Tag Archives: pregnancy

Comes with instructions

As every long suffering wife or female partner will readily testify, it is absolutely verboten for men to read an instruction manual before plugging in a piece of technological gadgetry. Any male choosing to even remove the ‘How To…’ guide from its plastic will have his membership of the Men’s Union terminated with immediate effect, a punishment which also applies to any man choosing to ask for travel directions or for assistance finding a product in a shop. 

Clearly, this can cause problems. I spent more than half an hour attempting to hook up my laptop to the TV on Friday night, despite the fact that a quick trip to the basement and the abandoned pile of various manuals would have probably saved me all the effort. And I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve walked out of a store without the item I needed, only to find three months later that the thing I had expensively imported from Guadeloupe or Ulam Bator was on a shelf there after all. 

Call it stubborn male pride, call it fierce independence or call it bloody-minded stupidity (a title that The Special One is not without merit in using), but whatever it is, I just can’t help myself. Whether it’s a $5 piece of tat or an expensive hi-tech bit of kit, instructions may as well be written in Chinese, such is their value to me. 

Of course, children – our highest of the hi-tech gadgets, after all – are perfect for somebody with this kind of attitude, as they come without any kind of manual whatsoever, and you just have to figure it all out for yourself. Unless you live in New York City, clearly, where babies really do come with their very own instruction book. 

Don’t worry, the manual isn’t pushed out alongside your newborn; they tried that for a while, but they had problems getting the sharp corners through the birth canal. Instead the city simply sends you the instruction pamphlet when they postmail the birth certificate to you. It’s conveniently entitled “Your New Baby”, just in case you get it confused with the manual for your answering machine, and it purports to be from Thomas Farley (MD, MPH), the commissioner of the New York City Health Department. 

Not daring to risk my membership of the Men’s Union, but also not wanting to miss any valuable parenting lessons, I took the booklet to the smallest room in the house and settled down to bask in its glorious authority. I feel that there are some essential tips that I need to share with you all: 

1. Coming at the start, as page 1 has an alarming tendency to do, you have to imagine that page 1 contains the essential stuff that new NYC parents need to know – the vital facts, just in case you only read one page. The three points that the aforementioned page 1 mentions are “enjoy your baby” (a critical reminder when you’re changing a vivid orange nappydiaper at 3am), “talk to your baby”, and – of course – “limit TV”. That’s right, New York parents have to be reminded not to let their kids watch TV before they need to be told about trivial stuff like, you know, feeding and medical care. It’s no surprise that the “how to comfort your crying baby” section over the page suggests “turn down the lights and turn off the TV.”   

2. Apparently, you should “never shake your baby”. It’s helpful suggestions like this which explain why I never pick up instruction books.   

3. “Keep Your Baby Safe” is the helpful advice of one section. I think that Thomas Farley has heard that I can never remember in the morning where I put my wallet and keys the night before, panicked, and put this section in. Although if that is the case, I don’t think that putting the baby “on the hook by the door” is the solution to anybody’s problems.   

4. Does anybody really need to be told “Don’t Let Anyone Smoke Around Your Baby” these days? And don’t even get me started on “Keep Your Baby Away From Poisons”. Although to be fair, I’d accidentally left Brit Out Of Water Jr playing with a pile of arsenic when I went off to the bathroom to read this pamphlet, so I was mighty relieved that New York City was tipping me off to this inadvertent danger.   

5. In the 2009 list of The World’s Most Ridiculously Obvious Statements, “Be The Best Parent You Can Be” ranks only one notch lower than “Don’t Introduce Your Daughter To Tiger Woods”.   

Incidentally, the final section of the manual is entitled “Planning Pregnancy” giving details of emergency contraception usage among other things. I can only imagine that this is New York City’s little joke at the expense of new parents, gently telling them that if they’d only read this booklet then they wouldn’t be in this sorry mess in the first place.

The one thing I’m still puzzling about is where the remote control for the baby is. She makes an awful amount of noise when she’s hungry, and it’d be useful to be able to use the mute function. Of course, if we’d splashed out on the Sky+Tivo baby, I’d be able to fast forward through the diaper changes too, but you can’t have everything.

Keeping mum

When you tell people that you’re going to become a father for the first time (or in my case, a father to a baby for the first time, given the presence of The Young Ones), you suddenly find yourself playing a game of Baby Bingo. As the well-meaning person you’re talking to rattles off platitudes with the staccato regularity of a machine gun, you can chuckle (or over dramatically fake abject terror) like it’s the first time you heard them, and surreptitiously tick each one off your list. Once you reach ten, you scream “Baby Bingo!” and run out of the room with your arms flailing above your head, before returning exhausted two minutes later to breathlessly wheeze “I’m a Baby Bingo winner and I hereby claim my five poundsdollars!”

Some of the bingo boxes are more easy to get than others, of course. “When is she due?” is practically checked before your conversational cohort has opened his or her mouth. I’ve become accustomed to answering “Are you having a boy or a girl? ” with “I certainly hope so!” such is the frequency of its use. And if I had a dollar for every time somebody said “Better catch up on your sleep now!” I’d be a rich man (although not rich enough to pay for even half the paraphernalia you seem to need to deal with the consequences of a steamy night nine months previously).

Other phrases come with perhaps less regularity, although still maintaining a frequency that would be the envy of the New York subway system if translated to trains. “Everything changes as soon as you take the first look at the baby” is a current favourite, while “Have you ever changed a nappydiaper before?” also seems to be a popular one right now. And don’t get me started on the number of differnt variations that people find in order to say “your life is about to come to an end”.

Having had so many questions and comments (solicited or otherwise) I thought I was ready for everything. Until I realiszed that my child is going to be born an American, and is therefore going to say ‘mom’ rather than ‘mum’. And frankly that put a bit of a dampener on my day.

Most Americaniszations I can deal with, to be honest, and I’ve learned to translate in my head before opening my mouth. But the moment I say ‘mom’ or ‘mommy’ will be a cold day in hell.

‘Mom’ just seems as uniquely American as peanut butter and ‘jelly’ sandwiches, or waterboarding suspected terrorists. I’ve already had to accept that the child might grow up to think that Hershey’s is an acceptable form of chocolate, or that there really is any point in (American) football. But there are some boundaries that really can’t be crossed. And that starts with ‘mom’. I’m British and proud of it, and I simply won’t give in to this slow and insidious creeping Yankification.

Now, enough of this chat – I’m off to have a bagel. Have a nice day y’all.

Funny how things change

It’s strange how your concept of what is acceptable in life changes as you grow older. When I was an eighteen year old, there would have been more chance of me running through the streets of my home town sporting nothing more than one fluorescent sock and a smile, than – say – wearing a cardigan in public. Fast forward twelve years, and I found myself in a store pondering whether I should buy the aforementioned woollen item in black or in grey. Needless to say, I bought both and wore them with pride. 

Similarly, I spent the first thirty two years of my life steadfastly avoiding any piece of music that could in any sense be termed as ‘worthy’. While rock, pop, alternative and metal could all find a home in my extensive collection, there was no space for classical, opera or – shudder at the thought – modern jazz. Then with no warning I suddenly found that listening opera was a perfectly pleasant accompaniment to coffee and croissants on a Sunday morning, and suddenly the flood gates were opened. I still draw the line at modern jazz, you’ll be pleased to know.

Things change. Perceptions change, and so do our priorities. So when The Special One burst into our bedroom in floods of joyful tears, and then dragged me into the bathroom to show me a pregnancy test, I was almost shocked to realise quite how happy I actually was.

After all, for thirty years I’d lived in abject fear of being ushered into a bathroom and having a positive pregnancy test thrust into my sweaty shaking palm. Let’s be honest here. When you’re a bachelor, being shown a pregnancy test could potentially feel like the visual equivalent of having a cell door slam shut behind you. When you’re a man who has found their partner, the news opens the door of life, from behind which the high-kicking Rockettes emerge to perform an octane-fuelled number entitled ‘The Start of a Whole New Dynasty’.

Of course, having successfully managed to avoid the dreaded positive test for so long, my success suddenly counted against me. After all, I had no frame of reference to tell me what the piece of strange looking plastic I was looking at actually meant. All I had to go on was that there was a line in the clear window, and that my wife was crying. With evidence like that, even Hercule Poirot himself would throw his hands up in the air and claim that there was nothing he could do.

So many questions run through your head at this point. Was The Special One crying because she had thought she was pregnant but wasn’t? Were her tears a reflection of the fact that she had changed her mind about having a child after all, and the thought of continuing my gene line filled her with a sense of unutterable dread and foreboding? And why on earth has technology not developed to a point where a pregnancy test can have a little thumbs up sign to indicate that your little general has successfully delivered its payload to the required destination? Even a written sign that says ‘you’d better start saving, mate’ would be better than a non-descriptive line.

Thankfully she doesn’t seem to mind too much when I ask what the hell is going on, and happily tells me that I should probably not make any plans for September. I hug her and tell her that it’s all going to be OK. For some reason it feels like it should be her who’s reassuring me though.

After all, it seems like I’m going to be a dad.