Monday 28 December 2009

I blame Disney

‘Cheeky little monkey’ rings out quite often in the homes of the pregnant.

Or at least it does if our home is anything to go by.

We’ve projected a playful persona upon this child. A mischievous wee bugger, scurrying from one side of the belly to the other, delightfully lodging its feet between the ribs of its host, happily toying with the idea of snapping a couple.

Every kick is interpreted as a spirited wink to the outside world, each head butt to the cervical canal a merry nod of its cap in our direction, and all occurrences of an internal organ being trod on is merely an impish wave.

We’ve mentally made this child into a rogue. A scut. A tease. Everyone does, while of course this could be complete and utter nonsense.

What if digging a heel into a bladder is the kid telling us to stop singing, or each head-first dive for the emergency exit is its way of telling us that there is a dreadful smell in there, or each fist pumped into the uterine wall is a demand for the immediate removal of Mugabe.

What if the child is a disgruntled old thing? A grump in a bump. A foetal Victor (or Victoria) Meldrew, constantly displeased with everything around it.

Simply put, we don’t know what it’s thinking, or what its bursts of activity mean. What we interpret as a pixie-like dance with an umbilical chord along to the top 40 chart countdown may in fact be the child freaking out, swinging its lifeline around its head in uncontrollable rage, like a nine iron in the paws of a pro golfer’s discontented spouse.

What makes us force a happy personality on a human who dines on their own urine and whose greatest ability is jabbing itself in the face with a fist it doesn’t know it has?

I believe we are extremely lucky that babies can’t talk, otherwise we’d be witnessing a barrage of abuse in delivery rooms and birthing centres the entire world over. We’d be inundated with complaints of being poked and pushed and prodded into uncomfortable places, being ridiculed over the weight it was carrying, cramped conditions, dreadful food, hideously uncomfortable journeys, late arrivals, and reaching the other side without a stitch of clothing.

They would reveal to us the horrifying truth that pregnancy and birth is in fact a service provided by Ryanair, a fact that we as a civilisation are just not ready to cope with.

Thursday 24 December 2009


I’m sitting here on Christmas Eve and I’m of the opinion I may be going just ever so slightly mad.

It’s not because I take my own life into my hands anytime I step outside the door, the 3 inches of ice up and down our road testing my already dubiously misaligned centre of gravity. Cranial blood on fresh snow is a tremendous sight.

It’s not because people have gone demented. Even though there’s no milk in the supermarket, the vegetable aisle is a fire hazard, and I saw an old woman bludgeon a teenage boy to death for the last six pack of Heineken. The shops do open again on Saturday, right?

It’s not because I’m twice as drunk as I ever am because my biblically pregnant other half is sipping horse chestnut juice or some such, leaving me to ‘waste not, want not’ and finish every bottle that gets opened. Those nightclub sized bottles of gin were a bad idea.

It’s not because I’ve noticed that I have a bigger gut, more stretch marks and higher blood pressure than the aforementioned human incubator, meaning that either they squirted that wallpaper paste into the wrong half of this couple or I need to eat a vegetable occasionally.

It’s not because I can’t come up with a second verse to the ‘night before Christmas’ beyond:
It was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
The foetus was kicking, trying hard to get out’

Creativity is dead, I can live with that.

It’s because now, today, on Christmas Eve we are just 7 weeks and 6 days away.

7 weeks, 6 days.

Fa la la la lah, la la la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

Monday 21 December 2009

Was Madonna Dutch?

There are going to be a couple of interesting hurdles to navigate in bringing a child into this very below sea-level of worlds that is Holland.

The language itself doesn’t bother me, learning how to say ‘go ask your mother’ in Dutch should save most of my blushes, while proclaiming ignorance of what is being said will spare the remainder.

The food may even turn out to be an interesting experiment; the Dutch are a giant race, every single one of them directly descended from Gulliver. What better way is there to settle the nature versus nurture argument than by feeding the child of two vertically challenged individuals Dutch food and see if we grow a six-footer? I’ll see it as a challenge.

The traditions are different, but we can adjust. While the rest of the world’s children are preparing for Santa Claus this week, the great Dutch gift giver has been and gone since early December.

Sinterklaas is an elderly Bishop who sails into Holland on a barge from Spain, helped by a crew of black slaves, all named Piet. He fills the kid’s shoes with presents and quickly buggers off again after a few songs have been sung. If the kids don’t behave during the year, the bishop then kidnaps them and takes them away on his barge. We can probably come to see this child trafficking by the clergy as perfectly acceptable, we are Irish after all.

There is one thing I will truly struggle with. One thing that grates at the back of my brain, one thing that send shivers down my spine, one thing that makes me want to read another Tiger Woods story for a pleasant distraction, and that is what Dutch children call their fathers:


I have no desire to live in Walnut Grove, nor to be addressed like an aging Smurf, and certainly not to be brow beaten by a teenage Madonna.

I can be a lot of things, within a conservative and low achieving margin, but ‘Papa’ can’t be one of them.

Time to move.

Tuesday 15 December 2009


It’s getting hard to sit still. It’s getting harder still to not be still in any constructive form.

Half a disassembled wardrobe is blocking the upstairs hall, and half a tonne of IKEA’s cardboard excrement is lying outside our back door, waiting to be cut up and properly discarded. The Christmas decorations are still in the attic and my poor car could pass for an army vehicle it’s so in need of a wash.

We are close enough to be all but ready, and far enough away to be thoroughly unprepared.

I am full of great ideas though, I’ve calculated that with all the bandages and cotton wool left over from the kraampakket, we can insulate the attic. If some lazy bugger would move the Christmas decorations first.

The kraampakket has caused me to suffer an expectant father confidence blow too, it turns out the blue dinosaur in the kraampakket isn’t a blue dinosaur, it’s a blue dragon. Fire breathing et al.

How could I confuse those? This child is in for a rough time with someone who can’t tell Barney from Hannah Montana.

This was the tip of a realisation iceberg. My naivety being my Titanic, and I’m already up to my shriveling Di Caprios in icy waters.

The poor kid is screwed for entertainment.

I can’t do funny voices, other than my default one, I don’t have an imagination, not one whose manifestation into reality wouldn’t land me jail and Mena Suvari in hospital , and I’ve decided children don’t actually like me.

That last I have no proof of, but my boss doesn’t like me and that must mean something.

If I’m going to survive this, this child is going to need low expectations.

And maybe box cutters.

Thursday 10 December 2009

The kraampakket

We knew it was due to arrive.

Every pregnant woman in Holland gets a package from the health insurance companies as she approaches her due date. The package should contain everything needed for a home birth, lots of items for after birth care, and a few other bits and bobs. This is known as the 'kraampakket'

Ours arrived yesterday.

ET sat at the kitchen table as I removed the tape and started to unpack the contents of the box.

With every item I removed she turned a whiter shade of pale. It seems they are fully expecting her to bleed to death, or at the very least be guided through the birth by hungry wolves.

Pack after pack of bandages. Box after box of gauze compresses. Mattress covers, bags of cotton wool, pads, protectors, and plasters.

By the time I pulled out the bottle of 70% proof swabbing alcohol I was shaking with laughter and ETs jaw was resting on her belly.

The contents of the box were like something Florence Nightingale would be concealing beneath her petticoat.

It seems that our insurance company don’t think ET will be going into labour, she’ll be going into first world war trenches.

Clearly, the hope is we never have to use any of this, and if we don’t we can use the umbilical cord clamps to keep our Doritos fresh. I’m not sure what we will do with the baby sling they included, which could easily accommodate a large sow, a 7lb baby would be lost for a fortnight in it.

It wasn’t all doom n'gloom and nightmare inspiring paraphernalia though. Right at the bottom, underneath the hacksaw and incontinence pads, was a fluffy blue dinosaur.

Altogether now, awwww.

9 weeks, 6 days.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Horizontal stripes

It is remarkably small.


Balled up it would fit in my tightened fist, which I couldn’t even dare to do, for the baby Jesus would surely weep and governments would fall if that kind of violence were to be perpetrated against such fabric innocence.

Opened up, it fits onto the palm of my hand. The short sleeves not even long enough to hang over the sides.

It looks warm, it feels warm, but it is just so small. How can it ever be enough to protect a human torso to the extent that fingers stay warm, shoulders feel snug with a dozing head flopped against them, and a pot belly remains unbothered by draft.

It is the cause of comically disproportionate indecision . What to do with such a thing?

Should we throw open the double doors of the wardrobe, to hang it from the rail, sliding it from the left, to the centre, to the right before sliding it back again? The space below it seemingly vertigo inducing, a long way down for such a small thing.

Should we feed it into the cavernous jaws of the dresser drawer, laying it flat on the lined tongue of the huge beast before pushing its jaws shut around it? Opening and closing it twice more to make sure it’s still there, still ok in the dark, before taking it out to place it on the palm of my hand again.

Try once more, this time absurdly folding it to puff out its chest, and sliding it into the corner where it can at least keep an eye out for danger.

It is not easy to leave the room. It is not easy to put it to rest, such a small thing, the striped sweater with an anxious magnetism.

Friday 4 December 2009

Next month

Maybe it was because of the electricity bill, or the insurance perhaps, I’m not sure.

Either way, I was standing in the middle of the room trying to work out what the date was. Had we reached the 14th of November yet? or was it the 21st already?

ET looked at me as if I had grown the two extra heads to go with my chins.

It was the 3rd of December.

December. It’s December.

If this kid decides to come early, say, two weeks early which is still considered full term, it will be here next month.

Next month.

I need to renew my blood pressure prescription.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Infancy insolvency

‘I’d like a cake please.’

‘Ok sir, that’ll be €100. When would you like it?’

‘Well, the wedding is on…’

‘Oh, wait, I’m sorry, it’s a wedding cake, then that will be €850.’

Same story the world over, businesses squeezing multiple times the value of something out of poor Paddy Soap because it’s for a ‘special’ occasion.

It seems that opportunistic bastardism is in full swing in the world of baby supplies too.

Leaving aside the large items like a buggy, crib, furniture etc, babies don’t need a whole lot. To be kept warm is just about enough. This, we humans achieve by making sure the child is wearing a few scraps of cloth, and is perhaps wrapped in a few larger scraps of cloth.

A few metres of cotton, cut into a few different shapes, with the occasional bunny rabbit printed on.

Simple enough.

How on earth can less than one square metre of a cotton sheet and blanket be peddled to the public for €60? You need at least two of course, and that is at least two for the crib, and the pram, and the Moses basket.

So, to put the kid to bed we are looking at €360 and a futile hope that bedding doesn’t need to be changed more than once a day. If you don’t want to wash and dry them every bloody day you can throw a grand out the window and pawn the cat , just so the kid can catch a few Zs.

If you want avoid fumigating the house on a weekly basis you may also want to clean the child. One option is to buy back the pawned cat and train it to lick the child clean, just don’t mention that you want it for baby licking or the price will quadruple.

The other option is to do it yourself. Clean it, not lick it, I mean.

This of course means mo’money. Those delightful flannel hooded things which are basically regular towels with the hems sewn by epileptics are going for €40 a pop. Why does a facecloth cost 99 cents unless you buy it in a baby store where you have to pay €20 for a pack of 3?

When did flannel become pricier than a human kidney on the black market?

I’m not even going to start on the obscenity that is baby clothing. Socks that couldn’t hide a malteser, a hat similar akin to a golf ball warmer, and mittens that are heresy to practicality. Paying €15 for mittens for a baby that is hardly going to be driving a bloody snow plough makes my face ache.

For its first Christmas next year, this kid is getting an invoice.