Tuesday, 10 August 2010

D day day

Some things in life are inevitable, like Morgan Freeman playing Mandela, or Tiger Woods getting herpes, and with 400 entries behind me, this is one of them.

It’s time to put this blog to bed.

There is a little girl who joyfully consumes more time and energy than I need to maintain this place to the standard it deserves; I believe it’s been a good blog and to continue it half heartedly would be doing it a disservice. I’m not entirely at ease with leaving it behind, but watching it go to ruin with poorer and more infrequent entries would be far worse.

It has evolved naturally, along with the story it’s been telling, from one of just another idiot trying to knock up his wife, to one of grim and dark places with sadness, anxiety and uncertainty lurking in the shadows, and on to one of happiness that no words or silly phrases can convey.

You’ve giggled about the early days of trying to conceive, offered advice when things started to look off colour, and consoled us when they repeatedly went wrong.

You’ve read entries every month with the same trepidation with which I’ve read ET’s face at the same intervals. You’ve cursed when we’ve cursed, and you’ve celebrated with us from every farfetched outpost of this planet that you could imagine.

You chuckle when I admit we are paying funny money to a day care centre and all we get in return are germs. You nod your heads when I try, and fail, to articulate how staring perfection in the face every single day can be as equally unnerving and unsettling as it is calming and gratifying.

For all this, and the genuine friendships forged, I can only say thank you.

My biggest debt has to be to the poor woman who has had her intimates on display for everyone to see, both literally, and well, literally. We did it, let’s enjoy it.

As for writing, I can’t stop now. I’ll continue somewhere soon, in my own time, perhaps with another focus. When the touch paper gets lit again there’ll be no stopping me, and you’ll know where to find me. Until then, all ideas, or job offers, are welcome.

For those reading who are still on their own journey, I know how dark it can be, I can only hope along with you, wish you well, and tell you that someday it could all be very different for you. The breathing sounds from the baby monitor here on my desk tell me so.

So, for the last time I want you to get your arse off my couch and give me that mug so I can put it in the sink. I’ll ignore the mess you’ve left with those biscuit crumbs and we’ll walk you to the door. Just don’t expect Sanne to wave because she only does that cute stuff when no one is looking, you do get a huge smile though.

Thank you for calling, safe home.


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Toothy opera & the novelty brunette

There she is, sitting in her chair, feet flat on the fl0or beneath her.

Her cheek and arm meet at a 45 degree angled chubby flesh sandwich. I can't tell which is resting on which.

She hums open mouthed songs to herself. The only interruption to her mini operatics comes as she stops to run her tongue forwards and backwards over the two teeth starting to jut out from the centre of her bottom gum.

Teeth!

I wonder what's going through her mind as she fingers the curls behind her ear with her free hand. Maybe she's thinking about all the little boys and girls at her new day care who stroke her arm, fascinated by her mop of dark hair, here in this land of the blonde follicles.

Day care!

Maybe she's contemplating the fact that this is our first official 'Papa dag', where my mobile can ring and ring but I don't have to pick it up.

Maybe, just maybe, this little girl, who I struggle to call a baby now, is filling her nappy.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Jaws

We hadn’t gone a mile when an unidentified individual asked me a question, ‘So, will ye have any more?’

‘Dan’ I replied to the unidentified individual, ‘that’s a tricky question’.

And it is.

From day one the plan was to have more than one, we both had different numbers in mind but one wasn’t one of them.

The thing is now, we know what can be involved, we know how hard it could be, and we know how miserable you can become when it doesn’t happen.

Those twenty-whatever months hosted some of the darkest days in our lives, and even today I still wonder how we came out of them without one of us throwing in the towel.

You can just about carry yourselves through those times, the problems and needs of anyone else come a distant second.

So how do you go back?

What makes you say ‘I know how bad it can be, but let’s try anyway’? How do you do that when today, here and now, you are more content than you ever could have imagined?

Most importantly there is the matter of what we do have, a wonderful daughter. A wonderful, healthy, happiness-exuding little girl who deserves only smiles of an unforced kind. How would the negative effects of another repeatedly failing conception attempt affect her?

When failure is entrenched in their past, how do people decide when to try again?

What do you do when the desire and appreciation for the potential reward is there, but the risks are greater than ever?

When do you go back into the water?


Sunday, 18 July 2010

Changes

The UK tourist board don’t mention it much, probably through fear of bigger crowds coming and spoiling it, but along the Hadrian’s Wall path there is a magic door that hurtles you many months into the future.

I came home after just one week to find the baby gone and her much older self sitting upright in her place.

The changes are remarkable.

She waits open mouthed for every spoonful of rice of carrot, and will eat it until she bursts. She will enthusiastically lick or gum attack any kind of fruit you care to present.

She sits in her activity chair, head resting on her fat old woman’s arms, jabbering doe eyed, pausing occasionally to give herself a forearm love bite.

She spots something she wants and goes into a zombie-monkey-like trance, chanting an oddly deep ‘Oooooooh, oooooooh, oooooh’, with stiffened arms outstretched, and eyes quadrupling in circumference.

She talks consistently in some undecipherable bah bah nang nang tongue, decorated with intermittent screeches and throwing back of her head.

She cackles, she covers her mouth and nose with the palms of her hands and breathes a Darth Vader line or two, she pulls her own hair, and she grins.

She grins so wide it looks like it hurts. She smiles so broadly her whole appearance is altered.

She laughs so hard it makes me jealous.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Ouch ouch ouch

Time flies when you’re having trouble standing upright.

That’s what they say, ‘they’ being me.

The last seven days seem like 100 and have me coming over quite Rip van Winkel with the realisation that only one week has gone by.

To recap the Hadrian’s walk in as much detail as anyone is really interested in, but would be afraid to admit, could be done as follows; there was walking, a lot of it, and there was pain, a lot of it.

Day 1 passed with a bit of a blur and a haze of false security, leaving me to set out on day 2 thinking this was a piece of piss. 10 and a half hours walking in the sweltering heat, 2 naps, and one serious hallucination about a talking bottle of cider later, I arrived last back at the bunk barn to find the reward for my stupidity, lack of a sense of direction, and general shocking state of fitness, was a place to sleep on the floor.

Day 3 arrived with me cursing the fact I hadn’t been killed in my sleep by a sweat-craving poisonous rat, crushed by a falling beam, or radiated to death by one of the 215 iPhones that were recharging by my head. As if to yank me back from the depths of despair, the Gods of walking took us through some of the most stunning countryside you could ever see. It was worth the risk to lift my head from watching each footfall every now and again to take in a 360 view of, well, everything. Should someone pass that Robin Hood tree in the coming weeks and find a lung, that's mine, I'd like it back. By day 4 I was a man on a mission, striding over fields, leaving everyone in my stubby-legged-oversized-backpack wake, except for those faster than me, which to be fair, was everyone. The lanky fuckers.

That afternoon things went back down the toilet once again and my knee decided to go on strike. It turned its back on its normal duties of simple things like supporting half my body, and meant that day 5 was a wash out. Disappointingly, I spent the afternoon on my bed rubbing myself and moaning, and not out walking rubbing myself and moaning. Some good did come of it though; I discovered ibuprofen gel and the magic that it weaves on human lower extremities. Thanks to this wonderful invention, I set off on day 6 as stoned as an Iranian adulteress, happy to let my new best friend in a tube lead my way on the last day. Wind and rain fought against me for every one of those last 16 miles but Mother Nature is no match for copious amounts of drugs, and sometime mid afternoon I strolled over the West end point of Hadrian’s wall path.

Like most of Angelina Jolie’s conquests might reflect after their first and final night together, I might not have finished it off, but I survived.

Despite his bewildering lack of understanding what a mile is, Dan is owed a huge thanks for putting this together over the course of the last year or more. It’s hard to source a bottle of water on parts of that path, never mind accommodation and food for 35 whingers. A big thanks to his whole family, and his old walking mates who kept wasters like me going when throwing yourself sobbing into a ditch was an attractive option. Same goes to all the other walkers too, every one of whom made me chuckle just enough to make it bearable.

I look like parts of my body were dipped alternately in whitewash and purple paint, my flaking sunburn has left enough of my DNA behind to convict me of every crime from Bowness to Wallsend, I ache from the waist down, and the dried and dying blisters leave the smell of rotting flesh hang in the air, but it is all worth it to see that you lot have raised £700 plus, of the almost certainly reached £20,000 target.

Now the real world is demanding my attention again in the form of a little girl who found a new voice in my absence. She is constantly grinning like a demented monkey, has put on some good weight, likes to high five at every opportunity, and regularly throws her legs back up over her head.

I love seeing her progress but that last bit she can stop immediately.

Oh well, one step at a time.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Stupid tortoises

By the time you read this, I will be dead.

Well, I won’t, but I always wanted to say that. Then again, if you are reading this for the first time sometime around 2060 I very well could be. Anyway, by the time you read this I will be on my knees under a back pack as heavy as myself and twice as big.

Today starts Hadrian’s Walk, where I will join the rest of the Dan Hughes cult in an attempt to walk across England.

It hit me yesterday how utterly stupid a man I am. I’m not fit, I’m not sporty, and I’m not entirely sure I’m in full possession of all my senses. Everything I am going to need for the next week is on my back. Unless you are a camel or a tortoise, that cannot be a good thing.

I don’t want to go, so why the idiocy? Why the happy-ending-less self abuse? Why leave my two ladies behind for a week?

It makes a difference, that’s why. Everyone that is going is each making a small difference, and as any good mathematician or corrupt banker will tell you, lots of small differences make a big difference.

It makes a big difference to families who have lost children. It helps them in a practical way when their worlds are at their lowest point. Every one of you who have donated, every one of you who has promoted the walk and the trust on blogs, twitter and facebook, every one of you who has encouraged the walkers as they prepare and fundraise, every one of you have helped us make those small differences.

Through this site you’ve raised just over £600, this is more than I expected, and I am grateful and delighted. Overall, the fundraising is currently at over £17,000 of the £20,000 target.

So this is, in effect, the last call to arms before I lose my legs, £600 is brilliant, but wouldn’t £650 be even better? If you find that you can help, please do so here.

It’s help we all hope we will never need, but some do.


Friday, 2 July 2010

Day One

She’s not broken.

I didn’t need the sellotape, the baby is unscarred, and the house is still standing strong. Ok, maybe the house is creaking a little but that has nothing to do with yesterday.

Yesterday, Thursday the first day of July in the two thousand and tenth year of the Gregorian calendar, we packed ET off to work and I began my first weighty and stressful day as a temporary stay-at-home father.

5 episodes of Dexter later all was still well with the world and the child. Granted her first word may turn out to be ‘disembowel’, but nobody’s perfect.

She laughed, screeched, drank, ate, and shitted with all the vigour of a drunk being beaten with a baseball bat.

Today, an action packed day lies ahead for us, oh the plans we have would make Barney’s place seem Guantanamo for infants. There’s lying in and napping, followed by world cup quarter finals, and then annual dramatic and entertaining elimination from Wimbledon of the only British man who knows what a tennis racket is.

Oh, and I think there’s some vaccination appointment or other thrown in there too. We might squeeze that in.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Jiggety jig

Home again, home again.

The silence has been thankfully shattered, and the blue-grey hue of an empty house has been replaced with a noisy technicolour racket.

My long standing belief that airplanes are several notches higher on the ‘germ spreading’ scale than say, being licked by an arse-picking tramp on the floor of a public toilet, has again been proven true. Mango’s snuffling, spluttering and coughing is evidence enough.

So while we hope it passes fast I’m just glad she came home.

Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes that blue-grey hue remains. Sometimes children leave their homes and never come back.

I was unsettled enough over three days to get an inkling of how shattering and traumatic it would be to be facing never seeing or hearing your child at home ever again.

That’s just one of the reasons why, in just over a week, I will join dozens of others in England to walk the width of the country along the Hadrian’s walk trail in support of the Joseph Salmon trust.
The trust offers financial support to families who have lost children, giving them a little breathing space during the lowest point imaginable.

I’m delighted with what has been raised so far, both through here, and in total. An overall target of 20,000 pounds is very achievable if people continue to give whatever they can, or spread the word in whatever way they can. A sugar daddy, or mammy, who craves a warm fuzzy feeling can get a quick fix by dropping a couple of (or twenty) grand into the pot.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve raised a single penny, fancy being my hero and helping out here?



Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Solstice solace

June 21st was the longest day of the year, in every sense imaginable.

Yesterday was the first day that I hadn’t seen Mango from dawn till dusk. In what’s sounding a little like Alanis’ long lost verse, I left her and ET behind in Ireland the day before, father’s day.

The house is far too quiet, eerily echoing the way it was not even two years ago.

Our neighbour has been and come back from the shops, his two wee girls skipping ahead of him both ways, you notice these things when you sit on the coffee table for half an hour.

Mango’s welcome home present is lying in her playpen watching the television that’s turned on just to break the silence and I move about the house starting ten different things and completing none of them.

My little girl is back home, meeting and greeting, being passed from pillar to post, being poked and prodded with the best intentions. That’s an exhausting few days for someone so small and I want nothing more than to bring her to my shoulder so she can rest her head. Then maybe I can rest mine.

Just one more big sleep.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Squeezing

90 minutes a day, normally, 2 hours if we get lucky.

That’s less than I spend driving.

Life and work and being responsible-ish squeeze most of the life out of us before I get to see Mango.

First thing in the morning, I peek into her cot and she is stretching from head to toe with excitement, grinning so wide you can’t tell if her ears are outside or inside her mouth.

For the next 10 or 11 hours she lives out her days, her walks, her snoozes, and her finger chewing - all while I’m elsewhere behind a laptop, speaking pigeon Dutch and all too often counting to ten.

At the end of the day she is just as pleasant as she was when it started, coyer perhaps, but full of smiles and dribbles saved up for me.

With four months having already flown by, should things have to remain on the same schedule it would be a true shame. Thankfully, and luckily, they don’t. Dutch law entitles both parents to 26 weeks parental leave, to be used, within reason, in any form they wish.

Because of this, I get to spend July getting it all back. Aside from the wee bit where I abandon my family, I have the entire month free when ET goes back to work. That leaves 22 of those 26 weeks, which I get to use 1 day at a time, once a week, for the next 2 years or more.

Thanks to some sensible parental leave legislation, from August onwards I’m cutting to 4 days a week.

From then on, Donderdag is ‘Papa dag’.

From then on, I get to do some serious squeezing back.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

No kissing on the lips

There’s always someone shaking their box in your face, looking for cash.

With so much good shaking action it’s terribly hard to decide when you should slip a few quid into a thong, and when you should wave her on in the hope that the next one along will be curvier with awful English, and a poor grasp of exchange rates.

I’ve shaken my box at you lot a few times now in the name of raising funds for the Joseph Salmon trust, and many of you have been wonderful and slipped crispy bills inside my g-string.

As with all whores, I’m hungry for more. I want more of your sweat stained bills grazing my thigh, I want to have more of your coppers lodge themselves in uncomfortable places.

The problem is though, why should you bother? How can I make my collection tin a more attractive place for your hard earned, pilfered, outright stolen, or alimonied cash?

I can’t really, other than give you a list of reasons.

The man who has organised the fundraising walk also arranged this:


That has got to be worth a few cents or pence surely.

I’m five and a half feet tall, if I walk 84 miles there is a good chance I will lose 15% of my pathetic height, my stubby legs will be worn and eroded to just above the ankles. My last miles will be mapped out with a bloody wet trail of oozing slime. Like a snail. Or a 55 year old midget prostitute.

It’s costing more to go on the walk than I’ve raised. That’s depressing. I could have stayed at home and donated the airfare instead and everyone would be happier. I could have continued to live out my life until I have that inevitable heart attack instead of probably reaching my demise at the bottom of some ravine in the North of England. But that would make the world a dreadfully sad place and you don’t want that to happen, do you?

You should be convinced by now as to the merits of throwing a few quid our way, but if you’re still not ready to dig behind the sofa cushions for the walk then I’ve only one reason left.

You can make a difference to a stranger who needs help. Someone like you, a family like yours, or your friends, or your neighbours. An everyday someone who has had their world turned upside down by the loss of a child. Someone who will be at their lowest, needing all their energy to look after themselves and other family members, and who can simply do without worrying about the electricity being cut off, or not being able to afford basic funeral costs, or having to go back to work too soon when they are needed at home.

Your fifty pence, or 1, 2, or 50 pounds donation helps that person.

If you would like to donate, you can do so here. If you would like to know more about why I think you should, you can do so here.



Neil and Rachael's story.
The official Joseph Salmon trust site.
The Hadrian’s Walk blog.
The Hadrian’s walkers donation site.
My personal donation site for the trust.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Maybe she should learn a trade

Some people wake to trash metal stations, some to the dawn chorus, and some to the sound of rubbish bins being thrown around outside their window.

We wake to singing, in the most subjective and optimistic sense of the word.

She wakes slowly, first feasting on a breakfast in bed of fists and fingers, mumbling and babbling to herself along the way. This babbling leads her to remember she has real vocal chords and the screeching starts.

She must surely swallow all her consonants during the warm up, because by the time she’s in full flight there’s nothing to hear except for a string of vowels, randomly strung together and impossibly pronounced in the form of long screeching warbles reaching volumes that render the baby monitor redundant.

Sneaking a peek around the door at this performance I challenge anyone not to laugh. Lying there with a head of hair like a Liz Taylor wig, her sleep-suit spread around her like a 1980s wedding dress, and a face full of concentration. Her eyes rolling and tongue flapping around her chicken-like gums, arms extended straight and stiff with fists clenched while she belts out one never ending deafening note after another.

By the time she is working up a crescendo all that’s missing is strobe lighting, a key change, and a wind machine.

Les Pay-Bas, nul points.


Thursday, 27 May 2010

Eviction and kumbaya

How do you celebrate the first anniversary of the fusing of a new human into existence?

You start the process of kicking them out of course.

Last night, for the first time, Mango slept in her own room.

Her eviction was borne from necessity rather than choice, since the wee maggot is growing like a weed and about to burst though the sides of her Moses basket.

Unfortunately she’ll have to remain in the basket in her new surroundings for a while longer until we solve a slight oversight on the part of her crib.

While she normally sleeps like a, well, baby, she occasionally needs a rocking to settle her. The crib weighs about the same as a garden shed, and is less mobile. As my first suggestion of shortening one of the legs to create rocking possibilities was shot down in a blaze of scorn and disgust, we’ll have to come up with an alternative.

Not only have we arranged for her to exit our bedroom, we’ve also put the wheels in motion for her to get out of the house completely by visiting her future daycare centre.

She sat in her sling as we walked around, giving her Princess Diana-esque bowed head coy smile to everyone who greeted her. By the time we were attacked by some strange poodle cross bred with a chicken in the garden she had nodded off and played no further part in the discussions.

She will be there 3 days a week from August onwards, enjoying life with young kids of various ages in what I can only describe as a somewhat ‘new age’ children’s haven.

It’s not quite at the level of shitting in the woods or weaving blankets from discarded pubic hair, but it was emphasized that they ‘solve everything with a hug’.

Everything except settlement of their extortionate bills no doubt, the thieving hippy bastards.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The days of the dinosaurs

It seems like a million years ago since we regularly whispered in various waiting rooms waiting for ET’s name to be called. A million years since creaky seats, season old magazines, and questionable artwork.

It seems like a million years since the big black umbrella pooled rainwater around its silver tip as we waited in the lesser seen corridor behind the heavy door. A million years since we were finally called to come further.

It seems like a million years since ET took up her, by then all too familiar, position, spread-eagled at sitting head height. A million years since the niceties and pleasantries, ‘terrible weather last night’ before ‘now I’m going to insert it’.

A million years since ‘You can lie there and relax until you’re ready to go home.’ A million years from going home. A million years since a fortnight felt like a million years away.

It seems like a million years ago that the lack of clarity about what I believed in vanished. A million years since I realised that I believe in science and what it can achieve, in biology and what it cannot, in what I can touch, see, feel or hear. A million years since I knew I believe in people, their skills, what they say and do, since I knew I’d rather have a man in a white coat than one on a white cloud every single time.

It seems like a million years ago, but it’s only been one.



Wednesday, 19 May 2010

IQ

I’m not the brightest.

Yes I come up with good ideas on rare occasions, but all in all I shouldn’t be allowed to do, or say, anything. Ever.

Approximately a year ago I was placed under the spell of a pied piper of podiatry punishment, and I agreed to walk across England with Dan and the rest of the children of Hamelin.

Aside from the fact it’s a rather odd idea to begin with, I have overlooked some of the more practical aspects of this endeavor.

First and foremost the fact that it will probably kill me.

84 miles across England, albeit the skinny bit, over the course of 6 days means walking about 15 miles each day. I can reasonably imagine myself walking even 20 on any given day, but I would be in need of bed rest and a bedpan for a fortnight.

Instead, after walking that on day one, I’ll have to get up and do it again on day two. And day three, day four, day five, and day six. I’m not a fit man, I really hadn’t thought this through.

As if to further illustrate my simplicity of mind, my preparation for this week of hill walking takes place here in Holland, also known as ‘the land of fuck all hills’. If you can prepare for hill walking while pushing a 12 week old in a pram, you’re doing something very wrong.

The nail in my impending coffin is said 12 week old. How can I be away from this for a whole week?

If you wish to show how sorry you feel for her, or me, or if you want to demonstrate how much you will enjoy following the details my excruciating physical pain, or if you just want to get behind the walkers in raising funds to help families who have lost children, you can do so here.

Regardless of how little or how much, every single donation is appreciated.

Neil and Rachael's story.
The official Joseph Salmon trust site.
The Hadrian’s Walk blog.
The Hadrian’s walkers donation site.
My personal donation site for the trust.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Runaway train

They were right of course, the smug bastards.

It will go by so fast’.

It does. It has. 40 plus weeks of pregnancy have come and gone in a ridiculous flash, Mango is here and about to turn 12 weeks old.

Twelve bloody weeks old, in no time at all we’ve gone from measuring her existence in minutes, hours, or even days, to dozens of weeks. Months.

She still stares exactly as she did that very first time, that kind of unwavering, uncompromising stare that actors try to perfect in order to be dubbed 'the new Pacino'. For the rest, she’s constantly changing, evolving.

What strikes me most is her independence. That may sound ridiculous of someone who needs changing and feeding, but it’s her spark that’s independent, her spirit.

As long as someone is there to tend to her, she’s fine, she’s happy. She doesn’t need us, yet we couldn’t live without her, and my adult brain can’t quite get itself around that infant inspired realisation.

It comes down to this, she doesn’t know or care about what it took to get her here, she owes us nothing, and neither should she. The weight of what went before is for us to carry, not her.

At 12 weeks old she has probably already needed us as much as she ever will as a child. Depressingly, but rightly, as it should be.

It goes by so fast.

Smug bastards.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Babelfish

Haaai’ she says, if you haven’t shoved your face in front of hers in a while.

That’s ‘Hello’ to you and me. Not so much a welcoming hello but edging more towards that sarcastic fake teeth filled smiley hello that groups of girls use amongst themselves on a night out.

Eh’ is her ‘Meh’. She usually rolls this one off in conjunction with a sigh and a scornful glance before turning her head in the opposite direction. To be interpreted in no other way than ‘you haven’t amused me with that sound or stupid face, so piss off’.

A very pitiful sounding ‘Mmmboo’ means she’s knackered. Stop trying to keep her awake as she’s flat out exhausted and things will only deteriorate rapidly until you ensure that she finds herself in a prime position to have an uninterrupted snooze. ‘Mmmboo’ is often joined by sad baby face.

Like many Dutch words, her ‘Ngong’ has a couple of meanings. Namely ‘give me a bottle now’ and ‘I’m about to scream my head off through starvation’. Take the bottle from her mouth mid-feed and you are likely to be bombarded with a string of ‘Ngong ngong ngong’s.

'Nnngh, nnngh, nnngh’ is especially for me. When it is accompanied with a frown and a reddening face literally translates to ‘Daddy quick! Make an excuse to leave me with Mammy because I’m in the process of filling this nappy with something that will turn you off your lunch.

Gaaaaaaah ef ef ef muhm muhm aaaheeuw’ highlighted with two big headlamp eyes almost certainly means, ‘Please go read this. Please, please, please help daddy help that big sweaty Englishman raise funds for a trust that helps families who have lost children. Normal families just like yours, or your neighbour’s, or your friends, who face financial difficulties during the darkest times they are likely to face. You can help someone simply by donating any amount at all here.

She may sound a wee bit pushy, but she has a point.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Nederlander

I’ve had ten of them.

Friday was the tenth ‘Koninginnedag’ I’ve had the dubious pleasure of experiencing.

Ten times I’ve seen the Dutch national holiday come and go in its usual sea of orange clothing, odd songs, and untimely downpours. Yet not once have I ever particularly enjoyed it, other than as an excuse to imbibe that little bit extra. Not a surprise I suppose, being a foreigner.

I wonder about Mango though, technically she is Irish, despite her birthplace, but for all intents and purposes she’s going to have her early years surrounded by the same things that every other little Dutch girl has.

Her Irish passport is winging its way to us as we speak, albeit probably via the hands of an Israeli assassin, or first being used as an incentive for an Arab billionaire to invest in some Galway based businesses. Should it eventually arrive in one piece it will be the only thing to set her aside from all her peers at school or daycare.

She will be sung Dutch songs, will be told Dutch fairy tales, and will play Dutch games with her little Dutch friends.

She’ll be cycling before she can walk, having cheese for breakfast, and talking with a funny accent.

We’re raising a foreigner.

A cute one though.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Blue and grey

They really should be brown.

Even today I look at her and still expect them to be brown.

Her skin is sallow, and the mop of dark hair frames her chubby face like an ill fitting Elizabeth Taylor wig. They themselves are huge. Wide open, full of magnetic focus, as if she were some sort of floppy hypnotist.

Nevertheless, they should be brown.

Instead, I see them sparkle out bright blue in the sharp sunlight of these Spring weekend mornings, turning metallic grey as the days turn into evenings.

They live and breathe with her, they dance on their tip-toes when she laughs or screeches, limbs flying in every direction. They hold themselves focused and sure as she takes you in, her whole body stiff as she examines your change of expression.

They hold their gaze until she has passed her judgement, a return to the dancing orbs and smiles, akin to a Roman thumbs-up. A full face frown the thumbs-down, the sentencing to death of he or she who fails to entertain her.

They should be brown, but surprisingly and wonderfully, they are not.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Coronary π

It has been threatened for a while.

She was always ready with huge tongue lolling smiles, arms and legs pumping like crazy, breathing rapidly, all the while urging her vocal chords to join in.

Tuesday night I held her in her bath, and gently pushed waves of warm water up her chest to right under her soft chin.

That was the trigger.

‘Keeeh hee hee hee.’

Over and over again. ‘Keeeh hee hee hee.’

A rolling hearty laugh that made her wobble and shake. The kind of laughter I’m certain neither you nor I have laughed in many, many years. From the very balls of her feet up to her throat, causing it's own little baby bath tsunami.

A perfectly scaled down version of the rasping laugh of a two pack a day 60 year old smoker, albeit with a head full of shampoo, sopping wet, and stark naked.

We could do no more than stand, gaping like idiots, laughing right back at her.

She was most likely oblivious to the risks she was running in choosing that particular moment to debut her laughing abilities, the combination of me struggling to hold her through my own laughter, and us leaving her submerged to the point of the onset of pneumonia in the hope of a repeat performance, may result in her never daring to try it again.

She did duly piss all over me shortly afterwards, so who knows.

We’ve had the ultrasound heartbeat, we’ve had the 3D video, we’ve had her first screeches and her babbles, but in truth none of it comes remotely close to this. None of it.

The difference between her not existing, from being the stuff of daydreams, something always just out of reach, to lying there laughing heartily up at the both of us is beyond calculation.

Long may the difference continue to grow, immeasurably. Unquantifiably.

Infinitely.



If you haven’t read about the Hadrian's walk already, please do here, and if you can help somehow, regardless of how small, please do.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Oblivious

I have often wondered about the various people on the periphery of this 3 year long mental massacre. I wonder do any of them think of us now.

From the GP I visited wearing the Abbott and Costello of the footwear world, to the head-bandaged IUI assistant who stood frowning at ET’s vagina like it were a set of dodgy spark plugs, to the croc footed fertility clinic employees who silently hovered around the premises whispering at everyone.

From the nurse who ran out of fingers on which to count the( ever so slightly more than the expected three) follicles during our first IUI attempt, to all the brave souls who handled with such care the fruit of my self-abuse, to the ultrasound technician that first pointed Mango out to us in her tiniest form.

From any one of the dozen dildo-cam wizards who impaled my fair lady on an almost daily basis, to the (figuratively speaking) faceless Canadians packing our online orders for hundreds of ovulation tests, to the shop assistant down the road bagging up our bizarre purchases of pampers and durex.

I wonder do they ever cast a thought to that short foreign couple who kept badgering them for tests and appointments. Each one of them contributed, by their own hooks and crooks, to Mango being here today, chubby and sallow, with a head of insane black hair complete with fair streaks, feeding like a demon and sleeping through the night.

Some have made it their profession, but others remain clueless as to how they helped this family.

Walking around every day is an oblivious army of heroes; remarkable if you just stop to think.

Thanks a million to everyone who have already helped other families by supporting Hadrian’s Walk through donating or spreading the word. If you haven’t read about it already, please do here, and if you can help somehow, regardless of how small, please do.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Walking

Every night we put Sanne to bed, a few rocking motions enough to bring those ever increasing eyelashes down and close her massive eyes. Every morning we are greeted by the sound of her having a waking conversation with someone unknown from within the wicker walls of her Moses basket.

Parents all over the world do the same thing, every hour of every day. Just over 5 years ago now, Neil and Rachael Salmon did the same, they put their 3 year old son Joseph to bed.

Joseph never woke up.

When I first read Neil and Rachael’s story 2 years ago I could appreciate their utter devastation. Now as our own long awaited daughter sleeps just feet from where I’m writing this, it sends shivers through me, sickening my stomach with unwanted dread.

In the years that followed Joseph’s death, Neil and Rachael took it upon themselves to create some good out of their sadness. They created the Joseph Salmon trust. The death of a child is usually not something people expect, nor make financial preparations for. The trust raises and distributes money to parents and families that have lost children, helping with the unexpected burden of funeral costs, a headstone, maybe a treat for siblings, or perhaps just paying an electricity bill while the family wage earners try to hold their world together.

The trust works locally in the Huddersfield area of Northern England, is completely voluntary, and operates with very small amounts of money.

Dan, the most sickeningly nicest man on the planet, but more importantly a friend of Neil and Rachael, has taken it upon himself, not for the first time, to try and raise funds for the trust. The poor chap is not very inventive, but he is ambitious, and in July this year he wants to raise money by simply walking.

He has managed to convince (or as I’m legally forbidden from calling it, 'emotionally blackmail') me, and 58 others to walk with him, across the width of England.

On 5th July this year, 60 people coming from the UK, Holland, and the United States are leaving family and comfort behind, in their own time, at their own expense, to walk for 6 days and 84 miles along the historical Hadrian’s Wall trail.

The goal is for us to raise £20,000 for the trust, for the families in the area that will unexpectedly lose a child in the coming year, all in memory of one little boy who left his own mam and dad far too soon.

In the grand scheme of things £20,000 is a small amount of money, but it is of unmeasurable value to the trust, and more specifically the people the trust helps.

I’m sure some of you could blow that target out of the water with a couple of keystrokes, so feel free. I’m sure more of you could manage to help a little towards the target, also feel free. Those not in a position to help financially can help by spreading the word, stumble or tweet this post, or any of the links below.

While I go and make sure a certain someone is sleeping soundly, I ask that if you can give a little or a lot, please do so here.

Thank you.

Monday, 12 April 2010

No Mr. Dickens, greater

You are not at all what we expected.

A screaming, sobbing newborn is what we most likely envisaged being handed to us. The reality was a silence, a stand-off. Your parents being no exception, you stared everyone out, the only sign of anything bordering uncertainty being the occasional slow blink, eyelids peeling themselves back to the point of impossibility to let the entire world in. And out.

Weeks have passed and we’re become more and more familiar. An evolution is taking place; I now know nibbling on your chin and neck makes you laugh a tongue flapping laugh, you’ve learned how to burrow your way into the sweetest spot under my neck, little head butts clearing a path towards sleep, and I know how much you enjoy feasting on your own fingers, often with an entire fist falling fowl to your gummy jaws, it’s limited dimensions being all that stops you gorging on everything up to the elbow.

Your world is limited but you rule it, nothing disturbs or upsets you here. You seem to know this is your home. Your babbling, while frequent, is contained to gurgles that are at first wrapped up and then let loose in more combinations of vowels than are imaginable.

It’s scary to contemplate the things you might say to us were you able, all fierce and bold and sure. Until then, every day you tell it like it is in your own way.

It is ridiculous to call it such, but you possess an unusual confidence. Maybe it’s better described as an inherent comfort with how you are and what you do, in your own 7 week old universe. You lie content in your surroundings, yelping instructions when something is not as it should be, smiling and laughing when it suits you to make us do your bidding.

I wonder when does that comfort fade in people, when might you become as unsure or uncertain as the rest of us. Never, I hope.

No, you are most certainly not at all what we expected.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Yes I know the music is playing, but...

Again big thanks to Jo, who it transpires, actually did leave it behind in Galway after all, but was too scared to tell me. She magically rallied a fleet of friends and assistants to recover it and it arrived here during the week. Big thanks to them also.

It's heavy enough to kill a man or break a toe, or break the toe of a dead man if you so wish, which are the real criteria awards should be judged on.

It's currently employed as an 'oooh-look-please-stop-crying' but I reckon it'll work it's true magic as something to chew on when she starts teething.



The Irish blog award category best personal blog was sponsored by Microsoft Ireland’s Developer & Platform Group.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

You won't like me when I'm angry

It’s a pet peeve.

‘Who does she look like?’

She doesn’t actually have to look like anyone, does she? Now, granted, a combination of genetics and a limitation on the number of variations a face can have will result in her displaying some similarities to others, but there is no written rule that she needs to have her parentage identifiable by her ears, or chin, or hair. As faaaaabulous as her follicle abundance may be.

If the opposite were the case surely we would be walking around bumping into Adam ‘n Eve lookalikes all day long. Fig leaves et al. It would give Tiger Woods a great excuse though.

Anyway, I digress.

Mango does in fact look like someone. While the untrained eye might see some of her mother or myself in her, having spent countless hours observing the little creature I can pinpoint a more accurate doppelganger.

As the female young of the species are wont to be, she is often dressed in pink. When she occasionally decides that it is time to scream with all the fury that her 10lb body can muster, she turns a delightful shade of red from top to toe. Coupled with her American newsreader head of black hair, she turns into the spitting image of a figure from my childhood.

The incredible hulk.

With her entire body one bright red colour, a mop of black hair, a face turned upside down with rage, and fists clenched in front of her hunched torso, my daughter turns into a miniature pink version of the incredible bloody hulk.

The only notable difference of course, is that you can’t help but like her.

Even when she’s angry.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The kraamvisite

You can vaguely describe Holland as the same as everywhere else, just with minute yet significant differences.

Almost in the same way that good looking celebrities have easily recognisable, yet frankly ugly siblings.

A case in point being that yesterday we had our first official kraamvisite.

A 'kraamvisite' is where people simply come to visit you and see the new baby, just like people do the entire world over and have done so for centuries.

The Dutch kraamvisite is slightly different, it is formal. Very formal. This is no drop-in-while-passing arrangement. Arranged strictly well in advance, a precise date and time agreed, and may the ghost of the little boy with his finger in the dyke haunt for eternity you should you serve anything other than the appropriate food and drinks to your guests.

Appropriate in this case being coffee strong enough to power a Prius, and ‘beschuit met muijses’, which are an inexplicable combination of toasted discs of bread covered in butter and sugared anise seed, pink or blue according to the genitalia of the person being celebrated.

Kraamvisites apply to acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours, and bizzarely your boss. Yesterday we played host to my boss.

What could possibly go wrong when two sleep deprived foreigners attempt to host an event of cultural significance for someone who has the power to remove their livelihood?

Theoretically, quite a lot.

One could ignore the traditions laid out above and serve stale chocolate chip cookies, with the pathetic reasoning that if they are good enough for one’s own dinner, they are good enough for the man who effectively puts them on the table.

One could choke said boss on appallingly made coffee, leaving him to pick cheap granules from between his teeth for hours afterwards.

One could have a baby on show who insisted on farting her way through the entire visit.

One could get said boss lost after begging a lift to the garage where the car that the boss pays for lay in a woeful state of repair due to negligence and therefore making him late home to his own wife and children.

One could be looking for a new job soon. Or host country.

Theoretically.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Excuse me Miss Paltrow

Last night was an odd one.

As Mango celebrated five weeks on this side of her mother’s vagina, I finally got to go out and officially ‘wet the baby’s head’.
As has become an irritating habit in pubs across the planet, I occasionally pull out my phone and check my email. You never know when that life changing piece of correspondence could hit your mailbox.

One such moment arose when my fellow quaffer went to relieve himself and I once again flipped the phone open and clicked on-line.

Through somewhat drunken eyes, to my pleasant surprise, I read the results that were coming in from the Irish Blog Awards in Galway. I had to check a couple of sources before I saw for sure that the blog had won the award of Best Personal Blog 2010.

Nuts. It’s mental, insane, but brilliant that Mango’s story gets an unexpected extra happy ending.

I want to thank Jo for standing in, collecting the pretty sexy looking award, and keeping it from ending up in some Galway dumpster. I’m glad someone familiar with the blog was able to pick it up and I can’t wait to get a look at the real thing.

Thanks to everyone that has read along the way, and to the organisers and judges for putting in all the the effort.

The award itself was sponsored by Microsoft Ireland’s Developer & Platform Group, and the full list of winners is available here. Congratulations to all the winners, and best of luck next time around to all those that didn’t make it.

How happy am I?

About this happy.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Pressing snooze

We were oh so very clever.

We had it all planned, were full of very grand notions, we knew how it would all work.

Pas de problème!

We were oh so very wrong.

Mango’s bedroom was to serve as the magic room. The place where she would be cleaned and changed and fed and made presentable once again to the world. This was also to be the case while she slept in our room.

The only impact on our bedtime routine would be the occasional whimper, from the child, not us, as she is whisked away to the magic room before silently being returned to join the blissfully sleeping parent. Our den of peace and tranquility and comfort should not face upheaval of any sort.

A couple of days short of 5 weeks and it is all arse over tit.

ET, being the lucky on-maternity-leave critter that she is, is champion of ‘the turnaround’.

The turnaround is the nappy change and feed that takes place in the dead of night. In the early days this involved a child roaring her head off, lights being switched on, kettles being boiled, drawers being open and shut, cold feet on hard floors, and a struggle to resettle the child when all the the various activities had been completed.

Now the turnaround is different. Now the turnaround is done in moments, stealth like actions carried out by a practically sleeping mammy beside a eyelid flickering daddy upon a snoozing child. The cost of such a change is high though. Gone are our fantasies of an undisturbed sleeping environment, and here to stay is a bed surrounded by nappies, wipes, bottles, bottle warmers, nappy bags, formula measures and a sweatshop worth of spit up cloths.

Everything is taken to bed with us. Where previously the only discomfort in the bed would have been a stray knee or wild elbow, we are now just as likely to have our slumber disrupted by rolling over on a formula scoop, or by the rustle of a plastic bag, or by the dripping of a cooling bottle on our pillow.

It’s like sleeping in a skip out the back of a baby shop. A duvet in a dumpster. One huge nest of humanity where everything and anything is within an arm’s reach.

But for now, she sleeps. So, pas de problème!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Cherry popping

My first time is a blur.

I was nervous and cautious, I think I saw a tear or two in her eye. The old nurse was barking instructions at me, how to get this over there, how I should grip that, and very specifically what goes where.

Have you not practiced at home?’ she despaired.

I had, but obviously not enough. Some things you just expect to be good at.

With everything in the right hole I started to move. Slow and steady. Forwards, slight movements to the left, careful gestures to the right. Every now and again I would slow further, even stop for a moment, just the sound of heavy breathing carrying the moment until I would hold mine and start to move once again.

Every bump was magnified, wince inducing. Every screech I heard made me flinch. Half of the people seemed to be watching and passing judgment. ‘That poor girl’.

The other half apparently indifferent, selfishly unaware of the importance of these moments, the rite of passage that was taking place.

I was in constant fear of going too fast, perhaps overestimating my prowess and any discomfort it could cause, all the while equally worried about being far too timid and having no one reach their desired destination.

Eventually, maybe even inevitably, we made it. All of us in one piece, still on speaking terms, just as besotted as before. That nervous first time has been repeated a couple of times now. It’s gotten easier.

There may well be more first times, other girls, but there will only ever have been one real first time.

Driving Miss Mango.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Tangents

I'm a bit anal.

Get your mind out of the gutter and put that thing back in the drawer, that's not what I mean.

I've never been comfortable going off topic here, but in this instance it's very much intertwined with all that has gone before, so I will declench and carry on.


I'm glad it's gone through in this category, as dodgy sperm, hand shandys, and all the rest of it is normally considered fairly personal. This is just another one of the pretty cool things that has come about as a result of writing all this nonsense in the last 12 months, getting mentioned as one of the 20 blogs to read by the Irish Times, getting to bloody write in the Irish Times, and even having a chat with Pat Kenny.

Weird, but cool, and all because of the wee minx across the landing who I'm trying not to awaken with my typing.

The awards take place next Saturday 27th March in Galway, and the other 4 finalists in the category are top notch.

Some of you may argue otherwise, but I'm the only owner of a set of testicles among them. I'm a token male. Story of my life.

The finalists are last year's deserved winner Annie Rhiannon, Fatmammycat who was one of the first I ever read, and the other two Queen Of Pots! and A Chick Named Hermia (which I can't not read as Hernia, sorry) were previously unknown to me but really do look impressive.

Good luck ladies, and enjoy the night.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Side effects

Good Girl!’ I yelped with an audible smile on my face.

My tone was a little too celebratory to be excused.

It wouldn’t have needed excusing if it had been the baby who had burped and not ET. Just another example of the side-effects of having a 3 and a half week old lodger.

The professing of congratulations when another adult breaks wind is something that often happens in our house now, especially around relay dinner time. Relay dinner is when both our meals are prepared and waiting to be eaten, but only one of us can eat at any given moment while the other pacifies El Mango.

4 bites washed down with a drink before the baby baton is passed and the other person gets the chance to scoff as much of their cold dinner as possible before the whole thing comes full circle once again. The relay is considered a success should the child actually shut up at any stage during the meal or someone manages to finish their food before the appearance of mould, it’s considered a failure when you actively contemplate selling all but one of your dining room chairs.

Unfortunately, the madness of Mango’s mangled mammy and daddy’s world is not confined to the shaky four walls of our little home. I’ve had more than one strange look from colleagues during this last week as a result of ‘baby speak’.

Asking people questions with psychopathically wide eyes, a perpetually nodding head, in a voice that makes them wonder if I’ve had a testicle removed and my jaw broken does not help get things done.

‘Does this mean the pwoject will be a widdle bit late? It does, doesn’t it. It does, so it does. Yes it does. Yes it does. Awww.’

Jiggling a one hundred kilo Dutchman’s cheeks while you ask them will just get your arse kicked.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Sometimes late at night...

“Newborns sleep 20 hours a day”.

My blue tinged scrotum they do.

Aside from the standard changing, feeding, shaking, and bathing which keeps her awake for a good 5 hours a day, Mango likes to unwind of an evening by engaging in some gentle lullaby based demonic screeching. An angelic screaming so pure and piercing, the hounds of hell prick their ears and raise their snouts to the wind, for 3, 4, or 5 hours long.

Attempts first to soothe her, and then reverse her antipodean body clock, take many forms. Lights on, lights off, lights on outside with door open, TV on, TV off, walking and rocking, standing and rocking, sitting and rocking, crying-it-out in the Moses basket, rolling the pram up and down the stairs, and banging the bed with a lump hammer. Feeding her to the point of infantile obesity and changing her every 20 minutes doesn’t have much of an impact. Offering her cash, soft drugs, and the car keys only leaves us out of pocket.

There is something magically baffling about a baby who will only sleep when the theme music to ‘law & order’ is blaring in the bedroom, yet will wake screaming when you hold your breath and silently tip-toe away.

I’m not even going to entertain the mental image of the cheap motels and string of relationships that will lie decimated in her wake as a consequence, but Mango refuses to sleep at night without the warmth of another body to carry her towards slumber. When I shake off the neck injury I’m carrying from accommodating her ever increasing weight on my shoulder I’m going to source a quality chastity belt and an “I’m a confident single woman” hypnosis CD.

Last night she drifted off into her angelic nocturnal bliss lying beside a powered-on vacuum cleaner, the ford focus parked on the landing with the engine running, and 7 construction site spotlights pointing directly at her.

After a mere 5 hours of wailing.


Before I forget, again, thanks to the at least one person I know of who nominated the blog in the Irish blog awards to be held in Galway at the end of the month. It managed to pass the first bit and is now on the not-so-shortlist for 3 categories. It can only progress in one of them, so we’ll see how she blows from here on. Oh, and all the sponsors are great and handsome etc

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Dirty protests

This week I got shat on.

‘Shitted on’ perhaps, in the quest for grammatical accuracy, but the result is the same. Mango regularly chooses to shite the hand that cleans her.

She’s developed a penchant for waiting for the fresh March air to caress her delicate posterior before releasing her recycled mustard. Many an innocent fresh nappy has fallen victim to this underhanded approach to bowel movements, never to realise their destiny as fully fledged infant cheek protection, brave backside soldiers felled on the path to the battlefield.

These changing events are not complete without Mango engaging in a celebratory dance, trampling her tiny bare feet in her freshly liberated excrement. This, startlingly, is a fact I have forgotten on more than one occasion when overcome by the urge to have a nibble on her toes.

Eat shit daddy.

It seems she might also be taking some exception to the Irish nationality being imposed upon her, with ET’s attempts to have a passport photograph taken not proving fruitful.

The problem is essentially one of logistics.

The photographer’s shop is 3 minutes walk away. 3 minutes walk in the fresh air is sufficient to send Mango into a sleep so deep that she can only be awakened by a hundred years of forest growth and a prince’s kiss, or the sound of a sleeping father. A sleeping baby does not make for an acceptable passport photograph. An unacceptable passport photograph does not make for a successful passport application, and an unsuccessful passport application rarely results in a passport being issued.

Her birth saw the downfall of her adopted government, and I suspect she’s now set her mind to some form of infantile declaration of jihad against the government of her homeland.

Mango’s militia.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lucky charms

We’ve had it easy in a way, ET and I.

We are relatively young, we were 'only' trying to conceive for a couple of years, and we never had to face a loss. I know many who read here from time to time who have faced much harder times, and many still do.

One such couple is Judith and Bruce.

In October 2008, I got an email from Judith just saying 'hello'. By that point, Judith and her husband Bruce had already been trying to have a child for 6 years. Conceiving wasn’t an issue, over the years they conceived, and lost, 4 children. All of them before 8 weeks.

From then on we chatted regularly, keeping each other informed of each appointments, results, and the failures. Early last year Judith told me that they had decided to give it one more try. Almost 40, and after so many years on the rollercoaster, enough had become enough.

Her last attempt would be via an IUI, as soon as she could get clearance to go ahead with it. Her last ‘old fashioned’ cycle ended in failure on the same day that ours did, and she started the monitoring for follicle development before IUI at the same time we did.

In a remarkable act of cyber menstrual synchronisation , after months of her and I chatting, Judith and ET both had their IUIs on the same day, barely 25 miles apart. After more than one heart in mouth moment, she was able to confirm that she too was pregnant.

Just like us, their expected due date was the 17th February, 2010.

From that point on I dreaded seeing emails from Judith hit my inbox. With her history of early losses the odds were against her, and I truly had no idea what I would be able to say to her if this child were to not make it, their fifth. At a loss for something constructive to say, I told her we could be each other’s lucky charms.

Every second day she gave me updates, and 2 weeks became 4, which became 6, and 8, and 12. Her cautiousness and doubt eventually gave way to excitement. 20, then 30 weeks passed as did her 40th birthday, and I last heard from Judith at 39 weeks and 4 days.

While ET and I flopped around the house, one of us metaphorically and the other physically bursting at the seams in anticipation and irritation, Judith and Bruce were getting used to life with their baby boy, who is now home with his mam and dad, and thriving.

For the two of them as a couple, the three of them as a new family, and anyone who might be buoyed by their story and outcome, I simply could not be happier.

For the tiniest rocker in Holland:



Friday, 5 March 2010

An angel kissin’ on a sinner

Mango is freaking me out a little.

A few months ago, in that irritating way that first time expectant fathers are wont to do, I put together some playlists for her listening pleasure. Every now and again ET would place the headphones on her belly and let the music flow, usually to little or no reaction.

The sole exception being when Iron & Wine began to play, she would kick up a storm, leaving us curious as to whether they were thrusts of approval or disgust.

A couple of days ago, while she was screaming delightfully like a castrated demonic outcast from the depths of Inferno, I clicked on iTunes with no little hint of desperation. Iron & Wine started to play and the screaming stopped. She sighed, rolled her eyes, held her own hands in front of her soft chin, and dozed into a deep sleep. We have repeated this twice since then and she has done exactly the same.

Our daughter is a 13 day old hippy.

Last night, in the small hours, our 8lb bundle of happiness displayed her love of life in her favourite way once again, screaming so loud and fierce that the bats of hell were packing overnight bags and booking Ryanair flights to some airport 150 miles South East of Purtagorio.

Not being in a position to play music, and with her bottle not yet cooled, I sang. I sang Iron & Wine songs. She stopped screaming, sighed, rolled her eyes, held her own hands in front of her soft chin, and dozed into a deep sleep.

This little quirk we’ve found is many things; cute, useful, and a little freaky, but most of all it’s what is going to be the death of me.

She does these things and it physically tugs on tendons somewhere inside my chest. I don’t know how or why, but each time it’s a little more and I know I’m slipping a little further. I knew I could expect something along these lines but I never thought I would end up fearing every time she makes one of her little faces, or pulls an expression, or sighs and dozes off to sleep.

She is kryptonite, she is Achilles’ heel, and she produces love and the fear thereof in equal measure in me.

I’ve developed Stockholm syndrome, being held hostage in Paradiso by a 13 day old hippy.


Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Broken words from a broken pink week

They say seven days is a long time in politics, they should try it with a newborn.

This post is going to be just about as consistent as a politician's viewpoint, but it's as good as it gets while my eyes refuse to open equally.

Today was our last day having the kraamzorg at home, and in fairness I don’t think she left with too many concerns over the welfare of Mango.

Born at 3660 grams (8lbs 1 ounce), she dropped to 3300 or so and is now already climbing back above the 3400 mark. She’s feeding like a demon and sleeping whenever the hell she feels like it.

She farts consistently like someone on a diet of Guinness and Weetabix, and seems to derive great pleasure from being able to sneeze in my face at every available opportunity.

If the baby had been ugly I would be feeling very hard done by round about now, we sleep very little and are surviving on what we can suck out of her spit up cloths.

Our house looks like he aftermath of a gay pride riot in a candy floss factory, with pink dripping from every wall. A pink obstacle course seems to have sprung up from nowhere, formed from boxes, piles of new clothes, cards, soft toys, balloons, and flowers. All pink.

Heather’s guess on the pool was the best, just 5 hours out, and pretty close on the weight too. Jo is probably 2nd. Tiff would have won, except her guess had just a little too much penis.

Some people have very generously asked if they could sent a gift, which is a wonderful gesture and thank you, but we might just die from guilt if people did that, and then Mango would be an orphan and someone else would benefit from her career as a child star, we just can’t have that. So, if you were going to send something, how about giving some of that money to the Joseph Salmon trust on Mango’s behalf instead? Any money donated there will go straight to the trust.

The trust was founded to help parents and families with the financial burdens that arise from having lost children unexpectedly. Should I get any sleep before July, I will be joining the Hadrian Walkers in an attempt to raise funds for the trust by walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England.

On the pronounciation of Mango's name, there was a YouTube video that explained it perfectly, but it's been removed. So for laziness purposes it simply sounds like 'Anna' with an 'S' in front. Well it does when I say it, and it's not my fault if you've got a silly accent.

Now, because my brain is fried, I’m surviving on chocolate biscuits and naps on the toilet, and because it makes people tell me again how beautiful she is, I’m resorting to a photo to close.



Thursday, 25 February 2010

Words we never normally use

'Awesome'.

Way back when, in the days of misery and strife, Dan offered to play one of my favourite songs ever on the ukulele, and post it online should we ever have a child. Today he stood by his word, and it is more awesome than I can describe.

Go watch this and tell Dan what a brilliant job he's done. Do it, go watch it.

To show your appreciation you can always give a quid or two to the Joseph Salmon Trust that he champions, helping parents and families who have lost children cope with the unexpected financial burdens that brings.

Thanks Dan, that is simply magic, we both absolutely loved it. Thanks to all the people who got involved, you are nuts and I love it. The world seems a little smaller this evening because of this.


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Gorgeousness, and how it came to be

It’s not like in the movies.

Mango decided to make her intentions known on Thursday evening; ET’s waters broke, with contractions following closely behind.

After a quick call to the midwife to let her know it had started, bizarrely, we got ready for bed. This turned out to be as useful as tits on a bull, as the contractions started coming strong and steady, 6, 5, 4 minutes apart.

This continued through the night and when morning dawned the midwife paid a visit to check on progress. Just 2 centimetres dilation, which was hardly enough to have gotten her in there to begin with, never mind get her out.

Following a few hours of strengthening contractions, the midwife called again at lunch time to find a whopping 4 centimetres.

Being time to move to the hospital, the midwife rang ahead, only to discover the first set-back of the day; they had no room. Open nights, tours, and leaflets about their maternity services went out the window as we had to move to hospital option B.

By 4pm, 17 hours in, the contractions continued to thunder in but no progress was being made. Still 4 centimetres. The doctors advised pain relief, with an epidural being the only option that would hold long enough to be of use when the end came and it was most needed.

In an attempt to bring that end nearer, they administered hormones to stimulate the contractions and help speed up the labour.

7pm, 9pm, 11pm all passed with progress slowly being made. Too slowly unfortunately as 24 hours had passed since her waters had broken, increasing the risk of infection.

It was time to get Mango out of there.

The hormones were increased and the contractions cranked up, ET feeling each one through the epidural. Midnight passed, the date and staff shifts changed, and on it went. First 8, then 9 centimetres on the horizon.

A little after 1am the midwife decided that the 9.5 was as far as it was going to go, and even with no urge from the baby to do so, ET had to start pushing.

And push she did.

On and on, over and over, breathing deep and putting more than I could imagine into each push. To no avail.

By 3am, the obstetrician felt the 50-50 chance that she would be born naturally was dwindling fast, and as a last resort she opted for one shot at a vacuum extraction.

Anesthetic was administered for the episiotomy that would have to follow if the extraction worked, equipment was readied, and everyone was braced for one last push.

The push came and the vacuum clattered to the floor, ET and I both convinced the child had been sent flying across the room. She hadn’t, the vacuum couldn’t get enough purchase on her head and had come loose. More than 30 hours after the start, in what felt like a defeat, the OR was readied for a cesarean section.

The moments between the failed vacuum attempt and the OR were the worst kind of limbo. Excited half brains telling us the baby would be out and safe in just a matter of moments, exhausted and anxious half brains imagining all sorts of scenarios in the small hours.

Within minutes ET was wheeled away and prepped, and I was scrubbed up and beside her behind the magic screen. I have no idea what was said, or what was done, just that all of a sudden I was told to stand up and look.

There she was, being lifted from her mother’s belly like a rediscovered buried treasure. Blue grey from head to toe, knees curled up into her chest, wild eyes staring out in front. Some kind of demented Smurf. No crying, no screeching, no wailing, just the crossest of expressions surely swearing revenge for the inconvenience she’d been caused.

She slipped silently into the world at 3:51am, and barely a moment later the Dutch government collapsed. A mere coincidence, surely.

She lay in my arms staring at me, wishing me a violent death until her mother returned. Cuteness ensued, huge eyes transforming from ‘serial killer’ to ‘puppy dog’ with her mammy’s touch.

Much more took place that will probably dissolve faster than ET’s stitches, only visiting our memories before evaporating forever. Only physical evidence of what happened between the night of the 18th and morning of the 20th February 2010 will remain.

That physical evidence is beautiful. Absolutely fucking gorgeous should the overwhelmingly biased truth be told. Long fingers on the end of amusingly active hands, toes that curl and bend with every yawn that comes from the purest mouth I have ever seen, sending milk breath into my face.

Soft but sturdy arms and legs, simultaneously exhibiting her vulnerability, reliance, and potential all in one.

A warm pot belly, rising and falling. Shoulders founding the nape of her neck created by nature to bed my nose and lips where I can kiss and breathe in her smell that I’ve taken to work on my clothes, releasing itself intermittently to remind me that the minutes will pass and soon I’ll breathe the real thing again.

Cheeks full to bursting, reassuring us she is thriving. Eyes, that while open are so wide and deep I might not make it out alive some day, and while closed dance around to dreams behind almost translucent eyelids.

Hair so startlingly thick and black that I can’t help myself, running it behind her ears, curling it on her neck, cupping her head in the palm of my hand.

Her weight on my arm, the heaviness that ebbs and flows in the crook of my elbow with each one of her sighs, beautiful in itself.

There you have it, gorgeousness, and how it came to be.