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Friday, 19 November 2010

Farewell blessed sleep!

Regular readers of this blog may have been wondering why it has been particularly irregular of late. Well, rest assured I haven't been knocked down by the 264 bus, I have in fact just joined that exclusive club otherwise known as fatherhood.

Indeed, whereas for the past few months I have been writing on an almost daily basis - no doubt boring you all silly with tales of pre-birth nerves and baby shopping stress - I have been preoccupied of late with looking after Mrs B and our wonderful new bundle of pooing joy. Hence the spare blogging time of my pre-baby days has been inevitably sacrificed for the nappy changing, winding, changing, rocking, watching, cuddling, filming and photographing of our little man.

The photographing and filming have been particularly prevalent in our household as I seem to endlessly follow Mrs B and mini-B around, with hands full of assorted cameras ready to capture every yawn, sneeze and fart for prosperity. The luxury of digital cameras, of course, making it possible to take hundreds of shots of each magical moment. Whether any of them will ever reside anywhere other than on my computer's hard drive is uncertain but, eighteen years from now, at our son's coming-of-age birthday party, I am at least confident that we'll be able to suitably embarrass him with slow-mo nappy changing highlights and a gallery of his best breast-feeding moments.
But what an incredible few weeks it has been. Baby B's entrance in to the world was far from easy as my incredible wife went through the mill for six long days of failed inducement, eventual labour and, finally, a hugely emotional emergency c-section.

Nothing could have prepared me for the event - for which I ironically felt so totally prepared beforehand - suffice to say that as I was by her side for the duration, the experience gave me a whole new, infinitely higher level of respect and admiration for her and for womankind.

"Why on earth do we give children presents on their birthday?" noted my utterly exhausted wife, shortly after cradling our newborn son in her arms for the first time. "They should be giving their mums presents for going through this!"

And so I hereby launch the 'GIVE ALL MOTHERS PRESENTS ON CHILDREN'S BIRTHDAYS' campaign. Who's with me?!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Benefits and big feet...

I am officially on tenterhooks. Mrs B is 38 weeks pregnant and I cannot let my phone out of my sight. As I type, I have it nestled in my pocket, set on the loudest ring tone possible and with maximum vibration. The result, unfortunately, is that I jumped out of my skin and let out a slight yelp this morning when a text arrived from T-Mobile telling me something utterly irrelevant.

Everyone also keeps telling us that the baby could arrive any time now which, although well intended, is actually intensely annoying. It's as if they expect us to drop everything and start panicing as a direct result of their insightful advice.

"Really Mrs Jones?! You mean, this full-term baby could actually be born today? Blimey, it's a good job you told me, I clearly haven't read enough over the last nine months or attended enough antenatal appointments to have any idea what is likely to happen at the culmination of this life changing event!"

But then again, maybe my ever increasing nerves are getting the better of me and snapping at well-meaning pensioners isn't the best idea!
                                                                     
With parenthood imminent, meanwhile, I've found myself glued to the Conservative Party Conference this week as debate rages over the coalition government's plans to scrap child benefit for those earning over £44,000.

Are cuts necessary? Yes, I can't argue with the fact that the country's in somewhat of a financial mire at the moment and we need to tighten the purse strings. Is the child benefit proposal fair? Absolutely not. It's outrageous that a single income family with one parent earning £45,000 is denied child benefit, while a double income family earning £88,000 can rinse the system for the full whack.

I sense, however, that there might be some subtle backtracking along Whitehall in the months ahead, so I'm not going to set to work on my picket plackard just yet!

Closer to home this week, Mrs B has been enduring baby feet to the ribs. Indeed, it appears that our son or daughter will be born with Size 10s if the size of the various protrusions are anything to go by!

Let's just hope the government doesn't impose a tax on shoe leather anytime soon!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Man flu misery...

I may have a Lemsip problem.

Over the last few days I haven't been able to get enough of the lemon-flavoured good stuff as I have fought, far from courageously, against a particularly nasty early-autumn cold. Indeed, I am the first to admit that I have not been a pleasant sight of late, dressed as I am in pyjamas and dressing gown, armed 24/7 with a tissue-replacement muslin and looking generally fit for nothing more than a starring role in Night of The Living Dead.
Mrs B suffered the same virus last week although it is evidently clear that this particular bug hits the male half of the population much harder. Despite being 36 weeks pregnant (yes, regular readers, we're almost there) I can only put my wife's ability to shrug off this cold down to the fact that it is a male-hating virus. How else can I explain the fact that, while she was back at full capacity after three days, I am strenuously typing these notes - and straining my bloodhsot eyes to read them - on day five of my seemingly endless battle.

The recent sleepless nights, however, have given me time to ponder and to be thankful for the fact that we have at least  endured the Cold War now, a month before Baby B's arrival. I can only imagine how hard it must be to look after a newborn child whilst constantly blowing your nose. Not only would I be worried of passing anything on to my vulnerable son or daughter, but I'd also be terrified that a combination of sleep deprivation and Lemsip would cloud my judgement and see me depositing dirty nappies in the fridge, or putting the little one down to sleep in the washing basket.

So, what am I complaining about really? I'm lucky to be suffering like I am, aren't I?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Swede dreams!

Thirty-five weeks and counting.

The big day is rapidly approaching now and, having put it off for as long as possible, we buckled earlier this week and found ourselves eating meatballs in Ikea. It was the culinary precursor to the inevitable Market Place sweep for last minute nursery bits and bobs.

Prior to arrival at the Swedish furniture mecca, however, Mrs B and I had sworn an oath to enter the building, head directly to the nursery section, pick up the changing mat and covers we needed and aim directly for the checkouts. It was a simple mission, in and out in as short a time as possible and head home for supper and Coronation Street.

Needless to say, it didn't go to plan.

Within seconds of walking through the insanely large revolving doors we had talked ourselves in to eating out, or rather in Ikea. It took nothing more than a quick; "ooh, the meatballs look good," to ensure that we found ourselves with trays in hand and time ticking away. The oath had already been forgotten.

Dinner over and having deposited our trays in the tray racks (for some reason eating at Ikea reminds me of school dinners), we grabbed our compulsory yellow bags and headed for the Market Place, pausing to study the floor plan before entering. For some reason we couldn't see the children's area and, assuming it was an oversight on our part, began following the arrows through the Market maze.

It was clear from the eager faces of our fellow shoppers that we had all fallen in to the Ikea trap, wondering as we were whether we could actually live without the bargain cutlery sets, over-sized mugs, mixing bowls, storage boxes, picture frames, shelves and lights that gravitated towards our trolleys or yellow bags.  How easy it would be to come home with a new kitchen, when all you went in for was a spare bulb for that annoying lamp in the lounge!

Bereft of daylight and any indication of the time - despite the miriad of clocks on offer - Mrs B and I trekked aimlessly around the Market Place, eventually realising that the children's zone was upstairs in the showroom and that we had, in fact, wasted the past half hour perusing curtains and bedding (despite being fully equipped with all the curtains and bedding we could ever need).

And so it was that Ikea stole our evening. Coronation Street was missed and we returned home with a bag of odds and ends that we didn't know we needed.

Mind you, the meatballs were good!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Back to school biology

Walking nervously into the grounds of a local primary school earlier this week, Mrs B and I embarked on the first of our NHS-funded 'Parent Craft' lessons.

Literally going back to school the pair of us took our seats (thankfully not toddler-size) in a neat semi-circle, largely consisting of puzzled-looking mums and dads, in an empty primary classroom. The setting for our introduction to the miracle of childbirth was as sterile as it was uncomfortable. The NHS, bless their souls, had, however, laid on a wealth of refreshments for us, namely two jugs of water and at least five glasses. We were, it was fair to say, instantly sceptical of the two hour lesson that lay ahead.

We needn't have worried. Our community midwife tutor - a bubbly, calm and motherly figure who instantly put us at ease - wasted no time in whipping out the labour diagrams and explaining the intricacies of the birthing process to us. Mrs B and I were utterly gripped. We thought we knew the basics, but it was clear we knew nothing.

Jenny, adopting the role of biology teacher, began by detailing the various signs of labour. The breaking of waters may not, we were told,  actually mean the start of labour. In fact, the whole process may not start until hours or even days afterwards, which was news to us. As were the intricacies of the various stages of labour - all expertly demonstrated to us by an enthusiastic Jenny with the aid of a 30 year-old baby doll and a plastic pelvis.

Needless to say we left the school grounds wiser than we had entered and thankful that the free course had given us such a brilliant insight in to what we can expect in a few weeks' time. What's interesting now, however, is how NCT will compare? I have a feeling that there may be a few more cushions, and maybe even a selection of biscuits, but will the quality of the information and the delivery match that which we received from the NHS? Watch this space to find out.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Ventouse the daddy?

Having watched enough episodes of ER over the years I am - should I find myself in charge of an emergency situation - certain that a prompt CBC and Chem 7 would assure a speedy recovery for my unlucky patient, whatever the blood curdling trauma or injury. Afterall, it worked for Clooney and Goose from Top Gun for years!

Pregnancy, however, is a wholly different kettle of fish, complete with its own terrifying technical terminology.

This week, for instance, I have been researching the decisions Mrs B and I need to make with regards to our 'birth plan' - a term that itself sounds a bit too tree-huggy, new age for my liking - and been once again faced with the daunting labour ward language that we're going to have to adopt over the coming weeks.

Ventouse, pethidine, entonox and epidural - they may read like the cast of a Spanish soap opera, but unfortunately they're actually the choices that face us with regards to how Baby B will enter this world. A cocktail of drugs and a plethora of equipment that we can choose to use or ignore when it comes to B-Day.
Furthermore, websites and birth plan guides tell us that now's the time to decide on how Mrs B wants to give birth. Standing, sitting, in bed, kneeling, in the water or, bizarrely, on a birth ball - all are possible, even though this last option conjures up images of Mrs B in one of those giant, transparent, roll-down-the-mountain zorb things, hardly the most relaxing of scenarios.

And then there's the question of my role, what on earth am I going to do on the day? Of course I want to be there by my wife's side, but how much of a role can I play? My fear is that, in the process of doing as much as I possibly can (calming words, massage, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, sponge duty etc), I'm actually just going to annoy the hell out of her. Either that or I'll just be hogging the gas and air!

Would I like to cut the cord? Um, yes, of course, and would I like to tell my wife the sex of the baby? Um, yes again. These are all important questions, but things never quite go to plan in our family, so I'm fully prepared for the moment that I pass out while cutting the cord, or when I tell my exhausted wife that we have a baby boy when she's actually about to cradle her daughter in her arms!

But then again, maybe I'm just starting to panic.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Wham bam Sam Cam's a mam...again

The Prime Minister has become a father again today after Mrs C gave birth to a daughter while on holiday in Cornwall. Great news for the Cameron clan, but is it good news for the country?

Whenever I read about newborns - and I have been reading a great deal on the subject of late - it seems that the words 'sleep deprivation', 'exhaustion' and 'stress' are never far behind. Indeed, the BBC today posted a story on life as a new father alongside that of the PM's new arrival. Unsurprisingly the piece told of one father's shock and emotional anxiety when it came to looking after his newborn son.

Is it therefore not perhaps a good idea for someone to temporarily look after the keys to the big red buttons in Downing Street, just in case a sleep-deprived DC accidentally leans on one while helping Sam with the 3am feed, launching a missile attack on Cardiff in the process?

Mind you, the next few months could prove valuable for junior ministers and backbenchers wishing to push through the odd piece of controversial legislation.

"I know it's late in the day, you've got your hands full with a particularly dirty nappy and bath time's around the corner, but do you mind just quickly signing this tiny little tax on oxygen Mr Cameron, sir?"

These could be dangerous times good people, watch out!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Size doesn't matter, or does it?

"Oooh, haven't you got a tiny bump," said the midwife as Mrs B strolled in to her office for her 31-week check-up yesterday.

"Really? Oh," was  my wife's startled and instantly worried reaction.

It wasn't exactly the A to Z of Midwifing's text book way of putting a first-time mum at ease upon arrival at one's clinic. A plastic surgeon wouldn't, for example, welcome a nervous nose-job patient in to his surgery with the words; "Morning big nose."

Anyway, despite causing momentary panic for Mrs B, the midwife went on to explain that, although her bump was on the small side, all was well. A measurement was taken and it transpired that Baby B's bump measured 30 cm and, we were told, that anywhere 3cm either side of your number of weeks is fine. Cue a giant sigh of relief.
However, this has got me thinking - and searching Google images for comparitive 31-week bumps - and it does seem that, at this stage of pregnancy, bump sizes vary hugely. Friends of ours, for instance, visited us for lunch at 31-weeks pregnant and clearly, in my humble opinion, looked huge. Others, according to Google, are similarly petite.

Does this have any effect on baby size or sex? Apparently not. There are a huge number of factors that affect bump size; a woman's height and pre-pregnancy weight, the amount of exercise taken during pregnancy, the position of the baby; diet during pregnancy etc.

What I'd like to know, however, is whether genetics plays a real key. Mrs B is always on the phone to her mum discussing progress and takes comfort in hearing that her mum's pregnancies were very similar. My mum, meanwhile, revealed last night that I was in fact small but "long and lean" - something that hasn't changed much in the subsequent 33 years.

As for determining sex, however, our mum's are no help. My mother-in-law's small bumps resulted in two daughters, while I am one of three boys.

There is a chance, of course, that Baby B is saving him or herself for a final push as we head towards B-Day, so we're bracing ourselves for some serious bump expansion over the coming weeks.

Whatever happens, I'll be watching, tape measure in hand.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Wood you believe it?!

As the whole world and his wife go on holiday in August, the country's news-deprived journalists often desperately try to cobble together papers and bulletins based on the flimsiest of studies and surveys, and summer-time Mondays are usually particularly bad.

Today's Monday morning, random, poll-based horror story, however, has actually prompted me to mount my moral high horse in protest at the sheer ridiculousness of its findings.

One in five British children - we are told today - has never climbed a tree or visited a farm.

As a one-time tree-climbing and farm-visiting child myself it is hard to imagine how children can grow up without expriencing these simple pleasures. Indeed, tree climbing was an almost compulsory part of childhood in the countryside in the 1980s and I fondly remember receiving my cub scout tree climbing badge after pack leaders judged my ascent of one particularly large tree worthy of the coveted sew-on award.
My brothers and I, meanwhile, spent hours on end in a wood close to our childhood home, utilising the abundant flora to reenact scenes from Return of the Jedi (minus the ever-annoying Ewoks of course) or to declare jungle warfare on each other. It was a blank canvas for the imagination of youth, not simply the accumulation of trees and weeds seen by the adult population.

Wellies and grass stains were part and parcel of my life as a child, along with the local farms and typically eccentric farmers. Cows, sheep and cowpats were commonplace and we came to realise how vital farming was to country life from a very early age. What's more, we knew where our food and milk came from, we could see, hear and smell it every day.

To think that children today can grow up without knowing any of these things, without falling out of the odd tree and without enjoying the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild amidst spectacularly beautiful rural settings, is frightening.

In my opinion parents have a responsibilty to ensure that they provide their children with the chance to see and experience as much of life in the UK as they can, urban and rural. We shouldn't be a nation of town mice and country mice, we should embrace, experience and find out as much as we can about all the varying regions of this country.

Now living in the big smoke, I could not be further away from the trees, woods and farms that made up my childhood. While I can appreciate all that life in London has to offer (apart from the tube), I'm also proud of my country roots and will ensure that Baby B, no matter where we live, will get the chance to climb as many trees and stomp in as many cowpats as he/she wants to.

Wellies unite!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Countdown and botty cream...

For the past 29 weeks Mrs B and I have been monitoring her pregnancy by counting upwards, from kick off to week 29, scaling Mount Baby one trimester at a time. From this week, however, as we pass the 30 week milestone, we are most definitely counting down, abseiling, as it were, towards base camp having long since cast off our crampons and ice picks.

Emotions are, it must be said, mixed.

There is of course huge excitement at the prospect of the parenting journey that lies ahead of us but, it must be said, there is also a great deal of anxiety at the changes and challenges that loom on the horizon.

Our lives will never be the same again, we know that. However, when you're in to a single figure weekly countdown it suddenly becomes very real and, as we lay in bed one night this week, Mrs B and I jointly worried about losing the time we spend together; the spontaneous trips to restaurants, to the pub or the park; running around our neighbourhood together or enduring the occasional gym class (always more enduring for me than Mrs B); nights out at the cinema or theatre; trips to see friends or after-work evenings in town. How will things change and will we ever get time for the two of us ever again?

Of course, I have it easy, I'm also very aware of that. I do not have to contend with birth, post-birth recovery, breastfeeding and all the other physical and psychological after effects that come with motherhood. All I can do is reassure my amazing, baby-producing wife that I will do as much as I possibly can to ease the burden on her, to make sure that we do get some time together (even if it is just to watch Corrie) and that she gets the time to herself that she needs. How hard can that be?
Aside from all the obvious life changing changes, we've also found that one of the strangest things to imagine is actually having a third person in our home. For as long as we can remember it has been the two of us, our house, our stuff, our mess. As of October, however, there will be someone else in our humble home, complete with his or her own noises, smells, clothes, toys, things and mess. As we often struggle to clean up after ourselves (ok, I may be speaking for myself here), how are we going to cope with cleaning up after a third person too?

And then there's the question of all the baby stuff.

I must admit that I have become slightly obsessed with listing everything we need to buy or borrow in preparation for the arrival of Baby B, and fixated inparticular with botty cream. How does one choose a botty cream? And what if the baby is allergic or has exzema? These are questions that I have never had to ask before and, consequently, are now filling my waking hours. Indeed, piggy-backing a routine trip to the doctor with Mrs B yesterday I even asked our GP what he suggested, completley unprepared to hear that he recommended nothing more than plain water and olive oil!

So, normal or extra virgin?

Help!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Milk monitors unite...

Back in my primary school days I was a proud milk monitor. Each and every morning I would distribute third pint bottles of milk to thirsty infants with aplomb, relishing my responsibility as chief supplier of dairy products to the young and basking in the glory of my position. If there was milk to monitored, I was the man to do it.

However, it wasn't all small straws and milky moustaches. I do remember dark days in my milk monitoring career, most notably when one Margaret Thatcher ruled that it was to be no more, reducing a nation of monitors to lowly pupils who - come mid-morning - were left pining for something to distribute to their peers. Handing out workbooks or wiping the blackboard just didn't compare, it was like asking an astronaut to drive us a bus.
So I was delighted to read today that the coalition government has scrapped its plans to cut free school milk for the under-fives. Not only will the news come as a huge relief to the thousands of monitors and wannabe-monitors out there, but it also shows that, at a time when savage cuts in public spending are expected across the board, someone, somewhere has drawn a line and said no to school milk being on the culled benefits list.

I just hope that the decision was made for the right reason, namely the health benefits of milk for young children, and not purely because our new Prime Minister doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of his 1980s predecessor and be seen as a modern day Scrooge.

As for my own milk monitoring career, sadly it didn't progress beyond primary school, although I do now occasionally find myself monitoring the odd beer with similar levels of enjoyment.

Anyone for a pinter?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Name and shame

Blessing your offspring with a crazy, off-the-wall name is part and parcel of life as a modern day celebrity. Apple, River, Fifi Trixibell and Moon Unit have all stemmed from the loins and over stimulated minds of the likes of Frank Zappa, Bob Geldof and Chris Martin. Indeed, a Times poll of the 50 craziest celebrity names also includes such gems as Bluebell Madonna and Audio Science.

It seems the celebrity formula for deciding on a moniker for your A-list newborn is simple; glance out of the window, note down the first thing you see and then couple it with whatever you're listening to on your iPod. Thankfully, as Mrs B and I are not celebrities, we can ignore the formula and refrain from christening our son or daughter Scaffolding Radio Two.
It has been with some dismay today, however, that I have read of the tragic case of children being taken in to care in America after their parents gave them the names Adolf Hitler Campbell and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation. Worryingly, however, the case only came to light after a shop refused to decorate a birthday cake for little Adolf.

It's clear from the report that the children's parents had psychological issues, but it does beg the question as to why authorities didn't act sooner, and surely the parents would have had to register the children's names somewhere and in the presence of someone?

I can only hope that the children are allowed to change their names, for their own safety and sanity more than anything. I can't imagine life for Adolf will be that great if not. He may struggle if he ever planned a summer vacation to Europe for starters, and he'd have to prove himself more charming than Casanova if he ever hoped to snare a Mrs Adolf Hitler.

As for Mrs B and I, and in case any of our relatives happen to be reading this, you can rest assured that we haven't included any famous dictators on our shortlist.

Mind you, and now that I think about it, Scaffolding Radio Two does have a certain ring to it.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Farewell study, it was fun!

About 18 months ago Mrs B and I moved in to our current home and chose the smallest of our bedrooms as a study. It was a necessity at the time. I was working permanently from home and needed a quiet space to 'be creative'. My shiny new desk (a six-hour flatpack marathon) needed a space of it's own too, somewhere it could sit proudly, resplendent with my computer and assorted other office paraphernalia.

Everything was together in one place - files, paperwork, notes, boxes and even the odd staple or two - and I used to enjoy the chaos of my cluttered office surroundings. Mrs B wasn't so keen, but, as offices went, and considering I was no more than 20 seconds away from the fridge, TV and bed, it was pretty much the best place I've ever worked.
Yesterday, however, it all came to an end. My dismantled desk was taken, in pieces, downstairs - soon to face trial by eBay - while the files and papers were boxed up and taken to gather dust in the loft.

My office is no more. The end of an era.

In it's place, however, we now have a nursery. And what a fantastic transformation it has been. From wires, cables and box files to a cot, changing table and cuddly toys. Clean, clutter-free and beautiful - you could almost feel the room breathing a sigh of relief. All that's missing now is the little person who, come October, will call this his or her room.

For me, the office-to-nursery move has been one of the biggest moments of this pregnancy to date. It has really brought home the reality of how much our lives will change, in a matter of months. From focusing on ourselves and our needs, everything will now centre around Baby B and his or her needs, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The only question now, however, is what else will go the way of my desk? Keep an eye on ebay to find out!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Will the inny turn outy?

Most people ignore their tummy buttons for most of the time.

The little spot on your stomach serves no purpose other than to remind you that you were once born to your mother. Indeed, apart from occasionally gathering fluff, provoking a ticklish response when touched or showcasing a piercing [proud supermodel flat stomachs only], your one-time fetal life support system goes unnoticed by you and those around you. At least it does until you become pregnant.

Mrs B and I have become fascinated by her umbilicus (thank you Wikipedia) over recent days as her ever-growing bump looks to be attempting to push her 'inny'...out.

Now, having had a lifelong inny Mrs B is a little concerned about the prospect of having an outy. How will this change things? Will the outy revert to an inny once Baby B arrives? Or, once outted, does your inny stay an outy forever? These are important questions.
We've sureptitiously studied other pregnant ladies' navels and it seems that it's a 50/50 inny/outy split - at least as far as we can tell from staring at random, clothed bumps. So surely not all innied mums can become outies?

Close examination of Mrs B reveals a shrinking tummy button, one that's becoming more of a tummy slit than a button in fact, and our feelings are that, with two and a half months to go, the growing baby will do his or her best to upset the tummy button apple cart.

It's important to point out that we are not saying that an inny is in any way better than an outy, the worry on Mrs B's part - not being one to openly embrace change very often - is that her post-baby tummy will look different to her pre-baby tummy (accepting of course the obvious differences that follow pregnancy).

However, it seems that we're not alone. Indeed, there are a huge numer of messageboards and forums out there debating this very subject... just like this one.

So, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets now. Will Mrs B's inny become an outy before the arrival of Baby B?

Watch this space to find out.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Home birth humble pie

Last Friday I vented my spleen on the subject of homebirth, following the publication of a report by The Lancet that questioned their safety in relation to newborn babies.

Today, however, I find myself dining on a sizable portion of humble pie in light of the incredible reaction to my post and the well informed, interesting and occasionally plain frightening comments from readers of my rant.

I had argued that The Lancet had got it right, that it made complete sense to choose a hospital birth over a home birth for the sake of the expertise and equipment on hand at the hospital. However, I have been blown away by the detailed responses from readers, particularly those highlighting the reasons behind their choosing a home birth and the statistics/proof of their success. It has made for very interesting reading and has triggered much debate in our household.

As you know, Mrs B and I are edging ever closer to B-Day ourselves and we have always thought that hospital was the only option for us. I still think that, for us, and as this is our first baby, we will go down that route. But it certainly won't be a decision that we make lightly and, following the comments, we will spend the next few weeks researching our options and birth plan thoroughly.

One thing I failed to mention in my original post, however, it that our local hospital, perhaps unusually, includes some brand new 'birthing rooms' that have been designed to appear more homely (mood lighting, private room, en suite, birthing pool etc) and it is these aspects of the experience that appeal to us.

Indeed, without consciously knowing it, Mrs B and I have been drawn to the idea of a homebirth, at hospital. And is this evidence of the fact that the NHS is becoming more aware of the importance of giving mothers-to-be a homebirth-style experience?

So, many thanks to everyone for opening our eyes, the power of blogging is incredible and here's hoping you can all offer as much advice when Mrs B and I stumble in to the various parenting minefields that we're bound to come across in the years ahead.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Home births under the spotlight

Regular readers will know that, every now and again, I do like to dive headfirst into a controversial subject, and today’s just such a day.

I read with interest this morning that, according to a top medical journal, women should not be allowed to choose a home birth if it puts their baby at risk.

New research has suggested that home births are twice as likely to result in the death of a newborn baby than hospital births. The study, of 500,000 births across the world found that 0.2% ended tragically.

As a result The Lancet has said that; "Women have the right to chose how and where to give birth, but they do not have the right to put their baby at risk."
I agree.

Mrs B and I have, so far in this pregnancy, had nothing but positive experiences of the NHS and, although no one has told us that we shouldn’t have a home birth, it has been made very clear to us that a hospital birth would be the safest option for mother and baby.

Having also been on a tour of the labour ward at the hospital it was hugely reassuring to see the equipment and facilities and to be shown the various delivery rooms, as well as the nearby operating room should anything go wrong or a caesarean be needed. We met the staff, were walked through the whole process – from arrival to the beds on the ward – and left confident in the ability of our hospital to ensure the health and safety of Mrs B and Baby B.

How can giving birth in your living room possibly compare?

I understand how some parents may want the peace and calm of familiar surroundings, but surely this is selfish on their part? What if the baby needs expert medical attention? What if the equipment and expertise is a drive away? Could you live with yourself if your baby suffers as a result of the time it takes to get him or her to hospital?

And why even put yourself in a position to face these questions in the first place?

I want nothing but the best for my wife and baby and would never do anything to put either of them at risk. A hospital birth is therefore the only thing we would ever consider and I cannot think of a single argument that would make me reconsider?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

From holiday bars to baby baths!

Mrs B and I have just returned from a week-long holiday in France, our last holiday before the arrival of Baby B. Peace, quiet, relaxation and pure, unadulterated slothfulness were all that was on our agenda for the duration of our 'babymoon,' with the extent of our physical exertion beginning and ending with turning the pages of our books.

Why then, upon our return and in our state of zen-like inner-peace, does everyone seem to sadistically revel in telling us how it is all going to change with the arrival of our little one?

We know that holidays will never be the same again, that we won't be able to spend the nights in the local bars and the mornings sleeping off our hangovers. We know that our nice, compact suitcase will be supplemented with tonnes of assorted baby freight and we know that we'll be swapping day trips to nowhere in particular for military-style excursions to Disney (or more frugal alternatives).
What we don't need is other parents telling us how awful it is all going to be. For starters, why does it need to be awful? Yes, I don't doubt for a second that it is going to be hard work, but surely the joy of taking your offspring with you outweighs the hardship? And would these parents really have it any other way? Ok, some may prefer to leave their kids with childminders or play schemes in order to have half an hour to themselves, but holidays are part and parcel of family life and we're, perhaps ignorantly, looking forward to it.

Of course we are also well aware of the fact that our choice of holiday location will have to change. I doubt very much whether, next summer, our six-month-old will fully appreciate the significance of a walk along the great wall of China, or be able to join us on a scuba-diving trip to the Red Sea. So, I have a funny feeling that we will be staycationing in the UK next year, but what on earth is wrong with that? I can't wait.

Are holidays with babies and toddlers all that bad? Share your stories in the comments below. 
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Monday, 26 July 2010

Fat or fiction?

The western world’s obsession with body image is as obvious as Victoria Beckham’s need for a jolly good meal. Fat is bad, thin is good, or so the TV tells us anyway.

No matter where you turn it seems that headline-hungry journalists are churning out stories on a daily basis, telling us why our favourite foods will either kill us or turn is in to house-sized humans. These shock and awe – or choc and awe – stories are usually targeted at body-conscious adults, aiming to scare them in to changing their ways, or at least in to forking out for healthy-living alternatives. Now, however, it seems that children and pregnant women are once again in the spotlight.

In the space of a day I have read that pregnant women who eat ‘for two’ are at risk of becoming obese and that – perhaps reacting to the likelihood of these newly obese mums raising newly obese children – Marks & Spencer have started selling a new range of school uniforms for overweight three-year-olds.
Of course I am not for one minute going to suggest that women and children should ignore all that has been written and head for their nearest McDonald’s. Indeed, Mrs B and I have taken a lot from the advice offered in a range of magazines and books, but I do think we need to take this information overload with a pinch of salt (sticking to recommended daily allowance guidelines of course).

The media loves to scare us, it always has (anyone remember Swine Flu?!), but hang on a minute, women have brought healthy children in to the world, without themselves turning in to elephants, since time began. And are we meant to believe that all our children will end up needing oversized clothes if we let them have the occasional chocolate digestive?

Come on people, let’s get a grip. Healthy eating is essential to healthy living, but this is nothing new and we shouldn’t live our lives terrified of everything we put in to our, or our children’s mouths.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

No one ever told me that...

Over the past seven months I've read almost as many books, magazines and websites as Mrs B. I've become au fait with all the amazing and magically intricate changes that are taking place in my wife's body, and in the growing body of our baby. I've also learned, or at least read with interest and varying degrees of scepticism, about what we can both expect now, over the coming weeks and months, and once Baby B arrives.

For a first-time father I think I'm pretty clued up, or at least I thought I was.

Last night I discovered something that none of the expert literature mentioned, a pregnancy side effect that struck us, and me in particular, out of blue, sending shockwaves through our house, and possibly our neighbours' houses to boot.

Mrs B has begun to snore.

And we're talking proper snoring, the kind of snoring that's usually reserved for post-Christmas dinner grandfathers in their favourite armchairs, the kind of snoring that rattles glasses like the 'here comes the T-Rex' scene in Jurassic Park.
To say that I was surprised was an understatement. My wife has never snored. Indeed, she usually lies next to me barely breathing, making only the slightest noises as she peacefully drifts away to slumberland.

Last night, however, and indeed over the last few nights, my wife was replaced by a steam train, hammering away for hours on end and leaving me staring at the ceiling.

I can only put the end of my beloved sleep down to my unborn son or daughter, but am I alone? Are there other sleep-deprived fathers out there who have fallen foul of this secret pregnancy side effect? Can we start a support group?

More importantly, can I catch 20 winks at my desk now without anyone noticing?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Big boys don't cry, do they?

'Are you crying?' Mrs B asks as the credits roll on Forest Gump.

'Um, no' I lie, thankful for the darkness of our lounge as I subtly wipe away a tear and rapidly change the subject. 'Right then, must put the rubbish out!'

But it seems I'm not alone at being a guy and a self-confessed 30-something occasional movie weeper. Indeed, the BBC has reported  that the newly released Toy Story 3 is reducing men everywhere to sobbing wrecks. Yes, that's right, a cartoon is causing guys everywhere to reach for their hankies.
We're supposed to be impervious to such triviality, genetically programmed to enjoy Die Hard, Rocky and Rambo while scoffing at Disney and Pixar. What will our children think if they see the dependable, emotionally tough father figure in their lives in floods at the death of Bambi's mother? How can we possibly sit on the same sofa if the Lion King turns us in to Gazza a la Italia '90?

In reality, however, of course there's nothing wrong with expressing a bit of 'female emotion,' as one researcher put it. Why should guys fight back the tears if they're watching a moving story in the presence of their nearest and dearest? It's more than likely that you're watching the movie with the person or people who have seen you at your worst anyway, so surely it's ok for men and dads to have a good cry every now and again. Indeed, I especially defy any dog-loving guy out there not to well up at the end of Marley and Me!

As for my verdict on Toy Story 3, I'll let you know once I've plucked up the courage to go and see it.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Out-of-hours babies at higher risk of death

It was one of the last items on the news this morning, is buried deep in today's papers and is hidden on the front page of the BBC website, but the story that babies are a third more likely to die if they are born 'out-of-hours' is one that will surely scare the living daylights out of thousands of soon-to-be parents like Mrs B and myself.

The analysis of over one million births over two decades in Scotland has concluded that newborn babies face a greater risk of dying if they are born at the weekend or outside of 0900-1700 Monday to Friday office hours. The reasons given are that there is less access to facilities and expert staff during these times.

Not wishing to scaremonger at all, the risk of death is still very small (5.6 babies per 10,000 out of hours, compared to 4.2 per 10,000 during normal hours). However, no matter how low the risk, the fact that this variation exists at all is surely utterly unacceptable in today's modern world.

A working week consists of 40 hours, but what percentage of babies time their arrival to avoid the week's other 128 hours? And why are senior staff clocking off at 5pm? From the little I have seen and the little I know on a personal level, I thought nurses and doctors worked on a shift basis, covering all key areas like A&E and maternity around the clock. Is this not the case? If Baby B arrives at 5pm will we pass the senior consultants trooping out of the labour ward as we make our way in?

It is so tragically sad to think that those little lives were lost, purely because they were born outside of office hours.

This simply should not happen in 21st Century Britain and, Mr Cameron, something needs to be done now.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

NCT, bumps and raffle tickets...

Over recent months we have heard more and more positive stories about the pratical and social benefits of membership to the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).  Championed by parents who signed up and took part in the antenatal classes prior to the arrival of their own children, NCT has been sold to us as a must-attend series of classes at which we are apparently guaranteed to make friends for life.

The ever-sceptical cynic within me, however, can't help but feel slightly wary of friend-making events or, dare I say it, any form of 'networking' (meeting up with people you share nothing in common with and pretending to like them). So, ahead of last night's welcome evening - our first experience of NCT - I was understandably apprehensive.

It was, however, all a pleasant surprise, apart from the blatant fixing of the raffle.

Now, as you may well have concluded already if you're a regular reader, Mrs B and I are intensely competitive. So competitive in fact that we recently went head-to-head with a six-year-old and spent £10 on a 20p-per-ticket church charity tombola in order to ensure that we won the prize we were after and he didn't. Does that make us awful people?

Having sat through the entire NCT evening and enjoyed the various speakers, and armed with five raffle tickets, we were therefore hopeful of scooping at least one of the 28 prizes on offer. It was, we believed, a nailed on certainty that we'd walk away with some vouchers or at least some BuggyFit classes. As it turned out the odds were good, but the numbers weren't.
592, 543, 637, 621, 552...and so they went on, all falling either side of 600-605.

Our mood darkened. All of a sudden we were viewing our similarly conditioned peers with envious eyes and it didn't help matters that our table of six - with a combined total of 30 tickets - only managed to win a baby's rattle. It was a poor return on our investment.

From there the evening became a freebie-grabbing free-for-all as those who had failed in the raffle eyed up the free items on offer.Never before had we been so keen to get our hands on a hessian bag and baby's bib, but we weren't the only ones and, after all the bibs had been snapped up, a bidding frenzy ensued with dads around the room keen to swap blue for pink and vice versa, depending on the sex of their unborns. In the space of a few minutes we'd gone from a dignified sit down evening to the closing seconds of trading on the floor of the London stock exchange.

And this was the welcome evening, one can only imagine what the nearly new sales are like!

Regardless, however, Mrs B and I reflected on an entertaining evening in the car on the way home, secure in the knowledge that a last second deal with Table 4 had secured both pink and blue bibs for Baby B.

As for NCT, we're now really looking forward to starting the lessons in September.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Virtual boy, virtually ridiculous!

Microsoft has today unveiled its latest innovation for the XBox, a 'virtual human' that can react to a person's emotions, body movements and voice.

A groundbreaking and almost unbelievable piece of futuristic software that's fit for any time-travelling movie, Microsoft are set to make countless millions from it. One tiny problem, however, is that this could be just the thing that's needed to turn a planet of already obese, computer-addicted children into total Microsoft zombies who prefer to interact with virtual human beings than real ones.

The virtual boy, dubbed 'Milo', is shown in a video example on this news site, and there's no doubt that he's incredibly clever - if a bit wet behind the ears and unrealistically keen to do his homework - but if these characters are as interactive as Microsoft lead us to believe, then will this mean that children actually turn to their computers for friendship and companionship? If so, what affect will this have on children's ability to form genuine relationships with real people and what happens, heaven forbid, if Little Tommy's virtual best friend breaks down or is accidentally erased?
On the flip side, of course, there is an argument to suggest that virtual friends could provide an effective way of teaching children all kinds of life lessons and even offer them a place to turn to if they are too nervous, embarrassed or uncertain to talk to their parents, peers or teachers. But is this opening up the world's biggest can of worms?

What happens if Milo doesn't have the right answers? What happens if Milo doesn't offer appropriate advice? What happens if Milo turns out to be a bit of prat?

Microsoft, as ever, has come up with a revolutionary way for people to interact with their computers, but has anyone actually stopped to look at the dangers and risks such software could raise? And are parents ok with the idea of introducing a digital friend in to the lives of their little ones?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Crystal balls and testicular temperature?!

Mrs B and I enjoyed an impromptu visit from some similarly pregnafied (I hereby trademark this new word) friends this weekend. Mr and Mrs M are two months ahead of us and, savouring the July sunshine with a round of decaf coffees in the garden, we spent a couple of hours conforming to the norm when it comes to first-time parents.

Indeed, having once scoffed at smug, newly-marrieds who endlessly harp on about their bundles of unborn joy, our entire conversation this weekend centred around breast pumps, prams, nappies, nurseries and birth plans.

Pausing for a second in the midst of one debate on the pros and cons of reusable nappies and the inevitable pressure on one's washing machine, I reflected on the situation with Mr M.

'Is it just me, or is this is all a bit surreal?' I asked.

'Don't worry mate,' he reassured me. 'I can't quite believe it either, middle age here we come!' At which point I noticed I was wearing slippers.

Truth be told, it was great to be able to talk openly about the huge changes that are on the horizon for all of us and the experiences we've had so far. At one point, however, as the conversation turned to the sex of our respective offspring, Mrs M hit us with an old wives' tale that we had never previously heard.

'Of course,' she said matter-of-factly, 'it all comes down to the temperature of your testicles.'

Blank faces around the table.
'It's true,' Mrs M reassured us, sensing the doubt in our puzzled expressions. 'If your boys were cold at the time of conception then it'll be a boy, and if they were hot then it'll be a girl.'

So, using this newly acquired knowledge and dating their day of take-off back to December last year and ours to late January (on the other side of the world) we were able to work out, from the respective temperatures of our aforementioned bits and pieces, that we can expect a girl in October and the Ms a boy in August.

Anyone currently trying for a baby and keen for either a boy or a girl can therefore forget the science and, instead, reach for a thermometer and either visit the nearest sauna or sit atop the freezer for an hour.

Will the testicular temperature theory prove correct? We'll know by the end of October. In the meantime, I think I'll refrain from bulk buying everything in pink, just in case.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Bump, kick, punch - the joys of 'bumping'

Modern day entertainment comes in all shapes and sizes, with cinema, theatre, radio, TV, high-def TV - and now even high-def 3D TV - all vying for our attention, our time and our cash.

Mrs B and I, however, have discovered a new form of entertainment that's entirely free, available to us around the clock and more entertaining than anything the mainstream entertainment industry could put our way. We call it 'bump watching' or, as it will surely become known in street slang, 'bumping.'

Bumping has taken over our lives as, at any given opportunity, we stop what we're doing to watch our unborn child kicking, punching, moving and generally making him/herself known inside Mrs B.

Sat outside in our garden, for instance, our puzzled neighbours must look on with amusement whenever Mrs B hitches up her top and I squat down to stare at her stomach. Even stranger when I clasp my hands on the bump and the pair of us remain silent and motionless.
Although entirely unpredictable Bumping can be assisted with a variety of stimuli, we've found that different foods trigger different reactions (marshmallows = intensive internal kung-fu), while the sound of our voices and the Coronation Street theme tune often evoke a more subtle, gentle kicking. EastEnders, meanwhile, triggers nothing!

The time of the day also makes a difference as Baby B seems to enjoy waiting until the very second that his/her parents say goodnight and turn off the bedroom light before initiating a womb-based can-can session. Cue the light going back on and a 15-minute Bumping session.

Of course, at 25-weeks this is all entirely normal and we've been told that we can expect Bumping to get better and better as Mrs B's pregnancy goes on. Baby B is now around 35cm long and weighing in at around 660grams, his/her senses are becoming more developed along with the brain, and he/she will now begin to respond to light as well.

In short, Baby B is becoming stronger every day and now being able to see and feel our little one is making us feel closer to him or her than ever.

But how will Bumping progress over the coming weeks? We've decided to test the potential for musical reactions for starters. So watch this space for a list of top Bumping tunes. Will bump react better to Take That and Westlife, or Oasis and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? Place your bets now!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sponge squares and pink custard

I read with interest this morning that the number of schoolchildren eating school dinners has risen in recent years, a fact that can surely mean one of only two things. Either our obesely-tongued friend Jamie Oliver has convinced the nation's youngsters to adhere to a diet of lettuce and bread sticks, or turkey twizzlers, chips and beans are more prolific now than ever before.

I'm not going to pretend that I know the answer to this particular conundrum, but I do know that school dinners are a British institution; a rite of passage that all children should be forced to navigate their way through; a triumph of blandness over presentation and taste; and the only option open to children who don't wish to carry around a Tweenies lunchbox when they're 14.
Back in my day - cue Hovis-advert soundtrack - my school dinner experiences were varied. At primary school I detested the oddly-coloured slop that was slapped on our plates by the terrifying dinner ladies. Lunch became a painful chore - hurriedly consumed between more important play-time sessions of tag and British bulldog - at which the headmistress would look over us, spotting any stray peas hidden under spoons from a hundred yards and threatening to make us eat them the following day if we didn't suck them down there and then (surely violating a wealth of health and safety protocols in the process).

Pudding at primary school, meanwhile, was an almost psychedelic experience. My only memory of desert, in fact, is that of tasteless square bricks of sponge, coated in lashings of pink custard. Yes, pink custard!

At secondary school, however, school dinners took on a whole new dimension. Suddenly we had queues, trays, choice and tills. Indeed, we could choose from an array of spectacularly unhealthy foods and pay for the privilege each and every lunch time, it was the food equivalent of the summer of love. So, with my parents oblivious, I unashamedly lived off chips and beans for my entire secondary education, as did most of my friends and peers, and most of the teachers I seem to remember too.

Now I'm about to become a parent though, should Mrs B and I actually be concerned about what our little one will be consuming at school age? Of course we should, and of course we will. But should we deny them the chance to choose, should we wrap them in cotton wool (or at least wholemeal bread) and send them off to school with the Tweenies? No, absolutely not. School dinners never did me any harm in the 80s and they won't do Baby B any harm in the 21st Century. Proper education at home as to what's healthy and what's not will help, of course, but it's every child and young person's right to choose.

As for dinner tonight, where did I put that can of pink custard?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

"Think McFly...think!"

Having succesfully navigated my way through 33 years of life on this planet, and watched the occasional episode of 'The Real Hustle,' I would like to think that I've developed a heightened sense of awareness for cons, hoaxes, tricks and scams. Indeed, I now go to extreme lengths to shield my pin number from prying eyes (hunching over the cash machine like the world's most short-sighted man), I have developed a receipt-shredding obsession and I'm wary of anyone knocking on our front door. In short, my inbuilt con-radar and self-confessed paranoia means that I'm not easily fooled.

Yesterday, however, my shields must have been down as I fell - hook line and proverbial sinker - for a hoax that spread like wild fire via the gossip-machine that is Twitter. The reason for my moment of weakness? A childhood obsession with the film Back To The Future.

Now, as anyone brought up in the 80s will know, Steven Spielberg's Back To The Future trilogy brought us a time-travelling DeLorean, a mad professor and a skateboarding Marty McFly...all the ingredients you need to make a huge impression on an impressionable eight-year-old.

Twenty-five year's later, Twitter proclaimed that July 5th, 2010 was 'Future Day' - the day in the second film to which Doc and Marty travel, experiencing a world of flying cars, self-fastening trainers and hoverboards when they got there. A landmark day in cinematic history, albeit entirely fictional.
So it was that I happily retweeted the aforementioned tweet, despite the fact that - as I found out this morning - it turned out to be a complete hoax. Indeed, 'Future Day' as it became known, doesn't actually occur until October 21, 2015, which does at least give us another five years to lift our entire transport network from the ground to the sky.

I had been suckered in to fanning the flames of a Twitter hoax, but I don't really mind. The whole incident has led me to reflect on the impact that this trilogy of films has had on a generation of children. I am by no means a film buff or cinema nerd, but I do love the magic of Spielberg's time-travelling adventures and would happily watch the films time and time again (well, maybe not the third one so much).

The huge impact that film can have on young minds is clear and this has just made me think further about what, in the future, may have the same affect on Baby B and his or her friends. However, it appears to me that Hollywood has become obsessed with churning out children's films that sacrifice story for special effects, spending millions to create something that is visually spectacular but narratively appalling and utterly forgettable.

Children love adventure, or at least they did when I was growing up, so why not forget the special effects and produce the next generation of films like The Goonies, the original Indiana Jones trilogy, Back to The Future, Star Wars (puppets and costumes instead of blue screen), Labyrinth and Gremlins?!

I may be showing my age a bit, but which of today's cinematic offerings do you think will be the centre of Twitter hoaxes in 25 years' time?

"Think McFly...think!"

Monday, 5 July 2010

The tat and the tip

'Make the most of your weekends,' people tell us, 'relax and spend some quality time together before the baby arrives.' Wise words indeed and, this weekend, Mrs B and I ignored them completely to spend both days knee deep in a mountain of assorted rubbish.

It wasn't that we didn't want to relax, it was more that the ever multiplying amount of baby-related odds and sods, coupled with about 20-years' worth of clutter, meant that the long overdue 'sort out' was now becoming unavoidable. It was either that, or we'd start putting together a nursery that featured a cot, baby changing unit, desk, computer, piles of old magazines and parts of a gym! Not the most relaxing of environments for Baby B, although he/she would develop strong biceps given time.

So this weekend was spent with Mrs B sorting through boxes of things downstairs, while I busied myself banging my head and cursing in the loft. And what en eye opening exercise it proved to be.

Mass clear outs serve as a wake up call, making it evident to the clearers just how much rubbish they have kept over the years. For instance, our rummage revealed boxes of old Christmas and birthday cards - yes, lovely at the time, but why keep them for 10 years? Then there were the piles of work from old jobs, serving to do nothing but remind us of how much we did for such little money and why we left the jobs in the first place. Ten-year-old cosmetics, tennis rackets with broken strings, random pieces of furniture, cracked picture frames, 100s of VHS tapes (presumably kept in case VHS ever has a resurgence in popularity, and despite our lack of a VHS player) and ditto with casette tapes.
By 3pm on Sunday afternoon I had developed a perma-bruise on the top of my head from one particularly low-lying loft beam and we had filled the car with an impressive array of tat. A trip to the local tip (itself an eye opening experience) disposed of the junk and we have been left with separate piles of useful tat for charity shops, ebay and the inevitable car-boot sale.

Little does Baby B know how much work his/her mum and dad are doing ahead of his/her arrival. However, our little one has already helped us to declutter our lives, to focus our energies on creating a loving home and to finally get rid of those dumbbells that have made me feel guilty for ignoring them over the past 10 years!

Now, anyone fancy making a bid for Top Gun on VHS?

Friday, 2 July 2010

June 2010 - What did you miss?

If you're new to Clued Up Dads, here's what you missed in June...

Commuter dilemma of the day: Fat or pregnant?!
Pregnancy week 22: From cranberry to banana
Bump lurve the cake!
Pregnancy and exercise: To run or not to run?!
Scan you believe it!
The relief of the 20-week scan
Flip flop flop
Ebeneezer good
Wife loses husband in B&Q!
Football - a story of dads and sons
Mother-in-law's intuition
Plasters, grazed knees and black eyes!
Sporting idols worth worshipping
24-week abortion limit debate
Nearly new sales...
World Cup woe and newborn hopes
Journo calls breastfeeding "creepy"
Pre-baby pressure
Can a winning mentality be taught?

Six months pregnant, or are we?

Today - according to the numerous emails that seem to clutter our inboxes from baby-related websites that we have never heard of, let alone visited or signed up for - we are officially six months pregnant. Which has left me rather confused.

As far as I can remember from GCSE Biology, the human gestation period is nine months, from kick-off to the big day. Just as the world is round and the sky is blue, it's a figure and fact that we have all been brought up on. Indeed, we can all expect a newborn baby to deny us the chance of sleeping in our beds approximately nine months after the bed-related activity set the whole ball rolling in the first place. Right?

Wrong.

Mrs B and I have, on the whole, been counting the pregnancy in weeks rather than months and, as we all know, there are 40 weeks to count. So, hang on a minute, with months averaging four weeks, that's 10 months in total!

Now, having confirmation from our cyber stalkers that we're six months pregnant already, and with a due date towards the end of October, we have almost four months still to go. So, again, we're looking at a 10-month pregnancy.

To add further confusion, it seems that how far along you are can also be a matter of interpretation. For example, if you are 24 weeks and 1 day you could either say you are 24 weeks pregnant (as in time passed) or 25 weeks pregnant (as you are currently in your 25th week), and the same could apply to months.

Of course, back at the beginning your other half is also 'pregnant' before you've even found your way to the bedroom as the whole process is measured from her last period and not from the moment you fulfilled your initial parental duties!

In short, it's all a bit more complicated than they lead us to believe back when we were giggling at low budget sex education films in biology.

Regardless though, Baby B is on his/her way and, at six months, it's all seeming very real indeed.

Scared? Yes. Excited? Undoubtedly.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

One man went to mow...

When you're young, attentive and easily impressed by machines that either make a noise, cut or chop things, then watching your father or grandfather mow the lawn is a little like watching Geoff Capes pulling a lorry. In short, you're hugely impressed, it's a bit dangerous and you never think you'll be able to do it, although you're desperate to give it a go.

Now, 30-something years later, I know how my father and grandfather felt. Yesterday it dawned on me that the newly layed turf in our previously-concreted back garden had grown sufficiently to require a trim. So, having first assembled the lawn mower (itself a manly experience), I set about mowing the lawn.

Proudly strolling up and down the turf, trailing a wire behind me and ensuring that the noise of my machinery would go noticed by our neighbours (look at me, mastering the power of this actually rather underpowered suburban mower), I tamed the jungle that was our new lawn.

Assuming the role of Wembley groundsman, I attempted to mow neat lines in alternate directions in order to create a pitch fit for an FA Cup Final.
It was a proud moment and, as I finished by strimming the edges (requiring another suitably noisy piece of machinery) I stood back to admire my handiwork. My straight lines were a little wonky and I'd missed a couple of patches, but it looked good, I had a full bag of trimmings and the air was filled with the sweet smell of newly cut grass.

This was, I reflected, what it felt like to be a Dad.

I had mowed my lawn and one day my son or daughter may well watch me doing this with the same comforting sense of pride that I had done with my grandfather.

What next? Sorting the loft and climbing ladders perhaps?

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Can a winning mentality be taught?

I am well aware of the fact that I have already taken up too much space on this blog venting my spleen on the subject of the shambolic England 'football' team. However, a similarly disillusioned television pundit made a great point last night that has got me thinking about the responsibility parents have when it comes to the mental upbringing of their children.

Now, I am also aware that, as my son or daughter has yet to be born, I am utterly unqualified to tell anyone how to bring up their children, so please feel free to disregard this blog the minute you've read it. However, the aforementioned television pundit made his point when discussing the difference between England's failures and Germany's victors.

"The Germans," he said. "Approach every game and handle every opportunity with the mentality that 'this is my moment to become a hero, to write my name in football history.' The English, on the other hand, approach every game and handle every opportunity with the mentality that 'ooh blimey, this is an awful lot of pressure, what will people say if I mess up?'"

So the question we have to ask ourselves is why do we all think like this? And is there anything we can do to become a bit more Germanic in our approach to winning?

Personally, I feel that competition is healthy and good for children and that the "it's not the winning, it's the taking part" brigade could inadvertently be doing more harm than good to our impressionable little ones. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that we should be encouraging our children to enjoy competition, to be confident in their abilities and confident in their actions.

Yes, kids will make mistakes and no, they shouldn't be berated for them. Instead, we should be encouraging our children to try new things, to take risks, to try those things that are just as likely to go spectacularly wrong as they are to go spectacularly right. Sometimes the safe option is just that, safe, while the risky option could be the one that makes the difference, leads to the winning goal and makes history.

There's no doubt that sport, as with so much in life, is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, but I honestly believe that competition, coupled with positive reassurance with regards to risk taking and adventure, is exactly what's needed from a young age in order to create footballers, and people,  who want to grab their history defining moments with both hands, rather than shy away and disappear without trace.

Lecture over.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Pre-baby pressure

"Ooh, make the most of this time;" "It'll all change once the rugrats come along;" "Go to bed now and sleep" - all words of supposed wisdom that have come our way in the course of telling people that we are soon to become parents.

However, without knowing it our beloved friends and family have heaped a whole world of unexpected pressure on us. We know things will change come October, but what should we actually be doing now to make the most of our baby-free days, and are we doing enough?

If we are to believe the nightmare stories of sleep deprivation and stress that seem all too common with newborns, then we need to take firm action now. Indeed, we should get ourselves up off the sofa this instant and plan a social calendar to envy that of Linsay Lohan.

Monday cinema, Tuesday theatre, Wednesday dinner out, Thursday dinner party with friends, Friday cinema again, Saturday/Sunday - city break to Paris/Prague/Brussels/New York (delete as appropriate).

Between films, meanwhile, we should be bedding down for a 12-hour kip, spending 'quality time' together and pampering ourselves.

The problem we have with all this, however, is that we never really did any of it before anyway. If we started now then I am pretty confident that we'd become far more stressed than we are at the moment. So is it really all that wrong to slum around the house, becoming engrossed in Big Brother and doing not very much at all? Well, probably yes, but I don't think we'll be joining Miss Lohan on the party circuit anytime soon.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Journo calls breastfeeding "creepy"

The Deputy Editor of Mother & Baby magazine has found herself under fire from all angles today for saying that breastfeeding is "creepy," a staggeringly ill-judged statement that would be akin to the editor of Horse and Hound admitting to liking the taste of horse, or the top scribe at Good Housekeeping calling for us all to live in tents.

Slammed by mums and pro-breastfeeding quarters across the land, Kathryn Blundell further endeared herself to the nation's parents by saying that she did not want to put her "fun bags" in a "bawling baby's mouth."

Although clearly writing from a personal standpoint and not referring to the editorial policy of one of the UK's most widely read parenting magazines, Blundell should perhaps have thought a little more carefully about her choice of words, especially considering the fact that her magazine is read by thousands of new, and sometimes vulnerable, mums who are crying out for advice and guidance.

Is it really necessary for us to read about Miss Blundell's reluctance to breastfeed, based largely on the fact that she is apparently worried about the impact her baby will have on her sex life? Not only is it irrelevant to us as readers - I have no interest in her 'fun bags' - but hasn't she simply served to demonstrate her own selfishness?

What next? I just hope that the good hacks at the Radio Times don't start telling me that watching TV or listening to the radio is wrong!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

World Cup woe and newborn hopes

It is but a matter of hours since England crashed out of the World Cup in spectacularly humiliating fashion and already the flags have been ripped from the cars that file past our suburban house, the disappointment etched in the emotionless faces of the drivers who have just thrown their symbols of patriotic loyalty in to the nearest bin.

Once again the all too familiar feeling of being let down by a group of overpaid 'professionals' has swept over our household too and the post-match analysis has been thorough:

"Useless...absolutely useless!" is the rough, printable translation of our mostly unprintable post-match postmortem.


But, as the dust settles and as the reality of the fact that the England team simply weren't good enough (Algeria 0 - England 0, need we say more), I don't think we can really have anything to complain about. The thing that's really worrying me now, however, is the burden of disappointment that is likely to be passed on to my yet-to-be-born son or daughter.

Yes, in four years' time, I will be joined on the England-supporting sofa for the 2014 World Cup by a three-and-a-half year old, no doubt sporting the England shirt I will have bought him or her, face painted with the St George's cross and Vuvuzela (or Brazilian equivalent) in hand.

The excitement will have been building for months, we will have our wallcharts up on the wall, we will have been learning all the songs (or at least those without profanities) and we will have taught our little one to cheer on the names of his/her footballing heroes (yet to be decided of course after none of 2010's squad showed that they were good enough to even attend the next competition as spectators).

So what on earth is it going to be like in 2014 when Mrs B will have to console an inconsolable husband and toddler following a premature England exit?

Think on that Mr Capello as you're deciding your future! The nation's fetuses deserve more!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Nearly new sales...

"Apparently there's a nearly new NCT sale round the corner this weekend, are they worth going?" was Mrs B's straightforward question to a mother-of-three earlier this week.

"Ooh, blimey," was her response, coupled with a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth. "You'd better get there early, they're a real scrum."

The experienced mum then continued to scare Mrs B with tales of physical fights over breast pumps and slanging matches over pushchairs. The result, unfortunately, is that we are now expecting an experience more akin to the first day of the January Sales than the nice, gentle, thoroughly middle-class, tea-drinking event we were anticipating.

Should we bother going?!

24-week abortion limit debate

I was shocked to hear this morning that a study has found no new evidence that foetuses of 24-weeks and younger can feel pain, and hence it has suggested that there is no reason to challenge the existing abortion limit.

The story struck a real chord with Mrs B and I as we are now 24-weeks along in our own pregnancy and, to us, the wonderful, growing, kicking, moving person that we can now see and feel isn't a foetus at all, he or she is our baby.

Responding to sounds, movement and even the flavours of food and drink that Mrs B consumes, our baby is developing its own personality. We can tell when he or she is awake, we can detect movements and can watch as a tiny foot or hand kicks or punches.

We have also read with interest numerous websites that have suggested such things as consuming very cold drinks to encourage your baby to move. While we haven't tried this ourselves - we find a glass of OJ does the trick - it's clear that it must work for lots of mums out there. So, if a 24-week old foetus can detect cold to such an extent that it will move around, how can anyone be 100% sure that it cannot feel pain.

While I don't wish to stroll across the moral abortion minefield in this blog post, I do feel that this debate is one that needs to be explored more thoroughly. On a purely personal level, meanwhile, I cannot imagine how anyone can consider a termination after experiencing wonders like that which we are currently witnessing and feeling with our own ever-growing bump.

Sometimes science does not provide all the answers.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Sporting idols worth worshipping

That's it, call a halt to the World Cup and to Wimbledon now, before things begin to go downhill.

It's the morning after the day before and the nation is reflecting on England's progression in to the last 16 of the World Cup and on the longest, most dramatic tennis match in the history of Wimbledon. Both events helped to lift the country's spirits, to bring a smile to football fans' faces after a week of negativity and to ignite interest in the world's greatest tennis tournament - in a year when events in South Africa will inevitable overshadow it.

More important than that, however, June 23rd provided our children with sporting idols actually worth worshipping. Beamed in to living rooms in glorious high definition technicolor, young people - so often criticised for being of a computer generation - were able to watch in awe as England's footballers returned to form and as John Isner and Nicolas Mahut battled to 59-59 in the fifth set of their first round Men's Singles match in SW19.


It may be with the aid of rose tinted spectacles, but I'd like to think that such monumental, high profile sporting events will help to inspire youngsters to pick up a tennis racket or head to the park with their friends to recreate Defoe's Port Elizabeth triumph - just as Linkeer and Gascoigne once did for me.

Mahut and Isner, inparticular, looked like they were competing in the Rumble in The Jungle rather than on Wimbledon's plush court 18 last night, so drained were they after their 10-hour marathon match. It was a shining example of man's bravery, determination, resilience and sheer dogged determination in the face of adversity, and in the face of a first round exit.


Mahut and Isner are not the most famous names in tennis and the fact that they will probably exit in the second or third round against the Federers and Nadals of this world - a fact that they themselves must surely recognise - just makes this mammoth fight even greater.

The true heroes we saw on the tennis court and football pitch yesterday just go to show how important and inspirational sport can be.

Let's just hope Mahut and Isner keep going for another 10 hours and England make it past Germany on Sunday.

Fingers crossed everyone.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Plasters, grazed knees and black eyes!

Reflecting on the moments in my own childhood that resulted in considerable stress and anxiety for my poor mother, most of them concerned myself or one of my brothers falling over or running in to something in a sudden and unexpected fashion.

It's not that we were accident prone children, it was more that we were boys who enjoyed messing around and who always massively underestimated the consequences of our actions. Thankfully today we're all fit and healthy but, back then, my mum must have torn her hair out at times at the sheer stupidness of our actions.

For instance, growing up in the countryside in a remote house, miles from the nearest doctor, we often suffered power cuts and it was on one such occasion that I decided to use a Swiss Army Knife to prise open a torch that wasn't working. The result was that Mum, having to scurry arond finding candles while dealing with three children in a pitch black house, was suddenly presented with the site of her first born bleeding profusely from the finger he had almost severed.
Other occasions that spring to mind included my youngest brother breaking his leg as a result of middle brother encouraging him to leap from a climbing frame and then whipping away the cushions as he was about to land. Then there was middle brother being knocked over and knocked out by a dog, my running in to the corner of a table and requiring stitches, my breaking my arm playing football, youngest brother smacking his head on a pavement, middle brother ending up with a black eye after running in to a car door and my taking a layer of skin off my leg on a so called 'death slide'!

None of the above, it must be said, resulted from any lack of parental care whatsover, they were just accidents that happened and we now all proudly sport the scars of a loving, boisterous and typically boyish childhood.

Nevertheless, the fact that it is national Child Safety Week this week has made me realise that, with my own child on its way in October, it's absolutely essential to ensure that we do as much as we can to keep our little one as safe as possible Check out the campaign's excellent website for more details.

In the meantime, if there's one piece of advice I can pass on, it's don't let your son near a Swiss Army Knife in a power cut!


Monday, 21 June 2010

Mother-in-law's intuition

Walking through the front door last week, having just spent an evening with her mum, Mrs B announced very matter of factly that; "we're having a girl."

Having been present at the scan myself and now recalling a distinct lack of gender-related information, this took me somewhat by surprise. Clearly picking up on my confused expression, Mrs B clarified matters:

"Mum thinks that the bump is round and that the way I'm carrying it means it's a girl. She's 100% sure."

Well, that's that then, best pop down B&Q and stock up on pink paint, or should we? Clearly my mother-in-law knows what she's talking about, she did procuce two daughters of her own afterall. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder what her insightful observation is based on? Is there any scientific truth behind the many old (or not so old) wives tales that surround pregnancy? Or do all mothers just know, and should we simply bow down to their superior senses in this department?

Pregnancy Myth No.1: Carrying high or low indicates gender
The myth: If you're carrying high it's a girl, low and it's a boy
The science: Absolute rubbish! the way you carry is down to muscle and uterine tone and is no indicator whatsoever of sex
The reality: 50/50 chance of being right!

Watch this space for more myths, I feel a series coming on!