Welcome to baby Blake's blog

Blake Dalzell McCourty was born at 8.07am on Wednesday, 11th August 2010, weighing 7lb 10oz. This is his story.


The First Month – what have you learned?

Today, Blake is one month old.

That’s not a lot by anybody’s standards, but considering the entire pregnancy was only nine months I feel like we’ve stepped into some kind of timewarp. Sort of like when your Sky+ box gets stuck in fastforward when you’re trying to skip the adverts and before you know it you just watched half your programme in x30 speed.

It’s been an exciting and exhausting month…but what have I learnt in that time?

I’ve learnt that behaviour on one day is no indicator of behaviour on the next. Adults are relatively predictable – those without severe mental illnesses anyway – but newborns can go from sweetness and light on Tuesday to spawn of Satan on Wednesday for no apparent reason.  This can be enormously frustrating, particularly if you’re used to causality and patterns.  “It’s ok, if you hold him like this he goes to sleep….   OK, why doesn’t that work today?”

I’ve discovered that the baby books are just annoying. This was quite an early discovery. They do have value in giving you a few clues as to what to expect, but in general they are written in such a definitive way as to set the nervous parent up for failure when their child fails to comply with the guidelines. Which is most of the time.

I’ve learnt that gas is the nemesis of the young human. I knew you had to burp babies but didn’t consider they would be racked in agony by the comparatively routine process of farting. The main battle of my parenthood seems to be versus unwanted stomach gases.

I knew from the start our baby wouldn’t be particularly interesting in the first month in terms of interaction. After all – they can only see a few feet and I often get the feeling he doesn’t realise his arms are attached to him. However, it has turned out to be slightly frustrating that he won’t engage with toys at all yet. He gives whatever animal, rattle or brightly coloured gonk you wave at him a cursory glance before resuming his inspection of the far more exciting shadow on the wall, or whatever.

I’ve also learnt that Harry Houdini has nothing on my boy for escapology.  No matter how tightly you swaddle him to get him to sleep, he will be waving his arms in the air like he just don’t care within minutes.  Which of course causes him to wake up from bashing himself in the face with flailing arms – so you have to start all over again.

I’ve learnt that no matter how loud or frequently he screams and cries in private, in front of other people he is the perfect angel child.  I guess it’s the distraction of constant new things or something.

Finally, I’ve learnt that from day to day, a 1 month old doesn’t do that much different or exciting. I refuse to document his every poo – although they now stink whereas before they were odourless – so I have fallen back to weekly or similar updates.  I anticipate more frequent posts when he can do such advanced and exciting things as smile, or grasp objects.

In other news, we think Blake is going through his first growth spurt as he is more hungry more often than ever before.

He’s just grown out of his first newborn size clothes – I’d estimate him to be around 10lb now, which means he’s gained 20% of his birth weight.

Oh, and his head has grown as well so he’s no longer a pea head! Good news all round.



Screaming Abdabs, and The Afterbath

I’m well into my third week of fatherhood, and I’m pleased to say it’s still enjoyable.  However, we are really starting to feel the burn of continual broken nights.

This is mainly down to the fact that after some of his feeds (usually the nighttime ones, but occasionally in the day) Blake has an absolute fit – as if he’s in agony, having hot needles stuck in him.  He arches his back, stiffens his arms and legs, throws his head back and screams.

Now, crying I can cope with.  It’s really not that bad at all – it’s just Blake saying “look Dad, I was hungry 5 minutes ago. What are you playing at?”.

Screaming is a different kettle of fish, because it looks so distressing.  If it was an adult doing that, you’d take them to A&E or call an ambulance.  With a baby you just sit there looking at each other asking “Is this normal?”

We’ve yet to have a proper row, but when you’re utterly exhausted at 3am and doing your best to quell a querulous infant – any advice or suggestion from your partner tends to sound like criticism.

“You should hold him more upright.”
“Yes, thanks for that”
“Also don’t pat him on the back if he has reflux”


Anyway, the way forward is trial and error.

  • We’ve changed his formula which had no effect apart from giving him constipation for a few days as well
  • We’ve tried anti-gas things like Dentinox and Infacol – they’re essentially the same thing, except Infacol is orange flavoured whereas Dentinox contains Dill Oil – so your baby ends up smelling like Gherkins.  Not the best.
  • We’re wondering if he might have reflux – so we’re giving him a go on Infant Gaviscon.
  • If that does nothing we’ll try reduced-lactose milk to see if he’s struggling to digest the lactose

The final option, if it’s not reflux or wind… is the dreaded colic.

Colic is “persisted unexplained crying” and amusingly, the medical world has no real idea what causes or cures it.  There’s stuff you can try but mainly it just goes away after a few months. What fun.

Anyway apart from the screaming abdabs, he’s putting on weight well and seems healthy which is very pleasing.

The second part of this post is just a few photos of Blake at his cutest – 5 minutes after his bath.

He seems to enjoy his baths – it’s just the bit where he’s unceremoniously yanked out of the nice warm water that he hates.  Luckily our friends Paul & Sarah got us this lovely baby towel, which has a hood with built-in ears.  Once he’s wrapped up in this, he’s usually veyr happy and has a good kick about.

He looks a bit like a baby polar bear…

Blake, after a bath

Blake, after a bath

And a bit like a member of the Ku Klux Klan, with comedy ears…

Grand Wizard Blake

But very cute.

Anyway he’s just started whimpering for food so see you later.

The Parenthood Paradox

Blake is 1 week old, and I’m starting to understand the bizarre paradox of children.

When broken down into its constituent parts, it’s terrible. You are constantly working – if you’re not feeding, changing or trying to settle him, you’re washing up, tidying or any of the other hundred things that need doing to keep the house running properly.  Your reward for doing all this is that you’re puked on, crapped on or or weed at.  Any spare time between cleaning your baby, yourself or your house is taken up by fretting that you’re not quite doing any of these things right, or searching through books or the internet for ideas as to how to be better.

So, at any given time, parenthood is horrible.

However as a package, it’s great.  I can only imagine that there are a wild cocktail of hormones which are being pumped into my bloodstream to make me look at his cute face, all wrapped up in a towel with ears – and forget everything I’ve had to do to get to this stage.

The mornings are getting tougher, though.

We registered Blake’s birth yesterday.  A very simple process, done at the town hall, which took all of 15 minutes. We actually felt it was frustratingly, bafflingly simple.

I can’t get a permit to park my own car outside my own house without visiting the Town Hall, in office hours, with 2 utility bills, or 1 bill and 1 bank statement. Note that Mobile Phone bills aren’t acceptable because of some unknown reason, and Sky+ bills aren’t acceptable because “they prove you own the house, but not that you live there.”  Whatever that means.

However, you can register a baby with nothing except your names. You just rock up and say your names, and address, and BING! the Baby is yours.

I can only imagine there are some hidden verification processes behind the scenes that have assured them we’re not weirdos who have just found a random baby and registered it as our own.

We’re not shy of getting out and about, so we had lunch on the terrace at Piccolino’s Italian Restaurant yesterday.  At the moment, we can be 100% confident that if we give him some milk, he will sleep… which gives us at least an hour’s grace period. So it’s not quite as daring as it sounds, but when we told inquisitive diners he was a week old, they looked completely shocked and told us we were very brave.

I still think we’re in the “calm before the storm” period – Blake has a pair of lungs on him, but so far he’s only really used them when he’s hungry, or pissed off at you for making him cold by daring to change him.

Over the last 2 days we’ve seen a new type of cry, however – the post-feed/pre-sleep cry.  This is far more difficult to quell, because we don’t really know what’s causing it.  The main suspect is gas, but even after long periods of burping he’s still very fractious and unsettled, and prone to bursting into convulsive screams. It’s a bit of a mystery so far – and all we can do is try different things like Infacol, Dentanox, different bottles and so on.

I suspect it’s like when you take your Alfa Romeo to the  garage to complain that it won’t start when it’s even slightly cold, and the mechanic says “they all do that, sir”

See you later.

Architect or Astronaut? Also, a video.

Rather than just do diary-style posts all the time, I want to occasionally break it up with some pointless musings about things which I only have tenuous control over.

So, first of all – what are my general hopes and dreams and ideals for this chap as he grows up?  Please – take this with a pinch of salt. I haven’t discussed any of this with the missus, and unless his career choice involves stabbing people, I’m sure I’ll be proud of him.  But anyway, in Alphabetical order, here are my thoughts.

  • I’d rather he was an Architect than an Astronaut
  • I’d rather he was a Ballet Dancer than a Builder (although I’d prefer neither)
  • I’d prefer it if he was a Civil Engineer rather than a Comedian
  • I’d prefer him to be a Diplomat over a Doctor…
  • … but I’d be happier with an Embryologist than an Explorer
  • I’d rather he worked in Formula 1 than Football.
  • Being a Geophysicist would be cool, if a little boring, but being a Gardener would be awful
  • Helicopter Pilot? Awesome! HR Manager? Not so awesome.
  • I’d rather he worked in IT than Insurance…
  • … and it goes without saying I’d prefer Journalism to Janitorial work.
  • there aren’t really any good jobs with a K. So that’s right out.
  • For some reason being a Lawyer just seems like too much work, but it would be safer than being a Lumberjack. Also we don’t live in Canada.
  • Would I rather a Model or a Mortgage Broker? Hm. Why not a Modelling Mortgage Broker.
  • I could probably help him on his way to being a Nuclear Physicist, but a Newsreader would be more exciting.
  • Oceanographer is a cool word, but being at sea all the time would be very unsociable. Maybe he could take after his mum and be an Operations Director.
  • The letter P has so many jobs, it deserves its own sub-lists:
    YES: Pianist, Pathologist, Photographer, Pirate
    NO: Priest, Prostitute, Plasterer, Pig Farmer
    MAYBE: Porn Star
  • There’s not much call for Quartermasters or Quail Breeders, so I guess he could move to the USA and be an NFL Quarterback
  • I’d like a son who’s a Restauranteur so he could cook for me in my old age, but I’d prefer to see him win a Rally
  • If he follows in his father’s footsteps he’ll be a Salesman.  It’s not a bad life. I’d rather that than a Soldier.
  • If he takes up Taxidermy he can find a new house to bring his dead animals to.  His grandfather can tell him about being a Teacher instead.
  • Undertaker? Hell no. Underwear designer? Hell yeah!
  • Only girls want to be Vets. Boys want to work in Video Games.
  • I must admit I’d be a tad disappointed if he was a Welder. I wonder what a Web Designer will do in 2031?
  • X? We’re getting to the silly end of the alphabet now so here’s a silly suggestion: Xylophone Maker. If we’ve found aliens by then he could be a Xenobiologist.
  • I was going to suggest Yak Herder, but from the sound of it he’s already in training to be a Yodeller.
  • Zoo Keeper? Glorified shit-shovellers. At least Zooooologists get to wear white coats. Is that the right number of O’s?

Well, that was mildly diverting while he slept.

I’m keen for this blog not to just be loads of fawning pictures of Blake, but it would be rude not to put up  this short video so you can see what the little chap looked like on day one*.

* A lizard.

Catch you later

Home, Nazis, and the first night.

Yesterday, Blake came home – a really happy moment for everyone.

However, we didn’t get long to enjoy it as there was stuff to do! I already get the feeling there’s going to be a lot of stuff to do from this point forwards. It’s astonishing how quickly I’ve adapted to not just collapsing on the sofa and firing up the internet. I’m fully aware this is the honeymoon period and it will get difficult quickly, but at the moment it’s great.

We were let out of the hospital much later than we expected, because Blake is too stubborn to open his eyes on demand.

His skin tone was a little bit yellow, indicating Jaundice.  A useful way of checking for Jaundice is to look and see if the white of his eyes are a bit yellow. Unfortunately he’d welded them shut, so we had to fall back to the failsafe way of testing – pricking his heel with a little sterile needle, and squishing his foot to make a tiny amount of blood come out so it can be tested.

The test took perhaps 3 hours to turn around, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t bad, but by that time we were keen to get off.  He opened his eyes the second the midwife had left, of course, the git.

Today’s pop fact is about Jaundice, because I always thought it was a disease or something, and it isn’t at all.

In the womb, babies recieve their Oxygen via the umbilical cord from mum’s blood – so they’re getting it second hand and need more red blood cells.  When they’re born these break down to a more normal level, and one of the byproducts is some stuff called Bilirubin. Bilirubin is the stuff that makes bruises look yellow, and also makes your wee yellow. Which made me think people whose surname is Rubin should never call their sons William.

Hence, Jaundice in babies is just a temporary thing that they sort out themselves over time.

When the blood test came back, you got to see another example of the fantastic contrasts in the NHS.  All these computers and lifesaving technology around the place, and the midwife has to get a pen, and manually plot the baby’s bilirubin level (y axis) against his age (x axis) on a photocopy of a photocopy of a chart that’s been photocopied out of a textbook. Nuts.

Anyway – below the line – everything’s good. Go home!

I’m sure you’re all dying to know how horrific our first night was.  Well, sorry to disappoint but it was fine.  I’m knackered because I was up at 5am but Rachel did the 2am one while I slept through, and I the did small 5.30 feed because he was getting restless and we didn’t think he’d last until 7.

We’re trying to follow the Gina Ford “Contented Little Baby” routine.  Henceforth she will be referred to as The Baby Nazi. I don’t know her viewpoints on Eugenics, Judaism or the creation of a master race, but she sure does like order and routine.  I’m thinking of getting Blake a little brown shirt.

Joking aside: routine, structure and guidance can only be a good thing.  For example, would I have naturally thought to put him back to bed in a dark room ahour after we all woke up?  Not a chance. But he slept for a while and we got some time to shower and have breakfast.

The hardest part so far is that after feeding “baby must be kept awake for at least an hour”.

This is the equivalent of trying to keep your Dad awake and active for an hour after Christmas Dinner.  It’s just impossible.

One concern I have is that my son might be a peahead.

Baby growth and sizing is done using a system of ‘percentiles’. This is a way of sizing something relative to an average.  So as I understand it, if you are 50th percentile you are bang on average.  If you’re 75th percentile then only 25% of babies are bigger than you. And so on. If you don’t get it, read it again.

So Blake weighed 7lb 10oz at birth – that’s 76th percentile.  Only 24% of babies are heavier.

He was 21 1/4 inches long – which is 93rd percentile.  Only 7% of babies are longer/taller!

And his head circumference is 33cms (don’t ask my why this one is metric and the others are imperial, I don’t know either).  So according to the chart… that’s the 9th percentile!


So he’s heavy, tall, and has a tiny head? Brilliant, my baby is Peter Crouch.

I think I’ll be checking that with the midwife when she visits later… because he looks totally proportioned to me!


Studies, Care, Goo… and the QMI

Studies suggest that immediately after the birth of a child, the father’s testosterone levels drop dramatically. This is nature’s way of trying to get us to stick around for 15 minutes and look after our partner and child, rather than wander off to find someone else to impregnate.  After all, that’s the fun part, right?

I don’t think anyone who knows me would ever describe me as a particularly testosterone-laden guy – but the fact I just got home, put the washing on, did the dishwasher, learnt how to use the bottle steriliser… and quite enjoyed it all… lends a certain amount of credence to that theory.

You’ve changed.

Today was genuinely enjoyable from start to finish.  Well, apart from the QMI… but more on that later.

Rachel started the day as if she was fully and miraculously recovered, and ended it as if she’d taken everything far too fast.  She’s fine, but tired and sore. I guess she needs to learn her limits and I need to keep encouraging her to relax. She’s not the relaxing type, but she’s learning.

She will probably come home tomorrow afternoon, which is nice.

I’ve been simultaneously very impressed and slightly disappointed by the level of care at the hospital. The care for Rachel has been absolutely first class. I wouldn’t criticize a single member of the doctor or nursing team.  She’s regularly observed and her BP and so on checked, with pain relief delivered when needed.  You genuinely feel she’s in great hands.

Oddly, I haven’t felt the same about Blake. He got a check immediately after emerging, and a Paediatrician (amusingly referred to by the nurses as “The Paed”) popped by today to give him a 10 minute checkover… but apart from that, nobody has really looked at him at all unless we’ve grabbed them and asked.  Which seemed to be the wrong way round.  Rachel knows how she feels because she’s an adult and can express it… but Blake is this odd little newborn thing who we don’t yet fully understand. I can only assume they know he’s fine and would step in if anything untoward happened… but I expected them to be looking at him regularly and offering us loads of advice and help.

I suspect they are just overworked and a little understaffed, so give great care but only on-demand. We’re very grateful to them all though, and it amazes me that nurses aren’t paid more. On your feet all day, putting up with the public for 12 hour shifts, 8-10 days in a row, for £17,660 per annum?  Not for me.

I don’t mind paying my taxes, and days like these remind me how exceptionally lucky we are to live in a country with free healthcare of such high quality.

I said I’d explain why he’s been nicknamed ‘The Duke of Puke’. Well, it’s because he pukes a lot. Not all the time – and it’s definitely calmed down a little since yesterday – but often enough to suprise me.

Pop fact time:  Babies born via the usual route are given a good hard squeeze as they are pushed through the birth canal, and that expels all the mucus and goo from their lungs.  Babies born via caesarian don’t get that squeeze, so spend most of their first day or so coughing and spewing it up like they’ve got a really bad cold. Very weird.  Even weirder is the noise he makes when it’s happening.  A bit like an eagle or something. He is so high pitched. Uh-oh!

Well that’s it for today… oh, apart from the QMI of course.

It started as a simple nappy change, but rapidly spiralled out of control, and became the “Quadruple Meconium Incident”.

I’m not going to be graphic, but probably best to skip this bit if you’re eating.

I had him all cleaned and dried and ready to put a new nappy back on. Obvioulsy he’s not really doing proper poo yet – it’s this thick, oily, tarlike stuff called Meconium, which is the remainder of the amniotic fluid he’s been in for 9 months.  It looks grim but it doesn’t smell at all and is no problem to clean up.  Bizarrely, it’s kind of fun changing nappies. I’m sure it will get boring eventually, but now it’s like learning a new skill.

Anyway I wasn’t massively shocked when he decided to do a load more poo just as I got him clean and dry. More disappointed than surprised.  I quickly reached for the old nappy and caught all the new stuff before it hit the sheet, then got some more cotton wool balls and started from scratch.

I was a little surprised when he did it a second time, though. I cleaned it up nonetheless.

The third time, he accompanied his rear deposit with a little bit of sick as well.

I was never any good at multitasking, so this was a real challenge- trying to wipe his face with a cloth, and his tarry arse with a different cloth, while desperately trying not to get covered in anything.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all when I say that if you’d seen me at the time you would have thought I was a BP worker, heroically battling single handedly to clean up a baby pelican covered in Deepwater Horizon oil.

Fly, my pretty!



Well, I’m home.  I’ve got a glass of 15 year old Dalwhinnie scotch whisky to sip, and there’s the England vs Hungary friendly match on Sky+ to lull me to sleep. I’m exhausted but happy after a long day looking after my newborn son Blake.

Anyway – that’s the end.  Let’s go back to the start…

At 11pm last night, my partner/fiancee Rachel’s waters broke. She was asked to go into hospital to get checked out, and – as she was starting to get small contractions – moved to a room she could sleep in for the night.  I went home around 2am, as there’s simply nowhere to sleep apart from a hard chair.  I hated leaving her, just as I hated leaving her tonight, but it was the right choice.  I woke up relatively rested and fresh rather than exhausted and uncomfortable.

I set my alarm for 7am, but was woken at 6 by a call from Rachel, who suggested I get to the hospital as ‘things are happening’.  Sounds exciting!

I didn’t take long to shower, pack the car with all the stuff we needed, and drop our Miniature Schnauzer called Lincoln off at Rachel’s parents’ house. They live halfway between our house and the hospital – couldn’t be more convenient. Many thanks to them for making that part so easy.

As I was turning into the hospital car park, I get another call – this time from hospital staff, and a little more urgent.  Where am I? Will I be here soon?  Things are happening faster than expected… she may need to go into theatre now. The word ‘section’ was mentioned.  I rushed across the car park – suddenly a lot less casual.

Our child (at this point of unknown sex) was struggling a little.  Its heart rate would dip dramatically whenever Rachel had a contraction.  I’m no doctor, but I don’t believe this is particularly uncommon – however Rachel was only 1cm dilated at this stage.  For those who aren’t au fait with baby stuff, 1cm is beginner dilation. 10cm of dilation is what you’re aiming for before you can start pushing that baby out.  For those who aren’t au fait with basic maths, that’s ten times as much.

If the baby was struggling with these comparatively (it still looked damn painful!) minor contractions… how could it cope with another 4, 5, 6, 7 or more hours of contractions of increasing strength and frequency?

The experts rapidly decided it wasn’t worth the risk – let’s get it out now.  Emergency C-Section Team: Assemble!

So, at 8.07 am today, the 11th August, our son Blake emerged, blinking, into the chill morning air.

It’s hardly worth mentioning that this is not what we’d planned.  The birth plan consisted of: staying at home as long as possible; having a cheeky glass of Veuve Cliquot to celebrate the start of labor; and eventually gently guide our child out in one of the hospital’s new birthing suites (replete with pool, flatscreen TV, iPod dock and oversized lava lamp)

The method of delivery could hardly be different.  I had a squirming child in my hands within 2 hours of waking up, and Rachel had a huge hole in her being stitched up!  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray…

However, the outcome is exactly what we wanted.  Blake is, to us, perfect.

I’m wary of this first post becoming an epic, and I have whisky to drink and football to stare at before sinking into a well deserved sleep.  Tomorrow I will discuss a few more of the many new discoveries from today, such as:

  • my thoughts on the service provided by the NHS
  • why I’ve temporarily named Blake ‘The Duke of Puke’
  • my initial thoughts on the first day of having a little son

Goodnight, all.