Thursday, 28 February 2013


Everyone should leave their baby with NICU nurses before bringing them home.  Their fine training of Peter into a four-hourly schedule of feeding and sleeping is making life easy for us.  He seems annoyed when we decide to break routine and be spontaneous, like play with him and stuff.  A distinguished, regimented career in the military (or prison) beckons.

Unfortunately, release from hospital has not meant release from the healthcare system.  We've had endless appointments with physios, home nurses, pediatricians, eye doctors, witch doctors, etc.  We were also told that Peter is an "at risk" child due to his low birth weight, and for the next three years (years!) we need to have meetings with nutritionists and social workers.  This is payback for all the nasty things I said about social workers when I was a foster carer.

I've also realised that I'm a terrible Internet father.  Not only did I forget to take pics of Pete from day one, and therefore can't make one of those crazy videos, but every .com address that I could use for him has gone!  He could be a .org, but who wants to be a .org?  (Though points somewhere quite pleasing to those of us with Welsh heritage).

So it's been a fun week with him at home: first bath (success), first trip out into Walnut Creek (not a success), first smile (Hannah claims, I haven't seen one)...more importantly he's doubled in weight since birth, which makes us happy and him almost 6lbs now.  It's weird to think that he should be inside a tummy for another week yet...

Unimpressed by the insane asylum chic of his travelling outfit.

Unimpressed by the accessories.

Out and about, and very unimpressed (this experiment lasted for eight screaming minutes).

Much more successful - his first bath.

Hannah gets in on sling action.

Tummy time.  Stop looking so doleful, you're enjoying yourself!

Better on the back.

Monday, 25 February 2013

NorCal parenting instruction

Being a parent in Californian comes with certain responsibilities.  I've been told that chicken nuggets and hotdogs account for most choking cases in the rest of the country, whereas here it's baby carrots and organic apple sticks.  I've never verified that because it needs to be true.

Most pediatricians agree that you shouldn't feed carrots to premies but there are other ways to assert Californianess.  One is "cloth diapering" (a diaper, Google Translate tells me, is the American word for a nappy).  Disposable nappies are obviously evil for various reasons: their environmental impact, their cost, and their implied Republicanism.  Using cloth ones is a lot better, provided you wash them with biodegradable liquid and dry them in the sun.  (Yes Mum, I know everyone used cloth back then, but this is different).

We'd got in our nappies while still expecting a standard-size baby, but checking today they claim to work from 5lbs upwards so we went for it!  The benefits were immediate: the extra bulk means that Peter resembles a tiny Teletubby.  They also do alright at containing explosions, and hopefully that will improve as the fit does.  We need to work on his thighs.

The second Cal thing was to break out the child sling.  Pushing around a stroller is far too impersonal, taking the child outside the range of your aura (unless you have a really big aura, like me).  Our favoured carrier - the Baby Bjorn - doesn't take anything under 8lbs but my sister sent us an amazing one made in Britain but found in Uganda.

The Kari Me allows for multiple baby positions, based on the sort of faux-ethnic earth-knowledge that we just eat up around here.  It's suitable for that crazy babywearing thing, where you never put them down, and has the advantage of making the carer look like a shaolin monk with mad martial art skills.  I was too scared to wear it out of the house (in case I was approached to free a local village from evil samurai or something) but did wander around inside with Pete crushed to me in the 'cuddly' hold.  Judging by his silence he was in awe!

So there you are - a successful day of acculturating our baby to the foreign practices of his birthplace.  When he starts answering to "Peeder" and successfully ordering a glass of "warder" in a restaurant our work here will be done.

Hmmm, perhaps a nappy isn't meant to reach to his ankles.

Is this a ninja dedicated to fighting for truth and justice?

No!  It's a man carrying a baby, but your mistake is understandable.

It also has a convenient space for my battery pack.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt

They let Peter out!  I still can't believe it.  We've been trained in the use of a portable heart and breathing monitor, which makes a lot of noise when it goes off (usually because you've stepped on a wire), and after four hours of "discharge" - it sounds as yucky and medical as it is - they took the security tag off the baby and let us go!

It's all rather strange.  They are no nurses to call, but there are also no nurses to tell us what we should be doing.  We have more than five-square-feet of space around us.  We get to play with a baby instead of having to return him to the incubator after an hour!  We can panic and fret like real parents, although the monitor does remove the fun of constantly checking that he's still breathing.

NICU babies have obviously never experienced darkness or silence, so we've been warned that we may have to have a bright, noisy bedroom at night.  Hmmm.  Vince and Christine taught us a great trick with a hair dryer but I may have to find episodes of ER to recreate Pete's natural environment.

What is strange is that having a newborn at home is giving us far more time to do things.  Without trips to hospital eating up hours, we've already been more productive this evening than ever.  Hannah even cooked dinner (I was busy, burping the baby while watching an episode of Californication).  If you're looking to boost your productivity: have a baby.

I know people always say this will be the happiest day of your life, but this is the happiest day of my life.

Ok.  Heart rate monitor, clothes, breast pump equipment, nappies, bottles, meds...have we missed anything?

Crossing the threshold.

Hannah, no longer forced to choose between cuddling a baby and checking her Chevron emails.

The portable heart rate monitor.  I, for one, welcome our new electronic overlord.

It's a boy!  Actually it's a margarita.

Ok, we've brought you home...what are you going to do to entertain us?

Different setting, same default position.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Still inside

It's our five week anniversary in the NICU today!  We didn't get any cards, although nurse Allison did make one for Valentine's Day.

Pete has broken the 5lb barrier and has started troughing down his food.  The incubator lid is up, but he can still stop his own heartbeat on command.  Well, not really stop, just slow - this is known as a bradycardia, or simply a "b" as we've spent so much time in hospital that we get a doctorate in medicine for time served.  Professional cyclists can have resting heart rates as low as 28 beats per minute.  So Peter's a cyclist!

We've been told that he might be sent home early attached to a heart monitor, a piece of equipment infamous for alarming every few minutes with false positives.  It's new parent sleep deprivation with an added edge.  He also has a funny-shaped head, according to the physio, that they may scan again, but he gets that from his father.  He's looking less like a wrinkly old man but does somewhat resemble a famous British comic-strip villain:

In the meantime he has to keep his temperature up and keep growing, although we've found that dressing him in three premie babygrows at once keeps him toasty and makes him look bigger!  I'm pretty sure the doctors haven't noticed our sneaky tactics.

Playing on his parents' emotions already.

Hannah will be put on the payroll soon.

Unimpressed by this strange burping routine.

And with one simple touch, I control you!

The top is up!  Again!  And we live in hope.

Although, with all these blankets, he might have preferred it down.

Underneath, finally resembling a real baby!



Cute and cute!

Monday, 18 February 2013


As a parent, how does one encourage interests and talents in ones children?  In America the answer is obviously: pay someone else to do it for you.  A wide variety of extracurricular money grabbing schemes exist to tenderly usher your child into the cannibalistic world of capitalist one-upmanship, including this one:

How happy and fulfilled the child in that logo looks!

Never having been one to spend money, I of course take a different approach.  If you want your children to enjoy the outdoors, go hiking with them.  If you want them to learn to swim, jump in the pool.  If you want them to love football (real football, it's actually impossible to love American football) then get out into the park and have a kickaround.

Despite being Welsh, the Davieses have never been much of a musical family (we inherited other benefits of Welshness, such as poetry, rugby, and outstanding beauty) but I'm determined that young Peter grows up with the doors of music thrown wide open.  So I will play to him, and therefore it's extremely important that I own the most gorgeous guitar known to humanity.  Unfortunately this is a Gibson ES-355, which goes for around $18,000 but, for under 2% of that price, cheap Korean replicas are readily available.

I traded in a couple of old guitars that arrived with our English stuff and am now the proud owner of an Epiphone Dot in vintage sunburst, complete with Bigsby tremolo.  Can I play it?  Details, but hopefully the love and wonder that I will inspire in my young son (and inevitably some readers of this blog) will set him on the road to rock'n'roll excess of which any parent can be proud.

Next time: why all children need an in-depth knowledge of computer games, fine wine, and cigars.

My mid-life crisis is going very well - thanks for asking!

What I look/sound like inside.

So young, and already embarrassed.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

28 Days Later

Or maybe Groundhog Day. Or Everyday's The Same by The Housemartins.  Nietzsche had a philosophy of eternal recurrence - he must have had a premature baby.

Time is feeling decidedly concrete as we celebrate four weeks of trips to the NICU. Pete is on ad lib feeding now instead of the military 3-hour routine. This is an excellent development, but means that we either get a phone call and rush down to nourish his demands or (more usually) sit for hours by the incubator waiting for him to wake. When new parents do this at home at least they're allowed a laptop.

Still, I keep myself entertained.  I make up diseases to ask about ("are premies more susceptible to monkey flu?", "I have a gerundive cornucopia - could I have passed that on to the baby?") or - my favourite - attempt to put on an Irish/Geordie/Cockney accent and keep it up all day! When I started addressing doctors as "darling" and "princess" regardless of gender, I saw my popularity on the ward dip appreciably.

Luckily Peter is still too young to be embarrassed by his father's descent into madness. He's now a gigantic 4lbs 11oz, almost as heavy as a Cheesecake Factory dessert. There was much excitement earlier in the week when they removed his feeding tube and lifted the top of the incubator, but inevitably the tube went back in and the top came down again. Too much too soon we were told, as though the baby had demanded these actions himself. As a NorCal native he knows it's very uncool to try too hard.

So still no date for his emancipation.  Well, actually, several dates that change day-to-day. "It'll just click, and then we'll tell you he's going home tomorrow!" a doctor claimed this morning. "Thanks for the update, princess," I replied charmingly, disguising my terror that I may soon be in charge of a tiny too-young person who is still able to stop his own heart when he wants attention. Yes, life remains a roller-coaster, but an old rickety one that might have been thrilling once but is now rubbish, and then someone sat behind is sick all over you. Release the baby already! I want to go to Disneyland.

Actually, with parents like you, the nurses seem a pretty good deal.

Keeping a low profile.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Beer and cupcakes

Whenever I have a pint in my hand my first thought is always: if only I had a cupcake to go with this!  It turns out I'm not alone, as our local Pyramid Brewery hosted a beer-infused cupcake event as part of SF Beer Week.  Three cupcakes were paired with three fermentations, and interactive voting allowed us to choose our favourite.  But, seriously, how can there be any losers?  We wandered down with neighbour Rachel and her brother Andrew.

First up was the Hefecake, a moist orangey creation twinned with its eponymous Hefeweizen beer.  Next came a blueberry oatmeal bake, enhanced by a glass of stout.  Everything finished with a chocolatey marshmallow-filled invention topped with espresso buttercream and accompanied by Snow Cap winter warmer ale.

It was very tough to choose between them, especially as you drank more.  I seem to remember the Snow Cap pair being my favourite, although the table was severely divided over questions of moistness and density.  I'm also not sure quite how 'infused' the confections were - we made sure to supplement with plenty of liquid...

I usually consider the slice of lemon an indulgence, but this!

Hannah is overcome...for five seconds before stuffing all three cupcakes into her mouth at once then ordering another round.

Rachel and her brother, equal partners in drinking/cupcake crime.

Drink first then eat?  Eat then drink?  Coordination gets harder as the afternoon wears on.

I think this one was my favourite.  It brought back memories of dearly departed Twinkies.

Come for the beer, stay for the cupcakes.  Or the other way around.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Slow progress

It's been another exciting week at the NICU!  Or maybe it's been several days of grinding drudgery as we finally get cheesed off that our baby remains in the hospital.  Anyway, Peter has made good progress, and we're in the in-betweeny stage where they lift the incubator lid, then they put it down, then he puts on weight, then loses some, until everything clicks at once.

The big news is the removal of his feeding tube!  We can finally see all of his face and he's a very handsome boy, but then anyone who knows his father could have predicted that.  He's up to 60ml a feed - huge, given we started on 2ml - but troughing all that down wears him out, so it's harder for him to maintain his temperature, so the incubator lid comes down, etc. etc.  He passed his hearing test today, although I have no idea how they determine that (play him some Britney Spears and see if he cries?)

Pete is now in the "boring baby" section, which we can't complain about.  And we got to see his brain!  They do an ultrasound to check for problems, of which (thankfully again) there were none.  "So it looks like he's going to be artistic rather than an engineer," I joked as I intently studied the images.  "No, it doesn't work like that," replied the head doctor without the slightest smile.  I think he's clocked that I did an arts degree.

The top comes off!

This is all too hard!

But later, a cheeky smile and a wink.

Look - no feeding tube!  For now, at least.

Mother and child.

Keep growing, handsome kid!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Meanwhile, in Uganda...

Peter's early arrival has had repercussions on three continents.  My parents' original plan to arrive a week or two after his birth has obviously been thrown off, and my Mum had already booked a trip to Uganda to see my sister Emily.  She's out there volunteering at Potter's Village, a charity that looks after orphaned and abandoned refugee children and arranges fostering for them until family can be located - something of a challenge in this upheaved corner of Africa.

On Mum's arrival she took a break to go on safari (even though we grew up near Longleat).  They saw everything, except a leopard.  Now they're back in the Village, where Mum is trying to work out how many babies she can smuggle back into England.

See how the young child burdens its mother, clinging desperately for sustenance and support.

See how the young child...

Lone warthog.

Glorious mud.


In the jungle.

Mum checks the weight for her luggage allowance.

This is not a baby blog.