Friday, 27 August 2010

Ventouse the daddy?

Having watched enough episodes of ER over the years I am - should I find myself in charge of an emergency situation - certain that a prompt CBC and Chem 7 would assure a speedy recovery for my unlucky patient, whatever the blood curdling trauma or injury. Afterall, it worked for Clooney and Goose from Top Gun for years!

Pregnancy, however, is a wholly different kettle of fish, complete with its own terrifying technical terminology.

This week, for instance, I have been researching the decisions Mrs B and I need to make with regards to our 'birth plan' - a term that itself sounds a bit too tree-huggy, new age for my liking - and been once again faced with the daunting labour ward language that we're going to have to adopt over the coming weeks.

Ventouse, pethidine, entonox and epidural - they may read like the cast of a Spanish soap opera, but unfortunately they're actually the choices that face us with regards to how Baby B will enter this world. A cocktail of drugs and a plethora of equipment that we can choose to use or ignore when it comes to B-Day.
Furthermore, websites and birth plan guides tell us that now's the time to decide on how Mrs B wants to give birth. Standing, sitting, in bed, kneeling, in the water or, bizarrely, on a birth ball - all are possible, even though this last option conjures up images of Mrs B in one of those giant, transparent, roll-down-the-mountain zorb things, hardly the most relaxing of scenarios.

And then there's the question of my role, what on earth am I going to do on the day? Of course I want to be there by my wife's side, but how much of a role can I play? My fear is that, in the process of doing as much as I possibly can (calming words, massage, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, sponge duty etc), I'm actually just going to annoy the hell out of her. Either that or I'll just be hogging the gas and air!

Would I like to cut the cord? Um, yes, of course, and would I like to tell my wife the sex of the baby? Um, yes again. These are all important questions, but things never quite go to plan in our family, so I'm fully prepared for the moment that I pass out while cutting the cord, or when I tell my exhausted wife that we have a baby boy when she's actually about to cradle her daughter in her arms!

But then again, maybe I'm just starting to panic.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Wham bam Sam Cam's a mam...again

The Prime Minister has become a father again today after Mrs C gave birth to a daughter while on holiday in Cornwall. Great news for the Cameron clan, but is it good news for the country?

Whenever I read about newborns - and I have been reading a great deal on the subject of late - it seems that the words 'sleep deprivation', 'exhaustion' and 'stress' are never far behind. Indeed, the BBC today posted a story on life as a new father alongside that of the PM's new arrival. Unsurprisingly the piece told of one father's shock and emotional anxiety when it came to looking after his newborn son.

Is it therefore not perhaps a good idea for someone to temporarily look after the keys to the big red buttons in Downing Street, just in case a sleep-deprived DC accidentally leans on one while helping Sam with the 3am feed, launching a missile attack on Cardiff in the process?

Mind you, the next few months could prove valuable for junior ministers and backbenchers wishing to push through the odd piece of controversial legislation.

"I know it's late in the day, you've got your hands full with a particularly dirty nappy and bath time's around the corner, but do you mind just quickly signing this tiny little tax on oxygen Mr Cameron, sir?"

These could be dangerous times good people, watch out!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Size doesn't matter, or does it?

"Oooh, haven't you got a tiny bump," said the midwife as Mrs B strolled in to her office for her 31-week check-up yesterday.

"Really? Oh," was  my wife's startled and instantly worried reaction.

It wasn't exactly the A to Z of Midwifing's text book way of putting a first-time mum at ease upon arrival at one's clinic. A plastic surgeon wouldn't, for example, welcome a nervous nose-job patient in to his surgery with the words; "Morning big nose."

Anyway, despite causing momentary panic for Mrs B, the midwife went on to explain that, although her bump was on the small side, all was well. A measurement was taken and it transpired that Baby B's bump measured 30 cm and, we were told, that anywhere 3cm either side of your number of weeks is fine. Cue a giant sigh of relief.
However, this has got me thinking - and searching Google images for comparitive 31-week bumps - and it does seem that, at this stage of pregnancy, bump sizes vary hugely. Friends of ours, for instance, visited us for lunch at 31-weeks pregnant and clearly, in my humble opinion, looked huge. Others, according to Google, are similarly petite.

Does this have any effect on baby size or sex? Apparently not. There are a huge number of factors that affect bump size; a woman's height and pre-pregnancy weight, the amount of exercise taken during pregnancy, the position of the baby; diet during pregnancy etc.

What I'd like to know, however, is whether genetics plays a real key. Mrs B is always on the phone to her mum discussing progress and takes comfort in hearing that her mum's pregnancies were very similar. My mum, meanwhile, revealed last night that I was in fact small but "long and lean" - something that hasn't changed much in the subsequent 33 years.

As for determining sex, however, our mum's are no help. My mother-in-law's small bumps resulted in two daughters, while I am one of three boys.

There is a chance, of course, that Baby B is saving him or herself for a final push as we head towards B-Day, so we're bracing ourselves for some serious bump expansion over the coming weeks.

Whatever happens, I'll be watching, tape measure in hand.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Wood you believe it?!

As the whole world and his wife go on holiday in August, the country's news-deprived journalists often desperately try to cobble together papers and bulletins based on the flimsiest of studies and surveys, and summer-time Mondays are usually particularly bad.

Today's Monday morning, random, poll-based horror story, however, has actually prompted me to mount my moral high horse in protest at the sheer ridiculousness of its findings.

One in five British children - we are told today - has never climbed a tree or visited a farm.

As a one-time tree-climbing and farm-visiting child myself it is hard to imagine how children can grow up without expriencing these simple pleasures. Indeed, tree climbing was an almost compulsory part of childhood in the countryside in the 1980s and I fondly remember receiving my cub scout tree climbing badge after pack leaders judged my ascent of one particularly large tree worthy of the coveted sew-on award.
My brothers and I, meanwhile, spent hours on end in a wood close to our childhood home, utilising the abundant flora to reenact scenes from Return of the Jedi (minus the ever-annoying Ewoks of course) or to declare jungle warfare on each other. It was a blank canvas for the imagination of youth, not simply the accumulation of trees and weeds seen by the adult population.

Wellies and grass stains were part and parcel of my life as a child, along with the local farms and typically eccentric farmers. Cows, sheep and cowpats were commonplace and we came to realise how vital farming was to country life from a very early age. What's more, we knew where our food and milk came from, we could see, hear and smell it every day.

To think that children today can grow up without knowing any of these things, without falling out of the odd tree and without enjoying the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild amidst spectacularly beautiful rural settings, is frightening.

In my opinion parents have a responsibilty to ensure that they provide their children with the chance to see and experience as much of life in the UK as they can, urban and rural. We shouldn't be a nation of town mice and country mice, we should embrace, experience and find out as much as we can about all the varying regions of this country.

Now living in the big smoke, I could not be further away from the trees, woods and farms that made up my childhood. While I can appreciate all that life in London has to offer (apart from the tube), I'm also proud of my country roots and will ensure that Baby B, no matter where we live, will get the chance to climb as many trees and stomp in as many cowpats as he/she wants to.

Wellies unite!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Countdown and botty cream...

For the past 29 weeks Mrs B and I have been monitoring her pregnancy by counting upwards, from kick off to week 29, scaling Mount Baby one trimester at a time. From this week, however, as we pass the 30 week milestone, we are most definitely counting down, abseiling, as it were, towards base camp having long since cast off our crampons and ice picks.

Emotions are, it must be said, mixed.

There is of course huge excitement at the prospect of the parenting journey that lies ahead of us but, it must be said, there is also a great deal of anxiety at the changes and challenges that loom on the horizon.

Our lives will never be the same again, we know that. However, when you're in to a single figure weekly countdown it suddenly becomes very real and, as we lay in bed one night this week, Mrs B and I jointly worried about losing the time we spend together; the spontaneous trips to restaurants, to the pub or the park; running around our neighbourhood together or enduring the occasional gym class (always more enduring for me than Mrs B); nights out at the cinema or theatre; trips to see friends or after-work evenings in town. How will things change and will we ever get time for the two of us ever again?

Of course, I have it easy, I'm also very aware of that. I do not have to contend with birth, post-birth recovery, breastfeeding and all the other physical and psychological after effects that come with motherhood. All I can do is reassure my amazing, baby-producing wife that I will do as much as I possibly can to ease the burden on her, to make sure that we do get some time together (even if it is just to watch Corrie) and that she gets the time to herself that she needs. How hard can that be?
Aside from all the obvious life changing changes, we've also found that one of the strangest things to imagine is actually having a third person in our home. For as long as we can remember it has been the two of us, our house, our stuff, our mess. As of October, however, there will be someone else in our humble home, complete with his or her own noises, smells, clothes, toys, things and mess. As we often struggle to clean up after ourselves (ok, I may be speaking for myself here), how are we going to cope with cleaning up after a third person too?

And then there's the question of all the baby stuff.

I must admit that I have become slightly obsessed with listing everything we need to buy or borrow in preparation for the arrival of Baby B, and fixated inparticular with botty cream. How does one choose a botty cream? And what if the baby is allergic or has exzema? These are questions that I have never had to ask before and, consequently, are now filling my waking hours. Indeed, piggy-backing a routine trip to the doctor with Mrs B yesterday I even asked our GP what he suggested, completley unprepared to hear that he recommended nothing more than plain water and olive oil!

So, normal or extra virgin?


Monday, 9 August 2010

Milk monitors unite...

Back in my primary school days I was a proud milk monitor. Each and every morning I would distribute third pint bottles of milk to thirsty infants with aplomb, relishing my responsibility as chief supplier of dairy products to the young and basking in the glory of my position. If there was milk to monitored, I was the man to do it.

However, it wasn't all small straws and milky moustaches. I do remember dark days in my milk monitoring career, most notably when one Margaret Thatcher ruled that it was to be no more, reducing a nation of monitors to lowly pupils who - come mid-morning - were left pining for something to distribute to their peers. Handing out workbooks or wiping the blackboard just didn't compare, it was like asking an astronaut to drive us a bus.
So I was delighted to read today that the coalition government has scrapped its plans to cut free school milk for the under-fives. Not only will the news come as a huge relief to the thousands of monitors and wannabe-monitors out there, but it also shows that, at a time when savage cuts in public spending are expected across the board, someone, somewhere has drawn a line and said no to school milk being on the culled benefits list.

I just hope that the decision was made for the right reason, namely the health benefits of milk for young children, and not purely because our new Prime Minister doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of his 1980s predecessor and be seen as a modern day Scrooge.

As for my own milk monitoring career, sadly it didn't progress beyond primary school, although I do now occasionally find myself monitoring the odd beer with similar levels of enjoyment.

Anyone for a pinter?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Name and shame

Blessing your offspring with a crazy, off-the-wall name is part and parcel of life as a modern day celebrity. Apple, River, Fifi Trixibell and Moon Unit have all stemmed from the loins and over stimulated minds of the likes of Frank Zappa, Bob Geldof and Chris Martin. Indeed, a Times poll of the 50 craziest celebrity names also includes such gems as Bluebell Madonna and Audio Science.

It seems the celebrity formula for deciding on a moniker for your A-list newborn is simple; glance out of the window, note down the first thing you see and then couple it with whatever you're listening to on your iPod. Thankfully, as Mrs B and I are not celebrities, we can ignore the formula and refrain from christening our son or daughter Scaffolding Radio Two.
It has been with some dismay today, however, that I have read of the tragic case of children being taken in to care in America after their parents gave them the names Adolf Hitler Campbell and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation. Worryingly, however, the case only came to light after a shop refused to decorate a birthday cake for little Adolf.

It's clear from the report that the children's parents had psychological issues, but it does beg the question as to why authorities didn't act sooner, and surely the parents would have had to register the children's names somewhere and in the presence of someone?

I can only hope that the children are allowed to change their names, for their own safety and sanity more than anything. I can't imagine life for Adolf will be that great if not. He may struggle if he ever planned a summer vacation to Europe for starters, and he'd have to prove himself more charming than Casanova if he ever hoped to snare a Mrs Adolf Hitler.

As for Mrs B and I, and in case any of our relatives happen to be reading this, you can rest assured that we haven't included any famous dictators on our shortlist.

Mind you, and now that I think about it, Scaffolding Radio Two does have a certain ring to it.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Farewell study, it was fun!

About 18 months ago Mrs B and I moved in to our current home and chose the smallest of our bedrooms as a study. It was a necessity at the time. I was working permanently from home and needed a quiet space to 'be creative'. My shiny new desk (a six-hour flatpack marathon) needed a space of it's own too, somewhere it could sit proudly, resplendent with my computer and assorted other office paraphernalia.

Everything was together in one place - files, paperwork, notes, boxes and even the odd staple or two - and I used to enjoy the chaos of my cluttered office surroundings. Mrs B wasn't so keen, but, as offices went, and considering I was no more than 20 seconds away from the fridge, TV and bed, it was pretty much the best place I've ever worked.
Yesterday, however, it all came to an end. My dismantled desk was taken, in pieces, downstairs - soon to face trial by eBay - while the files and papers were boxed up and taken to gather dust in the loft.

My office is no more. The end of an era.

In it's place, however, we now have a nursery. And what a fantastic transformation it has been. From wires, cables and box files to a cot, changing table and cuddly toys. Clean, clutter-free and beautiful - you could almost feel the room breathing a sigh of relief. All that's missing now is the little person who, come October, will call this his or her room.

For me, the office-to-nursery move has been one of the biggest moments of this pregnancy to date. It has really brought home the reality of how much our lives will change, in a matter of months. From focusing on ourselves and our needs, everything will now centre around Baby B and his or her needs, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The only question now, however, is what else will go the way of my desk? Keep an eye on ebay to find out!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Will the inny turn outy?

Most people ignore their tummy buttons for most of the time.

The little spot on your stomach serves no purpose other than to remind you that you were once born to your mother. Indeed, apart from occasionally gathering fluff, provoking a ticklish response when touched or showcasing a piercing [proud supermodel flat stomachs only], your one-time fetal life support system goes unnoticed by you and those around you. At least it does until you become pregnant.

Mrs B and I have become fascinated by her umbilicus (thank you Wikipedia) over recent days as her ever-growing bump looks to be attempting to push her 'inny'...out.

Now, having had a lifelong inny Mrs B is a little concerned about the prospect of having an outy. How will this change things? Will the outy revert to an inny once Baby B arrives? Or, once outted, does your inny stay an outy forever? These are important questions.
We've sureptitiously studied other pregnant ladies' navels and it seems that it's a 50/50 inny/outy split - at least as far as we can tell from staring at random, clothed bumps. So surely not all innied mums can become outies?

Close examination of Mrs B reveals a shrinking tummy button, one that's becoming more of a tummy slit than a button in fact, and our feelings are that, with two and a half months to go, the growing baby will do his or her best to upset the tummy button apple cart.

It's important to point out that we are not saying that an inny is in any way better than an outy, the worry on Mrs B's part - not being one to openly embrace change very often - is that her post-baby tummy will look different to her pre-baby tummy (accepting of course the obvious differences that follow pregnancy).

However, it seems that we're not alone. Indeed, there are a huge numer of messageboards and forums out there debating this very subject... just like this one.

So, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets now. Will Mrs B's inny become an outy before the arrival of Baby B?

Watch this space to find out.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Home birth humble pie

Last Friday I vented my spleen on the subject of homebirth, following the publication of a report by The Lancet that questioned their safety in relation to newborn babies.

Today, however, I find myself dining on a sizable portion of humble pie in light of the incredible reaction to my post and the well informed, interesting and occasionally plain frightening comments from readers of my rant.

I had argued that The Lancet had got it right, that it made complete sense to choose a hospital birth over a home birth for the sake of the expertise and equipment on hand at the hospital. However, I have been blown away by the detailed responses from readers, particularly those highlighting the reasons behind their choosing a home birth and the statistics/proof of their success. It has made for very interesting reading and has triggered much debate in our household.

As you know, Mrs B and I are edging ever closer to B-Day ourselves and we have always thought that hospital was the only option for us. I still think that, for us, and as this is our first baby, we will go down that route. But it certainly won't be a decision that we make lightly and, following the comments, we will spend the next few weeks researching our options and birth plan thoroughly.

One thing I failed to mention in my original post, however, it that our local hospital, perhaps unusually, includes some brand new 'birthing rooms' that have been designed to appear more homely (mood lighting, private room, en suite, birthing pool etc) and it is these aspects of the experience that appeal to us.

Indeed, without consciously knowing it, Mrs B and I have been drawn to the idea of a homebirth, at hospital. And is this evidence of the fact that the NHS is becoming more aware of the importance of giving mothers-to-be a homebirth-style experience?

So, many thanks to everyone for opening our eyes, the power of blogging is incredible and here's hoping you can all offer as much advice when Mrs B and I stumble in to the various parenting minefields that we're bound to come across in the years ahead.