Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
- John's Journal / Blog
- John's Pictures
Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
- Other Related Sites:
Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Sunday with Erika
Tailor Made (Me Unhappy)
Takeaway from Oliveto
Back at Work
Sunday with Erika
Saturday with Erika
Erika meets Naoko-san and Taechan
Erika's First Outing
Wednesday with Erika.
Tuesday with Erika
Monday with Erika
Around the Gardens with Erika
Adrian, Liz and the Kids Meet Erika
Erika meets Grandma
Baby Day Four
Baby Day Three
Baby Day Two
Going into Labour
Mum in London
Night out with Ben
Bank Holiday Monday
- Sunday with Erika
- [Sunday 30th September 2012]
- Tailor Made (Me Unhappy)
- [Saturday 29th September 2012]
Woke up around 5am when Erika woke for a feed, after which she wouldn't go back to sleep. In order to let Chie get back to sleep I took Erika to the lounge and paced up and down for a while to try and get her to nod off - in the end she decided she would only sleep if I was holding her. As it happened the previous evening there had been a program on the TV about Victorian era servants, and having woken at dawn to attend to every need of the new head of the household, who didn't seem particularly concerned about me getting any sleep, I felt some sympathy for them.
Recently I've become quite irritated by the fact none of my trousers fit properly. With the exception of that one bespoke pair, they're all either too big, too small, too long, too short, too baggy or just not comfortable. So I thought I'd try going to a reasonably priced tailor (i.e. not Savile Row) to have some made. It seemed like a good idea to go in my favourite suit to give them an idea of the sort of thing I liked, but I later regretted this. They were very critical of it, said it wasn't well made (they used the word "terrible"), and implied I had been ripped off. I was rather upset by this, my suit being something I have a deep affection for, I've received lots of compliments on (including from people who don't know me and/or have no idea where it was from - so presumably weren't just saying it because they felt like they ought to) and I'd spent rather a lot of money on. This is pretty much the equivalent of telling a woman her wedding dress looks cheap and tacky. I couldn't get this out of my mind all day. Yes, I know I'm more than a bit vain, but having lived all my life with a lazy eye and crooked teeth (and to add to that in more recent years, a fat neck) and having never really felt like I had particularly great dress sense, I had loved the feeling of having at least one item of clothing that I'd hoped made people think - "well he may have a deformed face but that is a great suit".
Needless to say I won't be using this particular tailor again.
After that I met up wih Chie and Erika and we took her for a stroll around St. George's Square gardens - amazingly we'd never been in before, despite living very close by, having assumed it was one of those private garden squares only for the residents. Plus, I suppose, the fact that we have our own residents only gardens. Which are bigger. And have nicer flowers.
Later on in the afternoon we ventured out again with Erika to take her on her first visit to a pub. We deliberated somewhat on where the venue for this momentous occasion should be, but eventually settled on the Star Tavern in Belgravia because it was on the way to Waitrose, and had lots of space inside. By coincidence we filed in there behind another couple with a very young baby who appeared to be doing exactly the same thing. While we were there a member of staff came over and told us how cute she was - that's always really nice to hear.
Went around Waitrose after that, picked up some macarons round the corner from Pierre Hermes, then got a taxi home. Burgers for dinner.
- Takeaway from Oliveto
- [Friday 28th September 2012]
Friday nights seem to be falling into a habit of takeaway night. Brought back pizza from Oliveto for dinner, which was vastly better than our rather disappointing pizza experience from Firezza last week. Whilst waiting for the pizza to be made, I popped round the corner to the Duke of Wellington for a very quick pint. It had been 3 weeks since I'd last set foot in a pub, and I had really missed it. I decided we should take Erika for her first pub visit as soon as possible.
It was also really nice to be in Oliveto again, albeit briefly. We've naturally felt a bit cut off from the rest of the world the last few weeks and it was exciting to even spend a few minutes in sophistcated grown-up company. Oliveto is fairly child friendly though, so I also look forward to the first chance to bring Erika here too.
- [Thursday 27th September 2012]
Not much to report really. Chie made Japanese food for dinner, we finished up the last of the vegetable koroke we'd bought from the Japan centre a few weeks back. They're just mashed potato with a few vegetables, coated in breadcrumbs and then fried - but are oddly delicious, especially with a bit of tonkatsu sauce.
- [Wednesday 26th September 2012]
I decided to work from home today, partly because I had peer assessments to write (which are always harder to do when the peers in question are sitting next to you and peering - if you'll pardon the pun - over your shoulder) but also to break the week up a bit, so Chie didn't have to spend a whole five days in a row at home by herself with the baby.
I actually had a pretty productive day - I spent the morning doing peer assessments, and the afternoon managing a release - something I'd been wanting to get out in the wild for a few weeks now - so that was rather satisfying.
Chie's friend Miyako came to visit in the afternoon, which I think Chie found quite uplifting. I had a lot of my family come to visit in the first week and I found introducing our baby to them was a really jubilant event, and helped it all to sink in. I think Chie is emboldened to invite more of her friends over now. Plus we're all really looking forward to Chie's Mum arriving - she'll be here from next Tuesday, and will be in the UK for three weeks.
Chie also popped out to the "baby clinic" in the afternoon, where she's encouraged to go every couple of weeks for health check ups. Erika already weighs 4kg - she has put on half a kilo since birth, which is pretty good going in 16 days. Whilst there she asked again about which foods might affect breastfeeding, as we think Erika has been having some kind of wind or stomach trouble. As we'd also heard elsewhere, the advice today was that actually anything you'd regularly eaten whilst pregnant would probably be fine. Chie seems to have gotten a bit fed up of having to be careful about what she eats, as there doesn't seem to be clear cause and effect between what we eat and when Erika gets upset. So tonight Chie said she wanted to eat curry - one of the things we'd been avoiding. So we popped out to Sainsbury's in the early evening to buy ingredients. Erika definitely seems to like being out in her buggy - she just falls asleep, at least on short trips. I made some of our usual favourites - sag aloo, mutter paneer, and some daal. I was pretty cautious with the spices, and also didn't use any onions or garlic - this actually made everything quicker to cook and saved a bit of effort as well. Fingers crossed Erika won't mind!
I'd ordered a new pair of vegetarian shoes (identical to the brogues I was so fond of, which are now pretty worn out). These arrived this afternoon, so in the evening I tried them on with my suit - which explains the picture - it seemed like a good opportunity for a picture with Erika. Given that, like any other baby, she has occasionally been prone to throwing up milk, we took this picture rather quickly, as you can probably imagine.
- [Tuesday 25th September 2012]
To a large extent a repeat of the previous day - I went to work (but came back for lunch) and in the evening Erika had some bouts of considerably bad temper, in between which we attempt to eat the dinner I made. Tonight I made home made pesto (but left out the garlic, as apparently that's bad when breastfeeding) which we had with fresh linguine. Pesto definitely lacks something without the garlic, but the overall effect was still pretty pleasing.
We gave Erika a bath again this evening, and I think after our initial disastrous attempt (using the regular grown-up bath with a baby seat) we've found it so much easier using a separate little baby bath, on the floor of the lounge. Although I feel like it's only a matter of time until she kicks out the plug and water goes all over the carpet. Unlike the first attempt at bath time - which has resulted in fits of screaming - she actually seems to find it quite relaxing now.
- Back at Work
- [Monday 24th September 2012]
My first day back at work after paternity leave. I felt the predictable pangs of guilt about abandoning Chie for the day, but managed to ease matters slightly by going home for lunch - one of the benefits of working within walking distance of home! This was also good for making sure Chie ate a proper meal at lunchtime - as she understandably would otherwise have had her hands full it might have been difficult for her to find the time to eat properly.
As is the tradition on Mondays I made Chinese food for dinner although it was hard to actually sit down together and eat it, as Erika seems really unsettled in the evenings now - she made a lot of noise this evening! Still, despite the food being half cold I think it was appreciated - we started with mock crispy duck, then had one dish of pak choi and oriental mushrooms in a mirin and ginger sauce, and the other - tofu with peppers in an entirely home made sweet and sour sauce. I don't know why I'd never attempts this before - sweet and sour sauce is pretty much just sugar, rice vinegar, water and cornflour (olus a few other tweaks). It came out surprisingly well.
- Sunday with Erika
- [Sunday 23rd September 2012]
Today was the last day of my two weeks paternity leave. It was a rather wet and windy day outdoors so we weren't particularly enthused about leaving the flat, and ended up just staying in all day.
I made scotch broth for lunch, which seemed somehow appropriate given the weather. My recipe for scotch broth is to essentially make some other kind of vegetable soup with whatever is to hand, and then add pearl barley. This time I also added a good slosh of peaty whisky (a peated bruichladdich, as it happens) to deglaze the pan after the onions and celery had sauteed for a bit. I was rather pleased with the end result, it was fittingly hearty and warming.
Pies for dinner in the evening, and I had yet another attempt at making roast potatoes which were actually crispy on the outside. Finally some degree of success! I think the issue may have been the metal roasting dish I was using - this time I tried with a ceramic one instead. I also gave the potatoes a chance to cool down and dry out a little bit after boiling them and before putting them in the oven.
- Saturday with Erika
- [Saturday 22nd September 2012]
Popped out to Sainsbury's in the afternoon. I found it's actually a bit difficult to do supermarket shopping with a baby and a buggy - I ended up using all my mental energy navigating the buggy around the aisles, avoiding other customers and their trollies, and keeping an eye on the baby - so didn't really pay much attention to actually buying anything.
The most dramatic event of the day was a nappy change later on in the afternoon. I won't go into details but suffice to say for once Erika wasn't the only one on the brink of tears, and this is now the third time I've needed a very swift change of clothes thanks to our little bundle of joy.
For dinner I made Japanese curry with a twist - I used coconut milk. We used less of the Japanese curry roux than we normally would, mindful that baby might not react well to spices (and Japanese curries are pretty mild in the first place) but the addition of coconut milk made it really rich and tasty.
I persuaded Chie to have a bath after dinner to help her relax a bit, during which I watched a 1985 TV version of a lesser known Noel Coward play called Mrs Capper's Birthday. It was a bit naff, frankly, but interesting to see early performances by Hugh Laurie and John Bird, and also interesting for a scene where the characters discuss Monty Python. Although I notice the dialogue about Monty Python wasn't in this 1968 version. I'd rather liked to think that Noel Coward, who died in 1973, might have watched Python (first aired in 1969) - and referenced it in his work, but maybe this addition to the play was posthumous.
- Erika meets Naoko-san and Taechan
- [Friday 21st September 2012]
Our second outing with Erika - we went out for lunch to Le Pain Quotidien so that Chie's friend Naoko-san and her daughter Taechan could meet the baby. Our forays out from the flat thus far have been somewhat hurried affairs - sandwiched between feeds and nappy changes in the hope that she'll be relaxed for the duration of the outing and won't start screaming in public.
For a bit of a treat I popped out to get fish and chips for dinner.
Later on that evening Erika was sick on me. Thanks Erika.
- Erika's First Outing
- [Thursday 20th September 2012]
The health visitor came this morning for a, errr, health visit. I hadn't really expected how many visits we'd get after we brought Erika home - this is the fourth overall now, in 10 days. I'm not convinced that this many visits are really necessary, they do seem to be repeating themselves in what they're telling us a bit now.
In the afternoon Erika had her first proper outing - we took her on the bus to Peter Jones for a bit of shopping and a spot of lunch. We used the "Parents Room" in Peter Jones - how politically correct - it of course really means "Mothers Room" - we were in there a little while, I was the only Dad in there, and I got some funny looks from the other Mums. It was actually kind of smelly, too warm and claustrophobic in there but I felt quite pleased that we'd successfully done our first feed and nappy change routine outside the flat (obviously we did this at the hospital too but that doesn't really count). I've been a bit concerned that we've been developing a form of baby agoraphobia, we've only just got the hang of looking after baby when we're at home and everything is to hand, so we'd been a bit hesitant to leave the flat with her for anything more than a quick walk around the gardens. Hopefully today's outing was a step in the direction of being a bit more adventurous.
For dinner I made Quorn fillets in a sauce I vaguely imagine exists in the Mediterranean somewhere - a bit of red wine, tomatoes, olives, carrots, leaks and courgettes. I guess it ended up being a sort of ratatouille with some protein in.
- Wednesday with Erika.
- [Wednesday 19th September 2012]
Had another delivery from Ocado in the morning, and made leek and potato soup for lunch.
Another routine visit from the midwife in the afternoon. Although the nights had been getting easier, Chie was still struggling to get even four hours sleep each night, and so I think we were a little angsty during this midwife visit. The NHS (and the NCT) give out a lot of propaganda on the apparent benefits of breastfeeding but don't do a particularly good job of highlighting the many downsides - the anxiety about whether your baby is actually getting enough milk, the complexities of latching properly, the whole business of foremilk and hindmilk (apparently foremilk is very starchy and can ferment in baby's stomach, causing stomach upsets - honestly, which idiot designed this system?) plus the fact that the entire burden for feeding was on Chie, and I couldn't really help out with that part of baby care.
Chie has been getting a bit of the baby blues the last few days - it's to be expected but is still upsetting to see. I'm sure the lack of sleep isn't helping so today I started getting militant about her having naps in the daytime whenever possible. I think this probably helped a bit.
For dinner I was determined again to make something exciting and a bit cheffy. We started with a globe artichoke with vinaigrette - I love this way of eating an artichoke, pulling off the leaves, dipping in the vinaigrette, and scooping off the little bit of flesh at the end of each leaf. To follow that the main course was parpadelle with girolles - I was extremely careful with the preparation of the girolles to make sure to clean them without them actually getting wet, as soggy wild mushrooms tend to just disintegrate when you cook them. I then fried them in a little olive oil at a very high temperature - again to sort of seal them without letting them turn to mush. The end result was really good, although I suspect mainly because the pasta we used (from Soli) was really good quality.
- Tuesday with Erika
- [Tuesday 18th September 2012]
Another day at home with baby Erika.
Not really much to report today actually. I didn't do my usual foray out to do shopping, instead in the evening I just popped round to drop off a car seat we'd borrowed from one of the couples on the NCT course - I was only out of the flat for 20 minutes or so.
Pasta for lunch (which as is often the case we didn't get to eat straight away when it was ready owing to a demanding baby, so it was past its best by the time we did eat it). In the evening Chie suggested ordering pizza, we tried a place called Firezza for the first time, but it was pretty disappointing - really dry and far too salty.
Erika is sort of settling into a routine now. She needs feeding really often - pretty much hourly - and in between she's either sleeping, crying, or seems sort of unsettled. Her digestive system is still getting used to doing its job, we think. There isn't really much time when she's awake and settled other than when she's feeding, which is making it hard to find a good time for bathing her. Hopefully as she gets a bit bigger her stomach capacity will improve, she'll be able to go a bit longer between feeds, and she might be a bit more settled.
- Monday with Erika
- [Monday 17th September 2012]
I'm definitely starting to lose track of what day it is a bit now, having spent most of last week mostly confined to the flat, it feels a bit like we've had one extremely long weekend. So anyway, this is now the second week of my fortnight's paternity leave.
We had a delivery from Amazon this morning - some new cartridges for our printer. I wanted to print some baby photos, but the printer hadn't worked properly for some time and I thought new ink cartridges might help. It didn't really. I was rather annoyed by this, so spent a while taking it partly to bits in an attempt to clean the heads, which are presumably clogged. Whilst other areas of technology have generally improved over the last decades, printers are the one thing which actually seem to be getting worse. It used to be the case that a printer was a fairly substantial investment, that would work reliably for a few years. Nowadays the industry seems to have gotten itself into a race to the bottom with a model nobody benefits from, where the printers are ludicrously cheap and the cartridges are expensive, which is supposedly where they make their money - only I suspect they don't, because people just buy third party cartridges instead. So consequently the devices themselves are very shoddily constructed and painfully unreliable. This isn't just irksome to the consumer it's pretty environmentally irresponsible too - the printers themselves have effectively become the consumables.
Chie and Erika Skype called to Yoko-san - Erika's obaachan in Japan just before lunch. We had called her part way through our particularly bad night last week, and I have the definite impression Erika finds her obaachan's voice soothing. Although she did seem to be confused as to exactly how the little black box (Chie's laptop) was talking to her.
For lunch I rustled up a salad incorporating the leftovers from last night's dinner. As we've not been eating out or anything this past week we've done a really good job of using things up, and have thrown away very little food so far - that's rather satisfying actually.
After lunch I went out for another of my shopping forays, again to Peter Jones in Sloane Square. I bought rather a lot this time, including a baby bath and a splash mat, a thermometer (which would tell us both air and water temperature), some baby grows with farm animals on, a new draining rack for the kitchen sink (the old one was rusty and my nesting instinct wanted to get rid of it) and a few other bits and pieces.
We then took Erika out for another quick spin in her buggy around the gardens. Again she looked a bit bemused by it all, but didn't cry, so I assume wasn't entirely against the notion.
For dinner - it being a Monday - we made Chinese food. Actually we managed to cobble together quite an interesting meal from various bits and pieces. We started with mock duck pancakes, then had a sort of sweetcorn soup, then finished with a mock shrimp and spinach stir-fry, in a sweet mirin and ginger sauce.
Actually watched some telly for the remainder of the evening, for pretty much the first time since we've come back from the hospital. I suppose that could be a sign that we're settling into something like a normal routine.
- Around the Gardens with Erika
- [Sunday 16th September 2012]
Having had a flurry of visitors the past two days it was nice to have a very restful day today, with nothing on the agenda other than looking after Erika.
Today was also the first day this week that I didn't go out on a little shopping mission, which I had done every other day so far that we'd been at home with the baby.
For lunch I was feeling quite cheffy, so I made white asparagus soup, using the fresh white asparagus I'd bought in Selfridges yesterday. I roughly followed this recipe, and as an added trick I used the peel from the asparagus to make the stock. I was rather pleased with the end result, and Chie liked it too. It went very well with the pane carasau (Sardinian flatbread) I'd bought the other day in Daylesford Organic.
Just after 4pm we decided to take Erika out for her first stroll in her new buggy, which I'd completed the assembly of after having got the replacement canopy yesterday. We decided not to be too ambitious, and just went for a walk around the gardens. This was actually also the first time Chie had left the flat since we got back from the hospital on Tuesday. I'm not sure Erika really knew what to make of the big outdoors - she looked a bit dazed by it all, but at least she didn't cry at any point so I'm going to consider it a success.
Later on that afternoon we decided to bathe her for the first time, as the umbilical clip had dropped off yesterday. This was somewhat less of a success. We tried using a sort of little seat that goes in our bath, and attempted to heat the room using the Dyson Hot. Our bathroom is pretty tiny, and so it was all a bit awkward. Erika cried pretty much constantly throughout, and Chie got a bit down over the whole episode. I decided for our second attempt I should get some different equipment - a separate baby bath which we could put on the floor of the lounge, so we could sit either side of it, and a thermometer so we could be sure we had the air and water temperature just right for her. So this was a bit of a low point in the day, but at least we've learned from it.
For dinner I made a full three courses - a salad followed by a proper Sunday roast, with a Quorn roast chicken style thing (which seems to have improved recently and was actually really tasty), roast potatoes, stuffing, peas and broad beans. I also put on a table cloth, laid the table properly with our best cutlery, and had a small glass of wine with the meal. Although the roast potatoes were a disappointment as always (I think our oven is just a dead loss for roast potatoes) overall the meal lifted our spirits. I'm convinced it's really important to try and find the time to eat properly like this when you have a baby.
For dessert (some time later on in the evening) we ate the Kiwano I had bought yesterday in Selfridges yesterday. I don't think I'll be rushing back for another - it was sort of a slimy cross between a grapefruit, a kiwi fruit and a water melon. Still, it was fun to try something new.
- Adrian, Liz and the Kids Meet Erika
- [Saturday 15th September 2012]
Quite a busy day for baby! Another routine visit from the midwife in the morning, and apparently everything is more or less fine still. Also two deliveries arrived - a Dyson Hot (the fan heater without a fan) and Erika's buggy - a Bugaboo Bee in red. We'd spent a long time deliberating over which buggy/pram to buy, and in the end just bought the very first one we'd considered, which had been recommended to me by my manager, who had a baby last year.
In the afternoon Adrian, Liz and the kids came for a visit to meet baby Erika. She was sleeping for a while when they first arrived, quite happily despite all the guests, and Katie was continually shushing us all. Eventually she started to stir, and after a nappy change and a feed (we explained to the kids: Auntie Chie puts the food in one end, Uncle John takes it out the other end) she was ready to greet her visitors properly. Adrian and Liz both held her for a while, and so did Daniel to my surprise. Katie seemed very interested in the whole business of looking after babies, whilst William and Daniel mostly entertained themselves with lego and Chie's balance ball.
After a while I thought it might be fun to open the box for Erika's new buggy, and have the kids "help" put it together. As you can imagine the room quickly descended into chaos, and much fun was had with the large box it came in, and of course the bubble wrap. Adrian gave me a hand actually putting the buggy together, which was pretty straightforward to begin with until we got to the canopy which just didn't seem to fit no matter which way round we tried it. I eventually figured out they'd sent us the canopy for another model.
Although a bit chaotic it was really lovely see Erika meet her cousins and aunt and uncle, and this was definitely one of the highlights of Erika's first week for me.
After Adrian Liz and the kids headed off, I set about trying to get a replacement canopy for the buggy. I had quite a frustrating time trying to get through to someone who could actually do something about this at Selfridge's, and was less than impressed with their customer service (to the extent I wrote them a long letter of complaint the next morning). Eventually though I managed to establish they had a replacement available in store, and so I popped out quickly in the early evening to pick it up - I was really determined we were going to take Erika out for her first walk the next day.
Whilst in Selfridge's I also picked up some interesting fruit and vegetables from the food hall - some white asparagus, a globe artichoke, two necatvignes, a kiwano and a yellow pitahaya.
Was a bit too tired to cook by the time I got back home, so we just ate assorted leftovers, plus we had the yellow pitahaya - it wasn't wildly delicious but it's always fun to try something new for the first time.
- Erika meets Grandma
- [Friday 14th September 2012]
Quite a bad night last night - Erika was crying almost constantly for about four hours between midnight and 4am. She'd stop briefly when she fed, but then started again soon afterwards. We think it's probably some combination of wind, her digestive system still getting used to actually processing food, and possibly the fact she isn't feeding for long enough in each session - something about foremilk and hindmilk.
Chie had arranged for a Japanese breastfeeding specialist to come and visit at 1pm, which I think turned out to be a really good idea - she actually gave lots of general baby advice, and it was good to get a Japanese perspective on things, and reassuring for Chie to be able to ask questions in Japanese.
I made a tomato and courgette soup for lunch which we didn't get round to eating until about 5. I've found this week I've been able to find enough time to cook, but what has been more of a struggle is actually finding the time to sit down and eat together.
After that, Mum came to visit so that Erika could meet her Grandma for the first time. Erika pretty much slept the whole time and seemed to be little angel making our reports of constant screaming seem a little hard to believe! Mum had the honour of being the first relative to meet Erika, and held her for quite a while - Erika seemed very relaxed around her Grandma. Mum also brought some cakes so we had a sort of afternoon tea whilst holding the baby. It was a rather lovely afternoon (and a stark contrast from the previous night!).
Mum headed off a little after 6, after which I popped out to pick up supplies - more baby things and some things for dinner. I ended up doing one of these little forays pretty much every day this week. Today I headed to Victoria station and bought various things in Boots, Holland and Barrett, and the little Sainsbury's there, and also picked up some sushi for dinner. It was rather a nice feeling to be taking dinner home for my family on a Friday night. Once back at home I supplemented the sushi I'd bought with a few extra bits and pieces - miso soup, hiyayakko, avocado sashimi and some pickles. The two bad nights we'd had so far had been after we'd eaten fairly milk/cheese heavy meals, and so I thought it might be good to try avoiding dairy for a bit - making Japanese food an obvious choice.
I'd been almost falling asleep whilst I'd been out shopping, and so decided to have a nap almost immediately after dinner. Tonight we planned to just not really try and sleep between midnight and 4am, and instead concentrate on giving Erika whatever she needed. This worked to the extent that she didn't cry very much overnight, but obviously isn't a great long term solution in terms of us actually getting any sleep!
- Baby Day Four
- [Thursday 13th September 2012]
Our second night at home with the baby had been better than the first - we'd decided to just move into the lounge for the time being, where we felt less worried about disturbing the neighbours, and I think we were starting to understand the baby's needs a little better.
We had a delivery from Ocado this morning - this was pretty much the first time we'd actually used online grocery shopping, as we'd always typically wanted to just shop on the day and buy whatever we felt like eating that night. With a baby though it's very convenient!
My shopping outing today took me to Sloane Square - and I actually took the unusual step of using a Boris Bike to cycle on the way there. Having spent several days mostly in our pyjamas it was quite exciting to be surrounded by glamorous well dressed people again. I picked up some things we needed in Peter Jones, the John Lewis store by Sloane Square, and enquired about getting a buggy. I was rather disappointed to hear they don't keep them in stock, and it would take several days to have it delivered - even delivering it from their depot to the store would take at least two days, and they couldn't guarantee that. I was a bit annoyed by that level of inefficiency, and impatient to get the buggy as soon as possible so we could start taking Erika outside. So I decided to take our business elsewhere, and eventually chose to order it from Selfridge's who offered next day delivery.
As Chie hadn't been able to eat blue or soft cheese during pregnancy, we'd excitedly ordered some as part of our shopping from Ocada, and so for dinner we had trofie in a blue cheese and spinach sauce.
- Baby Day Three
- [Wednesday 12th September 2012]
Our first night back at home had been a bit rough - lots of crying and not really obvious what the problem was. Obviously we still have to learn to figure out her wants and needs.
An air of peace and calm descended in the morning, but we were both left feeling a bit dazed.
The community midwives came for their visit in the morning, and politely tiptoed through our bombsite of a flat to check everything was going OK. Their verdict was that little Erika was actually doing just fine, she was just adjusting to being in the big wide world and that can be a bit difficult at first. It turns out it's quite normal that she seems to want to feed almost constantly.
I held baby while Chie made lunch - it's really lovely having her doze on my chest. Chie made the classic lentil and tomato soup I learned from Dad, albeit without any garlic this time for baby's sake.
I popped out in the afternoon to pick up things Chie needed from Holland and Barrett, as well as some things for dinner. I was still determined to cook proper meals for us, and decided this evening to do a sort of Spanish tapas selection - a Spanish omelette, a bean and chorizo stew (made with some vegetarian chorizo) and garbanzos con espinacas - chickpeas with spinach, a dish we like at our local tapas place. It all turned out rather well.
- Baby Day Two
- [Tuesday 11th September 2012]
I went back to the hospital for 10am, when visiting hours started on the post-natal ward. I was pleased to hear all was going well and we could be discharged this morning. We were able to leave just before 1pm - conveniently when morning visiting hours finish. Baby Erika was very good and didn't seem to mind being put in the car seat, and in fact stayed quiet all the way home.
We did a video call with Chie's parents using Skype when we got back, which was rather lovely - giving them their first chance to see the baby. She was a very good girl and slept quietly throughout the call.
After that I kept an eye on baby so that Chie could have a bit of an afternoon nap, having obviously not had such a great night's sleep the night before on the post-natal ward - with eight babies in earshot you can pretty much guarantee at least one of them is crying at any point in time.
So we had a few lovely peaceful hours after getting home, but unsurprisingly that was a bit too good to be true and towards the end of the afternoon baby's mood started to deteriorate, and it turned into quite a rough night - we think she perhaps had a bit of an upset stomach. Still, I suppose that is all par for the course.
I did at least make a point of cooking a proper meal, albeit a simple one, mindful of Charlie Brooker's observation that after the baby arrives all you'll have time to eat is biscuits. We also had a little glass of Champagne to celebrate - Kyle from work had very thoughtfully given us a bottle of Bollinger to mark the occasion.
- [Monday 10th September 2012]
We had been taken through the first 10 or 11 hours of labour in the hospital by our first pair of midwives - Sarah and Judith - and as dawn broke Chie was tired but had managed to regain a bit of strength for the final push. It was sad that the midwives who we'd been through so much with were finished their shifts at 8am, and would be handing over to another pair - they had been marvellous - but at the same time having a new team was actually quite good to help set a new pace for the final few hours.
Our second team of midwives - Marianne and Alison - seemed to have a slightly more hip and modern approach. Again one was a student but seemed very sure of what she was doing.
After they arrived I suggested Chie should have a go in the pool - as we had one, and I know being Japanese Chie loves lounging around in hot springs etc. I'm not sure it necessarily helped progress the labour at all, and there didn't seem to be any expectation that she'd actually give birth there - but I think it did help to relax her a bit, and the change of scenery was good for her too.
Maybe the pool did help though. Chie had a final examination after that - I think it was 9:30 - and they told her she was full dilated. This was a surprisingly emotional moment - we both got a bit teary - I'm not really sure if that was happiness or exhaustion or what, but after this we were then ready for the final push.
Not really sure why but for whatever reason we decided not to return to the pool, and instead Chie went back to using all the various bits and pieces of equipment she'd been using at the start - and in particular that very expensive birthing chair. It had a sort of rope hanging from a bar which she found helpful to hold on to - and to my surprise despite all the pain and exhaustion found it best to stand up.
After a couple more hours of pushing, some time after 11, the midwives told us they could see the head, and then the rest of it seemed to happen incredibly quickly. Eventually, and what felt like very suddenly, at 11:50am a whole load of stuff came out, in amongst it a very large purpley grey coloured baby.
The midwives caught her, gave her to Chie to hold immediately, and patted her face to help her start breathing. Chie then needed a bit of attention so I took the baby, and like the good NCT course attendee I am (albeit one who ignored all the things they say about pethadine) I unbuttoned my shirt for some skin to skin contact. Baby thanked me for this by pooing prolifically all over my shirt and trousers.
Welcome to the world, baby Erika.
I had a quick shower and changed clothes, then held baby again (this time wrapped in a towel - for my benefit) while the midwives attended to Chie. They did all the standard tests and measurements after that, she weighed in at 3.53kg and measured 53cm.
The postnatal ward was apparently full for the afternoon, which actually worked in our favour - it meant we were able to stay in the birthing centre - which we had all to ourselves, apart from the midwives occasionally popping in and out, until around 6pm. This was a rather lovely few hours as you can imagine. While we were waiting there they brought us tea and toast. When you're starving and exhausted just about anything tastes delicious.
Owing to the time we'd be arriving on the post natal ward we'd apparently miss the chance to order dinner, so some time after 5 I popped out to order some takeaway from the Carluccio's across the street. I could barely speak to the member of staff there I was so tired - or overwhelmed. I took back a couple of pasta dishes which I fed to Chie as she held the baby.
After that we transferred to the post-natal ward, where there were visiting hours, so rather sadly I had to leave at 10pm, but on the plus side it meant I could take some of our stuff back, and pick up the car seat we'd need to take the baby back in a taxi - plus have a decent sleep and a shower. I also felt reassured that Chie could get round the clock assistance from the on-duty midwives.
- Going into Labour
- [Sunday 9th September 2012]
Chie went into labour today. Her contractions started about 5:30am, from which point we were both awake thinking we might have to rush off to the hospital any minute now. Of course the reality is that this early stage takes hours - it was 6:30pm when we eventually decided to call the hospital. In the meantime we tried to relax, set her up with the Tens machine (which to my surprise she kept on right up until about an hour before the birth) and went for a few walks to try and encourage things along - I don't think we've ever had such a comprehensive stroll before.
We got a taxi to the hospital around 8pm after calling the hospital a second time. They seemed unconvinced that we were ready to come in, because Chie was able to still speak through the contractions. Whilst this may be a good rule of thumb for the general case in England, it doesn't really work for superhuman Japanese women like Chie, who have a higher pain threshold than us wimpy Westerners.
On arrival we went into triage and I expected (if I'm honest, hoped, to some extent) we'd be turned around and told to come back in the morning, but actually after an imposing midwife called Regina had examined Chie, she decided the baby was on its way. It was interesting to see her bedside manner change - before the examination when she suspected we were just wasting her time, she was a bit frosty. After the examination she was suddenly rather sweet and caring.
We were on the triage ward for probably around an hour or so before being transferred to a labour ward. I was really pleased that we were able to get one of the birthing centres - and better still the one we'd seen on the hospital tour with all the best equipment - including a complicated (and apparently incredibly expensive) birthing chair thing, as well as a pool. We had our own private bathroom and shower too, which was all very comforting.
Our first pair of midwives were called Sarah and Judith - Sarah was a student midwife but had apparently done 17 births now so Judith put her in charge. She seemed pretty sure of what she was doing and they were both really sweet throughout their time with us. They really made an effort to pronounce Chie's name correctly, and kept saying it every time they spoke to her. It's surprising how nice it is to hear your own name.
Chie had decided to try for a birth without an epidural, and to begin with just relied on the Tens machine. We're not even really sure it was helping, but it seemed to have a psychological affect, as it gave her something to do every time a contraction started. We made full use of all the various bits and pieces of apparatus in the room - including that very expensive chair, and Chie worked through her contractions in lots of different positions - standing, sitting, crouching, on all fours. I was so impressed by the way she just got on with it, despite obviously being in a lot of pain.
Things had been going really well for the first few hours, but as we got into the small hours of the morning exhaustion just took over - I suggested she start using the gas and air, which helped a bit (again perhaps more psychologically than anything else) but eventually she couldn't really stand or sit any more and so some time in the middle of the night the midwives suggested a dose of pethedine, which would give her a bit of a break from the pain, and a chance to sleep intermittently to regain our strength. This was one of the most difficult points of the labour for me - in our NCT antenatal classes they'd painted quite a negative picture of pethedine - although the NHS are very aware of the NCT anti-pethedine propaganda, and say their claims are not backed up by statistics.
It probably sounds a bit ridiculous, but making these kinds of crisis decisions is actually part of my job, although obviously the sorts of "crisis" we experience at work are far less important than this situation. So I tried to take the same approach - gathering as much information as I could, assessing the pros and cons, and then going on my engineering judgement. In hindsight I think we made the right decision, Chie went from being very distressed from the pain and exhaustion, to being able to manage the situation much better, and even get short bursts of sleep between contractions. As we obviously still had some way to go with the labour this was very much what was needed.
More on tomorrow's entry...
- Mum in London
- [Saturday 8th September 2012]
We think Chie had her first twinges of contractions this morning, but they seemed to wear off again - maybe it was something else.
Mum was passing through London for the day, on her way back from a conference in Winchester. I think when she'd planned this trip she'd rather hoped she might be able to see the baby, but alas she was just a couple of days early!
We went for dim sum at Phoenix Palace for lunch. Not bad, but I think we all agreed we prefer Royal China. After that we went for a stroll along Marylebone High Street. I'd never been in the bookshop there before - it has a rather lovely interior - and I bought Virgina Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, which seemed somehow appropriate since it was set nearby.
Got the bus back home after that, and sat out in the gardens for a bit with Mum, to hav a gin and tonic and some nibbles, before she headed off to get her train back.
I think Chie and I both had a definite sense of the calm before the storm for the remainder of the evening...
- [Friday 7th September 2012]
Thought it would be a good idea to go out for dinner this evening, to take our minds off the fact we were now a couple of days past the due date for the baby. Not that being a few days late is any problem at all, but as you can imagine it's a bit of a tense time and it seemed like a distraction would be a good idea.
I decided we should try out another Lebanese restaurant - as part of my ongoing quest to find the perfect foul medames - so we chose a place called Ishbilia in Knightsbridge, based on the fact it is the highest Zagat rated Lebanese restaurant in London.
All the food was good - and the foul medames was - but the real star of the show was the foul moukala. Rather than the dried broad beans / fava beans in foul medames, this was made with fresh broad beans, with garlic, coriander and olive oil. It was simple but quite sublime.
This would turn out to be mine and Chie's last meal out together before the baby arrived, so I'm glad we ate well!
- [Thursday 6th September 2012]
Not a very productive day at work today, in contrast to the past couple of weeks where I've actually been getting quite a bit done. I got in a bit later than usual, and was almost immediately greeted by a fire alarm (just a drill), which as is now the tradition meant a few of us went to Tom Tom for a coffee, rather than stand around pointlessly in the street for 15 minutes. Also a pub lunch with Kyle took a bit of a chunk out of the middle of the day (compared to my typical 10 minute "al desko" dining experience at lunch time of late), as did a meeting later on in the afternoon. Still, I feel like I've done a reasonably good job of loading my team up with work to do during my impending paternity leave. It's quite an odd position to be in to know you're going to be away for two weeks, and knowing it could start any day now, but not knowing exactly which day it will start. Particularly now that we've gone past the due date I'm a but reluctant to get stuck into anything significant at work, knowing it may suddenly be put on hold for a fortnight.
Jacket potatoes for dinner in the evening, which weren't that great. I am increasingly disappointed with our oven. It did however remind us of the yaki imo song, which in turn prompted me spend the remainder of the evening updating the journal, knowing how nice it is to be able to read these entries back again in a few year's time.
- Due Date
- [Wednesday 5th September 2012]
So today was the due date for the baby - no signs of imminent arrival yet, so we thought we'd attempt some gentle encouragement with some spicy food.
I took burritos home for lunch, which we sat out in the gardens to eat - it was quite a nice day so that was very pleasant.
In the evening we went out for curry - I decided we should try a place called Punjab near Covent Garden, but it was somewhat disappointing. We both agreed the food tasted "old" - it lacked freshness and was pretty bland and lifeless. We should have just gone back to Gaylord, which has been my favourite Indian discovery of recent months.
Chie didn't seem particularly tired or anything - she'd had quite a relaxing day - so afterwards we decided to round the evening off with a drink at the Princess Louise.
- Korean Lunch
- [Tuesday 4th September 2012]
Had a midwife appointment today, as it was the day before the baby's due date. Everything looked fine, so it's just a case of waiting now!
The appointment was at midday, so we decided to go for lunch together afterwards. We thought we'd try the new Korean restaurant near Victoria, called Lime Orange. It's always frustrating for me to go to a Korean restaurant - I love kimchi but the "proper" Korean version always made with some sort of fish extract so I can't eat it.
- [Monday 3rd September 2012]
One of my colleagues brought some shakotis - Lithuanian baumkuchen - into the office. Consequently I persuaded Chie to come to my office for lunch so she could try a bit. It's a lot drier than Japanese (or should I say German?) baumkuchen - more sort of biscuity - but it was interesting to taste, and certainly impressive to look at.
- [Sunday 2nd September 2012]
Lazy morning in the flat, ramen for lunch, then got on the number 24 bus into the centre in the afternoon.
As we passed Westminster Abbey I attempted to take a picture recreating the scene in this picture. It was rather a grey and drizzly afternoon, but it is pleasing to note how pretty much all of the detail of Westminster Abbey, seen from this angle, is exactly the same as it was over 250 years ago.
Did a bit of shopping in the centre, and saw in passing a bit of the Piccadilly Circus Circus. I assume this had something to do with the Olympics.
Back at home in the evening we had Japanese vegetable korokke (a Japanese corruption of croquette) for dinner - these were very good.
- [Saturday 1st September 2012]
Chie said she really fancied pizza last night, so I thought I'd take her to Franco Manca in Brixton for lunch today. I'm not really much of a fan of going South of the river, but had been once before to this place with a couple of people from work, and it has a bit of a cult following.
It's pretty cheap and quick - not a place to have a slow lingering lunch - but the pizza is pretty good. It was also quite interesting to see how Brixton has changed since the last time I was there (a couple of years ago now). The original shops and market stalls are increasingly being taken over by a tidal wave of "gentrification" - of delis, coffee shops, and all sorts of trendy new eateries. It's actually quite exciting - the density of interesting looking places to eat - but I do wonder how the original West Indian community feel about the changes happening to their market.
- Heirloom Tomatoes
- [Friday 31st August 2012]
Ate some heirloom tomatoes for dinner, which we'd bought in the Waitrose in Gloucester Road on monday. Not much else to report!
- [Thursday 30th August 2012]
Went for lunch at a new Indian "street food" place called Roti Chai, with Ben and Andrew. The food was a bit hit and miss, but I surprisingly enjoyed a kind of Indo-Chinese fusion dish, which was predominantly a kind of stir-fry but contained paneer.
After work had a couple of quick pints with Ben before heading home.
There was an interesting moon on the way back home, which I attempted to take a picture of.
- Night out with Ben
- [Wednesday 29th August 2012]
Ben was back in London for a few days, so this evening we went out, joined by Chie, Kyle and Hannah.
Started off with dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Young Cheng - which was a bit disappointing really - but then followed up with ice cream at Gelupo which was a lot better. Rounded off the evening with a drink at Ben's hotel - the Sanderson (the place where we'd been earlier in the year for the Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea).
- [Tuesday 28th August 2012]
The project which I'd started working on when I joined my current company was finally wound down this week, so I decided to meet up with my old team and have one last toast. It has been over three years since I left that project now, and I've never really regretted moving on, so I can't pretend I was particularly sad at the news but nonetheless I felt it important to mark the occasion somehow. I realised recently I've actually spent more time now working in the current space (to do with local search and place recommendations) at my new company than in that original project I was hired into (to do with TV).
After the final toast at the office we decamped to the pub, although I didn't stay too late, ever mindful in recent days I could have to rush off to the hospital at any minute!
- Bank Holiday Monday
- [Monday 27th August 2012]
Met Chie's friend Hiroko-san, along with her other hald Alan and their daughter May-chan for lunch. They were going to the Proms in the afternoon, so we met up in South Kensington and decided to go to Gessler at Daquise, the Polish restaurant there. I'd been once before and hadn't really liked it. It wasn't really any better on the second attempt either - Polish food just doesn't have a lot to offer vegetarians. I think I had the same pierogi as I'd had last time, and it was still decidedly stodgy and bland.