Sunday, November 30, 2008


Erin's just read her star sign for this week from the Observer Magazine.

Faster! Given the following wind granted you until Christmas, the despatch of outstanding business should be simple, plus you can instigate new projects even complex ones, with minimum opposition.  Avoid getting sidetracked and sneak a favourite scheme under the wire.  A similarly abrupt attitude may apply to relationships...

Erin's response: 'That's rubbish.  That doesn't tell me if I'm going to have the baby this week or not.'

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Daddy class IV - The final chapter

When people find out you're pregnant the first question is usually When's your due date?  Then it might be do you know what you're having? And then the debate starts on baby names. People feel very free with talking about names, everyone's got one, and everyone likes having a go at influencing your baby's name.

The last thing people talk about is labor. I did this once with friends back up north, and I now know why people don't. It's the unwritten rule

Last night's class, however, was all about labour. A guest midwife was invited to come in and - without our partners in the room - the theory was that we would ask the most pertinent questions (but we all know they know more gory stuff than we would ever delve into anyway).

Well, Julie was the midwife, the one who Erin and I met last Friday. We were in for a good night.

We started at 6:30. As one question was answered the next one lept off the tongues of the men. We started with the moods of our partners, then got into labor, then on to what men should be doing in the first few days, then back to what we should be doing in labor, massage in labor, how much labour hurts, what the best birthing position for women is, the best position for men at that time, what the baby will look like, what problems could occur at the beginning of a baby's life, what injections the baby should have, when the next visit to the doctors should be, how long it takes a woman to heal after the birth, then back to the labour. And the forceps and venteuse.

These were in Julie's bag of goodies (or is that baddies?).  A Venteuse looks like a Fisher Price toy but the forceps look like BBQ forks, nothing toylike whatsoever.

Back to the questions. What should we say or not say during labor? What should we wear and what should be in the pregnancy plan and bag you bring to the hospital?

8 o clock came very soon.  Too soon. We still had plenty more to ask.  But after we left with little gems such as only offer two fingers for the woman to hold so she doesn't crush your hand, we went for an end of term drink.

The conversation in the pub?  Baby names.

What a difference a day makes

The class last Friday was a little more relaxed than Thursday's.

We were met by the firm-but-fair-motherly-type midwife Julie who took us through what to expect after the days after labour.  These days may be fraught with fear and epic tiredness but the class was delivered in caring and knowing tones. There was a great you'll-be-all-right nuance throughout the morning.

I really do wonder what it would have been like if she'd taken the class the day before.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Scary movie

On Thursday and Friday, Erin and I attended parents' classes at St Thomas Hospital. The first was a full day about the birth, and the second was all about what happens when the little one arrives.

We were joined by other expectant women in various state of bump. There was about forty of us in the room. Around half of the women were joined by their partners who were in a various state of anxiety.

It was scary, no traumatic and most of it will not be written down here. Words like Pre-eclampsia, Gestational Diabetes, and Hypoglycemia were just the tip of the iceberg.

We were put in groups and met new people who were due around the same time as us, but as soon as we were, we had to discuss pain relief - Gas and Air, Water Birth, TENs Machine and/or Epidural.

After we went through those it was on to a ranting lecture on when to come into the hospital and when Established Labor is. They are both at the same time - after the cervix is 4 cm dilated, apparently. When the waters break we can call them, and should call them, but should not at any costs go to hospital straight away. We were told in no uncertain terms that we would be sent back home if we were there too early.

Lecture over, onto a video.  And if we thought what we were being told was scary, then this was taken to a whole new level.

I think the director and editor of the video may have been a young James Wan who went on to work on the Saw films. It was supposed be a real-life look at labor. It turned out to be a harrowing 5 minutes of a woman screaming without hearing her natural sound, only panpipes in the background. And anyone who knows the sound of panpipes knows that's scarier than screaming. Both together were truly X-rated. If it wasn't specifically designed for them, you'd advise pregnant women not to watch it.

Then came lunch. Surprisingly, we weren't very hungry.

Things got better after lunch.  And towards the end we were taken to see the wards we would be on if we were given Home from Home care.  Single wards over looking the Houses of Parliament.  

This was very cool and something to look forward(ish) to but Erin and I still didn't sleep very well on Thursday after what we had learned.  I wonder why.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daddy class III

We were welcomed to the class last night, not by the teacher, Janice, but the youngest member of our class who flipped open his phone and said: 'Meet Ella.'  

His partner gave birth on Tuesday after 3 days and 15 hours of labor, that's 87 hours.  87.

All I could think was, crikey that's almost a (cricket) Test Match.  And I'm sure a lot more of a rollercoaster.

Anway, even though he'd come straight to the class from work after that ultra-marathon-labor, you couldn't wipe the smile off his face and the baby had given him a new lease of life.

We were asked to think about 3 things: how we thought life would change after the birth with our partners, work and friends.

We all thought our priorities would change.  Some would work harder to get more money, others work less as they do too much.  Some mentioned life would now have to be more planned. And all of us said we would be going to the pub less.

The last question on our sheet asked us how we thought we would change as people. I wrote quite an essay.  I got a bit serious, thinking what we're going to have to do in the next few weeks, months and years, about the books I now read from what I used to, and how life is just going to be a whole lot different - all in a state of exhaustion.  

I snapped out of it by telling myself I wouldn't become a typical dad with certain things.  Music was the first I thought about.  I might dance like a dad already, but I won't be buying any Phil Collins or James Blunt in a hurry.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This'll be the last time...

Beware this is a rant...

Two things, one's a question, the other a statement, keep cropping up in conversations at the moment. They grate.  The answers are December 30th and, yes, we know this will be the last ...(fill in appropriate occasion)... where we'll be as a couple and not a family.

As it's written above, the latter sounds nice. Erin and I will, in a couple of weeks, all being well, have started a family. But that's seemingly not how it's meant by others.  At a recent wedding we were watching a father entertaining his daughter by taking her up and down the stairs.  The mother caught Erin's eye (and saw her belly) and instantly turned round with what can only be described as spite in her words: 'Make the most of this, it's your last wedding as just the two of you.'

First of all how did she know we weren't invited to the next Hello magazine celeb affair?  

And secondly - I might regret this statement later - but surely bringing up a baby, no matter how tiring, how life changing, how prioratising, it shouldn't leave you bitter should it?  Erin and I have a had a great run so far and are ready for a family.

So the lucky couples, who I know, who haven't got a child, rest assured, if you do get pregnant, and you're in my company, I won't be uttering those horridly smug words. (But I can't promise I won't use too many commas in your congrats card.)

Nor will I constantly ask you when you're due date is.

If I ask twice it'll be too many.

There's a woman at work who knows what week Erin's pregnancy is on, when her next midwife appointment is and the day the baby is due.  This may be over efficient - she's the best PA I know, by the way - but she shows that she also listens. 

Before I was married I would sometimes get wedding invitations and not reply by the RSVP date. I am apologising now to those people who I let down.  Since getting married, knowing how annoying this is, I do reply - or more correctly, Erin and I make sure we get the RSVP off as quick as we can.  People planning a wedding need to know you're coming, for numbers and that they know their special day is also important to you.

It's the same when people are pregnant.  It's our priority and we're talking about it a lot.  I know it's not yours, but if you're asking more than 4 or 5 times and not remembering, we know you don't really care.

I used to get a little peeved when people would ask about Erin's well being and not mine.  I don't care about that any more as she's the important one. But the other two sentences?  Well, now you know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daddy class II

I was late for Daddy's class last night.  When I walked in, it looked like only three of the 7 lads who attended last week had turned up, but the group had been split in two.

I joined two of them on the floor discussing a group of words which had to be placed in a diamond shape to state the most important to a father.

In no particular order, here they are:

Bread Winner
Role Model
Practical Carer
Good Communicator

It was obviously more about the discussion than the order we eventually put the words in but we put Role Model at the top with Dependable and Responsible just under it.  Our logic was that if you are these things and the others below, such as playful and loving - and help to distinguish between what it is right and wrong - a father will naturally become a role model.

This theory was slightly blown out of the water when one of the lads in the other group - who didn't have a great relationship with his dad - said that as his dad wasn't a role model, nor around much for him, and our top pick didn't mean anything to him.  We tried to argue that being a role model is what he could personally strive for rather than just remembering the experience of his dad, but he wasn't having it.

The discussions throughout the night really brought home to me that our only true experience of fatherhood is from our dads.  

Glad I have a good one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We'll always have Paris

Paris was great.  We met our friend Sarah at Gare Du Nord and went back to hers near the Pomidou Centre on Friday night.

The weekend consisted of walking, almond croissants, the Eiffel Tower, (Above - note it's not the one in Blackpool) a boat trip along the River Seine, and cafe bars drinking coffee and hot chocolate.

It was good chatting with Sarah and catching up but a lot of the time - which was noted by Erin - I was quite quiet and just enjoyed relaxing.  

I was quite day-dreamy, probably as this was the last trip Erin and I would do on our own. Everywhere I went would remind me of the past, present and indeed make me think of the future.  If there was a smoochy young couple I'd think of our trips around China, to Thailand or Summers in the US.  If I saw a pregnant woman it would make me think about what Erin is currently going through, most of which I can't comprehend.  And when there was a pram in the vacinity, it was all about the future which filled me with both excitement and anxiety.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daddy class I

'Tonight is going to be all about handling the baby,' Janice, the leader of the Expectant Father's Class at St Thomas' Hospital, told the 7 of us men who had ventured forth to learn what the heck we are supposed to do when we become dads.

My initial thoughts were brilliant, we're going to learn the 3-step-putting-kids-on-your- shoulders-manoeurve-without-pulling-your-back. Or, brilliant, we're going to learn the daddy throw (click here to see what I mean - 12 pictures down).

But...I soon realised this was not what we were going to learn as I saw a dreaded baby doll with a nappy on in one corner and another one in a baby bath tub opposite.

After the initial introduction we each explained who we were by stating our name, the name of our partner, how far into her pregnancy she was and why we had come to the lesson (Most of us had already found out while we were waiting for the class to start - we were asking all these questions, not the usual work or sport related ones). The pregnancy dates ranged from 20 weeks to 36, and the reasons were from being forced by partners to a general fear, meeting others to having read too many books which were mind blowing.

Janice cracked on with the lesson by asking who had changed a nappy. Three of us put our hands up. She continued by saying we were going to change the nappy of the baby doll in the corner and she needed a volunteer. All this was said while looking at me. I was the intended volunteer. Half way through realising this I worked out that the only time I had done this had been 18 years ago. Anyway, I got up and took the nappy off pretending there was a great smell, got a few baby-wipes, wiped, got the next nappy, put it on rather awkwardly and sat down with an amazingly sweaty brow (All of this was done with a lot of encouragement and help from the crowd).

Janice was kind in her praise and pointed out that we should talk to the baby - good for bonding - cuddle afterwards, wipe from top to bottom and showed us some holding/cuddling techniques (I'm ashamed to say we needed them).

Everyone else got their own turn and then it was over to the table next to the door for bath-time.

She took us through top and tailing, washing the baby's head - in an 'American football hold' - and a full bath. We were told that a bath is only necessary once a week unless they're really mucky and washing the face and private parts is the only thing you need to do every day.

Then it was splash time for us all.

Next week is about What Type Of Dad We Want To Be. My guess is that has to include a part when we talk about if we're going be a Scalextric-buying-dad or train set-buying-dad. But I might be wrong.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day

Guess where Erin is from and who she's voting for.

The baby would also vote for Obama but didn't get an absentee ballot.  Erin's eating for two and crossing the road for two, so she's a bit hacked off she didn't get to vote for two.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sleep easy

Erin was away most of last week.   Two stand out things happened.  

First, I went for beers and a curry with Chris and Dave as our girls were out of town.  We talked about the US elections, the BBC's current struggles and class. The latter sounded a bit like this.  
But admittedly less funny.

And then I woke up on Thursday feeling weird, realising there was something different - don't let your overactive imaginations runaway with yourselves - I had slept the whole night through. No little nudges to wake me up, no snoring, no moaning.  Nothing to keep me from my dreams. It had taken me a few days to get used to, but I was no longer sleeping - or constantly waking  - with a pregnant woman.

Erin is feeling the weight of pregnancy at the moment - she's asked me a few times if I can carry this, while pointing at her belly - but especially at night.  The baby doesn't like it if Erin sleeps on her left, if she lies on her back she snores, and she only gets comfortable on one position for a short time during fitful sleep.

Things got back to normal when Erin got back.  Who needs a full night's sleep?  It's preparation for the baby being here I suppose.