maclaren pushchairs. I don't think we even saw one Quinny until we went to church on Sunday.