The (true) Story of Millie Harriet Carter
Part 1 - in hospital

Read Part 2 - at home

Read Part 3 - things get back to "normal"

Read Part 4 - a year in the life

Read Part 5 - summer in the city

Read Part 6 - a second Christmas 

Read Part 7 - a third year

Read Part 8 - Baby Amber cometh...

Read Part 9 - everything changes

Skip the introduction...

An Introduction

In January of 2005 my wife (the Lovely Melanie), 30, and myself (Stu), 33, found that after five years of marriage we were going to become parents, and both sides of our family were terribly excited, since we were the first of our generation to start a family (but we figured 30-odd years of just messing about, getting drunk and having a good time was probably about enough!)
The baby was due at the very start of October, so although we were nervous we thought we had plenty of time, and we even managed to sell our one-bedroom flat in south-east London and buy another one with more room and a garden - all ready for the new arrival...

As it turned out things weren't to go anywhere nearly as smoothly as we'd expected - and we expected things to be a bit difficult, just because of all the things we'd heard from other people about pregnancy and parenting being quite stressful; rewarding, but quite stressful.


The Lovely Melanie woke me up at just after midnight on Tuesday 14th June. She had quite a lot of "water" leaking out and running down her leg. We both of us knew this wasn't a good sign so we jumped into a taxi (thank you, Crofton Park Cars, for arriving so quickly that night!) and went to our local hospital, University Hospital Lewisham. We sat, blinking and yawning and very scared, in an empty waiting room for about an hour before we were seen by a midwife and doctor.
When we were were finally seen the news was about as serious as it's possible to get: Mel's waters had broken.

Now, normally this means that you'll be giving birth within the next 48 hours, but, as the doctor explained, since the Lovely Melanie was barely 24 weeks into her pregnancy we were at pretty much the outer limits of survivability for a baby. He explained the that the survival rates for 24-week gestation babies was significantly less than 50%, and that even if the baby did survive there was a very real possibility of "other problems" later on.

I can't even begin to get across to you how we felt that night. All I can really say is that that was one hell of a long, dark night.

The brightest glimmer of hope we had was that the baby might not actually be born yet. Babies can survive in the womb without all the amniotic fluid to cushion them. It's a far from ideal situation but they can and have done so. And every day the baby stayed inside Mel its chances of survival increased quite significantly - at roughly 1% every day. If, the doctor told us, the baby could hang on until 26 weeks then the survival rates were above 50%, if it stayed in until 30 weeks then survival rates were over 90%. The bad news was that in roughly 8/10 cases of the waters breaking this prematurely labour would begin within 48 hours and the baby would be born.
And so began a Very Bad Time for us.
The Lovely Melanie was stuck in hospital, sat in bed all day like a ticking time bomb, with nothing to really do but wait for labour to start. Imagine that: to put it very very starkly, she was sat around waiting for our child to pop out - which could happen at any moment - and probably (statistically speaking) die, or at least be terrifyingly poorly. What made things even worse was that the Lovely Melanie had never ever spent any time in hospital before for anything, so this was all new and bewildering for her. And I couldn't stay with her - I had to go back to work and sit there with my mobile in front of me, dreading what it could mean every time it rang, racing down to the hospital as soon as I could every evening. But the first 48 hours passed without incident. Then the next, then the next. We made it to the crucial 26-week point, and we began to hope we might be one of those fortunate few whose waters break early but still make it to a decent number of weeks gestation...

Well, our luck eventually ran out after two and a half weeks.
Fortunately I'd been so tired on the morning of Thursday the 30th that for the first time in ages I slept in for about 45 minutes; so at 7.50am I was literally about to leave the house for work - my bag was on my shoulder, my coat on - when my mobile rang.
It was the Lovely Melanie, very upset but perfectly coherent - the baby was in distress, it had done a poo in the womb and the doctors were talking about emergency intervention. Well, I was at the hospital within 20 minutes, just barely in time, because they rushed the Lovely Melanie into surgery almost as soon as I arrived. If I'd been five minutes later (because, say, I was already on my way to work) I wouldn't have gotten to speak to her or the doctors.

She was rushed, terrified, into the operating room and I was sent out to wait on my own in the room she'd spent so much time in. And, do you know, I surprised myself with how calm and philosophical I was about everything. I thought about the worst that could happen - losing both my wife and my child - I faced that possibility and...ignored it. Simply put it to one side and refused to even contemplate such an outcome. It was a nice day, I was on the third floor and I remember looking out over the rooftops of Lewisham, and feeling frightened but detached. I read my book for a bit, phoned family to tell them what was happening and drank some Diet Coke. It was very strange - a real "eye of the hurricane" type situation.

After roughly an hour (it felt like a longer, but not much longer) the surgeon came in.
I don't remember what his expression was, although I recall not being particularly frightened or relieved when I saw his face. He went on for about a minute about the practicalities of the situation before we got to the point: the Lovely Melanie and our child were both alive.
I don't remember being terribly surprised, oddly. The surgeon didn't volunteer any information about our baby other than that it was alive.
"Erm, is it a boy or a girl?" I asked.

And here's where it finally hit me.

"It's a girl," he replied.

And that thought lit up my brain, like a great shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds. That's really what it felt like: a beautiful, radiant beam shining into my skull, a fierce, all-encompassing joy. I smiled rather weakly, as I recall, thanked him and he left.


This "blog" began merely as a means to keep friends and family updated of Millie's progress without me having to answer endless well-meaning but enormously time consuming telephone calls. I'd had the website going for about three years, mainly archiving my science fiction book reviews, but also giving me a bit of space to get a few things off my chest now and again. Little did I know it was going to be so vital to us in 2005...

And that, pretty much, is where our story begins.


The original, unaltered Millie blog follows


Delivered by caesarean section to the Lovely Melanie and myself at Lewisham Hospital at 8.47am on Thursday 30th June 2005 - Millie Harriet Carter.
Weighing just 690 grams (1lb 7oz), but rushed to St Thomas' Hospital, Westminster where she is currently (Saturday 2nd July) doing well, as is her remarkably brave mother.

At the moment we're just glad Millie is holding her own. She's got a long fight ahead of her with absolutely no guarantee that she'll make it, so fingers crossed for her, eh?

What with all the panic and haste of the last couple of days I've been almost too busy to think, however, it suddenly struck me on Friday - 'I'm a dad' - and I nearly (I kid you not) fell over. I suspect this is why so many old people walk with a stick - the sheer amazement of seeing that their so tiny and defenceless children have miraculously grown up into enormous, beautiful adults might hit them again at any second and knock them to the floor.


Day 5 - I get to hold Millie for about 15 minutes.

Milestone #1 - Millie gets to hear her first song by the Divine Comedy (albeit sung rather badly by me) - Songs Of Love.
Milestone #2 - I swear in front of her.


Millie's a week old today and still going strong, as you can see from these photos of her outside the incubator with the Lovely Melanie.
Yesterday's highlights were: me changing my first nappy (Millie's, that is), and having to do it twice since she straightaway poohed on the clean one, and her mum finally getting a chance to hold her properly. Mother and daughter both seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience - Mel showing it by smiling and humming, Millie by opening her eyes and sticking her tongue out. That's my girl!

The Lovely Melanie's been discharged from hospital now and is back home (after some, ahem, occasionally a little intense wrangling with St Thomas' bureaucracy, who made her discharge rather like doing the Hokey-Cokey...), but she'll obviously be at the hospital every day, as will I, and as will Millie.
Oh, and huge teary-eyed thanks to our friend Nik for coming to pick Mel up from the hospital and take her home. You're a diamond geezer, mate. :-)

I had a wonderful moment yesterday: whilst crossing Westminster Bridge, completely oblivious on my way to see Millie, the Red Arrows suddenly and completely unexpectedly flew overhead, trailing red, white and blue smoke! Turns out we'd only gone and won the bloomin' Olympics for 2012. Oh, good.


If you're really hardcore here is a roughly 10-second video clip, and here is a one-minute clip; both are of Millie with eyes open, looking around, and were taken on Sunday afternoon.
I've compressed them so that even people without broadband should be able to download them without too much hassle.

They've moved the feeding tube from Millie's mouth to her nose now, which you'd never think would make much difference but - as I hope you can see in the photos and the video - Millie's now looking much less like an alien (or, as I confess I thought, like Stripe the gremlin) and much more like a baby. There was some tape holding the feeding tube on her chin which made it look very pointy, and with the tube and the tape gone she can pull some recognisable expressions and open and close her mouth much more easily. Coupled with the fact that she's now opening both eyes and waving her arms in the air like she just don't care, it's a wonderful sight.
She's still doing remarkably well according to the doctors and the evidence of our own eyes (we can't help getting worried that she's doing quite so well, both of us are expecting some kind of karmic retribution for such good luck...but we'll see). Yesterday (Saturday) she had a disconcertingly swollen stomach, but that was apparently due to the oxygen being blown into her nose by the mask making its way into her stomach as well as her lungs. The doctors expect a big fart anytime now, and police have cordoned off the area.

For the irredeemably visual amongst you here are two new pictures taken on Sunday -

Thanks to a few more people are due, too.
Obviously huge thanks for the cards, gifts and messages of support from everyone - we really are enormously grateful to have such great family and friends - but a special cherry on the top for "Uncle" Nik, "Uncle" JimmyMac, "Auntie" Wendy and "Uncle" "Local Businessman" Shash Khan for the lifts to and from St Thomas'; to my two nans (Millie's great-grandparents) for the knitting; to Uncle Rich and Carla for the picture frame, Steve and Kathryn for the lovely flowers, Brian, Sarah, Lucy and James for "Bobby", and to Graham, Julie, Sean and Holly for the lovely card with "Millie" embroidered upon it, which is now proudly taped to Millie's incubator to ward off any cases of mistaken identity. ;-)


At the risk of perhaps being overly optimistic about Millie's chances (she's still got a long way to go before she's home and dry - that should be emphasised occasionally), we took the plunge today and registered her birth with "The Man" (i.e. Lewisham Borough Council). So the cold, clammy fingers of authority are even now tap-tap-tapping the name "Millie Harriet Carter, 30/6/2005" into computers across the capital.

In return I was given a "basic" birth certificate. Quite what good the "basic" birth certificate actually is escapes me for the moment, because we have to pay 3.50 for a "full" one if we're to get Millie a passport. Maybe I'm thinking too far ahead here, but what exactly is the point of the "basic" birth certificate then? It's rather like being given, say, free travel on the trains but having to pay to open the doors...

Still, on the plus side, we got a voucher for free stuff from Boots. We have to fill in a questionnaire detailing everything except our shoe size, but then get some as-yet-undetermined goodies. Whoo-hoo!

This sounds a bit cynical of me, doesn't it? Sorry - I was actually quite moved to come away with even the "basic" certificate officially acknowledging the birth of my lovely daughter. To see her name in print on a nice piece of watermarked official foolscap shouldn't make any difference, but it's another part of her introduction to the world, another piece of recognition that she's here and she's real, which, with her stuck in hospital for a couple of months yet, means a lot more to us than to most new parents.

I say "stuck in hospital" but the Lovely Melanie and I have to thank the nurses and the doctors of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St Thomas' Hospital, who have been taking truly excellent care ("care", not "treatment", is the word) of not only Millie, but also her parents, too. Huge, massive, ginormous, grateful thanks to all of you - if we ever win the lottery then you're all of you going on holiday to somewhere very nice indeed at our expense!


Good news today (Thursday) is that Millie's topped her birth weight for the first time. It's a little known fact (is it a little known fact? The Lovely Melanie and I certainly didn't know it) that babies lose weight after they're born - something to do with the redistribution of fluids in the newborn body. Millie was born at 690 grams (1lb 7oz) and quickly dropped down to 650 grams (that's almost 10% of her bodyweight lost!), then she levelled out and has been slowly gaining weight ever since.
Well, today she topped 700 grams and, all being well, the weight gain should accelerate now that we're over the first couple of weeks.

Other news, is that Millie's being moved from St Thomas' Hospital back down to Lewisham Hospital where she was born. St Thomas' badly need the NICU beds and Millie is still, technically, a Lewisham gal.
++stop press++
We thought it would be today but it looks like it won't be now. There's been a sudden flurry of premature babies at Lewisham and all the NICU beds there are taken again. Sigh.


Friday, and even as I write this Millie should be packing up her troubles in her old kitbag ready for the journey down to Lewisham.
Definitely, this time. Oh, yes. No doubt about it. Mm-mm. She's practically there already.
Unless, of course, she isn't.

Update on the weight issue, as well (if Millie's anorexic in later life we'll know where that started, won't we?) - Millie's well over her birth weight now, and is on course to top two pounds some time in the middle of next week. The Lovely Melanie says it sounds a bit "desperate" to celebrate Millie weighing two pounds, but I don't think so, and I'll fight anyone who disagrees. Grr.

And finally, a big shouty "thank you" to Claire Pearson and her gentleman admirer, Rob, for the lovely present of practically a whole drawerful of "small baby" clothes. Some very good fashion choices there, you guys, so thanks very much. Ditto Tania & Ben - the clothes are beautiful. Many thanks also to Jill, Sam and Oscar for the beautiful flowers, and to Roger, Lynne, Nikki and Christopher for the very cute rattle.


Pictures from Sunday 17th July. Sorry it's been a whole week since the last lot.

Millie's now safely lodged in Lewisham Hospital, where she seems to be very happy. Certainly her weight has now reached 800 grams (as of Sunday morning - that's just over 1lb 12oz), and she's taking a feed of 4.5 millilitres (or Millie-litres! Ha ha!) per hour. A "feed" is a tiny amount of her mother's milk, taken straight into Millie's stomach by the tube you can just about see going into her mouth. She's also got an intravenous line going into her leg that's giving her extra nourishment, because Millie needs to be taking a hefty 5mls of nourishment an hour if she's to grow up to be a big, healthy baby, and when she can take down and digest a full 5mls per hour she gets the IV line taken out of her leg, which is good because it's another potential avenue for infection removed.

Taking the full 5mls by mouth will be a morale-booster for us, and it means Millie's stomach is working just as it should do. The amount of milk they're putting into her stomach has been steadily going up by 0.5mls a day (although it's been up and down, what with the wind and the move to Lewisham) but because Millie's so small and her stomach is so underdeveloped it's frankly something of an achievement for her to be taking any nourishment at all by mouth, let alone the full 5mls she needs - who's a clever girl, then?!


A quiet day yesterday. Sometimes there just isn't that much to write about.
Millie and I did make the most of it by having a nice bit of father-daughter time: I rested my hand on her head and just chatted to her about all the stuff I wanted to show her when she was older. Millie had her eyes wide open for the whole 20 minutes, too; not just eyes roving randomly around, but looking steadily in my general direction while I chatted away.
Even if we lose her now, I'll always have that moment.


Now we are two. Two pounds, that is. Millie now weighs 920 grams!

And she's not only broken that psychologically important barrier, she's also had the "long line" in her leg taken out.
The long line is an intravenous drip she's had in her leg since she was born, supplying her with food, vitamins and the like; up till now what nourishment Millie couldn't manage to take by mouth was being topped up by the long line, but it was decided today that she was taking enough milk by mouth that the long line could come out.
Most of those who've seen Millie will agree, I'm sure, that the long line was a particularly unlovely addition to her physique, not to mention yet another possible source of infection.
Well, not any more!

And speaking of infection, following an all-clear from any of that malarkey they're also going to be taking out the needle in Millie's arm today (I know what you're thinking - "How can such a tiny scrap of humanity have so many needles in her? Where do they find the space? How do they find the veins??"). That one was kept there to allow them to administer drugs whenever necessary without having to stick more needles in, and once this has been taken out then little Millie will be free of needles for the first time since she was born. So that's another milestone right there.

Again, we're still far from home-free yet, but all of this is very very good news for Millie. I mean, good grief, even her mother says it's "encouraging", which must mean it's stupendously good news, because the Lovely Melanie has been steadfastly refusing to see the bright side of almost any Millie news...


We've been getting so many messages of support from all over the world - our thanks to all you lovely people out there following Les tribulations de Millie. The membership cards are in the post, I promise, and the "I'm A Millie Maven" badges with them. ;-)

No new weight figures, Lewisham don't measure it every day, but fingers crossed we should reach a remarkable one kilogram today or tomorrow...
Oh, and Millie was three weeks old yesterday, another milestone which rather slipped by. Millie's a bit like the Queen (in more ways than one) since she has two "birthdays" at the moment, one is the actual birthday - every Thursday - and the other is how long she's been growing for - her "gestation birthday"; that's every Monday, and this Monday she'll reach the magic 30 weeks!
Frankly, I think we'll all be glad to see the back of her "20s" - they've been, ahem, a bit stressful.

Yesterday was something of a fidgety day for our little girl (though not, in consequence, as "fidgety" as it was for the Lovely Melanie). It was nothing serious, I think, just a general dissatisfaction with the accommodation, the nappy-changing and the room service ("Milk, milk, bloody milk - do you not have anything else, woman?!"). But if a little bit of grizzling is the worst we have to deal with before Millie comes home then I'll be a happy happy man indeed.
No, yesterday was just a bit unsettled for the poor girl; apparently babies simply are unsettled sometimes, even very small babies. The only thing that she did enjoy was coming out to lie on her mother's chest for a couple of hours; she was quiet and content for that whole time. And two hours out of the incubator is a personal best for Millie.

I was going to take some more pictures, but Millie had a load of gummy milk round her mouth - that stuff can be the devil to shift without really annoying a tiny baby - and wasn't looking her best, so I thought I'd try and get some tonight when not only are Nan and Gramp Carter coming up from Swindon, but so, for the first time, is Great Nanny Carter! Let's hope Millie has a more agreeable time of it today because that gummy milk's coming off regardless, my girl!


4 generations of Carters
Yes, four generations in one room. Quite remarkable, really.


More my godmother, Pat, for the beautiful soft blanket and the cuddly dog, both with "Millie" embroidered on them - I seldom get excited over cuddly toys or "bed linen" but these are lovely - thank you! And, in fact, to everyone who's bought Millie something and gone blatantly unacknowledged here - thank you!
My excuse is that we're moving house on Friday 29th. Yes, we are. Yes, it's terrible timing. Yes, we almost wish we weren't. No, the Lovely Melanie won't be doing any heavy lifting - we've paid Pickfords a small fortune to do it for us. Yes, we're very rich indeed to be able to afford that. No, it's not coming out of Millie's university fund. Oh, all right, yes it is, but I promise to put it back before she's old enough to realise.

There are some more photos I could put up on here, but I think I might save them for later in the week.
Millie had an uneventful weekend - except for coming out of the incubator for a cuddle with dad (me). She was unusually talkative, seeming to be muttering to herself for a good 10 minutes before she settled down. Probably something about this strange new furry grey surface she was lying on.

The doctors also think Millie might be able to come off the C-PAPP for good in a few days time. The C-PAPP is a machine that blows air up Millie's nose to help her breathe, like a ventilator but not breathing for her, just with her. Millie currently spends roughly 2 hours with it up her nose to every 6 hours without it (and she hates it - I mean, really obviously hates it!), but if she carries on doing as well as she is then she might be left to breathe entirely by herself. But we'll see. She's still very small and breathing by herself is still relatively hard work for her.

No posts about Millie's weight for a few days either. It actually went down by about 30 grams, which was obviously worrying. The doctors said this wasn't unusual and was nothing to be worried about: it was most probably caused by the switch away from the long line to being fed milk completely by mouth; this uses up energy to digest the milk, and with Millie still being so new to digesting milk it wasn't something to get concerned about unless it continued.
It didn't continue.
Millie's put it back on and is back on course for reaching the magic kilogram weight. But it does go to remind us how much of a roller coaster ride this whole business remains...


It's officially official - Millie's now 1020 grams! That's 1.02 kilograms or 2lbs 4oz!
She's also been off the C-PAPP machine for over 24 hours now with no ill-effects; and, just when we thought we couldn't get any prouder, the nurses have told the Lovely Melanie that Millie's the most well-behaved baby on the ward.

Great-auntie Jenny came up with Gran and Granddad Fisher last night and brought some very cute baby clothes with her. Millie's still not wearing clothes at the moment - not because she's particularly a free spirit, but because the temperature within the incubator is kept very constant, so clothes are unnecessary and would get in the way of the doctors and nurses. Give it another 8-10 weeks, however (fingers crossed) and she should be appropriately attired (although it'll be a good few months before she'll fit into the little "Anarchy!" t-shirt I bought her...)


Just time to mention some non-Millie news - that of me DJing at a club in Brixton in September ("Irresponsible father, call the Social..." I hear you mutter...)
But some friends and I used to run some club nights in London called Poodle Chaos (don't ask), and this year is the tenth anniversary of the first proper one we did. So on Saturday 24th September at the Canterbury Arms in Brixton we're staging a one-off comeback! Yes, terribly exciting, isn't it?

The whole thing's only for a laugh, really - reliving past glories, catching up with some old friends, etc. But if your dancing trousers will take the strain it's from 7pm till about 2am; entrance isn't free but will certainly be less than a fiver. I'm doing about a 45-minute set around 8.30, before the "proper" Poodle Chaos DJs come on and do their thumping techno thing.
And before anyone asks: no, I won't be playing the Minder theme. ;-)


No Millie news to speak of yet today, although I have my camera with me in order to get some pictures of the Unbearable Cuteness Of Being that follows my changing her nappy in the evenings...look out for those tomorrow - or maybe not for a few days, since we're moving house on Friday and that's going to throw everything to hell for a while. Wish us (and Pickfords) luck!

My morning update from the Lovely Melanie was a particularly heartening one in a long line of heartening ones - Millie's been taken off all but one of her monitors, which means that this afternoon the Lovely Melanie finally gets a chance to play "dollies", and dress her in some clothes.

The nurses also told her that although they're not actually planning to move Millie to the "least-intensive" care ward just yet, if there was a sudden influx of sick babies into her ward ("fairly-intensive" care) and they desperately needed some space then Millie is the one they could and would move.
She's still a lot smaller than most of the babies in there, but has been so stable and well behaved that the medical staff are confident she would be perfectly OK in least-intensive care.

Just realised, I haven't mentioned that mainstay of the baby-life here yet - poo.
And god knows, I could have, especially after yesterday. I could go on and on and on about it already...


With clothes by "Claire & Rob"


Nice to know the Millie-pic bonanza kept most of you happy while we've been moving house. Not all of you though - some of the more impatient out there were demanding to know what had happened while we were packing, moving, waiting for previous occupants to leave our new home, opening boxes, resealing boxes of books, opening more boxes, resealing more bloody boxes of bloody books, having a quick cry, opening more boxes, resealing boxes of toy robots, opening "one last bloody box before I give up and go to bed without any supper", going to bed without any supper.
But we have moved now, and our new home is - or will be - very nice, I think. We still have no internet connection at home but hopefully we can get that sorted by the weekend.

Millie hasn't been quite as well as usual. She had rather an unsettled weekend, very very fidgety and a bit unhappy, plus her oxygen saturation levels (the amount of oxygen she's managing to actually absorb) have been a bit unsteady. Not very unsteady, it's not really anything to get worried about, but Millie's normally very good on this particular front, and the doctors have been trying to figure out what could be causing it, given that all her other readings are fine, that she looks well and is putting on weight at a gallop (yesterday (Monday) she was 2lbs 11ozs - which I forget in grams, I'm afraid).
Millie has still been perfectly well enough to come out of the incubator and be held like a full term baby (albeit, swaddled up like a little kebab and with oxygen being blown in her general direction). That was lovely because you get to watch her little face - when you do the "kangaroo care" shown in the pictures, with her on your chest, you can't actually see her very well. So we've done that for a few hours over the weekend, which mitigated some of the stress of the move.

Other things which helped mitigate the stress of the move were our very very very very good friends Nik, Mike, Inge and Si, without whose help we'd probably have ended up with a bonfire of books in our back garden to put those of the Nazis to shame.
Books and toy robots. Burning. Bwah ha-ha-ha!


Slight change of plan in the Millie world today - hope she wasn't too confused when Dad came in to see her in the morning and Lovely Mum didn't get there till lunchtime. We were having a new washing machine delivered today ("sometime between 7am and 7pm" - mm, thanks for that military precision, Servis) so someone had to wait in for it. Which meant I got to see Millie in the morning, change nappies and catch the doctors on their rounds, for a change.

Not quite as good a news as usual (again): Millie's still desaturating occasionally (which means a drop in the amount of oxygen in her blood). Not badly, not seriously, but she keeps doing it, so the doctors are running a little tube to her nose to give her oxygen directly. They suspect the desaturations might be due to the level of oxygen in the incubator not being high enough (Millie's still very small - just 2lbs 13ozs as of today - so she's still working quite hard just to breathe at all). The incubator has higher levels of oxygen than the outside world, but they think this might not be consistent enough, since we have to open the incubator doors to change nappies, clean Millie, turn her over, etc., all of which let the oxygen out. So they're putting her on a bit of direct oxygen to see if this sorts out the desaturation episodes.

It feels like a step backwards, tubes back on Millie's face, help with breathing, and all, but Millie's still eating well, still gaining weight and looking more lovely with every passing day, so I'm not overly worried, rather just a little disappointed. Fingers crossed that she'll be off the direct oxygen sooner rather than later, eh?
Although, one plus of the direct oxygen is that it means she should be able to come out of the incubator for longer periods. Currently when she comes out she still has to have oxygen blown in her face, and does find the whole thing quite tiring, but now she should be able to come out more often and for longer periods.
So swings and roundabouts, eh?


Yes, more pictures. Note the new nasal prong; Millie's oxygen levels are still a touch erratic, but as you can see she was in fine form yesterday.

And we're seriously looking at breaking 3lbs at some time over the weekend now, which would be double her birth weight - definitely something to celebrate!
The Lovely Melanie and I both still find it hard to imagine a time when Millie might be the size of a common-or-garden full-term baby (which still seems enormous!), but she's undoubtedly on her way. Now when I put my hand over her head to comfort her it doesn't fit in my palm any more; plus, her ears, which seemed very big when she was first born, are now roughly the right size. And her hands, too - they were so perfectly formed and so like a tiny version of an adult's hands - they're now looking more and more like podgy baby hands.

Now, if we can just get these oxygen saturation levels sorted out...


Now we are three...
Yes, three pounds, that is. And two ounces, as of Saturday morning.
And that's after a very respectable bowel movement "for Daddy" on Friday night, too.
Um, I think I've got the days right - very tired after a whirlwind weekend of visitors, and even a night out clubbing, of all things, on Friday. I think I was supposed to thank some people for more lovely gifts and cards, too, but I'm terribly sorry, I can't for the life of me remember from who at the moment. No doubt the Lovely Melanie will kick me in the shins over this catastrophic failure on my part tonight. Ow.

Anyway, doctors at Lewisham are very happy with Millie's progress - they say that if the slight problems with her oxygen saturation levels were symptomatic of anything more serious then there almost certainly wouldn't be the impressive weight gains made by Millie. The oxygen saturation issue is by and large resolved now - Millie's levels have been so good that they actually reduced the amount of oxygen she's being given by one notch on the machine.
Of course, Millie, being Millie, started to desaturate (although not as quickly as previously) and they had to put them back up a notch, whereupon they went straight back to being perfect once more.
I get the impression we're being toyed with.

I also get the impression I'm being toyed with by Argos. We still have no internet at our new home yet so we went to our local store on Sunday to order some sorely needed furniture. After queing for 20 minutes (I kid you not, but this was in Catford so it's not that surprising) I am told by a surprisingly polite chap that they 'don't deliver to that postcode.'
'But it's only half a mile up the road,' I said, 'I could almost carry this furniture there on my back.'
'Ah, but this particular item is for home delivery only, sir,' I was politely informed.
' don't deliver to that postcode.'
'No, sir, we don't. Sorry. It may be a computer error - try ordering it online.'
Quickly thinking outside of the box (not to mention the proscribed delivery area) I agree to try that, and return TELEPHONE Argos to get delivery! Oh, yes, I was neck-and-neck with the foxes in the World Cunnning Championships yesterday, I can tell you.

When I get home, the phone is dead.
Jesus hates us and doesn't want us to have the two gorgeous, flatpack Argos wardrobes that would make our home complete. :-(

The second I finish typing the above I get a text from the Lovely Melanie, which I quote here...
'Millie weighs 1465 gms (nearly 3lb 4)!'


Millie's now 1.5 kilograms (that's 3lbs 5oz - but 1.5kgs sounds better, I think).
She's having her eyes checked today for, erm, well, I'm not quite sure actually. It's not exactly for glaucoma but for something similar - the blood vessels in the backs of her eyes are being checked, to see that they're OK. This involves putting some drops in Millie's eyes to make her pupils dilate, which I thought would make her howl (being a diabetic I've had the same drops put in my eyes quite a few times, and they sting!) But when I went in this morning on my way to work (I can't see her tonight as I promised her "Uncle" Si I'd help him with his new computer) she was just barely awake, eyes seemingly stuck at half open; and when the nurse dropped the, er, drops into her eyes she yawned and went to sleep.
So I can only assume they're a different sort of eye-drops (because the alternative is that daddy's a big moaning girl)

The Lovely Melanie has just texted to tell me that her eyes are absolutely fine. We thought they probably were, since Millie definitely does lock her gaze onto things, but it's nice to be sure.

One thing we've noticed is that Millie's really really filling out now. Two days ago (Sunday) we took a look back at all the photos we have of "The Millster" (as her mother has taken to calling her) and were a bit shocked at how small, wrinkly and bird-like Millie looked way back in early July. The changes in her - certainly for us, seeing her every day - have been so gradual that we unconsciously assumed Millie hadn't changed that much in the five and half weeks since she was born.

But she has.

If you scroll down to the pictures at the bottom of this site you'll hopefully see what I mean: these days Millie looks like a baby, albeit one looked at through the wrong end of a telescope; whereas back then I remember looking at her and thinking she was absolutely lovely, but now, looking at those photos again, she somehow manages to look even more raw and scrappy and fragile than I recall.
And I can't help thinking how staggeringly lucky we've been so far throughout all of this. All of this - nearly six weeks of unbroken good luck and excellent medical care. It feels like much longer, I promise you - it's still hard to believe there's a good six weeks left before Millie's even likely to be coming home...but after the last six weeks, there's almost nothing the next six can frighten us with.


This just in via text from the Lovely Melanie at University Hospital Lewisham - 'No real Millay news. No real weight gain, everything as yesterday. Fast asleep.'
Which is just fine by me. :-)


What can I tell you? Another slow day at the NICU.
Millie a bit unsettled again yesterday, lots of waving of tiny fists and feet about the incubator; and more angry faces than we normally see. Fortunately we have a secret weapon - the Scooby Doo theme! Millie always quietens down when I sing her that - only the 'Scooby-dooby doo, where are you? We got some work to do now...' bits - we don't bother with the faster middle bit, you know - 'You know we got a mystery to solve, so Scooby Doo be ready for your act...' etc. That bit's a little too fast for a lullaby. The rest of it works really well sung quietly and in more of a ballad style though. :-)
Hopefully she'll get a bit more adventurous with her music taste, like her dad, maybe into get into a bit of my two New Favourite Bands - Acid House Kings and Treva Whateva (not to be confused with her Uncle Trevor, obviously). And maybe even Ambulance Ltd, currently bubbling along nicely on my mp3 player...
The Lovely Melanie refuses to sing for Millie, but I actually quite enjoy it, especially since it works so well to calm her down.
And it is her "birthday" today, too - six weeks old. I even skipped a works' party yesterday, with free food and champagne, to come down and see my girl. Now that's what I call dedication!

And not only do we have our phone working at home again, so if you've phoned us recently and we haven't bothered to pick up the call, or get back to you, it's because the phone was knackered, not because we hate you. Probably.
And we've got the broadband working again - and it's 2Mb! Now, that's livin' alright!


Wednesday 10th August

Finally, some Millie news to really sink your teeth into and taste the red blood of progress coursing down your smeared chin!

Well, where to start?
Yesterday (Thursday) saw Millie put into proper baby clothes - the full body suit and underclothes, and the heating in the incubator turned off (although it's been at a very low level for some time now), all in preparation for Millie to be moved into a normal cot, rather than an incubator, as she's spent her entire life in so far.
When we left her last night they were just getting ready to move her, but Millie had been fully clothed for most of the day, and was loving it. She was happier and sleeping better than just about ever before (so it looks as though that infamous Carter "Naturism" gene has skipped another generation, thank goodness).
No proper pictures yet, but I promise I'll get some tonight. She was looking quite ridiculously cute. Ludicrously cute. Insanely cute! So that cute that **EDITED DUE TO EXCESSIVE HYPERBOLE**

And as if the miracle of the clothed-baby-moving-into-a-cot wasn't enough, Millie was also breast-fed for the first time yesterday.
She wasn't very good at it (let's not beat around the bush - she was rubbish), however, she did manage to get a little milk AND she loved the whole experience. She cried when she was taken off and put back into the incubator, and kept making sucking movements and sticking her tongue out for hours afterwards.

So the Scooby-doo theme didn't need to be sung once yesterday.


Sunday 14th August
Millie's now on very little oxygen indeed, continues to put weight on and can regulate her own temperature with ease...but the proof of the pudding is surely in these pictures...
We were a very happy family this afternoon. :-)


Tuesday 16th August
In The Guardian today there's a fascinating article by the always-readable George Monbiot about religion, which set me thinking, because it follows a lovely email from a new friend of Millie's in Maine in the USA (hello, Maura!) asking whether, following Millie's birth, I was still a "godless heathen" (as per my email address on here). And I said that, honestly, I did think about this during some of the darker moments soon after Millie was delivered, but not once, not ever, did I feel a need or desire to pray or ask for help from any kind of god - and neither, so she tells me, did the Lovely Melanie.
And I was actually rather pleased that both our beliefs held up during those days, because if they were ever going to buckle then that would have been the time. But neither of us ever thought that a quick prayer would be anything more than a gesture, one designed to try and make us feel we were doing something - anything - constructive.

So I remain, probably more than ever, having gotten through the most difficult period of my life without any "spiritual" aid, a godless heathen. ;-)

As to Millie, she remains very much fine. She's actually lost about 20 grams of weight since the weekend, but the doctors say that's to be expected as she's burning more energy keeping herself warm now she's out of the incubator. Expectations that she might need another blood transfusion about now have also come to naught, as the slight anaemia she had has also cleared up, and there's now serious talk of getting her off of oxygen altogether and then moving her to the somewhat-intensive care ward (and the next move from there is home!)

And Millie continues to look as beautiful as her mother; albeit, a little bit smaller.


Wednesday 17th August
Very quickly - we don't need no steenkin' oxygen no more, senor. That's the word from the hospital! Millie's had the nasal prong taken out of her nose, has put on weight and will probably be moved to the somewhat-intensive care ward with all the big babies later on today.
Aye caramba!

As if that wasn't enough, the doctors have even mentioned "going home" for the first time!

In about two weeks they'll begin looking seriously at Millie coming home, all other things being equal. This is a bit of a shock, and means we'd best get a move on sorting the house out (we're still living mostly out of boxes), but wonderfully heartening news. :-)

Next big hurdle is getting her to feed, since at the moment she has a tube going through her mouth directly into her stomach which is giving her all the milk and stuff she needs. For her to come home she needs to be able to feed for that's the next big hurdle.
Fingers crossed for our little senorita that it goes as smoothly as almost everything else...

Oh, I hate decorating... :-(


Friday 19th August
Which room is Millie the hospital?
Is it, one: Room D. Is it, two: Room B. Or is it three: Room A? That's your final answer? You're sure...?

If you'd said, one - Room'd have been wrong. Millie was in Room D, the fairly-intensive-care room until yesterday, but she's not there any more.
If you'd said, two - Room B... Well, they did move her from Room D to Room B, the somewhat-intensive-care room, yesterday.
However, the correct answer is, three - Room A!
Millie was in B for a few hours, but was doing so well that when they needed space for a whole bushel of new babies on the ward they moved her to A, which isn't really deserving of the name "intensive care", since it's essentially a nursery with a couple of extra machines in it, and the only way babies get out of there is by going home.

Which, I should stress, doesn't mean we're a booking a taxi from University Hospital Lewisham back to Forest Hill just yet. What it does mean is that Millie's just biding her time in there until she's big enough and well enough able to feed so that she can go home. Personally, I think that's probably a good month away yet, possibly a little longer, but I think it's safe to say we're talking weeks rather than months now. It seems hard to imagine taking her home and not spending hours of every day in hospital. After all the unpleasantness of these past two months (because that's all it's been, unbelievable as it seems to us) we can get back to living something of a normal life, not too different from the way we were before.


I think it's going to be very very strange, you know.


Monday 22nd August
No updates over the weekend due to, one, the computer at home being unplugged because, two, we've been decorating hard, meaning that, three, I've barely seen Millie the whole weekend. :-(

But, we're still slowly making the changeover to feeding by mouth, rather than by tube. Millie's still taking the majority of her feed by tube, however she now only gets it every three hours, to try and accustom her to a "feeding time". She is also beginning to take milk from a bottle. We've tried her with the breast (well, I say "we", the Lovely Melanie has) but Millie's still a little bit too small for that, although she has enjoyed it when placed in the right place...
But on Friday night I got to feed Millie with a bottle of her mum's milk with her sat on my lap, which was just such a lovely experience, I can't tell you. Although it was bit nerve-racking at times, not knowing quite what Millie's capabilities are - when to stop, how much support to give her, where to support her, how hard to rub/pat when winding her, etc, etc, etc...
It was another step in becoming a dad though, interacting with Millie and doing things for her, another one of those moments that makes everything completely and utterly worthwhile, and almost erases the memories of the past few months. When I was winding her I was fully expecting her to start to cry, what with daddy's big, rough, hairy hands mauling her back and thumping her across the shoulders, but she was fine. She kept up a little sort of agreeable groaning noise when I was patting her back and just gurgled happily when I was rubbing, which fair melted this cynical old man's heart, I can tell you.

What else? Well, Millie now weighs 3lb 12oz, and can we put this? let's just say that the muscles in the lower parts of her digestive system are remarkably well-developed. When we've been changing her in hospital she's managed to spray wee from her cot almost to the middle of the ward; and we don't even want to think about the incident with the other stuff...

So everything continues to go as well as could possibly be hoped for, and I'm seriously starting to think about the more practical aspects of bringing her home, rather than staring off into the distance and thinking wistfully about having our little Millie at home...

Oh, and there are unlikely to be any picture updates for a few more days while we finish decorating, putting furniture together and trying to remember exactly where all those funny little leads fit in the back of the computer! But expect a Millie bonanza when we do get it all up and running once more.


Tuesday 23rd August
Still no computer at home (and the decorating has very temporarily ground to a halt thanks to incompetence on the part of Argos).
But thanks to the magic of my brand-new mobile phone, bluetooth and my computer at work, here are some pictures I took last night with the aforementioned phone. The pictures of me with Millie were taken just after I'd been feeding her and was trying to wind her.

Millie is taking to the new feeding very very slowly - she seems to almost get the hang of taking a bottle into her mouth, sucking and then swallowing, but tends to forget the exact order these things should go in, or she just plain forgets she has a bottle in her mouth. At the moment she does better with her Dad feeding her (which I'm secretly quite pleased about), but we've only been trying for a couple of days, and fully expect Millie to get the hang of it all of a sudden (as she does with most things) very soon.


Friday 24th August
Just two weeks until Millie comes home. "Could be," not "will be". I'm still assuming it'll be three weeks.
The doctors have told us, only half-joking, not to take too long over our DIY at home (about which, I do not want to talk).

Millie was 3lbs and 14 ozs yesterday and still going strong, so she'll almost certainly hit 4lbs sometime over the weekend! As well as that, she's had all of her monitors removed, the last one (on her foot) went on Wednesday night. The only trailing wire now is the feeding tube from her nose, but even that will probably be gone by Monday as Millie's just about mastered the whole feeding rigmarole. The nurses want to keep that tube in until she's consistently been feeding herself for another two days, as it can be very tiring for such a small baby, and Millie can sometimes benefit from saving the energy involved in gulping down a whole bottle of milk, and having a wee sleep instead.
Although, that said, since she mastered the art she's shown no such signs yet - quite the opposite in fact!

What else...?
Well, the Lovely Melanie gave our girl a bath on Wednesday, too, and dad's going to have a go tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that enormously - just as much I look forward to feeding her. When you feed your child the whole world around you seems to disappear and nothing else matters, it's just you and her doing just one fairly simple task which you both enjoy, and it's wonderfully relaxing. It easily beats clubbing, nights down the pub, a really good gaming session on the computer - in fact, just about anything. The perfect antidote for the stresses of trying to get a new home painted and liveable. I just wish I got to do more of one and less of the other...


Friday 26th August (still)
A quick bit of London-based but non-Millie news ("what?" I hear you say, "Is there such a thing?")
Just wanted to stick the knife into the hate-mongering, bilious rag that laughingly calls itself "London's paper", by pointing out that a month ago (on July 28th) the Evening Standard printed an article about Dar Al Taqwa, a small Muslim bookshop here in London, basically accusing it of being a hotbed of Islamic extremism and hatred.
Which was a lie.
Unlike the Standard, Dar Al Taqwa has always stood for peace, tolerance and understanding - and the reporter who wrote the story has been shown to have known that. He knew, and he still wrote the story.
Now, despite this little shop having been the subject of a torrent of violent threats and abuse ever since the article was published (with the Dar Al Taqwa address and phone number included, for good measure), the Standard has refused to apologise or print a retraction.
(Here's some more background if you're interested)
And to those of you who can buy/read the Standard, might I suggest that you don't?

Sorry to interrupt the Millie news flow, but I really really dislike the Standard, and this is simply one more reason why...


Saturday 27th August
Ooh, hark at me going on about Muslim bookshops while there are cute pictures of Millie to be putting up!
These were taken on Thursday when Millie had her hearing test (she passed, by the way), hence her looking a bit like a DJ in the first one. And she looks as though she's asleep in the second one because, as you can see, she's coming to the end of her bottle, and drinking a bottle of milk still requires quite a lot of effort from such a wee little girl. Millie usually has to be kept awake to finish the end of a bottle.


Sunday 28th August
All kinds of news to report from yesterday, all of it good!
Dad got to give his girl a bath, and I think both dad and Millie were a bit surprised by that - Millie because dad has bigger, rougher, hairier hands than the Lovely Melanie, and dad because it wasn't nearly as scary as everyone had warned me. "Ooh, a wet baby is a slippery baby - they have no friction whatsoever and will go flying out the window as soon as you touch them!"
Which isn't entirely true.

The most worrying thing was having her mother standing over me going, "Careful she doesn't get cold! Oh, watch out you don't drown her. Oh, make sure you don't stick a rusty pole up her bottom!" Et cetera et cetera. I pointed out at least four times that I wasn't a complete idiot, but it didn't make a blind bit of difference. ""Oh, careful you don't accidentally take her out of the hospital, fly her over to China and expose her to bird flu, thus precipitating a global pandemic!"

But that aside, the bath was a lovely experience - Millie cried when I first put her in, but she soon got used to it and just looked absolutely amazed by the whole experience. I'm sure I had the same expression on my face, too. :-)
Just being able to pick her up and carry her around is a real gift at the moment, as we've waited so long to be able to touch her, hold her and just do all the stuff "normal" parents do within seconds, literally, of their kids being born. It's not been so bad, because we both hadn't really quite known what we were missing, but now we can touch her, hold her, etc. it's like a drug - you just want more and more. It's very very hard not to stroke her face or hold her little hands all the time while she's asleep. Little babies need their sleep however. :-(

Then, of course, it was feeding time again. This took a bit longer than usual, mainly because the poor little mite was exhausted from having a bath and being absolutely amazed. She's on four-hourly bottle feeds at the moment (mostly her mum's milk but still given via bottle), which is a step up from the last few days when she was on three-hourly feeds. They're seeing if she's happy moving to four hours and using the bottle exclusively, instead of the feeding tube which is still up her nose. However, we were told if she can take all of her feeds via the bottle for a whole 24 hours then the tube can come out of her nose; then a nurse happened to casually mention that with the tube gone there wasn't really any reason why Millie couldn't go home "next week".
The Lovely Melanie were a bit gobsmacked by this (and I'm sure we both thought the same thing at that moment - an image of the boxes, dustsheets and paint pots littering our flat at the moment) but...well, there you go. After all this time the drama really could be over within 6-7 days.

And what I keep thinking is that I'd like to be able to do something like in one of my stories, and go back a couple of months, just to tell us back then that everything was going to be all right.

Sorry, had to stop there for a minute to cry.
Just typing that "everything was going to be all right" suddenly hit me rather hard. I've only cried once during this whole thing, and that was before Millie was born, when Mel was in hospital; but now it's actually true, isn't it? Everything really is going to be all right. :-)


Monday 29th August
Well, some rather shocking news today - Millie feeding tube is out, she's now sans any kind of lead or tube or monitor at all. She's completely on her own. And not only that, but they're very very seriously talking about her coming home - with us, for good - on Friday! This Friday, in four days time!

Wonderful wonderful news, but also a bit sudden - especially considering we were once told (many moons ago) that Millie was "extremely unlikely to go home before her due date" - the same due date that's still a whole month away...
Personally I think Millie's ready, but they're keeping her in for a bit longer mainly just to check that she can keep up her remarkable progress. Even so - Friday!!

If you can't wait that long (like us) then here are some pictures of Millie completely au naturelle...


Wednesday 31st August
Falling behind a bit with everything, I'm afraid. Still, at least we've painted the living room and it's ready for the furniture to go back in - we can finish off the rough edges and stuff later on...
Christ, decorating's wearing down my heart like three months of hospital never could. :-(

As for Millie, I'm home briefly this evening to grab some dinner, pick up some things and update this website before heading off to Lewisham Hospital one penultimate time. Tonight and tomorrow night the Lovely Melanie and I are "rooming in" there, which means we get given a little private room with a bed, and Millie comes in with us, to be looked after by us and only us, unless something goes wrong. It's meant to teach us how to look after Millie, but I think it's a waste of time; we've been "looking after her" for weeks now - we've got far more experience of nappies and feeding and comforting and carrying and cleaning and general baby behaviour than the parents of any common-or-garden newborn baby have, and they get sent straight home, so I'm at a loss to understand why we should have to go through this rigmarole, as it's, frankly, a pain in the ass.

But on the plus side, Millie's had eye-tests and two vaccinations - she cried at the first (BIG!) needle, but only yawned when the second one went in - she's nothing if not a brave little girl, we knew that, but she's also quite a cocky one, too. She also, finally, hit 4lbs today. Hooray!

And now I have to go to the hospital - the next update will probably be on Friday or Saturday, when Millie's home - did I mention she's definitely scheduled to come home on Friday? Barring something unpleasant happening, that is, so fingers crossed one last, final time, eh?


Thursday 1st September
Well, that went well - the first night in an unfamiliar room for our little girl with only her parents for company.
Millie took a while to settle down last night, not crying but just throwing her arms around and making quite a lot of general squeaking, puffing and snuffling noises, but she did sleep, and the Lovely Melanie and I slept reasonably well, too (although we'd have slept better if Lewisham Hospital didn't keep all their rooms at a steady 30 degrees C!).
I did her 11pm and 7am nappy change and feed, whilst the Lovely Melanie - who doesn't have to get up and function at work, and can "power nap" during the day without getting sacked - did the 3am feed. I pretty slept right through anything that happened then, and I fully intend to keep on sleeping through most of that time!
In fact, the whole night went exactly as I'd expected: no surprises, no unexpected behaviour on Millie's part. Exactly what I'd expected. The only change from any normal night is that I'm now very tired, very dehydrated, and falling inexorably behind on getting the "new" house sorted.

The only minor bit of drama was when the Lovely Melanie went out to do some milking after the 7pm nappy change, leaving daddy and Millie alone in the room. Everything was going quite well - Millie laid on my chest while I watched TV and ate some Minstrels - until she got hiccups. After about 10 minutes of (very cute) hiccups I thought letting her suck on her dummy might help, and it seemed to, so I reached for my phone to get a picture of a contented little hiccuping girl...
And Millie was sick over herself, over her blanket and over her top.
Cue some confusion while I try to put my phone on the bedside table, which leads to Minstrels spilling all over the bed, while sick runs down Millie's chin and soaks into her clothes and bedding and I'm unable to find any tissues to catch it with.
But everything worked out fine - the Lovely Melanie returned about ten minutes later to find a sparkling clean and newly-changed Millie lying back in her cot under the watchful eye of an only-slightly-hyperventilating dad. :-)

We're still on course to go home tomorrow sometime. Hopefully it'll be in the morning as I'm just about finished with the whole staying-in-hospital project now, and am itching to get started on the living-at-home-as-a-family project.

And did I mention, I start my long-delayed paternity leave from tomorrow - two weeks (at 100 a week - the absolute bog-standard statutory legal minimum in this country), and then immediately followed by a week of holiday (at full pay, thank goodness!), so no work for me for three whole weeks! Huzzah!
Who knows, I might even get some book reviews done...


Friday 2nd September
The flags are out!

Oh, my goodness, yes. It's carnival time here in south-east London!
Why? This is why...



Friday 2nd September (continued)
Sorry, I just couldn't resist putting these up. I just couldn't...

Or these two bits of film (1Mb each, for those of you on dial-up...)
One here and another one here.