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.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Oliver Steven Townley

Our son, Oliver Steven, was born at 6.19am on 8th September 2005.
He weighed 7lb 10.5oz (3.480Kg). His parents are both over the moon. :-)

Many thanks to everyone who called, SMSed, emailed and blogged to wish us well as we approached the final hours before his arrival.

You can see a very few first pictures at our Flickr page. (And just in case Flickr fails I'll put them on our website later too.) More will surely follow!

Expect a full account of his arrival once we have recovered from two nights without sleep.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Moving up a gear

Now in proper delivery room and Hayley on syntocinon to bring on contractions... and its working.

Signing off til the mission is accomplished.

Waters broken

The senior doctor who had Hayley admitted saw her at 4.30. As the cervix was soft enough but still not very dilated he decided to break her waters. It was neither very easy nor comfortable.

We will move rooms soon to a proper delivery room.

Hayley is getting stronger pains about every 5 minutes but it is still early stages. She is bearing up very well and is still smiling. I'm so proud of her. (She has only cussed once!)

The doctor thinks it could take 8 - 12 hours to reach establihed labour which is only 3 - 4 cm.

You might yet hear from us again before Bump appears.

Still slow going

24 hours since we arrived and things are still moving slowly. I am writing this on the Patientline handset in Hayley's room, so please forgive any typos.

Hayley has now had three doses of prostin gel. She is now experiencing period pains in waves about 10 minutes apart. She is using the tens machine which seems to be giving her some relief. We were both drowsing until a few minutes ago.

The doctor is due to see her in about an hour which will be 6 hours after the last prostin was applied.

Hayley is laughing at me trying to type using this thing: it's so slow and fiddly!

If the prostin has worked enough they may break her waters to bring things on.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

We have lift off!

But in terms of space travel we have only just cleared the tower.

Hayley was admitted this afternoon at 2.30pm. At 5.30pm they applied the first dose of prostin gel that should kick-start labour. The baby's heart was then monitored for about an hour. It all looked OK. After that we took a stroll around the hospital for half an hour. Hayley was examined again and then she dismissed me to get some dinner (she got hers courtesy of the hospital). So while my baked potato warms in the microwave I have 10 minutes to blog what's going on. (I'm in a rush so this will be in a rather random order.)

The hospital is quite hot. We've now got a fan in the room which is a relief. Hayley is in a small room for now but will move to a larger labour room once labour starts.

It could take a couple of applications of the gel (or even three) to start things off. They are to be given at 6 hour intervals so the next one will be at 11.30pm then one in the morning around 6am. If that fails they will probably break the waters and put Hayley on a drip to start the contractions, but that's some way off. We noticed one contraction after the gel was applied but then nothing.

We've already seen several midwives. The first one was useless! She asked one question then literally 10 seconds latyer asked the same question. She also mumbled unintelligibly and knew less than me about what the various CTG traces showed! I hope she's not around tomorrow. The next midwife came and went without incident. Now she is seeing one called Louise who is very helpful, communicative and clear. Thank God! It's such a shame that Jane is not working: she would be ideal. C'est la vie.

Anyway I've been sent home to eat, post a birthday card and to leave Hayley to rest (once she has watched Eastenders no doubt). If she doesn't call beforehand I'll be back at the hospital at 10.30pm to see how things are progressing.

This is (hopefully) the last blog before the birth, but if it drags we'll probably find a way to post a blog from the Patientline system.

My potato is ready. Au revoir!

Monday, September 05, 2005

D-day is re-scheduled

We went into hospital again this morning. It was quite a stressful visit.

Firstly everything was running late so we went for the ultrasound scan first. This was fine and although it showed reduced amniotic fluid it was no worse than you would expect for this point in the pregnancy.

The baby's heart and movement was then monitored. (S)he seemed to be sleeping for most of the trace. Then (s)he woke up and showed fluctuating heart-rate with movement (which is good), but unlike last time there were some marked dips in the trace. One of them was as low as 90 bpm, compared to the usual rate of around 140bpm which rises to around 160bpm with movement. They were only short dips but enough to cause the midwife to call in a doctor. He looked at the trace and said that because the dips were short they were nothing to worry about. He and the midiwfe said they may be caused by the baby kicking the umbilical cord. They have booked Hayley to go in again to be monitored again tomorrow morning.

Hayley was offered the chance of being induced this evening. We agonsied over this for a few minutes while the midwife checked whether there was a bed for tonight. In the end we decided not to have the induction tonight but to wait as late as possible to give nature chance to take its course.

So Hayley is booked in to be induced on Wednesday evening when she will be 14 days past her due date. In the ideal scenario the prostaglandin gel they apply will take effect by the next day so that she gives birth during the day on Thursday. Of course there are no guarantees.

The notes we were given about induction say that an induced labour is no more likely to lead to a c-section than a normal labour. We were also told it was not necessarily any more painful. Much of the anecdotal evidence on the internet seems to indicate the contrary. However, we think we may have found the reason for this in the following article.

But is it more painful being induced?
Well, that is the big question, and I don't know that there's any good evidence from studies to suggest one way or another. You will hear (particularly on the internet) about how awful inductions are from some women, but others report it being not much different to when they went into labour on their own.
Some places (especially in the US) don't use prostaglandin gels, as it has only recently been licensed (I think that's the reason, please correct me if I'm wrong). This means that contractions are started with an unfavourable cervix, often with the membranes still intact. So, not only is it unnatural for the contractions to start with the cervix still thick, the contractions are less effective.

So maybe the predominance of US internet users has skewed the information slightly. As with so many subjects on the internet, you have to be very careful to understand the context of what you are reading and not just take it as factual and relevant to your own situation.

The re-scheduling of D-Day also looks like it will mean that Hayley's brother and family probably won't be coming up this weekend after all if Hayley is not out of hospital. Consequently as things stand it's possible that none of Hayley's relatives will be seeing the baby for about two or three weeks. She's understandably quite down about this. You picture your family all around you after you have a baby, so having none of them come up for a while would be a big disappoinment. They live 180 miles away so it's not exactly a short trip. So right now we are playing it by ear for this weekend, but if it does turn out that no-one can make it then hopefully the visits of friends and family who are local will be able to make up for this to some degree.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Labor Day

Until last weekend passed without incident, I had been putting forward a theory that Bump was a girl and that she was waiting for the Bank Holiday so she could have a long party every year over the Bank Holiday weekend.

I should have realised with Hayley's American connections that it's Labor Day tomorrow, a national holiday. So Bump is waiting for the Bank Holiday after all: but for the wrong country!

I wonder if you can be destined to live in foreign climes from before the day you were born?

Hayley at Heatons Tandoori

Hayley at Heatons Tandoori
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
A week after Hayley had a Vindaloo at our local tandoori (thus frightening the owner who has previously had to call an ambulance for a customer who went into labour), we returned to order something even hotter!

The owner's face was a picture when we walked through the door. To his credit he really came up with the goods, getting the chef to make one of his specialities "Asian style". This was a very spicy kind of Chicken Jalfrezi.

When it arrived, initially Hayley said it wasn't as hot as she expected. Then she ate a large piece of ochra that turned out not to be ochra at all but a fresh chilli! Fortunately we had ordered a yoghurt drink to cool burning mouths. However, this turned out to be an own goal: it seems that it not only cools the mouth but also prevents any "nasty" after-effects such as an upset tummy. But a bit of an upset tummy was exactly what we wanted to start labour.

Oh well, we had a great evening with great food and a long chat with the owner.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Beyond limbo

As we approach Saturday evening we are starting to feel resigned to the idea that (despite our best efforts) Jane's prescription of "Seduction, not Induction" is unlikely to produce the results before Monday. At that point Hayley will have another membrane sweep at the hospital and they may even decide to keep her in and induce labour.

Last night we decided to go for a walk uphill from our house as this is alleged to sometimes kick-start labour. We set off and it quickly became apparent that Hayley was in the mood for a quick pace. We covered about half a mile, all of which was uphill, quite steeply in places. Hayley was a little out of breath by the time we turned back downhill and walked home at a more sedate pace. Needless to say this burst of exercise appears to have had no effect, except perhaps to wake Hayley up as she only went to bed for a short while before opting to get up and watch a movie until about 3am! (Unsurprisingly she's having an afternoon nap now.)

This morning we went for a swim at Esporta health club in Hyde. We both swam gently for a while before I enjoyed the steam room and "Hydrospa" while Hayley did her aqua-natal exercises in the pool. We had lunch there - a baked potato for Hayley to gain carbohydrates before the marathon of labour - then headed home in time for the World Cup qualifier between England and Wales (currently 0-0 after about 8 minutes). Maybe if Bump is a female she will decide to be awkward and want to leave the house just as I sit down to watch the game...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

...and now we're back (from the hospital).

The baby's heart rate was monitored again this afternoon in the same way that it was back on the 4th of August.

Once again the baby showed rising heart-rate with movement (which is good). In fact Bump was probably more active during the period of monitoring than any other time in the last 24 hours or so. This might be because the midwife (Mandy) did a membrane sweep immediately beforehand and also because she fastened the straps to hold the electrodes in place quite tightly. (Apparently babies don't like this.)

The midwife said that the membrane sweep was difficult because the cervix was far back, but she said that she did manage to do a partial sweep. Now we have to wait and see whether it was enough to prompt any change.

We're off to the hospital...

...but Hayley isn't in labour... yet!

We saw our regular midwife, Jane, this morning and told her that Hayley hasn't felt any strong movement that she can recall since yesterday afternoon. She has therefore booked her into hospital this afternoon to be monitored. Depending how things go, they will also perform a membrane sweep which may start labour. We were hoping Jane would do this but in light of this development we have had to hold off.

Maria (another midwife who was with Jane today) checked the baby's heartbeat which was fine (140bpm). The baby's head was 40% "out of reach" when Maria examined Hayley, so (s)he is ready to go.

So we are now preparing to go to the hospital. Jane told Hayley to drink iced water to stimulate the baby and to rest this afternoon before the appointment at 3pm because the membrane sweep could cause labour to start tonight.

Depending on what this afternoon's monitoring shows they could even decide to induce Hayley this afternoon, but we are hoping this won't be necessary.

Jane is on duty tomorrow and Saturday so we are hoping it all starts in time for her to deliver Bump into the world tomorrow.