Some unstructured thoughts on having a baby

Some people say childbirth can drive a wedge between husband and wife, but frankly, until m’sheaf came along we never used to say things to each other at 3:30am like, “Now, this damp patch on his left hip: is that something we knew about?”

Paediatricians (affectionately if worryingly described by their colleagues as “the paeds”) have an odd habit of introducing themselves as, “Hello, I’m Alice, I’m one of the doctors here today.” What is the function of the words “here today”? Obviously you’re here today otherwise I wouldn’t be able to hear you n

The door labelled “Milk Kitchen” on the maternity ward had me confused for a moment, then I realised it was nothing to do with kashrut.

You can sing the words “steam steriliser” to the tune of Smooth Operator.

The following phrases are not reassuring when spoken by a midwife:
1. “Oh, I’m sure it’s fine, lots of people will have looked at it.”
2. “We’re supposed to advise against that, but you sound pretty well-informed.”
3. “Bless ‘im! Gee whizz!”
4. “There are some risks associated with that, but sometimes they outweigh the benefits.”

When filling out nursery application forms, the temptation when it says, “Mother’s details” is still to put my mother’s details.

No, your feed is not coming from your far right, Omri. Craning your neck over there isn’t going to help. Why are you even doing it? When has your feed ever come from the far right? Why would we feed you from such a stupid angle?

Some designs of babygro to which I strongly object:
1. Those making a joke at the baby’s expense (eg mock prison uniform which bears the legend, “I was inside for 9 months,” which is incidentally also discriminatory against pre-term babies).
2. Those that are overly familiar, eg “Born to be Wild”.
3. Those that impute emotions to the baby, eg “I love mummy this much” with a picture of a large octopus, arms akimbo.
4. Those that include an arbitrary picture of a large octopus for no discernible reason.
5. Those that have no internal logic as to the items depicted on them, eg a repeating pattern consisting of rabbits, hopscotch, ice cream, houses and tractors.
6. Those that miscolour some but not all of the items depicted, eg elephants in grey, lions in yellow, and giraffes for some reason green and blue.

I consider myself to have scored a hat-trick if, while doing a change, I deal with three separate bodily fluids from three separate orifices.

Baby clothes all say, “Keep away from fire” – does this mean the clothes or the baby?

These days you can’t even name a child after a king the Bible describes as “wicked” without at least one rabbi raising their eyebrows! (Omri the First set up centres of religious worship in addition to the main Temple in Jerusalem. The Deuteronomist calls it heresy; I call it outreach.)

Whenever you ask any medical professional for any advice about anything, they always ask, “Is there any blood in his poo?” – do you not think that if there was blood in his poo we’d have led with that?

No, your feed is not coming from your far left either. Just turn your face to be looking forwards!

A doctor showed us how to soothe him by putting a finger in his mouth… but now he’s got wise to that trick, takes 2-3 sucks, then adopts a look of huge betrayal and cries when he realises that no milk is forthcoming. Ditto when we play music and rock him: he knows that we’re lulling him to sleep, he can’t prevent it, but he gives us a look like, “I know what you’re doing to me.”

Nurses love his hair. One particularly sour nurse regulating entry to A&E was rude to everyone – “Go and sit there, NO, NO VISITORS ALLOWED!” until she saw Omri’s hair: “Oh hello there! Oh, look at that hair!”

“Hello, NHS 111, can we have your child’s name and date of birth?”
“Ah yes, here he is on our system.”
“Was he born full-term? Any complications? Did he receive jaundice treatment?”
What is the point of finding him on the system if the system contains no information?

Lots of new clothes needed of course… and not just for the newborn, but spare pyjama bottoms (and more spare pyjama bottoms, and more spare pyjama bottoms) for those who spend their nights holding him…

“Hello GP, I’d like to register a new baby with you.”
“You need to do the form on the website, then bring in your documentation.”
“What documentation?”
“Details of previous GP.”
“He’s a newborn baby.”
“Photo ID.”
“He’s a newborn baby.”
“Proof of address.”
“Can you hear me OK?”

No, my clavicle does not produce milk no matter how hard you suck on it.

Yup, same goes for mummy’s nose.

“Hello, bank, you want three years of address history for him? OK. The maternity ward. Then before that, the womb. Then before that…”

Doing find-and-replace on a gift list, changing “muslin squares” to “Muslim squares”, offers some light entertainment in the small hours.

Huge shout-out to the nurse who asked, “What formula does he take? Oh yes, I think we have some of that,” then reached into what’s basically a newborn minibar and withdrew a miniature bottle of the stuff. What a good vintage it was too!

An iPad is great for reading while soothing a baby, but once he learns to flail then he tends either to turn the pages or adjust the brightness.

Getting through 12 outfits in a day is a misfortune, not a target.

“I wonder what breast-milk tastes like.”
“Apparently it tastes like whatever your favourite food is.”
“Are you sure you’re not thinking of manna?”
“Oh yes, that is manna.”

Screaming because you have a wet nappy, and then screaming because it is being changed for a dry nappy, shows worrying inconsistency.

Newborn babies in this county are actually, genuinely, screened for something called “maple syrup disease”.

Preparing for Limmud at Home

Limmud is coming to you this year. But for those missing a traditional wintertime Limmud experience, here are some top tips:

The site

  • Designate your rooms as ‘Red 1’, ‘Yellow 5’ etc, and lay down coloured footprints to remind you how to access them.
    • Bonus points if you attend the most popular sessions from your smallest rooms.
  • Arrange for your neighbours to host loud lectures that can be heard through the walls on both sides of your lounge.
  • Replace your toilet with 30 urinals.
  • Prepare a special T-shirt to wear when serving yourself copious drinks later in the evening.

The food

  • Only eat meat once over the course of Limmud, but eat three lunches per day.
  • Make sure that you are missing precisely one of (i) tea, (ii) hot water, (iii) sugar and (iv) milk at all times.
  • Leave out a tray of biscuit crumbs to disappoint you when you’re hungry between sessions.
  • If your spouse or partner is ahead of you in the queue at mealtimes, try to find some excuse to barge in front.
  • Set up a tent for grab-and-go.
  • Be incredibly rude to the coffee shop volunteers baristas at your local café, especially if they’re young women.
  • Leftovers from dinner should be mildly disguised and then served again at breakfast.
  • That amazingly thick, pale pink salad dressing you only ever get at Limmud is very hard to buy in supermarkets, but calamine lotion is widely available from pharmacies.
  • Sanitise your bloody hands. It’s as if 2020 never happened to you. You disgust me.


  • Have your spouse or partner take the end of the sofa and refuse to stand up to let you past.
  • At a normal Limmud, everyone loves to yell out, “We can’t hear!” whenever anyone asks a question at less than 450 decibels. This year, that cry will be replaced with, “You’re on mute!” If anyone starts speaking while on mute, even for just a second, it is mandatory for all other participants to point this out at considerable length.
  • When the speaker invites you to put questions in the chat, that is your opportunity to message hi to David from Carshalton (in full view of everyone else), to type out an impassioned op-ed about how much you hate Yachad, or to ask if anyone knows what time Clive Lawton is on.

Enjoy Limmud 2020, stay safe, and come to hear the wonderful Adam Wagner and myself talking about lockdown laws on Sunday.