Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'm gonna crawl

Baby playing on SoftPlayZone playmat (not Oliver!)

We are a bit concerned at the moment that Oliver really doesn't like lying on his front. It may be because he still has some trouble holding his head up properly for long periods of time; it looks a bit wobbly to me anyway. We've ordered a black and white "Baby development soft playmat" (above) from SoftPlayZone to try to encourage him to crawl more.

He's also showing signs of being bored with his current playmat, despite us hanging new toys from it from time to time, so we are probably going to buy a new one of those too.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Natural Born Mothers

As we all marched into the ante-natal classes all those months ago, every one of us was a parent-to-be: indistinguishable from one another. We all heard the same advice, learned the same lessons and no doubt we all imagined pretty much the same idyllic scene as our child was born without complications and we cared for it exactly as we had been told.

Of course, by the time you have experienced first-hand the use of the ventuse cap and had midwives panicing unnecessarily over his first few feeds you realise everyones experience is far from the same.

Equally, the way the new mothers take to their task varies dramatically too. Talking to my sister this weekend she was telling me how terrified she was to bathe her son for the first few weeks and enlisted my Mum's help, only taking complete and unilateral control of the bathing after several weeks. Other mothers Hayley has met at Baby Club have also expressed nervousness at how to deal with their baby in some situations.

Now I'm not saying everything in our household has been one uninterrupted sequence of events expertly handled without any qualms or hesitation (as testified by this blog), but in the three months since Oliver's birth I have come to realise just what a great mother Oliver has in Hayley.

Before you think, "well he would say that wouldn't he", my comments are not just based on the confident and patient way she handles Oliver even in the face of prolonged grizzling. The health visitor commented after about 6 weeks that Oliver's contented sleeping pattern and general well-being were a credit to Hayley. More recently, she relayed to her how one of the other new Mums had said that she wished she could be as confident with her baby as Hayley is with Oliver.

I guess her previous experience as a nanny in the US has stood her in good stead, but what I have really noticed is that she has apprently near endless reserves of patience and energy to play with Oliver and keep him amused and entertained and I have little doubt that this is borne from her love for him. Of course, I love him too, but I can't deny that her love is of a different kind to mine. It's a mother's love for her son and it is as unrestrained and natural to her as I could have imagined. She truly loves spending her days with him.

Her confidence with him is an enormous re-assurance to me when I feel unsure how to deal with him and I have learned so much from her about how to keep him entertained and happy. And how does she find so much energy all the time! I wish I knew.

It's early days and despite making her sound like Supermum, Hayley too has moments of frustration when the going gets really tough. But I have no doubt that Oliver and I are both very, very lucky to have her.

BBC NEWS | Health | Calls to push 'do not cut labour'

BBC NEWS | Health | Calls to push 'do not cut labour'

Some research that suggests less pushing in labour may be benefical.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Love / Hate

Three things I love about being a Dad
1. When he looks into my eyes and laughs. Priceless.
2. Watching him enjoy new things, especially when they are the sorts of things that we take for granted, like sunlight through leaves on the trees.
3. Coming home to my family at the end of the working day.

Three things I hate about being a Dad
1. When he cries and cries and cries and nothing I do seems to console him. He has big tears in his eyes or running down his face and it's heartbraking. I don't know what is wrong with him, what is frustrating, annoying or upsetting him. And I can't communicate with him to find out. He might have a headache or earache but how can I tell!

2. Conflicting advice. At one extreme you have the "baby comes first" approach where it seems that it is impossible to give him too much attention. At the other there is the near boot-camp style regime of "The Contented Baby" book. This lack of clear direction drives me crazy.

3. Every once in a while the lack of one-to-one time with Hayley really gets me down, especially because the cumulative lack of sleep sometimes causes us to be a bit snappy with each other. It's not the end of the world and we always knew it came with the territory, but it is a pet hate nonetheless.

Dummy in, dummy out

Dummies have been a hot topic for the last few days. After reading about "controlled crying" we found that he really is too young to be left to cry for any time. So our strategy now is to stay with him until he seems happy and settled - not necessarily asleep - and to return to him if he cries. This is repeated as necessary until he goes to sleep and stays asleep.

If he gets upset going to bed we now give him his dummy in his cot. He seems to be calmed by this. He has used it to go to sleep in the day for a long time so it makes sense that he might want it at night too. Hopefully he will not start to drop it then wake up and cry for it. He does drop it but seems not to need it once he has gone to sleep.

Talking of dummies, today we saw him do something for the first time. He took his dummy out of his mouth, kept hold of it by his side for a few seconds, then managed to put it back in. It may sound trivial, but it is a level of co-ordination previously not achieved. Next stop, working the microwave.


We have three songs we sing to Oliver at the moment to put him to sleep. Usually it is Hayley who does the singing as she more often than not who puts him to bed. (She has taken the strain much more than me recently, particularly since he started to become a little more tricky to persuade to go to sleep.) Having said that, he does have to listen to his old Dad sing to him too; in the middle of the night when I feed him or on nights when he is so persistent in staying awake that we take it in turns to try to persuade him to enter "the land of nod".

The first lullaby is the one I wrote for him while he was still in the womb. We used to sing it to "Bump" and had to have two versions: one for if the baby was a boy (with his name) and one for if it was a girl (with what would have been her name). It's nice to really be singing it to him now "for real". I say singing, in fact sometimes it is more of a whisper.

The second is a lullaby that my friend Colleen taught me at some point way back in the 1980s. I don't remember why. She had a much younger sister so perhaps she sang it to her. Anyway, I've never forgotten it and we both sing that to him too.

The third lullaby is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This is the first choice if he needs to be calmed down.

I'm not sure they have much effect, but perhaps they are at least part of a routine that he associates with bed-time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bad horsey!

Oliver has started to bash and punch everything in sight. His favourite little sea-horse that hangs in front of him in his bouncy chair used to be out of his reach but he would stare at it for minutes on end. Then he could reach it and would play with it in his hands. Now he punches it so hard it wraps itself around the bar it is attached too and he whines until I unwrap it for him to punch again!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Our first Christmas

Despite last night's travails we rose to find Oliver happy and smiling as usual. After he drank his bottle we all set about opening the pile of presents under the tree. Needless to say, despite showing interest in some of the toys he most enjoyed the wrapping paper and (later) the cheese crackers' box.

Hayley set about cooking a Christmas dinner of epic proportions. We started to eat it at 2.15pm but with Oliver needing a feed in the middle of it we decided to split our meal over several sittings. After a tipple of whisky (1st course!) we had our cream of vegetable soup (2nd course) and then the main course. This was a giant roast dinner - quorn roast for me, chicken for Hayley - with potatoes, sprouts, parsnips, swede, carrots and Yorkshire puddings thrown in for good measure. We then paused to feed Oliver but nibbled on Thornton's chocolates (4th course) before returning to the table for Christmas pudding with brandy cream (5th course) followed by cheese and crackers (6th course) and finally coffee with mints (7th course).

By the end of all that it was 5.45pm, so it is safe to say that this will be our only meal of the day, though I suspect we may find room for a mince pie later (8th course?)!

It has been a great day. Oliver has been happy all day. This evening when he started to show signs of refusing to go to bed we decided to give him his dummy in his cot: something we never normally do. We figured that if he was playing up he'd cry anyway but if he was just unable to soothe himself to sleep he'd settle down. Somewhat to my surprise he did indeed settle down, so maybe he has just become unable to soothe himself to sleep by sucking his hands as he used to.

We've been looking forward to our Christmas Day together - just the three of us - pretty much since we discovered Hayley was pregnant. And I have to say it has met all our hopes and expectations.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve had many of the ingredients we had hoped for in a near picture book scene: presents piled up under the tree (the vast majority for Oliver), carols playing in the background and Oliver playing happily on his playmat. Unfortunately it also then turned out to be Oliver's worst night yet in terms of refusing to go to sleep.

It had all started so well with a trip out for coffee and last minute shopping for Christmas dinner. Oliver stayed awake long enough in his "Santa's Little Helper" outfit (complete with Santa Claus hat) to smile winningly at a series of cooing women who encountered him in Somerfield and Room 311.

In the evening Hayley took him upstairs to feed him but as soon as he had drunk as much milk as he wanted he started to whinge and then cry when put to bed. He was clearly very tired - falling asleep when being fed and rubbing his eyes when put into his cot - but was determined that he didn't want to go to sleep and somehow found reserves of energy to cry as loudly as possible.

As happened earlier this week, he would stop crying when we turned the light on or shone light into the cot. After consoling him for a while and putting him back in his cot a couple of times we decided we had to try letting him cry just a few minutes before returning to him. This was very hard. We took it in turns to come back up and console him until he'd go back into his cot, but it took a couple of attempts before he finally settled.

Perhaps it was because he was so tired after this exertion that he slept until 7.20am this morning (Christmas Day), despite having been fed at 8pm yesterday evening. So when he woke we kept him up rather than let him go back to sleep.

I have to say it is getting a little stressful having to deal with this every night and it is particularly hard as we don't know for sure what the best thing is to do. One thing I am sure of is that things can't go on like this indefinitely. I suspect that we may have to go through some short term pain for long term gain. Certainly we have friends who let their baby cry for 20 minutes (which must have seemed an eternity!) until she went to sleep and after a few nights had no more problems. But there have been a few dissenting voices about doing this at too young an age, even for a just few minutes. My personal feeling is moving towards the conclusion that if Oliver is old enough to manipulate us like this, he is old enough to learn that he can't get away with it. (Well, not always anyway!) Nonetheless, it's hard to see and hear him cry. I'm still hoping we can find some other way to persuade him to go to sleep.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It has definitely started

Once again tonight Oliver has refused to go to bed and is (as I type) crying upstairs with Hayley while I sit down here watching our dinner turn ever more crispy in the oven. If last night is anything to go by there is nothing wrong with him: he just doesn't want to go to bed.

It's not as if he isn't tired either. He was struggling to keep his eyes open earlier: he is such a little devil for fighting sleep!

I hope we can find a way to stop this because we were just starting to think that we might be able to start spending some of our evenings together as a couple again.

Does that sound selfish? It doesn't feel selfish to us. More a case of our preserving the relationship that brought him into the world. We used to love our time together and much as we love Oliver we do miss having that time just for the two of us.

I think (though I'll have to check) that he is getting to an age now where we could try controlled crying techniques: letting him cry a little before rushing to comfort him, then putting him back to bed once he is calm. This is supposed re-assure him but also teach him that he does have to go to bed!

Well, he seems to have gone to sleep for a while now, perhaps because we have left his nightlight on tonight. He doesn't usually need it, but maybe as he becomes more aware he is starting get a little afraid of the dark at times....?

Stop press (10 minutes later): The moment we got our dinner on the table he started to cry. Now Hayley's dinner is going cold while she calms him and puts him back down again. I wonder how many nights this is going to go on for.... and for how long every night.

Stop press (30 minutes later): we managed to eat dinner!

BBC NEWS | Health | Call for universal heart checks

BBC NEWS | Health | Call for universal heart checks

This is the down side of being an "older" Dad. There's no avoiding the fact that the older we get the more prone to ilness we tend to become. Screening such as is suggested here would be reassuring to those of us who'd like to still be around when our offspring have grown up.

Of course, there are steps we can take to help minimise the risks of heart disease. Talking of which, I must jump on my bike now and cycle to work.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A perfect day (with an imperfect end)

Today we visited the Christmas markets in Manchester. These are European-style markets with visiting market traders from various European countries. We enjoyed various flavours of mulled wine, Dutch cheese and Dutch pancakes and roasted chestnuts amongst other delights.

We took the train which was a first for Oliver. We got some Christmas shopping done and all in all had a great afternoon.

Oliver was well-behaved all day, though all the movement and fresh air seemed to send him to sleep for much of the time.

When we got home all went well until we came to give him his last bottle and put him to bed. It took about 20 minutes for him to have his bottle and all looked OK. But when we tried to put him to bed he started to cry. And cry. And cy and cry and cry despite all our attempts to wind him, hug him, comfort him and soothe him. He didn't seem to have a temperature, but when we turned the light on or shone a torch on him he miraculously went quiet. Basically it seems there was nothing wrong with him. He just didn't want to go to bed. Eventually, after nearly two hours of stop-start crying, he went to sleep.

Stop press: He just woke again and cried. Hayley managed to calm him but I get the feeling this may not be the end of our imperfect end to an otherwise perfect day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Colds 'may trigger child cancers'

BBC NEWS | Health | Colds 'may trigger child cancers'

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Am I cute Daddy?"

I love these pictures of Oliver taken in the last few days. He was so happy when we took them. I can make him laugh sometimes when he's in this sort of attentive and happy mood. He opens his mouth wide and sometimes makes a little chuckling sound. It's absolutely priceless: the best feeling in the world to hear it. (Yes I know I am gushing but I make no apology for it: I love him to bits.)

One of these days I'll manage to catch it on video... one of these days.

"What's all this illness business!"

Yesterday evening Oliver was uncharacteristically upset for much of the time. He seemed to have come down with a slight cold. He spent most of the evening lying across my chest either crying or sleeping. Finally he drank his bottle (with little lack of appetite) and then went to sleep.

It must be strange for him to experience illness for the first time. He has had no signs of any ill health before yesterday, the day when he turned 3 months old. I can't help wondering what his little mind makes of it all.

Tonight Hayley is out at her company's Christmas party. ALthough he cried again he wasn't as upset as last night and to my relief he went straight to sleep for me when I put him to bed. (Before that though we watched England draw Sweden, Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago in their 2006 World Cup Finals group.)

I can hear him breathing on the baby monitor as I type. Every time I hear him make a noise I stop mid-senetnce: frozen in a moment of anticipation and semi-terror that he might wake in tears (which he never normally does to be fair). I'm crossing my fingers that he has a restful night.

Dummies 'reduce cot death risk'

Dummies 'reduce cot death risk'

A study in California has indicated that putting a baby to sleep in their cot with a dummy (or "pacifier" in US terms) may reduce the chance of cot death by up to 90%.

However, if you read past that headline it appears that the study was small and its conclusions are not being hailed by experts in the field as conclusive. The results of the study showed the greatest reduction was in families were there was already a high risk, principally where both parents smoke.

Experts in the media today have taken the opportunity to stress he existing advice rather than embrace this new research. The existing advice includes avoiding letting the baby overheat. As I seem to spend half the night awake keeping an eye on the temperature in Oliver's room and given that neither Hayley nor I smoke, we are going to let Oliver continue to sleep without a dummy. We did occasionally give him one but he always dropped it after a while anyway. Right now we are blessed to have a baby who goes to sleep with no trouble most of the time and who seems content. On balance I think I feel safer leaving things as they are, even though this kind of study will probably give me a sleepless night tonight that I otherwise wouldn't have suffered!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The recent death of George Best was another reminder to me of the generation gap that will exist between Oliver and I. Here was a footballer - perhaps the greatest in the world, ever - and yet only a fraction of his talent has been caught on film and it is hard to convey the excitement he caused as a player and the affection in which he was held. Perhaps the images of his funeral, where thousands turned out to bid him farewell, might start to convey it.

And today I was given another reminder of a talent who touched my life and yet wil mean little to Oliver. It is 25 years ago today that John Lennon was murdered in New York. I woke up to the news on the radio and was faced across my room by the cover of Rubber Soul which I had been playing the previous evening. I was 16 years old, a Beatles fan, a music fan, a John Lennon fan. But of course it was more than just his music that endeared him to his fans. Despite a darker side that many ignored (including tales of violence against his first wife Cynthia). it was his desire for peace in the world and his charismatic way of publicising this desire that touched millions. It is a testament to his greatness that 25 years on his death makes the evening news.

Sadly, to Oliver, these will be distant legends.

George Best obituary (BBC)

John Lennon - 25 years on

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

14lbs 13 ozs

Oliver was weighed again today. His weight has shot up, putting him the 75th percentile (from the 50th last time). This is more in line with his height (85th percentile) and his head size (91st percentile).

I'm starting to notice his weight too. A couple of weeks ago I took a day off work because I had hurt my upper back. I don't know quite how I did it but I suspect it was leaning in and picking him up out of his cot: a movement that violates all good lifting practice (not that I have a choice)!

Every time I feed him I notice how heavy he is getting. I can still carry him around on my shoulder but he's getting strong and using only one hand feels less secure than it did. He really dislikes being cradled in my arms nowadays. The only time I get to hold him like that is after feeding him in the night. Any other time he cries and wriggles. It makes me a little sad as it's almost as if he feels he's too big to be cradled like a baby any more and yet he's only three months old!

It's rare that he'll just sit on my knee too. The exception is when he can see the TV which he loves. What he really likes though is to be held up under his arms so he is standing up and then to dance about. This is one of the best ways to make him giggle. I can only do this for about 5 minutes at a time though as he is so heavy. Then when I sit him down again he whinges! Still, it save money on gym membership I guess.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Oliver's first Christmas Tree

We've been out and bought our Christmas tree. It's a real one. I love having a real tree as you get that authentic Christmas smell. Hayley did most of the decorating of it with a little help from. Oliver watched contentedly from his swing as we hung the decorations, lights and tinsel.

BBC NEWS | UK | Boys get pricier Christmas gifts

BBC NEWS | UK | Boys get pricier Christmas gifts

Apparently the Olivers of this world are lavished with more expensive gifts at Christmas than the Olivias. This is partially explained by boys tending to prefer hi-tech toys.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

If you don't like dirty nappies, look away now!

Warning: This post contains detailed "nappy content(s)" (sic).

A few weeks ago Hayley went to get her hair done and left Oliver with me for a few hours. In this time I was also expecting a TV engineer who was coming to upgrade our satellite TV and also another delivery. Hayley left the two of us a picture of calm. Within two hours everyting had gone to rats! Oliver, perhaps objecting to these intruders into our home, cried for virtually the whole morning: an unprecendented act on his part.

Today Hayley went to a sale of baby clothes with her friend Dawn. During this time Oliver was perfectly happy, right up to the point where he needed a nappy change. He started to cry and so I picked him up to take him upstairs and change him. I realised that holding him under his bottom may squeeze out the offending substance, so I popped him onto my shoulder and simply suported his feet.

Then, as I walked up the stairs, I felt that his feet were wet. I looked down to see my hand covered in poo. I diverted to the bathroom where I washed my hand (still with Oliver on my shoulder) and headed off to the nursery. On arriving in the nursery I put him on his changing table and looked down at my trousers. There were three large orangey brown, runny patches of poo on them. By this point I realised I was in trouble (though for some reason I was still laughing). Clearly he was going to need a complete change of clothes. And as there was another patch of brown on my shirt, so was I!

I removed his trouswers which turned out to have a substamntial amount of excrement in them. But there was worse to come. It had leaked out onto all his clothes and what was leaking out smelled truly appalling. Involuntarily I wretched at the smell: something that has never happened to me before. I even remember in the first few days thinking how sweet and yeasty his poo smelled: a bit like warm bread! But now I badly wanted to open the window. However, it was a few degrees above freezing outside and I didn't want him to get cold.

Forgive me but I am going to have to describe the poo. You may want to skip to the next paragraph. It was a mixture of regular runny orangey brown poo with some awful greyish sticky gooey poo mixed in. The smell was terrible and if I could have left him safely on the changing table to go 15 feet to the cupbaord where I have nose clips for swimming, I would have done so and put one on.

I persevered and eventually got him cleaned up thanks to a large number of wet wipes, then stripped off myself and collected up our collective soiled clothes. Throughout the whole of course proceedings Oliver was quiet and happy, even when I had to clean his bare back with cold wet-wipes.

When Hayley arrived home fifteen minutes later I recounted the tale. She rocked with laughter, doubling up on the sofa, almost crying. She then took great pleasure in ringing Dawn and relaying the story to her!

Now, I know that he is not waiting for his Mum to go out before doing this sort of thing, so I am left with the unavoidable truth: that this is the sort of horror that Hayley has to deal with on a regular basis!

There have been times when giving up work and looking after Oliver has seemed attractive to me. Today was not one of them.

Monday, November 14, 2005

In my place

Over this past weekend we reached a big milestone. We hadn't planned to reach it this early, but our growing son gave us little choice. He has moved out of his Moses Basket and into his cot. And as there is not enough room for his cot in our bedroom, this means he has also moved into his own room.

We had noticed that particularly after his feed in the middle of the night he was not sleeping as long and could be heard banging against the side of his basket. So last Friday we moved into the nursery. Yes, we ALL moved into the nursery, for the night at least.

We all went to bed at the same time. We put the nursing pillow around and above his head so his new bed would not seem so huge. We put him into his cot and after a few more murmurings than usual he got the message that we were with him as usual and he went to sleep. We lay in bed a while longer then sneaked off downstairs with the baby monitor for an hour as it was still only about 9pm.

After an hour or so we went back up to bed in the nursery. We slept on the rather cramped (compared to our usual King Size) sofa bed with a futon mattress. In a reversal of our usual routine we fed him in our bedroom when he woke around 2am. After the feed he went back down to sleep without any problems.

In the morning we were there with him when he murmured and woke. He had slept until it started to get light, exactly as he normally did. Success!

On Saturday night Hayley and I moved back into our room and put the baby monitor into action during the night for the first time. Before he went to bed he drank a record 9 ounces of milk.

We put him to bed and headed off to our room with the baby monitor. He then slept for an unprecedented seven and a half hours!

Now you'd think this meant we got a good night's sleep. Not a chance! We were paranoid that the monitor wouldn't pick up his cries and that we wouldn't hear him. It was also a cold night - probably the coldest of the Autumn so far - and we spent much of it watching the temperature reading on the baby monitor, not to mention the two thermometers in his room, one of which had an alarm set if the temperature fell below 16C!

By the time he woke for a feed at around 3.30am we were more tired than usual. And the next morning when he woke as usual I was shattered. But it was a milestone reached and passed without half the problems I'd been worrying about. I'm a little sad to see his Moses Basket witting waiting to be put in the attic and I miss him murmuring in our room. But he's happy in his rrom and that's all that really matters.

12 pounds 11 ounces

Oliver was weighed and measured today (at 8 weeks and 4 days old). He weighs 12 lbs 11 ozs. He is now 61 cm long/tall.

His weight is in the 50th percentile for hhis age. His height is in (about) the 80th percentile. His head size is in the 91st percentile.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Remembrance Sunday

Today was Remembrance Sunday, or "Poppy Day" as it is colloquially known. On this day we remember all those who gave their lives in conflicts around the world. Naturally, the focus here in Britain is particularly on those from this country who lost their lives in wars, particularly the two World Wars but also the Gulf Wars and Balkan conflicts. As usual, there was a ceremony at the Cenotaph in London as well as many others up and down the country.

Earlier in the week I saw a programme on TV: "The Last Tommy". It followed the stories of the last surviving British soldiers from the first World War (1914-1918). All of them are between 102 and 109 years old. Soon, inevitably, they will all be gone. And with them will go the first-hand face-to-face accounts of that war, the so called Great War, that bring home its awful horror on a terrible scale never seen before and almost unimaginable in these days of remote control precision warfare.

The accounts of the centenarians was of their experiences in the front line as boys of 17, 16, even as young as 14 years of age. I watched this as I sat feeding Oliver on my knee. He sat there in my arms sucking away on his bottle in blissful ignorance of the heart-wrenching stories on screen. I was moved by these tales of boys caught up in something for which they were utterly unprepared. And I thought of how lucky I am that Oliver lives in a time of relative peace, within Europe at least. And I felt more deeply than before the loss of those boys and young men who died and that of their loved ones left behind.

I won't go too deeply into how I feel about the politics of Europe, except to say that it is all too easy to forget why it is better to unite with our neighbours than to stand apart from them and why our post-WWII political leaders strove to bring together former enemies to avoid any repeat of the horrors of those two world wars.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Oliver's Great Grandmother's 95th Birthday

Today Oliver visited his Great Grandmother on her 95th birthday. He enjoyed all the attention from his Great Grandmother ("Nin"), his Nan (my Mum) and other family members while we enjoyed good company and good food!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Let's get your wind up, Dad!

As I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog, we often address Oliver by lots of names other than the one on his birth certificate. (All polite of course!) Recently, to my eternal shame, I have started to address him with the catch phrase of the leathery faced permanently tanned walking fashion faux pas that is UK TV host David Dickinson. Yes, for the last few days I could be heard saying to Oliver "Who's Daddy's little Bobby Dazzler"! (Or if he's grouchy and fighting sleep he becomes my Bobby Grizzler.)

So it must seem rather ridiculous that we do our best to never call him "Oli" and would prefer it if no-one else abbreviates his name either, though I never correct anyone. (Well I haven't so far anyway!) It just seems a shame not to use the whole of the name we gave him.

To be honest I think what matters is not the name people use when they address him but the way in which they do it. I've noticed that our frioend Dawn calls him "Oli", but to be honest it doesn't bother me at all because she is also so lovely with him. She has even bought him a few little presents for no other reason that she just thought he'd like them.

People keep saying how much he looks like me, which I have finally started to see just a little in his expression sometimes. But I CAN see my Dad in him. We were joking that it was because they had about the same amount of hair (mostly at the back and sides) but now that his hair has grown back he still looks like him to me. Sometimes at night when I am holding his cheeks trying to wind him and he sits there with his eyes closed I have to laugh because it is like holding a mini version of my Dad.

Of course he looks like Hayley too. He especially has her cute nose!

But overall he has a look that is just his own. Every day I am amazed at how beautiful he is and how much I love him. I just hope I can convey it to him and make him feel safe with me. Tonight he got unusually grizzly and overtired. Eventually I managed to calm him. The thing that sent him to sleep was me stroking his temples. It was a lovely feeling. Often I feel; he feels more secure with his Mum, so it was nice to see him happy in my hands.

Time to go: the master is waking for his last bottle of the day.

Chicken in a Basket

Oliver, who we are sometimes guilty of calling "Little Chicken" (because of his chicken legs when he was born), is getting too big for his Moses Basket. He can be heard banging his arms against the side in the night and he can't extend his arms out to the side without his elbows hitting the sides of the basket. The health visitor mentioned that some babies like to be in a small space as it is comforting, but given that he often lies on the floor/changing mat/sofa/cot with his arms out to the side, I think he may be starting to feel a bit cramped.

More importantly, I'm wondering whether it is disrupting his sleep, as he sleeps less well after his first feed and seems to bang the sides more. Maybe I am panicing, but I wouldn't like him to be sleep-deprived and have it effect his growth in any way. Not to mention that it might make him grumpy! Actually, the last few mornings he has woken up a bit grouchy and needed more cuddles from Hayley before she can lay him on the changing mat. I wonder if this is anthing to do with it....?

Last night he slept for over 6 hours (9.15pm - 3.30am). Fantastic stuff! He made a few noises before that but we have learned to leave him now until he is definitely waking. A couple of times recently we have got up, made his bottle, then come back to find him fast asleep.

One of the causes of his restlessness in the night, particularly in the hour or so before he wakes and greets the day, appears to be wind. Not trapped wind in his chest, but breaking wind out of his bottom! Given that the health visitor re-assured us that it's nothing to worry about, it's quite funny some mornings to lie there as the room starts to get light listening to him making quiet grunting noises before a loud rasp of wind is emitted! He is so loud that I have sometimes wrongly blamed it on Hayley!

This weekend we have decided to try putting him into his cot at night. We'll probably put him in his basket inside the cot at first, but given his size I'd like to try putting him into his bed pretty soon. I dare say we may have to sleep in his room the first time we do this. He is SO good at going to sleep at night and I think it is partly because he knows we are there with him. Last night he was wide awake when we came to put him to bed, having spent most of the evening asleep after his massage. Despite this he still soothed himself to sleep (sucking his hands) in very little time. If we can manage to move him to his "big bed" without disrupting this it will be marvellous.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Baby Massage

On Monday afternoons Hayley goes to Baby Cafe. This is a great meeting place for a noisy congregation of chattering Mums (and the occasional Dad) where babies amuse themselves on the playmats and baby gyms. Sadly, due to lack of funding it is due to close after Christmas.

Yesterday a guest speaker gave a demonstration of baby massage. Oliver took a star turn as one of the babies who acted as a guinea pig. Unlike the other three babies who all cried at some point during the massage, Oliver thoroughly enjoyed it amused the mothers there with his penchant for pampering. The only time he started to grumble was when he realised the session was ending. Hayley resumed the massage and his grizzling stopped to the further amusement of his audience.

So tonight Hayley repeated the routine in our living room, demonstrating the techniques to me along the way. He was contented and even smiling during his massage (see picture above). It took about 10 minutes and he happily let Hayley massage him, even when rolled onto his front to have his back done. He looked like he would happily lie there on his towel being pampered all evening.

At its conclusion he briefly made a few quiet whinging noises before being placed in a sleep-siut that had been warmed on the radiator. This appeased him and he promptly fell asleep on the sofa.

A special outfit

Today I saw Oliver in this outfit for the first time. It's special to us because Hayley bought it in the States long before we met and not knowing whether she would ever have a child of her own to wear it.

Although I wasn't there to see her dress him in it for the first time, she confessed that she was quite emotional seeing him in it at last. I guess you could say he really is a dream come true.

Mirror, mirror...

Oliver spent several minutes tonight happily gazing at his own reflection in this plastic mirror, occasionally grabbing it.

It is on the front of a baby book that audibly crinkles when you pick it up. It is full of high resolution pictures that young babies enjoy. Someone told us the other day that red is apprently the colour babies percieve the most strongly. Funnily, his favourite page is one with wavy lines and red dots.

He quite often looks at this book. Below is a picture of him "reading" it last Saturday morning.

"Who's a bonnie dribbler!"

Oliver seems to be dribbling a lot at the moment. But this has had the happy side-effect of us dicsovering a sure-fire way to make him laugh. Hayley tickles his bottom lip and says "Who's a bonnie dribbler!". Almost without fail this causes him to break into a giggly smile.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Isabella's Christening

Oliver had a trip to church on Sunday for Isabella's Christening. He was quiet and interested during the singing of Morning Has Broken, but started to get tired of sitting in his car seat not long afterwards. He spent the next part of the service in Hayley's arms at the back of the church until he nodded off, allowing Hayley to come back in just in time to see the ceremony at the font.

Afterwards there was a reception at the Blue Cat Cafe. I enjoyed a rare pint of Guinness, Hayley had a diet coke and Oliver slept until he decided it was time for his bottle of Aptamil.

It was a great little do and we even managed to get someone to grab a photo of all three of us.

And what did Isabella think if her Christening party? She slept through a good part of it!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paternity Leave - Week 2

Above: Oliver with Grampy Des and Nancy

Last week I took my second and final week of paid paternity leave. It was too hectic to be described as a rest, but I did get to spend time at home with Hayley and Oliver and I managed to help out a little more than I can when at work.

Oliver is smiling much more now, especially in the morning. It's priceless when he smiles.

We also used my paternity leave as an opportunity to take Oliver to meet some of Hayley's family down in Wiltshire. We stayed with Hayley's Dad and also visited various other friends and family down there.

Fortunately we had a courtesy car while Hayley's car is in the garage. We wouldn't have crammed everything in otherwise.

Nancy (Hayley's Dad's partner) adored having Oliver to stay. I think she would happily have sent us back up north and kept the little fellow down there with her. She declared him the best behaved baby she had ever known. It was hardly surprising, as she pampered him at every opportunity: back massages, tummy massages, lots of hugs and cuddles.... and she often let him lie on the carpet without a nappy, resulting in the occasional soaking of the carpet!

Above: Nancy gives Oliver his evening back massage

She cooked fantastic meals for us and it was nice to be able to rest a little more. All in all it was a great little break and there were a few tears when it came time for us to leave.

The next visit will probably be at Christmas. We will definitely need a bigger car or some roof storage by then!

Above (top): Hayley with Shannon and Emma
Above (bottom): Oliver meets his Auny Becky and cousins Lewis and Connor

BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | Mother who killed son avoids jail

BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | Mother who killed son avoids jail

I find it hard to start to imagine everything that this woman has gone through. Reading this story I feel so fortunate that Oliver is healthy and happy and that we have such a good life with him.

BBC NEWS | UK | Parents 'fear asking for support'

Parents 'fear asking for support'

A sign of the times? Although help and advice abounds when you have a baby or toddler, as children grow up parents fear asking for help in case they are seen as bad parents.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

11 pounds 13 ounces

Above: Oliver last week at Hayley's Dad's place

Oliver was weighed today. He is now 11lbs 13ozs. (He is 7 weeks and 5 days old.)

His weight is right in the 50th percentile. His head size is in the 91st percentile. Neither of these figures are much changed from previous positions "on the curve".

He looks a bit podgy in places now. His thighs have plenty of fat and his arms have more than before. (Hayley has been joking that he has most of my features but he has her thighs!)

Overall though I have to say he looks a very handsome boy. Not biassed at all then!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Out on the town

This is my current favourite picture of Oliver, taken last weekend when we went out with friends for lunch at a local cafe.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

He smiled!

Oliver is always happiest early in the day and this morning while Hayley changed his nappy he definitely seemed to be smiling (see above).

Ironically he spent most of this evening whinging until he was finally picked up so he could fall asleep on Hayley's chest. He's been doing that a lot over the last day or so and it is not something we are happy with. He already fights falling asleep, but at least when he does go to sleep we can get some sleep ourselves. Obviously if he is lying on one of us we have to stay awake, so we don't want him to get into the habit of doing this. It's hard to know what to do about it. Tonight he whinged and cried (not too badly) and refused to fall asleep regardless of what we did with him. He is probably too young to use "controlled crying" techniques: I don't really know.

Anyway, must go: he's crying again, this time for his bottle.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hold your head up

Today I saw for the first time that Oliver is starting to hold his head up without support. Hayley spotted it yesterday and tonight it was clear to see. It looks quite odd actually. He suddenly looks so grown up when he does it, not like a little newborn any more.

He is six weeks old today and Hayley commented how sad she feels sometimes when the time seems to be flying by. The breast milk, that she expressed to last 6 weeks, runs out on Saturday. Another little milestone. I just keep telling myself: Carpe Diem!

Back to the Table

This week is Back to the Table week which encourages families to eat together at the table instead of grabbing ready meals and heading off to their rooms or slumping in fron of the TV.

I think this is a great idea. I was brought up on meals where we all ate together at the table and we all ate the same thing. Nowadays, thanks to microwaves and to ready meals that are becoming as edible as they are ubiquitous, many people eat different meals, often at different times and all too often in different rooms.

Of course, moving back to the table and holding conversations without the opiate of TV is not easily re-learned when you have spent years watching while you munch. We eat at the table but all too often Eastenders (our only soap opera vice, unless you count The Archers) is on and our conversation ebbs and flows with the comings and goings of Alfie Moon and Dot Cotton.

So we are going to try to increase the number of times we forego the TV in favour of background music and conversation.... just as soon as we have had Sky+ installed next week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Toys really are Us

When I came home tonight I found Hayley had made some toys for Oliver. One was a shaker made from a Gravy Granules tin filled with a few, erm, well probably Gravy Granules. The other was simply the inside of a packet of Special K which crnkled and crackled in the hands. He was fascinated by the new sounds.

It brought home the fact that for all the fancy playmats and electronic swinging/vibrating chairs you can buy, a child will find lots of everyday things fascinating.

Hayley had a list of household objects for play that she had brought home from a 'new mothers' group. It included things like loofas, balls of wool, large pebbles and tennis balls. As I read it I felt a memory of my own childhood fascination with these objects start to surface.

And there i was thinking no further than an excuse to buy myself a playstation when my son arrived. Anyone with any sense would prefer a nice bath and a loofa.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Life and death, near and far

This week Hayley recounted a tale to me about her late brother Paul. One day when arguing with his mother he grew tired of being told how grateful he should be for the privations she underwent to bring him up. "I didn't ask to be born!" he snapped. This earned him a thick ear (though he was about 21 at the time)!

It set me to thinking about the mixed blessing of being born into this world without a choice. I remember a friend many years ago telling me how devastated he was when he discovered at the age of 5 that one day he would die. It's a delicate question to handle. As I lay in the bath this morning I found myself wondering how I am going to tell Oliver about it.

But of course he is very lucky to be born into a society that is affluent and benevolent by global standards and into a family who love him. Watching the TV this week, the colossal devastation caused by the earthquake in Pakistan is a stark reminder that many children grow up in less hospitable surroundings and in greater danger from natural disasters. The scale of the tragedy is almost too much to take in and has come at a time when starvation in Malawi should be making the news pages but has been pushed into the background (or more accurately completely off the pages) of the newspapers and media websites.

Then as I lay in the bath listening to the radio my thoughts turned to the danger from human sources. "From Our Own Correspondent" on Radio 4 this morning told how a man drove up into the hills in the aftermath of the earthquake and set up food kitchens and tents for 1200 people. He simply felt it was the right thing to do: his Islamic duty. But a local Mullah had different ideas. It was Ramadan and by preparing the food and the fires to cook it in daylight he incurred the wrath of the Mullah who threatened to burn down all his tents!

The programme also told of the forgotten Iranian villages who suffered chemical attacks at the hands of Saddam Hussein. I could hardly imagine the horror of the women and children dying together from chemical attack in the shrine where they were worshipping. But that was the reality back in 1988, while today the survivors are so ill that they think of the dead as the lucky ones.

So I feel blessed to live in a country and time where my son can have great opportunities to live a long, rich and rewarding life.

And yet even here life comes with no guarantees. On Monday I went to work quite upbeat. I went to see a colleague but found that he wasn’t in. I thought no more of it until later in the day I was told that he was absent because his daughter had died.

She suffered from fits and earlier this year he ran the London Marathon to raise money for the David Lewis Centre who support sufferers of complex epilepsy. As well being a much respected colleague he is also a fellow cyclist who I enjoyed introducing to the delights of the Peak District trails around Castleton last year. I still find it hard to comprehend the scale of the grief he must be feeling or what he must be going through. It's hard even to find words for how I felt when I heard the news. To put it bluntly, no parent should have to bury their child. The void left behind must be immense.

So all these sombre thoughts have made me feel grateful beyond words for all that I have right now. It's easy to focus on sleepless nights and the ups and downs of the daily grind, but it shouldn't distract me from the fact that right now I am blessed beyond words to have the family I always wanted. Every day is a blessing, so no matter how bleary eyed I get I plan to seize it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All aboard the sleep deprivation roller coaster

Oliver has been sleeping a little erratically. One night this week when we tried to go to bed after his feed, he cried loudly every time he was put down and then was fine as soon as he was picked up. While we wanted to comfort him, we didn't want to establish the connection in his mind that all he has to do is cry and he will get picked up instantly over and over again. So after we had picked him up and settled him a couple of times (only for him to realise he was back in his Moses Basket and start crying) we left him to cry for a minute before picking him up and consoling him again (which took about 10 seconds as he just wanted to be held). Then we left him for two minutes before consoling him. Then three. Before the four minute gap was up he stopped crying of his own accord and went to sleep.

This may sound harsh - and to be honest I think I'd just wait one minute each time if we did it again - but we want him to learn to comfort himself to sleep. He seems to hate going to sleep. His grouchiness very often seems to be down to fighting sleep. The he gets overtired and even more grouchy. If we get to a state where he has to lie with us or be held and fall asleep in our arms then I'd say we are on a one-way ticket to exhaustion and a future of long drawn out bedtimes.

Thankfully he has only had one episode like this. Every other night he has been fairly quiet. He does sometimes grumble and refuse to go back to sleep and need consoling, but there has only been the one incident of prolonged and repeated crying.

As for the length of time he sleeps we really can't complain. He is going 3-4 hours between (the start of) feeds. He tends to have a bottle around 10.00pm then wake for a feed around 2.00am. Hayley gets up and does this one. Then I get up around 6am and give him a feed before shooting off to work.

I love that 6am feed. (Well, 5.30am this morning - his times seem to be slipping backwards a little.) Everything is quiet and he just sits happily in my arms sucking away. At first he sucks noisily and enthusiastically. After a while he sits more quietly and even looks up at me sideways as he drinks. He's so gorgeous when he is like that. Then I sit him up and wind him, holding his chubby cheeks in my hand.

We were half-heartedly trying to get him to go an average of 4 hours between feeds, because that seemed to be the way with formula. But we have realised that he is still too young for that (convenient as it would be for us) so we are letting him dictate the feed times in the hope he will settle into a pattern of his own accord.

He certainly seems to be piling on the weight. I haven't weighed him since last week but he feels heavier again to me.

And he is losing his hair. Apparently this is quite normal. He's really quite bald on top now with plenty at the sides, like an old man. A friend of ours told us that her child lost her hair and it grew back a different colour!

Overall we really can't complain. He's still finding his way and so are we. And so shall it be for about the next two decades!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

One month old today!

We celebrated Oliver reaching the grand old age of one month by goiong out for the afternoon. We took him to Room 311, a trendy little new cafe in Heaton Moor. Of course, as it was October in Manchester it was raining, so the pavement tables were passed up in favour of a comfortable leather sofa inside. While we enjoyed warm drinks and a scone, he slept comfortably in his car seat. When he awoke he joined us by dining on finest Aptimel baby milk.

We then took a trip over to the local deli, keeping his majesty dry in his car seat (below).

Finally we popped up to Leisure Lakes to look at some bikes. These nice little red and green machines caught Oliver's eye.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Things that go grump in the night

Last night Oliver had a mixed night. On one hand he went to sleep fairly easily after his feed and then went 5 hours to the next feed: fantastic! But then after his "middle of the night" feed he wouldn't go back to sleep for a while and grumbled without ever getting too upset. But it meant Hayley was pacifying him (by putting her hand onto his head in the Moses Basket) for about an hour. Then he went another two hours before wanting his next feed.

Now all this detail may sound trivial (to those who weren't kept awake by it at least), but it matters to me for two reasons. Firstly, I am wondering what effect (if any) the use of a dummy is having on his ability to go to sleep without one. Secondly, I was so sleepy when it was time for his "before breakfast" feed (which I normally give him before going to work), that I slept on and Hayley got up to give it to him even though she had already been up at 3am.

The current arrangement is that Hayley tends to do the "middle of the night" feeds during the week when I am at work and then cat nap during the day, whereas I do them at the weekend to give her a rest. But mother nature seems to have programmed Hayley with the need to nurture more than the need to sleep so far and she often gets up for a few minutes when I start to feed him. Perhaps this is Mother Nature's way of ensuring that Dad can't mess things up too much. At the weekend, even my own liberally minded Mum sympathetically uttered the phrase to Hayley "you can't trust them can you" about men handling babies!

Each day is a new experience and there is no counting of chickens when it comes to expecting the good nights to continue as they have done (mostly) to date.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Comedian Ronnie Barker dies

One of the sad things about the generation gap is that the parent can never fully convey to the child the atmosphere and culture of their own childhood and life generally before the child was born. It will always have an air of unreality to the child. My own image of my Mum's youth, including her stories of hearing Elvis for the first time, is a vague picture of 50s Britain and its clothing fashions. Much beyond that I find hard to grasp. Despite knowing factually what life was like, it will never have the corporeal quality of the times I have lived through myself.

And so, perhaps, it will be when one day I try to tell my son just how much I loved the comedy of Ronnie Barker. I can only hope that he will get the chance to see the "Four Candles" and "Opticians" sketches and they won't seem too dusty and antique for him to enjoy them as I did as a child (and as an adult).

Ronnie Barker's obituary on the BBC website is here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Little Buddha

Sometimes when I am sitting feeding Oliver at night, holding his chubby cheeks while I wind him, he reminds me of a little Buddha. That's become his new nickname: Little Buddha. Tonight as I fed him I started to sing the Buddhist music from the CD that we had played throughout Hayley's labour. We joked that perhaps that music had influenced his character in some way. I suggested buying him some orange robes. I'm sure it doesn't seem funny in writing but this scene had us laughing uncontrollably as he sat serenely drinking in my lap, bouncing up and down with my laughter.

After feeding him I had a blissful few minutes with him, lying in my arms looking up into my face from a distance of about 6 inches. I love it when he makes those little cooing noises that have started to appear.

Tonight he has been amazingly contented. He threatened to get grouchy a couple of times but we managed to placate him with the swing, then a dummy and later his bouncy (vibrating!) chair. In between all that he had a bath which he loved (though he hates getting out - don't we all). Four hours after his last feed he started to demand some milk. I added breast milk to this feed and for some reason (maybe the taste? maybe just wind?) he became very unsettled. Thankfully Hayley has calmed him and now he is just finishing the last drips from the bottle which had nearly 6oz in.

Hayley spoke to the health visitor today and got some Infacol to help with possible colic. Contrary to what we had previously been told, colic can vary greatly in severity and it's possible that's the cause of his distress (though it still seems odd to me that sometimes he can be placated for several minutes).

We've noticed that the breast milk doesn't fill him so much so it will be interesting to see how long he sleeps for after this feed.... assuming he does choose to sleep! He was grumpy this morning when he is usually happy. Then relatively content tonight when he is normally grouchy. Who knows what fun the night holds!

Grouchy again

We visited my Mum and Grandmother on Saturday. Oliver was on his best behaviour all afternoon. Later, in the evening, my Mum offered to babysit allowing Hayley and I to grab an hour alone in a local pub to eat dinner together: our first time alone and away from Oliver since his birth. We are acutely aware of how easy it could be to nurture and cherish Oliver but neglect our own relationship, so we jumped at the chance to have a bit of time together.

The next day (yesterday), Oliver was grouchy pretty much all day. It was exhausting and demoralising. It has got to the stage where Hayley is today monitoring how much time he spends asleep/feeding/content/grouchy/crying etc. I spoke to her a few minutes ago and she said he has been very grouchy all morning.... and that's usually his happiest time.

We find ourselves asking what is wrong with him and what have we done wrong to make him like this! I feel bad that I am at work and Hayley is left with him all day. She works so hard with him and it breaks my heart that she is left alone to deal with him when he gets like this.

We are also wondering whether it is the oral thrush that is bothering him. Or maybe the medicine, which seems to be having no effect anyway!

At least at the moment he is sleeping reasonably in the night. Apart from getting us up for his feed he is sleeping through... I pray this continues!

Well, I'm tired (but Hayley must be more so) and I need to work so I'll sign off. We are trying hard to enjoy our little son who will soon be a month old already. But it's hard to enjoy him when he seems so unhappy himself.

BBC NEWS | UK | Mother's care 'best' for children

Mother's care 'best' for children

I'm a touch sceptical about this research. I can't help wondering whether their findings are true simply because the sort of families where the mother can afford to stay at home are the ones where there is probably the most money and the least stress. A wealthy middle class Mum who can afford to stay at home all day (and maybe hire dometic assistance) is self-evidently likely to give her child the most time and attention.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Four Generations

From left to right: Jesse (Great Grandmother), Oliver, Elaine (Grandmother), Steven (Father).

Today we visited my Mum's house where Oliver met several of his relatives including his Nan and Great Grandmother (pictured). He also met his Aunty Julia and cousin Tom.

Babies for Dummies, Dummies for Babies

Dummies (or pacifiers) are a point of great contention, or at least they seem to have been down the years. Nowadays the stories of teeth being pushed out of shape seem to have been discounted, but they are still frowned on by many in a quite judgmental way.

We have been trying to avoid giving Oliver a dummy, mostly because we might be storing up trouble for later when we have to take it off him and because we don't want him to need it at night when his losing it is likely to result in crying for him and yet more broken sleep for us.

I don't have experience of many babies against whom to compare Oliver, but even Hayley who has nannied several babies thinks he's perhaps on the grouchy side. Sadly, this seems to manifest itself more in the evenings.... just when Daddy comes home!

It's Saturday today and he has been quite content all morning. But last night he exercised his right to whinge at length. He wasn't wailing for ages (unlike a few nights ago) but was generally grouchy, veering between grumbly and crying. We tried all the usual options. Hungry? Windy? Nappy dirty? Needs attention? Needs to be left alone? Wants to play? Wants his swing? Wants to sleep.....? Nothing seemed to work. He was sucking his hands like he does when he's hungry, but he didn't want food.

So finally we thought we'd try it. We got out a dummy, sterilised it, then offered it to him. He took it and was content. What's more, we could converse for a few minutes at a normal volume. I can see why they are so popular!

We don't want to get into the habit of using it and we took it off him before he went to sleep. But it's another tool in the armory as we try to find the happy medium between the ideal "text book" handling of our baby and a way that will give him happy attentive parents who can do more for him than simply try to console.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Arctic ice 'disappearing quickly'

Arctic ice 'disappearing quickly'

This research indicates that the rate at which the polar ice cap is melting means that there could be no sea ice in the Arctic by the summer of 2060.

I find this story quite terrifying when considered alongside other stories of climatic change such as the recent hurricanes and the potential for the Gulf Stream conveyer to stop.

We seem to be sleep-walking into a possible ecological disaster that will be impossible to undo. I can't help thinking that when Oliver is grown up, all the other stories I have highlighted could look irrelevant and trivial alongside this one. And yet, despite a high placing in the news media, you can be certain that George W. Bush and his government will continue to block moves to address climate change, preferring instead to stick his head in the sand and worry about his precious economy.... as if that will survive global climate change! The degree of "short termism" in his thinking strikes me as breathtaking in its naivety and selfishness.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BBC NEWS | Education | Junk food to be banned in schools

Junk food to be banned in schools

When I heard this story as the headline news on the radio at 6am this morning while I sat feeding Oliver, I had to wonder whether I was hearing correctly. I am delighted but also astonished that the government has intervened so dramatically.

I have no doubt that this is thanks to Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve the quality of school meals and the resulting upsurge public support.

I have to confess that all this was going on at the same time we were considering names for our baby. Dare I even hint that my son's name might owe something to my unexpected new-found respect for the celebrity chef whom I had previously dismissed as an irritating mockney monkey?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Although our son's name is Oliver, you could get through most of a day in our house and possibly never hear him addressed as such. Here are a few of his other titles:

"His Holiness" - as he often clasps his hands together, as if in prayer, particularly while drinking.

"Champ" - I have no idea why but I called him this from day one in the hospital.

"Mate" - it's a bloke thing.

"Bloke" - it's a bloke thing too. Usually used when he's done something blokeish, such as loudly breaking wind or soiling his nappy just after it's been changed and then pulling a face that looks mischievously close to a grin.

"Oscar" - as in Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street (I think). Used when he gets particularly unhappy for no apparent reason or grumbles quietly but persistently because he is fighting sleep.

"Rocky" - he has a white outfit with a big hood that makes him look like he's about to go into the ring to do 10 rounds with a Hollywood baddy.

"Pumpkin" / "Pumpkin Pie" - well he is good enough to eat after all.

"Professor" - he sometimes puts his hand under his chin as if in deep thought and contemplation of some philosophical principle.

"Poppy" - It's a bit longwinded to explain why, but anyone worth anything in our house is a poppy at some point.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Back to work

Today I went back to work, at least for a few days. I'm lucky to have an understanding boss who is flexible about when I take my paternity leave. It's been odd to be back here. The day has passed in a sleep-deprived haze but I seem to have functioned OK. (Maybe you should ask my colleagues for the reality though.)

Dare I say it, but things really seem to be improving at home. I am feeling less anxious about the amount Oliver is drinking, as his feeds fluctuate between guzzling down 125ml to taking only 50ml then nodding off. But overall he seems to be drinking enough from what we can see. And today Hayley had a couple of visitors: fellow new mothers from our ante-natal class, Sarah and Dawn. Dawn is bottle feeding her daughter and seemed to think he was drinking as much as he should. It's always nice to have a bit of anecdotal re-assurance like that from the grass roots. After all, the experts are visiting increasingly infrequently now.

Last night Oliver woke twice in the night for feeds. I got up to warm his milk once but Hayley did all the feeding. The loose plan is that I try to sleep during the week when I am at work and then take the strain at the weekend.

Lots of colleagues with kids are mentioning 6 weeks as around the time he might start settling into a pattern and sleeping through much of the night. Though my colleague Paul who has three kids aged two and under tells a much more frightening tale of none of them sleeping through. I'm going with the majority for now, just to preserve my sanity!

I just spoke to Hayley and she is really upbeat, looking forward to going to town this Friday with Dawn and Sarah. It's great that she has had such good day. It's a stark contrast to the clouds of last week when we were exhausted and Oliver was much less happy. I really feel we have turned the corner and can enjoy him as much as we did the first few days. In fact, much more than that!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sleeping on the job

Frustration after frustration. Just as feeding seemed to be improving, Oliver has taken to falling asleep after he has barely started his feed. This is particularly frustrating when the feed is breast milk which Hayley has painstakingly (and even painfully) expressed at 4am.

He is feeding right now and stopped after only 20ml of what should be a 100ml (4oz) feed. We have to resort to waking him up: wetting his head and/or blowing on him, moving him about, etc. It doesn't feel great to do it but we know that otherwise he will wake up a short time later demanding another feed. If we get into that pattern we'll be as desperate and exhausted as we were a few days ago.

The other frustration is that even when he is drinking he seems to be feeding slowly. A 100ml feed is taking about an hour and yet two nights ago he drank down that amount in 20 minutes.

I wish I knew why he has started to do this. It looks like we are building up a new list of questions for the midwife and/or health visitor this week.

Wayne, Sharon, Emma and Shannon visit

Oliver had some visitors yesterday: Hayley's brother Wayne and his family. The day included a trip into town shopping and much passing around of Oliver to cradle him. He was in an excellent mood all day!

Of course when everyone left and we fed him, he refused to settle for an hour and a half. Hayley managed to get him to sleep by 1.30am by which time I was already asleep. I don't know where she finds the energy sometimes. I was completely shattered.

I wonder how long it will be before he stettles into a sleep pattern or we adjust to his lack of one.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

This is the toughest job in the world!

The last week has been an emotional roller-coaster. But unlike a roller-coaster, our ride seemed to have more downs than ups. Until a couple of days ago we were completely drained, both emotionally and physically. It culminated in our midwife, Jane, arriving at the house to find all three of us either in tears or on the verge of tears! "You both look absolutely shattered" ,she said, before proceeding to take the strain for the entire afternoon, to the point that when she left Oliver was bathed and asleep in his cot and she sent us upstairs to bed for a rest.

So why how did it come to this? Pressure. Pressure to breastfeed, not least from ourselves. The ante-natal classes are full of the benefits of breastfeeding but they are pretty thin on its drawbacks and how terribly exhausting and frustrating it can be. Hayley stayed in hospital specifically to get the breastfeeding right. Sadly, only a few of the midwives on her ward were "on message" and/or able to help when it came to breastfeeding techniques. But once she came home things seemed to go OK for a few days.

Then Oliver started to become increasinbly grouchy. The time it was taking to feed him was getting ridiculous. SOmetimes a feed could take three and a half hours in the night. Then he might only sleep a couple of hours before needing to feed again. And between feeds he seemed to do nothing but cry. We had given birth to a little monster! Of course, it wasn't his fault. Eventually we found out he was suffering from oral thrush.

But in the meantime, breastfeeding was becoming increasingly painful for Hayley. By early this week it was unbearable. Our midwife, Jane, who is the queen of breastfeeding, was able to help Hayley to get him to feed without pain, but only after several attempts and once she left her magic touch was hard for us to re-create. The tipping point was nearly upon us. Something had to give.

The next morning at about 5am, the pain of feeding was intolerable. Hayley was in tears and it was intolerable for me to have to watch her suffer any longer. I went downstairs and made a bottle of formula. He drank it and slept for several hours. We soon realised that it was possible to mix the use of both breast milk and formula. We also learned that just 60ml of breast milk per day for the first 6 weeks will build up the baby's immune system for the whole of the first year. This changed our whole approach.

Given the pain Hayley was suffering we have today switched to feeding him entirely from bottles, but including at least one 60ml dose of breast milk per day which Hayley has "expressed" using an electric pump that we bought earlier this week. She is also expressing more than 60ml per day and freezing it so that Oliver can continue to receive breast milk even after she is unable to produce any more milk.

I don't want to start counting chickens, but allowing ourselves to use formula like this has transformed our little family. Oliver still gets grouchy sometimes (especially around this time of day!), but much more often we are able to identify a reason and overall he seems a happier baby. And his parents are much less stressed. We've gone from an unsustainable 2-3 hours sleep a night to around 4 - 6 hours on a good night. The very fact I have been able to get to the PC and write a blog for the first time in over a week tells you something!

Last night we spent the sort of evening I had pictured before his arrival. He drank a bottle sitting on my lap. Hayley then finished off feeding him while I made dinner. He sat sleepily in his swing while we ate, then afterwards he woke, but unlike the previous few days, he was contented and alert, sitting happily in my lap looking round and listening to his Daddy babble on at him.

I really hope we have turned the corner because a few days ago I was wondering whether we would have to get some outside help. Until last night I was genuinely becoming a little afraid of Oliver as he seemed to cry so much and I could hardly ever console him. As soon as I heard him start to wake my stomach turned over. But yesterday evening has shown me that maybe the clouds are clearing. Now he doesn't seem quite so intimidating, more the adorable little boy we brought home from hospital.

But of course he's changing all the time. I am not sure what colour his eyes will end up now. They have darkened but stayed a kind of grey for the last few days. And his face is slowly changing. I know it sounds daft to say who he looks like, but after initially thinking he looks like his Uncle Wayne I can now see a lot of my Dad in him. But maybe that's because they have similar amounts of hair distributed across the head in a similar fashion: not much up front but plenty at the back.

Well, I'd better sign off, as Hayley' brother Wayne and his family are here. We have a full house for the first time since Oliver arrived. It's a great feeling and one that seemed so far away just a few days ago.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oliver - chilled

Oliver chills out in the early morning light at Dave and Susan's house in Baycliff.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The eyes have it

Hayley noticed even before she left hospital (probably a day beforehand) that Oliver's eyes are already starting to change colour. He started out with typically blue eyes but today they seem to be getting darker. So it looks like he is going to have brown eyes, like me.

All day, and all of the night

For the duration of the pregnancy there was one fact that people pointed out to me repeatedly. Once the baby arrived, I was going to be tired. Very tired. And after less than 24 hours of Oliver being part of the household I can safely say that all those doom-sayers were right.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I don't function at all well without sleep. So sleep deprivation was probably the one thing I knew I would be able to do little about and thus the thing I dreaded the most. And yet today, after a night punctuated by several feeds and/or nappy changes, I have been extremely active and only now am starting to feel the pace.

Whether I can keep up this pace remains to be seen. And I'm sure last night was relatively good by many standards, as he slept for a three hour stretch from 2.45am until 5.45am, thus granting us at least some uninterrupted sleep.

Hayley, of course, has a much harder time than me. She is following the policy of "baby-driven" or "on demand" breast-feeding. So whenever he wakes and needs a feed, she must wake and feed him. This leaves me unable to assist, as the policy recommends no expressing of milk or use of bottles for the first 6 weeks.

Hayley is coping very well though. She occasionally gets a bit tearful as the "baby blues" get the better of her, but we both know that's the hormones and most of the time she is very chipper. Even when Oliver has become fussy about feeding from his least favoured breast, she has overcome her tiredness to chat away patiently to him as she does battle with his flailing limbs and attempts to re-attach him to his source of nutrition. I'm so proud of her for her patience today. She has come through some tough days to get him to this point and hopefully his feeding will continue to improve and we won't be driven to resort to bottles of formula.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Made with 100% Love

Oliver makes himself comfortable at home.


Today Hayley decided she was ready to bring Oliver home. The breastfeeding has been getting a little easier each day and this afternoon she decided she just wanted to be home again. So tonight I fitted the car seat (as I'd forgotten how to do it since I worked it out about 4 weeks ago) and drove to Stepping Hill.

Hayley was all packed up so I carried all her stuff to the car (2 trips) and then we took Oliver down in the car seat. He had a right old cry when we put him in it, but he settled after I swung him gently in it for a few minutes.

He was as quiet as a mouse on the way home. We played the Baby Mozart for him as we have done so many times, but for the first now with him outside the womb.

When we got in he gradually woke and then cried and then filled his nappy in spectacularly loud fashion. Once I had changed him Hayley fed him (which went well) and now he is in his Moses basket for the first time. He looks very cute. He barely takes up half its length.

So here we are for the first time without a midwife in sight. I suspect it could be a long night, but it feels great to be home together.

Homecoming hat

Leaving hospital

Sunday, September 11, 2005

When is a policy not the policy?

This is more than just a grammatical puzzle. Hayley sent me a SMS in the night. The midwife who gave our ante-natal classes, Jackie, was on duty on the ward and she had a long talk with Hayley. As I suspected Jackie confirmed my fears about how the midwives on the ward had been handling Oliver's feeding. She was horrified to find that they were totally contradicting the hospital's policy on breast-feeding which is that it should be baby-driven (ie when he wants it) and without interventions such as the use of cups, teats and bottles of formula milk. We have been using cups when he will not take the breast and topping him up with a prescribed amount of formula in a cup on top of expressed breast milk. And Hayley has been doing this every 3 or 4 hours. Consequently she has barely had any rest. Jackie's view, and also the hospital policy which they should have been following, prescribes that the baby should be left to sleep (especially as he was not even 3 days old) until he wakes and shows signs of wanting milk. The midwives have been making us wake him up every 3 - 4 hours whether he wants to or not. I feel rotten about that now. And I feel angry at the midwives. What is the point of having a policy if you are going to ignore it!

Hayley said that Jackie was fuming and said she was going to write a report to highlight what is going on. Hayley then heard her talking quite heatedly to the staff after leaving her room. Jackie thinks that the reason they give such bad advice and want to intervene so much is that they also work down the corridor in a unit for premature babies. At one point one midwife was even talking about potentially using a tube to feed Oliver. Jackie was aghast at this. As she pointed out, he's 15 days late: you might do that sort of thing with babies that are 15 days early, but not 15 days late after a traumatic birth. You can expect such a baby to take up to three days to really come round and want to feed at a level you'd expect. Until then he will rest and sleep a lot. Oliver has been doing that and his blood sugar has been good on the two occasions it was tested. Plus he is alert when awake, so all the fretting and intervention was completely unnecessary.

Anyway we are now steeled for any further attempts to intervene which we will resist resolutely.

On a more positive note, Oliver woke and fed from the breast for 40 minutes in the night. This is a big step forward. He takes more readily from one breast than the other. Once he is taking from both we are going to bring him home. Our "home" midwives are all in line with the policy and are very good at getting babies to breast-feed. What is more, Hayley will be able to get one-to-one assistance from them once she is at home.

Last night after Hayley sent me the message about her talk with Jackie, I lay awake for an hour feeling furious and frustrated. Then I realised: I was already worrying! Because Hayley is a bit of a worrier, I kind of expected myself to be able to be the less worried partner: concerned but calm. But there I was after 2 days lying awake worrying about him!

I went to see them this morning but left shortly afterwards as they were both having a rest. I sat next to him with my face about 6 inches from his and just watched him as he slept. Then he grimaced and filled his nappy. Even that seemed like a command performance to me.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Handsome Devil

Spending quality time with Daddy at Stepping Hill. Shortly after this he pooped on me when I changed his nappy.

I changed a dirty nappy!

A big breakthrough this evening when Oli took about 50 consecutive sucks on Hayley's breast. He seems to be getting the knack of it. He still goes to sleep given the chance and we spent much of his previous feeding time wetting his head and blowing on it to wake him up. He is still having cup feeds too. The routine is: breast feed for 20 minutes when so far he has not taken very much; then cup feed expressed beast milk, then top up with formula. Hayley is on a treadmill of feed, nappy, put down, express, then the cycle is almost ready to start again! Fortunately while I was there today (about 10 hours) I was able to do some leg work.

I changed my first dirty nappy! He pooed as I tried to clean him and wee'd in the air. Hayley was doubled up laughing. Good to see him pee though as we had no proof he was urinating until last night. I loved changing him. As I did it I thought how I have waited my whole life to do this. It's probably the happiest I will ever be to do it but it's a good start.

Mum and Del came to see him this afternoon. Mum has done some lovely classic Pooh bear illustrations in water-colours, based on the original E.E. Shepherd drawings from A.A. Milne's books. We are delighted with them. They will look great in the nursery.

Hayley is expressing well: 20ml as I left tonight. She needs to get more sleep though.

Overall I am loving it all. I sat alone with him tonight when Hayley went to the loo. He was drowsing in my arms. I told him I hope he has a great life and that we'll do all we can for him to make it great. I love him so much. Finally I have my family with Hayley and Oliver and I feel my life truly has begun.

Friday, September 09, 2005

On the ward / First visitors

Oliver had 20ml and 10ml of milk last night from a cup. Hayley expressed an ounce of milk. The midwives stressed that Oliver will get the knack of breastfeeding. He had a tough birth and it is common for babies to behave like this then suddenly latch on and feed.

We tried to get him to feed several times. In the evening, with some assistance from Belinda (midwife, who is very helpful, caring and communicative), Oliver drank some milk and did the best he has done so far. Then he had 30ml from a cup fed by Hayley. He is so cute.

Donna, Scott and Sophie came to visit for half an hour. Donna bought him a Man Utd kit. Scott and Sophie bought him a giant book of the complete original Winnie the Pooh stories. Donna sat with him on her lap.

I stayed until 10.20pm. Hayley was about to express milk when I left.

Feeding Time

Oliver gets a top-up.


Oliver, 9th September 2005. A brief opening of the eyes before going back to sleep.

I can see why it's called labour

I could write several thousand words about the labour but I will try to keep it relatively brief. Time is precious now – as we always knew it would be! – so I will try to make good use of it. Maybe I’ll fill in extra detail later. (Please excuse the grammar – this is more for the record than for reading pleasure!)

At about 10pm we met Sally, the midwife who would be with us through the night. As soon as I met her I felt re-assured. A well-spoken, polite, middle-aged woman from Buxton, she was very calm and warm. She listened and didn’t talk over me, unlike too many medical professionals. At the time we first met her Hayley had been waiting for 6 hours to go into the delivery room when she had been told 6 hours earlier she would be taken in immediately. She was becoming more tired and I told Sally I was worried about this. She got things moving straight away. Later I noticed that whenever I expressed a concern, if she couldn’t address it herself she immediately sought a clarification or solution from the senior midwife or the senior doctor. That was to prove very valuable and re-assuring as the night progressed.

At 11pm we moved into the delivery suite where we hoped Hayley would give birth. I remember thinking “this is going to be the place”. I set up the CD player to play the calming music Hayley used during her yoga classes. It would turn out that Hayley would want it played over and over almost to the time of the birth. I only turned it off occasionally when we were trying to get the CTG to find the baby’s heart-beat.

An examination (VE) was performed and showed the cervix was fully effaced and soft.

At 11.10pm the syntocinin drip was started. The dosage of this is increased perdioically to bring on the contractions.

By 11.30pm the contractions were starting to heighten as the drugs started to really work. Hayley used the tens machine, boosting it during contractions. Then she was offered gas and air. With Sally’s help she mastered the best way to breathe it to best effect. I also helped by watching the CTG for it to indicate an increased tension in the uterus. I could see this slightly before Hayley felt it so I was able to help her to get some gas and air into her system early. This was important as it takes about 15 seconds to take effect.

As the pain started to get worse we changed to the strongest Tens programme. Nominally this is intended for “just before pushing”. But the sentocinin was bringing contractions hard and fast. Hayley was feeling a failure at this point and thought that Sally and I would think she wasn’t coping well. She even apologised to us! I told her that she was doing great (which she was) and Sally re-assured her that she was doing very well in light of the strength of the drugs inducing the contractions.

At 12.55am Hayley we discussed having an epidural but Hayley decided to try to continue.

At 1.05am Hayley decided it was time for the epidural! This was the toughest time. She was really suffering. About an hour after this we would discover that she had progressed from 1-2cm dilated to at least 6cm dilated in about 3 hours. No wonder she was suffering!

The anaesthetist came about an hour after Hayley said she needed the epidural. My recollection is that it didn’t seem a long time but Hayley assures me it seemed a long time to her! He talked her through what he was going to do and what the risks were. Bear in mind she is still experiencing strong contractions at this point. He could probably have told her there was a possible side-effect of her head exploding and she would still have wanted the epidural at this stage.

Hayley very good during its insertion – very still despite being leant forward and contracting - which took longer than it should as he checked where some blood was coming from. At one point the anaesthetist asked Sally to move Hayley’s left shoulder. She went to move her right shoulder. Hayley, who had been woozy and apparently “out of it” through pain and gas, suddenly piped up to Sally ”Who’s on this gas and air, me or you?!”. We all laughed.

It amazed me how she could keep her sense of humour like that right through the labour. She chatted away to our midwife and would come round from contractions and continue her conversation as if he had just taken a breath, not undergone a minute of painful, moan-filled contractions. She never snapped at me once despite having pain (before the epidural) that was taking her to the point where she thought she would faint. The worst she did to me was to hold my hand so tight I thought she might crush it, but I didn’t mind at all. Holding her hand and stroking her hair were as much a comfort to me as it gave me something to do apart from watch for the contractions and tell her when to breathe. Her bravery through the whole experience just filled me with admiration for her. At one point, to my amazement and amusement, she commented on her labour that “at least the next one should be easier”!

The epidural helped but Hayley still had a spot low down that was not numbed. She continued with the gas and air. The anaesthetist returned and increased the epidural dosage to cover the blind spot, but Hayley still got some pain. However, her level of discomfort and stress after this were noticeably reduced.

After this things seemed to slow down a bit. There was a feeling of calm progress with just Sally and me in the room with Hayley most of the time, with low light and yoga music playing quietly.

By 3.30am Hayley was very nearly fully dilated. A VE showed she was fully dilated apart from a small rim on one side! She had gone from 1cm to over 9cm in 4 hours! (The average rate is said to be 1cm per hour.) I’m sure this was down to the strong drugs being used to induce her.

Sally pointed out to me that most of the baby’s heart-rate decelerations were “early” i.e. occurring with the contractions, which is a good thing!

Sally noticed “a large show” - which really meant “a lot of blood” - and quickly went to consult Mandy (senior midwife). The doctor was called and Hayley was examined by the doctor who was not overly concerned but mentioned taking a blood sample from the baby to check he is not too distressed.

I then popped out of the room for 30 seconds to speak to Mandy about the amount of blood and was re-assured by her that it was not a problem. I returned to the room to find Hayley had come round from a contraction to find herself alone. “You all left me”, she cried, understandably a bit upset!

The next thing I recall is that the doctor returned. He examined Hayley at 4.20am and said there was still a very small lip, so she was not quite fully dilated. She was also laid on her side to try to lower the baby’s baseline heart-rate which was slowly rising. It was also to help eliminate the “lip”.

By this point there were several people in the room, coming and going (Sally, Mandy, Doctor, Anaesthetist & assistant). Hayley then suddenly (but mistakenly) suspected we were keeping something from her because of conversations going on that she could only partially grasp in her woozy state. She got very angry. Thinking there might be talk of a c-section, she told the senior doctor “I’m not having a pissing section after coming this far!” This was her only real outburst.

By 5.15am there was just me, Sally and Hayley again and no-one had been in for a while. I was frustrated at the lack of progress. Hayley was almost asleep between contractions and I asked Sally to get the doctor back in to examine Hayley as she must surely be fully dilated by now. By now Hayley is now experiencing some heavy pressure on her bum as if pooing: it’s the baby’s head pushing down. At one point Hayley interrupts a suck on the gas and air to say “excuse me” when she breaks wind. One of the midwives later commented she was the politest labouring woman they’d ever known.

5.30am(ish): The doctor came back in. (He was rather unintelligible, even to Sally.) Concerned about possible distress, he takes a blood sample and attaches an electrode to the baby’s scalp to monitor the heart rate directly (instead of through the abdomen). Hayley is fully dilated.

5.40am: Hayley is pushing now with contractions (no gas or air). Baby is slowly moving down the birth canal.

From here on the exact times are a bit hazy.

6 - 6.10am: The doctor returned and said he didn’t like the blood results and was going to use a ventuse cap to assist Hayley get the baby out quickly. He also had to do an episiotomy. The Paediatrician was then called as he has to examine the baby first when ventuse is used.

6.15am: It was hectic in there by now. I remember being in the thick of it and didn’t feel out of place or in the way, but more a part of the team. To their credit the professionals in no way pushed me aside. The Ventuse cap was applied and Hayley pushed. The cap comes off. It is re-attached and the doctor pulls as Hayley pushes again. I am holding Hayley’s hand and telling her when to push and encouraging her. It’s the classic labour scene by this point. The cap comes off again! At the thirds attempt the head is delivered. I look down there over Hayley’s legs (in stirrups) to see a head with a large lump on it where the cap was. I remind myself what a good idea the ante-natal classes were, otherwise I’d have been alarmed by this.,

6.19am: One more push… and baby is out!

The baby is placed for a few (10?) seconds on Hayley’s tummy, then lifted off by Mandy to go to the Paediatrician. At this point we haven’t seen what the gender is! I ask Mandy and she turns our newborn towards me. In surprise, and with a bit of a quake in my voice, I tell Hayley “it’s a boy”! I am amazed and surprised but delighted after still expecting a girl even as they started to turn him towards me. I feel excited, emotional but thankfully am too busy to cry! Hayley gets a bit weepy now.

The Paediatrician then took the baby to a table next to Hayley’s bed and examined him. He took an agonisingly long few moments to do this and there appeared to be some concern. Hayley became concerned and started to cry slightly. I re-assured her as I know logically he must surely be OK. I see Mandy flicking the baby’s foot. I ask “He is breathing though…?” I am told yes. A few seconds later a little cry. Phew! He was apparently shocked. Later when we read the notes we found his HR was below 100bpm and he needed a few assisted breath and cardiac massage to get him out of shock. He is then swaddled and returned to Hayley.

We took a few photos of the three of us and of Mandy and Sally, our midwives.

Meanwhile, the doctor delivers the placenta. It looks like something between a giant piece of tripe and a giant squid. He then stitches Hayley up and we are almost done.

After that there’s not much to do beyond tidy up – the doctor left a right old (literally) bloody mess for the midwives to clear up. Hayley is tired and can’t move her legs due to the epidural, but by the time she is sitting in a clean bed with Oliver in her arms she has a grin a mile wide.