The Birth

The outcome of a birth is, as you can see, beautiful. This is a picture I took of G at the hospital earlier on. She's still less than a day old, but has already shown a keen interest in sleeping, eating, filling her nappy and crying, usually in that order. We should be able to take her home tomorrow.

In the meantime I've got a confession to make. I had childbirth all wrong. Obviously I understood it was going to be painful for the mum, but all of those vaguely new-age books Mrs J had left lying around the flat (all featuring prominent references on the cover to the 'wonderful miracle' of childbirth) had lulled me into the idea that labour would be a serene progress with lots of soft lighting, meditation and optional incense. I now realise that notion to be complete bollocks.

Here's how it happened. Mrs J started having contractions at 2am on Tuesday. Sportingly she didn't wake me up, so I was more than a bit surprised when I went into the living room at 7 to her announcing matter-of-factly that she was having pains every four minutes and that our baby would be with us soon enough. We went to the hospital at 10ish, an examination confirmed that things were moving along well, and Mrs J got into the birthing pool at 2. She started having gas and air, and the contractions got stronger until she began pushing just after 4.

This was when the trouble started. Baby didn't want to come out. Mrs J had to have her waters broken for her in the pool, much to my irritation as I'd hoped baby would be born still in the waters and would look like a throbbing ectoplasm, which I could then burst to comic effect. The midwives could see the baby's head fairly clearly, which prompted the first of many calls of "you're doing really well, you're nearly there" which would become pretty familiar over the next few hours. At first Mrs J may actually have believed it, but she started to look at me and the midwives with increasing suspicion as she pushed and pushed, and not much happened.

At about 6 the baby's first Meconium (sqeamish? get over it, I had to) came out, which is generally considered A Bad Thing. This meant Mrs J had to leave the relatively comfortable surroundings of the birthing centre (I say relatively because the construction work taking place directly outside made it sound more like a dentist than a maternity unit) and head down to the proper ward. Mrs J was wheeled in, strapped onto a bed, put on a drip, attached to various beeping things, and told to sit quietly for half an hour. It was like going from Glastonbury to a Crimean War field hospital.

The drip helped baby move down a bit, and the midwives got Mrs J to start really going for it at about ten to 7. At this stage I was hoping it would be over straight away, because not only was she getting very tired (nearly three hours of pushing at this stage) but she was making some pretty frightening noises. As M&S might say, these aren't just screams, these are lung-bursting, deafness-inducing screams you can hear all the way down the corridor. Mrs J also wanted more pain relief by now, but the midwives told her to stick to the gas and air because anything stronger would slow baby up. This wasn't really what I wanted to hear.

As the father-to-be in this situation, there are two major problems. The first is that there is actually nothing you can do about it. I mean, nothing. There are only so many times "you're doing really well" is going to offer any genuine reassurance to your stricken wife, and that threshold had been reached some hours before. The second problem is that you know, she knows, the midwives know, everybody knows, that it is all your fault. I mean, all of this horror wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for you. There's really no getting round that. So, inevitably, you stand there watching it all unfold feeling pretty sheepish.

The final big push went on, and on, and on. It felt like hours, and I was only watching and trying to avoid getting my hand actually broken by Mrs J as she squeezed it while bearing down. Goodness knows how it felt from where she was lying, by now with her legs up and in stirrups. At least she was concentrating too hard to notice the midwives holding a lengthy discussion about where exactly the best place to cut her would be, while one held a frankly scary-looking pair of scissors. A doctor came in. There was some dark muttering about an emergency caesarian. Someone appeared in scrubs. A trolley was brought round outside.

And then, after hours of telling Mrs J that I could see the head, I realised that I actually could. Then more of it. Then, after the biggest scream of the lot which went right through me, I could see all of the head, squashed and purple. The whole baby was out next, just like that. Eighteen hours of labour and four hours of pushing for less than a couple of minutes of visible action at the end. As the midwives plonked baby onto the tummy of a very groggy and completely exhausted Mrs J, I confirmed it was a girl and cut the cord, spurting blood everywhere. I had a quick look around the room, and was reminded of the field hospital again. I spotted one of the midwives had brought in a kidney-shaped dish which could hold 800ml, and wondered to myself what it was for. A few minutes later I saw it again, full (and I mean full) of afterbirth. Where had it all come from? Well, I know where it came from, but, well, never mind.

Mrs J held our still-unnamed child for an hour or so, still using gas and air while the other bits they don't tell you about in the brochure took place. Then when I got to hold her, she immediately started crying, which I have to admit I found pretty funny. She settled down soon enough though. I couldn't help but notice she was heavy, and had a big head (which had apparently caused most of the problems) and big feet, so when the scales were wheeled in it was no surprise she tipped them at 9lbs 15oz, definitely a cruiserweight at least. We had a short chat and agreed to give her the name that had made it to the top of our much-discussed shortlist.

I stayed around for a few hours then went home to phone the relatives and drink a bit of ale and a bit of whisky. I went back today for five hours, and both Mrs J and G were asleep for most of the time, but that's hardly surprising. If I was in Mrs J's position I'd sleep for a week. I don't think she'll let me forget all that pain and effort in a hurry. I certainly don't think she'll ever let G forget it. The first day of her life, and we've already got a story that we can embarrass her with for years, happy days.

The Big Announcement

So, it's a girl after all. Our daughter was born just after 8pm on Tuesday 29th September 2009, at Hope Hospital in Salford. She's 9lbs 15oz, which by any standards is a big girl. Mrs J certainly learnt the hard way through 18 hours of labour, including four hours of pushing, with only gas and air to help. Although very tired when I left them a little while ago, they're both doing fine. I'll get round to telling more of the story over the next few days, but for now this picture will have to do. As you can see, I'm already taking this parenting business very seriously indeed.

We've given our daughter a pretty name which begins with G, so from now on in this blog she's going to be known as G. Which is at least better than Bump or Firstborn. In the meantime, here's another photo showing what I'm doing right now.

I think they still call it wetting the baby's head. Cheers.

And On The Eighth Day, Baby Rested Some More

Baby is now eight days late. One of the statistics I've read (there are lots of these, and most are probably made up, but still) confidently states that eight days overdue is the average for first-time mums. But our little one's going to have to reveal a previously-hidden desire to hurry up and get out if she's going to make it in time to prove that dodgy fact. Maybe it's better that she waits another day - after all who wants to be average? - but I think Mrs J would be happier if junior got on with it.

The picture shows Mrs J slicing a loaf of bread I baked yesterday. Baking your own bread is one of many things you suddenly find time to do when you're hanging around waiting for a baby to arrive. Others include finally getting on with that book you've been reading for ages, drinking a lot of coffee, and significantly improving your ranking on the Xbox live cricket game. I suppose it's good to get this sort of thing done now, because we won't have time for any of it soon enough. Well, apart from the coffee, which I think is probably mandatory for new parents.

If nothing happens in the meantime, we've got another appointment at the hospital on Wednesday morning, to see if everything's still as it should be. Then there'll be a scan on Friday. And if there's still nothing going on after the weekend, by which time baby will be two weeks overdue, we're probably going to have to get her induced. So at least the waiting won't go on too much longer.

Propping Up The Bar

We've now reached five days overdue and there's still no sign of the little one. Much to my surprise, Mrs J suggested a trip to the pub. Her hip's still playing up a bit so we didn't go far, just a few hundred yards up Oldham Street to The Castle. Before we left I wondered what would happen if her waters broke while we were in the pub. Apparently if it happens in Asda, M&S or various other shops, they give you some vouchers. I don't really know why they do this, after all surely it would cost them to clear up the mess of the broken waters, so I don't understand why these shop owners would actually give money away.

Anyhow, no matter how doubtful I was about that, I suppose it was worth a try. A lifetime's supply of Old Tom, which they serve at The Castle, would go down a treat. Sadly, it didn't happen, although I was tempted to knock over Mrs J's Diet Coke (yes social services, it was a Diet Coke) and try to trick everyone, although the pub was so busy I don't think too many people would have noticed.

Earlier on tonight, I emptied most of our spicerack into the latest of our long series of curries. Still nothing. I think we've proved that the theory about curries bringing on labour is, to put it charitably, nonsense. Was that whole rumour started by the curry industry in a bid to boost sales? I think we should be told.

Curry For Lunch, Again

The baby is now three days overdue, but there's no sign of the little one appearing. We went along to the hospital earlier and the folks there were happy enough with both Mrs J and junior, so there won't even be any discussion of inducing baby for at least another week. Which means it's back to the traditional ways of hurrying nature along, which include curry.

I like curry. Mrs J likes curry. But our lunch today, which can be seen in the picture, was our fifth curry in a week. I would have thought we'd have got bored of it by now. But our legendary local cheap curry place, This and That, has a plate-of-rice-and-three-curries deal for less than a fiver, so there's enough variety to keep us going. The lamb and lentils is the best one, although Mrs J saved her dollop of it until last only to discover she was full by the time she got round to it. She still managed it though, must have been baby's portion.

Due Date, But No Sign Of Baby

Baby was supposed to arrive today. These things aren't an exact science, and apparently only 5% of little ones are actually born on their due date, but even so this is a day that's been staring at us from the calendar for months, covered in red circles and exclamation marks. So it's a bit of a shame that it's been an anti-climax. I'd kind of hoped that baby would be born with an inherent sense of punctuality. However, as the photo demonstrates, she remains resolutely inside Mrs J's tummy, so it looks like she's inherited her dad's tardiness if nothing else.

There were plenty of moments this weekend when I could see my future life unspooling before me, though. In the old days, and providing I wasn't at work, by 3 o'clock on a Saturday I'd have spent several hours surviving on little more than paracetamol and bacon sandwiches, and would have reached the sofa in time to spend a couple of hours with Jeff Stelling firing largely meaningless football statistics at me. Yesterday at 3 o'clock I was in Mothercare. Then we went on to B&Q. Today I watched the first half of the Manchester derby, but we were on our way to Ikea during the second half, although I did manage to make the process of parking the car last an inordinately long time so I was able to listen to the barely believable end of the game on the radio.

I took a close interest in the United-City match partly because I like football, but mostly because I've always had a vague sense that it's important to know about what's going on in the city where you live, and that includes football. I was in Leeds during their run to the Champions League semi-final in 2001, and it definitely gave the place a lift. There was an exciting atmosphere around the city on match days, and you could feel it in Manchester today. It was certainly different to the derby that took place the day after I first moved to Manchester in 2006, a match which probably nobody remembers much about. City were pretty rubbish back then, and nobody had any idea that soon they'd be the richest club around thanks to mega-rich backers from Abu Dhabi. From now on, it's likely both United and City will be among the biggest and best teams in the world, which gives Manchester a prestige lacking in similar cities such as, well, Leeds come to think of it. If we end up living either in or around Manchester for years to come, our daughter's going to have an exciting place to grow up in. Whether she likes football or not.

The First Post

And so it begins. The picture is of me, Mrs J and the bump containing our first child, who is due to arrive any day now. Apparently it's a girl, hence the name of this blog, so if it's a little boy the joke's on me. If everything goes well, within a few months Mrs J will be back at work and I'll be taking care of baby as a stay-at-home dad. In this blog I'm going to be writing about how we all get on.

There are lots of reasons why I've decided to do this blog. It'll be a place where I can record events in our child's life so we don't forget about them. It'll also be somewhere for us to post photos, which should mean we don't irritate our friends by putting thousands of more-or-less identical pictures on Facebook and clogging up their news feeds. And hopefully a few people will enjoy reading about what we get up to.

That's all for now really. Back to waiting for The Stork.