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!