The new (baby) normal

We had a baby boy! Quite a while ago actually. I announce these things on facebook and twitter these days:


He’s a healthy normal baby, but I’m not sure I even remember the “normal” I was referring to in this tweet. Life without a baby feels like a long time ago.

We had a lot of preparation for the birth. Hypnobirthing classes in particular lead us to be hoping for a “natural” birth. Really we just wanted a “normal” birth. Following the procedure women have followed for 200,000 years seems like a good way to do that. We learned that things like inductions and epidurals were to be feared and avoided. …and then that’s what we got!

The due date was nicely ahead of Christmas, but the baby didn’t come. The relatives all arrived (including my wife’s family from Brazil), and the baby still didn’t come, and so the date for “induction” was set… for Christmas eve! Weeks earlier my brother joked that if the baby arrived on Christmas day, we’d have to name him Jesus (pronounced “yay-zuss”. It’s a relatively common name in Brazil) but the joke was starting to come true.

Our un-normal birth timelineWe had a booking for Christmas lunch in a pub, involving no small amount of pre-booking and pre-payment, but the relatives enjoyed that without us. The hospital served turkey, while we waited for the induction drugs to take effect, but the baby still didn’t come

…until boxing day. But the contractions were more regular than normal because of the way induction drugs work. After hours of that, my wife opted for an epidural, the most kick-ass of all the pain killing options, but not the most casual of options since it involves a heavily gloved up sterilised anaesthetist inserting a needle in your spine. This was no longer natural.

And the pushing wasn’t working so eventually the birth took a final spectacular deviation from the normal. We were given various cautions and asked to sign permissions and disclaimers for a C-section operation. I was asked to put on doctors outfit. Finally, under the glare of some massive operating theatre lamps, surrounded by medics, with some help by forceps… our baby was born.

We got him home a few days later, and I remember enjoying a big family meal. Catching up on the Christmas celebrations we’d missed. And on the evening I sent that tweet, I was joking of course, but it actually did feel like things were getting back to normal in some ways. Back on track for the normal experience of being new parents.

We had a check from a midwife at home, who weighed the baby, and seemed happy he wasn’t losing too much weight. But we weren’t too sure if the breast-feeding was going correctly, and we now know he had not really been feeding properly at all. He was having a few short guzzles of a few seconds, whereas a proper breastfeeding “latching on” period would be at least a minute of non-stop sucking, more like ten minutes or longer. This seems obvious to us now, but somehow all the midwives advising us, had not spent long enough to put us right on this.

The result was that he was getting more and more hungry, just the next day after being told his weight loss was not a worry, we took him to the doctor because things were not normal. He was mega grumpy and had dry-looking lips. The GP said it didn’t seem normal, and sent us back to hospital to be checked. The paediatricians told us he would need to be fed through a tube in his nose to bring his weight back up. That definitely felt like a serious deviation from the normal again. We ended up staying in hospital for two more days feeding the baby and re-establishing breastfeeding. That just happened to correspond with new years. We saw in 2016 watching the London fireworks from the tall balcony at Whittington hospital.

So Christmas and new year felt pretty frantically un-normal for us. Since then we’ve hit a whole sequence of other interesting challenges. Breastfeeding was the big one. That’s a story for another day. In general looking after a little baby, understanding his behaviour, knowing how to make him sleep or feed or stop crying, is constantly shifting challenge. He’s growing so fast that each week the goalposts move. The process seems designed to evade any attempt at containment in a predictable manageable cycle.

So no, things are not really back to normal. But I do feel like we are now getting to grips with a new normal, in which we need to be constantly ready for new challenges, and take them as they come. We’re sleeping more and relaxing into parenting more now.

…And we’re taking these smiles when they come too: