And other sundrie entertainments
So. Alice is six and a half months old. How are we doing? The short answer is: pretty well, but with almost no free time. Hence this update being at six and a half months. It was going to be at six months, but. Alice is having lots of daddy time this weekend, so there may be writing on the interwebs, art, reading books or possibly even exercise. There would be more of these things, but I made the decision at the start that I needed to prioritise sleep for sanity purposes. So quite a lot of my life is spent in bed at the moment. She’s down to one night waking (when not teething) and occasionally sleeps through, so some day soon maybe I’ll start going to bed later than nine. As to the rest: well six months seems a very long time. Newborn babies can hardly do anything at all. And now suddenly she’s a little person, sitting up and grabbing things and chewing them and squeaking and babbling and giggling. It blows my mind that something which was the size of a bean one year can be giggling the next year. Tiny bits of communication are starting to happen. I can ask her to turn a page in a book and she usually does it. Then she tries to eat the page. Basically her entire motivation about now revolves around trying to chew things. She’s still not very mobile, but she’ll lunge forwards dramatically if it means she can get her jaws around something inviting. At the moment she’s showing all the signs of teething apart from actual teeth, so it may be that she’ll have time for non-chewing activities in a week or so. Her favourite other things are: singing and bouncing; people jumping up and down or appearing and disappearing through holes; people tearing up paper; and fake sneezes. Babies are strange. I’m not sure we can say anything yet about what she’ll be like when she grows up, though if you put her in a room with other babies she seems to usually be the mellow one. She was a big newborn and is now even bigger - above the 98th percentile for weight and still off the charts for head size. This tends to be what people comment on when they see her. The surprising thing about her appearance for me is how much she looks like her relatives. I think I thought beforehand that babies just look like babies. Probably they do until you have one. But sometimes now I absent-mindedly wonder where she’s left her glasses, because she looks like a bunch of people who mostly wear them. The major new thing at the moment is food. We’ve been trying a mostly baby-led weaning approach, i.e. we give her finger food and she feeds herself with it. So far avocado, parsnip and mashed potato are hits, and broccoli has tended to go over the side of the highchair. Swallowing was accompanied by an amusing ‘what just happened in my face??!?’ expression, but she’s getting more used to it. Other than that she’s all about the milk. By the numbers we’re a breastfeeding success story - we’re still at it, only started weaning six months after her due date, and haven’t had any major issues (other than that it hurt for a much longer time than the It Only Hurts If You’re Doing It Wrong brigade let on, and sometimes still does before my period). I’m still a bit ambivalent about it because of the relentlessness of the whole thing. She refuses bottles of expressed milk, so that means that no-one else can do the night wakings, offers of babysitting are somewhat academic, and going anywhere for more than a couple of hours without her is impossible. So I’m back at work, working one day a week from home (basically during her naps) and the people I’m working (remotely) with are transport modelling professionals, and what transport modelling professionals do is travel a lot. And my world has shrunk very dramatically compared to that. A trip to the local shops or the community centre tends to be as far as I go on a weekday. Two years ago the answer to ‘how far can you go on a weekday?’ would have been something like ‘Um, Brazil?’. I do miss that, and I miss eating out (not to say that we haven’t been eating out, but now it’s in the sort of restaurant that has ‘Friday Night is Grill Night’ in big letters outside). The payoff for not getting to do that any more is getting to watch an awesome small person gradually take shape, and knowing that free time will eventually start happening again at some point. And right now she’s chewing on her babygym mirror and being outrageously cute so, well, there is that. We’ve been putting up photos and videos on fluffhouse, if you want to experience that part of it. :)
…and the second part. Including a photo of the assembled board book in action! (Alice was slightly nonplussed)
A board book for Alice’s first Christmas. The idea is to possibly make this a yearly tradition (hence being number 1 in a series). This is part 1, second part to follow…
For some reason I felt like doing a tube map of the shipping forecast in the shape of a cup of tea. Radio 4 Britain, you’re welcome. [NB. before anyone says this, I do know that Finisterre was renamed, but I don’t care; and I know that this would make a lousy transit system in reality, but looking a bit like a cup of tea came first]
A board book illustrating one of the main, er, hazards in my house at the moment.
As most people reading this are likely to know, Baby Alice Phoebe Jackson has now made her entrance into the world! Since I find reading other people’s birth stories really interesting, I’m putting mine up here. There is some biological detail - you may wish to skip this if that’s not your sort of thing. So. I got to about 8 days overdue and a bit fed up. By this point the midwives were doing things to try and hurry stuff along (mainly a couple of membrane sweeps) and had booked me in for an induction at 13 days overdue, should I get that far. The second membrane sweep was midday Friday and may have been the catalyst in starting labour off. My waters broke at around 9pm Friday. It wasn’t the movie-style big gush style of waters breaking - more a slow steady trickle of pink fluid. This is one of the things they tell you to contact the hospital over, so we rang the birthing unit at the Rosie Hospital (this is the fluffy, low-intervention part of the hospital) but they were closed. This isn’t unusual. They close when they’re full, and the Rosie is very over capacity - there’s a new, much bigger birthing unit opening in September. However, the delivery unit was open (this is the part of the hospital they use for higher-risk births), so we went there to be checked out. They comfirmed my waters had gone, booked me in for an induction on Saturday in case nothing had happened by then, and sent us home. Contractions started about midnight and got more intense very, very quickly. I got into the bath for a while, which helped, but by 4am they were 2-3 minutes apart and I was feeling the need for more pain relief. We phoned the hospital again - the birthing unit was still closed but the Delivery Unit was open. They said to come in when the contractions were reliably a minute long. The next three we timed were, so we called them again and went in. This is a part I wish I’d thought through better - it’s really difficult to get dressed and make sure everything’s in the birth bag by that point. For some reason the Delivery Unit has a birthing pool, even though high-risk births aren’t supposed to use one. So that turned out pretty well. Being low-risk, we were able to get that room. The midwife examined me and found I was 4cm dilated, which was a bit disheartening given I’d already been 2cm at the membrane sweep. I got in the pool and used the gas and air for the next couple of hours. I didn’t actually find the gas and air did much apart from provide a focus for breathing, but the water was good. Another thing I didn’t think through - I’d brought a swimming costume for the pool but by the time we got there I just wanted to get in, regardless of what I was wearing! So I ended up getting in in the clothes I came in in, which meant I had no dry clothes to go home with and ended up pootling out of the hospital very slowly in a nightie. I started feeling the urge to push quite soon but assumed it was wrong because, well, 4cm (10cm is when you can start to push). But after 2 hours I asked for another examination as I was getting really uncomfortable and it turned out I was fully dilated. I had been about to ask for more pain relief but given the situation I decided to hold out. However the midwife suggested holding off pushing for another hour as the baby’s head was still high. This was very difficult! Eventually I was allowed to push properly, which is the point at which it stopped being a quick birth. I stopped using the gas and air at this point as it just didn’t do anything for me. Found it interesting how physical this part is and how much it’s a whole-body thing. I was joking beforehand about the Olympic birthing event, but I still have sore muscles pretty much all over from the pushing stage. I pushed for about an hour and a half in the pool and it clearly wasn’t working. The baby kept coming to the point that the midwife could see her hair, but no further. So they got me out of the pool and tried a few other positions - first kneeling over the back of the bed, then sitting with hand and footrests to push against. Finally they offered an episiotomy, which I was happy to have at that point. This was definitely the right thing to do - as soon as it was done she shot right out. There was a lot of tearing - one big second degree one (they had to get someone in to make sure it wasn’t third) and a few others. So I spent a lot of time being stitched up while baby had a long feed. Turns out she was pretty big (8 lb 11) and had a huge head (37cm, which is something like 99.6th percentile) so I guess that explains the problems! I was incredibly exhausted afterwards - they moved us into the birthing unit recovery ward for the rest of the day and we went home in the evening. The whole thing was less than 12 hours from waters going to baby coming out. Very intense (possibly because the waters went first?) and quite surprising. I’d had the idea that first babies take ages. So yay! We’re settling in at home now and it seems to be going well, although apparently Day 4 is the problem day when the proper milk comes in and the hormones go crazy, so we’ll have to see how that goes. She seems to have the hang of the whole feeding thing (I’ve been calling her Alice Feedme Jackson, amongst various other cute names), which is good, although I’m still working it out from my side and a bit sore. And as expected, we’ve decided that our baby is the cutest one ever in the history of the world and all other babies look like Winston Churchill.
A rare foray into actual data today, in celebration of the Olympics. This arose from a conversation about what the best Olympic event was, and turned into an exploration of medal distribution for different sports by rich and poor countries. There is a bigger version here, in case the graphic suffers from Tumblr auto-resizing. I can’t help noting that Team GB’s Gold Rush is primarily in the sports that are mainly only accessible to rich countries (see also the effect of income distribution within Britain).
I would have loved to look back further in time - the big issue is the Soviet Union, which was big into national prestige as measured by medals and for which there isn’t reliable GDP data.
It’s my due date today. No sign of anything happening whatsoever. Have finally heeded the advice of every pregnancy website ever to take bump photos (baby is apparently the size of a pumpkin, in case you were wondering).