Saturday, April 30, 2005

Asthma in pregnancy

This afternoon, as I washed my bike, I listened to Weekend Woman's Hour on Radio 4. The program discussed the use of drugs that control asthma during pregnancy, a subject of interest to us as Hayley has occasional mild asthma attacks and uses a ventolin inhaler to control them.

In summary the program said that drugs such as ventolin (taken when an attack occurs) and some preventive drugs were proven to be safe for use during pregnancy and that women should definitely continue to use them. To back this up they interviewed a woman who discontinued her use of a preventive drug during her first pregnancy without any problems, but had a very bad asthma attack during her second pregnancy which lead to her being admitted to hospital.

Hayley has only had to use her ventolin inhaler a couple of times during the pregnancy - usually when she's been around cats as she is allergic to them - and this is the only medication she uses. However, the onset of summer will inevitably bring hay fever which she suffers from severely and which triggers asthma attacks. The question of safe medications for that is yet to be considered.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Best age to have first child is 34"

What is the best age to start a family? Now experts say it's 34

This research was presented in today's "Independent On Sunday" newspaper. It highlights 34 as the ideal age for a woman to have a first child. This takes into account medical, social and economic factors. This caught my eye on the news-stand as Hayley is 34 now, 35 next week.

While the researchers clearly have a point, I think their findings only reflect what "tends" to happen as women get older, ie more emotionally mature, more financially secure, etc. The statistical average of the women they have interviewed may point to their conclusion, but you can't just simplistically say that "34 is the best age". Their findings also have to be offset against reduced fertility at this age.

The article can be accessed via the above link but is subject to access charges 3 days after publication onwards. Some earlier related research by the same professor can be found here.

I have taken the liberty of re-producing the article here for now.


What is the best age to start a family? Now experts say it's 34
Women who put off childbirth may be doing their bodies a favour
By Roger Dobson and Andrew Johnson
24 April 2005

The biological clock may be ticking for thousands of women. But the dilemma over the best age to start a family has finally been solved: women should aim for 34.

A study of 3,000 young mothers has found that when it comes to maternal health this is the best age for women to have their first baby - suggesting that women who put their families on hold in order to establish their careers do not lose out.

Academics looked at the link between health problems of around 3,000 women, and their age at their first delivery. Women who first gave birth around puberty developed more health problems. The longer the first birth was delayed, up to the age of 34, the fewer the health problems now. After that age, they rose again. Health benefits started at the age of 22, peaking at 34.

"At any age, a woman who had her first child at 34 is likely to be, in health terms, 14 years younger than a woman who gave birth at 18," said Professor John Mirowsky, who led the research published by the Health and Social Behaviour Journal.

His findings have been questioned, however. Melanie Every, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Midwifery, argued that the key factor was social background, rather than age.

"Career women who have delayed having a family have higher incomes, better education, better diets and better housing conditions, and these factors are important," she said. "A younger woman will be better from a purely physical fitness view, but if you look at social security, finance and the child's development and health, being a little older and having more life expectancy can be helpful."

Cecilia Pyper, a senior research fellow at the Department of Public Health at Oxford University and a fertility expert, warned that women must bear in mind that they become less fertile after the age of 35.

"Fertility is declining from then, and for women who are just starting a family, it is pretty tight," she said. "Breastfeeding suppresses ovulation. A woman who has her first child at 34 will not be having her second until she is 37 or 38.

"Women who want a family should not be targeting the age of 34 for the first time to get pregnant. I think a lot of women are looking at the age of 30, so if they run into trouble they can still have IVF and a second child."

Professor Mirowsky acknowledges this point: "Even compared with the mid-20s, the advantages increase up to the age of 34. But the longer you wait, the better, up to a point. When you reach that point, the reproductive system is declining, there is the risk of chronic disease, and you cannot put it off. It is all about trade-offs."

More and more women are choosing to have children later. While the average age for a first birth in the UK is 29, the number of women aged between 30 and 34 giving birth has increased steadily in the past 10 years. At 94.9 births per 1,000 in 2003, this age group is only marginally behind the 25 to 29 age group, at 95.8 as the most popular age for giving birth.

The number of women giving birth up to the age of 40 and over has also seen a steady rise, one of the reasons for the research, funded by the US National Institute on Ageing and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Professor Mirowsky added: "This trend has led some people to feel alarm about implications for the health of mothers and infants.

"The results of this study suggest there is no cause for that alarm. The social and economic benefits of delaying parenthood more than compensate for the ageing reproductive system."

'I look at younger mums and I wonder how they will cope'
By Linda Jones

Allison Whordley from Cannock, Staffordshire, found that a few years of experience were a real help when, at the age of 34, she gave birth to her first child, Summer.

"Being that bit older has meant I am more in tune with what Summer needs and wants. You are at a stage in your life where you can be more relaxed about it and appreciate how precious children are. There's also the peace of mind of having finances sorted - by having a good few years of working behind you - and not having to worry about where cash is going to come from if you have to take time away from work early on. I had a very secure job at an estate agents.

"There do seem to be a lot of very much younger mums around these days. When I see them with their pushchairs I wonder how they are going to cope. I won't ever be wistfully thinking of the times I could be having if I hadn't had Summer."

Friday, April 22, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Day care prevents child cancers

BBC NEWS | Health | Day care prevents child cancers

Another piece of interesting research. We've definitely no plans for our baby to go into child care in the first three months, but it's certainly an encouragement to not wrap him/her in cotton wool during that period which is rather contrary to what I might have expected the advice to be.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New Papa

Yesterday a new Pope was chosen. I heard this poem (on BBC Radio 2) which considers the new situation facing this different kind of Papa.


Papa never married.

Then, near his eightieth year,
Millions of children claimed him
As their own;

Needing him to hold each hand.
Lead each to the Promised Land.
Show each the way
To the Eternal Throne.

Papa, (as many dads before),
Knows that he cannot be wrong,
Knows that they hear his word as Law.
Of course, the knowledge makes him strong.

Can you love them all the same?
Whatever they are? Whatever they do?
Can you allow them to leave, one day,
And make their way, not asking you?

Hard to be an ageing dad
To kids you never knew you had.

Bring them up Papa, any old way you can.
Such a tough job for a single man.

Lucy Berry

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Working mums provide better diets

BBC NEWS | Health | Working mums provide better diets

An interesting article about research published today that claims working mothers provide better diets for their children.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"Another Saturday night and I ain't got no Boddies..."

Our Saturday night out last week was a trip to the big Borders bookshop in Stockport. It's one of those sprawling affairs with room to swing a colony of feral cats, comfortable sofas dotted around the floor and a mezzanine floor housing a Starbucks just in case the need for corporeal sustenance should make you consider the terrifying possibility of leaving this haven of havens and returning to the lesser luxury of home.

We arrived around 7.30pm. Hayley's early anxiety was quickly calmed by immediately seeking out an assistant who assured her that yes, they were open until 10pm. Thank goodness. For a minute there I thought we were going to have to go direct to Starbucks without even the pretence of being there to buy books.

I won't bore you with the details of the techy book I bought, but after perhaps half an hour of independent browsing we rendez-voused near the "baby" section, by which time Hayley had acquired a "baby's first book" (made from soft fabric) and also a rattle.

She was also perusing "Your Baby and Child" by Penelope Leach. After reading this myself for a while, the temptation to buy it proved too great (although I bought it online from Amazon later and saved £10), so it has now been added to the small armoury of self-help books about pregnancy and babies that is building on our bookshelf. (Actually in truth most of them can be found in the bathroom or by the bed, but you get the picture.)

To be fair some of them seem very good (he says as if he knows!). "What to expect when you're expecting" seems to be one of the standard texts. We also have "Conception, Pregnancy and Birth" by Miriam Stoppard, although our edition is a few years old (cue mild panic at the thought that we might be reading laughably outdated ideas that haven't kept up with the latest medical practices and theories about what is best in this situation that is as old as woman herself!) And perhaps most useful of all is the NHS booklet from the midwife.

That's not to mention all the books you can get that exclusively address conception. For a couple of months before conception, Hayley had been reading "Getting Pregnant", though I didn't really get chance to read much of it myself. We were mercifully spared the stress (agony even) of those would-be parents who find their entire lives start to revolve around the menstrual cycle, determining the exact time of ovulation and the best way to maximise the chance of conception.

Anyway, back in Borders we took the opportunity to enjoy a light beverage ("cafe mocha with whipped cream for me, a decaff' latte with skimmed milk for the lady...") before retiring home.

Which brings me to the title of this entry. For those who don't get it, "Boddies" is short for Boddingtons, a famous Manchester beer. I've noticed that I don't really fancy alcoholic beverages so much these days. Admittedly on the rare occasions I open a bottle of ChateauNeuf du Pape it is unlikely there will be much left for the following evening. But apart from this the occasional bottle of beer or late night Islay malt whisky is about my limit these days. It could be down to sympathy with Hayley. But I've a sneaking suspicion it's more a subconscious desire to retain control in the face the enormous responsibility that comes closer every week and which I greet with equal amounts of joy, respect and primal panic.

T-Shirts from Think Geek

TCP/IP T-shirt
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
I bought four T-shirts from Think Geek as a surprise for Hayley. You can see all four of them here.

Three of them are for the baby and one is to be worn by one or both of the parents. They were a bit of an indulgence, especially as they were shipped from the USA, but they are such fun that I couldn't resist them.

Nursery Furniture

Nursery Furniture
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
This is the furniture we have ordered for the nursery from Index.

The cot converts to a bed when the baby is bigger. The chest of drawers has a changing table on top of it.

Once it's delivered all we'll have to do is master the fine art of turning the flat packs into the beautiful child-proof furniture of the catalogue images.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"How are you feeling, It's a beautiful morning"

I couldn't let this weekend pass without commenting on what a fabulous Sunday morning I had. It was the sort of morning that us 9-to-5'ers can spend months living for.

Up at 8.30 and by 9.30 I was on my bike in Marple Bridge. I did a 12 mile ride (1800 feet of climbing) which was a bit challenging (mostly due to the previous evening's dodgy tummy!) but was blessed with sunshine the whole way round and took me along some fabulous trails which I have never come across before, despite having ridden that area for years.

Meanwhile Hayley was treating herself to breakfast at "The Orangery" in Heaton Moor, a trendy little eatery situated a 30 minute walk from home: just enough to justify that full English!

By the time I got home I was just in time for Hayley to serve me up a superb brunch of fried egg (over easy) and mushrooms on a very fresh bread roll. (What a gem she is!) The taste of it after a morning's exertion was second to none.

It just felt so good to be alive today.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Kick Inside

Tonight we reached a memorable milestone in any pregnancy. For the first time I felt the baby kick!

Hayley has been feeling stronger and stronger kicks over the last couple of weeks and tonight she felt it from the outside with her hand on her tummy. I placed my hand there and sure enough within a few seconds I felt a movement that was quickly confirmed as a kick by the look of excitement that immediately spread across Hayley's face.

It seems quite early to be feeling kicks from the outside. But then again she felt them on the inside quite early too.

She seemed to feel a bit unnerved by the strength of them tonight which I find entirely understandable. It must be a weird feeling to realise there is another person floating about inside you, regardless of the fact that you've known that was the deal all along. Particularly so when something like Beckham's right foot seems to be putting the boot in.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The second half kicks off

As I type I'm watching Lyon and PSV Eindhoven take penalties in the Champion's League at the end of extra time. In terms of the pregnancy week 20 has just ended so the second half has just kicked off. Let's hope there's no need for extra time in our game!

In the interests off keeping things on track, last night we went to an "early" ante-natal class. It was lead by a physiotherapist and focused on posture and exercises for the mother-to-be. There were lots of exercises for the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. The overwhelming message seemed to be "keep doing those pelvic floor exercises ladies, they are dull but essential". They passed around a model of the pelvic region which was useful to me as I know frightfully little about human anatomy beyond a few key muscle groups and how to stretch them.

Hayley has had a few problems with back pain and also some tingling in the top of the legs. To her horror the physiotherapist said this is a condition often found in fat old men! But in this case it is due to the extra weight gained during pregnancy. She explained that during pregnancy the woman will gain more weight in fat than through the weight of the baby itself. The there was then a long list of other things adding weight: amniotic fluid, the placenta, increased blood volume, increased breast volume, etc. The total came to about 2 to 3 stone but can be more.

One woman there also commented that with her first child she lost almost all the weight in a few weeks and attributed this to breast feeding. Is there no end to the wonders it can do!

The men who attended were not spared. We had to roll up our shirts for our posture and muscles to be scrutinized by the group. To my immense satisfaction (and not a little bewilderment) the physiotherapist said I had a very balanced physique with good abdominal muscles and asked whether I do a lot of sport! Thankfully Hayley managed to keep a straight face when answering in the affirmative. Bless her.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Second scan (20 weeks)

Second scan (20 weeks)
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
This is the only picture we got from the second ultrasound scan. (Unfortunately when we asked for two pictures our sonographer seemed to think we wanted to pay twice for two prints of the same thing!)

There's not much more to see here than the first scan. The baby is bigger obviously! And you can make out an arm. In the room we saw hands, fingers, lots of kicking and punching...!

The sonographer confirmed that the baby is developing as expected and that there are no visible problems or "soft markers" which is exactly what we were hoping to hear.

Look (s)he's waving!

Throughout the eight weeks since the first ultrasound scan we have debated whether to find out the sex of the baby at the second scan. About a week ago I joked with Hayley "we'll still be deciding whether or not to find out what sex it is when we are driving to the hospital." Sure enough, as we drove through Stockport this morning towards Stepping Hill we were still weighing up the pros and cons.

You may think this sounds like terrible dithering (and you'd probably be right), but in our defence we started out with every intention of finding out the sex of the baby. That was before we came across so many people who told us we shouldn't find out that we were swayed. We had to admit that we had few reasons for wanting to know beyond our excitement. There was also an element of feeling like we would "know" the baby better if we knew its gender, but at the same time Hayley had already grown attached to talking to "bump".

"Not knowing will help you through the last month and the last stages of labour" was the comment of one of Hayley's friends. And we felt no preference for either a boy or a girl, so maybe in that situation it's right not to find out?

Today at the ultrasound scan we didn't specifically ask to know the sex of the baby. Neither did the sonographer ask us whether we wanted to know. Throughout the scan I must confess that I found myself trying to spot meaningful blips on the screen. But our baby was determinedly lying with legs tucked up in front. This made taking some of the measurements difficult, so Hayley was dismissed for 5 minutes to "walk briskly" in the hope that the fetus would turn over. Sure enough when we returned the baby had turned through 180 degrees and there was an improved view. Well, there was an improved view for the sonographer but for the layman it was still all rather cloudy.

All the checks were finally performed. She was able to tell us that the baby is developing at the expected rate and that there were no "soft markers" that might indicate any sort of irregularity. The baby wriggled and squirmed occasionally. And from time to time we were able to see both hands and all the fingers on them. There was a moment when the baby seemed to wave his hand at us much to our amusement, before wriggling into another position that frustrated the sonographer.

After the scan we sat in the waiting room and compared notes. It quickly became apparent that from the mass of swirling lines on the screen we had both drawn the same tentative conclusion: it's a girl! But as this was based on our very sketchy understanding of what we were seeing, we decided to ask the sonographer so as not to leave with a false impression. "Well, she said "I wasn't really concentrating on that aspect. If you'd asked I could have looked....". I had my suspicions that she was dodging the question. She had spent ages looking around to measure the various parts of the baby and I found it hard to believe she didn't even have an inkling as to the gender. But then again we didn't ask so maybe she was telling the truth. And if she hadn't noticed, the chances were that we had been chasing shadows.

So we finished the day in the same boat as we started it. But with the added knowledge that we are still on course.

Another day, another day-care

Today we visited "Wind In The Willows" nursery. This is a SureStart nursery which is fairly new so it doesn't have many kids yet. It was fairly quiet while we were there so one or both of us will be going back when it's busier, but overall we were impressed with it. It's hard to judge very much from a visit but the person in charge certainly made the right first impression.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I've written songs since I was about 16 years old. Unsurprisingly then one of the things I've always said I would do when I had a child would be to write a lullaby for him/her.

A few nights ago as I drove home from the tip, listening to The Archers on Radio 4, a simple melody came to mind. When I got home I picked up the guitar and worked out some chords to support it. By the end of the evening I had a couple of simple verses and a few days after that I added a little middle 8 instrumental section.

It's a shame that I don't have my PC and keyboard set up to record at the moment as it would be nice to record it properly and see if I can make it sound in reality as it does in my head.

Anyway, I'm really quite chuffed to have written this little ditty. It's rather twee as songs go but I think that's how a lullaby should be! I know it's a wildly romantic thing to want to do but I'd love to be able to sing it to our baby after it's born. And if our little darling don't scream the house down in response that will be nice too.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ch ch ch ch changes

1. "I don't care if I never buy another mountain bike, we have to get them."

These were the admittedly slightly rash words I uttered in Mothercare when my growing enthusiasm for all things infant started to run out of control. We had just test driven our chosen buggy and now I was admiring a mobile to hang above the baby's bed that featured the original Winnie The Pooh characters based on E.H Shepard's illustrations in A.A. Milne's book (rather than the Disney versions). I have a feeling this outburst could come back to haunt me!

2. Quickening!

Back in week 16 or 17, Hayley was lying in the bath one evening when she suddenly "felt something". This was the first time she thought she might have detected movement. Week 17 is very early, especially for a first-time mother (unless it's twins) so we decided it might have just been a grumbling tummy. But the same feelings grew stronger. "Like bubbles" was her best description. A few evenings ago she suddenly let out an exclamatory sort of "woah!" This time the feeling was closer to someone drumming inside her. She had no doubt this time that she was feeling the baby move. Unfortunately it's too early for me to be able to put my hand on her belly and feel it too. A few weeks more before that happens.

3. Sometimes a question isn't really a question at all.

This can also be explained as "the pregnant woman always gets her way".
Hayley: "Shall we have X or Y for tea?"
Steve: "Let's have Y."
Hayley: "Really? Don't you think we should have X?"
Steve: "OK let's have X."
Hayley "Yeah, that's what I thought too. Let's have X."
You can replay this scene in any number of situations and it still works. Shopping, eating out, choosing something for the baby... Not that I mind. In fact it has become a bit of a standing joke between us.

4. Action!

I have finally stopped talking about sorting out all our storage problems and started to do something about it. I have been to the local tip numerous times and have managed to dispense with much "stuff" that we were previously hoarding quite unnecessarily. Furthermore the garage is starting become a place with room to work again as the stuff that can't be tipped accumulates in large stackable crates down one side instead of sprawling across the shelves and floor. The only thing I've been unable to bring myself to dump is my semi-functional combo amp/speakers which I have had since I was 16 and which has been to almost every gig I did during my 20s when I played guitar in numerous bands. It's currently nestled in the corner of the garage. It may yet lose its spot.