Recently, a now-pregnant friend of ours fell ill, and her husband began to display the exact same symptoms - was it a psychosomatic reaction to his sympathy for his pregnant wife?  Or was it just food poisoning?  Either way, cases of the mysterious Couvade Syndrome keep appearing.  

Check out this excellent article for more insight!
I'm incredibly proud to announce that our baby is here!  At 3:00 am on Thursday 8 August, weighing 3.68 kg (8lb 1oz), measuring 51 cm, Ava Strid Anderson was born by emergency Caesar after 39 long weeks and a few sleepless nights of painful contractions. 

Both mother and baby are doing great, and we couldn't have done it without our superstar team of Dr Maria Theresa G Henson, Dr Gerry de Jesus, Dr Vina Cabahug, and our legendary support staff of Grandma Strid & Grandma Anderson (and of course, late arrival Grandpa Anderson). 

So far, Ava has been feeding well, and sleeping better.  She is the most amazing little girl and will be out & about to make some public appearances very soon!

It's often been said that it's darkest before the dawn.  That's what it seems like right now.  With Megan nearing 39 of 40 weeks, and looking very, very large, we are both watching the clock & doing everything we can to try to convince our little guy/gal to say hello.

We've been doing our best lately - trying to walk as much as we can, bouncing on gym balls, taking evening primrose oil, all the rest to try to coax the baby out.  Our doctor has told us that we're 'ripe', too, so now all that's left to do is wait... 

Waiting would be fine if it wasn't so frustrating!  And if you think I'm frustrated, you should talk to Megan...  After all, she's got to carry all that extra weight around, feeding & nurturing it 24 hours a day.  All I can do is sit by & try to help as much as possible, wherever I can.  Thankfully, she's decided to work from home now, which eases a bit of pressure, and hopefully should make things easier should any 'accidents' happen.  She's still working away, but is now able to treat herself to little naps when the need falls upon her.  I'm left following her around, making sure she's eating properly, brushing up on breastfeeding books, researching postnatal depression, and trying to provide a calming influence in what has become a quite highly-strung household.  Even the dog seems jittery now...  Every bump in the night sends us all into an expectant flash of activity - What was that pain?  Was it the baby? How are you feeling?  Is it coming? I'll start the car...  IS IT COMING???

Normally when we've got time to wait, we find ways to keep our minds busy - usually by going to the pub, or doing something else that is simply out of the question now.  Now everything is centred around the child, making sure we're as ready as we can be, and all we can do is try not to get in each other's hair.  To compound matters, we've got both grandmothers arriving this weekend - hopefully it'll mean that we have heaps of other stuff to talk about & they can provide the unique insight that only grandmothers seem to have.  On the other side, it could mean that there are now two more sets of eyes bearing down on Meg's belly, with sinews stiffened & blood summoned, like greyhounds in the slips... 

I'm certain that it won't be that bad at all, but lately I've had lots of time to think about it!  And like our doctor warned, there could be another two weeks yet.  And so with bated breath we try to stave off the anxiety of the inevitable wait. 

PictureLast week at Buckingham Palace
So all the world is staring at the Duchess of Cambridge & her little post-partum belly. 
What annoys me most is that at the end of the day, she's just a girl, no different from any, yet the world still feels the need to criticise her every move - some cash in on her flaws, some 'complement' her by saying that she's not perfect... 
Read it here.

Good on her for not pretending to be some plastic pin-up for the cameras.  I feel sorry for those who think they have to be in magazine-cover shape immediately after having a baby.  Megan probably isn't going to instantly snap back to a size 6 after squeezing out our baby, and I'd be incredibly worried if she did.  My fiancée is all the more beautiful now that she's pregnant, and should anyone decide to comment on her post-baby bump, I'm probably going to get pretty mad...

With the end in sight, it's time to get our things together, just in case our little one decides that it's time.

Normally when we travel, Megan packs 2 & 3/4 suitcases full, at the very last moment (after all, you never really know if there's something that "just maybe I might want to wear today").  So with a bit more at stake than being stuck in Hong Kong without the perfect top, we've managed to throw some things together.  At least we know which colour the nurses will be wearing...

Here's our list for the grab-bags.
For Her:
  • Copies of the birth plan (probably at least 3)
  • TENS machine & spare batteries
  • An old, comfy shirt for labour (apparently things get pretty messy)
  • Maternity pads & old underwear (for the same reason)
  • Snacks & drinks - the high protein, high energy kind
  • Toiletries
  • Trashy magazines
  • An ipad loaded with movies & trashy TV shows
  • An ipod & stereo
  • Scented candles to help her relax
  • Breastfeeding gear - pads, creams, shields, etc
  • Blankets (local hospitals don't usually have any)
  • Going home clothes (around the 6-month mark, sizewise)

For Him:
  • A change of clothes (we could be there for a while)
  • Snacks & drinks
  • A book or two
  • Camera
  • Phone chargers, etc
  • Bribes (nurses can be much more amenable if you keep their blood sugar up)

For Baby:
  • Blankets
  • Little outfits (all sizes & colours)
  • Nappies, as many as I can carry
  • Medicated wipes
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Socks & gloves so they don't scratch themselves
  • Spew rags (as many as I can carry)
  • Cute going-home clothes
  • Car capsule

That list will probably change with the wind, but it's a decent start.  At least I'll be able to get home & swap anything out if need be.  We're also starting to consider bringing in our own basic kitchen stuff (toaster, kettle, etc) as the local hospitals don't usually stock that sort of gear & we've heard quite a few horror stories about the quality & consistency of the food available - they do have a Pancake House & a Pizza Hut that deliver to the suites, however. 

We'll see how prepared we are when the moment comes.  At least soon we'll have the support team of grandmothers to make sure we're doing everything right by our new arrival & the recovering new mum. 

PictureOne week ago - so far away now
After arriving back from London & somehow surviving on just a few unenjoyable hours sleep, Meg dragged me off to see our doctor. 

The good news is that everything is currently going to plan.  The bad news is that our new paediatrician probably hates me because of the blank, zombie-like stare that was all I could manage through our meeting... 
Since then, I have finally managed to get a full night's sleep (during the night time, too!) and get my affairs in some semblance of order.  Two days ago that was an incredibly frightening thought, and as we farewelled Megan's mother from her caretaker visit, she says to me "think about how tired you are now, and imagine what it's going to be like in a month".  Her ominous words still echo through my head & I shudder at the thought of just how sleepless we'll both be. 

Ultimately, though, our baby is coming, and soon.  Like a runaway freight-train of inevitability, we'll have him/her here before we know it, whether we like it or not.  So now, the preparation is in full gear.  Bags are being packed, equipment checked, plans planned, routes timed, bags repacked, back-up plans planned...  I was even offered the chance by our OB/GYN to assist with the delivery of the baby. Cue hours of watching videos of live births and shows like "One Born Every Minute" (the British version - British versions are always better than US copies of shows - Inbetweeners & the Office take note). 

So are we ready?  No.  Will we ever be ready?  It's unlikely.  Is anyone?  Probably not.  But, we're doing our best.  Every time we learn something new, we realise that there's so much more to learn.  We'll do our best though, and will have to make the rest up as we go! 

PictureFrom where we'd all rather be
We now have just over two weeks to go until our earliest due date, and my mates are asking me how I'm doing.  Great, I reply.  After all, I've been far too busy lately to realise otherwise.  I'm also across the other side of the world, living it up with my friends just before their wedding.  Megan and her mother are at home doing it tough. 

Thankfully, Meg's mother has come over to be with her while I'm on my official duties over here.  Without her, there would be no chance of getting away at all.  Ever.  So right now, as I take a break to sit & think, how am I doing?  I'm freaking right the f*** out. 

There's the issues that I'm missing that I would love to be home for - we just hired a new driver & I would love to be there to make sure he's doing a good job & getting paid on time, etc.  We're supposed to be meeting with paediatricians, but that's turning out to be a bit more of a mission than expected.  Meg's getting way bigger than any of us imagined, and there's no one there to rub her feet and back the way she likes it.  And of course, there's the imminent threat that the baby will arrive.  There's no avoiding it, and there's no predicting when it'll happen.  Like a runaway freight train of inevitability, it's going to hit us whether we're ready or not. 

The big one is paediatrics.  We thought we had a good team lined up - but as it turns out the doctor has adopted the more 'traditional' style of neonatal care - the kind that John Cleese and his Monty Python mates would be familiar with...  The new thinking is to leave the new born with the mother to bond just after birth, however the doctor that was recommended to us insisted on isolating our baby for 12 hours immediately after birth.  Now if there were any risks present I might understand, but there are none.  We have had an almost too easy pregnancy, health wise, for mother & bub, and the last thing either of us want is for our baby to be ripped from our arms into the void of some Philippine hospital.  I mean, it's bad enough giving your purchases to a cashier at a department store.   There's no way I'm letting my baby out of my sight. 

Here, thankfully, absolutely none of the attention is on me...  It's all on the couple getting married, and on someone else about to have a more royal baby...

As many of you may well know, we got a bit of a fright this week... 
Instead of being due around the middle of next month, a new scan was handed to Megan last weekend, with the prognosis that our little boy or girl was could be due to arrive at the start of the month.  This wouldn't be so scary if it wasn't in three short weeks' time...  The last month has flown - it might as well not have happened.  I have no idea where it went...  and now my baby's arriving in less time than that??   I'm panicking, slightly.
At the moment we're both incredibly busy: Meg has the end of financial year to deal with, along with a recent trip to Australia for an IT conference; I followed her there so spent all the last little while seeing family & friends in a whirlwind trip, got back to Manila with a heap of admin to do, and now I'm about to take off again for the UK.  Meg won't be joining me - she's too far along to fly - but her mother is coming here to help her with anything she needs.  I feel less bad knowing she'll be here, but of course I'll be upset that I'm not here to help her (in my defence, I had this trip planned months before anyone got pregnant).

The Sydney trip was great, we were able to do get some shopping done & pick up some much needed items - including an Australian standard baby capsule.  I also got to pop in on a mate who's just had a beautiful baby boy.  Catching up with those guys was invaluable!!  Everything they had to say was a great help.  It seemed like when I was first getting my drivers licence - you can do all the reading you can for a year, but it all gets thrown out the window with one week's practical experience...

My parents also got to see Megan in all her glory.  As it's their first grandchild, I think it was pretty meaningful to them & really hit home that this baby is coming! 

For me now, though, I don't have time to scratch myself...  I've got to make sure Meg's still breathing before packing my bags for another long haul flight... 

It has been written about in anthropological studies since before the birth of Christ, but is still not fully recognised medically.  It affected blokes in the Basque region in medieval days, and inspired rituals in the tribal groups of Papua New Guinea, Thailand, China, Russia & the Americas.  Some men swear it happens, some swear it's bollocks.  Strabo observed it in his travels, as did Marco Polo, centuries later.  
This phenomenon has been studied for many years, some believe it to be a psychosomatic condition, some believe it to be attention-seeking.  Could it really be real?  

Originating from an old French word meaning "to brood", Couvade is defined as "an involuntary disorder consisting of interrelated physical and psychological symptoms in the male partners of gestational (pregnant) women (Trethowan and Conlon 1965, Klein 1991, 
Brennan et al 2007a; 2007b)."  In short, sympathetic (phantom) pregnancy.  A 2010 study found that almost 1 in 3 Australian men were affected by Couvade Syndrome, exhibiting at least 8 psychological or physical symptoms.  A similar study conducted in the UK found that 1 in 4 men had experienced similar effects. 

They physical symptoms are:
  • stomach cramps/pains
  • stomach distension 
  • vomiting
  • food cravings or aversions
  • increased or poor appetite
  • weight gain or loss
  • tiredness
  • toothache
  • back pain
  • leg cramps

The psychological symptoms are:
  • sleeping more or less than usual
  • early morning waking
  • feeling low in mood
  • mood swings
  • feeling annoyed
  • feeling frustrated
  • feeling irritable
  • feeling anxious/stressed
  • feeling restless
  • feeling preoccupied
  • lacking motivation
  • lacking concentration

So far, Meg has been pregnant for 7 months, and it's been a busy 7 months...  She's been back to Australia, to Hong Kong, Port Moresby, Colombo and Hanoi.  We've bought cars & broken bones.  In the next two weeks I will go from Manila to Sydney and back, and then to London and back before the baby pops.  With all that in mind, I can't really identify definite cause for any of the symptoms that I may have been feeling.  I'm going to go on record here, and admit that yes, I have felt a few of these things in the past 7 months - I mean, who hasn't?  Pregnancy or not, it would be hard to avoid a lot of the symptoms.  Let's go back over the list again: 

  • stomach cramps/pains Yes, definitely
  • stomach distension No, definitely not
  • vomiting No - at least not without another reason
  • food cravings or aversions No
  • increased or poor appetite Yes, both fluctuating at different times
  • weight gain or loss Yes, overall loss
  • tiredness Absolutely
  • toothache No
  • back pain No
  • leg cramps Yes - but only in the broken leg
  • sleeping more or less than usual Yes, again, both
  • early morning waking Yes
  • feeling low in mood No
  • mood swings No
  • feeling annoyed I live in Manila...  
  • feeling frustrated I live in Manila...  With a pregnant woman...
  • feeling irritable As above
  • feeling anxious/stressed As above
  • feeling restless As above
  • feeling preoccupied As above
  • lacking motivation No
  • lacking concentration Yes

So it's been a bit of a mixed bag - I can't really pinpoint with absolute certainty that I've experienced it, but sometimes the coincidence seems a little too good to be true.  Short of reading too many scientific journals, there seems to be a lot of work going into establishing evidence of biological change in men's bodies as their partner's pregnancies continue.  I'm guessing it's like when women's periods synchronise after living together, but I'm even less qualified to talk on that subject than this one.  

I'm going to say that it can exist, but whether or not it's really real, I don't know.  What I do know is that I've been tired for a week and can't sleep more than a few hours at a time...  Also that my diet has gone out the window and all I crave is beer & pizza...

Today is Father's Day here in the Philippines, and how did I spend my day?  
I awoke to find my darling fiancee watching some terrible, terrible television, so I cooked her a nice Sunday breakfast.  Unfortunately, though, she felt a bit queasy afterwards & went straight back to bed.  So my morning didn't really get off to a wonderful start, but I did get a cheeky lie-in, and now my TV isn't so embarrassed.  

We have had a very busy time of late - we've had all of our parents visiting - who brought some amazing gifts with them; we've just picked up our new car; Meg went to Sri Lanka; we were able to get to Hong Kong and get some precious shopping time in; and my rugby team has returned to its winning ways!  

Meg's parents visited recently (in two stints, mum first, then dad), bringing with them a whole heap more things for baby.  They've delivered hundreds of leak-proof nappies as well as formula, clothes, toys, and all manner of other miscellany, and we are incredibly thankful.  It's always great to have visitors like them :)

Our traveling has kicked up a notch, with Megan attending a work conference in Colombo for 5 days.  Flying was a bit unpleasant due to her increasing belly becoming increasingly uncomfortable, combined with the late-night flights, does not for a happy Megan make...  Our Hong Kong trip was much more enjoyable, however.  A shorter, direct flight & the relative ease made for a much more relaxing experience.  We were also able to fit in a good, solid shopping session at one of the SoHo baby stores which, even after a long day of traveling, saw Megan's eyes light up like an oasis in the desert.  She was able to pick up a few maternity items which aren't available in the Manila stores - she keeps blaming the Filipinas for all being far too skinny... 

For now though, we're back home & can put our feet up....  Well, sort of.  Purchasing our new car will undoubtedly make our lives much easier.  Getting a Manila taxi can be a harrowing, anxiety-promoting experience at the best of times, so after two years we've bitten the bullet & picked up our own vehicle.  Neither of us really wanted our newborn to have to ride in the back of a cab here...  the roads, safety standards & traffic is bad enough without having to share it with families of cockroaches & whatever else lives in the back of those cars....  
I did have a small win - we didn't have to get a mini van!!  We've got an SUV with 5 seats, which should be ample for the two of us with a baby seat.  It means, though, that we wont be able to have a driver, a yaya & all of our family/friends ride along with us wherever we go, but I'm not concerned about that at all.

And finally my broken foot is healing up nicely & I am getting much closer to being back on the rugby field to join my mates again.  No more sulking on the sideline!!

P.S.  We still have no idea about a name...