Sunday, January 30, 2011

Strange days

It was two weeks since touchdown on Friday. We're still coming to terms with his landing.
"Jaysus he's great," I'd tell Jenny, until his face suddenly crumbles and he threatens spontaneous combustion as he gives vent to some unseen and indeterminable ailment which apparently tuts him very weh. WAAAAA WAAAAA WAAAAA!!! Sometimes he sounds like an alarm. Just when you think he's finished, when you dare breathe a sign of relief, he starts again. He was only gathering his breath.
Christ he's loud. Jenny's taken to stuffing paper in her ears, and I've discovered too loud is possible – my eardrums had never complained of such treatment before.
In fairness to the nipper, he doesn't cry that much – not as much as other inferior nippers I've been led to believe – and once we determine the problem and/or he forgets about it, he’s back to his usual self.
The rest of his noises are simply brilliant, possibly his greatest attribute. He neighs softly like a little horse, and as mentioned before he grunts a lot, and sighs like he’s bearing the future of the €uro on his little shoulders. He’s also taken to squeaking like a rusty wheelbarrow. He squeaks at every occasion, and the hilarity is only increased with the hiccups, a common occurrence. Not only that, he’s a noisy eater, slurping and snorting as he’s suckling, while not forgetting the grunting and squeaking. “He sounds like a truffle pig,” I told Jenny.
He doesn’t let the hiccups put him off his grub, so he was sucking, slurping, snorting, squeaking, grunting and hiccupping all at the same time while feeding yesterday. A truffle pig with hiccups. He beeps too. Must have been a submarine in a former life.
He’s still peeling out of his first skin – Ally McPeel as Jenny calls him – but unlike your wan he looks puzzled as he looks around at everything. He hasn’t a clue who I am, nor can he understand why I keep writing about him, but I presume he can smell the grub off Jenny. Having said that, he tried suckling my arm today. That fella would drink anything. Must be the Irish in him.
He doesn’t like hats, preferring instead to let his luscious locks cascade around his shoulders, and he likes the fuss of having his nappy changed, having servants attend to his needs, although it could be just that His Nipperness doesn’t like a nippermess.
He doesn’t seem to worry about peeing or farting in front of visitors, but I think this is a good thing – he’s comfortable in his skin. I think I might follow suit. He had his first bath last week and LOVED it, stretching out and oozing himself into whatever may happen next.
We’d the first excursion on Wednesday, when we brought him out in his pink pram for a spin. (The pram was cheap, and we didn’t know whether it was a girl or a boy at the time, although once we got it, we somehow knew it was a boy, and damnit I’m happy his pram is pink. It will mess with the locals’ heads and make a statement if nothing else. It also squeaks, throwing down a challenge to its inhabitant.) He slept the whole time, or pretended to at least – a deep sleep without beeps – but it may have been a cunning ruse for he was inconsolable that night and the next. Must have been the shock of seeing Pankow.
To avoid further unpleasantness we went in the other direction for our walk yesterday, towards Mauerpark, and despite the fact he pretended to sleep again, I’m happy to report a relatively fruitful night’s sleep last night. (Not that we were eating fruit all night – I mean sleep was actually had.)
He woke me up this morning by sneezing in my face – Jenny had placed him strategically beside me in the bed – making it the first time I’ve ever been woken by snot. Normally this would not be a good way to start the day but as soon as I saw him I realised these are strange and wonderful days indeed.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two weeks

Nipper update has been postponed due to a combination of nipper and work, with lack of sleep a contributing factor. Working again today, but hope to cater to demand by bringing a long-awaited update, complete with pictures, for your viewing pleasure late tonight. That's if the nipper allows it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Klitschko for Taoiseach

I met Vitali Klitschko on Tuesday. Seemed like a nice enough fella. But then I’m hardly going to say anything else about the WBC world heavyweight boxing champion.
Dr. Ironfist, as he’s also known, was in Berlin to promote his political party – years of dealing with blockheads in the ring has given him a taste for more – and he happily spoke in Russian and German on his grand plans for Ukraine to be brought into the bosom of Europe.
“When you compare politics with boxing, I can say politics is a fight without rules,” he said. Here was a man unafraid to speak the truth, humble and articulate as he outlined his plans and ideals for what he wished to achieve in his native country through politics.
I thought of my own native country, and the utter shite it has been left in by politics and its vested interests. Just when you think it can’t get any worse it does – as if presumptions are some sort of dare. The Taoiseach (head honcho) cannot run his own party, but is still deemed fit enough to run the country. A fucking joke is all it is. Only a rich few are laughing.
The election’s coming up. What will change, if anything, is anyone’s guess. For me there’s only one solution to Ireland’s political travails – Vitali Klitschko for Taoiseach! What better way to keep the the Dáil in check than by sending in the world heavyweight boxing champ to knock their heads when they get out of line? I prescribe Dr. Ironfist. If things get really bad, he can always call on his brother Wladimir, also known as Dr. Steelhammer, to help him out.
Klitschko for Taoiseach!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thumb-tied

Thank you all so much for the congratulations and well wishes. Fionn was thrilled – so delighted that he puked all over the newspaper he was pretending to read. It was only Bild. Any of the Irish ones would have made him puke as well.
Double digits today. Ten days old! Who would have believed it? It seems a lifetime ago since he entered the world and we had some sleep. We’re all exhausted, shattered, almost too tired to type. Certainly the other two are, snoozing away behind me, while I’ve had a measure of relief going into work the last six days. Bundesliga, bobsled and luge have been dragging me from my fledgling little family’s first week.
Damn is it hard to say goodbye. Not that the nipper notices, but leaving’s a struggle – I feel I’m abandoning them every time – and I rush home to be with them again as soon as I finish. I haven’t even been out for celebratory pints yet! I know, everything’s gone mad.
He’s yet to learn to sleep a night through – apparently that can take three to nine months! – so nights have been interrupted to say the least. He enjoys his mid-night snacks and has a voracious appetite. Poor Jenny’s become a walking dairy; between nipper naps there are nipper craps and nipper pees. His repertoire is quite basic. But he’s like a hostage-taker with no means of communication – we’ve to figure out the demands.
He doesn’t cry much but when he does – Jaysus! – he’d wake Beethoven. So I got him Beethoven. Today was the day the nipper discovered music. He seems to have a taste for it. We haven’t gone through all genres yet, but he definitely likes classical, jazz and traditional, and he doesn’t like rap. Maybe the older stuff reminds him of his youth.
The music was discovered to distract him from his own. “You might have a Pavarotti,” warned my mother, and he certainly has the lungs for it. He’s a night howl. The walls quake. They quake with trepidation before he even starts. I comfort myself with the thought he’s waking the neighbours too.
Apparently this is the time the growing pains begin. No wonder he's howling. He’s also peeling like a rattlesnake. I told him there was no rush – never mind nature, he should grow at his own pace, or not at all. “You’re big enough nipper. Just stay the way you are.”
He could only curl his tiny fingers halfway around my thumb in response. But the point was made.

I promise the next post won’t be about the nipper. This ain’t a baby blog and the young fella needs his privacy. Normal service will resume with tales of the Stasi, Bürgeramts, bureaucracy and doctors who tell you to ring three days later to make an appointment before showing up with your emergency. Seriously. There's no lack of material. I'm happy to have the nipper at my side.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fionn

Three today! A lifetime over a weekend. As I type he’s sleeping here beside me, grunting and stretching with gusto with arms up beside his head. He’s cool – I think we’ll keep him!
Today was the homecoming – the day we finally brought the nipper home from the hospital! “Welcome home Fionn and Jenny!!! Ihr habt’s endlich geschafft!” He promptly woke up and farted. So much for the céad míle fáilte.
I guess the arrival that matters was Friday morning when he turned up in a birthday suit several sizes too big. With HUGE hands and a face he’s growing into. He’s had a thousand faces so far. He looks like my dad and Jenny’s cousin, neither of whom look anything like each other. Blinking, with puckered mouth, he cheekily sticks his tongue out as if tasting the air like a lizard. (Not that my dad looks like that.) He smacks his lips, sticks out his tongue and bites his knuckles when hungry. (My dad only does that when he’s very hungry.) Unfortunately, coordination is not yet his (the nipper’s) strong point. Gettin’ grub is a bit hit and miss.
Only one eye could open at a time on his first day, but he can open both gleichzeitig now, albeit briefly. He looks up with a puzzled expression while sticking his tongue out and blinking. “Who the flip are you?” (He would never say fuck.)
Sometimes he sleeps with one eye open – a wise move in these here parts. The little feller is already showing wisdom ahead of his days.
While sleeping he moves his arms about like an octopus trying to catch passing fish. When awake his yawns are as wide as the Amazon. They nearly take over his head as he leans back. He doesn’t like yawning, but does it quite a lot, even when sleeping, which he does quite a lot of too.
He seems to enjoy sneezing, however. We enjoy them too – the performances are great! In fact, most of his noises are quite enjoyable. He squeaks and grunts away to himself, and sometimes sighs, no doubt as he contemplates the world he’s landed in.
Ominously, he’s been given a powerful set of lungs but he's spared us from their wrath mostly so far. Daumen drücken.
Jenny thinks he smells lovely, but I’ve been concentrating on his appearance. As I said, it changes all the time. We have to keep looking at him to make sure we recognise him. They didn’t put any name tags on him at the hospital. We’re happy to have the excuse.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nipperrrrrrr

The contractions began during the match. Real vs. Atletico. I guess the nipper wanted to see it too. They got stronger after Özil's late strike and continued as we followed with a film interrupted by Jenny getting up dancing and singing to help herself cope with the pain. I timed her. They still weren't five minutes apart so despite her obvious discomfort we didn't panic.
By 2.30 a.m. they were coming even faster. Suddenly it was less than five minutes. Quick! Let's go! I rang the taxi co. for a Storchenfahrt (stork journey). Jenny wondered if she'd even make it to Havelhöhe - an hour the other side of Berlin. She rang the hospital through the pain and throwing up but they didn't seem optimistic.
No matter. We crossed over to the West with our taxi driver driving like the hounds of hell. “We never had someone born in a car before,” she said. Always a first time. Maya and Florian were her name suggestions. Both good. The contractions continued. Jenny puked again. Of course, the bag she used was the only one with holes. The driver didn’t mind/know. I tipped her well when we finally arrived. We'd made it!
The rest I won't describe. Suffice to say the Geburtsvorbereitungskurs is no preparation. Never have I felt so fucking USELESS and never have I felt such admiration for another human. She was incredible. She battled each battle as if it were the last. Which of course it wasn’t. Thousands followed. Wrecking balls pushing her to the outer limits of endurance. Immense. Tears welled in my eyes as I couldn’t bear to see her in such pain. Still no PDA/epidural. A badly-timed Hexenschuss (banjaxed back) had contributed to my uselessness. Then came disastrous news: Ein Sterngucker (stargazer). The baby was in the wrong position.
“Neiiinnn,” moaned Jenny. Kaiserschnitt. After all that, they have to cut her open to get the baby out. Fuck.
The midwife reassured her. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. “Ein Sterngucker ist Nichts schlimmes. Es ist etwas besonderes.”
They'd try get it to change position. What followed bears no repetition.
Hernia-inducing hours later the top of the head first appeared. Jenny reached to touch it. “Heyyy.” More tears.
“Es ist Endsport jetzt,” the midwife reassured her. The home straight. Still the nipper was reluctant to emerge. Pretty casual it seemed; heartbeat normal throughout – we listened as it galloped calmly along.
“Schieben, schieben, schieben, schieben!“ urged the midwife. Push, push, push, push! Eventually, the whole head appeared. “Kwawr,” it croaked. Jenny laughed, gulped, pushed some more and at 9.21 this morning the nipper finally slid out into the world. More tears; this time of wonder, relief, joy, pride. I wiped them quickly away and kissed the mother of my son.

His name is Fionn.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Er/sie warten

Still no sign of the nipper. Nothin’. I’m goin’ absolutely stir crazy. I just hate waitin’.
“Why are you always late then?” Jenny asked me over breakfast.
“Because I hate waitin’.”
“How does that work?” she wondered.
“If I’m late I don’t have to wait at all, do I?”
I guess the nipper feels the same.

Even Jenny’s getting antsy. The mother-to-be found more windows to clean, actually looked forward to going grocery shopping today, and we’ve taken to fighting over whose turn it is to do the washing up. “It’s my turn.” Every pipe has been painted, carpet hoovered, floor mopped – the Wohnung has never been cleaner.

The hanging around is unbearable. We’ve been watchin’ films to kill the time, and I’ve discovered the shocking truth about Tom and Jerry in Germany. Tom und Jerry have a different theme tune to the one we all know and love, with some shameless impostor singing “Danke für die Blumen...” Thanks for the flowers! Nothing to do with Tom or Jerry, or any cat or mouse for that matter. Blasphemy is all it is. Poor old Tom would be turning in his grave if he heard it. A scurrilous scandal of sacrilegious proportions – no wonder the child is reluctant to check out the world.

There wasn't a peep from the ever-growing belly at the doctor's on Monday. They hooked it up to a machine so we could listen to the inhabitant’s heartbeat. Everything cool, everything normal, everything totally relaxed. It sounded like it was galloping around on a little horse, but the gallops were regular and it didn't seem to be in any hurry to gallop out. It seems we could be in for the long haul.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fashionably late

No sign of the nipper yet. The wait goes on. It seems to be enjoying the suspense from/of its cosy nipubator. Today (Sunday) was the due day but it would have been so typically German to arrive on time. Instead, I’m proud to note it will be typically Irish and fashionably late.
Apparently just four per cent of babies actually arrive on the due date – they’re notoriously late creatures – leading me to question why they call it a due date at all. Surely it should be called the non-due date. I also wonder how they came up with such a statistic and who, indeed, “they” are. A team of nipper clockers asking recent mothers how late they were.

Waiting when you’ve no idea how long you’ve to wait is the worst of all – it’s like waiting for a bus in Ireland – and all this hanging around is making me impatient. I literally can’t wait. Concentration levels have plummeted to the extent where all I can do is “Dinge zu machen” lists of all I’ve to do. Compared to life and existence, nothing really matters enough to get it done. Even this post is taking forever. I really should get some sleep.
Jenny’s been keeping busy though, doing things which live on “To Do” lists but are rarely if ever done. She found some more pipes to paint, repaired the dirty laundry basket and cleaned all the windows today. She’s actually run out of stuff to do. Maybe I should give her my list...
The hanging around did allow her to get in touch with the crowd who did the Feindiagnostik in September – the fancy check up when they took those crazy 3D pictures – and they kindly emailed her the pictures we thought she’d lost forever along with the Mutterpass. No hassle, no forms to fill, no formal requests to be stamped at the Bürgeramt – they simply emailed her straight away with the pictures! Unglaublich.
The kid looks quite strange in them but that’s how they look only five months or so into development. I’m sure it looks very different now, especially with such good-looking parents. Consider it a sneak preview. Hopefully it won’t be much longer before we get the première.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Waiting for Nipper

The countdown has begun. Everything else is on hold. I pretend it’s not, but really it is. Any day now, the nipper could make its grand entrance to the world.
Officially there are just three days (!) to go, but as the mother-to-be said earlier: “It’s crazy to think it could now start any second.”
We’re both in a very strange state of calm excitement. I’ve never been more calmly excited, or excitedly calm. I don’t know how to feel to be honest, and I don’t think Jenny knows either.
“Hey baby, I think you’re ready for the world now,” she said as she massaged a little foot protruding from her bulging belly earlier. A little kick seemed to indicate agreement.
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how big her belly is. Only the superest latives would do. If it gets any bigger I’ll have to move out. Jenny can no longer walk sideways through doorways – good thing she’s not a crab – and front buttons are no longer part of her wardrobe. Ping!

The preparation is done. We’ve even splashed out on a sheepskin Fußsack (foot-muff apparently, I’d never heard of them either) and I’m sure the baby will become as attached to it as the sheep once was. It also has some fine stripy jumpers lined up to be worn. If only I was a little smaller...
There’s nothin’ left to do but wait. Dáire dropped out the crib at the weekend, and Jenny was painting pipes I didn’t even realise needed painting today but finally, this evening, even she admitted the nest is ready.
Perhaps the preparation helped her take her mind off what she’s about to undertake. Now the time is nigh, however, even distractions are not distracting enough from the distraction to come. It’s quite distracting actually – I’m finding it hard to concentrate on anything else. The calmness is becoming too much.
There’s a cruel irony in no longer being able to sleep the last night(s) before the baby comes when we should be sleeping like, well, babies. As if babies sleep like babies. I reckon the nipper’s a napper. It won't be long before I can ask him/her directly.
Now we're just waiting for Nipper, waiting to see how long we'll have to wait.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Amt ergo am

Forms have been filled, stamps stamped, rights read and Germany’s bureaucratic belly tickled to the extent nature is now allowed take its course. Finally, the kid can come.
Last week the Vaterschaftsanerkennung, this morning it was the gemeinsames Sorgerechtserklärung – the first to formally declare my fatherness and the second to have its rights explained to us in excruciating detail.
Fatherhood is not possible in this country without trips to the Rathaus, Bürgeramt, Jugendamt and Standesamt. I amt joking – a whole colony of amts. Otherwise the nipper’s existence could not be approved by Queen Amt Angela.
For the Vaterschaftsanerkennung I arrived armed to the teeth with all the forms I received from officialdom since I moved here, but your wan behind the desk wanted the one form I hadn’t got – my birth cert. Without it, she had no way of knowing I was born at all. Perhaps I was a figment of her imagination. Maybe I am.
The very notion of existence can only be comprehended by Germans if accompanied by a stamped form. Descartes’ theory? Worthless. It was never stamped by the Bürgeramt in Pankow.
Once I returned with the birth cert, there was a hullaballoo about it being in another language (one of those being English). Apparently my name and date of birth will have to be translated by a lawyer or judge or the King of Germany and stamped (very important) for some more bureaucratic challenges to come before I’m allowed be a proper father.
For the time being she contented herself by quizzing me to ensure I was sober/conscious/aware of what I was doing. Perhaps she still had doubts over my existence due to my birth cert being in an exotic language. Eventually she stamped her stamp and I stamped out.
It was the same today at Weißensee Rathaus – questions, forms, speeches – before the giant rat stamped its stamp of authority and I stamped out. I stamp, therefore I am.