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How we chose our baby name, part 2

Three months before our due date, the name game had become more complex.

Things had become really interesting when a friend recommended the US name site Baby Name Wizard. We then found the UK version, England and Wales Baby Names. I loved these sites because you could use the information about past popularity of names to see the likelihood of a name coming back into popularity or whether it was declining. This was particularly interesting to us because we didn’t want a name that was coming back into fashion any time soon. We wanted V. to be the only one in her class. I had a feeling, though, that no matter which name we chose, other examples would immediately come out of the woodwork.

Just weeks before V. was due, we had a shortlist of 26 names. We wrote each one on a sticky note and put them up on the wall. A separate sticky note for each first and second name. Sometimes the notes would be in columns, sometimes arranged in a random cloud effect. Once in a while, one of us would take two names and place them side by side in front of a sticky note that had our surname on it. This combination of three names would stay up on the wall for a couple of days while we mulled it over in our heads.

Strong contenders made it to a shorter shortlist. Weak combinations got cut. We approached it as though voting on a reality show: if you have to choose between two names, who stays to the next round and who goes home? It was just such a technique that presented us with V.’s final names.

We’re very happy with our daughter’s name. Sometimes, we can’t believe we went ahead and called her V. Although it fit all our criteria and was right there from the beginning of our search, it’s still pretty unusual and feels a bit daring. We’ve been feeling sightly smug over our choice, but the announcement of a royal baby this week has us slightly jittery. Perhaps my prediction of V.’s name appearing everywhere will come true and our daughter might possibly spend her entire life explaining that “no she was not named after the princess but in fact was born a year before her”. Fingers crossed it’s a boy.

How we chose our baby name, part 1

I have heard that it’s quite common for mum-and-dad-to be to write their own lists of favourite names, then come together to have a (ahem) discussion about which to choose. This didn’t happen with myself and F. In the early days of the pregnancy, we made two lists; one for boys and one for girls. The names mostly came from our own imagination. I had a couple at the top of my lists that I have always liked and thought that they were reasonably unique. Little did I know. ‘V.’ was on both of our lists from the very beginning.

It became clear that F. shared with me similar thoughts on names. We both had favourite names, a handful of which matched. It also became clear that not knowing the sex of the baby left us with a lot of work. I felt that constructing a list of baby names that would become completely irrelevant (when we learnt the sex of our baby at our 12-week scan) might feel a bit disappointing. So the name game took a break.

A few weeks later, when our scan revealed we were having a girl, the list-making began again in earnest. As we ran out of names from the top of our head, we brought in some baby name dictionaries. Every so often, one of us would sit down with a book to read out a letter of the alphabet. I’d read out all the names that started with a ‘B’ and I’d get a shake of the head or a nod of approval. Or a long discussion if we weren’t sure about a name. It was fun.

By this time, though, we had created quite a few criteria that a name had to pass before it reached the shortlist. Here were the more non-negotiable:

1. Our surname is unusual, not immediately obvious how to spell and not particularly attractive (which was noticed at school). I wanted a first name for my daughter that that would always ‘run interference’ on the surname. A name that had enough impact so that people would focus on it rather than her surname.
2. A name that wasn’t so girly or babyish, that the grown-up CEO of a company couldn’t use, or doctor, or nobel peace prize winner.
3. No names that could be shortened easily by her school friends to something awful
4. No unisex names
5. No names in the top ten

There were plenty of others. In part 2 of this blog topic, I’ll tell you the best online resource we found for baby names and why the announcement of a royal baby this week has me a bit nervous.

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If you had some interesting criteria for choosing your baby’s name, leave a comment, I’d love to read about it.

We have clearance, Clarence.

Since V. moved into her own room last week, we’ve been putting a baby monitor through its paces. This gadget was leant to us by my sister and it does make a world of difference to our domestic life, knowing we have an attentive little device keeping watch over the baby. However, one or two problems have emerged. So before you buy one yourself, read on.

Our monitor consists of a Baby unit that stays near the sleeping baby – basically, a microphone – and a Parent Unit; the speaker. The Parent unit sits in a cradle and needs recharging in that position every few hours. We’ve found that, to keep the Parent unit charged and with us at all times, we have to keep unplugging the cradle and carry it from room to room. From the kitchen, to the front room and then to the bedroom for overnight use. Are we the only ones who find this very annoying? Ideally, the Parent unit ought to stay charged enough to stay out of its cradle for several hours. So I would recommend finding a Parent unit that either guarantees 9 or 10 hours of charge time away from its cradle, or have a Parent unit that works on replaceable batteries.

And while you are at it, find a talkback function that has volume control. We use ours so that mum and dad can communicate with each other when one of us is in the nursery. But if V. is asleep in the same room, that communication becomes one sided because the talkback function is so loud. (Admittedly this hasn’t stopped me signing off each sentence with “Roger, Over.Kercchh.” when I’m on the mic.)

Finally, I recommend getting a Parent Unit that has a belt clip. Ours is shaped like an egg. I’m sure it was designed to look nice, but is a royal pain to carry around with you.

If anyone knows of a monitor with these functions, let me know! “Over.”

Breastfeeding for men

Breast is best. Babies can’t get a better start. The mother and baby bond is stronger. All true.

What they don’t tell you about breastfeeding is how frustrating, painful and upsetting breastfeeding can be. And how sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan. In fact, if you look at the statistics, most of the time it doesn’t go according to plan.

At our NHS antenatal class, I remember F. raising a question with the midwife about breastfeeding. What if it’s painful? The midwife said very definitely, that it should not hurt if you are doing it right.

F. gave birth to our daughter at home and with no pain relieving drugs. Not even an aspirin. And she did it with an amazingly positive attitude throughout the labour. So when she tells me, in floods of tears, that the let-down and the latch-on she experiences when breastfeeding are both too much to bear – then that is what it is.

However, my wife is also a determined woman. And she had decided that V. was to be breastfed. We tried different positions for breastfeeding, for both mother and baby. We read books, and watched demonstrations on YouTube. Nothing worked. And for two months – several times a day – F. endured the pain and discomfort, even though it was getting worse and worse. Finally, F. would wince even before she put V. to her breast.

Finally, we found an understanding and experienced lactation consultant. She told us we were doing everything we could. She suggested a plan to try block feedings. Her proviso was that this approach reduced the number of feeds per day and that possibly we might experience a reduction in milk supply. But it might also ease the pain. We would supplement V.’s breastfeeds with formula. The strategy worked. Its been six weeks since then and the pain associated with breastfeeding has almost gone.

At that antenatal class, the midwife was a perfectly fine teacher. But, when it came to breastfeeding, we experienced a dogmatic response that seems quite common on this subject.

Guys, if your woman is having problems with breastfeeding, don’t let anyone else tell her she’s ‘doing it wrong’. She’s trying her best. That’s enough.

Panic at the Children’s Disco

Our first children’s party – as parents.

A very good friend of ours invited us to a party for his son’s 3rd birthday. The venue was in a lovely function room above a lovely pub in Canonbury.

There’s been little opportunity for us be part of a social network of parents. So me and F. saw this Sunday afternoon slot between 2:30 and 5:30 as a rare opportunity to observe parenting en masse. And party etiquette. We took notes.

My first observation is that there seems to be a dichotomy when organising a children’s party. At its centre is a child, plus friends. But the parents’ presence means that adults have to be catered for too. Which turns the party into a standing about, milling kind of event. Like a wedding; kids running between a forest of legs.

If I’m to be organising these shindigs for V. in a couple of years, perhaps I should have turned up in time to catch the children’s entertainer and got his card. I heard he was good.

Back home, V.’s party bag was raided by her mum and dad. We shared her tiny Toy Story chocolate bar. I then mercilessly crunched through her Chuppa Chup before practising with her new plastic tin whistle. She was asleep.

So, no real panic and not really a disco. I just liked the title.

Quiet, please!

They say that babies ought to get used to the regular sounds of the house going on around them. Especially when it comes to getting them to sleep. That makes sense for parents, too. I don’t want to be creeping around the flat, unable to put the kettle on to make a cup of tea for fear of waking the baby from his afternoon nap.

But I’ve learnt very quickly that it’s worth doing anything to get a newborn to nod off. Here are three things I would have done differently to achieve a quieter environment:

• Find a Moses basket that doesn’t frickin’ rustle.

• Never buy a bib with a Velcro fastening (You give her a bottle, she starts to drop off. Then, to take off the bib, you scrunch open the velcro right next to her ear and she’s wide awake again).

• Fix every squeaky wooden board in the house; doors, floors, wooden slats on the bed, wardrobe doors.

The floorboards in V.’s room are very loose. So, when she’s in her cotbed and I don’t want to wake her, I step cautiously across the room, trying to avoid the known noise-making floorboard. I look like I’m playing Twister.

Laundry

The washing machine has just finished its latest load of baby-related laundry. As I pull the tiny items out of the drum and into a basket, I count 92 separate pieces. It takes quite a while to hang them out to dry and they end up occupying two clothes horses and every radiator in the flat. The reusable nappies account for a large proportion, but there are also muslin cloths, bamboo wipes, bibs and baby clothing.

There’s also the lining of Moses baskets that get sick on them, Mummy’s clothes that get sick on them, the odd pair of Daddy’s trousers with poo on them, white towels with poo on them, bathroom floor mats with sick on them.

Some things I would recommend with postnatal laundry;

• A washing machine/drier combo. At the very beginning of F.’s pregnancy, our washing machine broke. It was an amazing piece of timing; we could shop for a replacement washer knowing we were going to need it for baby things. And we chose a combined washer/drier with a large (9kg) capacity and a good range of economy programmes. Those features have been invaluable because the washing never stops. A warning though; the tumble dry function on our mid-priced isn’t 100% effective. Especially for heavier items, hence why I’m hanging out so many things to dry. But it gets a good start on the drying and that’s good enough for us.

• Collapsible toy baskets. The kind that are like a coil of metal wire, surrounded by netting. I think they are intended as toys baskets but are invaluable for laundry. When they are empty, they fold up flat. Great for saving space.

• Laundry schedule. Put on a load every evening so it’s ready for you the next morning.

• Only buy new clothes, linens and soft furnishings that can be washed at 40°C. Delicates that need 30°? We never find time to wash them.

A cot bed, already

Tonight, V. is being introduced to her new cot bed. At three months, she’s almost punching her way out of the Moses basket. She could wear the basket as a hat. Myself and F. decided that the in-between option of a cot seemed unnecessary, so our daughter is trying out a bed that will be lasting her for the next 3 years or more. She also gets a pocket-sprung mattress that cost more, per square foot, than the one I sleep on. We lay V. down and step back. She lies there on top of a pristine white canvas, staring back at us. “She seems so small” says F. as our daughter flings out her arms, unencumbered for the first time by walls of flimsy reed. She has more space than I do, I think.

Not only is she in a new bed. She’s in her own room. This is a big jump and me and F. are relying heavily on the baby monitor to pick up ANY sounds of distress over night. It is a great monitor, but even so, we both know F. will be getting up in the night for a visual check. I’ve anticipated this and have been looking at baby video monitors online. This, I believe, is not paranoia. I think this is a clever use of technology to make good, attentive parenting a little easier. In the meantime, the volume on our audio baby monitor is set as high as possible and the doors to our bedroom and her room are ajar.

One thing F. noticed immediately. In the new bed, you can’t hear V. moving. In her basket, every move came with a rustle. She’s a pretty active sleeper so we’ve become used to hearing her in bed. Now, complete silence. Think I’ll order one of those video monitors.

Trimming our baby’s nails takes nerves of steel. My wife’s.

Like many newborns, V. had begun to scratch own face. On advice from a paediatrician, we limited the use of tiny mittens on her hands. The doctor gave us the option: she either learnt not to do it now, with soft nails, or weeks later when her nails had hardened. It was hard to wake up in the morning and see her perfect complexion left with a new scratch. But eventually, this behaviour lessened.

However, now she had taken to pinching away at F.’s chest whilst breastfeeding. So we tried either peeling her nails off or biting them. Neither worked at all for us. We left it.

But weeks later, V. had learnt to use her nails as deadly weapons. They were both longer and stronger. At breastfeeding, she was still clutching away at her mother and this time leaving visible, angry scratches. V. was also beginning to claw away at my forearm when lying in the ‘tiger in the tree’. I choked back tears of pain as she would attempt to sever my forearm from the rest of me. We took to renaming her Lady Deathstrike.

So we had to bite the bullet and try to trim her nails with a nail clipper. As I lined up a tiny finger tip and brought the steel clippers to her nail, she would not stop moving. A trickle of nervous sweat rolled down the side of my face as I slowly pressed the jaws of the clipper over her minuscule nail. What if I snipped off the end her finger? Years later, she might sit, seething at me, as her piano teacher patiently explains to us how V. would never be able to reach an octave and should abandon her dream of mastering Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Concerto. I bailed.

It was up to my wife’s nerves of steel. She waited until V. was in a deep sleep, following her feed, and clippered every nail. Three days later, they were grown again.

Doo-doo

We can’t use this flannel. It’s has s*** on it.

 

Oh yeah? How much?

 

How much s*** is on it? This is where rules of personal hygiene – long established  – become distorted – bent, if you will – or even broken. Twisted like a twisted thing.

 

Back in the day, if something had s*** on it, it was s***ty. If you stepped in a some dogs s***, your shoes were s***ty. Not so any more.

 

“I don’t see where the s*** is.”

 

“In the corner.”

 

“Do we have any clean ones?”

 

“They’re in the dryer.”

 

“Oh. This one will be alright.”