Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Guardian | Being youngest in class is risk to mental health

Being youngest in class is risk to mental health

If Bump appears tomorrow (s)he will be the youngest in their class at school. If not, they'll be one of the oldest in their class. Thus far, despite our encouragement of Bump to appear now that they have reached full term, we have tried not to get too hung up about the exact date (s)he is born as it is almost certainly beyond our control (as our recent experience has shown).

But now that it seems almost certain that an August birthday is off the cards and September is on, I thought I'd look at what difference it really makes.

The only recent research I have found on the subject is this piece from last year which seems to show that being the youngest in class is potentially disadvantageous.

In contrast, I also found anecdotal evidence that the oldest children in the class can become stressed because they are bored and under-stimulated.

Having said all that, the exact age is far from the only influence on development. All we can do is try to bear it in mind and handle it when the time comes.

BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | 'Special' baby grew outside womb

BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | 'Special' baby grew outside womb

You can't beat a good pun in my book, but perhaps calling your child "Millie-An" because they are "one in a million" is taking things a bit far.

BBC NEWS | England | Tyne | Killers 'knew of crying baby boy'

Killers 'knew of crying baby boy'

Many is the day that I find myself assessing how well I have prepared myself for fatherhood. I wonder to myself what the right approach will be in any given situation. I try to measure myself in terms of the qualities that a parent should have: humanity, patience, compassion, resilience and obviously love.

Then I read a story like this and I realise that the scale of human behaviour extends far beyond what I would normally imagine. I can only echo the words of the police officer in charge of investigating this case: "it is difficult to comprehend the wickedness of someone who could do such a thing...".

Monday, August 29, 2005

The girl who cried wolf?

Five days overdue and Hayley is currently sitting on the sofa eating (more) fresh pineapple. She put even more fresh chillies in the left over chilli from last night but it has had no effect so far.

Yesterday we took our minds off the wait for a couple of hours when a friend tipped us off that there was a motor-bike show in Stockport. You can download a tiny video clip of Hayley and said friend (Donna) looking daft while getting down to one of the rock bands by clicking here (it's 1.1 MB, only 3 seconds long, and it's on its side!).

Then we came home to find that England had gone from a winning position in the 4th cricket test against Australia - needing only 128 runs in their second innings - to a perilous 118 for 7! We watched the nail-biting finish and to our relief (even more than delight) England scraped home with three wickets to spare. As one commentator said this morning, this series should have come with a health warning. You'd think the excitement might persuade Bump to come out, but it seems he/she is not a cricket fan.

Today Hayley went for another swim at Esporta (her gym) and did 34 lengths (though it is admittedly quite a short pool). She also performed a vigorous run through of her aqua-natal routine. Through sheer co-incidence the reception staff there called home when she was on her way there. We got talking about the pregnancy and the girl on the other end became excitedly worried when I told her that Hayley might even go into labour while at the gym that very afternoon. Of course I had to phone Hayley and tell her this. When she arrived she faked the start of contractions as she approached the front desk, just to see the look on the girl's face. She's ever so good at these sorts of practical jokes and it seems they were completely taken in. Fortunately they all saw the funny side when she desisted in her amateur dramatics, but one of the staff was dead right when she gasped "Oooohhh, you're evil!".

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Last night we finally took the plunge. We went to our favourite Indian Restaurant, the Heatons Tandoori, with two intentions: to continue our mini holiday and to order something hot for Hayley that might kick-start labour.

M (our midwife) told us that this works because it causes an upset tummy, the close proximity of which to the uterus causes contractions to start. (OK, I am paraphrasing but you get the picture, hopefully.)

Hayley ordered a vindaloo. The hottest meal on the menu. I only ordered a vegetable rogan josh as I didn't think both of us driving to hospital with diarrhea was a good idea.

The owner came over to say hello and we told him what we were up to. He rolled his eyes and smiled as he recalled having to call an ambulance for a woman who went into labour in the restaurant.

When Hayley started on her vindaloo she immediately decided it was "not very hot". She can eat pretty spicy food but I was surprised that the hottest offering on an Indian restaurant menu could be dismissed as so lightweight.

It's now Sunday morning and all she's had to show for her dietary daring is night-long heartburn.

Looks like we'll be cooking up her very hot chili tonight then.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Come out, come out, whoever you are!

We just spent a couple of days in the Peak District to relax and stop us feeling like we are just waiting around for Bump to appear. Regardless of how well we knew Hayley could go beyond her due date, it is still a frustrating experience, more so for Hayley than for me as her discomforts continue longer than she'd hoped.

Before driving to the Peaks in the afternoon, we attended Hayley's latest midwife appointment with M. She sympathised with Hayley's impatience whilst also pointing out she was only a day overdue and that in all likelihood nature would take its course at some point in the next week or so. The baby's heartbeat was 148bpm and (s)he appears to be lying on Hayley's right side: not ideal but at least (s)he is head down, very low down in fact according to M's examination.

So how do we persuade Bump to get moving? M said that eating pineapple can help as it contains a substance that softens the cervix. As I understand it, this facilitates its effacement and dilation. It is the same substance that is contained in semen, which is why having sex can help. But none of these techniques come with any guarantees.

We stayed at the Crewe and Harpur Arms in Longnor (location for the filming of Peak Practice). The pub was recently stylishly renovated by new owners to provide luxury accommodation that contrasts with the comfortable but more functional accommodation elsewhere in the village. Our room had a large bath, multi-head shower (that was about as easy to set up as your average Personal Computer), Sky TV, wireless internet access and a huge super king sized bed. I watched the cricket lying on the bed while Hayley wrote a quick blog entry before luxuriating in a nice bubble-filled bath.

We ate in our hotel before taking a walk around the village which is tiny but has four pubs. We walked 50 yards up the road to the Cheshire Cheese pub. I stayed there way back in about 1988 with two friends from work when we decided to spend a weekend drinking and walking in equal measure. The barman - the husband of the current landlady - told us that it had been through difficult days before she took over 18 months ago. It certainly looks the epitome of a thriving village pub now with a healthy number of diners. (In fact we got peckish and ordered some profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce while we were there.)

We got chatting to a family in the bar who took an interest in Hayley's obvious bump. The mother had given birth to two of her children in Stepping Hill Hospital. We ended up telling her our probable names for the baby. It's the first time we have broken our self-imposed silence and told someone, but as we are almost certainly never going to see them again it seemed ridiculous not to do so. She really liked the names which was very nice as the first reaction we've received.

As one family made their way to the door the barman did some card tricks for them before stealing the watch from one of them. It turns out he is a professional magician who has won many competitions for his close magic including 3rd place in the British close magic championships which included a performance before an audience of his peers with two close cameras projected onto large screens. No pressure then! He told us he does many functions including Christenings which sounds a great idea. Being a professional he charges professional prices but it could well be worth it.

Today we drove over to Bakewell where I went for a short mountain-bike ride over the hills to Chatsworth while Hayley fed the ducks and took a stroll around Bakewell for more Bakewell Tart. We finished our little sojourn in the Peak District with a trip to the Old Post Office and Tea Shop in Edensor where we enjoyed some of the best cream of mushroom soup we've ever tasted and I indulged in a cream tea.

On returning to Stockport we collapsed into bed for a nap. All this pineapple eating can be exhausting you know.


As our stay away was so short we didn't think to mention to our neighbours that we were going away. When we got back Paul (left-hand neighbour) accosted us as we unpacked the car to ask whether our disappearance had been to hospital. A bit later Sue (right-hand neighbour) came home and asked whether there were any developments. "I saw the car had gone overnight and I thought 'this is it'".

It's nice that they are interested and even enthusiastic about our new arrival. I just hope that when the baby arrives the walls are thick enough to prevent their friendly enthusiasm from being rapidly diminished by involuntary sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sing along now

"I just don't know what to do with myself". Hayley has been singing it all evening. Just about sums up how she feels.

But tomorrow that will all change because we are going away for the night, staying in a small village the Peak District. Hayley was offered the choice of a cottage with a log fire or a room in the pub with 30" flat-screen TV, Sky Digital, wireless internet connection and a large bath. No contest!

It's less than an hour's drive from the hospital so if things start to happen we should be able to get there in time. Having said that, a colleague told me today that his wife gave birth in less than an hour. Panic? Me?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

D-Day looming

In just over an hour we will be into Bump's due date. Bump is moving from time to time and Hayley has felt some pains that we think are the baby's head low down. But there are no signs at the moment of labour starting. We've already tried to counteract the sense of anti-climax if the day passes without any change by telling ourselves in advance that Bump will more probably arrive this Bank Holiday weekend.

Realistically we know we could have a longer wait and may eventaully have to accept the possibility of inducement. But there are a few theories as to how we could speed up the process. We've bought (but not yet opened) Raspberry Leaf tea and can easily cook up a hot curry, both of which are rumoured to have the desired effect. Today a friend of ours offered to bring round a mini trampoline and a vindaloo!

The midwives tend to dismiss these old wives' tales as having little guarantee of success. The one method of starting things off that they do agree has a chance of working is probably the one that (ironically) Hayley least desires in her current large and uncomfortable condition: sex! Better put the kettle on then.... (where's that Raspberry Leaf tea).

What's that in the background

When looking at old photographs I look immediately at the subject, usually in the foreground. But what is often as interesting in them is the background details that betray the era in which the snapshot was taken. The old car, the out-dated furniture, the hairstyles...

It struck me today that this blog is a literary snapshot of life for Hayley and me today in 2005, the foreground subject being the pregnancy. But in terms of a snapshot there is no background, just blank space. So I thought I should take this opportunity, on the day before Bump is due to arrive, to detail some background details that may just be as interesting in 2025 as they are uninteresting in 2005. So...

My commute
I cycle 3 miles to work every day on my bike, alongside the motorway, then the River Mersey, turning then onto a disused road that used to be a council estate, before crossing grass and a main road to cut through Morrisons Supermarket. Once I have taken my life in my hands to cross the mini roundabout that follows it's only half a mile of straight road to work. My vehicle is my 2001 Orange 'Sub 5' mountain bike with Marzocchi forks (80mm of travel) and Fox air shock. I love this ride to work in the morning summer sunshine (and even the rain). And I love the ride home even more. All the stresses of the working day are out of my system by the time I reach home. I timed myself riding home today. I pedalled as fast as I could and it took me 9 minutes 34 seconds. Some people in my office drive at least an hour each way every day!

My hair is still there but threatening to recede more quickly than it has previously. I have very little grey. Hayley's hair is her natural colour with some red streaks ("foils"). She has very little grey. It would be impolite to comment whether or not this is thanks to assistance from her salon, The Colour Room in Stockport.

I'm driving an L reg (11 year old) Volvo 440 1.8i. It is the workhorse of the household and has mostly seen the road between here and the tip recently with occasional trips into the Peak District to go mountain biking. Hayley's car is a black Renault Clio (5 years old). It's permanently fitted with our bike racks even though we hardly ever take the bikes anywhere at the moment.

I have my season ticket at Man Utd and last season Hayley went to lots of the games too. Malcolm Glazer has just bought the club and frankly it doesn't look like good news financially. We'll see. England are at 1-1 in the Ashes series against Australia with two tests left to play. They narrowly missed out on a win in the last test. Lancashire's Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff is the hero of the team. Hayley and I
even briefly discussed Freddie as a possible boy's name!

This is worth a whole blog entry (or blog) of its own, but it suffices to say that the suicide attacks by British suicide bombers on 7th July have dominated the whole news and political agenda for the last 6 weeks and are likely to do so for at least the rest of the year.

For some reason Ant and Dec are the number one choice as hosts of prime-time Saturday night TV shows. The biggest comedy TV show at the moment is Ricky Gervais' follow-up to "The Office": "Extras". The 6th(?) series of Big Brother has just finished. Unlike other years I barely watched it. It's become very old and really very down-market now. I wonder what depths reality TV can plumb before it improves (if it ever does). One of The Archers' current storyline is about the fact that Will Grundy's wife has given birth to his brother's child but Will thinks its his own. I wonder if that story line will run a few weeks or a few years before the beans are spilled.

Where to start! I'll ignore the charts and mention what I'm listening to on my Apple mini iPod at the moment: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Embrace; whatever comes up! Hayley is singing along to lots of things. (In other words, she can't think of anything in particular.)

I may add to this list later. Feel free to send in your suggestions for trivia worth recording for posterity!

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Hayley has had some pains "like period pains" today and also a slight back ache. But these have not developed into labour as we thought they might a few hours ago. We're still waiting.

Hayley has spent much of today intermittently talking to Bump, asking him/her whether they would like to come out now please. Her left leg is painful much of the time and her left calf muscle is permanently tight. Her feet were only marginally less swollen after she went for a swim this afternoon. It's safe to say that she'd like Bump to join us as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

He's having a baby (apparently)

I've not quite worked out what to make of this yet. "He's Having a Baby" is a new programme on BBC1, (just) pre-prime time on Saturday evening, which follows the journey of a number of first-time fathers-to-be as they approach their baby's birth.

It is interesting that the programme makers have decided to focus on the Dad's experience. I should think this is a good thing right? But it seems a bit contrived, because there is no getting round the fact that the man's role is important but entirely secondary during pregnancy.

We only caught the last 15 minutes of tonight's show, but it was quite entertaining viewing if only for the fact that Davina McCall so genuinely loves the subject and becomes genuinely excited about the couples on the show. She's perfect to host it and really made us laugh (even if it's not exactly meant to be comedy!).

Whether or not this is really what the rest of the nation wants to see I'm not at all sure. I suspect it's just another reality TV filler that will last one series only, but maybe that's not a bad thing. There are a zillion other parenting and pregnancy shows on various satellite channels.

One thing the arrival of this show does demonstrate (regardless of how contrived it might be) is that the father's role is being treated as less peripheral nowadays. Politically it is something of a hot potato. Hot enough for a show like this to be taken so seriously that it has reached the Saturday evening schedule. We probably have groups such as Fathers For Justice to thank for this, but that's a whole other blog.

"He's Having a Baby" is on BBC1 (6.35pm, Saturday) and BBC Three (8.30pm, Monday to Friday evenings).

Friday, August 19, 2005

Time-saving techniques for new fathers

Selfish though it may sound, one of the nice things about Hayley needing to be less active and rest up is that I get to play the chef a bit more. Tonight I cooked Fajitas, tomorrow I'm planning a chic pea curry. (I'm sure Hayley would quite like it to be a hot one to encourage Bump to get moving, but we have agreed to try to let nature just take its course at least until the due date.)

This casual culinary creativity is a small pleasure but one I really enjoy. But once the baby arrives and Hayley is breast-feeding him/her, my time is more likely to be dominated by more mundane tasks with nappies and clothes centre-stage. So it was opportune that tonight my friend Scott sent me a link to this site: www.fold-your-shirt.com. It's well worth a visit for new fathers or anyone else who has to spend time folding up t-shirts. It shows you how to fold a t-shirt in 2 seconds. And it works!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Braxton Hicks

Last night in bed (and again this morning) Hayley was getting Braxton Hicks contractions. Maybe it is a sign that we are getting close to the event?!

I'm glad to say she hasn't suffered any more from the strain she felt last night.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Super Nannies

Tonight as I left work a colleague recommended a TV programme to me. "Supernanny. Of all the nanny programmes, that's the one that gives the best advice."

There has been a spate of these programmes: "Supernanny", "Little Angels", "Nanny 911"... all trying to help parents take back control of their children. They have heralded the entrance of an heroic parade of new arbiters in the world of parenting, telling us exactly how to bring harmony and smiles where previously there were tears and tantrums.

Watching these programmes I am always surprised by how easily parents cave in to their children's demands, thus undermining their own authority by failing to stick to their own rules. Worse still, in doing so they often undermine their partner by backtracking on their decisions, thus contributing to antipathy and discord between the adults. Of course I'll be falling into these traps myself at some point, I have no doubt. But it's frightening to see how some children can twist their parents around their fingers and play them off against each other.

Hayley spent several years working as a Nanny in the States and many of the techniques employed by Dr Tanya and Co. are strategies I know she has used herself. I'm glad to say we seem to agree on how to deal with the situations we see in the programmes which is probably half the battle. Without being complacent we feel we have made a good effort to think about what lies ahead and how we will handle it. Only time will tell whether this turns out to be well founded optimism or clueless naivety.


Hayley got a very sharp stinging pain this evening, low down in her abdomen as she stood up from the table. For a few seconds she was unable to move. It wasn't the kind of pain you hear described as the start of labour so we were both a little frightened for a moment.

Hayley rang the midwife team and was told to lie down for a couple of hours, which is just what she's doing now. The pain hasn't recurred so we are hoping the midwife's diagnosis of a strain is correct.

Right now we're watching "Runaway Jury" which seems to be taking her mind off it. She's also managed to consume a bowl of bread-and-butter pudding with ice cream, which is always a good sign.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tip of the day

Nipple cream. Need I say more?

This tip was brought to you courtesy of Hayley's friend Kerry.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


[This post wasn't published until after the birth because we thought people might spot the names in the songs: Oliver for a boy and Lucy for a girl.]

This evening we sat in the conservatory until late in the evening: me playing guitar and singing, occasionally accompanied by Hayley. I whetted my whistle with a bottle of Suffolk Strong Beer (SSB) from which Hayley took the tiniest mouthful just to taste it.

As well as twiddling away improvising tunes of my own, we also ran through a few standards to see whether we could stimualte Bump into a bit of movement, as (s)he has been a bit quiet today and singing often makes him/her move.

Tonights set list included:
Yellow Submarine (Beatles)
Hey Jude (Beatles)
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da (Beatles)
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Beatles)
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Mozart!)
New England (Billy Bragg)
Oliver's Army (Elvis COstello)
Fix You (Coldplay)
What If (Coldplay)
Politik (Coldplay)

The Beatles seemed to go down well with Bump, causing definite movements. But I think a taste for Billy Bragg and Elvis Costello could take a few years to acquire yet. And the Coldplay seemed to send him/her to sleep, but maybe that's to be expected.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

All I need is the air that I breathe...

Today we attended a yoga class given by Hayley's regular teacher but unlike the regular Monday evening classes she attends the men are invited along too.

It was a good session. The instructor, Ted, gave out a pack containing useful handouts on good positions during labour and birthing. It also contained a checklist of telephone numbers and items to take to the hospital. Looking down it I realised there was still the odd item missing if labour were to kick in right now. For example, I don't think we are going to want to stop off for "fruit and snacks" or "wet-wipes" on route to the hospital.

The session covered the breathing techniques Hayley has already shown me. These were very good. He also did a visualisation of the whole labour and birth. For this the men sat against the wall with partners facing forwards into the room sitting between their legs so we could place our arms around the bump. I think was meant to be a beautiful bonding experience, but I felt it was a tad rushed and I can't say I found myself transported to the delivery suite: more thinking about the floor I was sitting on and how my left leg was going numb.

He also did the famous ice-cube exercise. This is where you hold an ice-cube tightly in your hand and breathe through the increasing pain for 60-90 seconds: approximately the duration of early contractions. You are supposed to "breathe the pain in, up your arm" and then breathe it out again. He didn't say where exactly you breathe it out. Thinking about the hand with the ice in just made me realise it hurt so I found myself thinking about the trees outside the window. I'm sure that's not how it's meant to be done but it worked for me. Of course, no-one is saying labour is like holding an ice-cube, but in theory the same principle applies. Most of all he stressed that fear will block the body's ability to combat the pain. So breathing to relax will itself help ease the pain.

Overall it was an excellent session, especially the relaxation techniques focused around breathing. Particularly interesting was the alternate nostril breathing (or Anuloma Viloma to give it its correct name): I'm going to start trying that. (Note that pregnant women should not hold their breath as described in the linked article, but simply alternate the breathing through the nostrils as described.)

When you take into account the handouts and general chat about labour at the start I think it was a very useful extra ante-natal class. I'd recommend it to any parents-to-be in their final few weeks.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Twilight Zone

I've had a strange feeling today. Almost like none of this is real. We've been waiting so long for this baby that I can hardly believe it really will be with us very soon. (Maybe the fact that England are set to go 2-1 up in the Ashes is contributing to the sense of unreality.)

Usually when you say that time has dragged it implies that it has been an unhappy experience. But the last nine months have simultaneously felt like one of the longest but also happiest times of my whole life. So happy in fact that I find myself savouring these last few days before two becomes three.

We've been trying hard to get ready for the event, but as the time approaches you realise you will never have everything "just so" and that feeling less than entirely prepared is part of the deal. I suppose the closest analogy would be like preparing to go out and perform on stage. There comes a time when no more rehearsing is going to help you and you find yourself standing in the wings about to face your audience. That's where I am now. I'm still rehearsing a few lines under my breath (or rather shaving a bit off the bottom of the nursery door), but basically I am waiting. In limbo. The Twilight Zone between coupledom and parenthood.

Hayley has been suffering from acid reflux and heartburn for the last 24 hours or so and today has felt nauseous. She went swimming this afternoon just to be able to do something other than sit around feeling uncomfortable. Her back aches too much for her to walk very far so swimming is by far the best way for her to exercise. She said it helped greatly.

But now she's back on terrafirma (or more accurately sitting on a reversed dining chair watching Eastenders) and in a few hours we'll be off to bed. Once upon a time - and I mean this in an entirely wholesome way - going to bed was something we looked forward to. But now as Hayley struggles to get comfortable and gets up hourly (or more) to go to the loo ("honestly Steve, it was only a dribble too!"), it has become a time of some dread for her. Obviously I try to rub her back and help her get comfortable, but at the end of the day she is carrying round our Bump: and a large Bump (s)he is now too!

Last night we pulled out the sofa bed in the nursery so I could sleep in there if her snoring was disturbing me. But when I woke I found it was Hayley who had changed rooms and in the morning she had a recording of my snoring: revenge for last week!

The sun is just going down after a beautiful summer afternoon - it truly is the twilight zone. But it can't last forever.

The Mamas and Papas Tens

We've hired a tens machine for the labour: a "Mama Tens". It relieves pain by passing electrical currents through the muscles in the back. It looks a bit like one of those "lose fat with zero effort" machines you sometimes see advertised on TV late at night.

We've just walked through the procedure to use it. Hayley can't actually use it until the labour starts. I've heard that sometimes partners make themselves useful by working the tens machine. I can't honestly see how this works very well as the partner has no idea how intense the current from the machine feels. Maybe when the pain kicks in the last thing the woman wants to be doing is trying to remember what button to press and for how long.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | One in 25 fathers 'not the daddy'

Interesting (and surprising) reading, but not something I feel I have to worry about I am glad to say.

BBC NEWS | Health | One in 25 fathers 'not the daddy'

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yoga matters

Hayley has been going to Pregnancy Yoga for several months. Today a CD arrived (from Yoga Matters) that contains the music from these classes. So when I got home we put it on and Hayley did some of the relaxation tachniques she has been taught.

Rejecting the lotus position, we sat in our comfy chairs in the conservatory. Hayley quietly talked me through the visualisation of all the stress draining out of my body. It was very relaxing. In fact at the end I could have happily sat there all evening.

We also ordered another CD that specifically deals with relaxation techniques for Hayley during labour. Unfortunately it now turns out to be out of stock, so unless it turns up sharpish it could be going straight onto eBay unopened when it arrives.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Nursery photos

Wardrobe (and Pinocchio)
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
The nursery is finished. There are a few pictures of it here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Finishing touches

We’ve had a great weekend. The conservatory is now clear of junk - replaced by two armchairs and a bookcase full of books from the living room - and has quickly become our new den. We spent Sunday morning relaxing there in the warm morning sunshine listening to Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs on Radio 2. (Yes, I know, VERY cheesy, but that’s Hayley all over. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.) Consequently the living room has more room to move too. Or more accurately it has more room for toys and play!

The nursery is now officially finished after the last pieces of the wardrobe arrived today. I tried out the car seat in the car and we assembled the buggy over the weekend too. Hayley’s bag for the hospital is all packed and I’m starting to feel ready, or at least I am running out of things that I feel I have to do.

Although I'd be happy to have one more chilled weekend (or even two!) before Bump arriving punctually on the 24th, I confess that I felt very excited standing in the finished nursery tonight looking at the waiting clothes and we'll both be happy to say hello any time now.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Heart rate measurement

Heart rate measurement
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
This is the trace of the baby's heart-rate from today's unexpected hospital trip.

For the full story of the day see the previous entry.

Roller-coaster day

Hayley had her weekly appointment with the midwife this morning. Her blood pressure was 140/90. Her feet have been persistently swollen for the last few days and she has been feeling very hot but she hasn't had any headaches or any other signs of trouble.

Even so, when the midwife saw her she decided she "[didn't] like the look of her today" and in light of the raised blood pressure and other symptoms booked her into the Ante-natal clinic for 1.30pm.

The possible outcomes we were faced with at this point were:
- everything turns out to be ok and we come home;
- Hayley might be kept in overnight for monitoring;
- the baby is in distress they induce her;

At this point she called me at work and I came home on my bike as fast as I could pedal!

We went to the hospital and a midwife took Hayley's blood pressure which had fallen to 140/75. A good start!

She then strapped a heart-rate monitor onto Hayley to monitor the baby's heart and another monitor on her uterus to monitor pressure. Hayley also had to press a button whenever she felt the baby move.

I sat next to the bed holding the heart-rate monitor onto Hayley's tummy to make sure we could still hear the baby's heart (and the monitor could register it). It beat away for the next 20 minutes fluctuating with the movements. The midwife quickly re-assured us that this was a good sign.

Some of the baby's movements we saw were the biggest we have ever seen. The midwife said that the baby would be able to hear its own heartbeat (presumably on the monitor we were listening to) and seemed to imply this might be upsetting it slightly causing it to move a lot as it is used to hearing just the mother's heart (which beats at half the speed). We talked to Bump and then chatted normally in the hope that our voices would re-assure him/her. (I even sang the lullaby at one point as the kicks were huge!) It seemed to do the trick as there was less kicking after that.

At the end of the 20 minutes the midwife gave Hayley and the baby a clean bill of health for now and said she could go home.

She showed us the trace of the baby's heart-rate and pointed out that for the the first half of the measurements the baby was wide awake and active, but then showed a clear sleep pattern and less movement. Before we left I cheekily asked whether I could have a copy of the trace as a souvenir. I thought Hayley looked a bit embarrassed. Perhaps my blogging is getting out of hand...

Tonight Hayley is still feeling hot and her feet are still swollen, but she is now lying in bed with her feet up and our usual midwife (Jane) is coming round tomorrow. Fingers crossed this was just a one-off scare.

Old wives' tales (part 2)

When Hayley saw the midwife this morning she asked her about an old wives' tale that says the speed of the baby's heart-beat indicates the gender of the baby: faster means a girl and slower means a boy.

After repeatedly dismissing this as an old wives' tale she eventually relented and gave Hayley her judgment: a boy.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Childbirth down after Caesareans

This research shows that women who have caesareans sections are less likely to have another pregnancy.

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Childbirth down after Caesareans

Monday, August 01, 2005

Volunteer Ranger!

The arrival into the world of ones first offspring is often said to bring home a sense of responsibility in the new parent: a sense of the need to protect your child, but perhaps also the world around you that your child will inhabit. Perhaps this is why I have finally felt obliged to do what I signed up to do several months ago: my duties as a Sustrans Volunteer Ranger.

The obligations of this post are to monitor a stretch of the Trans-Pennine Trail (TPT) near where I live and occasionally to perform small maintenance tasks (cutting back overgrown vegetation, etc.). For anything major (fallen trees, vandalised sign-posts) I just report back to the central office, so it mostly involves me riding along the TPT between Stockport and Stretford - something I already happily did to keep fit anyway.

Despite approving of this venture, Hayley loves to tease me about it and at every opportunity sings "Volunteer Ranger" at me, vaguely to the tune of the Lone Ranger. (If she's really taking the mick she calls me "Sherrif Steve".) As time has gone on she has added verses to this chorus of ridicule.
"He's coming into town
Riding on his bike
Volunteer Ranger!
Cutting back the trees
Picking up the rubbish
Volunteer Ranger!
He's riding on the path
Looking out for danger
Volunteer Ranger!"
This is usually punctuated by hearty laughter.

But seriously, I do wonder whether my inclination to take on this minor civic duty is stimulated by impending parenthood or whether it's just (middle) age-related. Either way it keeps me fit which will hopefully help me to keep up with the bundle of energy about to join our family.


Over the past few weeks Hayley has started to snore. Not little lady-like snores like she might have produced in the past, but great rasping chain-saw type snoring, the kind which I imagine I am guilty of myself.

She didn't seem able to believe quite how loud she was, so the other morning as I quietly got up for work, I recorded her with my mobile phone. Then I sent her the recording as a MMS message. I wasn't there to see her reaction when she rose from her slumbers and turned on her phone, but she was still horrified when I came home that evening.

This morning as I stepped out of the shower I could hear her through the bathroom wall. I may be in the market for some earplugs.