42

Our baby sits low in my wife’s belly. She appears to be quite comfortable, far more so than my wife for whom any position can now only be maintained for short periods at a time. The exercise ball rotates under her hips, the motion intending to push her body along into labour, ready now. 

Our son sleeps upstairs, blissfully unaware of how much his life is about to change. Perhaps we are too. A friend commented recently it’s good we’ve done this already; as if we know what to expect. I think that we have not been here before, that things are not the same, that we do not know what to expect, that whatever this experience brings it will be as unique as the child being born. And that is quite terrifying.

I reminded myself earlier that everything we do today is a last. A last as a trio. A last for a while of a just us two even. But I don’t see fit to mark this in any way. I don’t see the need to linger on the moment I kiss my son as he goes to bed, or somehow capture for posterity these moments, me tapping away single-fingered, she arguing over crossword clues. I’m not even sure why I feel the need to want to make a point about it any more.

Tomorrow is 42 weeks. 

Our little girl has in a sense already been with us for 42 weeks now, making tiny adjustments to the patterns of our lives, hiding in plain site.
However, we’ve all agreed it’s time and one way or another she’s coming tomorrow.

By the clipping of his thumbs…

I ain’t afraid o’ no nappy but the thought of clipping baby’s nails fills me with a mortal dread.

I’ve only seen my son’s blood twice. Proper blood mind, not the grazed knee smears that are a staple of the summer toddler’s battles with tarmac, no I mean the really red stuff. The second time was when they had to take bloods in the hospital which was a whole other barrel of trauma. The first when I sliced his tiny thumb, cutting his nails for the first time when he was three weeks old.

Of all the things you worry about as a prospective parent, finger and toenails weren’t even on our list. On learning that our tiny baby, mere hours old, had fingernails I was stupefied. I had simply not come close to wondering where and when the nails started.

Mum was asleep, drained by two days of induced labour on the journey to a Cesarean we didn’t want but had to have and all the drugs you have to have to get there. I was on duty, watching, wondering what had just happened to us all and coming to terms with the reality of this new life before me that I was now very very not in class anymore this is real this is not a drill responsible for.

This new life with scratches all over his face. Which were not there before. They were not there before. I would have noticed. Surely. I check the photos from earlier. No scratches. They were not there before. I check the photos again. No scratches.

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM???????

I have only been watching him for an hour asleep in a hospital cot. It’s not like he climbed out and got in a fight with the newborn next door. I cannot let his mum wake up and see that I’ve failed in my first task as a protective father.

I marched to the midwifes’ station holding the baby with both hands at arm’s length directly out in front of me. I raised a finger to gesture at the red marks all over his face. I knew I looked severely panicked. The midwife smiled at me. I am not the first dad to do this I realised… Midwives have a special smile they give to new dads to let you know just how much of a shameful miscreant unworthy cretin you really are. I got that smile.

Baby’s new skin is so soft and sensitive and is reacting to the new air around him. But he’s also scratching his face. Because babies are born with fingernails. Fully grown. Baby rubs his face, baby scratches his skin so delicate even the impurities in the air can raise a rash. I make it through day one a wiser and more humble man.

We bought some child nail clippers. They’re basically adult nail clippers with giant handles to make you feel you’re in control. You’re not of course. The ratio of clipper to wriggling finger is about five to one. The nail was hardly bigger than the edge of the blade.

It was the tiniest of cuts but thumbs bleed. For an eternity. Long enough for mum to come down from a rest to see me gaze pleadingly at her, ashen faced, in a please don’t lose it on me because your son is bleeding as a result of my ineptitude kind of way.

I was devastated, just ripped apart inside. It was horrible, his blood dripping out of the tiny slice I had made. Did he have enough blood to lose? Seriously, I was asking myself that. His arrival had been so traumatic we didn’t have the emotional room for another trip to the hospital.

I had hurt my baby; who apparently hardly felt a thing and didn’t make a squawk. It was the worst feeling and I thought my wife was going to go ballistic on me.

Baby stopped bleeding . Mum shrugged it off.

Scatalogical nomenclature

So before we get too far in, a word on why stickyyellowpoo is called stickyyellowpoo; if you’re already a parent you know this.

Your child’s excretal behaviour is a sign of their health and well being. After baby’s birth we were given a chart with which to map and describe his movements over the first couple of weeks. Those first poos are really important in indicating everything’s ok. In those early days baby’s poo is a sticky, tarry, greeny-black gloop called meconium. That’s the last time green poo will be a good thing in your life.

I was pretty shit scared of dealing with the poo before he arrived. But the fear vanished like a problem that never was the moment he was there and you just switch into the latest upgrade of you with an embedded Dad app. Suddenly you’re like the only good bits in the Matrix: “I can change nappies!”. But I would never want to do one for any other baby than mine, that’s a thought that makes me queasy.

As the milk takes hold baby’s poo becomes a wonderful mustard yellow splurge. That’s a good sign. Bottle milk gives a slightly brownier tinge I think and a different smell. You know what I don’t even remember the smell anymore, I never thought it was that bad. There’s some good shit on good shit as always at the babycentre. And don’t forget to study the pics. If you go to ante-natal classes you’ll likely get a handout which is worth reading on the commute into work just to see if anyone’s reading over your shoulder.

So our rule of thumb was browny-yellow and splodgy good, anything else was checked out pretty quickly.

A hands on parent is going to get sticky fingers at some point. Hell, everyone’s got a poonami story; your baby’s digestive system is a force of nature. The smell, the stains, the squelching oozing up the back, the stains on the far wall, the superglue properties that defy chemistry, the catastrophic poomageddon wrought when Pampers’ finest fails to hold back the tide – when volume exceeds capacity and you’re cutting baby our of their clothes like Dr Ross in a series finale pile up.

And I say to you my fellow fella fathers to be: “EMBRACE THESE TIMES OF STICKY YELLOW POO!” Because these are halcyon days indeed. Whatever you thought might be nasty, toxic and smelly before is like heaven’s nectar once baby starts on real food. That’s when the Mr Hyde of your baby’s bowels starts to make his appearance and he stinks in ways that defy your understanding of the human condition. You won’t need to see a poo face to know baby’s filled their shorts oh no, you’ll just need to be in the same room. Sometimes even next door will do.

Oh, and one day you’ll find yourself sifting nasty nappies for days on end waiting for the evidence of the beads or bits or whatever non-edible items they’ve managed to consume in the space of a blink to reappear. This I guarantee you.

So love your baby, love their poo my friends; it’s a bonding experience in every possible way.