Monday, February 28, 2005

The secret of comedy is...

Timing. One week you go into work and announce to your colleagues that you are expecting your first child. The following week you go into work and your employer announces that there are to be redundancies that equate to about 1 in 5 of the workforce. Hmmmm.... As the John Lennon song says, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans".

We are trying not to fret about it. There's no point Hayley (and "bump") getting full of stress hormones over something that might not happen. It's not like I haven't been here before. I've survived three previous rounds of redundancies in the last 15 years, most recently in 2000. Although I'm not complacent either. Not at all. But worrying about it right now is just shadow boxing. Anyway, the workplace at the moment is filled with a sort of gallows humour that is typical in this situation. Apprently March 9th is the day they are likely to announce who gets "hanged". Check back to see who's laughing then!

But the real comedy around here right now is Hayley's spectacularly long belches. She sounds like something from "The Amazon by Night" or "Sounds of the Serengeti". They are so long and loud that I have been trying to catch one on video. (Shame on me, I know.) But once the camera is on she can't "perform". One of these evenings I'll hit lucky and then the full resonant glory of her post-meal expulsions can be revealed to a lucky worldwide audience.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


We each sent out emails to our friends to break the news to them.

I sent out an email containing a link to the scan picture, but saying only that “this [picture] is our greatest piece of creative work ever captured on camera”.

Hayley sent out a more direct "we have big news, go to our website" sort of email.


Some responses to Steve's email:

"Definitely! Not what I was expecting to see; not sure what I was
expecting to see - something to do with Mountain BIkes / Routes /
Czech Holiday pictures I guess, but that was defiintely worth logging
on for. Congratulations - so there is lead in the old Socialist Pencil after all -
I always presumed that you were a bit like President Tony's
promises in that department :-)"

"Wow! Brilliant news. When's the due date? Aug/Septish? Remember if the little darling can be squeezed out in Aug you save a years nursery fees etc!! Get as much sleep as you can in the meantime given that youre not getting any younger!"

"That's brilliant - congratulations! ...doesn't look much like you though :-) ...or Hayley come to think of it. Got to be the most important thing you can do - hope I do it one day too. Good work Steve."

"Wow what fantastic news! I must say I am not surprised, I was thinking about you both last week and wondering when the big day was going to be. I must have had a premonition. I really am absolutely delighted for you both, as the pic emerged I went all goose pimply and tearful."

"Congratulations, Well Done, I bet your really Happy. No wonder you've been skipping to work and back."


Some reponses to Hayley's email:

"OH Hayley - I am so happy for you - I don't know what to say! If anyone was ever designed to be a parent, it is you. You are going to be a fabulous mommy.... Oh I'm just so tickled for you sweetie."

"CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! That is soo exciting. When is the baby due??? How is Steve? I am sure you both are super excited."

"OH MY GOODNESS....CONGRATULATIONS, I'm soo happy for you. You will be a great mum..What's the time difference between us, I want to call you (from work of course)...I'm soo happy for you Hayley, I want to cry!"

"Hayley, That is fantastic news. I am so happy for you and Steve. You really have come a long way my dear. You had to deal with some tough blows in life, but look how you ended up, with such joy and happiness. I am thrilled for you."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Apparently I smell... again!

According to Hayley, during pregnancy the mother-to-be's sense of smell is increased 280%. Don't I know this!

Over the past couple of days she has taken to sniffing me again. Last night I ate a whole garlic baguette while she was out. When she came in she pulled a face like I'd climbed out of a sewer and kept me at arms length thereafter.

During the night she disappeared to the spare room, only returning in the morning to spray air freshener around the room as I wandered sleepily downstairs to make porridge. That'll teach me.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Scantastic day!

Yesterday we had the first scan and it was without doubt the high point of the pregnancy so far for me. (See the picture below.)

The moment the sonographer placed the instrument on Hayley's belly I could see the baby so clearly! And almost immediately it moved, propelling itself upwards. What a feeling to see it! I guess it must be the same for everyone, but we immediately had the biggest grins on our faces. The feeling was one of undiluted elation.

Afterwards we got a couple of pictures and took one each to work. It was finally time to go completely public and tell our friends at work and elsewhere. And that has been a huge relief and a huge pleasure.

I walked into the office to find both Dave and Paul there, so I showed them the picture first. It was great to finally reveal why I'd been so interested in Paul's lack of sleep and in the houses for sale near Dave in Bramhall.

I took in all the remaining chocolate from the weekend Valentine party as a way of celebrating. It served as a nice way to bring up the news. Several people (including Matt) came in and noticed the chocolate but not the picture on my desk and asked why I had more chocolate than Charlie's famous factory.

The signature to the whole afternoon was my ever-present grin, probably as daft looking as it was permanent. Not that I cared. And the parade of fathers telling tales of baby woes didn't burst my bubble either. Neither Paul's stories of permanent sleep deprivation, nor Dan's accounts of projectile pooing were sufficient to remove the smile for the entire afternoon.

Today I emailed Chris and also Scott. Chris was surprised. (I'll find out just how surprised tomorrow when I meet him for lunch.) Scott was also taken totally unawares. As was Sophie. Later, at home, they rang us, which was really nice.

A couple of people asked if this meant we were getting married, which I found interesting. For the record, it doesn't mean we'll get married. As I said to one person yesterday, we've made the biggest commitment, getting married would be peripheral to the undertaking we haver already made. Many of the strongest families I know are not ones where the parents are married.

Actually I'm reminded of Eric Morecambe when I think of the order in which things have happened in my life, particularly between Hayley and I. When Andre Previn told him "You are playing all the wrong notes", he countered "I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order".

Tonight I have sent out an email to a long list of friends and there'll be another one tomorrow to Hayley's circle. I wonder what responses they will solicit.

Ultrasound image at 13 weeks

This is a snapshot from Hayley's first scan at 13 weeks into the pregnancy.

The head is on the left and the body on the right.

The picture doesn't really do justice to the quality of the image we saw on the screen which showed developing limbs and the heartbeat.

Monday, February 14, 2005


The news has been broken to the grandparents to be.

Well, all except my Dad as he seems not to have returned from his latest jaunt to the continent in his ongoing attempt to holiday his way to a Ph.D in Hedonism.

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions in ones life: and not just because I managed to gather most of my family into one room without them leaving, cooking or answering the phone. So after they had been seated for a while and had sampled the dips and snacks that Hayley and Julia had so carefully prepared, we "decided" to play charades.

We quickly navigated South Pacific before struggling through Hayley's Guys and Dolls to get to my turn.

So after communicating that my chosen subject was not a play, movie, book or show, I managed to convey that the first three (of the four) words were "Steve and Hayley's...". It's hard to convey how I felt at this point. All I had to do now was rock my arms like I was rocking a baby and all would be clear. It was like standing one step from the summit of Everest knowing with absolute certainty that you were about to reach your goal. I paused to milk the moment and then made the rocking motion...

Totally blank faces. And silence.

"Baby?" said Julia. I pointed at her, nodding, with a big grin, still mute in best charades fashion.

More blank looks.

"She's preggers?" queried Del. More grinning and nodding from me.

"Hang on," interjected my Mum, looking as confused, ironically, as I imagine I probably did when she explained to me why our rabbit Snowy was always giving Peter rabbit piggy backs and never the other way round. "Are you serious?" Yet more nodding.

At this point Robbie at least managed to rise above the state of shock that seemed to have engulfed the room to step forward with a smile to say "Congratulations" and shake my hand. This moved things on somewhat, but even when the party broke up a little later (as my 93 year old Grandmother needed to go home) I knew that the news was still very new indeed and not even close to having sunk in.

By contrast, when we told Hayley's Mum the shock seemed to last only about 30 seconds, after which she completely got the measure of the situation: by the end of the evening she knew exactly when she was coming up to stay and was ready to video the birth! (This latter plan had to be gently vetoed later.)

The day before we told Hayley's Dad. He seemed very pleased and proud. His partner, Nancy, was over the moon and made the first offer to babysit!

So that's that. Seconds out, round 2.... friends!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Baby talk

I've always wanted a family.

But I wasn't sure it would happen. And I think that might be why as someone with no kids I found I just didn't talk about kids much. Not even to my friends with children. The longer you go without pro-creating the less you are sure it will happen. Years - and partners! - come and go with no pitter patter of tiny feet.

And as time goes by the less people talk to you about it. The less they say "you'll be next" when someone gives birth. Until eventually they don't say it at all. Over 30 with no kids it becomes "when are you going to get started?” A few more years and the subject not only doesn't come up, it gets carefully skirted around.

And then your wife clears off. It becomes a positive no-go zone!

On top of that, of course, there's the fact that these days so many people are terrified about having to protect their kids from the media-concocted paedophile on every corner: always a stranger and always a man. You almost feel you can't ask about friends' kids for fear of being perceived as the bogey man. It's depressing.

But recently my subconscious reticence to engage in children chit-chat has started to fall away. Not consciously, but without even noticing. My friend Paul at work has two young boys under two and has just discovered child number three is on the way. Over the last couple of weeks I have found myself chatting to him about his kids more and more. It's been a liberating experience. I realized just how much I must have been chatting to him about them when yesterday he concluded with "You should go and get yourself one".

I am really looking forward to telling some people at work. Paul and Dave for example, who both have young kids. (And I think Paul's wife is about 14 or 15 weeks pregnant so she's only a 2 or 3 weeks ahead of Hayley.) And it will be strange to tell other people who have known me for the best part of 20 years during which time I have seen them start families, raise them and now have started to help send them out into the world. My God, they must wonder what I've been doing with my time!

But most of all it will be a relief to not have to keep my mouth shut! Several times I have nearly let it slip. And as the day has approached when I can tell people, I have felt a grin spreading across my face. It's going to be great to be ungagged and to let people know what I've been grinning about.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Quiet time

Not much has happened in terms of the pregnancy over the last couple of weeks. And that's great news as tomorrow Hayley is 12 weeks. (It still confuses me that tomorrow is the start of week 12 but she's actually 12 weeks into pregnancy: someone will explain that to me or put me straight eventually!) Although the risk of miscarriage decreases over the first trimester, we've always had 12 weeks as a milestone: a time when we could relax a little in that regard.

Hayley had a session with a personal trainer at the gym today. She now has to stick to an upper heart rate limit of 130 bpm. She's been swimming regularly and occasionally going to the gym too. I'm glad she's keeping active as she was really pretty fit before she became pregnant, able to come out riding with me on pretty strenuous rides.

But overall the last couple of weeks have been spent relaxing. We went to the cinema and watched "Meet The Fockers" (disappointingly few laughs) and in contrast watched "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" which I thought was just fantastic. A real breath of fresh air. And finally "21 Grams" whose deliberately "difficult" format did nothing to raise its emotional level above depressing for me. Here endeth the film reviews.