Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Do my boobs look big in this?

Never have I been asked to examine my wife's breasts more.  Never has it been less sexy.

Gentlemen, you need to be aware of this.  The body of the mother of your baby is about to go through the most dramatic change it has experienced since puberty.  And if your partner is like mine, you will be exposed to a level of detail and inspection you thought only happened in a medical environment. Last night I was asked to review and comment on the new white skin on her nipples.

Some of these changes are amazing.  One friend of ours, who is now in on the news, told us that when he saw her, he thought her boobs had grown.  But unfortunately it is an aesthetic pleasure only, as this growth is accompanied by soreness and a declining libido.  I am reassured that this is only temporary, but if ever there was evidence that a supreme being had a quirky sense of humour, this time in our lives would be irrefutable.

We have also hit a nausea patch - not complete expulsion of stomach contents (yet?), but a relationship with food that is unusual to say the least.  My wife is now unable to cope with the smell of food, yet is hungry and nauseous simultaneously.  This means I will be preparing meals for the next eight months whilst she hides until it is on the table, then leaps out and attempts to shovel nutrition in before her olfactory senses cotton on to what is happening.  I then attempt to be supportive by not eating what she has left, in case she can stomach more later.  I am not sure if this is appreciated, or even noticed.

I think the payback for this period of her life will arrive when it is nappy changing time.  I have met very few men able to stomach the contents of their progeny's less-than solid offerings (see this for evidence: Dads and nappies).  Personally, it is an aspect of fatherhood I dread.  My dad was unable to remain in the room with me when it was time.

So for now I am going to be as supportive as possible, offering stomach strokes, back rubs and catering to every culinary whim that I am able to in the hope that I will collect enough brownie points that I can avoid nappy times altogether.  Failing that, I am going to start searching for a HazMat suit on eBay. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

When does the rapidly growing and sub-dividing set of cells within my wife's body become life?  This seems a rather philosophical question (and I am thinking of it in terms of philosophy - or spirituality - and not biology), but it is one that has been niggling me for the last couple of days.  This is my difficulty.  You would happily call a plant alive (after all, we've all overwatered them and seen them die), but surely all it is, is a set of chemical responses to certain environmental stimuli?  A plant will grow towards light - but do any of us think there is choice in that?  My wife tells me that a foetus in vitro will turn away from light shone on the mother's tummy - is that a choice or a biological response?

Ultimately, my question is: when does my child develop a consciousness?  This is quite a nice short article - - and it is the first time I've heard of the primitive streak.  With our growing baby at around six weeks, this suggests its central nervous system is already in place.  Not fully developed but in place.  So has my child started to have primitive thoughts? 

This person says no:  Apparently integration of our cognitive circuits, which enable us to think, dream and so on, happens between the 24th and 28th week.  So does this mean my child is not 'in there' until the third trimester?  Yet premature babies as young as 22 weeks have lived - so there is a life in there before this time.  So I still don't have a satisfactory answer.  And nor, I suspect, is there a likelihood of me getting one.

(Quick note: I don't actually agree with some of the author's assumptions, particularly the newborn not being self-aware and that sleep lacks any form of consciousness, but then he is a biologist and I am a psychologist.  But I would say it is worth a read and some of the comments are very interesting if this kind of thing floats your boat!)

But why is any of this important?  I want to know my child.  And, for me, that begins with consciousness, as this is what it separates my little boy or girl from a collection of biological and chemical processes.  This is an entirely subjective belief; it is not one based in evidence.  But I want to know if child is responding to the world.  When do I start speaking to a swelling tummy with confidence that there is someone, rather than something, in there?  I want to know when the child, that I am already beginning to love, is home.  And I want them to feel safe and dream dreams of colour, movement, tranquility.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Taxi for one!

I'm going to be a father!  A dad; daddy cool.  Pops, pa, papa.  Or, when my child is older, an embarrassment.  But until then, I'm going to be a dad.  Easily the most exciting, and terrifying, moment of my life.

How did we find out?  Pee on a stick.  I find it somewhat strange that the most magical thing that can happen in a couple's liftime, the one thing that will ensure my wife and I are connected for the rest of our lives (I could, and have, get divorced - I will always be this child's father and she will always be the mother), tends to be discovered by weeing on a plastic wand.  And was it convincing?  Did we get a nice thick, bold pink line on our spatula of love?  Nope.  We got a faint, washed out tracing that was barely discernible to the naked eye.  But I will always remember that faint line - it was the first time I knew a child could be on its (at only five weeks, it's barely a tadpole - I've got no idea what the gender is! Wife thinks boy; mother-in-law thinks girl; I'm hoping baby) way.

Cue panic.

We're having a baby!  Probably.  It's so faint.  Does that mean yes?  Or is this a cruel imagining?  Quick - to the Google machine!  A faint line does mean pregnancy!  (Probably.  Be aware of the cruel deception of chemical pregnancies.)  A rapid dialling of numbers and we have an appointment to see the GP.  There may be those of you who have been through this and are thinking "silly sods".  I'll admit, I was thinking the same.  I'm a professional, I'm in my thirties, yet I was giddy with nerves and possibilities and needed somebody to tell me it would be ok.  And the very nice doctor said "congratulations, I'll make an appointment with the midwife, but there's nothing more I can really do at this stage".  He was lovely, but there really was nothing more he could do.  Apart from advise us to take another test, just to rule out the chemical risk.

A second slightly darker line.  Still what you would likely class as pale.  Where's my thick, convincing statement of virility?!  No matter - this urine bat stayed in my pocket (with the plastic cap on, I'm not a tramp) for the next couple of days as we told the precious few that have been let into the secret so far.  We are waiting for the midwife appointment before we announce the news publicly.

The final confirmation arrived, or, more appropriately didn't arrive, in an absence of menstruation.  The test of millennia past.  We really are pregnant.  We're going to have a baby.  I've got a taxi driver for the next eight months!

(Don't let this be the first thing you say on discovery of this news.  I just cannot see it being a great start.)

So on these pages I will be charting my journey through pregnancy - highlighting the things I find out, the mistakes I make, and, where relevant, pointing readers in the direction of useful references or amusing diversions.  I want this to serve as a journal for what happens so that I can look back in the future and recapture these moments, but also to help others who are travelling on the same journey.

I'm going to be a daddy. :-)