Friday, 30 July 2010

Home births under the spotlight

Regular readers will know that, every now and again, I do like to dive headfirst into a controversial subject, and today’s just such a day.

I read with interest this morning that, according to a top medical journal, women should not be allowed to choose a home birth if it puts their baby at risk.

New research has suggested that home births are twice as likely to result in the death of a newborn baby than hospital births. The study, of 500,000 births across the world found that 0.2% ended tragically.

As a result The Lancet has said that; "Women have the right to chose how and where to give birth, but they do not have the right to put their baby at risk."
I agree.

Mrs B and I have, so far in this pregnancy, had nothing but positive experiences of the NHS and, although no one has told us that we shouldn’t have a home birth, it has been made very clear to us that a hospital birth would be the safest option for mother and baby.

Having also been on a tour of the labour ward at the hospital it was hugely reassuring to see the equipment and facilities and to be shown the various delivery rooms, as well as the nearby operating room should anything go wrong or a caesarean be needed. We met the staff, were walked through the whole process – from arrival to the beds on the ward – and left confident in the ability of our hospital to ensure the health and safety of Mrs B and Baby B.

How can giving birth in your living room possibly compare?

I understand how some parents may want the peace and calm of familiar surroundings, but surely this is selfish on their part? What if the baby needs expert medical attention? What if the equipment and expertise is a drive away? Could you live with yourself if your baby suffers as a result of the time it takes to get him or her to hospital?

And why even put yourself in a position to face these questions in the first place?

I want nothing but the best for my wife and baby and would never do anything to put either of them at risk. A hospital birth is therefore the only thing we would ever consider and I cannot think of a single argument that would make me reconsider?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

From holiday bars to baby baths!

Mrs B and I have just returned from a week-long holiday in France, our last holiday before the arrival of Baby B. Peace, quiet, relaxation and pure, unadulterated slothfulness were all that was on our agenda for the duration of our 'babymoon,' with the extent of our physical exertion beginning and ending with turning the pages of our books.

Why then, upon our return and in our state of zen-like inner-peace, does everyone seem to sadistically revel in telling us how it is all going to change with the arrival of our little one?

We know that holidays will never be the same again, that we won't be able to spend the nights in the local bars and the mornings sleeping off our hangovers. We know that our nice, compact suitcase will be supplemented with tonnes of assorted baby freight and we know that we'll be swapping day trips to nowhere in particular for military-style excursions to Disney (or more frugal alternatives).
What we don't need is other parents telling us how awful it is all going to be. For starters, why does it need to be awful? Yes, I don't doubt for a second that it is going to be hard work, but surely the joy of taking your offspring with you outweighs the hardship? And would these parents really have it any other way? Ok, some may prefer to leave their kids with childminders or play schemes in order to have half an hour to themselves, but holidays are part and parcel of family life and we're, perhaps ignorantly, looking forward to it.

Of course we are also well aware of the fact that our choice of holiday location will have to change. I doubt very much whether, next summer, our six-month-old will fully appreciate the significance of a walk along the great wall of China, or be able to join us on a scuba-diving trip to the Red Sea. So, I have a funny feeling that we will be staycationing in the UK next year, but what on earth is wrong with that? I can't wait.

Are holidays with babies and toddlers all that bad? Share your stories in the comments below. 
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Monday, 26 July 2010

Fat or fiction?

The western world’s obsession with body image is as obvious as Victoria Beckham’s need for a jolly good meal. Fat is bad, thin is good, or so the TV tells us anyway.

No matter where you turn it seems that headline-hungry journalists are churning out stories on a daily basis, telling us why our favourite foods will either kill us or turn is in to house-sized humans. These shock and awe – or choc and awe – stories are usually targeted at body-conscious adults, aiming to scare them in to changing their ways, or at least in to forking out for healthy-living alternatives. Now, however, it seems that children and pregnant women are once again in the spotlight.

In the space of a day I have read that pregnant women who eat ‘for two’ are at risk of becoming obese and that – perhaps reacting to the likelihood of these newly obese mums raising newly obese children – Marks & Spencer have started selling a new range of school uniforms for overweight three-year-olds.
Of course I am not for one minute going to suggest that women and children should ignore all that has been written and head for their nearest McDonald’s. Indeed, Mrs B and I have taken a lot from the advice offered in a range of magazines and books, but I do think we need to take this information overload with a pinch of salt (sticking to recommended daily allowance guidelines of course).

The media loves to scare us, it always has (anyone remember Swine Flu?!), but hang on a minute, women have brought healthy children in to the world, without themselves turning in to elephants, since time began. And are we meant to believe that all our children will end up needing oversized clothes if we let them have the occasional chocolate digestive?

Come on people, let’s get a grip. Healthy eating is essential to healthy living, but this is nothing new and we shouldn’t live our lives terrified of everything we put in to our, or our children’s mouths.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

No one ever told me that...

Over the past seven months I've read almost as many books, magazines and websites as Mrs B. I've become au fait with all the amazing and magically intricate changes that are taking place in my wife's body, and in the growing body of our baby. I've also learned, or at least read with interest and varying degrees of scepticism, about what we can both expect now, over the coming weeks and months, and once Baby B arrives.

For a first-time father I think I'm pretty clued up, or at least I thought I was.

Last night I discovered something that none of the expert literature mentioned, a pregnancy side effect that struck us, and me in particular, out of blue, sending shockwaves through our house, and possibly our neighbours' houses to boot.

Mrs B has begun to snore.

And we're talking proper snoring, the kind of snoring that's usually reserved for post-Christmas dinner grandfathers in their favourite armchairs, the kind of snoring that rattles glasses like the 'here comes the T-Rex' scene in Jurassic Park.
To say that I was surprised was an understatement. My wife has never snored. Indeed, she usually lies next to me barely breathing, making only the slightest noises as she peacefully drifts away to slumberland.

Last night, however, and indeed over the last few nights, my wife was replaced by a steam train, hammering away for hours on end and leaving me staring at the ceiling.

I can only put the end of my beloved sleep down to my unborn son or daughter, but am I alone? Are there other sleep-deprived fathers out there who have fallen foul of this secret pregnancy side effect? Can we start a support group?

More importantly, can I catch 20 winks at my desk now without anyone noticing?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Big boys don't cry, do they?

'Are you crying?' Mrs B asks as the credits roll on Forest Gump.

'Um, no' I lie, thankful for the darkness of our lounge as I subtly wipe away a tear and rapidly change the subject. 'Right then, must put the rubbish out!'

But it seems I'm not alone at being a guy and a self-confessed 30-something occasional movie weeper. Indeed, the BBC has reported  that the newly released Toy Story 3 is reducing men everywhere to sobbing wrecks. Yes, that's right, a cartoon is causing guys everywhere to reach for their hankies.
We're supposed to be impervious to such triviality, genetically programmed to enjoy Die Hard, Rocky and Rambo while scoffing at Disney and Pixar. What will our children think if they see the dependable, emotionally tough father figure in their lives in floods at the death of Bambi's mother? How can we possibly sit on the same sofa if the Lion King turns us in to Gazza a la Italia '90?

In reality, however, of course there's nothing wrong with expressing a bit of 'female emotion,' as one researcher put it. Why should guys fight back the tears if they're watching a moving story in the presence of their nearest and dearest? It's more than likely that you're watching the movie with the person or people who have seen you at your worst anyway, so surely it's ok for men and dads to have a good cry every now and again. Indeed, I especially defy any dog-loving guy out there not to well up at the end of Marley and Me!

As for my verdict on Toy Story 3, I'll let you know once I've plucked up the courage to go and see it.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Out-of-hours babies at higher risk of death

It was one of the last items on the news this morning, is buried deep in today's papers and is hidden on the front page of the BBC website, but the story that babies are a third more likely to die if they are born 'out-of-hours' is one that will surely scare the living daylights out of thousands of soon-to-be parents like Mrs B and myself.

The analysis of over one million births over two decades in Scotland has concluded that newborn babies face a greater risk of dying if they are born at the weekend or outside of 0900-1700 Monday to Friday office hours. The reasons given are that there is less access to facilities and expert staff during these times.

Not wishing to scaremonger at all, the risk of death is still very small (5.6 babies per 10,000 out of hours, compared to 4.2 per 10,000 during normal hours). However, no matter how low the risk, the fact that this variation exists at all is surely utterly unacceptable in today's modern world.

A working week consists of 40 hours, but what percentage of babies time their arrival to avoid the week's other 128 hours? And why are senior staff clocking off at 5pm? From the little I have seen and the little I know on a personal level, I thought nurses and doctors worked on a shift basis, covering all key areas like A&E and maternity around the clock. Is this not the case? If Baby B arrives at 5pm will we pass the senior consultants trooping out of the labour ward as we make our way in?

It is so tragically sad to think that those little lives were lost, purely because they were born outside of office hours.

This simply should not happen in 21st Century Britain and, Mr Cameron, something needs to be done now.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

NCT, bumps and raffle tickets...

Over recent months we have heard more and more positive stories about the pratical and social benefits of membership to the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).  Championed by parents who signed up and took part in the antenatal classes prior to the arrival of their own children, NCT has been sold to us as a must-attend series of classes at which we are apparently guaranteed to make friends for life.

The ever-sceptical cynic within me, however, can't help but feel slightly wary of friend-making events or, dare I say it, any form of 'networking' (meeting up with people you share nothing in common with and pretending to like them). So, ahead of last night's welcome evening - our first experience of NCT - I was understandably apprehensive.

It was, however, all a pleasant surprise, apart from the blatant fixing of the raffle.

Now, as you may well have concluded already if you're a regular reader, Mrs B and I are intensely competitive. So competitive in fact that we recently went head-to-head with a six-year-old and spent £10 on a 20p-per-ticket church charity tombola in order to ensure that we won the prize we were after and he didn't. Does that make us awful people?

Having sat through the entire NCT evening and enjoyed the various speakers, and armed with five raffle tickets, we were therefore hopeful of scooping at least one of the 28 prizes on offer. It was, we believed, a nailed on certainty that we'd walk away with some vouchers or at least some BuggyFit classes. As it turned out the odds were good, but the numbers weren't.
592, 543, 637, 621, 552...and so they went on, all falling either side of 600-605.

Our mood darkened. All of a sudden we were viewing our similarly conditioned peers with envious eyes and it didn't help matters that our table of six - with a combined total of 30 tickets - only managed to win a baby's rattle. It was a poor return on our investment.

From there the evening became a freebie-grabbing free-for-all as those who had failed in the raffle eyed up the free items on offer.Never before had we been so keen to get our hands on a hessian bag and baby's bib, but we weren't the only ones and, after all the bibs had been snapped up, a bidding frenzy ensued with dads around the room keen to swap blue for pink and vice versa, depending on the sex of their unborns. In the space of a few minutes we'd gone from a dignified sit down evening to the closing seconds of trading on the floor of the London stock exchange.

And this was the welcome evening, one can only imagine what the nearly new sales are like!

Regardless, however, Mrs B and I reflected on an entertaining evening in the car on the way home, secure in the knowledge that a last second deal with Table 4 had secured both pink and blue bibs for Baby B.

As for NCT, we're now really looking forward to starting the lessons in September.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Virtual boy, virtually ridiculous!

Microsoft has today unveiled its latest innovation for the XBox, a 'virtual human' that can react to a person's emotions, body movements and voice.

A groundbreaking and almost unbelievable piece of futuristic software that's fit for any time-travelling movie, Microsoft are set to make countless millions from it. One tiny problem, however, is that this could be just the thing that's needed to turn a planet of already obese, computer-addicted children into total Microsoft zombies who prefer to interact with virtual human beings than real ones.

The virtual boy, dubbed 'Milo', is shown in a video example on this news site, and there's no doubt that he's incredibly clever - if a bit wet behind the ears and unrealistically keen to do his homework - but if these characters are as interactive as Microsoft lead us to believe, then will this mean that children actually turn to their computers for friendship and companionship? If so, what affect will this have on children's ability to form genuine relationships with real people and what happens, heaven forbid, if Little Tommy's virtual best friend breaks down or is accidentally erased?
On the flip side, of course, there is an argument to suggest that virtual friends could provide an effective way of teaching children all kinds of life lessons and even offer them a place to turn to if they are too nervous, embarrassed or uncertain to talk to their parents, peers or teachers. But is this opening up the world's biggest can of worms?

What happens if Milo doesn't have the right answers? What happens if Milo doesn't offer appropriate advice? What happens if Milo turns out to be a bit of prat?

Microsoft, as ever, has come up with a revolutionary way for people to interact with their computers, but has anyone actually stopped to look at the dangers and risks such software could raise? And are parents ok with the idea of introducing a digital friend in to the lives of their little ones?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Crystal balls and testicular temperature?!

Mrs B and I enjoyed an impromptu visit from some similarly pregnafied (I hereby trademark this new word) friends this weekend. Mr and Mrs M are two months ahead of us and, savouring the July sunshine with a round of decaf coffees in the garden, we spent a couple of hours conforming to the norm when it comes to first-time parents.

Indeed, having once scoffed at smug, newly-marrieds who endlessly harp on about their bundles of unborn joy, our entire conversation this weekend centred around breast pumps, prams, nappies, nurseries and birth plans.

Pausing for a second in the midst of one debate on the pros and cons of reusable nappies and the inevitable pressure on one's washing machine, I reflected on the situation with Mr M.

'Is it just me, or is this is all a bit surreal?' I asked.

'Don't worry mate,' he reassured me. 'I can't quite believe it either, middle age here we come!' At which point I noticed I was wearing slippers.

Truth be told, it was great to be able to talk openly about the huge changes that are on the horizon for all of us and the experiences we've had so far. At one point, however, as the conversation turned to the sex of our respective offspring, Mrs M hit us with an old wives' tale that we had never previously heard.

'Of course,' she said matter-of-factly, 'it all comes down to the temperature of your testicles.'

Blank faces around the table.
'It's true,' Mrs M reassured us, sensing the doubt in our puzzled expressions. 'If your boys were cold at the time of conception then it'll be a boy, and if they were hot then it'll be a girl.'

So, using this newly acquired knowledge and dating their day of take-off back to December last year and ours to late January (on the other side of the world) we were able to work out, from the respective temperatures of our aforementioned bits and pieces, that we can expect a girl in October and the Ms a boy in August.

Anyone currently trying for a baby and keen for either a boy or a girl can therefore forget the science and, instead, reach for a thermometer and either visit the nearest sauna or sit atop the freezer for an hour.

Will the testicular temperature theory prove correct? We'll know by the end of October. In the meantime, I think I'll refrain from bulk buying everything in pink, just in case.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Bump, kick, punch - the joys of 'bumping'

Modern day entertainment comes in all shapes and sizes, with cinema, theatre, radio, TV, high-def TV - and now even high-def 3D TV - all vying for our attention, our time and our cash.

Mrs B and I, however, have discovered a new form of entertainment that's entirely free, available to us around the clock and more entertaining than anything the mainstream entertainment industry could put our way. We call it 'bump watching' or, as it will surely become known in street slang, 'bumping.'

Bumping has taken over our lives as, at any given opportunity, we stop what we're doing to watch our unborn child kicking, punching, moving and generally making him/herself known inside Mrs B.

Sat outside in our garden, for instance, our puzzled neighbours must look on with amusement whenever Mrs B hitches up her top and I squat down to stare at her stomach. Even stranger when I clasp my hands on the bump and the pair of us remain silent and motionless.
Although entirely unpredictable Bumping can be assisted with a variety of stimuli, we've found that different foods trigger different reactions (marshmallows = intensive internal kung-fu), while the sound of our voices and the Coronation Street theme tune often evoke a more subtle, gentle kicking. EastEnders, meanwhile, triggers nothing!

The time of the day also makes a difference as Baby B seems to enjoy waiting until the very second that his/her parents say goodnight and turn off the bedroom light before initiating a womb-based can-can session. Cue the light going back on and a 15-minute Bumping session.

Of course, at 25-weeks this is all entirely normal and we've been told that we can expect Bumping to get better and better as Mrs B's pregnancy goes on. Baby B is now around 35cm long and weighing in at around 660grams, his/her senses are becoming more developed along with the brain, and he/she will now begin to respond to light as well.

In short, Baby B is becoming stronger every day and now being able to see and feel our little one is making us feel closer to him or her than ever.

But how will Bumping progress over the coming weeks? We've decided to test the potential for musical reactions for starters. So watch this space for a list of top Bumping tunes. Will bump react better to Take That and Westlife, or Oasis and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? Place your bets now!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sponge squares and pink custard

I read with interest this morning that the number of schoolchildren eating school dinners has risen in recent years, a fact that can surely mean one of only two things. Either our obesely-tongued friend Jamie Oliver has convinced the nation's youngsters to adhere to a diet of lettuce and bread sticks, or turkey twizzlers, chips and beans are more prolific now than ever before.

I'm not going to pretend that I know the answer to this particular conundrum, but I do know that school dinners are a British institution; a rite of passage that all children should be forced to navigate their way through; a triumph of blandness over presentation and taste; and the only option open to children who don't wish to carry around a Tweenies lunchbox when they're 14.
Back in my day - cue Hovis-advert soundtrack - my school dinner experiences were varied. At primary school I detested the oddly-coloured slop that was slapped on our plates by the terrifying dinner ladies. Lunch became a painful chore - hurriedly consumed between more important play-time sessions of tag and British bulldog - at which the headmistress would look over us, spotting any stray peas hidden under spoons from a hundred yards and threatening to make us eat them the following day if we didn't suck them down there and then (surely violating a wealth of health and safety protocols in the process).

Pudding at primary school, meanwhile, was an almost psychedelic experience. My only memory of desert, in fact, is that of tasteless square bricks of sponge, coated in lashings of pink custard. Yes, pink custard!

At secondary school, however, school dinners took on a whole new dimension. Suddenly we had queues, trays, choice and tills. Indeed, we could choose from an array of spectacularly unhealthy foods and pay for the privilege each and every lunch time, it was the food equivalent of the summer of love. So, with my parents oblivious, I unashamedly lived off chips and beans for my entire secondary education, as did most of my friends and peers, and most of the teachers I seem to remember too.

Now I'm about to become a parent though, should Mrs B and I actually be concerned about what our little one will be consuming at school age? Of course we should, and of course we will. But should we deny them the chance to choose, should we wrap them in cotton wool (or at least wholemeal bread) and send them off to school with the Tweenies? No, absolutely not. School dinners never did me any harm in the 80s and they won't do Baby B any harm in the 21st Century. Proper education at home as to what's healthy and what's not will help, of course, but it's every child and young person's right to choose.

As for dinner tonight, where did I put that can of pink custard?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

"Think McFly...think!"

Having succesfully navigated my way through 33 years of life on this planet, and watched the occasional episode of 'The Real Hustle,' I would like to think that I've developed a heightened sense of awareness for cons, hoaxes, tricks and scams. Indeed, I now go to extreme lengths to shield my pin number from prying eyes (hunching over the cash machine like the world's most short-sighted man), I have developed a receipt-shredding obsession and I'm wary of anyone knocking on our front door. In short, my inbuilt con-radar and self-confessed paranoia means that I'm not easily fooled.

Yesterday, however, my shields must have been down as I fell - hook line and proverbial sinker - for a hoax that spread like wild fire via the gossip-machine that is Twitter. The reason for my moment of weakness? A childhood obsession with the film Back To The Future.

Now, as anyone brought up in the 80s will know, Steven Spielberg's Back To The Future trilogy brought us a time-travelling DeLorean, a mad professor and a skateboarding Marty McFly...all the ingredients you need to make a huge impression on an impressionable eight-year-old.

Twenty-five year's later, Twitter proclaimed that July 5th, 2010 was 'Future Day' - the day in the second film to which Doc and Marty travel, experiencing a world of flying cars, self-fastening trainers and hoverboards when they got there. A landmark day in cinematic history, albeit entirely fictional.
So it was that I happily retweeted the aforementioned tweet, despite the fact that - as I found out this morning - it turned out to be a complete hoax. Indeed, 'Future Day' as it became known, doesn't actually occur until October 21, 2015, which does at least give us another five years to lift our entire transport network from the ground to the sky.

I had been suckered in to fanning the flames of a Twitter hoax, but I don't really mind. The whole incident has led me to reflect on the impact that this trilogy of films has had on a generation of children. I am by no means a film buff or cinema nerd, but I do love the magic of Spielberg's time-travelling adventures and would happily watch the films time and time again (well, maybe not the third one so much).

The huge impact that film can have on young minds is clear and this has just made me think further about what, in the future, may have the same affect on Baby B and his or her friends. However, it appears to me that Hollywood has become obsessed with churning out children's films that sacrifice story for special effects, spending millions to create something that is visually spectacular but narratively appalling and utterly forgettable.

Children love adventure, or at least they did when I was growing up, so why not forget the special effects and produce the next generation of films like The Goonies, the original Indiana Jones trilogy, Back to The Future, Star Wars (puppets and costumes instead of blue screen), Labyrinth and Gremlins?!

I may be showing my age a bit, but which of today's cinematic offerings do you think will be the centre of Twitter hoaxes in 25 years' time?

"Think McFly...think!"

Monday, 5 July 2010

The tat and the tip

'Make the most of your weekends,' people tell us, 'relax and spend some quality time together before the baby arrives.' Wise words indeed and, this weekend, Mrs B and I ignored them completely to spend both days knee deep in a mountain of assorted rubbish.

It wasn't that we didn't want to relax, it was more that the ever multiplying amount of baby-related odds and sods, coupled with about 20-years' worth of clutter, meant that the long overdue 'sort out' was now becoming unavoidable. It was either that, or we'd start putting together a nursery that featured a cot, baby changing unit, desk, computer, piles of old magazines and parts of a gym! Not the most relaxing of environments for Baby B, although he/she would develop strong biceps given time.

So this weekend was spent with Mrs B sorting through boxes of things downstairs, while I busied myself banging my head and cursing in the loft. And what en eye opening exercise it proved to be.

Mass clear outs serve as a wake up call, making it evident to the clearers just how much rubbish they have kept over the years. For instance, our rummage revealed boxes of old Christmas and birthday cards - yes, lovely at the time, but why keep them for 10 years? Then there were the piles of work from old jobs, serving to do nothing but remind us of how much we did for such little money and why we left the jobs in the first place. Ten-year-old cosmetics, tennis rackets with broken strings, random pieces of furniture, cracked picture frames, 100s of VHS tapes (presumably kept in case VHS ever has a resurgence in popularity, and despite our lack of a VHS player) and ditto with casette tapes.
By 3pm on Sunday afternoon I had developed a perma-bruise on the top of my head from one particularly low-lying loft beam and we had filled the car with an impressive array of tat. A trip to the local tip (itself an eye opening experience) disposed of the junk and we have been left with separate piles of useful tat for charity shops, ebay and the inevitable car-boot sale.

Little does Baby B know how much work his/her mum and dad are doing ahead of his/her arrival. However, our little one has already helped us to declutter our lives, to focus our energies on creating a loving home and to finally get rid of those dumbbells that have made me feel guilty for ignoring them over the past 10 years!

Now, anyone fancy making a bid for Top Gun on VHS?

Friday, 2 July 2010

June 2010 - What did you miss?

If you're new to Clued Up Dads, here's what you missed in June...

Commuter dilemma of the day: Fat or pregnant?!
Pregnancy week 22: From cranberry to banana
Bump lurve the cake!
Pregnancy and exercise: To run or not to run?!
Scan you believe it!
The relief of the 20-week scan
Flip flop flop
Ebeneezer good
Wife loses husband in B&Q!
Football - a story of dads and sons
Mother-in-law's intuition
Plasters, grazed knees and black eyes!
Sporting idols worth worshipping
24-week abortion limit debate
Nearly new sales...
World Cup woe and newborn hopes
Journo calls breastfeeding "creepy"
Pre-baby pressure
Can a winning mentality be taught?

Six months pregnant, or are we?

Today - according to the numerous emails that seem to clutter our inboxes from baby-related websites that we have never heard of, let alone visited or signed up for - we are officially six months pregnant. Which has left me rather confused.

As far as I can remember from GCSE Biology, the human gestation period is nine months, from kick-off to the big day. Just as the world is round and the sky is blue, it's a figure and fact that we have all been brought up on. Indeed, we can all expect a newborn baby to deny us the chance of sleeping in our beds approximately nine months after the bed-related activity set the whole ball rolling in the first place. Right?


Mrs B and I have, on the whole, been counting the pregnancy in weeks rather than months and, as we all know, there are 40 weeks to count. So, hang on a minute, with months averaging four weeks, that's 10 months in total!

Now, having confirmation from our cyber stalkers that we're six months pregnant already, and with a due date towards the end of October, we have almost four months still to go. So, again, we're looking at a 10-month pregnancy.

To add further confusion, it seems that how far along you are can also be a matter of interpretation. For example, if you are 24 weeks and 1 day you could either say you are 24 weeks pregnant (as in time passed) or 25 weeks pregnant (as you are currently in your 25th week), and the same could apply to months.

Of course, back at the beginning your other half is also 'pregnant' before you've even found your way to the bedroom as the whole process is measured from her last period and not from the moment you fulfilled your initial parental duties!

In short, it's all a bit more complicated than they lead us to believe back when we were giggling at low budget sex education films in biology.

Regardless though, Baby B is on his/her way and, at six months, it's all seeming very real indeed.

Scared? Yes. Excited? Undoubtedly.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

One man went to mow...

When you're young, attentive and easily impressed by machines that either make a noise, cut or chop things, then watching your father or grandfather mow the lawn is a little like watching Geoff Capes pulling a lorry. In short, you're hugely impressed, it's a bit dangerous and you never think you'll be able to do it, although you're desperate to give it a go.

Now, 30-something years later, I know how my father and grandfather felt. Yesterday it dawned on me that the newly layed turf in our previously-concreted back garden had grown sufficiently to require a trim. So, having first assembled the lawn mower (itself a manly experience), I set about mowing the lawn.

Proudly strolling up and down the turf, trailing a wire behind me and ensuring that the noise of my machinery would go noticed by our neighbours (look at me, mastering the power of this actually rather underpowered suburban mower), I tamed the jungle that was our new lawn.

Assuming the role of Wembley groundsman, I attempted to mow neat lines in alternate directions in order to create a pitch fit for an FA Cup Final.
It was a proud moment and, as I finished by strimming the edges (requiring another suitably noisy piece of machinery) I stood back to admire my handiwork. My straight lines were a little wonky and I'd missed a couple of patches, but it looked good, I had a full bag of trimmings and the air was filled with the sweet smell of newly cut grass.

This was, I reflected, what it felt like to be a Dad.

I had mowed my lawn and one day my son or daughter may well watch me doing this with the same comforting sense of pride that I had done with my grandfather.

What next? Sorting the loft and climbing ladders perhaps?