Wednesday 28 October 2009


Everyone loves a cutting cliché and a juicy generalisation.

The irritating thing about them is the fact that they often prove themselves to be true.

From the moment you start trying to conceive up, right up until your kid is attempting to lure you into a retirement home with a trail of wurther's originals you get bombarded with them.

While ‘just relax, it will happen’ was the runaway champion in the days of TTC, the days and months that follow becoming pregnant bring their own beauty.

Just you wait until…

Who knew that at any given stage of pregnancy, nothing is as big, small, scary, beautiful, endearing, or terrifying as it will be at some later stage. On the basis of this, I calculate that I will should optimal happiness when I keel over and die clutching the part of my chest that houses my lard encased heart.

One of the generalisations I scoffed at in the past was the idea that as an expectant father, I wouldn’t feel any sense of connection, or have a realisation of what was taking shape and going to happen until certain milestones were reached, ultrasounds, heartbeats, and kicks to name a few.

I wasn’t having any of this idea, along with ET, I had worked and pushed for two years to get to this point, and that in itself was evidence that I was more advanced than the average father-to-be.

I'd know better.

I was wrong.

It’s hard to believe in something you can’t see or feel the evidence of. It’s hard to put into perspective, and prepare yourself mentally for, something you find hard to believe. It’s hard to put your hand on a belly and feel no movement and be 100% satisfied that everything is as it should be, and is leading to how it will be.

As time passes the evidence starts to build. Ultrasounds initially show pictures of things that look like beans, and later show grainy images that are baby shaped. Like a couple of oranges in a sock.

You hear a heartbeat, and things change a little. Things become a little clearer in your mind, more believable.

The lucky ones eventually start to feel movements. Not a feeling like anything you recognise, you could never say with any certainty that it was a foot, or hand, or forehead. Still, a feeling nonetheless, a physical touch.

But now, I look through the 3D ultrasound pictures over and over and I see the fleshy palms of little hands. I see upper arms that I bet I could ring my own thumb and forefinger around. I see lips being pushed and probed by long fingers in the same way they will be when the baby is lying in its snot green room.

I see lids covering a child’s eyes that will soon open and look back at my stupid face gawking back at theirs.

Looking at these pictures has catapulted me as if I've reached some secret level in a computer game, from where I previously thought I believed and I connected, to a place that’s a little scary. I believe more than I ever did, I’m more excited than I ever was, but I’m now aware of how much I still can’t yet believe, and how much more excitement there will be.

I’m a relatively bright person, I can do my job reasonably well, I can stutter through a foreign language, and I can understand the 3 boxes I have to fill in on my tax forms. I can drive a car, mow a lawn, and sometimes make my wife happy.

I know I can do these now because I’ve done them all before, but I don’t recall the first time I attempted any of them going particularly smoothly.

It’s hit me that this is another ‘first’, probably the first ‘first’ I’ve had in years. I don’t know what to expect and trying to think about it too much makes my brain react the way it does with mathematics. I strain and fail to wrap all the elements of the puzzle within my poor brain’s reach, and everything remains unresolved.

In the end, I suppose I just have to do what everyone says.

Just wait until.


Monday 26 October 2009

Snot and a wave

The saga rumbles on.

Slowly and unsurely the baby’s room is taking some shape. That makes it sounds far more intricate than it really is, the reality being that it just needs some bloody painting.

So Saturday morning that’s what I did, or attempted to do at least. By the time lunchtime had come around I had managed to scald myself on the radiator and roll paint onto the blinds.

Neither of which I particularly advise or encourage, but I’m going to put those mishaps in the battle scar category.

One more coat and the kid will have its own room decorated in a colour that can only be described as along the lines of something you’d find in a used tissue. Paint companies find ‘sea green’ a preferable term to ‘snot’ though.

That afternoon we went for a 3D/4D ultrasound. Getting to have another gawk at the kidlet is enough to put a smile on anyone’s paint spattered face.

The technology is simply fantastic. The views and insights into what the child is up to in its own little bedwomb world are amazing.

We saw clear images of full cheeks, lips, nose, eyes and ears. We were able to see the child leaning into the placenta on one side like a pillow. We watched it put one hand into its mouth and play with its ear with the other. Sucking, kicking, and stretching for us while we peeked in on it.

More than once the baby spread its bizarrely long fingers open wide, raised its hands, and gave us the biggest wave from inside its own hidden little world.

I’ll probably be able to stop looking at these sometime soon.


Thursday 22 October 2009

One sick prick

The letter has been on the kitchen table for weeks.

It tells us that in 3 weeks or so, vaccinations will begin at our general practice for the H1N1 virus.

The 'Swine flu', or delightfully accusatory 'Mexican flu' as they call it here, has been fodder for breaking news headlines in the UK and Ireland for months.

Not so much here in Holland.

The level of awareness is high, and the practical everyday precautions are promoted and supported. People are encouraged to stay home if they feel ill, which to be honest isn’t exactly a foreign concept to the Dutch anyway.

Even with all this taken into account, the Dutch are rolling out their first wave of vaccinations to the public in November, starting with their target or ‘at risk’ groups. As a woman past 13 weeks of pregnancy, ET is in this group.

Which poses the inevitable dilemma, to get the vaccination, or not.

It’s hard to separate the facts and reality from the flashing yellow headlines that do more to scare than inform.

Our scanning every story of another death attributed to the virus is annexed with searching for the term ‘underlying medical condition’. More often than not, it’s been there.

The vaccine is simply untested in any significant quantity for its effect on the unborn. If I’m wrong and there is something somewhere, anywhere that says otherwise we’ll gladly read it.

In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, there is a very good chance that we have been exposed to the virus in some shape or form already.

ET is healthy. Irritatingly so if you must know, with her perfectly smug blood pressure readings et al. In other words, no ‘underlying medical condition’ annex here.

Those who are informed in, and involved with the care and support for pregnancy and pregnant women, yet not connected or motivated via association or financial gain, have not promoted the receiving of the vaccine. Midwives have spoken frankly about the pro and cons of both options, pointing out that in the worst case scenario where ET would catch the virus; she would most likely be no more affected than any other winter flu.

More interestingly, of all the women in her antenatal class, all of whom who have been given the same letter and possibility to receive the vaccine, none of them are taking it. Not one.

All this helps to support our initial reaction, to not receive the vaccination, but of course it’s not that black and white.

What if she doesn’t take it and something happens? What if she does take it and something happens?

We still see the flashing yellow breaking news stories, so we still don’t know what is for the best, and the letter is still on the kitchen table.

Any constructive or informed opinion is welcomed.

Monday 19 October 2009

Kid Rock

Kidlet is now the proud owner of a pair of headphones.

I say 'proud' without being absolutely certain, but I'm taking its stoic silence as a sign of quiet pride.

I've decided that I can't let its host and mother rot its developing brain with whatever jingle separates episodes of 'girls of the playboy mansion', and so I'm piping in the tunes.

Whatsit's remaining life in the womb will be like strolling around Tesco or hanging around a petrol station forecourt, without knowing it, it will be subliminally educated in the sounds of Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, The Beatles, Christie Hennessey et al.

And maybe some others who are actually, well, alive.

The headphones themselves are big comfortable belly spanning padded things, which if they are actually over the baby's ears, it means we have one hideously odd shaped child on the way. In reality, there is probably one earphone on the kids forehead, and another sending Chrissie Hynde vibrations right up its arse.

It's a secret hope of mine that ET falls asleep with them stretched across the bump so I can draw a face on her gut with permanent marker.

I'm choosing to ignore the blatant possibility of the opposite being true, but due to the way it kicked up a storm 30 seconds into the opening beats of James Morrison live in concert last night, I'm of the firm belief that the kid likes a bit of music.

That's what I'm using to justify spending more on the baby's headphones than I did on its new wardrobe. A fact which is much more indicative of the quality of the wardrobe than the headphones.

Anyway, all suggestions for decent (i.e. not Canadian) tunes for the bellydweller will be greatly appreciated.

Rock on.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Vag 101

To celebrate being 22 weeks up the duff and having a very attractive foetus, ET has wandered off into the night and gone to her first class.

Taking into account the very real possibility of a translation error we are hoping it’s an antenatal class she's gone to and not motor maintenance or HTML for beginners.

What do they actually teach at these things? I’ve only ever seen what the occasional sitcom has to offer and that usually ends in one of the characters being horrified at the thought of what lies ahead.

I hope she doesn’t come back horrified.

I hope she’ll learn all kinds of wonderful things like how to push a human out of herself, how to not need stitches, and how to behave like a lady at all times during labour.

I hope she comes back able to huff and puff and blow the house down like they do on the telly, with a whole new vocabulary of purposeful ‘uuh-uuh-uuuuuhs’ and ‘aah-aah-aaaaahs’.

I hope she comes back with a healthy glow and a perineum that could strangle a small woodland animal.

I hope she comes back with a set of lady muscles that could beat me in an arm wrestle.

Most of all, I just hope she finds the bloody place.

Monday 12 October 2009

Bubbles & the superhero

It first happened just over a week ago.

She had already been feeling movements for a couple of weeks, squirmy, twisting feelings. They have become more and more frequent, and following a pattern.

Last weekend she called me downstairs to announce that she had felt the baby move again, but this time, from the outside. I stood there with my hand pressed to the spot for God only knows how long, only to be left kick-less.

The following night we tried again, ET lay in bed announcing every time she felt something and I’d swiftly grab my pound of flesh.

Still nothing.

I decided that if the mountain wouldn’t kick for Mohammed, then Mohammed would jiggle and poke the mountain, while shouting rude names at it.

It worked.

With my palm flat on ET’s lower belly there came what I can only describe as a bubble rising to the surface. It wasn’t a pointed kick or jab, just a soft rounded mass coming close to the area of skin on skin.

Our first high five.

‘Well, hello kid.’ It does me well to imagine you come when I swear at you.

Throughout last week the movements have continued, and increased. Quiet during the day at work, and lively in the evening when ET gets home. She is not overly impressed with the idea that the kid only seems to get jiggy when it is at home with me wobbling, poking, and roaring at it.

Twenty and a half weeks was quite early to feel a first movement from the outside, but the midwife has explained why.

It seems the placenta is not between baby and belly, but rather behind the baby, leaving the belly dweller‘s movements one less obstacle to be felt through.

How cool is it that my child is wearing its placenta like a cape, not an apron?

With a look that would get it community service and a suspended sentence if it were to try it 20 years from now, kidlet is living out its days as a wee naked uterine superhero.

Thursday 8 October 2009

You'll take someone's eye out with that

Even though it would undoubtedly make 'him' quite famous, or 'her' Jerry Springer famous, not to mention us filthy rich, I have to quell a myth.

That is not, I repeat not, an enormous penis posing for the cameras on the ultrasound picture.

Genitalia fatter than our arms is not a family characteristic. A fact which allows the female members to breathe a sigh of relief. And walk in straight lines.

That is not to say that there is, or isn't, a normal sized one tucked away in there somewhere, curled up just waiting to be a source of shame and embarrassment for the child, and probable hilarity for everyone else.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, yesterday marked 21 weeks.

It's been a week in which we laid 20% of a floor, we chose a colour I previously never knew existed, and we finally brought home a drawer that the baby could sleep in, if it were able to assemble flat-pack furniture.

Under the heading of 'you couldn't make it up', ET's pregnancy brain made her adamant that somewhere in the house we have chocolate covered Doritos.

We don't. Thankfully.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Bumps on tour

Holidays. Who doesn’t love them?

Weeks filled with parading around in flip-flops, swigging orange Bacardi Breezers, donning airport sunglasses, dodging sexually transmitted diseases, and publicly showcasing your questionable fashion sense.

That was how they went in the past, at least. Not anymore.

Now you are wallowing in maturity and impending fatherhood, filled with responsible notions and a sense of familial protection. In other words, you’re screwed.

It starts on the way to the airport. Or to the train station. Or bus station, rik-shaw rank, swinging-vine terminal, or whatever your chosen mode of transport happens to be.

Your lady friend is visibly ‘with child’ so there is no way on Lucifer’s lush planet that she can be seen carrying anything heavier than lip balm or a mobile phone in your presence. That leaves you lugging three suitcases up escalators, on and off two wheeled trolleys, and heaving their slippery-from-your-own-sweat masses up onto the check-in belt.

Should she even look in the direction of a suitcase handle, you will be struck down by the evil eye of public shame.

When you arrive on the other end, you must repeat the same physical abuse lest you become the recipient of ‘foreigner scorn’. That’s worse than normal scorn because it’s scorn with an accent, tan, and good teeth.

You then proceed to spend 7 hours of each day searching for the nearest acceptable bathroom, followed by 3 hours standing outside it, holding bags filled with maternity bras and trying desperately not to look like someone who should be reported to shopping centre security.

When you are finally out of the accusing glare of mall pervert-cam, you get your holiday reward.

You are free to walk the streets hand in hand with her of swelled belly fame, and nothing quite beats that.

Granted, it’s not a Piña Colada, inflatable donkey or a sombrero you are dragging behind you, but it is your entire family. Your whole family wrapped up in amniotic and uterine goodness. Safe and cosy inside a bump, drawing sheepish half smiles from the people you catch looking from face, to bump, to face.

Orange Breezers always tasted like piss anyway.

Friday 2 October 2009

Spread those legs, baby

I learned something today.

I discovered that if there’s ever a good time to yank out one of your wife’s rogue subterranean hairs, right before she sees her unborn baby is it. She just can’t stay mad.

With the gel squirted over her belly like something from cheap German porn, the tech fired up the ultrasound.

Boom. There it was, kidlet in full high definition with a heartbeat in stereo. It was big sized, baby shaped, and swinging its arms akin to an overweight drunken uncle fighting with the best man at a wedding.

It was stunning to see a real big baby in there, not just a shape.

The tech went about her business, zooming in on the brain, heart & other organs, legs and spine. It took two sessions for her to see all she wanted to check, with everything looking and measuring just perfectly.

There was one single negative point in the whole thing though, it appears that we, two shortarses, are having a shortarse baby.

Screw you Darwin.

It’s not easy to see what the ultrasounds show when zoomed in, we spent 2 minutes cooing at our baby’s cute face which we thought was staring right at the screen only to be told we were actually ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ over its kidneys.

Bloody cute kidneys though.

Then came the money shot, the declaration of pink or blue, the choosing of a flavour, boy or girl.

The tech peered between the baby’s legs long enough to make Gary Glitter uncomfortable before passing on the good news.

After years of people knowing far too much about this wee thing even before it existed, it can stay as secret good news, for now at least.