Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Baby Update

L has now been off work for three weeks and is starting to get very bored. The baby is due on Friday week and we're effectively now just sitting and waiting for it to happen.

Two weeks ago I went along to the ante-natal class with L (I wasn't allowed to attend the other three). We had a look around the Birthing Centre in Hemel Hospital (very nice indeed but suffers from the lack of a maternity unit in the hospital so if anything went wrong you'd be in an ambulance heading for Watford) as well as a couple of talks on labour and pain relief.

The midwife also gave us a handout titled "Tips For Fathers To Be!" Most of the contents are very sensible, geared to making the labour as easy as possible, but some of them are ridiculous.

For example, during second stage, it advises you to 'Tell her to imagine "opening and giving", avoid using the word "push".' Opening and giving? What? That's a load of bollocks. I think I'd get my head ripped off If I said something like that. I have taken on board the tip about not using 'push'. I took out the thesaurus and dug out some alternatives: 'thrust' and 'shove' aren't too bad but my personal favourite is 'propel'. It conjures an image of a line of midwives in various positions on the other side of the room ready to catch the baby as it comes flying out of the womb. I shall definitely be trying to use it when the time comes.

Then there's the bit that tells you to 'Hold a mirror for her so she can see the baby's head crowning'. I can't imagine anything worse to do and neither can L, thankfully.

Last week we had a tour of the maternity unit in Watford and saw the delivery suite, post- and ante-natal wards and the birthing centre and we are booked into to go there when the baby decides to put in an appearance. All being well, we'll be in the birthing centre rather than the delivery suite because it's a much more relaxed atmosphere, where you can have your own music playing, go in the birthing pool, or lie around on bean bags. The whole idea of it is that it helps you to stay calm and relaxed, which makes labour much easier to handle. I'll let you know if it works.

The Specialist

Okay, as BW pretty much commanded me to do, here is what happened when I went to see the specialist a couple of weeks ago.

Having had my height and weight measured and handed over the urine sample I'd brought with me, I was waiting in the endocrinology clinic for my turn to see the doctor. When it finally came I went into the office and the doctor had me go through the history of the condition as I saw it. So I told him that I had started feeling like this back in August last year but thought nothing of it until October, after which I did my best to ignore it in the hope that it would go away. At that he laughed a little and I relaxed.

He then wanted to examine me. Most of that was the standard pulse, blood pressure and reactions but he also wanted to have a feel of my thyroid to see if was enlarged or had any lumps in it. That involved him wrapping his fingers round my neck from behind and probing at the bottom of my throat. I really don't like anyone touching my throat and that made for a very uncomfortable situation. I managed to get through it without freaking out but I'm not looking forward to going through it again.

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that my thyroid is slightly enlarged, but not too much. Of the three common causes of a hyperactive thyroid, one can be completely ruled out by the lack of lumps and another is very unlikely because it is relatively short-lived, lasting just two or three months at the most. So, for now I have been diagnosed with autoimmune thyrotoxicosis, or Grave's Disease as it is more commonly known. It's where your body produces antibodies that cause your thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones than it normally would.

For now the treatment is with the drug carbimazole. It's just one a day and I should feel better in a few weeks (just in time to be suffering from lack of sleep ;-) ). I'll be taking them for the next year or so at which point the treatment will be reviewed. In about half of cases, the drug doesn't put the condition into long-term remission and if I am in that 50% then we'll look at more permanent options (surgery or treatment with radioactive iodine). Those are not without problems, either because if too much of the thyroid is removed or killed off, then it can become hypoactive, in which case I'd be on drugs for life. Hypothyroidism is much easier to treat then hyperthyroidism, however, so that wouldn't be completely disastrous.

So, that's about it. There are some side-effects but I'm not likely to be affected by them so I'm not going to write about them for now.

People have been asking me if I feel relieved at now knowing what is wrong and how it can be treated. The answer to that question, somewhat surprisingly, is no. I don't feel relief at all, yet, mainly because I don't yet feel any better but also because the treatment is going to take so long and even then there is no guarantee that it is going to work completely. Maybe that will change in a couple of months when I find that can do things that I am unable to do at the moment, but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Blogger's Disco

I've been thinking hard for at least five minutes to come up with something suitable for mike's Blogger's Disco but I haven't had any ideas yet.

I mean, there's so much to choose from. Do I pick a thumping dance classic or some pop kitsch? Punk? Rock? No, it's impossible to narrow it down that way.

Okay, how else can I find the perfect track? What about by the effect it will have on the bloggers crowding the dancefloor? That sounds about right. Well then, I want a song that will get everyone singing along at the end of the night after several beers too many. A drunken cacophony of merriment and tunelessness. I want them to just stand there singing at the tops of their voices so it can't be a song you can dance to easily. Maybe an old, zippo-waving ballad?


*taps fingers on the desk*

Aha! I've got it. Altogether now...

Hey Jood!
Da da da daaa

Number Crunching

The rest of my Future posts will follow over the next few days but for now I have more pressing things on my mind.

I had another look at some of the online resources for thyroid problems and came across some numbers showing how likely you are to have them. Firstly, out of every eight people with some sort of thyroid condition, seven of them will be women. Up to 20% of women suffer from thyroid disease, but the number is only that high with older women, especially if they smoke. For a non-smoking women of my age the chances will be smaller, say fourteen percent. Already, that makes the chances of me suffering from it 1 in 50.

Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism (which I've got) - anecdotal evidence of that fact can be found even in Blogger itself. Of the two words, hypothyroidism is recognised by the spell-checker but hyperthyroidism is not. That brings the number down even further. Maybe it's now as low as 1 in 200.

Of course, that's all just speculation. Tomorrow I may find out for sure as I have an appointment with the specialist. At 11.00 I will start the process of finding out exactly what is wrong with me, what caused it and, hopefully, what can be done about it.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Friday night saw me in a pub in Holborn attending my third blogmeet; a surprise party for dg, who will be forty this week. I didn't stay terribly late - given the way I've been feeling lately I wasn't up for a big night - but before I left there was cake and chocolate and the inevitable BW game, this time to do with creme eggs. Of course, I played along with great enthusiasm, as always. ;-)

The strange thing is I'm now starting to think of my fellow bloggers differently. I've now met various of them in real-life two or three times in the last twelve months and I am now starting to think of them as real friends, not just online mates. I don't see some of my old friends any more often than that, so maybe it's not all that surprising, but I certainly wasn't expecting to make lots of new friends when I started writing here.

This raises uncomfortable questions. As friendships develop, there is often an impulse to introduce you friends to each other but how do you do that in this case? If you want to keep your blog private from your old friends, what do you say when one of them asks how we know each other? Not that I'm thinking of landing myself in that situation but you never know what might happen and it's good to be prepared. Any tips will be gratefully received.

Anyway,it was great to see you all again and we must meet up once more soon, when I shall try not to look too bleary-eyed.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Future - Technology

This is the first of a short series of posts in which I will try to predict what the first 25 years of my child's life will be like, particularly in comparison to mine. Predicting the future is notoriously hard to do, especially when you're talking about decades rather than months, but I'm not going to let that stop me. In writing these posts, I am going to borrow a trick from various books and publications and refer to my child as 'he' and 'she' alternately. We don't know which sex it will be but it doesn't matter much to what I want to write.

The obvious area to look at first is the fastest changing of all - technology. And where better to start than with the internet.

The internet is still relatively new to me. Yes, I may have been using it for years but I can clearly remember what life was like without it. The world seemed a lot bigger back then. My son will truly be part of the online generation; for him, using it will be as natural as watching the television is for me. Tad Williams' brilliant fantasy series 'Otherland' is set in the not too distant future and paints a picture of the internet as a fully virtual world, almost indistinguishable from reality. Okay, that may be taking it too far (at least for the next quarter of a century) but the internet will develop far beyond what it is today.

For example, it is likely that all forms of mass communication will converge until they are all online. Already, you can listen to the radio through your internet connection and watch news reports and make telephone calls, too. I can foresee a time when programmes are no longer beamed through the air on the back of radio waves. Once every home is connected to the internet and it has become faster and more stable, then why bother broadcasting in the traditional way when you can just stream it all online, giving people a level of access they have never had before? Successive generations of mobile phones will progressively give you more and more access to the online world until there is nothing left to differentiate between them.

The last couple of years has seen an explosion of portable data storage devices, which currently looks like a continuing trend. Already, you can carry about gigabytes of music, movies and other data in your ipod or equivalent. Who can say where that will end? Will we be carrying round vast amounts of data in our pockets in 20 years' time? Actually, I doubt that we will. I think the age of the portable digital storage devices will be really quite short. It's far more likely that in the future all our music will be stored online and we will simply be able to access it remotely from wherever we are, along with everything else. I can imagine my son being able to listen to one of thousands of albums that he owns or work on his doctoral thesis from anywhere in the world, using any device he comes across to access everything he needs.

Whether that particular vision comes true or not, the effect is still the same. My son will grow up able to manipulate large volumes of data without really thinking about it. Music, movies, online content, work - all of it will be held digitally and he will have to learn how to get the best out of it. The likelihood is, he will be playing with terabytes of digital files, whether he carries it all with him or not. In order to do that successfully he will have to develop smart new ways of searching to find what he wants quickly and easily, and be able to access it instantaneously and precis it intelligently to give him exactly what he needs.

Clearly, my son will feel much more at home with computers than I ever will, since he will be exposed to them from the very beginning of his life. In comparison, I didn't regularly use a pc for anything other than games until I went to university and I'm still not entirely comfortable when it comes to the administration side of it all. I give it between ten and fifteen years and I reckon he will put me to shame.

When it comes to the world of technology, my son's life will be nothing like my own. When I was young, I had very little interaction with technology. We only had a handful of television channels and the internet was just a twinkle in Tim Berners Lee's eye. When the weather was good we used to play in the garden or kick a football about in the park down the road. When it was bad we played inside instead. We were active children and therefore pretty healthy. If there is one thing about the future that I am sure of, it's that my son will not miss out on real life in favour of a virtual one.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cartoons Galore

We watched the countdown of the 'Top 100 Cartoons' on C4 on Sunday night (well, to be completely honest, we watched the last hour and a half of it last night because we weren't up to staying awake until gone midnight) and I was pleased to see that my favourite cartoon characters of all time, Tom and Jerry, were placed as highly as one could reasonably expect.

Second place behind The Simpsons is pretty good, if you ask me.

Much as these shows can be dull affairs, full of people you don't care about talking a whole load of crap about things you aren't bothered about, some of them are good, just because of the nostalgia they produce. The Top 100 Cartoons was one of those and it was great to be reminded about the shows I used to love as a child.

What's your favourite ever cartoon?


Hey, you know I mentioned a month ago that cows are actually more intelligent than we are and are just biding their time until they are ready to take over the world?

Well, if you didn't believe me, take a look at this. Convinced now?

Maternity Leave

This is quite a momentous day in our lives. For much of the last few years, L and I have travelled in to work together, at least as far as we could before going off in different directions. Today is the last time that will happen for at least a year and probably a lot longer than that (on a regular basis, anyway).

This is L's last day at work before she has a few days of holiday and starts maternity leave next week. It's all getting very close, now. There are just over 4 weeks until the baby is due and L is hoping that she does get at least most of that time to relax a little before the mania of parenthood begins. I'm hoping that she has enough time to rest and relax, but not so much that she's climbing the walls in frustration.

So, we're about to enter a period of financial leanness that will see our monthly income gradually decrease from the end of April until some point in September when it will bottom out at some ridiculously low level. We think we have enough reserves to last out the year without too many difficulties but there are definitely some hard times ahead.

I haven't written much about the pregnancy or anything recently so here's a brief update. L is now about 8 months pregnant and looks every bit of it. The baby continues to demonstrate that its most likely future career will be kickboxing or football. It is certainly one of the strangest sights seeing someone's belly distend outwards as it is pushed from the inside. We've now got most of the things we need, should the baby arrive earlier than expected, including a few bits and pieces of clothing (which would be far too big if it were to be born in the next few days but should be just about right if the baby is as big as we think it could be).

L started ante natal classes last week. She has four overall, only one of which I get to go to (the tour of the delivery suite and stuff). I reckon the thinking behind that is that it is the mothers who really need to know everything and they can pass it all on to their partners, so it is possible to run a single class for 16-18 mothers rather than two for 8-9 couples. Still, it means that I get to have a couple of hours at home on my own for the next few weeks - that is going to become a rare luxury soon enough.

For quite a while I've been meaning to write a series of posts that try to predict how my child's first 25 years of life will differ from mine. That's what will be coming up here over the next week or so. If you want to have your say on how our lives will be affected by technology, politics and the environment between now and 2030, then drop by and leave a comment.