Einde Kraamtijd

If I were writing this blog solely for other people, now would be a good, if somewhat belated moment to discontinue it. I don’t think anyone reads it any more.

If you think I should abandon this blog, just let me know. Or rather, don’t, because you’re not reading it, anyway. Just fail to comment and I’ll figure out on my own that I should be spending my time more usefully.

Anyway, to the business at hand…

Ilias is now just over a week old. He’s made his inaugural trip to Bagels & Beans, twice in fact, but slept through the experience both times. For Sarah, too, it was the first time outside the door in a week. I’m sure that felt good.

Ilias lost his umbilical cord after just three or four days. It dried up and dropped off as expected. I’m always glad to see that shrivelled black thing snap off.

Sarah’s mum is struggling somewhat with Ilias’s name(s). It’s a grandparent’s prerogative, I suppose. Apparently, Sarah’s brother is planning to call his next child Hawk, Hawkin or something like that. I think that’s the greater challenge, personally. Ours names are much better, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Laura, our midwife, came here yesterday for a final visit. She brought with her a dried placental membrane, which she has framed for us with a handwritten account of the birth. It’s an instant heirloom and something already very special to me.

It was also Grietje’s last day today. Woe is us, now our maternity nurse has gone. It has been a pleasure to have Grietje around and the children were, by now, very accustomed to her presence. She will be missed. It’s all down to us now, as our routine reverts to something resembling the pre-Ilias era.

Ilias underwent his hearing test yesterday, which he passed without difficulty. He also had blood extracted from his heel to be tested for various diseases.

His weight has almost returned to that of his birth. Some loss in the first week is completely normal and he should grow beyond his birth weight in the next couple of days.

Ilias now has his own vanity domain, iliasm.net, to match Eloïse’s, eloisem.net and Lucas’s, lucasm.net. Overkill, perhaps, but they may prove useful one day. In fact, I’m certain they will.

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Ilias Eoin Linus Xavier Macdonald

Our difficulties with choosing names for our children are well documented. If reading that gives you a sense of déjà vu, that’s hardly surprising, because they’re actually really well documented.

This was almost the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make, to my mind surpassed only by the deliberations that surrounded deciding whether or not to buy our current home a few years ago.

We’ve had a good idea what the baby’s first name would be for several months, regardless of a male or female outcome, but the cerebration regarding the other names continued through the weekend, the result of which was that one final change was instituted late yesterday afternoon. For us, girls are easier to name than boys. We don’t really understand why that is so, but it’s definitely true for both Sarah and myself. As such, we had quite a firm idea of the additional names we would bestow on a girl, whereas our options for a boy were much more provisional.

When Sarah and I awoke this morning, we had no further doubts and thus knew that we had finally arrived at our new son’s name.

The Dutch sun must have been waiting for August, because the transition from July has seen the weather here dramatically improve. Today is a beautiful, sunny day.

Once I’d seen to the morning’s immediate chores, I biked over to the stadsdeelkantoor on the President Kennedylaan and registered the birth of our latest offspring. Today is the our final day to do so without risking the wrath of the Dutch bureaucratic hydra, so I wanted to be there well before closing time. It was very busy, probably because a lot of their staff are now away on their holidays.

Whereas Lucas was given a hooded bath towel for the achievement of being born, Ilias’s gift was a cuddly toy in the same I Amsterdam theme. The gift was accompanied by a card emblazoned with the message Welkom nieuwe Amsterdammer! (Welcome, new Amsterdammer!). The text on the other side, loosely translated, reads:

Dear parent,

The city has gained a new Amsterdammer! Congratulations on the birth of your child. And with this birth gift, I would like to welcome your child to our city.

Amsterdam is a vivacious, idiosyncratic and colourful city. We feel it’s important that your child grows up healthy and makes use of the facilities that the city has to offer, playing with friends, actively participating at school, taking part in sports, dancing or making music. Together with you, we’ll work to make this happen.

I wish you and your child a bright future,

The mayor of Amsterdam
Eberhard van de Laan

It’s the little things in life that count, don’t you think? I think it’s a nice touch that new babies (and their parents) are welcomed to the city in this way. It promotes a sense of belonging.

The outside of the house is decorated with blue streamers and a couple of large plastic storks, so no-one in the neighbourhood can be in any doubt that our family has gained a new member. Most people are probably on holiday, anyway.

I took care of Ilias’s health insurance this afternoon, adding him to our family’s policy. Hopefully he won’t be causing me to make any claims on it for the foreseeable future, but it’s good to take care of such details as soon as possible.

Time, now, to turn my attention to more photos. Yesterday’s photos are already on-line.

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Too Flogged To Blog

What I haven’t written here over the last couple of days speaks volumes; to me, anyway.

We didn’t even manage to take any photos on Thursday or Friday, but are rectifying that today with a selection of shots of the three children together. You can’t imagine how proud I am of my little bunch; not to mention their mother. It’s twee in the extreme, but she’s given me the most amazing, precious gift I could ever imagine.

OK, I promise I won’t descend into that level of tweeness again.

The last few days have been hard work. Thank the civilised Dutch state for kraamzorg, that’s all I can say. When you have a new baby, an immobile wife and two healthy, energetic children to take care of, you’re grateful for absolutely any chore that can be taken off your hands. Even something as simple as emptying the dishwasher is a relief not to have to do, when there are so many other similar tasks competing for one’s attention. No single task takes a long time, but combined, they somehow take from dawn till dusk (and beyond).

I got almost six hours of sleep last night, so I’m feeling on top of the world compared to how I felt yesterday.

Grietje, the kraamverzorgster, has taken Eloïse and Lucas to the park, which has freed me up for an hour. A whole hour, just for me! Sarah is sleeping upstairs with the baby. Yes, he’s still the baby. His first name has been decided and is set in stone. The others, well, let’s just say they’re currently set in wet cement. They may still change over the course of the weekend, but, one way or another, we’ll be ready to announce his full name on Monday.

Eloïse and Lucas have a play date this afternoon, so I’m hoping to spend a little more time with my new son today. Although it’s his arrival that gave rise to the whirlwind of activity of the last few days, he, himself, is actually tranquil and undemanding, blissfully unaware of the somewhat coordinated chaos reeling around him.

We’ve had the meconium nappies and his poop has traversed several hues to arrive at its current brownish orange. He’s peeing like a trooper, maintaining a good body temperature and suckling well on the boob. In other words, all is as it should be with him.

I took Eloïse and Lucas to the zoo yesterday afternoon. We got there late in the day, so I bought a year membership for the whole family, so that we can return as many times as we wish over the next twelve months.

My main challenge this summer is going to be keeping the elder two sufficient entertained and physically exercised. The good thing about a summer birth is that the family’s diary is almost empty, so there are few external obligations and appointments to keep.

The bad thing about a summer birth is… that the family’s diary is almost empty, so there are few moments that Eloïse and Lucas are away from both of their parents, which makes it hard to keep them busy without resorting to the television. At this stage of the proceedings, time spent with Eloïse and Lucas is mostly time not spent with the baby, so it’s a real juggling act to ensure that everyone’s emotional, mental and physical needs are met.

And with that, it’s time to move on to other duties.

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And Then There Were Five

Sarah woke me at 05:30 this morning with labour pains. Successive contractions were just a couple of minutes apart, so I got straight on the phone to Laura, our midwife, and Jacky, our doula. This is the same birth team that supported us in 2008 and smoothed Lucas’s entry into the world.

Poor old Jacky had been at a long birth the day before and had had just one hour of sleep, the poor thing. She didn’t complain, though, and got straight on her moped to drive to our house.

Laura has to come from Bloemendaal these days, so she arrived a little later, at about 06:20. At least the roads would have been clear.

In my haste to fill the birth pool, I forgot to first insert the sterile liner, so I had to halt the filling process, pump off the water I already had and then fit the liner before starting again.

This all took rather more time than I would have liked, but I was still ready in time for Sarah to want to get into the pool and continue her labour there.

This labour was more intense than either of the previous two. The contractions were coming just a minute apart, a frequency that Sarah never came close to in either of her previous labours. By way of contrast, Lucas was born during contractions that were still five minutes apart. Sarah barely had a chance to draw breath after each one before the next one hit, causing her to bellow and gasp for breath.

There was a lot more pain this time around, too. At least, the deafening yells and fingernail marks left in my arm gave me that impression. Sarah’s unsure, though, and it’s hard to be objective, because one will always remember a birth that has just happened much more vividly than one that occurred years ago. She’s certain that the labour was harder this time, however, because the frequency of the contractions left no time to relax and prepare for the next.

Eventually, it was felt that Sarah was having trouble surrendering to the birth process and she was encouraged to step out of the birth pool. I sat on the edge of the bath, while Sarah squatted in front of me. The full force of gravity was now able to assist, and with a deafening roar, the baby’s head left the world inside Sarah and entered into the strange realm inhabited by the rest of us.

After one more booming roar, the baby lurched out into Laura’s hands. In all of the excitement, I forgot that we didn’t know the baby’s sex, so it didn’t occur to me to look at its genitals until a couple of minutes later. Its massive, swollen balls left me in no doubt.

We helped Sarah back into the pool, so that she could relax in the warm water with the baby.

I asked Laura to call the children up from watching TV downstairs. A minute later, they appeared with smiles on their faces to admire their new baby brother. Then, they quickly disappeared again to continue the much more interesting pursuit of watching Toy Story 3.

After a period of relaxation, we manoeuvred Sarah out of the birth pool again — no mean feat, I can assure you — and helped her into the bedroom and into bed. There, she would complete third stage labour, a.k.a. placental expulsion.

After the placenta was delivered, I called Sarah’s friend, Rachel, who came over and expertly turned a large chunk of Sarah’s placenta into a tasty smoothie, which Sarah then happily drank. I tried some myself, out of curiosity. It was a little bit salty, but not objectionable. Rachel had mixed strawberries with the placenta to mask the taste of the organ.

The remainder of the placenta will be dried and turned into nutritious capsules for later use.

Jacky stayed for a while after the birth to help clean up, but then went home to get some well-earned sleep. Rachel quietly made some soup for the family. Eloïse and Lucas exploited the fact that Papa had a lot on his plate, utilising the situation to obtain a glut of television viewing, from which they regularly reappeared to demand yet more dried mangoes.

Laura remained to complete her paperwork, writing her account of the birth and then returning upstairs to weigh the baby, who was now stirring a little.

Grietje, our kraamverzorgster (maternity nurse) rang our doorbell at about 13:30. We were very happy to see her. Maternity nursing is one of the greatest benefits of the Dutch healthcare system and we’d be lost without it. Grietje will be helping to shoulder some of the burden over the next few days. Not only have we swelled the ranks of the family by one, but Sarah is pretty much an invalid at this point, so I’m going to be hard-pressed to meet the demands posed by the other four members of the family.

Grietje left again at 17:15, and things rather went downhill after that. I’ve been running around like a loon all evening, attending to Sarah, changing nappies, sorting out food, brushing teeth, getting the children ready for bed, pumping out and deflating the birth pool, dealing with washing and a load of other things.

I’d love to pretend that the day has been all sweetness and light and wax lyrical about the wonder that is childbirth, but the truth is that it’s been a very hard day. Lucas, in particular, is struggling to adapt to the simple fact that his mother can no longer do simple things like wipe his bottom and brush his teeth. He’s demanding that she still perform these duties and throwing a tantrum when she explains that she can’t. There have been a lot of tears this evening on all sides and I’m afraid he’s going to have to learn his lesson the hard way, which will be tough on all of us.

Our new son was born at 08:54 CEST, weighed in at 3800g (our heaviest child to date, by quite a good margin) and measured 52cm. He’s doing very well and is a very undemanding little chap. I don’t think he has cried for more than a total of sixty seconds since being born. He’s certainly been better behaved and more even-tempered than any other member of our dysfunctional family today.

I’d like to tell you our new son’s name, but I don’t yet know it. I’m glad Sarah managed to wait until Wednesday to give birth, because under Dutch law, that means we don’t have to register the birth until Monday. That gives us the weekend to come up with the name. We have a short list, of course, but it needs to be pruned further in the coming days. For now, his working, pre-launch title is Nemo.

We already have some lovely photos of Nemo in the birth and postnatal phases. We hope you’ll enjoy them. There are a few more great shots, but, because they expose a lot of Sarah’s body, she first needs to either approve or — more likely — reject them for public consumption.

On that note, I’m going to bed.

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Broadening The Band

My domestic bandwidth has finally caught up with the halcyon days I experienced at Google in 2003 – 2004. It was somewhere around then that we, Googlers in the Mountain View office, were first able to access the Internet at speeds in excess of 100 Mbit. The bottleneck had shifted and now it was the Fast Ethernet card in my workstation.

Once a gigabit card had been placed on the PC, ISO images would fly across the link, the download completing within a few minutes. I can still remember being in awe of the speed, which was very unusual back then. Very few people had the luxury of being connected to the Internet at work — forget about at home! — by such a fast link. Even gigabit Ethernet cards themselves were still far from the norm in workstations and servers. Most people weren’t connected to a gigabit LAN, never mind a WAN.

Time normalises everything, though. In a time-stretched corollary of Moore’s Law, we now find ourselves at the point that we can order affordable commodity Internet access with greater than Fast Ethernet speed. Actually, it’s been available for quite some time in Amsterdam, but I saw no need for it. I have historically upgraded our bandwidth only as we developed a need for it.

Last week, then, finally saw the upgrade of our cable link to 120 Mbit downstream and 10 Mbit up. This fat pipe dwarves our DSL bandwidth, which is a mere 12 Mbit downstream and 1 Mbit up. I expect we’ll cancel the service in a few months, although it does provide us with a static public IP address, which our cable provider does not.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the new bandwidth very much. BitTorrent, in particular, is benefiting from the extra breathing space.

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