To wrap or not to wrap?

In these first few weeks as a parent, I’ve found that I’m slowly getting used to all the baby-related logistics required when getting out of the house. Loading up the travel system, carrycot and car seat? Leave it with me. Changing a nappy anywhere at the drop of a hat? No problem. Making sure we have enough wipes and cotton wool to clean up the mother of all poo explosions? Done.

But, there is one thing I am yet to attempt: Wearing the baby wrap in public.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly useful as it keeps baby M perfectly snug in huge swathes of material, enabling the wearer to happily go about their business with the luxury of having both hands free (I didn’t intend for that to be as rude as it sounds). It’s also comfortable and designed for both mums and dads to wear. So, what’s my hesitation? Well, thanks to the wrap’s promotional material, I think it might have something to do with this guy:

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You see, I worry that the wrap somehow turns new dads into posers who stand in front of graffiti-emblazoned walls, whilst their child wears a look that says “This is really embarrassing, just let me go to sleep”.

Would I start trying to stand with my hips poised at a funky angle whilst giving the camera a slightly creepy grin?

I don’t even own a hat, but would I end up searching the internet for one like this striking example – not to mention the black fingerless gloves which give the whole outfit a look that sits somewhere between Freddy Krueger and a failed pop band from the 1980s? All in the name of living up to the high standards set here?

Alternatively, it could have absolutely nothing to do with the sophisticated devil above and more to do with the fact that I still can’t tie the bloody thing properly.

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Don’t hold it upside down and start swinging it around

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Since the turn of the year, our plans for becoming ‘baby-ready’ have really kicked into gear. In the last couple of weeks, we have put wallpaper on the remaining wall of the nursery, ordered enough equipment and supplies from Amazon to single-handedly keep them afloat for the next year (they might even be able to pay their taxes this time) and have even started looking at offers on nappies. I bought a couple of packs of nappies the other day after having a brief, but concise discussion with my wife about what type we should buy. It went like this:

Me: Do you think we should buy cloth nappies or disposable ones?

Mrs.D: Definitely disposable. I’m not washing shit.

Another part of the planning process was to learn how to cope in an emergency. So, last week I finally attended the baby first aid course that I had scrambled to get a place on.  I say scrambled, because these courses seem to get booked up very quickly and, given that our child is due in 3 months, I figured it best to get a place as soon as possible because I knew absolutely nothing about first aid – or babies, for that matter. My wife, being a teacher, is qualified in first aid so I was doing this on my own.

The course was held one evening in a local nursery (or ‘active learning centre’). I was the first person to arrive and was promptly led through a vast array of corridors that made me wonder whether I was going to somehow stray into a snowy forest and find myself talking to a eunuch. However, I instead ended up in a tiny classroom with the heating cranked up to its maximum – it felt somewhat appropriate that dealing with a raised temperature was going to be one of the topics.

As other parents-to-be turned up, it became clear that everyone else at least knew one other person there, mainly due to them all being members of the same pre-natal class. Having shown a reckless enthusiasm by positioning myself right at the front next to the demonstration tables, I was hoping that I wouldn’t end up getting paper aeroplanes or spit flung at my head by the popular kids, just for trying too hard and making copious amounts of notes all the way through.

Our tutor began by introducing the emergencies that we were going to cover. These were ‘unconscious (breathing and non-breathing)’, ‘choking’, ‘raised temperature’, ‘burns’ and ‘bleeding’. All of these instances have different methods, depending whether or not you are dealing with a baby or a child. I started writing, aware that there were no course handouts. Between the frantic scribbling, listening to the tutor and looking the slides on the wall, I felt like I was conquering the male problem with multi-tasking.

Having first learnt the steps needed to check if a baby/child was breathing and how to then administer CPR if they are not, it was time for us to demonstrate this ourselves. There were three of the demonstration tables in the classroom and on each lay a plastic model of a child’s head and chest, as well as a model of a baby. Our ‘baby’ had a name (Annie), presumably because having a limbless torso lying next to it just wasn’t quite creepy enough.

I was the second one to go forward, having craftily studied the man before me. He was in a suit and looked confident. I was in jeans and looked petrified. Yet, having examined my scribbles and engaged with the other people in the group as if it were a collaborative exercise, I managed to get the steps correct. I looked, felt and listened for breathing. I then open up the airwaves, covered the baby’s mouth and nose with my mouth and provided short, sharp breaths. I then started on the chest compressions, pushing down on the breastplate to the tune of ‘Nellie the Elephant’. This song (as well as ‘Stayin’ Alive’, which has the same tune) helps you get the correct rhythm for the compressions. It also makes you wonder how many other children’s songs that the Bee Gees plagiarised throughout their career.

Anyway, having said goodbye to the circus with a trumpety-trump (trump, trump, trump), I turned to sit back down and breathed a sigh of relief – before realising I had forgotten to put Annie’s head back into position and ‘she’ now had an arched back that wouldn’t have looked out of place in The Exorcist. I quickly amended this before cleaning the doll with the alcohol wipes that were provided.

The lady who was next stood up, examined Annie and then announced that she was “just going to wipe off some of the excess alcohol”. Whilst my resuscitation skills may have been up to scratch, my cleaning afterwards apparently bordered on the excessive. In my defence, the smoky bacon-flavoured crisps I’d eaten that afternoon had been repeating on me, so I figured I was actually doing her a favour by being thorough.

When it came to performing CPR on the torso, a little more force was required that just a short breath and a gentle press. Well I say ‘a little’ because a clicking sound on the torso told us how much pressure to apply and it is a surprisingly large amount. The tutor told me to just use one hand and to straighten my arm, with the end result being that I looked as though I was struggling to unblock a U-bend rather than save a life. By this point, everyone in the room was looking towards me and, for some unfathomable reason, I gave a Wallace and Gromit-style cheesy grin before pressing away and cursing myself.

During the choking section, we learnt the Heimlich manoeuvre, but the process for dealing with a choking baby is quite different due to the delicate nature of their still-developing organs. Despite having said this, the tutor was still at pains to point out that the procedure definitely doesn’t involve holding the infant by the feet and swinging it around, ‘Gangnam Style’.

The different ways of dealing with a raised temperature were quite varied and I learnt that Calpol is the must-have of the child medicine world. By the time we got to burns, I was getting almost a little cocky as I was able to proactively name the three types of burn, largely thanks to having watched 10 seasons of ER.

Surprisingly enough, it was the bleeding section where I came a little unstuck as the tutor pointed out that we should all know how to wash and wipe a small cut or graze. The question in my mind was, which of these comes first?  Having gone through the more complex stuff at the beginning, I felt it was a bit like a qualified engineer asking which way up to hold the spirit level. Rather than potentially embarrass myself in public, I settled for asking Mrs.D when I got home.

So, after 2 hours the course ended. I was a little disappointed in the lack of certificate or even a badge or sticker but the main thing is that I now feel a little bit more confident in my fledgling ability as a parent. Joking aside, I would certainly recommend the course to any parents-to-be as it was really well delivered and the skills that were taught are invaluable. But, as our tutor concluded, I’m just hoping that I never have to use them.

The NCT Baby and Child First Aid course was provided by the British Red Cross. Information on all of the topics covered in the course can be found by clicking here.

Bad photographs of western Canada

Recently, my wife and I were fortunate enough to take a 2-week holiday to western Canada, starting in Calgary and ending up in Vancouver, driving through Banff, Jasper, Whistler and Victoria along the way .It was beautiful, full of stunning scenery, interesting wildlife and friendly people. As a result, I thought that I might share some photographs on this blog.

Now, there are some fantastic blogs and posts about photography on WordPress. This, unfortunately, is not one of them.

The reasons for this come down to two things. Firstly, I don’t have a new or high-specification camera. Instead, my photos come from a combination of my iPhone 4 and my wife’s old camera that has been in use for about ten years and is now missing a few screws. Secondly, I come from the school of ‘click first and ask questions later’, which means that my pictures tend to be a bit hit and miss.

Anyway, as per the post title, the photos you are about to see are not my best efforts (I’m keeping those ones for Facebook in a vague attempt to show off) but are probably better for comedic effect. This is therefore an ‘alternative’ photography post, one that pokes fun at the lesser photos that most of us take whilst on holiday but never actually show to people. So, here you go…

1) We flew into Calgary and this was the first picture I took after arriving and heading out into the city. It’s Calgary tower and very nice it is too. You’ll notice the strange angle as an indication that I was tired, jet-lagged and therefore couldn’t be bothered to take the few steps back in order to fit the whole thing in.

2) The Olympic plaza in Calgary, where the medal ceremonies were held for the 1988 Winter Olympics. I wanted to get a picture that focused primarily on the Olympic rings, but this time didn’t move forward enough. I do, however, have a nice snap of some steps and railings.

3) Minnewanka Lake near Banff. Absolutely beautiful if you can get past the schoolboy humour of the name. In this photo, I’ve somehow gone for a slightly wonky angle and some prominent overhanging branches.

4) Being a bit of a sports geek, I like taking photos of golf courses. It appears that I like it even better when the photo is dominated by a massive shadow. I somehow doubt this one will trouble the promotional brochures for Banff Springs.

5) Taken on my phone through the rental car windscreen, this is a picture of a coyote’s arse. You’re welcome.

6) This is a deer in Banff eating a bush outside a hotel. Oh, and some random people who wouldn’t get out of the way of my shot. Very inconsiderate.

7) Er, some rocks. Oh, and there’s a squirrel in there somewhere too.

8)  This was a very pretty waterfall. You’ll have to take my word for that as I haven’t got the whole waterfall in the shot, instead focusing on a lovely dead branch in the foreground.

9) Moraine Lake near Banff is stunning with it’s turquoise water and the ice on the mountains in the background. Apparently, I also liked this tree in the foreground as well…

10) I thought it was ‘arty’…

11) Note to self: When taking photos of the Athabasca glacier from the car – roll the window down first…

12 & 13) Pictures of a totem pole in Jasper. An unfortunate case of way too near and then way too far.

14) Along with that earlier shot of the coyote, this picture of a bear will be included in my upcoming book ‘Animal arses I have seen through a car windscreen’.

15) This one was taken on the ‘Peak 2 Peak’ gondola in Whistler. It holds world records for the longest free span between ropeway towers (3.03 kilometres) and highest point above the ground (1,430 feet). Sadly, this is not reflected in the photo because I’m terrified of heights and it was the best I could manage when I finally summoned the courage to stand up from a cowering, near-foetal position.

16) Mrs.D: Why don’t you move to the left so you don’t get that tree in the shot?  Me: I think it might actually come out alright…

17) Childish humour alert in Victoria.

18) The nearest I got to killer whales. I’m particularly proud of the way that it shows humans and nature co-exisiting on the open waters (translation: I was being thrown round on our boat and therefore included that dinghy in the shot by mistake).

19) Nothing depicts the power and meaning of a statue more than a photo that cuts off its head.  I have, however, included the head of that man in the blue shirt instead – will that suffice?

20) For some reason I decided to take a picture of the intersection between Georgia street and Hornby street in Vancouver city centre. This is great if you have a fetish for scaffolding though.

21) View from our hotel room in Vancouver. After all, who doesn’t love a good car park?