Thursday, February 28, 2002

The Diary of Impending Dadness

This is lead up to Marcus's birth.

22.10.01  Week 20
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"You could catch stingrays in my underpants" - Kaz Cooke at week 20
Hello friends, family and the world wide web. This is Chris and Elf's baby and bathroom newsletter, now with added nostalgia (see below). We went to the Show on Thursday, mostly to watch the judging of the Anglo-Nubian goats. The 2nd placegetter started eating her red ribbon. On the baby front, we've just had the 20 week ultrasound, which was amazing. Singleton can't open his eyes yet, but the ultrasound could still see him looking out at us - so incredible. We know what sex Singleton is but we shall continue to call him "him" - everyone else will have to guess until round about March 17th. The main thing is that he checked out OK - they measured about 30 different things, from heart valves to cerebellum and counted his fingers. Its all there!

29.10.01  Week 21
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Shopping: "There are things with "baby" written on them, you know,in case you think you might have given birth to a ferret or something"- Kaz Cooke at week 21
Hello folk, kith and kin. We have seen wallabies on the track into town that we walk down in the mornings. The baby has started kicking. Elf's grandparents have suggested the names Hester and Jasper.
We have a quote in for the bathroom, and hopefully good old Gerald will be in there soon sorting it all out for us.

12.11.01  Week 23
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"Today, i officially let myself go. I spent the entire day dressed in a wheat bag and moccasins" - Kaz Cooke at week 23
Singleton is kicking every day now. Elf feels it pretty constantly - I've felt it a few times and it brings the whole thing another step towards reality. It still mostly seems like a bit of a daydream that we'll wake up from some time.
We drove over to Strahan on the West Coast on Friday, and stayed the weekend for a bit of a break. Strahan has grown a lot in the last few years - last time I was there was about 1980. I think the best thing we did was go for a walk on the Henty Sand Dunes in a sunshower, which ended and left us bathed in supernaturally bright sunshine. Then we ate crayfish sandwiches and tried to watch the sun set into the sea (obscured by a bit more rain). We voted in Strahan and listened to the Last Post on Rememberance Day in Queenstown. Theres nowhere quite as drowsy as Queenstown on a Sunday. The place is fantastic to walk around if you are really interested in rust, entropy and makeshift vernacular architecture, and I am.

19.11.01  Week 24
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"The foetus still looks thin compared to the roly-poly Anne Geddes postcard style baby, but is starting to get plumper. My brain is suet and I can't remember anything." - Kaz Cooke at week 24
Singers is about 630 grams and 21cm from head to bum - really quite big when you measure it against Elf. Elf is now a bit uncomfortable lying in bed. The baby seems to just get up, jitterbug and flip completely over sometimes. I can only imagine what that must feel like. Elf is keen to have someone else (ie me) carry Singleton around for a while. Who knows, maybe one day it will be possible.
I walked in the Point to Pinnacle race yesterday, but the said pinnacle was snowed in so they changed it to Point to Ferntree and back to Point again. I didnt fancy plodding downhill all the way back to the casino so I just slipped away as I got near our house and had a cup of tea and a bath here instead (missing out on a crappy medallion). I am now creaking loudly and in no condition to carry a baby, even if it does only weigh as much as a pint of milk.

27.11.01  Week 26 (I thought)
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"Pregnancy is just an absurd strain on the body, and we don't expect that any more. We expect there to be a pill or an exercise or a mantra or a caring discussion that will alleviate 'discomfort' and 'pain'. Nup." - Kaz Cooke at week 26
Steve Thomas is making a short film that involves a lot of chickens, in fact the cast and crew are being paid in chickens. Dean is doing some design work on it in exchange for 15 white sussex hens. The best bit is it turns out these are TRAINED chickens - on command they form a circle!
Elf is really starting to show now. I have tried various ways of putting it gently - "your center of gravity is getting very low" is the best I can come up with. Singleton is booting her about regularly. The midwife is very happy with her progress. We had a little talk about pain and screaming last night - hopefully I will be able to handle it all manfully and be supportive.
The bathroom is advancing - we have a new bath, but we arent allowed to take the plastic wrap off it yet. There are little portholes through to the outside world and only a few bits of intact floor. The cats love it. I really feel like we're genuine young Aussie renovators, like the role models on infotainment programs. Except someone else is doing it. We ARE getting to grips with the spare room nursery though. We are stripping the glossy white paint from the beautiful woodframed windows, and the powder blue walls will be maybe a pumpkin colour(?). The Tasmanian Tiger CD I worked on for 4 months was launched yesterday, and the TMAG people presented the premier with a picture of a mangled tiger to commemorate government involvement in its extinction. Nice.

4.12.01  Week 26 (really)
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"..I am now a stately pregnant lady and am now so considerably fattened up that that THING has happened... where your thighs rub together at the top. If I wore corduroy trousers I would sound like a sword fight." - Kaz Cooke at week 26 (again)
We lost the Davis Cup, we got towelled by NZ in the cricket and then I was retrenched at work - what a week. I've already had a job interview at The Web Designers which should result in some freelance work in the short term, with a job there if I need it. I'll be doing contract work for my erstwhile firm G3, and generally peddling my wares around town and beyond. My new freelance business site is. Elf's parents Bill and Felicity arrive later this week to attend a Fullagar family wedding (all the best to Mac and Priscilla). Singleton is now aware of light and recognising familiar voices - mostly Tim Lane of ABC radio cricket commentary I think. I'm looking forward to teaching her about silly mid on, the popping crease and the "corridor of uncertainty" outside off stump. Of course, this will be balanced with cultural studies, where we will compare and contrast the sonnets of Shakespeare with "Delilah" by Tom Jones.

14.12.01  Week 28ish
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"Glamour check: I have discovered that pregnancy makes you sweat more. Its as if Mrs Fluid has come to visit." - Kaz Cooke at week 28
Bill and Felicity are back in Canberra, the wedding was very lovely by all accounts but just a smidgen less so in all respects than ours, of course. Chonk was here too and has gone again, not to be seen for some years as he is off to live in cheesy goaty Switzerland to make precision tools. My mum and dad have been to stay as well, so there have been lots of big round table get-togethers. Christmas is lurking around the corner. Christmas itself is lovely but "Christmas" as in "Christmas shopping", "Christmas drinks" and "piped Christmas music" starts too early and can't finish soon enough for my liking. Bah and humbug.
Elf now has quite a bow, in the ocean liner sense. She can rub her tummy against things she is standing some distance from. And its very FIRM. This week we start swimming again - we've been very slack, but now the mail order maternity togs have arrived.

6.01.02  Week 31
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"Every now and then I forget I'm pregnant for a minute or two, then the baby kicks or I have to move or something and I remember. From behind I look like two drivers-side airbags going off." - Kaz Cooke at week 31br Happy new year all. We had my mum and dad to stay over Christmas, Sal and Matt came up too and we had a very nice, kind of salad-y Christmas lunch. Elf did home-made Christmas crackers which popped to spill out (gasp!) herbal teabags and biros! We all went on the Airwalk down in the Hartz National Park which is pretty amazing- its a 1.5 km walk through the forest, about 30m above the ground. With a hanging sproinggg-ing cantilevered bit. Housewise we bought ourselves a Golden Elm sapling for Christmas and its slap bang in the centre of the backyard. It will make a big difference having some shade out there. Anyone who has been in Hobart on an even slightly sunny day will know what I mean - the sun here is savage and we had no shade at all in the backyard. We are stripping like crazy now, plasticky dried curls of seventies white high gloss paint are littering the floors. We would like to have a perpetrator/victim conference with whoever did it, like people who've been burgled do, so we can deal with our feelings and achieve closure. The wood underneath is very nice, um, Tas Oak? Er. Elf and Singers still seem mighty fine. Elf has had some discomfort under her right ribs, that could be Singleton head butting her. We're hoping its not gallstones, which is another possibility, so Elf's on a low fat diet now. We've met about half the midwives in the midwife pool - they're all nice but last week's was overly mumsy. Its pot luck who you get on the day. Soon we'll start ante-natal class - lots of beanbag action and instant coffee, I'm guessing.

17.01.02  Week 32
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"If the baby was born now it would open its eyes and look out at the world (except it can't focus on much at this stage and would look endearingly crosseyed" - Kaz Cooke at week 32
We had our first ante-natal class last night. It wasnt too bad, but two and a half hours is a long time to spend sitting on the floor. Louise showed us a muddy 3rd generation video of a lady called Uta having a baby, with her hairy unclothed husband drifting into view now and then. We handed round a knitted placenta. Unfortunately the knitted umbilical cord had fallen off. At one stage Louise demonstrated the opening of the cervix with a life size pelvis, then put it down and absent mindedly kicked it across the room. Instant coffee and beanbags were very much in the vanguard. The boys nervously sat in a circle and tried to think of reasons why we will make good support persons, while the girls listed what they wanted from their support person. We had a midwife visit today as well to check on Singleton's position - he's still in breech. Apparently his feet are either side of his head, flexible little bugger. If he doesnt turn over to be head down sometime in the next 4 weeks, we'll make an appointment for a caesarean delivery, 2 or 3 weeks early, maybe the last week of February. There are lots of things they suggest to encourage turning - Singleton responds to light at this stage, so we are trying to lead him downwards with a torch. That is not even in the top ten of silliest suggestions. Handstands in the pool, massage and stern instructions through the tummy are other things we're trying. Also this week we bought a 2nd hand Emmaljunga pram and big bunch o' nappies, bunny rugs and gro suits. Bathroom now looking civilised, with bath and handbasin clad with pine panelling cannibalised from the front room. Its about 85% finished I'd say. Spare room has been paint-stripped within an inch of its life, and the windows now open. Yay.

26.01.02  Week 33
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"(this week) I realise that if I breastfeed I must accept that for several months I won't be able to a) sleep, b) work, c) speak, d) twirl tassels around in opposite directions while they are attatched to my nipples" - Kaz Cooke at week 33
The second ante-natal class was a lot better. We are getting to the know the other couples a bit and we've agreed that most of them are probably not as irritating as we thought. This class was taken by a nice physio with an amputated finger, called Sandy. She obviously knows a hell of a lot about her field - she rattled through the anatomy of everything from skull down to about knee level in great detail, in about 15 minutes, and it was even intelligible. There is a nice commonsense about physios - something swells and presses on something else, bones join together in sensible mechanical ways - small things stretch to let big things pass through. The one guy who we still agree is very irritating, Hairgel Boy, showed us all his tummy, told us he could do 150 sit-ups and then showed us some stretches he likes to do. Sandy was briskly dismissive. We can now feel Singleton's different limbs and head - we don't always agree on which is which. The head should feel like a cricket ball, apparently. He is pushing, shoving, probing and pummelling in hour-long sessions now. ||| This little symbol is to announce we are now talking house, we are no longer talking baby. We've stained and varnished the pine panelling in the bathroom and it looks fabbo. This week we embraced knobs (fnarr fnarr). New lovely blue/white ceramic and brass knobs that have really (I'm serious) boosted the whole shebang a couple of notches. I'll never knock knobs again. Knobs n Knockers - there must be a shop called that somewhere in the English-speaking world. We have chosen a colour for the nursery called "Far Away" - read into this what you will.

31.01.02  Week 34
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The baby has turned! Hot off the press, the latest report from our latest midwife, a very nice middle-aged footy-guy called Ron. More head-in-pelvis news as it comes to hand.

18.02.02  Week 37
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"Nausea. Walks not. Horizontal. No verbs in sentences" - Kaz Cooke at week 37
Hi there, breathless baby aficionados and bathroom followers. Sorry, its been a pretty busy little period. The ante natal classes are over - four all together. Simpering Louise took the 3rd and a really sensible down to earth one called Maryann took the last one. Sensible except she like to refer to herself in the 3rd person, ie "This is the way Maryann does it..". We learned some baby holds, which are not that different to wrestling holds, and some nappy folding techniques. Oh, I havent even told you about our trip to the Lactation Consultant. She was very interesting and very encouraging, but also a bit of a breastfeeding nazi. To an audience of couples who obviously want to breastfeed, she went on and on with statistics like breastfed children are 5% smarter. As some of the mothers will certainly not be able to breastfeed all the time, if at all, it seemed to be setting the mums up to feel guilty about it, to me. Elf has had her doctor check at 36 weeks, and he said everything was going just fine. She's growing every day now, and quite ready to deliver Singers at a moments notice. The being-huge thing and the swollen-feet thing and the feeling-tired thing are pretty wearing on her, but she's amazingly cheerful and still good company, which is nice. I had thought I might have to share the house with a large-tummied grump for the whole summer. Elf is starting to feel some cramps which might be our old friends Braxton and Hicks - the practce contractions. Names are falling by the wayside, and now we are looking at Lucy, Isobel, Marcus, Patrick, Daniel, Joshua, Wesley, and a couple of others. "Dario" and "Malachy" have been put aside for use on goldfish or plants.

Renovations are going well - Gerald has shipped out and left us with a well organised bathroom only lacking lino, paint and somewhere to bloody hang things, so we are moving on those fronts now.The old toilet window that didn’t open is being un-puttied and stripped so it can be stained, hinged and opened, which will be nice. Singleton's room is looking great. We've painted it out, finished stripping the woodwork and now we just have patch up a few spots where we, ur, well I dropped paint stripper on the varnished floor. We wheeled the cot in and put it in the corner of the room, and immediately both felt like going to the pub and pretending that we arent going to be parents in about a month.

22.03.02  He's actually arrived!
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Our healthy son Marcus William Rees was born on Thursday morning, 28 February by caesarean section - he was 17 days early, quite a little fella but a good size for 38 weeks. And this is how it happened.

Elf and I went along to the hospital for her routine midwife visit after lunch on Wed 27 February. We had a midwife Elf had met but she was new to me - Jane. She had a midwife-in-training with her. Jane took Elf's blood pressure, which she said was a bit high, so she took it again with Elf lying down 10 minutes later. Jane said she still thought it was too high, and asked Elf to do a urine test to rule out pre-eclampsia, (a relatively common condition in advanced pregnancy). Jane mentioned that if it was pre-eclampsia Elf would probably be induced early, as the only way to get her blood pressure down to a safe level would be to get placenta (and the baby) out. Elf was put into a single room (apparently for private patients, but all the others were full, lucky for us). Once she was as comfortable as she was going to get, I went home.

I got up at 5am next morning and finished some illustrations I had to hand in that day. It was a beautiful morning, and I remember looking down into the valley and thinking "my son is going to be born today".

When I got out of my car in the parking station opposite the hospital I switched off my mobile. At the same time the midwife was trying to call me at home and on the mobile to tell me that things were happening and to get myself down to the hospital pronto. I was there 2 minutes later anyway. Elf had bled a bit too much for everyone's comfort earlier that morning. Things started happening quite fast now - the midwives were very reassuring, but all the decisions are made by the doctors, who sweep in and out with an entourage of juniors. Elf went into labour for about two hours - she was in a lot of pain and feeling very anxious during contractions but calm, lucid and in good spirits between them.

The crunch came when another doctor, Dr Dimella, declared that the contractions werent getting anywhere (Elf could have told them that). Suddenly people were saying it would be a caesarean. Elf was very anxious, asking to please have a general anaesthetic. The nurses kitted me out with a blue gown, pants, mask, hat and little overshoes so I could be with Elf during the operation. We went up in the lift, Elf on a trolley and me holding her hand. At the door the anaesthetist told me I couldn’t come in - hangers-on aren't allowed into theatre for a general anaesthetic. Suddenly, my support-person role fell away, and I was just like an old fashioned dad, pacing the corridors and waiting for the news. I actually went down to the caf, bought a newspaper and tried to let my mind relax - I was very relieved that Elf wasn't feeling any more pain.

At about 11.30 the midwives found me and said I could go up and get my son - I had to put my funny blue gear back on again, just to go up to the theatre floor in the lift. Someone handed me a little wrapped up bundle with a yellow beanie on, pink face, dark, dark eyes - just looking at me calmly. I took him down to Elf's room and just sat with him alone with my shirt off for a while, while he sucked my little finger. He radiated an air of calm and seriousness. I told him all sorts of things I thought he should know, but I don't remember now what they were. Meanwhile Elf was being stitched and stapled in Recovery. After I'd held him for an hour or so he was put under a heat lamp because his temperature was a bit low - early babies don't have enough fat to keep them warm. Elf was wheeled in still very drowsy - I had a frustrating few minutes where the nurses were attending to Elf and Marcus seperately, they couldn’t see each other, and I was itching to snatch Marcus from under the heater and hold him up where Elf could see him - I wanted her to see how perfect he was, so she would feel better.

Soon she was allowed to hold him and we were all alone together - she was still coming out of the general, but she could see her beautiful son, after 24 hours of anxiety, pain and uncertainty. So this is the end of the diary of impending dadness - now I have embraced the state of dadness!