Unfortunately the wife has it. It means that all plans for a water birth and a home birth have gone out the window. Monique, who dislikes both hospitals and needles, will have to be fed antibiotics intravenously through the labour. Bad though this all, the more we think about it the more grateful we are that it was discovered at all. We had gone to see a GP about an unrelated matter. The locum doctor, an older chap who seemed much more interested in treating patients rather than rushing them out the door, decided that Monique should have a precautionary swab taken. On reflection we think this doctor just used the other matter as a pretext to conduct a de facto screening for GBS. Which isn’t NHS policy.
In fact, the more I read about it the more puzzled I’m becoming about the NHS policy regarding this disease. Here is what I’ve found about GBS;
Group B streptococcus is found naturally in the vagina of about 20-30% of pregnant women. It usually has no symptoms and no harmful effects to the carrier. However, a baby born to a woman with untreated GBS has a 1 in 300 chance of contracting a number of diseases through it. These included blood poisoning, pneumonia and meningitis. Of course these can be fatal or cause lasting damage to the baby. Treatment, IV antibiotics during labour, drastically reduces the risks, right down to 1 in 4,000 (or 1 in 6,000. Depends what you read).
With such a high incidence of latent GBS and such a dramatic lengthening of the odds on treatment, at first glance it seems this would be a prime candidate for screening. In fact in the US they already do this; at 36 weeks all pregnant women are screened for it. So why not here?
Apparently one argument it that the current screening process is unreliable; 50% of cases are not detected. Yes, OK NHS, so what? 50% of cases would be detected! We’ve got the numbers; about 700,000 babies are born in the UK every year. At least 20% of these will be exposed to GBS, that’s 140,000 babies. 50% of those at risk, 70,000, could benefit from the treatment under a screening regime. 1 in 300 of 70,000 is 233. So screening could prevent 233 babies contracting life threatening illness’. If the problem is actually cost, then one wonders what the cost of care is for 233 seriously ill babies, or the lifetime cost of a person with meningitis (not just to the NHS, but to society as a whole). Then there is the human cost to consider. Now here’s the next argument for screening; the unreliable tests are being superseded by newer tests with much greater chance of detecting GBS.
So, there seems less and less reason for the NHS to not conduct screening of all pregnant women for Group B Streptococcus. Because not everyone will bump into a wile old doctor who cares more about patients than the NHS does.
Whoaa! Life over the last few years has seldom been dull, but now things seem to be stepping up a gear. Shortly after trying to be Jeremy Clarkson I got the results of my CPC national freight exams and, I’m pleased to say, I passed. This allows me to be a transport manager (one that is actually required by law) for companies or individuals that have trucks. Not wanted to hang around, I got straight on the case and put up a website to offer myself in this capacity to the World. I can now report that SEO (search engine optimisation) is an extensive, complex and time consuming discipline.
Then there was the interview and driving assessment for Morrisons supermarket, which I’m also pleased to say I passed. So all I have to do now is to pass a medical and I’m in.
But of course all this is the side-show to the main event; the arrival of little Yasmin. Unless both scans were wrong, in which case it’s the arrival of little Patrick, and I have some re-painting to do. The midwife is still giving the thumbs up for a home birth, and Monique is doing so well. So now the room is painted, the Swedish furniture is assembled, the birthing pool is ready to go and the baby is due anytime in the next few weeks. Yeah, this is getting SO real!
1. You eat better. You want to be healthy enough to play with them when they are older.
2. You try to stay fit. See above.
3. You drive safer. Driving is now an exercise in safety and smoothness. Not to see how many ‘G’ you can pull in the bends
4. You work harder. There are nappies and baby things to buy.
5. You re-focus on your career/business. Because after the nappies comes school, and college, and Nintendo Wii.
6. You respect the environment. Believe in global warming, don’t believe in global warming, it’s undeniable that the environment we leave will be our children’s.
7. You recycle more. Our children will live in a World of expensive commodities. Let’s not make it worse.
8. You don’t burn the candle a both ends. No more late nights out before early starts. You’ll need the sleep.
9. You learn to love better.
10. You are so, so, so much happier.
When you are about to escort a convoy down to Kuwait, through a country that is thoroughly less pleasant, your employer (the one with the green or brown dress code) gives you a series of ‘actions on’. These are a series of actions (duh) to be taken if a particular event happens. So, there are actions on vehicle breakdown, actions on getting a puncture, actions on loss of communications and actions on separation from the convoy. Then, in great depth, there are actions on contact with the enemy (that means getting shot at. Not sending a text). What to do if contacted from the front, from behind, from the left or right, from the left and right at the same time. Actions on getting vehicle immobilised by an IED, taking casualties THEN getting contacted from both sides (I was never truly convinced that one was survivable without outside intervention, either armoured, gunship or divine).
Well, I’d like to think that the training worked (thankfully most of it wasn’t needed). The constant drilling of actions on meant I felt I had a mindset of preparedness. Before a patrol I knew what kit I needed to get ready. Then during it I always knew where each piece of kit I had responsibility for was. I knew where the spare batteries were for the comms, at what time they were likely to go flat and what to do if they broke. I knew if we were to come to an explosive halt which bag I would grab, what my comrades were expected to do, which way to exit the vehicle under multiple different scenarios and what to do when I got out out. By reducing as many as possible scenarios to a drill meant vital, life saving, actions would happen as swiftly as possible, and the soldiers’ capacities to use initiative and problem solve was available to deal with anything truly unforeseen.
Now, Monique is 33 weeks pregnant and I want to get myself into a similar state of preparedness. I will always be able to visualize where the car and front door keys are, the route to the hospital, where we will park and how many steps to negotiate. We want to have a home birth (which is only OK to have after 37 weeks apparently); so if an ambulance needs to come (God forbid) I will know how they will get in and out. I want to, no, sorry, make that I NEED to know about each stage of the labour, so if I can have a role to play, no matter how small, I can get prepared to play it perfectly.
Having the baby will not be a dangerous as being in Iraq, but I want to be better prepared now than I was then. Because this isn’t a convoy of trucks going to Kuwait. This is my wife and child.
1. You don’t spend money on toys that are actually for you, not your child (Scalextric, model railways, tools, dirt-bikes etc.)
2. A much higher chance that your daughter will tidy up after herself.
3. A much lower chance that your child will choose to become a soldier, deep sea diver, experimental parachute tester, debt collector, or any other dangerous profession.
4. When she reaches sixteen, she’ll still want shoes. Not a moped.
5. The dream that you and your son will embark on all kind of manly adventures together in some some kind of paternalistic masculine bonding exercise is just that; a dream. Let’s face it, you a) Work b) Have quite evenings in with a book/surfing the net/watching the telly.
6. There won’t come a point where rough and tumbling with your child they will realise they are now strong enough to keep you in a headlock.
7. There is less chance that you will have to bail them out of jail.
8. If they do become formula 1 world champion it will be even more amazing.
9. When they ask “where do babies come from?” it’s not going to be you that has the conversation.
10. Be there for them, and you will be their hero for longer.
The New Year is here! And, thankfully, the start of something appears to coincide with the end of something, namely a painful ear infection. After my success in not getting stuck out in the snow (as described in my first post) I woke up the next morning to find myself feeling the onset of flu symptoms. Not nice, especially just before Christmas, but hey ho, such is life. Worse was to come though.
The next night I woke up with a pain in my ear. As an ex-soldier I like to think I can tolerate a bit of pain, but this started to lean towards the excruciating. Paracetamol deadening it ever so slightly, but not enough to allow me back to sleep. So as soon as the corner shop opened off I went to get industrial strength painkillers, wincing, not only in pain but because it was still about minus eight degrees C. Those painkillers didn’t have much affect either.
I’m not a run to the doctor kind of person, in fact, apart from a health check a couple of years back, the last time I sought medical attention was in Iraq with the army back in 2005. This time it was no problem to persuade me to see a doctor, and an emergency appointment was made. Anti-biotics were prescribed and more painkillers were advised.
I’ve never been on anti-biotics as far as I remember but happily popped the pills and waited for them to work. They didn’t. The pain got worse. It felt like a sharp toothed bug was eating away at my inner ear whilst simultaneously a ping pong ball was being inflated inside my head. Then the next day I realised I was leaking. Blood and puss was running out of my left ear. A doctor friend (thanks Tris) advised that my ear drum had split due to the pressure behind it. Over the next few days the pain became unbearable. The idea of work was unthinkable. All Christmas plans were off. I couldn’t drive. Talking was a struggle. Sleep was fractured and restless. All I could think about was the next opportunity to take pain-killers and cause an ever so slight numbing of the pain.
In case you think I’m just being a bit soft, let me tell you I’ve had broken bones and torn ligaments in the past. This was worse, a similar level of pain over a longer period. Eventually, on Boxing Day, with the supply of seemingly ineffective anti-biotics almost exhausted, we realised further medical help had to be sought. We made a hurried visit to the out of hours emergency clinic (we took a cab, me driving was out of the question and Monique doesn’t drive) where different drugs were prescribed , along with some nuclear pain-killers.
And, thank God, thank God, thank God, they seem to have been working. The pain hasn’t entirely gone, I’m deaf in my left ear (we’ve been told that’s temporary) and I’m inclined to get tired quickly, but now, at last, things are on the up.
Now of course hanging over all this is the dominant thing in our lives right now; Monique is pregnant. This is the kind of thing that I’m sure haunts all dads to be; what if something outside of my control happens? What if it means I can’t look after my wife and child? All we can do pray and try our absolute hardest to mitigate the risks as best as possible.
And thank God this ear infection happened now, not in a months time.
Heston Blumenthal can turn a collection of ingredients into crab flavoured ice cream. The ‘A’ team can make a tank out of a 1980 Chrysler and the contents of a barn. A group of Californian tech heads can come up with things like iPhones. Pharmaceutical wizards in white coats can come up with new drugs and formula 1 geniuses can form pieces of plastic into championship winning aerodynamic devices. Yes, making something must be incredibly gratifying for any man.
I say must be because, like so many others, I can’t make anything. Sure, leave a bicycle in bits I might be able to take a stab at reassembly, and I’m a small cog in the amazing, but unnoticed, leviathan that is the World wide logistics system. But there is nothing I can point to and say, “yes, I had a significant hand in creating THAT”.
That shouldn’t be a surprise. Despite the supposed individualism of our society we are all now more then ever cogs in the machine. The tinker, the tailor and the candle-stick maker have been replaced by the personnel manager, the sales administrator and the warehouse worker, and there are far fewer people who can say “I made that”.
Except… there is one way that we can still bring a personal creative mark to the World. A privilege to create where we don’t have to study, gain experience, have any certificate of competence, have any flash of unique inspiration, climb a career greasy pole or slave for years in potentially fruitless anomity. We can create new life. And not just any new life, but human new life.
A scientist may study for years in order to have an attempt at cloning or make some minor genetic change to a simple organism. Yet any man and woman can create a entirely new, unique, made in God’s image, other person as soon as they feel it’s the right time.
And we make that person not just in the physiological sense. After the miracle of nature comes the responsibility and privilege of nurture. Our daughter may become famous, a prime minister or great scientist. We hope and pray she becomes a good person. Whatever happens we know the World will be a better place because of her very existence; humanity will have a new, unique, addition. My parents imparted their ideas and moral codes to me, and then as my own person I’ve adapted and developed those teachings to determine how I live in society. Now our daughter will become her own person as well who will adapt and develop what we’ve taught her, and how she brings that to the World will be our lasting legacy.