Monday, 29 December 2008

Jake's first Christmas

Well that's that then. Christmas done and dusted for another year. To be honest I thought he'd be completely none the wiser but I do think he got something from it. Firstly the presents, he was obviously a very lucky boy to get all the stuff he got, lots of nice soft toys and things for his bedroom which will all stimulate his senses and help him develop his coordination. He also seemed to like the wrapping paper. I think next year he'll enjoy the paper and the boxes and then the year after he'll be really into it and that's when the fun will properly begin. My two nieces are 3 and a half and 1 and a half and whilst present opening is carnage it is wonderful to see how excited and happy they are. I joke with my sister that 'it's all about the kids', but it really is and Christmas is going to get better and better from now on.

We had a lovely time but probably did too much. Christmas day started at home, loading up the car and going to my parents for breakfast which gave us an opportunity to partially empty the car of presents, only to replace them with many more before going to Clare's parents for the main event. I went home from Epsom to Guildford to feed the cat and dump some stuff so I could go back to Epsom to pick up wife and child (and more presents) so we could go back to my parents for Boxing day....then on Saturday we took everything home, dumped it before travelling up to Hertfordshire for an annual post Christmas walk and pub / soup / drinks event. Then on Sunday we had an easier journey to Esher for a semi reunion with some old school friends. It was nice to get home and do absolutely nothing for a while before coming back to work.

Jake was obviously mr. pass the parcel and on the whole seemed to like meeting his cousins and auntie and uncle and other family friends and I think it did him good....lots of people leave their babies in quarantine for the first six months which I don't think is good for them but more importantly sends their parents mad...staring at four walls for too long is not a good thing. I'm really pleased that we've carried on with our lives as much as we have and I hope it will make Jake a bit more independent. Judging by how happy he was in the arms of people he'd never met before I think he's on the right path. Clingy babies do my head in and I'm sure it's a result of rods being made for new parents' backs.

Anyway it was a really nice, if tiring break and now the countdown is on to the New Year and the Jakesters' op on the 15th of January. Then we're thinking about a winter sun holiday and weighing up the distance we're prepared to travel with how hot we want it to be is a bit tricky.
Also congrats to Ben, Malos and Anna who got the Godparent gig; very worthy winners! It's always hard choosing the candidates and you have to leave some people out but we plan on having more kids so there will (hopefully) but more slots available in the future!

Here are some Christmas pics












Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas

Well it's been quite a while since the last entry as I've started to develop a condition which combines writer's block, man-flu, apathy and denial!

Basically this blog was a reaction to how I felt and continued to feel throughout the not-knowing period between getting the news of the cleft and meeting Jake. The blog then developed into a more factual, less emotional vehicle to express our ongoing feelings and now I guess it feels more of a diary. And diaries are things which are often left to deteriorate without the proper motivation. I remember 3 different years when I was growing up where I resolved to keep a diary and always by June the entries started to get shorter and messier until in the end they stopped altogether as if the year in question immediately preceded the Apocalypse.

It's all about motivation you see. Initially the motivation was a by-product of necessity. I desparately needed to get all the crap in my head out and cathartic as that was, it had its own by-product which was a kind of newsletter for friends and family to learn about the situation. The motivation continued as we got more news, learned more and had feedback about the blog. So it became cyclical. Of course now the cleft is no more an issue (to us at least) than a funny birth mark or weird shaped head from the Ventouse, the motivation to tell everyone that 'we're cool with it all' goes away. Everyone's met our little man and no one's reacted badly to seeing the cleft and whilst I wouldn't expect them to, even if they felt differently inside, I like to think that the blog, which many of our f & f have seen may have taught a few things to a few people. I don't mean that arrogantly, but I found it useful so perhaps others have too.

Also, Jake is impossibly cute and has such a lovely nature and personality (not so much at 4am though) and this helps us along nicely.

I did, however commit to keeping this blog going until at least until after the second op and for Jake's sake (!) I must get over my laziness and realise that a promise is a promise. Plus I think it'll be an interesting read back in 5,10 and 20 years' time.

So the poor little thing has had mild bronchilitus, which has been going round his NCT pals but it wasn't deemed serious enough to keep him in hospital, unlike one of the others. Baby Callum who was born 6 weeks early and spent a lot of time in hospital then, returned for a week with the infection and must be completely sick of the place by now. Anyway Jake is getting over this first illness and whilst it's horrible to hear him rattling and wheezing it might help him develop his immune system. Unlike his Dad, that is, who now has classic, full blown man-flu.

I went out with the other halves from the NCT group last week and we all had a fair few pints and a great night....despite my initial misgivings this was the best thing we could have done, the lads are all good guys and Clare is great friends with all her lot too.

We're looking forward to Jake's first Christmas very much and I think every Christmas from now on will just get better and better until he become a cynical teenager!

There will be a lot of photos going up soon, including one of Jake wearing his first Arsenal kit, a gift from uncle Malos....it's funny but when you see someone else's baby in football wear it just looks awful and chavvy and pikey but when it's your own it looks very cute indeed. I don't think he'll leave the house in it, but it does make for some good photos!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Another best friend for Jake is brewing!

This was the one I couldn't tell you about. However the news is now official that my godson, Noah will be getting a baby bro or sis next May. Massive congrats to Ben, Candy and Noah. Ben's my best mate and our parents are great friends too so I can't wait to carry that tradition onto the next generation. Awesome news. Happy Friday!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Jake's new girlfriend

So Jake has a potential girlfriend on the horizon. Aniela Sarah Leyland was born on the 13th of November at 5.20am weighing in at 8lb 8oz. Huge congratulations to Mark and Julia on the birth of their beautiful daughter and also to Ethan who now has a sister to look after / boss about / go out with her friends etc!

The babies are coming thick and fast now and it's nice to see life reassuringly cycle on. Cliches are only cliches because they're true and we see them time and time again and although some people venture off at tangents (and good luck to them), many of us do tread a well worn path which takes us from early (and mid for some) twenties hedonistic, carefree lifestyles to a honeymoon period followed by a little 'settling down' and finally into parenthood and all that that entails. I'm keen that this part of my life doesn't turn me into a polo neck wearing sad bastard but I am enjoying it immensely, despite the lack of sleep. When you get married you become validated as a couple and it seems when you have a child you feel validated as a grown up, someone worthy of a child and deemed responsible enough to look after it. It's a good feeling. Despite the lack of sleep.

It brings me on to a horrible subject from the news over the last two weeks. The case of baby P who was tortured by his mum, partner and lodger. It wasn't just a case of malnourishment or neglect; it was actual torture. I would have been shocked before but since having Jake it actually made me feel nauseous to read about it all. The worst thing is that a jury or judge wouldn't be able to find anyone of these arseholes guilty of delivering the final blow which killed the baby and therefore they cannot be charged with murder. I have a friend who works in adoption and the process is very lengthy and onerous as you would expect and it's terrible to think that perfectly wonderful childless couples have to go through hell to adopt but fucked up evil people like this are able to procreate and abuse their children under the noses of the social services. I'm a little right wing and for most people I think prison is a decent punishment as it gives them time to regret although I can never decide if I'd like to see some eye-for-an-eye retribution delivered. So I have to weigh up the fact that, whilst satisfying, this would end the suffering of the perpetrator whilst the victims families continue to suffer, against the cost of keeping them in prison. In this case, however I'd happily throw the last stone and see these monsters ended for good. And if that makes me as bad as them so be it.

On to happier things now as Jake's official head wetting takes place this weekend. I love this tradition. Just as Valentine's is a commercial opportunity which hides behind a tradition of love, a head wetting ceremony is purely an excuse for blokes to get away and get lashed up. I'm sure there's tales of yore which involve the child being present and wine or similar is poured over the its head to ward off the evil spirits or something but let's not clown around here, we're going out to get pissed! Anyway I'm looking forward to it but am slightly nervous as it's an early start and although I like a drink I haven't got properly drunk in almost 3 months so it could get messy.

Jake is now almost 13 pounds, double his birth weight. Good boy!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Jake's new best friend

Henry Willem Smith was born at 2.30pm on the 11th of November to Rob and Milly. Congratualtions to all three of them. He weighed in at a very respectable 8lbs 10oz and mother and baby are doing well. It's great for Jake to have a friend round the corner and I'm sure those two will get up to all sorts.

They're shortly to be joined by another little boy or girl from Weybridge when our friend Julia gives birth and then next February, the three of them will have another friend in baby Tulloch. I can't wait until there's a little gang. Growing up my parents had 4 sets of friends who all had a baby girl within the same year, followed a couple of years later by a boy and we had some brilliant Christmasses and holidays together. Also I've known my best friend all my life and we spent as much time together as possible growing up. It always felt cooler to have a best mate that wasn't necessarily someone I went to school with. It me anticipate the school holidays and the odd weekend with all the more excitement. Good memories come from those special occasions and all these families lived quite some distance apart, so to have this lot on the doorstep should be brilliant.

There's also another baby brewing, which I can't mention yet but one that I'm very excited about. This time next year is going to be a very busy and noisy time! Happy days.

I love Jake's t shirt in this picture.


Thursday, 6 November 2008

Sleep!

So Jake managed a 6 hour sleep stint the other night. The only problem was that it was from 6pm to 12 midnight...that said however, he proved to us he can sleep for 6 hours at a time. The next sleep was for 4 hours as well which gave us at least one sleep cycle.
We have a clock which projects the time onto our ceiling, have had for years and we've come to rely on it so as if we're away from home, we have to have some source of knowing the time the second we open our eyes. The advantage now is that we know exactly to the minute (the clock is automatically synced with the transmitter at Rugby!) when his last feed was started, when he fell back to sleep and how long he's been asleep. We're pretty sad I guess but we actually wake each other up to express our excitement that he's let us sleep for longer!

He's getting there, the little bundle of wonder.

Last night we took him to his first fireworks display. 'Display' is a little flattering as it was more a sound show due to the intense fog and firework smoke and ultimately the kind of show that the expression 'a damp squib' was designed for. If you care, a 'squib' is a firework of sorts, hence a damp one being something of an anticlimax. Anyway he went and he stayed awake which is very rare for an evening. He normally does his long sleep during our evening, which is good because we get to have a normal time together in the evening but not so good as we never know how long his next period of sleep will be. Anyway as he was awake throughout, we were convinced that this was to be 'the night', the night he slept for 6 hours during the correct period of the night. Predictably he didn't. It was Clare's turn to do both feeds and I woke up during both and was a bit disappointed but reminded myself that he's an eight week old baby and isn't going to do as he's told just yet!

Clare took the little man to craneology yesterday which is good for babies born via the dreaded forceps. They can sometimes get a pain in their necks and lower backs because of the concertina effect of a long labour. It seemed to calm him down and was during the part of the day when he screams for 3 hours at a time. The specialist reckons one more session will do the trick, which will be a welcome relief for Clare who has to deal with the screams before I get home from work to help her out.

He's starting to smile almost daily now and it's just amazing every time. A little feedback goes a long way and one smile makes you forget all about the lack of sleep, the screaming and the poo explosions in an instant. Bless him.
Here's a picture with his new monkey.

Monday, 27 October 2008

January 15th

That's the date. That's the date our surgeon will fix Jake's smile, which coincidentally he used for the first time this weekend. Well, we've seen the smile before but believe it was motivated by wind rather than happiness. The date won't be confirmed until we get it in writing six weeks before the op and any illness will delay it but it is likely to be mid January which was what we'd predicted. Originally we wanted it to be this side of Christmas so all of the pregnancy, cleft news, birth and first operation would be neatly contained within 2008 but this is better, we think, so we can forget about it until after New Year and then it'll upon us in a flash.

We've agreed to enter Jake into the Crane database which is a project that monitors and tracks people with facial abnormalities over time to help further the science of it all. This basically involves having his pictures taken in the hospital studio each time we go. He behaved perfectly today and even opened wide for the palate pics. To be fair he was fast asleep but I am impressed with his impeccable manners all the same. He really is very advanced!

Our friends, Emily and Julia are due to give birth over the next couple of weeks so their babies could arrive any minute now; fingers crossed for nice easy births for Milly, Rob Julia and Mark. We're really looking forward to meeting a couple of little playmates for Jake soon.

Friday, 24 October 2008

7 weeks

Jake will be 7 weeks old on Monday and not much has changed but he's moved up a nappy size. Feed size is the same which means that what comes out is the same size but there's more room for it. Nice.


He ought to be around 10 pounds at the next weigh in which is grobag weight which we're hoping will make him sleep longer. Why it will help, we don't know, we just hope. Anything's worth a try....we actually have it lucky but can't fathom how he's able to kip for 4 hours between 6pm and 10pm and then for only 2 hours at a time through the night.

Jake now spends a couple of hours with Clare in the morning on his playmat, just staring around, taking it all in, but awake and not crying which is really nice. His face is changing and his eyes are open a lot more so we're beginning to find out what he'll look like. Out of interest I Photoshopped a picture of Jake last week and cloned in a complete top lip to see what he's going to look like post-op....I felt really bad afterward but then realised that it wasn't bad, I was just interested. Plus I'd just got a copy of CS3 and needed some subject matter. My reaction to the new image (and most professional a job it was too!) was a bit indifferent which is I guess a sign of how little the cleft bothers me, if at all. I know it's there but really it's only an issue for other people who've never seen a baby with a cleft lip before. There's been a handful of times when people, mainly strangers, crane their necks into the carry cot or baby seat to have a look and manage not to react in the wrong way. They all say he's adorable and cute, which to be fair is true. I feel awkward in these situations but not for the reasons I thought I would. I just don't really enjoy seeing other people in awkward situations and feel embarrassed for them a bit I suppose. I used to think the first op, the lip surgery was more important for us so we'd be proud of our 'normal' baby again but that's not true, we're so proud of how he looks regardless of the cleft; the operation is all about him. Helping put back the bit of his lip that nature put in the wrong place so that he won't have problems in later life. We're meeting the prof on Monday morning and will get dates for the operations. Quite exciting I suppose if that's the right word for it. I do think it will be a horrible time when we have to leave him to go in for the operation. I think that will be the first time when we really feel like parents, when we worry about if he's in pain and that we can't fix it. It'll be weird and upsetting but ultimately rewarding.

Here's some more pics.




























































Monday, 6 October 2008

Jake Fernie one month on

So we've done a month and it's been fun. And knackering. The first few days is really just a case of staring in wonder at your boy and patting yourselves on the back at how clever you are and telling your wife / husband how proud you are of them. Then you get some confidence and before you know it life starts to return to 'normal'; you're not on the phone to the hospital every time he cries, you know which positions get the best burp and you can jump out of bed at 4am with alarming enthusiasm. So this is now our 'normal' life, one where we don't really do a great deal other than look after Jake, which I believe is the whole point! The walls do start to close in so it's important to do normal stuff, we had a meal out after a week and although we ate it in record time worried all the while he'd wake up, it was good to try and have a life. Of course I get to go to work which serves a few purposes. Firstly it pays the bills, secondly it gives me respite from any incessant crying, squirming, unsettling which in turn makes me miss him more and thirdly, it allows me to have a separate life. It also has its downsides as it means I can't take over from Clare during the day and babies are very trying at times. The major upside about bottle feeding is that both parents can share the feeds and if there's anything that can make you forgive 3 hours of a baby shrieking at you, it's looking into his eyes when he's getting the good stuff. This is where the NCT network has been so good as well as Clare's friends who are almost all pregnant as it gives distraction during the day and a good reason to go out. We find he sleeps better if he's had fresh air which is same for all of us I guess.
I remember writing about how the thought of sleepless nights were the last of my worries after we found out about the cleft(s) and how insignificant their prospect now seemed. Well, given that the clefts now seem almost non-issues, the sleepless nights have come back to worry me accordingly. During the first week Jake slept for 4 hours, woke for a feed and change and then slept for another 4 hours which is really very doable, especially if you alternate it between mum and dad. An eight hour kip every other night is pretty good. Jake's timing is impeccable though and managed to slip into a wake up and scream pattern every 2 - 3 hours just as I went back to work and this has settled nicely so that we really don't know now when we should go to bed, if at all! We thought it was best to feed and get straight into bed (Friday was 9.05 pm - rock 'n roll!) but then he might struggle about for an hour then wake 30 minutes later as we drop off. So it's tricky but that's what it's all about I guess. He also knows the second I put the dinner on the table. Not the minute or roughly as I'm serving up, literally the second it goes down he starts crying. So we've got good at eating in hurry or one-handed.

The first month is definitely different and hard work but it's also wonderful and fascinating and while you do find yourself longing for when he sleeps through and can be awake without screaming or feeding, it's important to take it all in and enjoy it as it's going by so fast. Everyone I know with a 2, 3 or 4 year old sees him and says how you forget how tiny they are and how quickly time goes. So I'm trying to film it all, photograph it all and document everything so we can remember it.

He's got dry skin and baby spots right now but other than that all the health workers are really happy with his progress and weight gain. I got my first proud-dad moment when he aced his hearing test as he was the first cleft-affected baby in 6 years to do that, which I was naturally not surprised about....I got teased at school for having big ears and it seems now, finally some good has come of these gigantic lugholes!

2 more of the NCT babies have arrived since the last post and Clare is hosting this week's get together at our house which may not be big enough to cope with 5 pushchairs! Jake is probably all of 18 inches long but the stuff which comes with him has taken over the entire house.

Till next time, he's a picture of Jake with his proud Grandad.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

How I / we feel

This post has been a long or relatively long time coming. There are a couple of reasons, the first being that we've been a bit busy of late, looking after Jake and everything and the second is that I wanted to make sure that how I felt was actually how I felt and not post-birth euphoria.

Jake is 2 weeks and 3 days old today at lunchtime and it's gone in a heartbeat yet feels like he's been a part of the family for ever. Odd, if understandable.

Anyway I think that the emotional roller coaster which we started in earnest back in January when Clare told me she was pregnant and which took several twists and turns along the way, has, I believe made its last turn and is slowly coming to a halt. Sure, we will be getting off of the 'pregnancy with a twist' roller coaster and and climbing on board the much faster, scarier 'the next 18 or so years' roller coaster but we can now do it with much clearer heads.

Between the 20 week scan and when he was born, I saw cleft(s) first and our child second when I shut my eyes. It was almost all consuming and evoked all sorts of emotions both positive and negative. It was a bit of a battle between staying positive and without sounding overly dramatic, breaking down at regular intervals. As I've mentioned we had up and down days, normally separately and each would cheer up the other or rationalise with them until it was their turn to get on the therapy couch and the situation would reverse. I remember way back at the beginning of this blog worrying about other people's reactions to the cleft, now that just seems completely selfish. I was worrying about what other people think because of how it would make me feel! What a difference a day makes!

The birth itself was a stressful time, although we look back and feel lucky that it came two weeks early as it didn't give us too much time to work ourselves up. The most significant part, for me at least, was the bit we went from going in for a cautionary check to being escorted to the delivery suite. There wasn't much time to freak out but if there had've been I would have. It was like the denial of the birth got stronger the closer we got to the date and it was only at the very last moment did I actually realise we were about to have a baby!

I remember looking out of the window in the delivery room watching the world go by and people going about their business. People waiting at the bus stop, drivers on the A3, visitors coming and going and all the while Clare was trying to push Jake out. I'll always remember to look up at the maternity ward when I pass the hospital from now on as a nod to the significant events unfolding for the people inside.

Of every feeling I have or have had in my life, I'll never forget the emotional outpouring when they pulled Jake out and held him up for us to see. Throughout the birth and in fact the latter part of the pregnancy I'm not afraid to admit to being somewhat more emotional than normal. I'm not a typical alpha male and happily wear my heart on my sleeve to a point but I had turned into something of a girl of late. Anyway when Clare started pushing the midwife seemed very happy with the progress and I calmed down. I was even beginning to worry if I would be emotionally affected when the baby was born. Well suffice to say, I was and needn't have worried as I was probably 7 or 8 years old the last time I cried uncontrollably like that!

They put him in my arms after they'd cleaned him up and swaddled him and obviously I looked at the cleft to see its extent but didn't dwell on it for more than a second or two. Given the distress and worry the cleft(s) caused before we'd even seen them, it seems incredible how little they cause now we can see them. Incredible in a good way, a brilliant way in fact. I wrote an entry about how I wanted Jake to change me and it happened just as I wanted even though I thought it was a pipe dream.

Jake has a cleft lip and cleft hard and soft palate. We knew about the lip but not about the palates. They told us that the palates were affected in the delivery room and it was no more significant news than them telling us the colour of his eyes. Seriously, all that we were worried about in respect of the 'defects' disappeared as insignificant detail.

I don't mean to be flippant, obviously these are major things which will need to be fixed by reasonably major surgery, however we can deal with them with clear, level heads as opposed to messed up, neurotic, overly emotional heads.

Jake sleeps well some nights and less well others. He feeds, poos and sleeps just like any other baby and we're so grateful that there are no other issues (touch wood). Clare's been getting used to her new life, seeing visitors, hooking up with the NCT girls (a great decision it was to go to NCT, highly recommended, despite my misgivings!) and enjoying the moments of quiet while he sleeps in the daytime. I get to go home every lunch time and chill with my boy and then spend some time with him in the evening and it's very, very cool.

I am committed to this blog and will continue to document Jake's journey at least until his cleft palate operation which will be sometime in Summer 2009. We are meeting with Professor Haers on October 17th and we'll get a date for the lip operation but it's likely to be in early January.

I feel very lucky to have had such a wonderful son. I wanted a boy all along really!

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Full Update - facts

Well then, after the first four days of Jake's life I thought I'd go back to last Sunday and make two blog posts. This one, is about the facts and the second one will be about the feelings.

Here goes.

So it's Sunday the 7th of September and we're off to my parents' house for a belated birthday lunch for my dad's 65th. En route Clare mentions that today might be the best day to start my baby-watch-no-more-than-two-units plan, which was not meant to start until Monday, two weeks before the due date. I concurred with a grunt and that became the theme of the day thereafter. Everyone said 'not long now' and I kept refusing the bottle of wine as it came around. Clare was quietly having mild contractions and behaving in her usual demure manner.

Clare is no drama queen but I was convinced these were nothing more than braxton hicks, little warning tremors designed to keep us on our toes. My conversations were pretty much all centered around the fact that I wanted baby to hold off until Friday as I had a presentation to give on Thursday and hadn't yet finished the document what with the final all day NCT meeting on Friday and all.

We left at around 7 and by 8 Clare was pacing the living room every 5-8 minutes. I was getting her to blow out the candles (a ridiculous, NCT-prescribed exercise where you hold up your fingers and get her to blow at them as if they were cake candles). Over the next three hours the contractions, as we were now convinced they were, got stronger and started coming more often. Eventually I phoned the maternity ward at midnight for some advice. They asked me if Clare had felt the baby move recently and Clare couldn't remember if she had. So she had some sugary biscuits, freezing water, jiggled about a bit and played some music for chickpea but no movement came. I reported this back to the ward and they said we ought to come in as a precaution.

We grabbed the bags and put the cat food timer on and headed to the hospital, a 5 minute journey at half past midnight on a Sunday. It's a weird time to be in a car, can't remember the last time I was at that time. Anyway the midwife greeted us and hooked Clare up to the baby heart rate monitor and contraction monitor and left us for half an hour. The contractions kept coming and Clare was in more and more pain. The next blog post will go into all of the emotional bits; remember these are just the facts. We were worried that they would tell us that these were the very early throes and we ought to come back later but upon 'examination' the midwife told us Clare was 4cm dilated and we were definitely having the baby before long. So we moved from the antenatal ward to the delivery ward to sit it out.

The gas and air kicked in for me but Clare didn't like it. It got rid of some of the discomfort but made her feel too light headed. I explained that that was the point but Clare doesn't like to be out of control and never gets drunk so she wasn't prepared for it. After almost 8 hours of contraction pain she elected to have a mobile epidural. Royal Surrey try to persuade you to have Pethidine which is a drug which doesn't numb but puts you out of it much like gas and air but then some. Clare didn't want that as it can make you feel sick, so epidural it was.

The anesthetist turned up half an hour later and got Clare to sign the form declaring that she'd understood that if he slipped and gave her a spinal tap she could get a headache which would last for a year, or worse lose the use of her legs. It must have been painful because she didn't flinch and signed straight away. The anesthetist had a good bedside manner, although a little too much of a dry sense of humour. I know he was trying to put Clare at ease but given the disclaimer and the job in hand, I'd have rather no sense of humour at all. Anyway the epidural went it and no headache occurred and within 20 minutes Clare was telling me she was having massive contractions but only because that's what the monitor was telling her! How anyone can do contractions like hers were but for another 9 hours and then push out a baby is beyond me.

Anyway we sat there talking and trying to nod off until seven am when I sent some messages to work so they could finish what I hadn't and we spoke to our parents to let them know it was all happening. The cervix dilates at a rate of one cm per hour and at 10 cms, you're ready to push. Epidurals tend to slow the process down a bit so they leave you for an extra couple of hours to get he head down as low as possible. At 11 am, the midwife told Clare to start pushing with every contraction. Three pushes each time and I was holding her hand and, bizarrely, also pushing!
An hour in, they put up a drip to help the contractions and after 2 hours I was told to get my scrubs on as we were theatre bound. Again, this post is not about feelings but suffice to say it was an intense 30 minutes of getting ready and signing more disclaimers and whatnot while they got everything ready.

I won't describe the position that the apparatus helped Clare to get into as she may not thank me, but it's not a position you'd ever choose. I had my head next to Clare's trying everything to console and calm her but actually she was fine and the advice I was giving was more for me than anything!

At one point, I made the mistake of looking up and seeing the surgeon holding a pair of forceps which looked like a nut cracker which was disturbing but I didn't have long to dwell as Clare was being told to push like her life depended on it. They were all shouting that they could see the head and with one more herculean push, they pulled the baby out, seemingly in one go and held him up for us to see. Covered in blood and gook, all I saw was his groin and blubbed shouted,

'it's a boy!'

The next hour is still a blur but Jake was cleaned up and giving to me while Clare was sorted out and we all headed back to our room to gaze in amazement at our bundle of joy.

We had all the usual health visitors over the next few hours including Ann, our cleft specialist who showed us how to feed him. The hard and soft palate are affected, although it hasn't affected his sucking mechanism or swallowing so he's feeding incredibly well.



I send a text to friends and family and within minutes my phone was going berserk. I got over a hundred texts and emails and Facebook comments within just a couple of hours which was very nice, and I read them all to Clare and we spent much of the next few hours with tears in our eyes. Must have been a very dusty room.

At 8 I went home, had a beer and passed out. We were discharged at 8pm on Tuesday and enjoyed the special moment of bring Jake across the threshold of his new home. Then he started crying. And crying and crying. No dirty nappy, fully fed, winded and just wouldn't stop. Then I started singing and he stopped. Most people start crying when I sing, not the other way around! Anyway it worked so who cares. Now Clare and I use harmonies to get him to stop and we're getting quite good at humming the low and high parts of Jerusalem at 4 in the morning!

Since we've had loads of cards and deliveries and people dropping in and it's been great. Last night a few friends came over and cooked us a meal and then washed up and it was all lovely. All babies are greatly anticipated but I think Jake is being extra spoiled as people have followed his journey with particular interest due to his different start in life. I will talk about the clefts in the next post but for now you should know that none of it seems like a big deal any more. We have a wonderful son and I couldn't really care less about a couple of slight issues.

He's been sleeping really well and we've got him so he feeds just before we go to bed and then wakes for a feed and change at 4am and then again at 7.30am....if it stays like this, I'll be surprised and very happy but for now, especially as I'm not at work, it's a piece of cake given the end result. I snuck out yesterday afternoon to give the presentation and it all went well and I think the sympathy card I played regarding how tired I looked might do us some good.

So all in all it's been a busy week. I can't believe it's Friday already.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Meet Jake



















































































Or rather meet Jake Thomas Henry Fernie. Our boy.

Jake because we've loved the name for a while and is a great for baby, toddler, boy and man. Not too common, not too unusual. It's a manly name; you don't get many ballet dancing Jakes, if you catch my drift. Thomas because it's nice and traditional and I like the idea of him using Jake T. Fernie when his charity and missionary work finally gets the recognition it deserves! And finally Henry after both of our grandfathers. Or as my best mate pointed out now unofficially after Thierry, Arsenal's greatest ever player. Well 2nd greatest ever player after Dennis Bergkamp! Obviously we would never, ever, EVER name a child after a footballer, just so long as that's clear!

Anyway here he is in all his amazingness.

I've just finished the night shift in the lounge which was very successful as it gave Clare 8 hours kip but I need a couple for me now so till later...zzzzzzzz

Monday, 8 September 2008

It's a boy!

Our son, who is remaining nameless overnight at least, was born 2 weeks early today at 13.50 weighing 6 pounds 14 ounces. The only way I can describe my feelings are that they are undescribable and moreso given that I haven't slept since the early hours of Sunday morning. Anyway it's not about me, it's about my amazing wife who huffed and puffed and pushed until our beautiful bouncing boy came flying through the air at me, having been propelled by a pair of forseps. The outpour of emotion, I'll remember forever yet forgot the details instantly. An hour went pass in a split second and we were back in the room with our son!

Anyway a full breakdown of the events of the last 48 hours will be posted soon, but for now I'm having a beer and going to sleep!

a waiting game

so we called the hospital at midnight and they asked us if clare could feel the baby and she couldn't remember so as a precaution they told up to come in. turns out she was 4 cm dilated and we were definitely in the right place. so I'm sat here at 4am waiting for chick pea to pop out! crikey! Clare's doing amazingly. hope to have more news soon.

it's happening!

well at least we think it is! either that or Clare's having gut wrenching indigestion every 5 minutes. typical for the little one to decide to start this at midnight! more later...

Monday, 1 September 2008

Dilema

While we waiting for one of our scans I read the Clapa newsletter and quarterly mag (last version Christmas 07!), neither of which are very well designed, but interesting all the same. There's a few articles about groups of 'affected' children going abseiling or horse riding or whatever and fund raising which is all quite uplifting. I do fancy doing something for charity for Clapa or the Smile Train and they do bring hope and information to people in the early stages but Clare and I have deliberately stayed away from any sort of parents groups or societies. Mainly because we don't feel that it's necessary going forward; people can't stop themselves telling you about people they know who are perfectly fine now, so why would we want to join a club for people with a birth defect? I think that these things are massively important for people with babies born with something that will affect them forever but a cleft, once sorted, will fade along with memory of it.

I don't want to belittle the 'condition' as it is a big deal and has spoiled the second part of the pregnancy but to me the worry and distress is nearly over, which is crazy when you think it hasn't even begun yet. I remember writing on the first or second blog entry about how weird it was to not be able to get over something which hasn't happened yet. It's actually been true; the last four month have been incredibly difficult and although the news obviously sunk in a long time ago the 'why us?' thought has mostly faded away, it's still there every day. The end I think is in sight and the end isn't the operation but the birth. I have a feeling that whatever the state of the cleft all this ridiculous rhetoric I've been spouting will seem totally unnecessary. I'll wonder why it ever bothered me and what the fuss was all about. Well I hope that's how I feel anyway; maybe a mix of how I feel now and how I want to feel will be more like it. Remember you never get a 100% result as my old man always tells me.

There is a tea party coming up which Ann is organising for parents in the area with kids ranging from not yet born to 2 or 3. Having said that we didn't want to get involved for all the reasons previously discussed, Piet mentioned that these events were the most important part of the whole process. Not for the people who had been going along for ages but for those who were going for the first time. Then the penny dropped. The idea of helping never actually occurred to me, more that I didn't want anymore help. Perhaps when the baby arrives and we've gone through it all we'll realise how important all the help we got was and then perhaps we'll muck in.

The last scan

Today we saw Ms Hutt for the last scan and there's still no build up of liquid which still points to potential good news in terms of the extent of the clefting of the palate, or at least the soft palate. Then we went to the orthodontics department where all the outpatients seem to know each other which might be because they spend a lot of time there. We've definitely seen a lot of that hospital over the last 4 months and for the sake of the car parking fees alone, I'll be glad when can stop going back for a while.

Anyway our original cleft specialist, who came to visit us the very next morning after the 20 week scan (but who hasn't been in touch since((despite having said that she would))) saw us first and then took us into see 'Team Cleft'. They all have their specialist roles, Ann, the community cleft woman, Sue, the orthodontist, Piet the saviour and three others who we didn't talk to but were there. One of them is a clinical psychologist which I believe is to help with the child's self image, bullying and well being etc. These others all looked a bit young to be of any use but what do I know.

Piet knows his onions that's for sure. He's done 140 of these ops, either cleft only, palate only or cleft and palate, every week for the last 5 years. He's definitely our man. There's only been 2 ops which went back for a second go and a lot has happened during his time in terms of how clefts are repaired. It used to be that a few hundred surgeons in the UK repaired cleft lips and palates up until just a few years ago, now there's 2 or 3. They also do other facial surgery as it's all related and staying on top of all areas of the face is good as they are all related and a breakthrough in one area could well affect another. The general feeling is that with only a small handful of very specialist surgeons handling the whole cleft remit for the entire country, the average results are getting better and better.

Babies used to come home with arm restraints to stop them pulling at their stitches a bit like the cliche sketch show with someone with both arms in plaster. Apparently it's no longer necessary for the lip repair which is a relief as I think it would be a bit heartbreaking to see a 3 month old baby restrained in such a way. After the palate repair they still put sock like gloves on (mittens, perhaps?!) just so they can't put their fingers through the newly repaired roof of their mouth.

So that's it, the last time we'll be back at a scheduled time (unless to be induced). The next time should be in rather a hurry to say hello to the one we've all been talking and worrying about for the last 18 weeks! Oblivious to all this, in blissful ignorance, I hope CP has been enjoying him or herself readying for a timely and pain free birth. The baby now weighs 7 pounds with 3 weeks to go so Clare's naturally wincing and hopefully the next growth spurt will be on the outside.

I saw a couple of brand new babies in their Maxi Cosies on the way out of hospital carried by knackered looking Dads ready for their journey to begin and realised that it'll be me next time I walk out. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

It's getting exciting

So the first baby from within our particular chapter of the NCT sect has arrived! Admittedly it was unexpectedly early, six weeks early and pretty small, but in the 96hours which have passed since the last meeting, Duncan and Jodie have had a baby. So huge congratulations to them.

This brings it home quite quickly. On Saturday, Clare and I went to have our tour of the hospital and that also bought things into perspective. There were lots of excited soon-to-be mothers and lots more slightly worried looking soon-to-be fathers. It didn't have that typical hospital smell but you still know exactly where you are. I was pleased that the 'amenity' rooms seem in plentiful supply so Clare should hopefully not have to be in the ward after. Apart from anything else, it means you're not part of the expectant parents' parade which comes through everyday.

Clare temporarily gives up work this week and it really could come at any time soon without being an inconvenience. Clare has deliberately left buying the remaining hospital essentials and packing her bag until she has started her time off to give her something to do, but recent events have persuaded her to re prioritise.

The last few weeks have been a struggle; I spent the first however long trying to be positive and looking for silver linings and at the bright side and lots of other cliches but I also kind of forgot to realise how I was actually feeling. Without inviting violin strings, things have been quite tough of late and not just to do with the baby, other stuff which has happened and it's bound to have had an effect sooner or later. It's mainly all to do with the anticipation which I'm sure will be a million times worse than the reality but it's there. A for instance is when the NCT 'teacher' told us about the reunion meeting in November. Everyone else will be immediately excited by this but both Clare and I, separately, and then together considered what this means for us. It means that we will have to make an announcement to this group of people that we've had a baby and that the baby has a cleft lip and that, yes, we knew about it and that, yes we know you'll all know someone who's been affected by a cleft lip or palate and that you can't tell and also that, yes, they can do wonderful things these days etc, etc just so it's not a difficult situation when everyone brings their babies in. The reality is that Clare will almost certainly have been drinking hot chocolates with the others mums in Costa before the reunion but that's what went through our minds. It's just another example of why our experience is different, not bad just different.

As I've said before I live my life from mood to mood and today the mood is good. If the baby came today we'd be ready!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Almost there

I've been away from the blog for a while as I've really not felt any different for a while. The blog is a combination of how I / we feel and a diary or countdown to the main event. The due date is 2 days and one calendar month away and Clare has just one week of work left. Then the countdown is really on. The baby could in fact come any minute and wouldn't be considered premature, just early, and I for one would welcome that. As well as being eager to meet the little blighter, I'm also eager to get moving along this new path that our life is about to take. Kind of the sooner we start, the sooner we can get it all sorted. It's a bit sad in a way, I do feel that I'm wishing the first three months away before they've even started. And then when I think about that I feel a a mixture of sadness and being gutted that our experience of being parents for the first time is going to be a lot different to the text book version, a bit like how our experience of the last 4 months of being pregnant for the first time has been so different. And then when I start to wallow I try to remember that we're pretty lucky to have had so much more contact with our baby than most other expectant parents. They will have felt the kicks and responses to sound and light etc but they don't know half as much about their baby as we do about ours. We've had 7 scans with another one on the way, we know how much our baby weighs, we've seen its face, arms, hands, feet, everything in fact apart from its modesty.

A male friend of mine told me he took some time to feel the bond that everyone goes on about. He took longer than he wanted to the point where it bothered him, thought it was a reflection on him and that it made him a bad parent. He was the model Dad in the run up and attended the meetings, read the books, supported his missus and then cried his eyes out when the child was born but then nothing. Nothing for a few weeks. I say nothing, that's harsh, there was something just not this oak-like bond that either he expected or that he was expected to feel. Then all of a sudden it was there and he couldn't wait to get home from work to see the baby and ever since the bond just has kept getting stronger. I reckon that that could have been my reaction had it not been for our change of direction at 20 weeks.

I feel I'm already a Dad and that I'm already sticking up for our baby and I'm learning how to look after it, I'm, working harder, feeling more responsible (not necessarily acting it though!) and so I'd be gutted not to get 'the feeling' as soon and he or she pops into the world. So my bonding, or a lot of it at least, has happened during a pretty shitty time for us which has definitely changed me. Whether that's for the better or worse I'm pleased I've had the chance to bond where maybe some other Dads wouldn't have. That's my silver lining, I guess.

Monday, 11 August 2008

O.K I was wrong!

So I have to admit that I was completely wrong, they all seem normal and unboring with it. We sat next to a couple who's due date is the same as ours but ours is official the first of the group on alphabetical count back. There's 8 couples in the group and whilst we didn't chat to everyone, or even the majority, everyone seems 'nice'. There's a few in virtually the same postcode so Clare will be able to collect mums and babies en route to Costa without detouring at all. And as she does the route, she'll be proudly pushing.....THE QUINNY BUZZ! Courtesy of my very generous in laws, we now have the buggy I wanted all along. Result! We are very lucky that our parents have helped out so much and have some good kit to give junior the best start possible. My folks were also very kind and have supplied the cotbed and chest of drawers which will be constructed just as soon as we've painted the nursery baby's room.

Clare's folks are looking after the buggy until we need it as a) it's supposed to be bad luck to have it in the house before it's needed and b) we have nowhere to put it! We need to relocate the fridge which is in our dining room because it doesn't fit into our kitchen before we can comfortably accommodate the buggy. I feel sorry for the fridge in a way. It's natural domain is the kitchen, a place where it commands a position of authority; it has an important role and no other apparatus comes close in the keeping-things-cold department, like the oven and hob where nothing else is a patch on its warming-up-and-cooking skills, yet put it in the dining room and it becomes somewhere handy for drinks and bigger stuff. A bit like a race horse past its prime and no longer useful even out to stud, really just waiting to die. It's actually even a close call whether the fridge will get a new home in our home at all. Unless we get an urge to have a fridge in our bedroom, I fear that we may be forced to invoke the WEEE Directive.

Back to the NCT then. We had to introduce ourselves to the room and state one good thing and one bad thing about the pregnancy. Um, let me think about a bad thing then. In fact we had decided not to mention the situation and had emailed the teacher who had told us she'd take her lead from us should we decide to tell any/everyone. We decided not to for a number of reasons. Mainly we didn't want to turn the NCT into a 'Clare and James sympathy rally' but also because, actually none of the issues surrounding our situation affect what we're learning about, with perhaps the exception of feeding and we don't know how much, if at all that will be affected anyway. If we get close to anyone then I suppose it would come up but as of now we're happy to be like everyone else. Because we are!

We had a weekend filled with children. Friday night we baby sat for our God- daughters and on Saturday we went to the 4th birthday party of Noah, my very cool, surfer dude / Batman, Godson. There were seventeen children and almost twice as many adults and although Noah is lucky enough to live somewhere with a swimming pool, it did sound just like a leisure centre! The swimming was designed to knacker them out, however the sweets and cakes counter balanced this. Comment of the day went to one of Noah's female chums who announced 'Mummy, I'm getting a sugar rush!' Genius! Although I wish I saw Noah more, it's great to see how much he grows up and changes when we do see him. Each time he's into something different and always so enthusiastic. Last time it was Spiderman and this time Batman; he got the costume and retractable wings for one of his present and was running around with a huge smile on his face in the mask and pants until midnight. I can't wait for that.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

NCT predictions

If I wasn't having a baby there's no way I'd be going to this. I know that's completely obvious so perhaps I should provide a better analogy to illustrate my point. Even if I was fanatical about painting warcraft fantasy figures, there's no way I'd go to a fantasy warcraft figure painting convention.

There are various reasons why I'm not into forced social situations.

Number 1, I hate small talk, banter with strangers about inanne crap just because everyone feels slightly uneasy. Why people insist in talking about the weather is beyond me especially in the UK. 'What about this rain!' they say...My God you've lived here forever, it rains, get over it.

Anyway, number 2, I've got enough friends and the friends I / we have were made casually, over time, without pressure; i.e we weren't sat in a room and told to bond.

Number 3, most people get a bad first impression of me. In my desire not to appear to be an arsehole, I normally come across as a bit of an arsehole or worse, an arrogant arsehole. I'm a great believer in the new boy being seen and not heard at first so that his personality can blend with the those of the incumbents slowly and gradually without imposing anything on the group. Why I don't listen to my own advice is beyond me.

Number 4, it's always slightly cringeworthy, everyone feels similar, apart from the overly loud person who seems ridiculously confident but you just know he was bullied terribly at school. Or worse, you have to put up with people who laugh after every sentence. That's everyone of their own sentences. Not jokes, just a regular sentence like '...oh and we had a lovely meal with our friends Steve and Rebecca' LAUGH....'Steve's an IT consultant so he travels a lot' LAUGH. WTF?>! I know it's a nervous thing but seriously, stop it people.

In context then, NCT or National Childbirth Trust is a charity which gets expectant parents together in a room for a few sessions before their babies are born. It's a kind of parenting night school designed to give everyone confidence and reassurance and more importantly, create a network for the mums (and modern stay-at-home dads) so they can all drink lattes together every day after the babies arrive. In principal it's a great idea. A great idea for non-sociopaths who don't do too much unnecessary thinking, that is.

I think we watch videos and assume various positions and chat about baby stuff and it does all sound rather cliche but I suppose that's because it's a formula that works. And I do genuinely think it's a good idea that we might make like-minded local friends (or at least, people we pretend to like). I do hope the woolen boob isn't a myth though, it should show up my immature side nicely. It's also 2 hours long so my, as yet undiagnosed ADHD is certain to play up!

You hear horror stories from guys where their NCT sessions have interfered with Champions Leagues' fixtures but ours are all on Thursdays so there is a silver lining.

I'd rather have a book and our own immediate company but we're going and that's that. I will report back tomorrow although I have a dilemma about what to report. I'm sure our 'situation' will come up at some stage and will have to remember not to mention this blog as I know most of the attendees will come in for unfavourable scrutiny even if I get to like them in the future.

Assume there's 5 couples, here are my predictions:

1. One couple will be really into it, embarrassingly so and will be all arm up and 'yes miss, me, miss, I know miss'. I instantly hate them
2. One couple will be slightly, erm, low rent, shall we say and they've already chosen the baby's first pair of earrings. Gold and hoopy. Lovely.
3. One couple will be super nervous and a bit young maybe. They're o.k but we'll probably not be at their BBQ because I think we're busy that day/week/month/year.
3. One couple will be normal, Steve and Rebecca, perhaps. Normal jobs, normal house, normal situation. Seem nice enough. Boring bastards.
4. One couple will be new age, having the baby at home, tofu, feng shui etc. Seriously, no comment, I'd be here all day.
5. One couple will be us.

How lucky all the others are that at least one of the couples won't be dull, pretentious, fretting, pikey or overly enthusiastic. Lucky, lucky them.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The last ten years and how I want the baby to change me

When you're 21 or 18 nothing matters and there's no such thing as a consequence. I'm close enough to that age to remember it without the rose tints and although I'm sure that there were day to day issues and the odd worry, for the most part it is a brilliant time when you can do what you want and forget about the future and simply concentrate on having fun without realising how good you've got it.

When I was that age the concerns were just how quickly the weekend would come around, how much to drink and smoke, pulling girls and driving fast cars. It sounds like a cliche but that's how it was. Didn't earn much but didn't pay rent either so all of our income was disposable and we had no problem disposing of it. There was a tight group of 7 or 8 of us and we just had fun. No worries, no bigger picture. I guess that's what being young is for, although it would be nice to appreciate the freedom of it all at the time, if that was even possible it wouldn't be as enjoyable.

Naturally a few years pass and one or two of the group fall in love and get married and then more and you grieve the loss of the situation and then you get over it as you fall in love and move on. I'm sure it happens to every group of 21 year olds up and down the country. I think it's called 'growing up'.

So that was me 10 years ago and things have obviously moved on since then. That was a brilliant time; brilliant then as we had so much fun and brilliant now because it's encapsulated in a 2 year bubble which you could never recreate if you tried. Perfect left as that. Of course we're all still friends and see each other relatively often given the logisitics but it's not quite the same but that's cool because as 31+ year olds we'd look pretty sad doing the things we did.

Since that carefree time I'm a lot different and without sounding too dramatic, I sometimes struggle with life as I worry a lot. Worry might not be the right word but I constantly have things on my mind which seem unecessary and stop me from enjoying the moment. I find it very difficult to be content and to a lesser extent so does Clare. This is not good and I think it stems from events in the past which haven't gone quite to plan. We found ourselves always saying '....it'll be o.k when the business is sold.' or '....it'll be fine once we've moved.' and always waiting impatiently for the holiday to arrive. We forget to enjoy the present and just enjoy life without planning the next move. From the outside as I've said before our life looks peachy. Good jobs, tick. Cars, house, nice things, tick. Great friends and family, tick. Etc, tick. We view other peoples' lives based on comparisons to our own and whilst it's important not to take the good stuff for granted it all takes a reasonable amount of effort. The one thing you can't change is the family you were born into and for that I am enormously grateful. If you break it down beyond the family you realise that all of the good stuff doesn't just happen. For example in order to get good friends in the first place you have to work at being a decent person and in order to keep your friends you have to work to stay in touch send birthday and Christmas cards, throw parties and make sure you don't turn into an arsehole. In order to keep your job you need to work hard and then you need to continue to do so in order to get a nice house, a car and a big tv etc. So when people look from the outside in and tell you how grateful you should be you can tell them that it's not luck or coincidence that the good stuff is good, it's actually hard work. The lucky bit was not being born to substance abusing violent parents in a Tower Hamlet's squat.

As you can tell I think too much about unconstructive things but nonetheless think about them I do and it bothers me. It takes up way too much time, effort and worry. I live my life from mood to mood, good or bad and I'm hoping upon all hope that the baby's arrival changes that and that I can stop fretting about the nonsense that has plagued me for the last ten years and focus my attention on something so much more important than me and my insignificant woes. I'm looking forward to our baby being a great leveller so instead of worrying about if our business is going to survive the credit crunch, or about dying young or about if people think I'm a joke or about drinking too much or not doing enough exercise or any of the other crap which fills my head every day, I can concentrate on the bigger picture, something to take my mind off of me.

Sorry if this is a depressing post, but as I've said before, this is my blog and if you're crazy enough to read it that's your problem!

NCT starts Thursday. Yikes!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Professor Piet Haers and the cotbed

Sounds like a fairytale that title. Maybe it could be about an evil professor who lies in wait under children's beds until they fall asleep so he can poison their tiny minds. Until one day he picks the wrong bed, a cotbed. A cotbed of a very special child who finds the professor's weakness and defeats him and lives happily ever after etc.

Too much wine last night. Back to sanity then.

We finally got the call from the main man, the guy who's going to fix the cleft(s). Well his PA called us as his hands are restricted to more important duties. Normally when secretaries or PAs call me only to put their boss through it makes me want to hang up or at least tell them I'm not prepared to talk to someone who feels they are so important that they cannot look up a number and push 11 buttons. It really winds me up when my solicitor's secretary calls me that way to announce who she's got on the line for me especially considering his bills. When you're paying someone by the nano-second, the last thing you want is to pay for the solicitor to press a button on the intercom to say 'er Jean, please could you get me Mr Fernie on the line' and for her to reply, '...no problem David, I'll patch you through' and for her to then look up my number and call me and subsequently put me through. Surely it takes less time to call me direct in the first place. Someone should buy him a Roladex for Christmas.

Anyway in this case I'm happy for him to preserve his prized assets so he can work his miracles on CP and I don't resent him at all. In fact after this experience I don't think I could resent any doctor or nurse or specialist regardless of what they'd done. Apart from Harold Shipman of course.

So we're going to see him next month (better late than never but he does come down to Guildford to see us which is a nice touch)to discuss the operation and add to our cleft knowledge (more of the Zulu principle). So then we'll know how the cleft is formed, what the initial consultation process is comprised of, how the lip is fixed, how the cleft is fixed, time periods and ongoing support and all in a period of just 3 months. It's amazing how much information you can take in when you have a genuine interest but we still won't know why and probably never will.

What's funny is that to help us they've put the appointment to see him an hour later than our next scan at Royal Surrey. As if we'll make it!

Separately we went to Mamas and Papas last Sunday in sunny Staines to look for a cotbed. Mamas and Papas is an aspirational brand for people who look down their noses at Mothercare and hand-me-downs but they do do some cool stuff and if you're a sucker for that stuff (as I am) then it's an o.k experience as shopping goes. Why they put it in Staines is beyond me; the majority of other shoppers were either pregnant teenagers or parents of babies with earrings. Nice.

So we choose the Horizons range cotbed which should see us o.k from newborn to 4 or 5. Thanks mum. The generosity starts to get embarrassing but is most welcome all the same.

I mentioned I'm a sucker for brands and nice designs, so naturally I have to have one of these for our baby. It's called 'The Loop' and it's basically a high chair but a very, very cool highchair. Totally ridiculous at £200 but it's lime green for goodness sake, how can I not have it!

Friday, 25 July 2008

You Tube rocks!

There's so much stuff about clefts covering everything from student theses to charity promotions but I like this guy. It's his 'fuck you' address to the nation and it's the type of video I'd post if I'd been in his situation. It's heartening to see adults and how they've got through life. O.K he could probably do with a nose job but doesn't seem to care and his operation was a long time ago. Anyway here it is;

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Video

This is a reasonably good video which explains much of what I've already written about. Although it's 9mins 52s long it stops at 7 mins so don't sit there waiting for something to happen for 2 minutes and 52 seconds like I did.

Good News?

So the scan went well and we only had to wait 30 minutes. Still too long for an organisation entirely based around appointment setting but I can do half an hour if I must. Anyway chickpea was not in a cooperative mood and had HIS/her hands covering the main attraction and it was very difficult for Ms. Hutt to view the source of our worry without wobbling Clare's belly as if she were working a pneumatic drill. Eventually she did catch a glimpse of the cleft and reported that it hadn't grown in line with the rest of the baby, which is good news.

The baby's weight has doubled since the last scan to 4 pounds 2 ounces which is scarily close to the eventual likely birth weight. I was six pounds something so it hit home that this blighter is definitely on its way. Although I moan about all the scans we're having it is good to keep an eye on things and see how everything is developing. Clare went to her 'dunk your bump' swimming session last night and met a couple of other expectant mums and one had mentioned that she'd had a third scan as the second failed to spot everything and another mum had remarked how lucky she was to see everything again, not an apt moment to mention that we'd just had our 7th!

Back to the scan then. Clare asked Ms. Hutt (who, I'm relieved to say was wearing engagement and wedding rings this time) what the additional scan were for. We had previously assumed that it was just a routine thing for cleft babies, however we were told that she was looking for a build up of fluid in the mouth area which would suggest that the baby was having trouble swallowing. Trouble swallowing usually suggests that the cleft goes all the way from the gumline through the hard palate and onto the soft palate. Trouble swallowing also tends to suggest trouble feeding which has been Clare's major worry.

There is no fluid. Hooray!

We've long stopped counting our chickens but this does look like the potential for good news. If the soft palate has a cleft there are lots of other issues which could affect the child and early adult such as speech issues, a slightly enlarged upper jaw and more operations etc so fingers crossed that chickpea just has the lip and gum cleft and at worst a bit of the palate.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Good days and bad days

The blog it seems, has travelled much further than intended. Initially it was just a way for me to empty my head in the first few days after finding out about the cleft. Then it was a way of letting people know the news and to help friends and family understand the situation and raise awareness of the actual medical 'condition'. I hadn't expected it to travel to friends of friends or to complete strangers but it does seem that everyone I know and quite a few people I don't have read it and it's quite comforting that it's done its job. I don't know why it should surprise me that people want to know or care about the situation but it does a bit.

Anyway aside from comments I've had to date, my recent trip to Formentera for a fantastic wedding showed me that many more people were aware of the situation than I'd thought. People I hadn't seen for 10 years weren't surprised at the news and people I'd not met before had told me they'd read this blog. Weird.

Met a nice couple who'd been brave enough to bring along their 3 month old baby and managed to enjoy themselves despite all their friends telling them they were mad to travel with a baby so soon. I admired their attitude that life didn't stop because of a baby and if their friend was getting married, they were going. Good for them. And they had the Quinny Buzz. Obviously proper people. Also obviously, we still haven't ordered ours yet!

Another couple who have the Buzz invited us around to see their 3 month old baby last night. These are probably the only people who don't know the news and we debated on the way if we should tell them or not. We decided not to, not because we're ashamed or embarrassed but we were going there to see their baby and the evening wasn't about us and we didn't want to cause any sort of downer. It did have an effect of us afterwards though. This couple are lovely people and very successful and have, it has to be said, a beautiful baby. The birth was a breeze and life just looked so wonderful. I honestly don't feel anything but happiness for them but it made us reflect on our own first 3 month experience and we felt sad when we got into bed. It's totally ridiculous that we still have down days, I think we've coped remarkably well and definitely have at least 75% goods to bads but little things here and there spark a bit of worry, anticipation, sadness, whatever and it gets you down.

Since coming back from the wedding I've started a fitness plan and am trying to be a bit healthier. I've definitely let myself go this year and think that I've subconsciously allowed it to happen on account of the scary promotion at work and the problems with the pregnancy but I was determined that the 5 day break was a watershed between an unhealthy partying lifestyle and a more moderate and positive one. Anyway I'm only two days in so I won't get carried away!

We have yet another scan this afternoon and joy of joys it's the last one of the day so I'm sure we'll have a nice long wait. I suppose I'll get my fill of baby mags though and I'll try not to annoy Clare too much when I get bored!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

It's all gone a bit quiet

After the initial shock of receiving the 20 week scan news, we were very impressed with how the NHS machine wound up into gear and we had some great support from some very nice people. The lady who visited us at home the next morning, Dr Hutt and the braces-wearing cleft specialist in Kent etc. However we find ourselves a bit unsupported now. With the exception of Dr Hutt, who as I've said before, is incredible and has an almost saintly bedside manner, all those who said they'd stay or at least be in touch, haven't.

Apparently the genius Dr. Hairs (unfortunate or perhaps ironic name for a cleft lip surgeon) would have been to see us or on the phone to talk about the procedures and operations but we've not heard anything. It would be nice to chat to another expert especially the guy who's going to put everything right. So far we've had diagnoses and reassurance, empathy even but I'd like to sound out the guy who's going to fix our babies lip and / or pallet if for nothing other than to make sure he's got a steady hand.

Likewise the lady who first visited us hasn't been back in touch. Our notes say in quotes that she will be 'staying in touch with Mr and Mrs Fernie' throughout the pregnancy. She'd better hurry up or they'll be no pregnancy left, we're half way through July already.

It's a good job we're who we are, we do tend to face things head on and we've never been mopers who sit around and wait for things to happen and so we've researched and talked to people and generally self-healed, if that doesn't sound too dramatic. Still it'd be nice to know that we haven't been forgotten.

Also there doesn't seem to be a priority system for getting a private room in the hospital. I really can't bear the thought of being in a ward with other brand new families and their visitors after our baby is born. Not just because of the cleft but more that I don't really like being surrounded by lots of other people I don't know. At the best of times crowds annoy me, I hate listening to other peoples' small talk, it really winds me up that they talk so freely in my earshot about the mundane things happening in their lives and I find it embarrassing even. But I am a bit different to a lot of people so it may be hard to understand. Anyway, babies are infectious and people can't help themselves looking or gawping rather and although I will be the proudest Dad on earth when the baby is born, I don't think I could cope with seeing the look on a stranger's face, be it horror, sympathy, whatever so I really do want a private room. You can't just pay the money, you have to wait and see what happens on the day and who gets what. I like everything sorted in advance but this bit will be down to luck.

This is a bit of a depressing blog entry so apologies and onto to happier stuff. It's our two year anniversary today and those 729 days have literally flown past; perhaps something to do with my having had 4 jobs and our having lived at three different addresses in that time! It's been the best time of my life and I'm so excited about the future growing our family and seeing what the future holds. We collected the chest of drawers for the baby's room (I refuse to say 'nursery') a week or so ago, courtesy of my parents and it fits perfectly in the alcove between chimney breast and window (we measured) and it's specifically designed to take a changing mat, so Clare will be pleased when she's changing Chickpea's nappies. Joke.

The weekend saw the 3rd birthday of my Goddaughter, Molly, my other beautiful niece. She's also amazing but in a different way to her sister Harriet. I know Harriet is not even a year old yet but she's very pensive and looks like she's thinking a lot, taking it all in, whereas Molly is a laugh-a-minute (my sister would probably disagree at times!), charging around, smiling, bundle of activity. She's so cool and never cries when she falls over, just gets up and on with it. It means that if she does cry she's really hurt herself...so many babies cry at nothing and I'm sure it stems from new parents rushing to help a baby for the slightest of knocks or bruises....anyway when I've got kids, I'm sure 'I'll understand'!

Me and the Missus are out for a posh meal at Cambios tonight which holds the distinction of being Guildford's most expensive restaurant. Smashing. And then a taxi is coming to pick me up at 3.30am tomorrow to go Formentera, off Ibiza for four days to celebrate the wedding of our mate Diego to Carmen. I can't wait although suspect I'll be feeling rather sorry for myself come Monday. Till then...

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Christening

Just over a week ago was the Christening of my beautiful niece, Harriet. Clare is one of Harriet's new Godmothers so it was nice to be more involved and she looked gorgeous and quite pregnant at the front of the church with the other proud parents and godparents. I am not a religious person but found myself trying not to be a hypocrite by going along with the service and meaning it....we did go to the church we got married in a few times before getting married for the same reason; I didn't think it was right to use the place as a nice backdrop for the photographs without considering why we were getting married there and not at an alternative location. Whether you have any faith at all, if you're going to use a church then you ought to respect the place for its role in some people's lives or risk being branded ignorant or a hypocrite. By me at least anyway.

As I say, I am not religious but a lot of people are and all for different reasons. Some had it drummed into them, some found it by accident, some sought it directly and some just feel something. I do have a problem with cultures who favour religion over education and in my, ashamedly unresearched opinion I think this tends to cause wars. I think if the people who throw stones at soldiers with guns had spent more time in class than facing East they may realise the absurdity of what they were doing and why. As I said, an unresearched, slightly flippant opinion!

Anyway the church of West which seems a little more realistic and integrated and gives a lot of people something they wouldn't have without it and whilst you can choose to disagree, I think anyone with a basic education ought to respect them.

So I sang the hymns with respect and didn't even glance towards my Dad as '...purple headed mountain' came up in All things bright and beautiful' as I knew he'd be smirking. I shut my eyes and said a prayer or two for CP and it was a great service and who knows whether Harriet will find something from being Christened or not but I think it's as good a starting point as any.

Harriet's incredible, just over 9 months and almost walking. She a quick developer which I'm told is relatively common in second babies. I guess baby number one only has giants for inspiration and so their firsts evolve naturally, whereas baby number two sees toddler number one and thinks 'I can do that' and so they do so quicker. Perhaps this is reason that brothers and sisters are so competitive and squabble a lot. It did make me think how fast CP is going to develop and how much the cleft(s) may affect him or her. I know he or she won't be Christened at 9 or 10 months as this will be the time of the pallet operation (assuming the pallet is cleft) and the baby will come home from the operation with arm clamps to stop them playing with their stitches so dunking him or her in the altar would be tricky!

It was nice to see all of the young families with their kids at various ages from 9 months to 7 or 8 years old. There are so many new children in our extended group of friends. We counted them a year or so ago and there's around 25 in total over the last few years. I remember as part of our conversation, Clare and I had worried that we would have problems with the pregnancy or a problem with our baby as all the others had come out fine and the stats were mounting against us. I'm sure all people planning a family think the same but it's particularly poignant when your prophecies come true.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Buggies

It's been almost a week since we went to Mothercare. And we still haven't decided on the buggy / pushchair / travel system etc, etc, etc. Actually that's not true, I'd decided a month or two ago. I'm convinced that CP is a boy, mainly because of the 70% likely statistic and a gut feeling I have. So it's more than likely that we'll have a girl. Anyway because I think it's a boy I decided that we should have an urban, tech, rugged, three wheel style buggy and that was really all I cared about. I have found it's almost impossible to research what to get on the Internet alone which I find frustrating. As a web-person I'm normally able to go from rank amateur in any given subject to what Americans call 'pro-sumer' pretty quickly. A 'pro-sumer' is basically a polite term for dangerous-amount-of-knowledge type person. This is also the basis of the Zulu principle, which a guy in the US (Jim Slater, if you care) formed after his wife watched an hour long TV programme about Zulu people in Africa and subsequently wowed a dinner party by talking at length about the Zulus. His principle was that anyone could become more expert in any given subject or niche in a short amount of time than the vast majority of the population and also with only a little research. He then applied this to the money markets and made a fortune, wrote a best selling book etc. The book has now been largely discredited in money market terms, but I think the principle stands on its feet with regard to more general topics.

Well all subjects other than baby and child transportation that is.

Basically you can get a buggy, a pushchair (I think for older babies / small children), a pram (pramette??!) or a combination or travel system. Some are good from birth to toddler, some you can't use until the baby is six months and all cost more than you'd spend on a good suit.

Then you have to decide how cool you want to be and how much you want to show other young mums and dads that you (or rather your baby's generous grandparents) can afford the product they wanted. If a Bugaboo is good enough for Gweneth and Chris then it must be right (and therefore cool enough) for us. The fact is that that's total bollocks and what you want is something which doesn't break for 3 years and the main 'carer' (couldn't hate that term more - surely we're both main carers - does the minor carer not care as much?) can fold up and lift easily into the car.

A Bugaboo is around £700, the Quinny is around £500 and Mothercare's own brand is more like £380.

The summary is that the Bugaboo is the lightest and most expensive and does nowhere near enough more to justify a price tag of almost double the own-brand version and the Quinny Buzz is light enough, foldable enough, fits in the car and is perfect in every department other than cost.

This is tiring.

The conclusion is that I'd like the Quinny as it does everything we need and also looks the part. It also has proper pneumatic tyres which I think will be useful on the cobbles of Guildford high street. I think the fixed, hard plastic ones would jolt our bones to pieces just going to the supermarket. I wanted the Quinny in April and since have spent time online and inMothercare and I still want it. Clare needs to scour the market, read more, set focus groups and poll a few hundred more new mums before comitting but that's cool, because I know we'll end up with the Quinny. That's why I love my wife so much. She's the sensible, research-led, calculated one and I'm the impulsive, get-it-done-as-fast-as-possible, rash one, yet we normally reach the same conclusion in the end, albeit with me being bored waiting. You need some polar opposites in a relationship, I know what a frustrating pain in the arse I can be and Clare knows how difficult she finds making a decision. It's good to mix it up.

I'll update the blog when we finally reach our decision (it'll be the Quinny).