Choosing a name for your baby is a huge responsibility. There are so many ways you could go with it. You could go traditional, like William or Peter. You could go weird, like Jaylon, Legend or Franco. Or trendy, like Hunter or Lucas.
They all have their benefits and drawbacks. Traditional names are usually strong, solid and familiar, and so you know your kid will have an easy ride. Weird names are cool and interesting, and kids always grow into their names so they don’t stay weird for long, but then they’ll always be spelling their names over the phone (even I have to do this – I’m Sam now when I order takeaways). And trendy names are, well, trendy, but they’ll probably have three other kids in the class with the same name.
From the outset, we didn’t want to be in the trendy camp. This is mainly because Liv knows what its like to have one of the most popular names and to have to share it with heaps of other kids at school. We also aren’t really into weird names, although early in her pregnancy Liv dreamt that we named our baby Rocket, and so that’s what we called him as a fetus. Also, Pharrell Williams has a son called Rocket, so it was within the realm of possibility! But really, we’re into traditional-but-not-very-common names.
The first name we loved for a boy was Henry. It’s a strong, familiar name, but it also sounds nice and it runs nicely with the last name Allison. However, it’s also relatively popular. It was number 26 on the top 100 boys names in New Zealand in 2016, next to Jackson, Jacob and Elijah.
So Henry was a top pick but maybe a bit too popular for us. Jasper was our only other option. We actually had the name Jasper on our list months before he was even conceived! This was January 2016 – we knew we were going to start trying soon so names were in discussion. Liv was really into really old names, like popular names from the 18th century. She sent me an email one day with a list of names she liked (she tells me she doesn’t like most of them now). Jasper was one of them. Looking back at that exchange, thankfully I had said Jasper was the one I liked!
So we had two names to choose from. How hard can that be?! Liv liked Jasper slightly more, while I tended towards Henry. About two or three months into the pregnancy, we’d pretty much settled on Jasper. But then towards the end of the pregnancy, about the last eight weeks, we gravitated more towards Henry.
We hadn’t mentioned our name options to anybody. Not a soul. That’s what made it super weird when one day, I get a text from mum saying she had a dream that we named our baby Henry. I couldn’t believe it. I rushed to tell Liv, who was in equal disbelief. How could she possibly know?!
After that, I really wanted to call him Henry because I thought it was a neat coincidence that mum had had that dream. Like, it was meant to be, or something. By 36 weeks we’d pretty much decided on Henry, and Liv kept saying things to me like, “In my head he’s Henry”.
It was hard because Henry was really the name I liked more, while Liv tended towards Jasper, and I worried that she was giving in to my preference. I was glad that she liked Henry, but the closer we got to the birth, the greater my reservations became about Henry. I worried about its popularity, and thought maybe it was too traditional.
By the end we were openly discussing the name options with people. There was a clear trend: people older than 50-ish liked Henry, while younger people liked Jasper. Still, we couldn’t quite decide.
Making the final decision
As soon as Jasper was born, I looked at him and said, “Henry”. Liv was still unsure. I said maybe I just see Henry because that’s what we’d been thinking for a while now. We decided to leave it for a bit and decide after a good night’s sleep.
All throughout that first day we went back and forth between Henry and Jasper. Eventually, obviously, Jasper won out. We loved how it sounded, its meaning, and especially how it went with his middle name.
One day after he was born we decided. He was Jasper Jay.
So why is the name Jasper Jay significant? For many reasons, it turns out. What started out as a name we just liked, has actually grown to have a lot of things attached to it.
First, there’s the Toronto Blue Jays. My baseball team. My winter obsession. How I connect with my Canadian heritage.
Everyone always asks me if we deliberately named him after the Blue Jays, and the answer is yes and no. I like that Jasper has the Jay in his name because I really love this team. But we also just liked the way Jasper and Jay run together. And we like that he can be JJ, or just J, if he wants.
Jasper is also the name of a national park in Alberta, Canada, so there’s another Canadian link there.
There’s a Simpsons link, too (another one of my favourite things). There’s an episode where Homer realises he has no idea what the J in his middle initial stands for, so he goes on this quest to his childhood home to find that his middle name is Jay. Great episode.
One of the Three Wise Men was also called Jasper (well, that’s the anglicised version). He brought the myrrh, which unfortunately is the most useless of all the gifts. What even is it?!
Also, I quite like whiskey and Jack Daniels’ actual first name was Jasper.
So there you go. The story behind Jasper’s name.
Reading: A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly
Listening to: Hug of Thunder by Broken Social Scene
I’ve been a bit down lately, as you may have guessed from some of my previous posts. I haven’t enjoyed having a baby as much as I thought I would, and I’ve been feeling extremely tired and pretty frustrated at times. Liv wonders if I’m depressed, but I think it’s too early for that. I’m probably just tired. That’s the most logical cause of my troubles. However, I have made a doctors appointment for a couple of weeks from now, just in case things don’t improve.
And I think it’s also the shock of caring for a newborn baby has thrown everything out of whack and I’m struggling to deal with it. That, coupled with sleep deprivation, isn’t a recipe for happiness. Some of it is my personality: I just do what I want to do, and I don’t do things that annoy me. But now I don’t have a choice – I have a kid now, and he deserves to have the best dad possible.
I had a great sleep last night and feel better today, so I think getting sleep may help. I also need to exercise more, and make time to do things I enjoy. So I’m going to focus on these things and see if my mood improves. Some of it is also an attitude shift: I need to put everything into Jasper because these early weeks are when we’re forming our bond which we’ll have for the rest of our lives. His little brain is just starting to respond to us, and I want him to know that I’m his Dad and I love him. I know I’ve complained a lot about him and our life but I do love him to bits, and I am so proud that I get to call myself his dad, and tell everyone he is my son. Here are my favourite five things I love about Jasper so far.
When he falls asleep on me
This is the best! He doesn’t do it often, but if you catch him in the right mood, usually after a feed, and you rock him just right with his head on your shoulder, he’ll fall asleep. And then he’ll fall into this really deep baby sleep where his face goes all red and you just know he’s completely out to it. And then he curls up onto you and his arms sit on you like he is giving you a cuddle. He also makes cute little baby noises and it’s the greatest feeling.
That he’s so alert
I love watching him look around. He’s been a pretty alert baby from the start but now he’s really noticing what’s going on. Above his change table in his room is some small pom poms on the wall. He is mesmerised by them. Even if he’s crying, put him on the table and when he notices them he calms right down. It’s weird!
He notices other patterns too. His favourite things are the set of six picture frames we have hanging above our couch in the lounge. And he actually loves looking at my records, which are quite low down on a shelf next to his play mat. So when he’s lying there he’ll turn his head and look at the records. I guess it’s the range of colours he’s interested in (hopefully some day I can get him interested in the music, too!).
That he looks a bit like me
Some people say he looks a lot like me, but I’m not sure. I do know he has my weird ears, though – they don’t fold over at the top. So I know he’s mine! But I thought it was just so cool that even when he was a few days old, I recognised myself in him. I know this is an evolutionary thing – dads are supposed to see themselves in their kids so they know they’re theirs and they don’t run off. But sometimes I really do feel like I’m looking back at a mini version of me. So is it like, really narcissistic to say I also think he’s ridiculously good looking?
How much he enjoys bath time
I’m so glad he’s gotten to like his baths. He hated his first few. But with each one he’s grown to like them. Now, he just lies there, looking back at me. It’s so sweet. No crying or anything, just a few kicks. I love holding him in my arm and gently splashing the warm water over his belly. He can’t tell me much right now, but I know from the way he looks up at me – and the lack of crying – that he loves it.
Our feedings times
While Liv has had her battles with feeding, such as not having as much milk as she’d like, it has given Jasper and I an opportunity to bond over the bottle. It’s quite nice that we can have these little moments where I feed him. If he’s cranky because he’s hungry, I love watching his face change immediately as I give him the bottle. He just starts sucking and then looks straight into my eyes with those beautiful blues. His little hands move a little bit, fingers flexing, as he enjoys his meal. I know it’s the baby equivalent of me digging into a huge plate of Buffalo wings (i.e. heaven). It’s such a lovely little time for us.
I know as he changes so rapidly I will find new things I enjoy about him every day. And Jasper, if you ever read this, just in case there was any doubt, Dad loves you so much. I promise I always will.
It’s been four weeks now – nearly a month – since Jasper arrived in our world. In that time we’ve got to know each other pretty well. Or as well as you can know a tiny human who really just feeds and sleeps. He doesn’t even poo that much! That’s one thing that’s surprised me. I’m changing many more wet nappies than dirty ones. Anyway, here’s four things that I’ve taken away from this crazy month.
(I originally titled this post ‘Five Thoughts…’, but I got to four and realised I was actually out of thoughts. So take what you can get, I guess).
You can’t die from tiredness, right?
Seriously, I’m struggling to get through the day sometimes. And I don’t know if I’m being dramatic, or if this is totally normal and everyone goes through it, but all I know is that if I was dead I’d get some decent sleep at least. Ok that’s pretty dark, and I’m very much happy to be alive, but dear Lord I’m tired.
The plan was for Liv to do the nighttime feeds and let me sleep, seeing as I’m the one who has to go to work all day. But actually, Liv has to work, too. Taking care of a newborn is full on, and Liv’s working just as hard as I am. So that idea went out the window pretty quickly.
I’m doing one or two feeds a night with the bottle. I hate doing them and I can’t believe what a shitty husband I’ve become. Like, when we first brought him home I was all superdad, leaping out of bed at all hours to rescue my tired wife and take care of our hungry boy. Now it’s like, when he cries, I stay put for a while and Liv and I lie there wondering to ourselves who’ll do this one. I still do at least one a night, but it’s taking its toll. It’s taking its toll on Liv as well, though, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Jasper still wakes every two hours at least, but hopefully that passes soon.
Going out isn’t the ordeal I had imagined
We’re trying really hard to get out and about and live our lives. I totally understand why you’d just stay home – because it’s easier. Or maybe because you’re nervous. I don’t know. But from the time he was a week old we’ve been getting out of the house with him.
It’s not so bad. All we need is his pram, which is in the boot of the car anyway, and his changing bag, which is full of all sorts of goodies like clean nappies, changes of clothes and these little plastic bags to put the dirty nappies in which are really doggie bags but they’re an actual thing for babies now. Mum said, “when you were little we just put the nappies in the bin!” Well, yeah mum, but we have bags now, so…
Once he’s in the car seat, which actually is the worst part because he’s still all weird to move and stuff (kind of like a doll whose limbs just won’t quite do what you want them to), we’re off and he’s happy. Loves the car. Sleeps for ages. Even if he’s not sleeping he’s enjoying looking at stuff, so I hope he’s just a good car baby.
When we get to wherever we’re going, we just plonk him into the pram, strap him in and away we go. Haven’t had a screaming fit or anything yet. So far we’ve mainly taken him to a cafe, or mum and dads, or the supermarket. We spent the morning at Sylvia Park shopping mall the other day and he was a bit unsettled, but not unmanageable. I think it was probably a bit overstimulating for him.
Liv is getting great at feeding him wherever we are. She’s not very self conscious and seems to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. I haven’t had to do a public nappy change yet but I’m sure that day is coming.
I’m slowly adjusting
Maybe it’s the exhaustion, but I’m not feeling that overwhelming feeling of love yet. I’m actually wondering if maybe I’m just not that kind of person. I’m certainly not overly emotional with other people, but I expected I would be with my son. He’s kind of annoying sometimes, to be honest. I think I’m still adjusting to a life where I can’t just do whatever I want whenever I want to. But I definitely am enjoying him more as time goes on and as he starts to respond to us more.
He’s far more interesting now than he was just two weeks ago. He’s alert and aware, always looking around when he’s awake, noticing things. I love laying him down on his playmat with a mobile above it and watching him stare at the objects with rapt attention. These changes are happening quickly and I’m loving watching his little brain develop.
Honestly. Who invented these confounded devil shoes? Surely satan himself wouldn’t even inflict these on new parents. They’re hard to get on; they have annoying little laces that just don’t tie quite right; they fall off with the slightest bit of movement; they’re just generally impractical! And on that, why do they make shoes for newborns? Where are they walking to?!
Clothing I do love: Bonds Wondersuits. These things are incredible. Our next child will be exclusively clothed in Wondersuits until it’s one. They’re onesies with feet (ALWAYS get onesies with feet to avoid the booties problem. You can use socks, but they’re one small step away from booties, and harder to find when they do inevitably fall off). Wondersuits also have zips at the top and the bottom to make for easy nappy changing, especially at night. Onesies with domes or buttons are OK for outings, or when you want to show off your baby and his cute outfit, but not really for general purposes.
Listening to: Epoch by Tycho.
Watching: The West Wing (for the third time).
Reading: The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes (I know, I know, but I always give Liv a hard time for all the chick lit she reads that I decided I should actually read one myself. It’s actually quite good, you know).
Feeding a baby is hard. They don’t really tell you just how hard.
By ‘they’, I mean pretty much everyone who may have talked to us about having a baby. Our midwife, our childbirth educator at antenatal class, other people who’ve had babies. They know it’s hard, but they just didn’t relay that piece of information to us.
Actually, in our feeding session at antenatal class I’m pretty sure something was said about it being hard and you have to stick with it, but the point wasn’t laboured. Most of the focus was on teaching us to breastfeed. And now I can see why so much emphasis was placed on it.
Breastfeeding is hard work. I can’t believe how difficult this supposedly natural thing is, and how much of a mental toll it takes on mothers. Does anyone find it easy? Perhaps. But so many women seem to struggle with it at first. This is our little feeding story.
Breastmilk isn’t there at birth. Most people have a tiny bit of colostrum (a few teaspoons per feed), but that’s it for a while. The milk’s meant to take a few days to come in. Colostrum is like breastmilk, but not quite. A woman’s body starts making it a few months before birth, and it’s a high-powered dose of antibodies and other good stuff to protect the baby from infection.
When Jasper had his first feed, he latched to the breast OK and started sucking pretty well. I asked the midwife if he was getting anything, and she told me you just have to trust that he is.
I find that weird, because what if he’s not? If there’s no milk supply, you can’t just make it come with pure trust. That would be amazing! I wish life was like that. Like, do we have bacon in the fridge? If I trust that there is, there will be!
He sucked for about 30 minutes so we assumed he was getting something, but as the day went on he got crankier and crankier. The midwives actually tried to milk Liv’s boob (like, literally – they taught her to squeeze it just right so milk comes out), but even then she was only getting about 0.1ml of liquid. Not only did Liv not have any breast milk at first, she didn’t even have colostrum. This is when the midwives suggested we give him a little bit of formula. We agreed, and by evening Jasper was finally getting some food!
They wouldn’t let us use a bottle to do this – Liv had to wear a nipple shield (a plastic fake nipple that goes over the real one) so that Jasper would know he still had to work to get anything out, and therefore hopefully help to get more milk flowing. They put the formula into a syringe and use a small tube running into the shield to get the formula to him. He continued to get formula through the shield about 10 times a day. It took an hour each time and required a nurse or midwife to stand there the whole time. Then she had to go on the breastpump 45 minutes after each feed for 15 minutes to try to get the milk to come in. This, too, happened 10 times day. Talk about exhausting!
All of this meant Liv got no time to feed the baby alone. Also, every time Jasper cried, even a little bit, someone would come rushing in assuming he was hungry again. Later, when we got home, she resented that for the five days we were there, she missed out on that essential bonding time because there always had to be someone hovering over her to make sure he was being fed correctly. But they all had different ideas of how much food he should be getting and the right way to give it to him. This meant every eight hours when they changed shifts we were being completely different advice.
This raises a theme that I think occurs in all aspects of raising children, that so many people want to help and think they’re helping, but actually sometimes they’re hurting. There are always unintended consequences, I guess.
So anyway, by day three the milk still hadn’t arrived (worst milkman ever!). Jasper was getting more formula and was happy enough, but Liv was getting distressed and emotional. She felt like a failure for not being able to feed her baby. I constantly tried to reassure her that she wasn’t, but I don’t think anything could have stopped her feeling like that. Of course she felt like a failure. In an age where breastfeeding is treated as the only safe and reasonable option by the Ministry of Health, and many midwives, it’s no wonder women feel immense distress when they can’t do it. I was skeptical of the Breast is Best campaign before we had Jasper, but now I’m downright angry about it. I don’t know why this campaign is necessary, but from my point of view it only serves to emotionally harm women who only want to feed their children. And to make matters worse, at our maternity unit the walls were covered with huge collages about how amazing and natural breastfeeding is, with pictures of animals breastfeeding! Huh??
We were lucky that we had no hangups about formula, because what would we have done otherwise? I’ve heard horror stories from other birthing centres in Auckland where the midwives won’t give a baby formula until it’s lost at least 10 percent of its body weight. That could take a few days! It just seems unnecessarily mean to the baby, and the parents, when you have a safe and nutritious alternative.
Late on day three the midwife was visiting us at the birthing centre and was talking to us about feeding. She suggested that we’d need to consider the idea that the milk might not come at all, and we could consider medicine that might help lactation. I thought this was a little drastic, but I guess she was preparing us for the worst. Liv broke down in tears, desperate to feed Jasper. I felt so sorry for her, but tried to remain positive and told her the milk wouldn’t be far away.
And it wasn’t – the next day she got a few mls. And then a bit more. But she still wasn’t allowed to put J on her breast – she had to keep expressing and giving it to him via the syringe so they’d know how much he was getting. This got annoying, so one night, when J was particularly upset, Liv just put him on her boob and let him go for it. He loved it! And it totally settled him. We just had to do what we wanted to do in the end, and ignore what we were being forced to do.
When we got home, Liv was feeding Jasper on the breast for a while, then every feed he was topped up with a bit of formula – about 50ml. Liv was then expressing on the breastpump between feeds to boost her supply. We’d then top J up with the expressed milk too, and then the formula if he needed it.
But as the days have gone on, and Liv’s milk supply increased even more, Jasper was mostly on the breast. Now, he has some formula at night, mainly to give Liv a bit more of a rest (he’s a hungry fella who feeds for 40 minutes each side!). She’s still expressing a bit, but he’s mostly on the breast.
The point is, that first week is so hard in terms of feeding. The midwives at the birthing unit kept telling us it gets better after a couple of weeks, and they’re right. Now, just over three weeks in, we’ve got it down. Liv and Jasper have their routine, and I help out with a bottle feed or two every now and then. For Liv it was worth persisting with the breastfeeding because that’s what she wanted to do. It was a nightmare at first but things did all fall in to place.
I know this isn’t the case for everyone – some people actually just can’t do it. And some don’t want to, and that’s totally valid. All I know is that Liv seems to get some joy out of the bonding she gets with J when they’re feeding. Of course there are so many ways to bond, but I guess this is their little thing that they share.
The last time I left you, I’d just got home from leaving Liv and Jasper at the maternity unit for their first night there. I was ecstatic with the baby and the birth and how perfect everything had gone. Well, that didn’t last long.
Some people did warn us this would be difficult. Throughout the pregnancy, my delightfully cynical friend Lawrence kept saying things like, “PREPARE FOR THE HORROR”, and other such words of encouragement. Well, he has twins, so I figured things must just have been hard for him and his wife. We’ll be fine, I thought. We’re always fine! Things are pretty easy for us! But then reality sets in and I think, actually this is kinda crap. When does it get fun?
Don’t get me wrong – I love the little guy and think he’s great, and I know we’re only three weeks in, but so far it hasn’t always been a barrel of laughs. For some people this is a wonderful time. But do people look back on this time with rose-tinted glasses? Do they forget how hard newborn babies are? Do they forget how stressful it is being up many, many times in the night with no way to settle their baby? I can only assume that kids become really fun, and that that joy drowns out the negative experiences of having a newborn. Or maybe other babies are just easier than ours.
In any case, I’ve been putting on a brave face. People at work ask me, How is Jasper and Liv? And I say, Oh they’re fine, just fine, he’s a bit unsettled but he’s OK, really. It’s too hard. It’s easier to just say Yup, we’re all good, thanks.
The first two weeks are a lie.
Jasper slept really well when we brought him home. He would feed about 9:30pm, sleep til about 1am, feed again, then sleep for another three hours, feed, then back to sleep. He was so easy to settle. We thought we’d nailed it. Yes! This is easy! What is everyone complaining about?!
This last week is when Jasper started to get nuts. He’s awake a lot – not always crying, but just awake, and often unsettled. He sleeps for half-hour bursts, but then wakes up crying. It’s worst in the early hours of the morning, because nothing seems to settle him. He’ll go down for a few hours in the evening but then from three am on, he’s a restless mess. Nothing seems to calm him. Is it colic? Wind? Is he cold? Is he still hungry? Is he lonely? Does he need a cuddle? We try all the settling techniques, and often nothing seems to work. We just have no idea.
Eventually, some time mid-morning, he has a good sleep. But this guy is awake for hours at a time. Aren’t babies meant to sleep lots? The internet says babies should sleep about 16-18 hours a day at this stage. Yesterday we recorded his sleep schedule. He got eight hours. Just.He’s only three weeks old and still probably pretty freaked out about the world, so I understand why he might be a bit difficult right now. But it still makes it a bit hard for us.
The worst part is that when people come over to visit, he’s pretty good! They say things like, Is he always this chill? And we laugh. It’s like he knows, the little bastard.
I went back to work this week and the plan was for Liv to tend to him during the night because there’s no sense in both of us being tired. The working person may as well have some rest and actually be able to perform at their job. Ha, yeah right.
It’s hard for me to sleep knowing Liv’s out there struggling to get J to sleep. So I’m helping out a bit, trying to settle him when I can. Usually this is very early in the morning, about 5 o’clock. I figure if I can calm him for a couple of hours, that’s a good bit of sleep Liv can get before I go to work and she has to put up with him all day.
Anyway, it kinda sucks right now. He’s cute but we don’t get anything back from him. Smiling is probably still a while away, and it seems like if he’s not sleeping or eating, he’s whinging.
This probably sounds far worse than it really is. Everyone’s healthy and we’re just losing sleep, that’s all. But that’s stressful. It’s such a hard adjustment to go from a life of extended sleep with no responsibilities. I’ve been tired before – I used to work shifts when I worked in radio – but this is different. It’s like, I feel OK and in control, but I’m forgetting things and doing strange things. Like, this morning I almost put raw quinoa in my breakfast smoothie because I was doing two things at once. Just now, proof-reading this blog post, I’m correcting the most atrocious spelling errors. Goodness knows if im making mistakes at work without realising. Good thing I’m not a surgeon!
The point is, this is way harder than I expected. I feel like the joyful moments are far and few between and we’re just putting up with J, and him with us, probably. Maybe this plays into my impatient nature, and I know things will get easier and more fun, but right now I’m just so tired.
But I shouldn’t complain. I don’t want to be one of those people that misses out on their children because they’re always thinking of the future, looking forward to those more fun stages of development, like laughing and talking. I do want to experience it all and that means taking the good with the bad, but I hope something fun comes along soon. And maybe this is where evolution has it all worked out, because I know that first real smile is probably only days away, and then I know J will have my heart forever.
We've had Jasper for more than two weeks now, and I have so many thoughts about the first few weeks that I'll need to break this up into several posts. But I want to do one on the first day, because this was one of the best days of our lives. It deserves its own post.
The first thing that surprised me about his birth is that I wasn't overwhelmed with emotion like I thought I'd be. People have described the moment you meet your first child as this extraordinary, life-changing moment where time stands still and you marvel at this little wonder you've created, or something like that. But it wasn't like that for me. Don't get me wrong, I was delighted; happy tears streamed down my face and I laughed with disbelief that he was actually here. Liv did that half-laugh-half-cry that comes from the combination of exhaustion and joy. We were just so happy it was over and that after nine long months we finally had our little man. But I just didn't feel like I expected to. I wasn't immediately transformed, is what I mean. I felt much the same as I did before he was born. But here's the thing that surprised me the most: I didn't love him.
I've read other people describe being overwhelmed with love when their first child arrives. But I really didn't feel that. To be honest, it kinda of felt like we had a baby to look after now, but it wasn't ours. It could have been any baby! Who is this stranger? That's what it's like. It's weird and I never would have expected to feel like that. Even now, nearly three weeks in, I'm, not attached to him yet. A friend told me the other day this can take months, and that makes sense. Obviously I do love the little guy and I'm just so glad he's ours, but I don't feel a bond with him yet. It'll come, I know. Right now I'm just enjoying watching him change with each day.
Anyway, back to the first day. So as soon as he was born Jasper was brought up to Liv's chest, where he stayed for an entire hour. I loved how relaxed things were. There was no hurry to get us out – in fact, we were encouraged to take things nice and slow and spend a few hours bonding with our baby before thinking about leaving. I'd expected to be ushered out the door pretty quick, considering how busy the hospital is. But we stayed at our leisure and enjoyed this precious time with J.
I fired off a few quick texts to family members to let them know he was here. After half an hour or so I popped down to the coffee kiosk to get a latte, as I'd been up most of the night. I was tired, but relaxed and happy at the same time. When I got back I took off my shirt and had some skin-to-skin time with him. It was lovely, holding this warm little baby on my chest with some towels over him to keep him warm. He was awake at this time, his big, dark eyes exploring what little of the world he could see, looking up at me. Only an hour old, he was already holding his head up. Strong little guy.
We spent a few hours in the delivery room, slowly getting ready to move on. The midwives spent time with Liv helping her get breastfeeding established. At some point they did some checks on J and weighed him – 3.8kg – and we clothed him for the first time.
We were planning on heading to the Pukekohe Maternity Unit, but needed to wait until Liv had the use of her legs back after the epidural. Slowly she got the feeling back and I helped her shower and get dressed. I was eager to get us out of there and get set up at the Maternity Unit. The hospital was great but after ten hours in the same room, I was a little over it.
We put plenty of layers of clothes on J and strapped him into the pram. I adjusted the back so it went right down, so he was lying down completely, thinking this is what I was meant to do. But half-way to the car he had his first spill. A bunch of white stuff came out of his mouth and he coughed and I freaked out actually had no idea what to do. It seems so simple – get a cloth and wipe it up! It was fine, just a little spill, but I didn't even have a cloth to clean it up. So unprepared! I found a tissue and wiped his face and that was it, and I made a mental note to always have a spill cloth ready.
We got to the car, strapped J into his car seat (this was freaky – he was so small the straps pretty much covered his whole body!) and left the hospital about 11am. It's a strange feeling, driving with a newborn in the back. Liv sat back there with him. I was extremely careful going over bumps and such, being mindful not to rock him too much. We pulled into Wendy's for our first post-baby meal. God it was good! Liv was especially ravenous, as you'd expect after doing the equivalent of running a marathon.
About midday we got to the maternity unit and got things set up in the room. It's wonderful to have a facility like this just down the road from our house. There are about 10 rooms there, with at least two midwives on at all times, and nurses who come and go. It's just a nice transition between the hospital and home, where we will have to do everything ourselves. Each room has just a single hospital bed, so no room for partners. But they told me I could stay til about 10 each night if I wanted.
That afternoon was spent in giddy togetherness. Liv and I beamed at each other, unable to believe that this cute little guy was ours to keep. Feeding him was proving a challenge, though. He just wouldn't quite latch properly. One of the midwives noticed he had a pretty bad tongue-tie. This is a problem that's becoming more prevalent, apparently, and there is talk that the cause is too much folic acid. Yeah, that thing that prevents spina bifida. The link is unproven, however, and even if it is proven, I'd rather he had a tongue tie than spina bifida! Anyway, they had a woman there at the maternity unit who could cut the tongue tie for us. It was hard to watch, someone going at my little boy with a big pair of scissors! But it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. He didn't cry much worse than for his vitamin K injection. I was just glad to get that out of the way.
In the early evening, Liv's mum and step-dad also turned up for a cuddle for a while. J was pretty chill through all of this. He didn't cry too much, but also wasn't getting much food, so he got a little more cranky as the day went on. We quickly learnt that our little boy has a massive appetite, and with Liv's milk (or even colostrum) yet to come in, he was getting more and more desperate for food by night time.
The midwives suggested we try giving him a bit of formula. We had decided fairly early on that we'd be happy to give him formula if he needed it. Neither Liv nor I had any pretensions about the use of formula. Some people decry it as unnatural, but we'd rather our baby was fed (also, you know what's natural? Infant mortality. It's amazing we have a food product for him that's safe and nutritious and can keep him going). Meanwhile, Liv was spending a lot of time on the breastpump to get the milk flow going.
As the night wore on, I knew home time was looming for me. I was beyond exhausted and Liv seemed to be well looked after by the midwives. By 9pm I made the difficult decision to leave, as much as I didn't want to. I felt like I never wanted to leave either Liv or J ever again. But I also knew a good night's sleep was essential. So I said goodnight, went home and collapsed on the bed.
This was one of my best days, possibly second only to our wedding. It was just so fun. We felt so good, so euphoric. Jasper was cuter than we could have ever imagined and we already enjoyed him so much. As I drifted off, I smiled with relief and excitement. Our baby is here, healthy and safe, and we are all OK. And we now have a lifetime ahead of us as a family. A lifetime of fun and laughter and cuddles and kisses and holidays and swimming and books and games and music and cousins and aunties and uncles and grandparents and Christmases and beach days and playground adventures and school trips and all of those things that I enjoyed so much about being a kid. I faded away, my heart filled with the hopefulness of new life. There were no anxious thoughts, no worries. Maybe it was the exhaustion, but I felt like everything was all right.
Reading – Meet Me In the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman.
There were two things that surprised me most about the birth: how long it took, and that actually pushing the baby out was by far the most pleasant part of the whole experience (I’ve checked with Liv – she agrees). This is everything I remember about the experience. It’s long, but I know I’m really interested in birth stories now that we’ve done it, so you might be too.
So let’s back up a bit. In my last post I left you as we were driving to the hospital. We got there about 2pm and proceeded to try to find a park in the overcrowded mess that is Middlemore Hospital (actually it’s much better inside, just really really busy). The prices were quite reasonable – $20 a day. They have a special parking section right outside the door for women in labour, but we didn’t qualify so we had to walk for a while.
We made our way to the maternity wing and told the receptionist we were there for an induction. We sat in the waiting room for about 10 minutes before being taken to our room. I was surprised we actually got our own room – for some reason I expected it to be so busy that we’d be sharing. But it was a comfortable, spacious room. With a TV even! We were going to be here a while so we were glad for that. The downside was it was a bit noisy – lots of people walking past – and it had a shared bathroom that was for patients only so I had to pop down to another level to use a public toilet. Minor inconvenience, though, and I was glad for the walks.
We got comfortable, took a couple of photos and waited with eager anticipation for the next step. A midwife came in about 20 minutes later and checked Liv to see if the induction procedure would work. She confirmed that the baby was in the right position and that Liv was only 2cm dilated, so we were good to go.
The induction process is designed to get contractions started because they’re not starting by themselves. They start by inserting a prostaglandin gel, which softens and opens the cervix. They need to allow six hours for the gel to work properly. If a woman’s waters haven’t broken, they’ll repeat this process three times. So this could theoretically take 18 hours, but for Liv we knew they could only try this once because her waters had already broken. They also had to give her antibiotics at this point because the baby was at risk of infection from the procedure.
They inserted the gel at 3pm and told Liv to expect contractions to start within the hour. So they did their thing – it didn’t take long – and we began the waiting game. We watched TV, read magazines, played on our phones, ate snacks. Contractions had started but they were very weak at this point.
Waiting got boring so to help pass the time, and to help contractions along, at 4:30pm we went for a 40-minute walk around the hospital. That was actually really fun – we ended up wandering out to the long forgotten depths of the hospital, down narrow, dimly lit corridors that haven’t seen renovations in at least 25 years. These were the original parts of the hospital – they’re offices now – and they had that slightly neglected feel to them, but that’s what made it fun. It was kind of creepy. During the walk Liv had a few decent contractions, but not enough to have to stop and sit down or anything.
We got back to our room and Liv’s dinner was there. I popped back downstairs to get some sushi for mine. Contractions had started getting a lot more painful now. Midwives kept popping in and out to check on us but they never stayed long. It was just Liv and I in the room most of the time. We tried to get a little sleep at one point, but gave up after a while. Liv was moving around the room a lot, not making a lot of noise but definitely wincing and keeling over with each contraction, now about three minutes apart and lasting a minute.
To help distract her I put the TV on the home renovation channel (she loves it). I’ll never forget this: she’s on the bed, crying out with each contraction, but keeping an eye on this show called Beach Flip (attractive people do up a beach house and sell it for a profit). I asked her if I should turn the TV off and put some relaxing music on. “No”, she said, mid-contraction. “I want to know who wins”. This was the point I realised we still had a long way to go. I didn’t know much about labour, but I knew that if she’s still talking during contractions, and seems to recover really quickly after each one, they’re probably still early on. I didn’t say this out loud, but I suspected we’d have to move on to the second phase of induction. Unfortunately, I was right – by 8pm contractions were slowing down, and getting less intense. This was confirmed when Liv was examined at 9:30pm – more than six hours after getting the gel – and they found her only 3cm dilated. After all that, she’d gained one measly centimetre. Liv was gutted. So, on to the next stage we went.
If the gel doesn’t work, they put the woman on an oxytocin drip. Oxytocin is a naturally-occurring hormone, but in this case delivered artificially. The hormone is normally released by the pituitary gland in the brain late in pregnancy, and it causes the muscles of the uterus to contract. When this hormone is delivered intravenously, it causes contractions to come on thick and fast. While the prostaglandin gel is a gentler method of bringing on labour, the oxytocin drip is nasty business.
They moved us to another room for this procedure. A delivery suite, it turned out. I found that weird because I thought we were in a delivery suite. Turns out we were in an induction room, which explains why our care was patchy and a bit rushed. In the delivery suite, they have someone with you all the time, because labour is definitely going to progress one way or another.
So we get in there about 10pm. This room is much better – it’s just quieter and bigger and it’s got its own bathroom (one I can use, no less!). A midwife gets us settled and soon after a bunch of doctors come through on rounds and I can’t even remember why they were there, but it left me with the impression that things were getting serious if a bunch of doctors were interested in us. They left as quickly as they arrived and our midwife put Liv on the monitoring machine to check that the baby was OK. That took half an hour, and they finally started the oxytocin drip around 11pm. We were told to expect the cervix dilation to increase at a rate of 1cm per hour. We were at 3cm at this point, so we were expecting at least seven more hours before pushing time.
It didn’t take long for contractions to start getting serious. Liv got a rude awakening: the contractions she’d been having on the prostaglandin gel were like being tickled with a feather compared to these. They got very painful very fast. I’ve never seen her in pain like this before. It hurt to watch! I did my best to be supportive and coach her through a bit of breathing, but that didn’t do much. The only pain relief she’d had to far was paracetamol, so the midwife suggested she try the gas, but it made her feel dizzy and actually didn’t do much, so she shelved that option. Contractions continued to get stronger and longer, coming every two or so minutes and lasting at least a minute at this point.
She soldiered on like this for 90 minutes before asking for an epidural. I knew she was very open to the idea of pain relief, so we agreed that she wasn’t coping all that well and an epidural would be a good option. And talk about service – about 10 minutes after asking for it the anesthetist comes waltzing in to save the day. He was a polite young man who looked about 14 (we trusted he wasn’t). He gently explained the risks to Liv, who acknowledged those and promptly agreed to go ahead with the procedure. Now, an epidural is no minor thing: it involves inserting a rubber tube into the back and placing it near the spine and injecting drugs which numb the pain. It took about 15 minutes, during which Liv had to arch her back forwards while sitting on the bed and trying to hold still during these very painful contractions. I stood by and held her hand.
The epidural is supposed to numb the pain from the breast to the knees, or there abouts. But about 20 minutes after starting the epidural Liv could still feel the pain on her left side. Her right side was completely numb, though. The epidural was botched, a problem the anesthetist assured us happens to one in 10 women. This occurs when the tube inserted near the spine is pointed slightly towards one side of the back rather than straight down the middle. So he did a little adjustment to try to knock the tube into the middle. But after 20 more minutes, Liv was still feeling excruciating pain on her left side. She was in absolutely agony, crying out with each contraction. She said it was actually worse than before the epidural, because while the pain was numbed on one side, it was like it was concentrated all on the other side, which is far more painful.
It was 2am by this point, and Liv was feeling pain that was supposed to have been numbed 90 minutes ago. So a new anesthetist came in and tried to make another adjustment to the epidural. She got Liv to lie on her left side to try to encourage the anesthesia to work its way to that side. It didn’t work. Liv was crying out in agony, begging for her to do a completely new epidural. Eventually, the anesthetist relented and started again. This time, it worked. Almost immediately, the pain was lessened and Liv started to relax a bit. By 3am, she was calmly sitting up in bed as our midwife turned up (she had delivered a baby earlier that evening and was getting some much needed sleep before coming back to deliver ours).
We had a chat with her and she got herself set up, relieving the hospital midwives and taking charge. It was such a relief to have her there – we’d built up a great relationship with her over the past nine months and we trusted her completely, so it was nice to have her there finally. The hospital midwives were great, but it’s just better to have someone you know and trust looking after you.
About 3:30am I decided to get some sleep and encouraged Liv to do the same. She wasn’t feeling much pain at all now, so she was able to get some much needed rest, instead of wearing herself out by working through mind-numbing pain. So I got a shitty hospital pillow, laid back in the creaky old lazy boy next to the hospital bed, put in my ear plugs and drifted off. I’d had about two hours sleep in the past two days, so it wasn’t hard.
An hour later, at 4:30, I woke in a groggy haze to see our midwife getting ready to examine Liv. Still a bit dazed, I pulled my earplugs out so I could hear what she was saying. Remembering how long it took to even get to 3cm dilated, Liv asked her if we were likely to have the baby before lunchtime. She replied that it would definitely be here by midnight, to which Liv sighed, expecting this labour to go on for many hours yet. But a couple of minutes later, the midwife conducted her examination. I watched her face as she rummaged around up there. She raised her eyebrows in a way that told me it was a positive thing. She told Liv she was fully dilated and ready to push. I bolted upright and said, “HOLY JESUS!” Suddenly, things seemed to be happening very fast, even though we’d been there for nearly 15 hours. The midwife told Liv we’d wait another hour before we started pushing to make sure the baby was fully down, so I went back to sleep.
Liv didn’t sleep. She kept chatting with the midwife until about 5:30. I was out to it. I heard Liv calling my name softly and I rejoined the world, albeit feeling a little worse for wear. Right, this was it. The big moment.
I’ll never forget how calm it was in there at this time. It was serene. Here we were, in the early hours of the morning, in a quiet, gently lit hospital delivery room, just Liv, me and our midwife. Liv was pain-free thanks to the epidural. She cheerfully chatted away to the midwife, asking a million questions, while the midwife got everything set up down her end. I even got given a job: I had to hold one of Liv’s legs up because she’d lost control of them due to the epidural. I was excited to help. It was a great position for me because I could face Liv and cheer her on, but also see what was happening down the other end.
Just before six o’clock, she started pushing. The epidural was done so that Liv could still feel the contractions, so she knew when to push. It was three big pushes per contraction. The midwife was constantly feeling for the baby’s head to see how it was progressing. She was also monitoring his heartrate to make sure he was happy. As far as she could tell, he was extremely comfortable in there and in no distress at all.
I can’t believe how fast the next hour went. It was so fun, for both Liv and I. I think the epidural is a big reason for it being so pleasant. Between contractions, Liv smiled and asked more questions, cracked some jokes. I happily stood by, feeling totally relaxed and in control. It was the opposite to how I expected to feel. I thought I’d be stressed and nervous. I expected there to be a flurry of other midwives, maybe a doctor or two milling about checking on things, but no. I was delighted at how blissful this time was, just us three in a quiet room, working together to get this baby out. I loved cheering Liv on as she pushed. She did so well. She pushed long and hard when she needed to, and the baby just kept making his way down. In total, she pushed for just over an hour.
He came out at 6.58am. The midwife pulled him immediately on to Liv’s chest and he started crying. Weak little gaspy cries as he used his lungs for the first time. I cried too. So did Liv as I bent down to hug both of them. After a few minutes, and under the midwife’s guidance, I cut the cord, which was a lot less of a big deal than I expected – it’s like cutting a rope with a very sharp pair of scissors. Then baby stayed on Liv’s chest for about an hour. We smiled, cried a bit more, laughed, sighed with disbelief that this was ours. We discussed his name, but couldn’t quite decide then. Mostly we just gazed at this little wonder, who somehow is us put together, but who seems so strange at the same time. And there we were, our little family, early on a dark Tuesday morning, together for the first time.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Sorry, I’ve been a bit distracted with this whole having-a-baby thing. I’ve got a lot to fill you in on. Before I cover the birth, I thought I’d recount how we spent the last few days before that, because it was a strange, emotional time I’d like to remember.
We were due on Saturday 1 July. As I said in the previous post, I’d been pretty stressed since about the 34-week point as we knew he could arrive at any time. By 39 weeks I almost expected him to be here by now. We went out for a lovely dinner a week before he was due, thinking that could be our last outing as a childless couple (it wasn’t, but any excuse to go out for dinner is OK with me). As that last week rolled on, we got more and more anxious, knowing the big day was imminent. I tidied things up at work, expecting (and hoping) I wouldn’t be there the following week. Meanwhile, Liv was on maternity leave and walked more in one week than she had in the past nine months, hoping to get labour started.
On the morning of July 1, we sat in bed with our coffees and the newspaper, our usual Saturday morning routine. We knew this probably wouldn’t be the day, so we set about doing all the things you’re supposed to do to make a baby come – we went for a big walk, had something spicy for dinner, and one other thing that I won’t mention but you can probably guess. The problem with trying them all is that we have no idea which ones worked! But one of them did, because on Sunday morning at seven, Liv’s waters broke. We weren’t really sure at the time if it was the waters or not. It wasn’t a huge gush of fluid like you see on TV – in fact, it wasn’t much at all – but it was enough for Liv to think maybe it was her amniotic fluid.
This was it, we thought. The day had finally arrived! Contractions would start soon now that the waters had broke, we thought. Suddenly, we nested like we’d never nested before – we just had to get the house in order. We vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms, did the washing, and did a deep clean of the kitchen. As I was cleaning the range hood, I knocked it a bit loose so it kind of came away from the wall, so I had to go down to Mitre 10 to get some more wall anchors to fix it. I did not expect to be doing DIY jobs while my wife was in labour, but there you go.
As it turned out, she wasn’t in labour. After our frantic nesting spree, we sat down about lunch time – leftover pad Thai – and wondered when things would start moving along. By dinner time, contractions still hadn’t started but we weren’t too worried. We knew it can take a while sometimes. At bed time, around nine, Liv had another – even bigger – gush of water. I was in another room and I heard her squeal. “Honey, come here really quick!” she said. I rushed in there and she told me what had happened. Ok, now we’re definitely in labour, we thought (Ha! Not even close – we had no idea what was coming).
Liv phoned the midwife, who told us to try to get as much sleep as we can because contractions wouldn’t be far away, and to call her when they started getting quite close together. Needless to say, I didn’t really sleep that night. I think I nodded off around midnight but kept waking constantly throughout the night. I may have got a couple of hours sleep. Around 5:30 I was awake and Googling ‘should I go to work when my wife is in labour?’ I actually had no idea. This could go on for ages, I thought, so I should probably go to school. On the other hand, her waters broke nearly 24 hours ago and things should really be moving by now, and she’ll need me around. In the end, I decided not to go to work, and I’m glad I didn’t.
So I didn’t get much sleep, but Liv, on the other hand, slept like a log! I couldn’t believe it, and neither could she when she woke at seven the next morning to find she still wasn’t in labour. We phoned the midwife again and she told us to come in. We packed our hospital bags just in case we weren’t coming back home. At 10am the midwife confirmed that yes, the waters had indeed broken, and we’d need to induce labour. This was because after the waters broke the baby lost that vital protection the amniotic fluid provides, and it’s susceptible to infection. Turns out this is a pretty rare thing to happen – only 10% of women have their waters break before labour, and just five percent don’t go into labour after they’ve broken, so we’re by far in the minority.
The midwife rang the hospital to book us in for induction that evening, but they asked us if we could come in earlier, say 3pm. We eagerly said yes, desperate to get this little guy out. We rushed home to tidy up a couple of loose ends and arrange for the dog to be picked up by a friend. Then, on the way to hospital, we went to McDonald’s for lunch. We thought that with a potentially long labour ahead of us, a big meal would do us good. I don’t know if it did or not, but I love McDonald’s so I don’t care. It was just this fun thing we did on Labour Day. Our last little outing pre-baby. It was a delightful little date.
Finally, we were going to hospital. I had run this scenario through in my head so many times over the past few months, imagining myself driving quickly – albeit carefully – while Liv laboured painfully lying across the back seat. So it was weird driving there without being in labour, but knowing we would be soon. We were calm. We were happy. We were excited. And nervous. Giddy with the knowledge that we’d meet our son in a few short hours.
Listening to: The Fragile Deviations 1 by Nine Inch Nails
Nine months is a really long time. Or at least it is when you’re waiting for your first baby. It seems like an eternity since we first glanced at that pregnancy test and saw those two happy lines on its window. Life since then has been agonisingly slow, and it seems to be getting slower every day. It must be worse for Liv, who’s stuck at home trying to keep busy while I get to be distracted by work. But actually, I’m not distracted by work – the baby is distracting me. Big time.
Normally at work I ignore my phone but now every time it vibrates I have to check. Today Liv called me about something random and said when I answered, “don’t worry, I’m not in labour!” As we reach the final days I am particularly on edge, knowing it could happen at any time.
The final weeks of this pregnancy have stressed me out way more than I expected. I’m sleeping terribly. Exhausted. Having odd dreams (the most recent: I bought a new car but got home and realised the car seat was still in the old car back at the dealer!) My right eyelid has been twitching. My tummy has been upset. People at work keep asking me if I’m OK. I nod and smile and say yes, yes I’m fine, but actually I don’t know if I am. I just can’t be bothered talking about it sometimes. It’s draining.
I haven’t heard anyone talk about how men deal with pregnancy, which is partly why I wanted to write this blog. When we first got pregnant, I expected that once we’d actually conceived, my job was done and I’d blissfully skip through the next nine months waiting for the big day. For the first 34 weeks-or-so, that’s pretty much what I did. But at about that point, I started to carry a mental weight that wasn’t there before.
I think it started with a little scare we had. Liv was worried that the baby wasn’t moving much, so we popped up to the maternity hospital and she got hooked up to the monitoring machine just to make sure things were OK. They were, nothing to worry about. And just to check, we got a growth scan done. It was at this scan we learnt our little guy was measuring 3-4 weeks ahead of average. So at 34 weeks, he was measuring what most unborn babies are at 37 weeks. I think the medical term for this is a Fatty Pants.
Because he was measuring big, we immediately jumped to the conclusion that he must be coming three weeks early. No one really told us this – in fact, the sonographer and our midwife both said gestational size doesn’t have much to do with when he’ll be born. However, we were stuck on that 37-week thing. Surely he’ll be here soon, we said.
Based on this incorrect assumption, I started expecting from 37 weeks that he could arrive at any time. This is true, as 37 weeks is considered full term. But it means that I’ve been on edge for three weeks, and that’s not good because I’m not super fun to be around when I’m stressed. If our boy is Fatty Pants, then I’m Grumpy Bum. And I have been pretty down lately.
There’s no logical reason for me to be down – pretty soon I’ll have a son! I should be stoked about that. But I’m more nervous. Not about being a dad or about the labour or anything like that. I’m nervous because I just don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m someone who likes everything to be planned out and scheduled. I like to know what’s coming up and to be prepared for whatever that is, so when something’s completely out of my control, it’s hard for me to deal with.
We had another little scare last week – Liv called me about midday, as I was teaching. She was in tears, and said she’d had a car accident. I froze for a moment, and then asked if she was ok. She was – she’d rear-ended someone on the motorway at low speed. Ok, it’s all right. She assured me she would make it back home all right, so we left it at that and I went back to teaching my class, albeit a little edgier than before. But she called me again shortly after, saying the midwife wanted her to go to the hospital to go on the monitoring machine.
I felt pretty panicked. I told my students and colleagues that I needed to go and I pretty much ran out the school, worried about Liv and the baby and wanting to know that everything was all right. We got to hospital, got the monitoring machine going and everything seemed fine. And it was. But just to make sure, Liv had to stay hooked up to the machine for three hours. Better safe than sorry, they said. Obviously, we were relieved that nothing was wrong, but it was just another little thing to add to my ante-natal anxieties.
Our dog Rocko’s feeling it too, I think. He’s been acting weird lately. He’s shaking a lot, and sometimes not clinging to us like he used to. Like, he’ll actually stay put if we leave a room – previously he’d be at our heels with every step. It might be something else, but dogs are pretty intuitive. I suspect he knows something’s up.
So, pregnancy can be rough on dads (and dogs) too. I’m not going through nearly as much as Liv is, I know that. I am so proud of her for what she’s put up with, as this pregnancy has been awful for her. But we should also acknowledge that there is a pressure on dads, and they feel it. For some men it’s different – a colleague of mine, who’s also recently become a dad, said he felt an increased pressure that he was now the main breadwinner. Personally, that’s not bothering me, but it just shows that different men will experience different things.