Thursday 18 March 2010


So, after just 18 months, my boy looked up at me and said,


That was last Sunday morning as we were in bed and Clare was opening her Mother's day cards. The irony of it all!

I've been waiting patiently. Clare's mum has been repeating dadadadadadadadada for the last year or so. He's been saying mamamammamamama for ages so to finally hear him say it was awesome, if long overdue.

He went for his hearing test last week and aced it. They were also happy with his speech development and told us to keep a list on the fridge of the sounds he's making and what we think they might correspond to. Sure enough those words are starting to make sense. Narna is banana, rack-or is tractor and dadda is daddy. So he can talk and his speech is developing nicely. Ever since he sailed through the second operation, this bit is really the only thing we need to worry about regarding the cleft between now and when he goes to school and we monitor possible bullying and then when he's 8 or 9 for the last operation. So it's good he's on the right road.

Separately, I had some nice comments from a lady in Australia who'd found the blog after having had her unborn son's cleft lip diagnosed at her twenty week scan. Whether you're in Oz, Guildford or outer Mongolia you'll immediately go to the web when something like this happens to suck up as much information as possible. It also proves Google works! The longevity of this tome combined with how blogs and search engines work mean that typing in anything from '20 week scan', 'cleft lip and palate blog' or 'probable cleft palate' will usually display What Now?! somewhere near the top. I'm really glad that someone who was searching found something they could take from all of this. It sounds a bit wanky that, and if we hadn't been through all of this, then I'd take the p*ss out of anyone who said such a thing but I do remember the afternoon of our scan vividly. All we wanted was information, before and after photos, and it was all consuming; but for all the medical sites and reports available there wasn't (or at least not when we first had a look around) a personal account of the experience from start to finish. I think we'd have got something from that and I'm pleased to have been able to help in some way.

I've mentioned a couple of times the friend of a friend who emailed me photos of his boy at 18 months after both successful operations. Those were a great help and whilst I didn't know the chap, his empathy was worth so much more than the sympathy we got in spades from all the people we did know.

It's funny how whoever you are, whatever you do, life just circles on. I'm sure the guys who just read this will be passing their experiences on to others in the same situation they're in right now in 18 months' time.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

All better

Good news to report that the boy is much better and back to bouncing around the place like he was before. Just a week long blip which seemed like a lot longer. Problem is now that his sleeping isn't great. And when his sleep isn't great, ours isn't either. We had a week of 4 hours' kip a night. Shushing sessions, gallons of Calpol, crossed fingers and 4am arguments. I believe, in the heat of it all, I said I was moving out the night before last.

I find myself constantly worried about going through all that again. We're at the stage where thoughts of number 2 arise. We're not 'trying' (I really hate that expression) but at some point, we will have to consider the timing of it all. I've written on here before that I think you'd always feel guilty about stopping at one child, yet you'd never feel the necessity to add a third to a brood of two; I said to a friend of mine recently that you could always have an 'accident' pregnancy 5 or 6 years after the second and he said that would be just as bad as having an only child. I've never thought of it like that, but there's 11 years between him and his brother and as far as he's concerned he felt like an only child. Maybe he isn't lumbered by some of the behavioural traits that some only children develop, mainly because he's not an only child, but he felt he missed out somehow. There was always this elder brother, but he couldn't relate to him, couldn't bond like he did with his parents. There was always too much of a gap to bridge and at every new stage of each of their lives, the other was at a different one. So, while they're not strangers, they're certainly not mates and it's no one's fault, just bad timing.

And that's the point isn't it; it's about how it affects the child, not our selfish 2.4 children, 4x4, black Labrador, suburban ideal. So, the gap needs to be enough but not too much. I also think that there's a sense of the sooner it starts, the sooner it'll be over. I.E the hell of sleep deprivation. I'm sure it's not just me but I really do think that's head and shoulders the single worst thing about parenthood. I certainly feel that I've got it in me to do it once more but then, unless I have the money for a live in night nanny, I'm done. So, I totally get why people stop at two but also wouldn't judge anyone who stopped at one. I do think you'd regret it in the long term when the memory of sleep deprivation fades.

Hopefully as his appetite gets fully back on track he'll add the extra hour and half to his sleep pattern which is currently missing and that makes all the difference to mum and dad's sanity!

Thursday 4 March 2010


Jake is not well at the moment. He's had plenty of coughs and colds and a snotty nose for most of his life so far, but this is his biggest illness to date. He's been unable to keep anything down for the last two days and even a sip of water ends up coming back out. I can probably count on less than one hand the number of times he gave us back his milk as a baby so it's especially out of character. Loads of people we know have seen their toddlers go through exactly the same thing recently so we're not overly worried but it's horrible to see nonetheless.

I'm fairly sure it's the norovirus or winter vomiting bug and it's just something he has to get through. For the last 48 hours he's been sleeping and crying. I haven't seen him smile since Tuesday and he's not eaten a thing. Understandable then, that he's not in the best of spirits. Take away my food for that long and I'd tell you all about it too.

He's listless and a bit floppy, exhausted from feeling rubbish and an empty stomach. He just wants to cling onto us and can barely summon the energy to build a proper cry if we have to leave the room. I'm normally quite blasé to the verge of being flippant when it comes to his gripes and sniffles, brushing them aside as something which will help him build his immune system. I think that's just because he normally just cracks on regardless; a runny nose won't stop him running around and wreaking havoc, but this has knocked him off his feet and he's not the same, not even a little bit.

Anyway, I don't wish to be dramatic but it's the first time I've really worried about him in that way. Not worried because I don't think he'll get over it quickly, but worried about how sad it makes him feel and look to us. I can't take it away or make it better. Perhaps the fact that he was up more often last night than when he was new born has also made things seem worse but I can't wait till he's over it and can go back to tearing about the place and being himself again.

Get well soon Jake. x

Thursday 25 February 2010

Our new normal

I was thinking the other day how things have changed in a relatively short space of time. You don't notice at the time but slowly it dawns on you how life slips into a new routine. I remember before Clare and I were married that we'd sometimes complain about being bored, not having a hobby or annoyed that we hadn't made plans. When I look back to that time, where we had a relatively small mortgage, loads of friends on the doorstep and the ultimate freedom that comes with not having a child, I find it hard to believe how we could have been bored. Why didn't we go to the cinema, pub, shopping and any number of things that could have been done at the drop of a hat? Of course we did do those things but perhaps our expectations of entertainment were higher then.

Of course, we were also skint in those days so our ambitions had to be tempered by more modest bank accounts. Not that we're loaded now by any stretch but those more frivolous activities are much more in reach financially if not practically.

So, we can afford to do as we like yet we're not afforded the time to do it in. Again, this is an excuse, we can still do whatever we want, it just needs more planning. And because it needs more planning, we tend not to get around to it until it's too late. However, we're seldom bored. Maybe that's because now, our expectations of entertainment are more realistically lower!

People have asked me how having a child changed me and the reply is always that it hasn't really; I think moving slightly further away from friends and family a year before Jake arrived helped set our expectations. It gradually allowed us to settle into a routine of entertaining ourselves and being happier with our immediate surroundings than constantly looking for new sources of enjoyment. I forget who said it or where I heard it first but one of my favourite sayings is;

"it's not about getting what you want, but about wanting what you've got"

I still have constant gadget craving and we're always looking forward to the next holiday, but Jake has given us a load of perspective on what we can and cannot practically do on an impulse. We can still be impulsive but it needs to be planned! How's that for an oxymoron?!

The point is when I'm asked if I can play golf or bugger off to the pub at a few hours' notice, generally I can't (I'm playing golf tomorrow but it's been in the dairy for a month) but I don't resent that and I especially don't resent Jake for it, it's just the way it is. It's important to make sure it doesn't give you a reason to become lazy but I actually like our new normal, it sets the tone and pace for our lives and keeps us all in check.

It might sound boring and perhaps sometimes it is, but in the main it doesn't feel boring and that's really all that matters.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Personality and performance

Over the last few months, Jake's personality has really developed. He's always been a smiley boy and laughs a lot when we get him at the right moment, but he's much more affectionate of late. Clare always makes a fuss when I come through the door and he gets so excited. I can't tell you how awesome it is to see his face light up when he sees me. He legs it across the dining room with his arms up, often laughing. As soon as I pick him up he buries his head into my shoulder as if he'd never expected my return. That unconditional love is so rewarding and not something I'd anticipated so soon. I like to think I'm a nice enough person but no one else I know greets me with such enthusiasm!

He's starting to work things out now as well and watching him investigate and learn stuff is brilliant. He can walk in my slippers, knows how to use a digital camera (well, he can hold it up and look at the screen), knows which button turns off the telly (really, really annoying) and can choose his favourite biscuit from his box of treats.

I always cringe a bit when people forecast a child's future talents from their early achievements (ooo he opened the toilet seat, he's going to be a plumber etc), but it does look like he quite a creative child. This isn't a proud dad proclamation (although I did get a twinge of proud dad syndrome), his nursery reports make repeated reference to his finger / foot / potato painting - he made an almost perfect snowflake (there's an oxymoron) print last week. His teachers mention his coordination with the materials is really good and he picks things up quite quickly. On the downside they mention that it takes him a while to settle down to activities because he constantly wants to play with something else. Naturally, we've taken this as early signs of ADHD but at least he'll be producing some good stuff when he can concentrate!

The creative / materials stuff is what appealed to me about the Montessori approach. I've mentioned before that I used to think it was a bit hippyish but I didn't really understand it. I think I confused it with that Steiner nonsense where kids don't compete and no one wins etc. To be fair I might even be wrong about that but haven't the inclination to prove myself otherwise. Anyway, I digress; the Montessori method uses lots of natural materials to help children learn by playing and interacting with them. So instead of showing them the number '2' for example, they will make the shape of a 2 out of sandpaper, stick it to a block of wood and get them to trace their finger over it. It could all still be a load of bollocks but it makes sense to me and if it means he gets an appreciation for wood over plastic then I'm all for it.

So, basically the boy is a genius and he really loves me. Can't ask for much more than that.