Week 39: The last week!

I can recall almost exactly when the screaming started. It began the night before, and I’m sure the whole street could hear. It was at around 9:30pm, in the 78th minute of the Arsenal vs Barcelona Champions League quarter final: my yells of joy, as Van Persie scored a goal of exquisite precision and power, would have awoken the neighbours, I’m sure. 

More shouts of excitement followed after another Arsenal goal that would win them the game, beating one of the world’s best footballing teams. What a moment.

Shortly before full-time I heard Jas make what I thought were encouraging football-related noises. Looking in her direction, I realised she was on all fours on the floor and moaning in agony. 

“What’s up?”
“My belly is sore.”
“Oh. Is it labour?”
“No, it doesn’t feel like labour.”

I went over and gave her back a rub (thankfully in full view of the exciting final stages of the game).

Jas: “How much longer to go in the game?”
“Eight minutes.”
“Okay. Can you help me get to bed after the game? I’m finding it hard to move.” Such a marvellously considerate wife I have.

I was awoken at 1am. “The pain is worse.”
“Oh. More intense?”
“It hurts more, about every ten minutes.”
“Sounds like labour...?”
“No, it doesn’t feel like labour.”

It was labour. 

I spent the next few hours pumping up and filling a birth pool in our living room, as well as intermittently holding Jas’ hand; she was slightly pre-occupied as well with ever-intensifying primal surges. Once I had the pool water temperature right, Jas slipped into the water for some pain relief, followed by myself shortly after to provide what little support I could as the natural forces overcame her. 

Two midwives and our doula were ever present with their fantastic assistance and encouragement. Jas and I were in the little pool for many hours, in which Jas slowly became exhausted with effort while I basically had a long bath. 

Eventually, a little boy was born in our home to the cheering of our assistants. It was a beautiful moment, easily eclipsing the excitement of the night before.  

Welcome, Zane.

The next chapter: Raising Zane

Week 38

Read the manual

There are some great parenthood books out there, and friends & family have been kind enough to give us some of them. One is called “The Baby Owner’s Manual”, and written like something you’d find in the glove box of a car, with marvellously mechanical chapters on “Home Installation” and “General Maintenance”. I think my favourite chapter could be “Activating Sleep Mode”.

On the topic of manuals, Sunday was “Manual Day” for me: I’d tasked myself with assembling the various contraptions we had accumulated for the bump, and working out how they worked. It made me realise that the bulk of the world’s engineers and designers are probably employed making devices for little people, all packaged with little manuals, as they are all a little challenging to get together. Our baby carrier, bottle steriliser and baby monitor all came in a confusing multitude of pieces; successfully putting them together provided the same satisfaction that I had after erecting three Ikea cupboards in our bedroom, without having any pieces left over.

There was another item I had to address: the breast pump. I took the box out of the cupboard, and looked at the device that looked something like a dwarf Dr Who dalek that’d had lip enhancement surgery. I recalled a story of a chap who was curious about his wife’s breast pump, and secretly tried it on himself. He received two shocks: (1) the sensation of his nipples being ripped off and (2) having his wife unexpectedly walk in on him.

I put the box back in the cupboard.

Week 37


Jas and the bub both want out now.

He’s trying to get out, but hasn’t quite worked it out yet. His downward pressure on Jas’ pelvis is palpable, most notably to Jas, of course. Looking at the belly profile, the bulge has shifted noticeably lower, almost kind of drooping, as though he is stretching his legs out and to try reach the floor from within, attempting escape the lazy way. I can just see him as a little person in his cot trying to get out by squeezing his legs through the slats, and wondering why he can’t get any further.

Jas’ manoeuvrability has declined considerably. Getting dressed is a time consuming effort, a major project, something that almost requires a small scaffolding team to complete. Putting shoes on is the most challenging, often requiring my assistance. When she does it herself it looks a bit like a Buddha doing yoga.

Hilariously, she has started to “beep, beep, beep” when she is reversing, warning me of the long load coming my way. One night she sat down at the dinner table, moved her seat as close to the table she could, looked at her distant meal, and then at the bulbous bump filling the expanse between her and her plate. “I am further from the table every time I have dinner!”

She still looks gorgeous though.

Week 36

My wife the penguin

We went out for a Friday Nepalese meal. Walking home it was cold – very cold – and the little one was competing with the curry for space and causing considerable discomfort for Jas. And she had to pee. Jas was torn between struggling to walk normally (well, “normal” for 36 weeks pregnant), and rushing home to a warm toilet: the result was a brisk, modified waddle, with short steps, her torso bobbing from side to side, her arms lightly flapping; she was wearing a dark jacket and a white beanie, and had there been a few snow drifts about, it would have looked as though I was walking hand-in-flipper with an Emperor Penguin. 

Sore fingers

I’m getting quite good at massaging. I think. I try to help out with Jas’ back discomfort as much as I can, and a 10 minute rub often helps...but – alas – I can’t do much more than 10 minutes. It’s tough on the hands, and my finger muscles don’t seem to be developing any strength. What do professional masseuses do? Are there any finger fitness classes out there? For a potentially long labour, with hours of massage ahead of me, I’m going to have to come up with a cunning plan. I wonder if I can get a special attachment for the electric hand mixer...

Week 35


I was having a few relaxing ales in a pub with Rob one evening when my phone went off. I’d started to be on high alert now that we were getting to the pointy end of the pregnancy, so I jumped a bit when the phone rang, though partly it was because my trousers had started vibrating. It was indeed Jas, and she was very excitable. “It’s come out!” I nearly fell off my stool. “What? What has?” What had I missed?! “Milk! I’ve got milk!” Now I’m normally one to get more excited about beer than milk, but this was indeed an interesting development. Jas had held a little baby earlier in the day; we’d heard stories about women spontaneously lactating when holding a hungry bub, but Jas’ leaky booby did seem to be pretty clear evidence of this phenomenon. When I ended the call it looked as though Rob was in mild shock after hearing the one-sided conversation...

A simple plan
      We needed a birth plan. I thought, no problem:
       1. Give birth (Jas)
       2. Open champagne (Richard)

Apparently more detail was required: At home or in hospital? A water birth? What drugs should we Jas have, if any? Should I cut the cord? Apparently you can buy birthing pools for home use. I imagined a spa-sized pool, at home, in our lounge room, in front of the TV...and wistfully thought that if I could find something to generate some bubbles, Saturday night watching football highlights with a beer could become a whole new experience....

We’re always asked “Have you thought of any names?” We have, but we’ve decided not to decide until we see the little one. We figure (and hope) that the choice will be obvious. If he is indeed a “he”, then when we meet him in person he might just look like a Cornelius, a Saffron or a Gustav. (Just joking mum...Cornelius really isn’t on our list.) Maybe we’ll read out a bunch of fancied names and see how the baby responds to each. I think a poo would mean “no”. We heard a very humorous story of a father who - already having a daughter called Heidi – argued with his wife about naming his newborn son Zeek, on the grounds that he wanted to be able to call his kids “Heid & Zeek”. Priceless.

Week 34

To see or not to see

Pregnancy is an experience of many firsts: some expected, some not. This week I saw a cervix. This was definitely in my “not expected” category of firsts. I’d happily accompanied Jas to an appointment that involved a check-up of sorts, and as attendants fussed with equipment, I sat by Jas’ side, held her hand and peered curiously at a blank TV monitor, not really expecting anything to appear on it. Just as I cracked a jolly humorous gag about the TV picking up Sky Sports, a small portion of Jas’ insides appeared on it, an area the size of a nail head filling the whole screen. I was a bit shocked: I’m not a fan of seeing internal body parts, but there on the screen was an internal body part. I’d never imagined what a cervix might look like, but if I had, I don’t think I would have come up with one of those pink spongy things you see in sea-side rock pools. I recalled a midwife describing it as the neck part of a roll-neck sweater, and it seemed pretty accurate actually, especially if the sweater was an incredibly bright pink colour and had no room for a neck (yet). I didn’t particularly want to look at it much but my eyes were unblinkingly transfixed, not quite believing what I was looking at. On the other side of it was our child.

The colour of poop

We went to a breastfeeding class. A two hour class. I wondered what would fill those two hours, thinking that breastfeeding was just a matter of popping a lactating nipple into a baby’s mouth. Surprisingly, there is a right way and many wrong ways of doing it. The class also included an exercise where we were given a doll, pretending it was a baby, and told what to do in a certain circumstances; for example, if the baby was screaming, wouldn’t sleep, and it was 2 am in the morning. For a few moments I felt panic well up, with a vision of me holding a bawling being out in front of me, thinking “Jeez, what do I do!?” This reality was not far away now.

We were also shown some of the signs of a healthy baby, one of which is the colour and consistency of its poo. Lovely. The teacher gave us some pictures of various shades of nappy fillings, none of which looked particularly healthy to me. She apologised for the printer not showing accurately the mustard colour of healthy baby output; I was quite thankful for the lack of vivid colours.

We also attended another antenatal class. TV has brainwashed us into thinking antenatal classes are where couples sit on yoga mats learning how to breathe. Not so. We’ve been breathing for quite some time now, thanks very much, so we’re pretty good at it. Our class started with some fun, with the guys and girls being separated into two groups to bond and get to know each other a bit. Each group had to write down on a large bit of paper things that the group had in common. With the chaps: “Beer?” “Yep.” “Football?” “Yep.” This was easy.

Nursing bras: how nifty are they, eh?!

Week 33

Birth Adventure

I’ve returned to reading about labour again. Now that I’m a little desensitised to the detail, I can appreciate what an amazing physiological feat childbirth is. It’s not just the sheer physical and mental exertion required for an act that barely compares to any other natural act the body performs; the synchronisation of all the different hormones, bodily chemicals, the changing muscles, organs, joints, all co-ordinating delicately with incredible precision to squeeze a little being through the various stages of labour is nothing short of astonishing. The muscles involved are powerful enough to spit the little one out across room, but obviously nature takes things at a more respectful pace. If the whole process was man-made, you’d need a team of air-traffic controllers to coordinate it all. The baby’s passage is a bit like an Indiana Jones film, one of those scenes where Indy is trapped somewhere deep and dark and has to escape through winding tunnels with tests and booby traps on the way, finally leaping out through an opening into the sunlight, all dirty and wet, gushing water following his escape. The baby won’t come out with a hat, though. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Womb”: in a birthing centre near you.

Complex as it sounds, it all just happens. The baby knows exactly what to do, negotiating the twists and turns through a choreography of various positions, as though he’s done it all before. I’ve been reading about the stages of birth, the phases within stages, the steps within phases. The baby instinctively knows it all without the aid of any memory or literature, yet – despite my reading – I still really don’t know what is going to happen. I might as well try to sail a boat from London to Sydney, in the dark, without a map. I know roughly where Sydney is, but the journey in between would be largely at the whim of nature with me just trying to stay afloat and keeping the boat pointing in roughly the right direction. I’ll just do what the midwife tells me. And make tea.

Dancing in the street

Jas has started to struggle a bit with walking. Or should I say cute waddling. The train station is normally a brisk three minute stroll from our house, but now it is a journey worthy of a cut lunch and a thermos of tea. During our weekend walk to the pool, Jas had to stop many times to bend over and stretch her back to ease the discomfort. On our return journey, at one point she stopped, doubled over and then did a bit of a waggle dance to help loosen her back. As she did this, out the corner of my eye I saw a young chap walking directly behind who we hadn’t noticed; he paused slightly at the sudden strange activity directly in front of him, then pretended he hadn’t seen a laden lady shaking her rear, performing something like an ostrich mating dance in the middle of the street, and walked on.

More shopping

It was time for the most difficult part of pregnancy: choosing a pram. We went to Kiddicare, a monster baby store up north. How wild our weekends have become! It had several acres of baby stuff, a daunting array of brand-marketed products. It was interesting to see that most expectant mum’s there had their other halves there as well. This was not lost on the designers of baby gear: these days much of it appeals to men. The car seats, for example: the names of two of the popular brands sounded a bit like a laxative; then there was Recaro, makers of fine sports car seats. Now, would fathers like their offspring plonked in a bright pink or green seat with a name reminiscent of medicine, or a black one made by a company renowned for speed? We got the Recaro.

It was the same with the prams. There was a boggling array of styles, but for me, I wasn’t going to spend a considerable wad of our cash to be seen pushing a transport device that looked like a zimmer frame, a pink chariot or an insect. I wanted one with sports wheels! Low profile! Racing stripes! We found one with all this, and one to which we could attach our Recaro car seat to!! Done deal.