Tuesday 6 September 2011


Teething gets the blame for a lot of things in our house. Marty won’t settle at night? Teething! Marty’s developed a rash! Teething. Searching for a cause of the London riots or pondering the rise of the Arab spring? Here's a thought...Teething!
My mum recently kicked a lot of this into touch. Not because she has a finger on the pulse of Tottenham ‘youf’ or a deep understanding of the political picture in the Middle East but because she was privy to a surprising bit of genetics; no member of our family has ever teethed until they were close to one year old!
So there you go! Marty has been crying because he’s seven months old and wants the world to know it. This rash is an allergy to bubble bath. The London riots were a result of too many misspent youths being separated from a £100 pair of Nikes by nothing more than a pane of glass and an ASBO. And the Arab spring was a caused by people waking up to the idea that having a say in the running of your own country was probably not a bad thing after all.
And just when we got our heads around this what happened? Yup, Marty sprouted two teeth!
I can’t claim to be able to remember my own experience of teething but I’d have thought that once the teeth had broken through the gums the pain would abate. Alas, judging by the decibel count, Marty seemingly disagrees on this point! He’s been crying the house down this evening despite two, clear, pearly white dentures.
I suppose they could just be the vanguard and umpteen teeth are even now forcing their way through his tiny gums. Certainly his heartfelt sobs would suggest that something is amiss in the dentile arena; although so many things are changing right now it would be a brave parent who’d pin it all down to one event.
Anyway, it looks like my mum’s theory has gone the way of ‘Cold Fusion’; a laudable dream crushed by the fierce heat of reality.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Cot Death

On me back, John!
As the birth of young Marty loomed Leanne began preparing the surveillance apparatus we would require to ensure Marty’s survival in the rough and tumble world of the nursery. Apparently we would need a movement monitor, definitely a sound monitor and most probably a CCTV video camera. I dare say that, if left to her own devices, Leanne would have added armed guards, watch towers, an air ambulance on permanent stand-by and a dedicated hot line to the local A&E.
And why were we doing all of this? Because of ‘Cot death’, or ‘SIDS’ as they prefer to call it these days.
To be honest this is something I’d rather just ignore and pretend isn’t real but the sad reality is that a small number of babies die each year and no one really knows why. Rather than just say “Sorry we really haven’t the foggiest idea” doctors feel obliged to give the unknown a name “Sudden infant death syndrome”, for example, and then spend decades coming out with conflicting advice on what to do and not do about something that they may, or may not, know anything about. Of course the media then get in on the act, confusing and misrepresenting facts as the feeling takes them, until every parent in the land is thoroughly terrified.
We really did try to fight the paranoia that this all brings but we still ended up with a motion monitor that, quite literally, listens to every breath young Marty breathes and flashes up a cheerfully green light every time he makes the slightest of movements.
All the talk around SIDS really annoys me. You hear people talking about it as if they know what it is. They don’t! By definition it’s the death of an infant by an unknown means. Even giving it a name is misleading in that it implies that there is a single condition with a single cause, which is almost certainly not the case. Another problem is that most of the advice comes from ‘observation’ rather than experimentation; they observe that children sleeping on their backs don’t die from unknown causes as often as children sleeping on their front so the advice goes out that all children should now sleep on their backs.
At first sight this seems sane advice but it isn’t. For example, here’s another observation: “People with coughs are far more likely to die in a domestic fire.” This is a fact. So what do you do? Do you start taking cough medicine before you go to sleep at night? Do you fill your home with throat calming sprays and balms? No doubt this is the advice the media would be giving us if armed with our little "fact". But they'd be wrong, not because our observation is wrong, it isn't, but because what we observed is not a cause, it's an effect. The truth is that people who cough all the time invariably do so because they smoke and wandering around your home with a naked flame grasped in your hand increases the odds of you starting a lethal fire. The sane advice is to stop smoking but that wasn’t what was observed so that’s not the advice given.
According to the statisticians, the chances of your baby dying of SIDS is far greater if you are a young mother who is skint and hasn’t got a qualification to her name. This is a statistical fact and is utter bollocks because being poor and not having a GCSE (or whatever they call them these days) does not increase the risk of SIDS. However, bringing your child up in a small, unhealthy, damp ridden house probably does, and guess who lives in such places? Yup, young, poor mothers with little education.
Of course some people will point out that when New Zealand started asking all mothers to put their babies to sleep on their backs, the incidence of SIDS went down. This is true, but then it was going down before they started to put babies on their backs.
A comparison comes from the plumbing & heating industry. When ‘Corgi’ came into force to regulate gas engineers, deaths due to faulty gas appliances dropped dramatically; ergo Corgi saved lives! Well you might be right, but you probably aren’t. Corgi came into being at much the same time as room-sealed boilers hit the market. These are 1000’s of times safer than the old boilers and it is almost certainly this innovation that caused the dramatic drop off in gas related deaths.
The same may well be true with putting babies on their backs, in that poor mattresses might have been the root cause and changes in the design and the materials they were made from meant that the incidence of SIDS was already dropping.
Finally, the problem with putting babies on their backs is that they really don’t like it. They sleep less and they don’t sleep as well. As a result early development is slower when compared to babies who sleep on their fronts. So how did the medical fraternity choose to tackle this fact? Well the choice was to tell the majority of parents who listened to your advice that their child was now developmentally retarded... or just redefine normal! So that's what they did; “normal” development is now slower than it used to be and what were once regarded as “normal” babies sleeping on their fronts are now considered “advanced”! I kid you not!
So at the end of all this we’re left knowing as little about what to do and not to do as we were when we started. And why am I wittering on about all of this? Well, last week, at 4am the monitoring device keeping an eye on Marty went off and the alarm started screaming out through the night.
Leanne leapt out of bed and then spent what seemed like half an hour trying to turn the bedroom light on - although it was probably no more than 10 seconds. Having done that she stood frozen at the foot of the cot whilst I yelled “Poke him! Poke him!”
Fortunately, before we were both wholly over run with panic, Marty farted, said “Ooooh” and kicked a leg out and from this we figured that he was probably still alive.
What had happened was that he’d managed to work his way to the very top of the cot and then turn himself around so he was sideways to the cot itself. This meant he was no longer lying on the monitor and so the alarm sounded.
When I asked Leanne why she froze she replied that she hadn’t froze, she was merely trying to figure out how to check that he wasn’t dead without waking him up!

Sunday 19 June 2011

Father's Day

My life as a fishing float
Well I have just experienced my first ever Father’s Day, and jolly good it was too. In time honoured tradition I wore a t-shirt with “I’m the Daddy” writ large upon it, whilst Marty wore a top with “My Daddy rocks” scrawled across it for the world to read. Armoured with such announcements we spent the day forlornly looking for mushrooms and then far more successfully swimming in the local baths.

This was the first time I’d ever been to the local pool but I suspect it will now become a regular Sunday afternoon fixture as Marty seemed to really enjoy himself, despite the fact that he was wearing a bright blue suit stuffed full of polystyrene that made him look like a fishing float with red hair. I’m not too sure of this ‘float suit’ from a safety point of view as I got the impression it could just as easily float him upside down as the right way up but we survived intact regardless.

So what else has been happening? Well Marty has pretty muched doubled in size over the last 4 months and, judging by the amount of drool he secretes every minute of the day, most of this gain has been taken up by enormous great saliva glands that must now occupy at least 40% of his total body weight. If you pick him up for more than 10 minutes you have to wring out your shirt afterwards and we can’t go anywhere without a collection of absorbent cloths to soak up the trails of slobber that he leaves behind him. It’s like living with a bloody great snail.

The other bizarre aspect of babies is the effect altitude has on them; they cry, you pick them up and they stop. You sit down with them and they start crying again! Nothing but nothing has changed other than their height above the ground.
Spot the difference
With this in mind my first theory was that babies have an inbuilt altitude sensor that stops them crying whenever they exceed an altitude of 5ft. Then I remembered a long haul flight where the kid in the seat behind me cried for a solid eight hours despite the plane maintaining a steady 35,000 ft. Then I remembered that that was a pressurised cabin and that he’d have probably stopped crying if I’d just opened a window... and there was a point in the flight where I was sorely tempted to do just that.

Friday 3 June 2011

Car Booting for baby

I am cute. You will do my bidding

I must admit that when people said that having a baby would change my life I never realised they were referring to car boot sales.
Before Marty’s arrival I’d never been a fan of ‘car booting’. Wandering a field filled with al fresco tat struck me as an utter waste of time, the middle class equivalent of scouring the municipal tip; same garbage, higher prices.
However, I have now come to realise that, whilst there are still far too many people trying to off load the sort of stuff that any right thinking person would have consigned to the bin a long time ago, there is also a hard core of parents running what amounts to a ‘swap shop’. It’s brilliant!
It’s not that I don’t like buying new stuff but the fact is that they grow out of things so fast you’ve barely had time to get your new purchase out of the box before it’s redundant.
For example, we want something to keep Marty upright. He’s started sitting up now but he’s yet to develop anything remotely like a sense of balance, so he needs some sort of support. Well they do a rubber ring affair for just this eventuality and how much does it cost in the shops? £15! For a rubber ring! A rubber ring he’ll be able to fit in for about 3 weeks! So we’re off to the car boot sale to see if we can pick one up for a fiver.
It’s the same with shoes. A baby shoe can set you back a small fortune so we’re buying second hand. After all three month old babies are not renowned for their long distance treks so I think it’s safe to say that the shoes will be in decent shape.
Actually, when I think about it, why are we buying him shoes in the first place? Surely this is like buying your goldfish a bike? We might as well go the whole hog and buy him a set of hiking boots and a rucksack for all the good it will do him.
Aside from car boot sales what else has been happening? Well Marty can now giggle! He’s been able to ‘Gii’ and ‘Ooo’ and ‘Aah’ for a while now but he couldn’t manage the true, full on, ‘giggle’. Well now he can and I must say, it’s been worth the wait.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Changing times

Changing times
Well at 15 weeks Marty got his 15 minutes of fame, or at least 7 of them.

In the meantime, his mother got to be eloquent on the telly and I got to look and sound like a right numpty. I was going to post the links to this televisual experience but it would appear that the news teams have moved on and young Marty’s brief flirtation with fame is at an end.
So aside from getting to say “goo” to the nation what has been happening? Well not much to be frank.
Don’t babies develop slowly!
I’m not sure what I was expecting by 3 months. I was fairly certain my car was safe and that he wouldn’t be asking to borrow the keys any time soon but I did think he’d maybe be crawling by now and uttering the occasional word, but not a bit of it.
Just to check that we weren’t bringing up a dullard I went on-line to check for Autism and other such things. I'm not sure it was the best of ideas as the advice is hardly definitive and I was still left with "Hey, Up! He's not looking at me! I've been usurped by the curtains as a point of interest! Call the doctor!" 
I think we're alright though as, whilst he might have an unnautral affinity for the drapes, he is at least making lots of noise, and apparently that's a good thing. From what I read, if your baby makes no discernable voluntary noises within the first 12 months you either have an issue with autism.... or you need to get your hearing checked.
So, aside from my own paranoia, Marty is getting on fine, in fact he has made some major breakthroughs. Only last week he suddenly stopped waggling his arms and legs around in a wholly random fashion and settled down to very carefully stare at his hand.
You could see the soliloquy running through his head “Is this a hand which I see before me, the fingers waggling? Come, let me clutch thee!
This lasted a good few minutes and since then he has been actively reaching out to grasp things, only stopping to stare at his digits and run through another Shakespearean monologue.
At the weekend I was sure he was going to be left handed as he was reaching for everything with his left hand. Just to throw my theory out of the window he’s now started reaching for things with his right hand. So at least he knows he’s got two, which can only be a good thing.
All is also improving on the fatherhood front. I have finally managed to get him into those suits which only come with buttons and few, if any, poppers. What’s more we managed this without the shedding of tears by either party. In fact we’ve got into quite a morning routine: I pick him up and let him have a good stretch. Then I lay him down on his changing mat and give him a few moments to stare at himself in the wardrobe mirror. Satisfied that he still exists I now open the nappy to see what the damage is, at which point Marty breaks into a huge grin and gurgles like a good ‘un during the entire nappy changing routine.
I guess it’s only right that he should enjoy people wiping his arse. There is after all only a very brief moment in life when all concerned get a genuine joy out of this.

Thursday 19 May 2011

IVF and eggs

An oeuf is an oeuf
Well it looks as if Marty is going to have to learn to write pretty soon just to sign autographs.
Yup, we appear to have become famous, or at least far more famous than we ever were... which wasn’t difficult on account of us not being famous at all.
It all boils down to the wonders of IVF and egg white. Not content with just being the base ingredient of the culinary wonder that is meringue, eggs have branched out into the medical world and become the prime component in the creation of young Marty, or ‘Chicken boy’ as I might start to call him.
It all started when we tried, and failed, to have a baby. So we tried a bit more... and failed a bit more. So we had some tests and, sadly, these came back with the most damning verdict of all; ‘unknown infertility’. This was bad because it wasn’t an answer; I was fertile, Leanne was fertile, it should be working for us but it wasn’t and no one knew why.
So what do you do? If they’d told me:
Look, your balls have fallen off, we're all dreadfully sorry about it but we can’t find them anywhere so we're afraid you can’t have kids’
At least I’d have had a definite answer and we’d have had to move on in our lives.
After all, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of people in the world, we still had each other and, if the worst came to the worst, we could always borrow a niece or nephew to look after us in our dotage.
But a diagnosis of ‘unknown’ just leaves you with frustrated hope and, with something as emotively primal as having a baby, you can’t just turn your back on this hope.
So we tried IVF and were shocked when it failed. So we tried again and were utterly devastated when that also failed. So Leanne hit Google and started to find out as much as she could about the subject and what came up time after time was ‘immunology issues’, specifically the book by Alan E. Beer "Is your body baby friendly". Sadly Mr Beer is no longer with us, but Marty and many other youngsters are here because of him.
So off we went to the experts at CARE and we were told that this was an area they were currently working on and we could have some ‘Chicago tests’ if we wanted. So we did the tests and they came back saying that Leanne and I shared some common genes that might make it more difficult for the embryo to defend itself in the womb. On top of this Leanne also had a very active immune system and that would make it still harder for the embryo to win through.
Finally! We had some definite causes and, hopefully, a solution that wouldn’t require us to remortgage the house.
And this is where the egg white came in; apparently it works by helping to suppress the body’s immune system and, almost as importantly, it achieves this cheaply and with few, if any, adverse reactions.
Well there we go; eat a couple of extra large omelettes, add a bit of mayo and finish with a baked Alaska for desert and Leanne would be pregnant before you could say ‘More please sir’.
Obviously it was a little more complicated than that... but not by much; Leanne had to have an ‘intralipid’ drip just before egg transfer and a second one once we knew she was pregnant.. and that was it! Bob’s your uncle, Marty’s your son.
The tale of our endeavours seems to have interested the press, with first our local newspaper, the ‘Grantham journal’, running a Mother’s Day story and now the Mail on-line taking an interest. And today we got a call from Central News asking if we’d like to be on the telly!
One of the other medical issues with all this is that, if Leanne had got pregnant naturally, there’s a good chance that her immune system would have started to attack the foetus and she’d have miscarried – or at least have been at high risk of a miscarriage.
Which makes me wonder if this is a possible treatment for some of those women who have had multiple miscarriages?

Tuesday 17 May 2011

The madness....

Being a parent is like moving into a new flat only to discover that your flat mate owns the entire collected works of “Black lace” and isn’t afraid to play them. In this instance it isn’t ‘Agadoo’ blaring out through the night. Oh no, it’s far, far worse... it’s “Baa, baa black sheep”... and what's more you can't pack your bags and find another flat!
Marty loves lying on the floor and looking up at his mobile as blue frogs and yellow monkeys slowly pass by, and I for one do not have a problem with this. Sadly, the utter bastards that make these mobiles can’t leave it at oddly coloured fabric creatures. Oh no! They have to go and add music. So, whilst Marty waves his arms and gurgles incoherently, his attentive parent is driven slowly up the wall by the vile hordes of the Fisher price orchestra and their reggae rendition of ‘Baa, baa bloody black sheep’  
What is it with nursery rhymes that makes them stick to the inside of your brain like congealed porridge? I’ve spent the last week getting on with my work, minding my own business, only to discover that I’ve been humming “We went to the animal fair...” to anyone who cared to listen.
I’ve got a theory that, whilst “Mummy” and “Daddy” might be the first words your child actually speaks, the impetus behind this urge to talk is the need to scream out:
“In the name of all that is holy, will you please, please, turn that bloody music off before I throttle you with my rattle.”
Mind you, I could be wrong. In fact it has to be said that Marty seems a little less than delighted when I turn the music off in an attempt to stop my brains running out through my ears.
I suspect that ear plugs might feature large in my future.... that or a padded cell.

Monday 9 May 2011

Going green

It's not easy being green
One of my concerns when Marty arrived was how “green” we were going to be as parents. I just don’t like ‘disposable’ whether it’s razor blades or shopping bags; you use it a few times, throw it away, and it spends the next 1000 years in a land fill site. It might provide endless fascination for future archaeologists but it's astonishingly wasteful.
That said we now have a poo-machine in the family; a tiny creature cunningly designed by nature to defecate and urinate on an almost continuous basis. It is not unknown for me to change a nappy and have barely got the new one on before he’s farted for Britain and I’m fetching a replacement.

At the current rate Marty is going to need his own Landfill site before the year is out and sadly he is not alone; in the USA they go through 20 billion disposable diapers a year! Not only is that a very big number all by itself but it can take 500 years for a disposable nappy to degrade. 500 lots of 20 billion! That's almost as much as a bankers bonus! All in all, if we don't change our ways we're looking at our children growing up in a world of nappy mountains – the vast windswept 'Pampers' to the south, the rugged 'Huggies' range to the north.
But I do not want to spend the next 3 years – or how ever long this is going to last – knee deep in poo-plastered cotton towelling and living in a house that smells of week old urine.
So what do you do? Well, as Kermit said "It's not easy being green", whilst there are a number of ‘green’ nappies out there - most of which involve a washable outer covering and a disposable liner, some of which are even flushable or compostable - they are not cheap. Some just plainly cost a fortune, others aren't too bad but do involve a fairly large initial outlay and, when you’re as stony broke as we are, that’s a bit of a barrier.
Why is it that the leading manufacturers can’t produce a nappy that’s biodegradable and cheap? Surely making something out of a petroleum product is expensive and making it out of a recycled, degradable product is cheap?.... Obviously it isn’t but it certainly should be and I suspect it would be if the big manufacturers pulled their collective fingers out and actually took a proactive lead on these matters.
The other green area we’re going to be looking at over the coming months is food; do you buy baby food or do you make your own from organic foods? Fortunately we both like cooking so I think we’ll at least try the cook-your-own stuff.
On the organic front you only have to look at the amount of pesticides and heavy metals most of us now carry in our bodies to realise that it’s probably a good idea to buy organic when it comes to the little fella.
I dare say Jeremy Clarkson would disagree but then he’s become so mutated by petrol and pesticides that he now talks out of his arse, and apparently has done for some time!

Monday 2 May 2011


Bathtime - 5 days
One of the things drummed into me as Marty’s birth approached was that you have to make sure you don’t miss a minute of it because it all goes by so fast and they change all the time.
To be honest I largely ignored this advice putting it down as overly romantic nonsense from dewy eyed parents. However, it has to be said that they have a point.
I was only thinking the other day that Marty hadn’t changed that much in the few short months he’d been with us. Then I came across a photo of him having a bath aged 5 days and another of him in the same bath aged 10 weeks and it has to be said that, either the bath has shrunk dramatically, or Marty has almost doubled in size. In fact compare the two photos and he’s changed almost out of recognition; he’s filled out, he’s changed colour, his mouth and eyes have changed shape, the list goes on.
I have heard tell that this is not unusual. Apparently when babies are born they are supposed to look very like their fathers. The idea behind this is that if dad recognises some of himself in the baby he’s more likely to hang around and go hunting on mother and babies behalf. Of course this is utter claptrap; mother is more than capable of hunting in ASDA on her own and if Marty was supposed to be a dead ringer for me he’d have had no hair and been born clasping a pint glass.

Bathtime - 10 weeks

But it does explain why babies seem to change so much in the first few months. Mind you, being squeezed out of a tube that is patently not large enough for the purpose is bound to have an effect on your looks. Maybe Marty’s current mien reflects the fact that he’s had time to ‘relax’ now that he’s not being squeezed from all sides?
Other changes have been equally subtle. When he first arrived he’d move but the movements were slight and, aside from his moro reflex, fairly slow. These days he moves around in his cot like a disco dancer who’s drank one crate of Red bull too many; his arms are waggling, his legs are pumping, he’s gurgling and gooing. Give him a gold medallion and a stick-on hairy chest and he could be mistaken for a Bee-Gee.

Monday 25 April 2011


At the grand old age of ten weeks it seemed that Marty had finally got over the throes of colic and that normal volume had been resumed. Yes, he still had a bit of wind, but no more than his dad and it didn’t seem to be causing any undue discomfort.
And so peace rained upon our household, the sun came out, the birds sang at the bottom of our garden and I began to think that this parenthood lark was a bit of a breeze.... and then Marty had his first course of injections.
These are designed to protect him against those diseases that once swept this country and which still kill and main across much of the world; diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, haemophilus influenza, Pneumococcal infection and meningitis.
Surprisingly enough there are people out there who seem to think that these are all just petty childhood diseases; they’re not and you must be a complete loon if you opt to not take these free nhs vaccinations.
So I was perfectly happy to see Marty protected. Sadly Marty didn’t share my enthusiasm.
In fairness to the little lad, the needle was about the length of his hand and there were two of them. Despite this he was still grinning toothlessly as the nurse approached and I think we were all a little surprised when he took the first injection quite calmly.... then his little chin started to shake, he turned bright red, his eyes closed and all hell broke loose. He was screaming the house down as the second needle plunged into his thigh but still managed to go up a few octaves and gain at least a dozen decibels. It took about 5 minutes before his heartfelt sobs gave way to sleepy murmurs and we took the opportunity to pack him back into the car and get him home.
I assumed that would be that but later that evening he developed a slight fever, bad enough to register on the thermometer and to cause him to start crying his little eyes out. Fortunately we’d been advised to buy some Calpol.
Apparently this used to be the wonder cure for all baby ill’s; not only did it stop them crying but it also sent them to sleep! Sadly, parents started over medicating and prams throughout the world became filled with semi comatose zombie babies. So much so, that these days the somnambulant side of Calpol has been removed. Shame really, but at least the pain killing element seems to work really well. We gave a ½ teaspoon to Marty and 15 minutes later calm had been restored and he was grinning at the world once more.
The only downside to Calpol is the name; I keep getting it mixed up with Calgon. I guess there’s no real danger in this, it just means that if Marty is still crying after his medication, we’ll know he’s free of limescale.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Is my son a genius?

Genius in action
At some point or other every parent asks themselves the question "Is my child a genius?". Other popular queries are: “Is he going to be the next messiah?”, “Will he make a billion and look after his parent’s in their dotage?” and “How the hell did that come out of him?”, .
From the very moment of Marty’s birth I’ve been keeping an eye out for something ‘special’; a sudden and miraculous parting of the River Witham perhaps, or possibly the wondrous ability to turn his dad’s home-made wine into something vaguely drinkable?
Sadly, nothing so far - unless you include the entire house shaking when he farts. In fact violent seismic activity is a worrying theme of Marty’s arrival, with first Christchurch and then Japan suffering in rapid succession. Fortunately the Great Quake of Grantham has failed to materialise so I think it’s safe to say that Marty is in no way involved.
So Marty seems to be keeping his supernatural skills under wraps at the moment, but what about his brain? Is he going to be a genius? Is he going to solve the world’s energy problems with a single sheet of mathematical squiggles? Will he invent a cure for cancer? Will he be able explain the time paradox which results in the local pub’s clock being ten minutes ahead of everyone else’s?
Well apparently the way to ensure all of this is to play classical music to your child. The toy companies have got wind of this with the result that almost every baby mobile now plays something vaguely classical; ours plays a selection of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and, for some inexplicable reason, Bony-M and a reggae version of ‘Baa, baa black sheep’.
The thing is, I am sure that the benefit of classic music is derived from the fact that you’re listening to an entire orchestra; a vast array of different instruments, weaving in and around each other, rising and falling, to create a single syncopated whole. This is rather lost by these baby toys which have condensed the entire works of Mozart to a series of “Dink, dink, dink, dink...” noises... although it has to be said that this does improve the works of Bony-M.
So, following the appliance of Mozart and his mates, have we noticed any great leap forward in the brain department? Well Marty can focus his eyes, he can smile delightfully, he can wave his arms around in a fairly random fashion and he’s learnt to shout out the word “Ooo” when he’s feeling particularly pleased with himself.
This is possibly not the fastest of starts - he’s certainly still lagging behind the dog - but it’s progress... although I’m not planning on putting him in for his A levels anytime soon.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Baby clothes

The ears have it.
Dressing baby is a time for fun... and anxiety. The fun comes with watching your wriggling little worm, gurgle, grin and squeak as you work him into that morning’s outfit. The angst comes with the clothes, or rather the sleeves attached to the clothes.
Marty looked so ludicrously fragile when he was first born that I feared he’d fall apart if exposed to a stiff breeze. With this in mind, the idea of feeding his tiny fingers and skinny little arms through a 3 inch cotton tube and expecting them to emerge unscathed at the other end seemed highly improbable.
Given my own way, I’d have resolved this problem by dressing Marty exclusively in short sleeved shirts, with perhaps a shawl and a bobble hat for the colder days. Alas, “having my own way” is now a phrase from the halcyon days of my youth, a collection of words that has no meaning in these modern day's of parenthood... Sob!
As it is, babies are far more robust than they appear and Marty’s career as a pianist is still on the cards, despite my dressing skills. It’s also been helped by the “popper”, a clever little metallic device that allows clothes to be ‘flat-packed’ and then reassembled around the child, as and when the need arises. They’re astonishingly useful, so much so that you wonder why they make so few appearances in the adult clothing range. Although, on further reflection, they wouldn’t work if you had a beer belly and also enjoyed standing up and sitting down.
Anyway, I digress. What I was really trying to write about were those clothes that have cute and cuddly written all over them – often literally – but are neigh on impossible to fit a baby into without some sort of child equivalent of the shoe-horn.
We have one outfit in particular. I just know Marty will look gorgeous once I’ve managed to get him into it, so I keep on trying, and every time I end up with a screaming baby who has one arm in, one leg out and who’s face disappeared over 5 minutes ago and is probably  mid-outfit by now.
The dip-sticks who designed this suit seemed so transfixed by the design itself that they forgot completely about the poor buggers who’d have to get their babies into it. It comes with two little poppers at the neck and a few at the bottom, and that’s it!
So, you can either try to feed a nappy encased arse through the neck and work baby down that way, or you can feed the babies face up through the bottom of the outfit and see how far that gets you. I’ve tried and failed at both, which is just as well as I have no idea how I’d ever get his arms down the sleeves if I did manage to get Marty into the suit in the first place.
And while we’re talking clothes, what’s with the ears?
I get the impression that parents look down upon their little bundle of joy and have the following conversation:
       “Oh! Doesn’t he look gorgeous!”
       “Yup, as cute as a button!”
       “Yesss.... Cute but... well, you know, not REALLY cute.”
       “I know, I know. It’s the ears isn’t it?”
       “I don’t know why but they just look so ‘insufficient’ “
       “If only he had ears like a baby bear.”
       “Or big floppy ones like a rabbit.”
       “I know! Let's buy him an outfit with big ears built into it.”
       “Brilliant, no one will notice they’re ‘falsies’ and maybe someday he’ll grow some
       huge floppy ears of his very own.”

And so it is that virtually every baby hat or hood has ears built into it.
Bizarre or what!

Friday 8 April 2011

The first few months

Spot the difference
In the run up to Marty's arrival one of the joys of Leanne's life was to lie on the sofa of an evening and "Bump watch". This involved interrupting my TV viewing pleasure with constant nudges and cries of “Look, look, she’s moving” – for some inexplicable reason we had it in our head that “he” was a “she”. Only very rarely could I discern the difference between the ‘bump’ moving and Leanne passing wind, so I rapidly lost interest.

Then the big day arrived and ‘Bump’ became Marty and life became distinctly more interesting, and this was despite all my mates telling me that babies in the first six months were really boring.

To be honest I can see where they’re coming from; Marty’s conversation is at best limited, he can’t sing, he can’t dance and the less said about his social skills the better. All in all he’s an ideal candidate for X-Factor.

But there’s still a world of fascination about him. Over the last few weeks he’s learnt to go “goo, goo, goo” and generally gurgle with contentment in such as fashion as to melt the hardest of hearts.

After four weeks, if you tickled him under the chin you would be rewarded with a huge toothless grin and if you watched him when he was asleep you’d see him do the same thing; a slow, lopsided, smile slowly appear as he thought his baby thoughts – no doubt something along the lines of large breasts and milk.

In week six his eyes suddenly started to focus on me and he started to follow my face as I moved. I’ll grant you that it didn’t last for long and the ceiling would occasionally usurp me as an item of immense interest but he suddenly seemed ‘alive’. Before this he tended to just stare into space in a ‘the lights are on but nobody’s at home’ fashion. Now he seems to be engaging with the world and it makes such a huge difference.

Other little things gain enormous significance. When Marty was born he had a little chip out of his left ear and we’d put this down to the birth; after all it’s a tight squeeze at the best of times so it wouldn’t be that surprising if things had dropped off during an arduous delivery. As it turns out it’s hereditary! Yup, we popped down to Kent to see the rellies and Charlotte pointed out that she also had a chip out of her left ear, as did almost everyone in her family.

It sounds daft but it’s things like that that truly brought home to me that Marty was ours; a product of me and Leanne and everyone else in our family. Bearing in mind that I studied genetics I guess it shouldn’t have been that surprising, but there’s a huge gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘realising’; actually living the event rather than just studying it.

Of course I get told that he looks like me all the time but I think this is more of a social norm than a statement of reality: I’m much taller, he has more hair; I have wrinkles, he has skin so perfect you can’t even see the pores. There are lots and lots of telling differences between us. I’ll grant you that I have been known to lie sprawled upon a sofa with dribble running down my chin but I can’t imagine that I ever managed it with quite the natural grace of young Marty.

Just to prove our differences, Marty appears to be an adept in the martial arts - something that I never got involved with. If you make any kind of noise when he's asleep his arms will suddenly shoot into the air, fingers spread wide apart, in what is clearly a Ninja "Hands of death" stance. Quite what sort of damage an 11 pound Ninja baby could do to you is debatable, but its good to see that the attitude is there.

All in all, yes he will probably become more and more engaging as he gets older, but boring? No it’s been far from boring.

Thursday 31 March 2011


Marty practices the Hula
Colic! This is the condition that we have been threatened with ever since Leanne first announced that she was pregnant, with most of the conversations running along the lines of “Congratulations, but forget about any sleep...” Most people seemed genuinely disappointed when we told them that Marty was sleeping well and that we were both as fresh as daisies... sadly, the emphasis here is on the word “were”.

Yup, after two weeks of relative quiet, Marty developed Colic on week 3 and medical opinion is that he’s unlikely to shift it until about month 3 or 4.

Bizarrely enough, little is actually known about colic; theories abound, but few are linked to any substantive facts. They’re not even certain that it’s anything to do with the babies digestion, despite that being glaringly obvious to every parent I’ve ever talked to. In fact the definition of colic is as vague as the medical facts: “inconsolable crying for up to 3 hours”, which is a definition that could just as easily be applied to Liverpool FC supporters.

On the plus-side most medical opionion also insists that colic is not an illness or a disease, it's just something that happens to many new born babies; not pleasant but nothing to really worry about. That said, one of the classic signs of colic is bright green poo, and if your poo suddenly changing to the colour of mushy peas isn't something to worry about then what the hell is?
Reading around the internet, and what baby books we have in the house, we discovered that dairy products were a common theme in the arrival of colic. So Leanne cut out cereal in the morning and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Alas, this didn’t cure it completely but it did reduce it down to manageable levels. Just to test the theory Leanne starting drinking milk again and boy did we notice the difference; with Leanne avoiding dairy Marty just needed 15 minutes light tapping until he burped, with Leanne drinking milk Marty needed about 3 hours heavy slapping until he neigh on exploded.
One of the bonuses of colic though is that Marty has to sit on my knee and look upon the world in a totally bemused fashion as his back is pummelled. Not only does this make him look exceptionally cute, but it also makes him look remarkably like Sammy from “a Turtles Tale”.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Breast feeding

Marty & Aunty Nicky
In the run up to Marty’s arrival, Leanne and I went to a few antenatal clinics... and to be honest they didn’t meet my expectations.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in that I had expected umpteen large events, where we all sat down on the floor, tried to breathe properly, and shouted “push” at inopportune moments. Whilst that sounded like a a different way of spending an afternoon it didn’t sound exactly riveting.
These days “umpteen” sessions has been replaced with “two” and they were fairly small and snug affairs, where we chatted about the joys of child birth and the sleepless nights that would ensue. One of the more bizarre aspects of these events was that we were all given lovely colourful, crocheted breasts, complete with multi coloured nipples. The idea was that we’d all learn about breastfeeding using these woolly boobs and a tiny tears doll. I guess it might have helped some people but I just felt like I was trying to smother a plastic doll with a Rastafarians bobble hat, which rather put me off the whole thing.
They do go on and on about breastfeeding and most of the information you receive runs pretty much like this “It’s not essential to breastfeed and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t... BUT...” The thing is, this isn't an ordinary "but", this particular "but" is about 40 foot high, written in florescent yellow, with an array of flashing lights around it. This is the sort of “BUT” you are unlikely to overlook and, whilst it’s not stated, the implication is that if you don’t at least try to breastfeed you will be condemned to a fiery hell for all eternity.
I can see their point in that, whilst it can be uncomfortable for the mother, it’s much, much better for the baby. On the other hand, I read one of those “baby” magazines which had an article where the lady in question was telling everyone that she was not going to breastfeed because she wanted her body back and she wanted to retain her nice boobs. Whilst I can understand why a mother might be somewhat reluctant to breastfeed, especially when it’s painful, I couldn’t help but feel that I was reading the rants of an astonishingly self obsessed person who hadn’t quite grasped the idea of parenthood.
Fortunately for us Leanne and Marty took to breastfeeding straight away. Leanne was fully expecting it to be painful, so she wasn’t surprised when it was, and apparently it got easier over time. God knows what Marty was expecting but when you’re a young chap and you suddenly find yourself confronted by a boob roughly the same size as yourself I think it’s safe to say that he wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity.
Mind you, you do hear horror stories of boobs rent asunder by marauding babies; nipples split and mauled beyond hope in that eternal quest for free milk. I got an idea of what the ladies where talking about recently when Leanne started expressing and I got a chance to bottle-feed Marty. He took to the plastic nipple like a limpet that’s been spending a lot of time down the gym. I’m fairly sure that I could actually stick Marty to the ceiling just by the power of his suck alone.
Sadly, Leanne is reluctant to test this theory.

Monday 14 March 2011

Birthday Bureaucracy

Father & Son
There’s an awful lot of bureaucracy involved with child birth! Marty had barely drawn his first breath when they passed me a little red book and told me not to lose it. This is basically the “baby book”; a catalogue of essential information such as his size and weight, his inoculations and injections, and an exhaustive list of everyone who has poked and prodded him, together with a note to say why.
To be honest I’d never realised just how much care babies get in his country and I have to say I’m very grateful. During the first week we had midwives popping over to check on us every few days, then the local GP gave him the once over, then the health visitor started visiting; Marty could barely fart without it being weighed, measured and jotted down.
The only point at which all this intensive scrutiny broke down was when we received a letter from the local hospital to inform us that they’d made an appointment on the 19th Jan for Marty to have his hearing checked. The letter then broke into stern officialdom to point out that we had failed to attend that first appointment, that this had caused great distress within the NHS and that we had better make sure we attended the next appointment or they were going to have a huff and not let us have another one. Fortunately we had a number of good excuses, firstly we hadn’t received this earlier letter and secondly Marty wasn’t actually born until the 5th of February; an event that most in the medical profession regard as an essential prerequisite for a hearing test.

Spot the difference
Health aside, the only other thing they are very keen for you to do is to register the birth as soon as possible. This is quite a pleasant little quiz where they ask you all sorts of complex questions such as “Who are you?” and “When was your wife born?” Fortunately I’d written down most of the answers already so I scored 75% first time ‘round.
Once the lady in charge was happy with the answers she passed me a fine quality ink pen and I added my moniker to Marty’s birth certificate, and there he was; officially born!
So we had a little red book, we had the birth certificate, there was just one last thing to do and Marty would be officially “Here”.... So I stopped off on the way home and bought the official “Baby on Board sticker” for the car.

Thursday 10 March 2011

The first week

So we got through Week one and what did we learn?
Well it was easier than I’d expected, partly because of the amount of sparkling wine we received when Marty was born and partly because babies seem to be designed to wean you into parenthood. For example, newborns are fairly easy to handle; whilst they might struggle a little they aren’t capable yet of that back flip that they perfect in later months, the one that can propel them several feet into the air before you can say “OhmyGodwhereshegone??
Another thing with newborns is that, whilst they need carrying everywhere, you get eased into this by the fact that you can put very young babies down and then find them again, 5 minutes later, exactly where you'd put them! This is a darn handy feature but I’ve been told not to expect this fact to continue for much longer.
Poo is a big feature of early parenthood, in fact I suspect it will feature large in my life for at least the next 3 years. Newborn baby poo is designed in a range of frightening colours from black, through bright yellow, to ominous green. Whilst this means that you might not eat chip shop curry sauce, Dijon mustard or mushy peas ever again it does at least have the virtue (so far at least) of being produced in manageable portions with an accompanying scent that, whilst hardly Chanel No.5, doesn’t cause a gag reflex to kick in.... which is just as well as it tends to be the kind of scent that lingers. I think it gets stuck in the back of your nose, or something, because I’ll be sipping coffee in the local Plumb Center, miles away from mother and baby, when I’ll suddenly get a strong whiff of Marty’s derriere.
Our first pram ride was a revelation. The first issue was that our pram seems to have been designed by the bloke who invented the Rubic’s cube; it took me half the morning to figure out how to collapse it so it fitted in the car and the rest of the afternoon to figure out how to uncollapse it so we could take Marty out in it. Even then it was an entire week before we discovered that the wheels came off, which was handy as it didn’t fit into the car with them on.
The second thing I noticed was that our pram had rubbish suspension but this was quickly followed by the realisation that babies love rubbish suspensions. Marty likes nothing more than being pushed at high speed over horribly uneven surfaces – ideally a cobbled road with the odd pot hole thrown in for good measure. It’s odd, but he loves the sort of travel conditions that would have an adult up in arms; if he’s not a vibrating blur in the pram he’s just not happy.

Thursday 3 March 2011

The Umbilical cord

The most bizarre thing that a newborn baby comes with is an umbilical cord.
For some reason it’s currently vogue for the father to cut this cord when the baby arrives and I have no idea why they think this is in any way a good idea. If you are expecting to spend a great deal of your later life ceremoniously opening shopping malls, then fair do’s, you might gain some valid work experience chopping your way through an umbilical cord, but aside from that I can’t think of a positive. That all said, everyone else at the birth thought it was a great idea so I meekly went along with it.
Cutting the cord itself is like using a pair of scissors to slice through a particularly gristle ridden steak; it’s not exactly pleasant but it’s hardly a horrendous experience. What was a let-down was the complete lack of flash photography and the fact that the massed hordes of Paparazzi were noticeable only by their absence. Shame really as it was the sort of occasion that seemed to warrant an explosion of flash lights and a tumultuous round of applause at the very least.
So, having made the cut that proclaims your child as an independent entity, they hand him back to you. By now the purple tinges are fading away and he’s actually starting to look vaguely human, except that he has what seems to be a large slug attached to his stomach. And, just in case you missed the slug, they fit a huge yellow clip to it. 
I asked the midwife why they fitted such a huge clip to the umbilical cord and the answer she gave was that ‘umbilical cords differ in size’. This didn’t seem to explain why the clip was almost the size of the baby and only really made any sense if the Maternity unit occasionally delivered young pachyderms and stocked up on umbilical clips accordingly. Anyway, at least the enormous bright-yellow clip made it easy to find the baby again if you did occasionally misplace him.
By day three the slug like umbilical had withered away and was starting to look a bit like a vanilla pod, yet smell like a 6 day corpse. All this time you have to try to fit nappies ‘hipster’ fashion as you need to let this cord dry out, and little or nothing is going to stay dry if it’s anywhere near a nappy. This is all a little awkward, especially when you haven’t a great deal of experience in nappy fitting but, fortunately, by day 5 Marty’s cord disappeared - only to be found later that day, hidden in the leg of his baby-gro. We were a bit worried at first as his belly-button bled a little, but apparently that was entirely normal and sure enough it stopped completely after about a week.
Kilroy woz ere
I’m still not sure what to do with this old withered umbilical and its gigantic clip. It seems a bit macabre to store it as a keepsake, yet it doesn’t seem right to just throw it away. On a bright note at least the nappy changing is easier now we’re cord-free, in fact Marty has taken the opportunity to start sporting them “Simon Cowell” stylie... which is surely a good thing.

Friday 25 February 2011

Sleepless nights


The more astute amongst you (Hi Chris) may have noticed a glaring omission from my list of new born baby achievements. Yes, they can sleep, eat, wee and poo but they can also cry; boy can they also cry! This is what worried me the most; the idea of sleepless nights.
I cope with sleep deprivation in much the same way as Colonel Gaddafi copes with civil unrest. I mightn’t resort to guns and aerial bombing quite so quickly but, if I’m perfectly honest, that’s more down to a lack of ordnance on my part.
Fortunately it hasn’t turned out half as bad as I was expecting; yes Marty wakes me up crying occasionally and yes, I’m not getting a full and regular 8 hours sleep but it certainly hasn’t been a nightmare.
Part of the reason for this is because Leanne is exclusively breastfeeding. This can occasionally make me feel a little left out of the loop but - and here’s the real bonus -  I’m still being left out of the loop at 3am in the morning! No bottle feeding at some deathly hour for me, nope I just wrap a pillow around my head and go back to sleep.
Apparently this relative luxury is going to be short lived as Marty can start drinking expressed milk after a month or so, but in the interim I’m being terrified by the parents of older children with statements along the lines of:
 “Our Jack didn’t start to cry until he was 3 weeks old.... Then he didn’t stop until he was two.”
“Yes, they’re lovely when they’re new born aren’t they..... just wait!”
These are usually said with a malicious gleam in the eye and I’m beginning to understand that terrifying fellow parents, especially those with younger children, is just what parents do to each other. I think the underlining message is “Yes a child is a wonderful gift but don’t get too happy or you’ll piss us all off.”
Sadly, we are happy, deliriously so. I even enjoy it when Marty cries... sometimes. It’s not because I like having my ears assailed, it’s just the faces he pulls when he's really going for it. He goes from this perfect cherubic little darling, all peaches and cream and soft goo-goo-goo’s, to a bright red, wrinkled mass of noise pollution within a fraction of a second. It’s astonishing really, you put a sleepy little angel into his cot, take one step and “Pow”, the cot is now occupied by something that looks the spitting image of Yoda: “Hungry for milk I am”
The only bad night I have had (Leanne’s had a few more) was last week when he just wouldn’t settle and I was daft enough to volunteer to change his nappy and rock him to sleep. He cried like he was fit too burst until about 7:30am. Then he dropped off to sleep in the blink of an eye, just as my alarm went off. I got dressed and peered red eyed into his cot. There he was; eyes shut, his little face wholly relaxed and utterly beautiful....
“You little bastard!” I thought, as I trudged downstairs to make myself a strong coffee.

Sunday 20 February 2011


You know how it is when you buy a new car and all of a sudden the world is filled with people driving exactly the same car? Well either the same happens with babies or ASDA are giving them away with every £50 spent on shopping; I have never seen so many kids in one place before.
I’ll grant you that I usually do my shopping in the evenings, when the queues are shorter and the bargains more frequent, but on this occasion it was 4pm and we were shopping for an emergency supply of nappies.
When we were expecting Marty to arrive at any moment Leanne suggested we prepare in advance and buy a few packs of nappies. At 48 nappies per pack I couldn’t see why we needed to buy multiple packs; for some reason I had it in my head that 48 nappies would last the best part of a month! How wrong was I!
The thing with new born babies is that they only do four things: drink, sleep, wee and poo. The upside of such a limited repertoire is that it leaves them with plenty of time to practise each task. And practise, so they say, makes perfect. In fact Marty is now so good at the “big four” that he can manage them all... simultaneously. I kid you not!
This of course means that instead of a mere 6 hours of the day set aside for mission critical bowel movements he can now cram in at least 10, occasionally 12, full hours. Now I dare say young Marty is as pleased as punch with his new defecating skills but it’s a sad time for his parents; by the time I’ve removed the old nappy, tidied up the area and put on the replacement I’m left with roughly 5 seconds to admire my handywork before he releases an almighty fart and I have to start the process all over again. To make matters worse little boys are also armed and extremely dangerous throughout this entire process.
The midwives did warn me about this but it was sheer luck that got me through the first attack. I was happily wiping away at the young ones derriere when I heard a tinkling noise. As a plumber my ears are very attuned to the sound of running water so I stopped and had a look around the room; nothing. Yet, there was defiantly this noise and it was definitely the sound of running water. In the end it was Marty’s cries that provided the clue. He had quietly unleashed an astonishingly powerful stream of pee that was arching high up above him and falling down full into his face. I thought it all highly amusing. He was not best pleased. As luck would have it I managed to bathe him before he released another ‘movement’ but I have since taken precautions when he is in the all-together. Leanne thought putting a big pad of cotton wool over his willy was a bit excessive, right up to the moment he got her!