Friday, March 24, 2006

The Many Faces of Madeleine

Morning all... It's 7.25 in the morning and I managed to sneak Maddie downstairs a couple of hours ago so I'm hoping that Anne will get a decent bit of sleep.

Now. About the gurning. I have never seen so expansive a range of expressions as the one that plays across Maddie's face as she squirms, squints and squiggles her way through the day. Our personal favourites include the quizzical "what ya lookin at big face?" and the half-pained, half-satisfied "fill da nappy" scrunch. She has a penchant for holding one cheek and pensively staring into space, no doubt cogitating over Jung's symbolic language of psychology, or perhaps deciding which boob she likes best. It's a tough life.

As ever, we went through a welter of nappies overnight - we like to think that it's a sign of an extraordinarily healthy constitution. Yesterday saw a huge success in the form of a spin around the park in Maddie's sparkly Pliko P3 Pramette... things getting a bit smoother, I think, although one website says that the crying doesn't really kick in until she's 6 weeks old. Great.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Two Arms for Maddie

Well, the fabulous news is that I'm out of the sling and into physiotherapy! As the adjoining photo shows, my titanium pins are holding and I have ditched the velcro and foam contraption that's kept me strapped up for the last 2 months. Not only is this great news for my mobility, but as Maddie's nappies have large amounts of velcro on them too, it's a health and safety issue as well. A couple of nappy changing sessions did get slightly out of control when the velcro around the rubber pants got entangled with my sling and I started to take the whole festival of poo with me across the bedroom. Not good.

As for the women in my life - Maddie's doing really well and is still getting more beautiful by the day. Today we're attempting a walk around the park, which was planned for around midday but which we hope will occur before nightfall. That baby vortex has us in its grip, once more.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Dangerous World of Adult Babywear

I'm now a two week veteran of babygrows, little person vests and small hats in the shape of strawberries. I have also, in the past, been guilty of laughing at the wacky world - mainly male - of middle aged sad sacks who like sitting around in oversize nappies and onesies in order to gain a frissant of pleasure (sorry Mum, if you're readiing this, but yes, they do). Having handled most of the clothing items in question and shifted a mountain of dirty diapers over the last 18 days, I am happy to report that they're even more bonkers than I thought they were. It's not right that. Not right at all.

Maddie Update for Nearest and Dearest

Just realised that the last few blog entries were starting to resemble a new dad's attempt to 'do a Bridget Jones', forgetting essential role of this blog in bridging oceanic divides. So for Ellen, Joe and everyone else, here's the big news from Madeleine HQ - she giggled this afternoon! It was bloody great! She did her smile thing, and then it curled up into a proper grin, and then she giggled! Wow! She's feeding great, sleeping in her own enigmatic fashion, and gets prettier every morning. We're smitten.

Out Where?

I just told Anne that the weather was really nice 'out there'. She just laughed and referred to being a two hour food machine stuck to the sofa. New 'to do' for list: must gather together all necessary logistical aids - and the energy - for family walk in park or risk partner going postal.

Other Dads

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Aside from wondering why ear protectors weren't in the 'Bounty Bags' of sponsored free stuff* they hurl at you before you're allowed to take Bundle of Loveliness home with you, there's a lot to ponder on when you've been a dad for all of two weeks.
Take the other dads for example. Formerly a group of older gentleman who for some reason miraculously disappear when a weekday evening drinking session is just getting interesting, they are now my peer group and I have reason to assess them anew.

They all respond slightly differently to the news that your big Amazon order has finally arrived. Comfortingly, very few cackle with the maniacal grate of a damned soul that has tempted another to sin; in fact, they're all clearly as blissed out as you are: "great isn't it?", or, "I know, amazing eh?".

Some will talk of the permanent end to any sense of tasteful, modernist minimalism you were trying to bring to your domestic arrangements: in fact my friend Walter recommends securing an area of the house little used by other tribe members. Next you ensure that there will be minimum penetration of extruded plastic toys, books with picture panels you can rub, smell or squeeze, ointments for very small bottoms or impossibly small scratch mittens; you do this by naming the space 'study', 'den', or 'shed'. Then finally you get to work stripping it down into a minature Bauhaus that would have made Mr Gropius proud.

Other dads act like you've entered some kind of sect and it's their job to love bomb you. Neil wrapped an arm around my shoulder. The following words are delivered by the voice of an actor to hide Neil's true identity: "Well done Steve. No, well done. It is such a miracle. Miracle. I am sure she is so wonderful. And it is a wonderful thing that you to have done. You must come out to ours at the weekend. Bring little Maddie." Notice the word repetition? The gentle invitation to the initiation ceremony? I'm not fooled.

A couple of dads didn't say a great deal but for the odd tip on how to stay awake and change that nappy even when every sinew of your body feels like its been injected with something they'd tranquilise a rhino with. There was one Dad - 'Marcu' - who decided it was time to play the red flag and bull game. "It changes your politics, seriously it does," he said. "I know after mine was born I woke up and felt like I shifted massively to the right. I wanted tougher laws and summary justice. I even bought a copy of the Daily Mail. You watch, you'll be New Labour before you know where you are."

This gave me a chuckle, not least because I like to think of myself as good 'third way' progressive that (wars, orders from God and nuclear power aside) is not a million miles outside the Blair camp. Then I got thinking and this morning heard 'Heartland' by The The on BBC 6 Music. It was like Thatcher's England all over again! I was all tingly in a suburban kitchen, feeling like I wanted to grow a Guevara, don a beret and get out there and bring the whole capitalist machine crumbling down into a mess of pointless rusty nuts and bolts; or at least I'd paint a placard.

Clearly my political DNA is shifting around a bit: whether it's a lurch to the right on or not is looking decidely uncertain.

* Note to self: new parent earplugs a clear business opportunity, must action when in the office.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sound and fury

The last two weeks have, of course, flown past in a blur of badly popped-together babygrows, panicked thumbing through parenting manuals and hurried nappy changes. Each of the latter seemingly followed by a thundering rumble as Maddie immediately feels the clean nappy against her lily-white skin and decides its toilet time. Bless her.

It has also been a fortnight of tremendous gooiness on our part, perpetually gobsmacked that we brought this wonderful thing into the world. To all and sundry - the dozens and dozens who have called or sent cards - we have regailed with tales of her cuteness and of how well she was sleeping, and how we can't believe how easy the nights have been.

And there you have the very definition of speaking too soon. Three nights ago, Maddie started a pretty constant warble that, in the words of the bard, 'murdered sleep' good and proper. Nappies were filling like the bailing pot of a sinking boat and she just wouldn't settle for more than 20 minutes or so without needing a feed.

Then the night after, were it not for the angel-like appearance of her Aunty Lesley at our door at 3.00 am to whisk her away and calm her, we would have seen an entire night fly by, jigging around in our pyjamas with our beloved clutched to our breasts.

We may well have broken our luck with those over-preening comments about our somnalent little angel. Ah well, she's still gorgeous but with a voice that could clear fog and may well have been used as a torture device by Jack Bauer in an episode of 24. And if we keep changing, and feeding, and hugging, we'll get through.

Night three arrived - last night - and with trepidation we moved upstairs to see what the night would bring. Like a crazy reversal of the horror film logic (don't ever, ever go into the cellar) we new that the ascent to our bedroom could well bring on the chilling nightmare of another six-hour stint of worrying about our poor little button crying away with such distress.

But there was little need to worry. She slept through but for a couple of changes and feeds, then woke with smiles and cute waving of hands at a thoroughly decent 8.00 am and - thankfully - Anne's had a decent bit of rest. Phew. The adventure continues. Today we're off to the registery office to make her legal and to brave putting her in her pram again... and there's another story.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sentimental Madgic

Okay, I'm stood at the very edge here. The precipice of preening parenthood. The overhang of excessive adulation. The sorry online refuge of the vain and the proud. Or in other words, I've uploaded another film of the cutest couple of kilos to ever grace a babygrow. This time featuring full, gummy, smiling action and a Norwegian jazz soundtrack. Lovely. Go to:

Or you can click here.

And apologies to anyone who doesn't find this as enthralling as we do... like the blog header says, this is a niche offering!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lights, Cameras, Maddie

And for those of you able to stream a bit of video, check out Maddie's first film appearance: a Grammy within her grasp? You decide. Oh, and make sure you turn on your computer speakers!

Or click here

I, Father.

As many of you will know, the last thing we need right now is another medical or surgical interlude. Following the 'titanium shoulder enhancements' I received in January, and then the four hour delivery sprint that brought little Miss Maddie into the world, Anne and I have just about had our fill of hospital wards and X-rays.

Which is why I'm worried about spraining my neck and ending up in a brace or full body cast. Over the last few days, every time the phrases 'my daughter', 'our Maddie', 'Father' or 'Mother' have been uttered, both Anne and I have whirled like dervishes, trying to figure out who on Earth the comment was directed at. The words sound so weird - so alien - to our ears. It's spooky, but obviously very lovely.

As you'll see from this page, I haven't manage to post to the blog for a few days. This is because the inexorable pull of the time vortex has increased tenfold this week. Maddie is in a growth spurt, the blur of nappies is becoming mesmeric and poor Anne is pretty much permanently feeding.

One high point this week was the inaugural meeting of the 'Limley Grove Babies'. Anyone wandering down Beech Road here in the People's Republic of Chorlton will know that this season's ultimate accessory is a cute little baby, and whenever possible, a Bugaboo Pram. Here on Limley Grove, the baby boom is even more extreme, with three little people being born within a matter of weeks. So in the picture alongside this blog entry, I'd like to introduce you (l-r) to Anne & Maddie; Emma & Jake; and Gayle & Fin.

Clearly we're chuffed to have lots of mates/suitors for our little princess but we are a little worried that Mary, our neighbour, is sandwiched between two newborns - that should push her auditory endurance to new limits.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Baby Time Vortex

A very quick tip after almost a week of babygrows and stumbling parenthood: time is an illusion when you've just had a baby.

It's true. People talk about being sleep-deprived and shell-shocked, like they've just been released from Camp X-Ray, but in fact it appears to be far more than straightforward exhaustion that makes simple 'To Do' lists seem like impossibly Herculean tasks when the stork has just dropped its payload.

What I think is happening is that time is actually folding in on itself. Like a bad episode of Sapphire and Steel, every popper on the sleepsuit and every wipe of a cotton ball causes another rift in the space-time continuum, turning 10.00 am, for example, into 3.00 pm. Ancillary effects include an inability to remember who visited you at any point in the last 12 hours and tendency to confuse your meal moments into a singular nutritional melange.

So there you go. For those of you about to drop, we salute you, and remember: you're not tired and emotional, it's just that someone is mucking around with the clocks.

Monday, March 06, 2006


It's a steep old learning curve but we're still in play. Maddie's feeding really well and as a result we've moved from meconium poo (think Exxon Valdez and pitiful guillemots covered in oil-spill) to more normal mushroom korma poo. Very pleased with that. We are churning our way through a vast number of nappies though and as there are three other new babies on the street, I think we should start a bit of healthy rivalry on Limley Grove, perhaps with large, red LED counters showing total daily nappy count. Maddie will defintely win. Oh my god, I've turned into competitive dad already - by the time we get to the first sports day, the egg and spoon race will be carnage.

Quick update on Mum. Last night was hard work as Maddie was feeding on an almost hourly basis (hence the constant blur of new nappies) but when not sucking with a ferocity that is truly eye-watering, Maddie's sleeping virtually all the time. In fact she's been a dream. Anne's managed to get a couple of hours kip this afternoon, which is fab, and the little 'un is dozing now, too, which makes life a little easier. In short, there's a fair dose of sleep deprivation, but nothing terminal.

As well as being a nobel laureate and prime minister in waiting, Maddie also does a fine line in gurning and I'm also pleased to report that she does quite a marvellous interrogative scowl. I've heard that some people claim you can 'sign' to babies and start communicating a lot earlier, from the look of that scowl, I think I'll wait until she's verbalising, thank you very much. All I'm thinking is Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

A big shame is that the US grandparents have to rely on piccies and phone calls for the time being; a deeply, deeply cute I [heart] NY T-shirt arrived by Fed Ex ths morning but all three of us can't wait for April 14 when Ellen arrives. In the meantime the UK grandparent contingent have been bloody marvellous, my mum of course is cooking for England and did an amazing job of decorating the house, while Dad is in charge of cuddles. Nice.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Day two. The head in the bed

If you ever needed a reason to save the planet...
Anne and Maddie could give each other some real competition, it would seem, on sleeping ability. The new and gorgeous arrival has been pretty much knocked out from day one, which is making life a little easier as Anne recovers from the birth.

Quick note on midwives. I have to admit to being a little bit awestruck by them. When we did see a doctor in the hospital, we was a full 24 hours late, didn't remember to fill in any of Maddie's paperwork, and at first couldn't quite recall Maddie's gender. The midwives on the other hand are terrifyingly competent imparters of 'The Knowledge' that makes becoming a parent a seemingly sensible and achievable life choice, rather than the fecund equivalent of bungie jumping off the Eiffel Tower with a large concrete block strapped to your head. AND they all seem to have had at least 45 children of their own! "When I had my third son," she'll say, "thinking on assisted delivery was completely different."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Snap Happy Daddy

Obviously the most earth-shattering day of your life can't go unrecorded, so I make no apologies for a couplemore shots of Miss Maddie. Obviously there are years and years of annoying photoshoots ahead of her, as doting dad finds - at least for a wee while - an unresistant subject. Poor M.

And just had another call from the hospital - she's feeding again really well, so the first time wasn't a fluke. AND (stop me if this gets too nauseating) she made some gurgling noises down the phone!!!

Clearly she's already a very gifted little lady, so I'm hoping the gurgles were her first critique of Hegel's dialectic or a short, pithy, comment on some of the inherent conflicts that make utilitarianism attractice but in the final analysis, flawed... er... actually though I think she'd filled her nappy. Bloody wonderful.

High Speed Delivery

You could almost feel tectonic plates shifting... at 14.05 this afternoon, Anne gave birth to Madeleine, who weighed 6lb 14 oz. The birth was really really fast, and the whole process, from first contractions to a squeal from Maddie, took just 4 hours. Absolutely amazing. This is, apparently, something of a family tradition...

Maddie and her mum are in St Mary's now, doing incredibly well and I'll be able to get back in to see her tomorrow at 10.00, meanwhile there are 4 very happy grandparents sending emails and messages on either side of the Big Pond...