Saturday, 19 December 2015

The twelve days of Kidmas

On the first day of Christmas my baby gave to me
A giant poonami

On the second day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the third day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the fourth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the fifth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the sixth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the seventh day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Seven loads of laundry
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the eighth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Eight milky muslins
Seven loads of laundry
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the ninth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Nine goofy giggles
Eight milky muslins
Seven loads of laundry
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the tenth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Ten sticky fingers
Nine goofy giggles
Eight milky muslins
Seven loads of laundry
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the eleventh day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Eleven minutes' me-time
Ten sticky fingers
Nine goofy giggles
Eight milky muslins
Seven loads of laundry
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami

On the twelfth day of Christmas my baby gave to me
Twelve precious cuddles
Eleven minutes' me-time
Ten sticky fingers
Nine goofy giggles
Eight milky muslins
Seven loads of laundry
Six tepid coffees
Five hours' sleep
Four squitty turds
Three tantrums
Two AWOL socks
And a giant poonami


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Prams and prejudice

Like all good hypocrites, I'm about to have a healthy rant about something which I was guilty of myself up until only recently.

Before little miss graced us with her presence, I had little time for the pram-pushing posse of parents with an uncanny knack for blocking aisles, doorways and pavements when I needed to get somewhere.  My intolerance probably stems from seven years of London life, where I was one of the 'elbows up' brigade who thought Oxford Street needed a fast lane, who had a wide portfolio of tut sounds reserved for shuffling tourists and teenagers and who was always running late, half thanks to TFL and half thanks to my love affair with the snooze button.

Becoming a mother changed everything.  Suddenly I find myself walking in the sensible shoes of those tired pavement trudgers trying to manoeuvre unwieldy vehicles down uneven streets littered with obstacles and tutting pedestrians.

In the past few months, I've nearly up-ended my precious cargo over a particularly problematic kerb, abandoned shopping because trying to manoeuvre down crowded aisles was annoying me as much as fellow shoppers, and had to do about-turns on pavements rendered impassable by vans or wheelie bins.  I've gone for lunch where they seated seven of us, each with a pram, on the mezzanine level, meaning we each had to stand sheepishly at the top of three steps waiting for staff to help us get back down again when it was time to leave.  I haven't even entertained the idea of taking a train anywhere, for fear that my peculiarly British trait of not wanting to ask for help will mean little miss and I are stranded at the stairs-only station all afternoon while my pleading looks inevitably end up looking more like resting bitch face.

Husband and I didn't really bring practicality into researching prams.  We reasoned that living in suburbia rather than the Serengeti meant we didn't need a zippy little all-terrain number, and ended up with a beautiful but bulky Italian model.  While the pram's perfectly serviceable, I regret now that we were sucked in by its impossibly chic promo video (glamorous madre in heels, padre in a sharp suit) and detachable coffee cup holder (which, in a bitter twist, doesn't even accommodate my cappuccinos) rather than considering whether it was up to the job of navigating clogged pavements, muddy parks and country roads.

So next time you find yourself tutting as you find your festive shopping put on hold by a struggling mother laden down with a squawking infant and a bevy of bags, please remember, when you become a pram-pusher, the world is no longer your oyster but an obstacle course.  I tell myself things will be different once little miss starts walking, but that's probably the festive delusion setting in!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Baby, I'm amazed

It's almost a year to the day since we found out that you were on your way, and that I'd be spending the festive season fooling no-one with my lame excuses for sobriety.  Your frantic arrival in July, three weeks earlier and a pound lighter than expected, turned our world upside down and shook it vigorously like a vibrant, sparkling snowglobe.  We're counting down to Christmas this year far worse off in terms of money, free time and sleep (I even need to schedule in time to cut my own toenails these days), but the giddy excitement that we're sharing it with the newest, cutest addition to our little family more than makes up for this.

In the first few weeks after welcoming you into the world, we quickly realised we had a little diva on our hands, with a fussy outlook, insatiable demands and a powerful, neighbour-bothering pair of lungs.  We decided that our little handful had small baby syndrome, and quite frankly, though you've almost tripled in weight since birth, you still do.  But I marvel every day at the speed at which you're learning and growing, the complex little personality emerging, how beautiful you're becoming.

There have been dark moments, of course.  The three threatened miscarriages which dominated the first half of my second trimester of pregnancy, each heavier and with a bleaker prognosis than the previous one.  Watching my tiny daughter trying to fight off an infection which laid her low at only two weeks old.  My own early episodes of weakness when I agonised over whether I knew what I was doing, if I would ever get a decent sleep again, when you would ever give us a sign that you felt we were up to the job and making you happy.

I needn't have worried on the last point.  Since you started rewarding our hamfisted but well-meant parenting efforts with gorgeous gurgles and smiles, I've realised that we're getting it right at least some of the time, and that despite being tiny, you can match the infinite amount of love we have for you.  I've seen snippets of a glorious, goofy sense of humour emerging, and even if you're the only person out there who finds mummy funny and appreciates my singing, amen to that.

This Christmas, I won't be stumbling up a snowy drive and fumbling for house keys at 4am after a long, boozy tour of High Wycombe's watering holes, and I won't be struggling to keep my Christmas lunch down as a result.  I probably will be up at 4am, for completely different reasons, and I'll be hoping you keep your lunch down so that it doesn't decorate that gorgeous but utterly impractical tartan frock I'm planning to dress you in.  You'll be too young to fully appreciate it, but we want to fill your Christmas with cuddles, sparkles and special moments, whilst probably palming you off on your extended family for an hour or two so that mummy can get a mulled wine and festive nap in.

This post may be an unashamed slice of soppiness, but it's nearly Christmas and, well, you're wonderful.  Thank you for enriching our lives, little miss, all our love, and happy Christmas.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

It's a hard life...

I find it all too easy to feel a pang of jealousy towards my daughter in my weaker moments.  One of these days, I'd like to be wheeled around at a leisurely pace on my back rather than having to trudge through town, fed and cuddled on demand and, perhaps most pointedly, indulge in several daytime naps and an unbroken twelve hours' shuteye overnight (it's great that she's now sleeping through, but I doubt very much she's waking up in an 'are-they-breathing?' panic at multiple intervals in the same way that her parents are).

This envy usually evaporates though, when I consider the fact that being a baby isn't so easy after all.  From the moment that you're either squeezed out of a tiny orifice or wrenched into the open at birth, every day brings a learning curve and the necessity of adjusting to new sensations, surroundings and experiences.  The fact that little miss has just started teething makes me think about the on and off agony my wisdom teeth caused in my teens, and how the pain would have been all the more excruciating if it was completely new to me and not something I could relieve myself ('spread Calgel on my gums' is not the easiest request to decipher from a four-month-old).  There are plenty of other moments my daughter goes through which make me realise that actually it's a pretty hard life, being a baby:


  • The fact that, no less than eight times over a (thankfully now over) eight-week phase, her tiny legs were jabbed with vaccines which made her sleepy, weepy and irritable.  However crucial they are, it's hard to explain that to a small baby's red, crumpled face after they'd previously been all smiles each time in the surgery waiting room.
  • Although she's made it pretty clear from week one that she hates it with a passion, her mummy still plonks her on her tummy at multiple intervals during the day and waves toys above her head while she inevitably faceplants, drools and squawks.
  • Every Monday, she's taken to a baby music class where she's wrestled into various positions regardless of how full her tummy or heavy her eyelids, forced to put up with a full hour of mummy's caterwauling and the even louder singing of the less self-conscious mums around her, and usually placed next to an over-zealous baby boy twice her weight who cuffs her round the face during an excited rendition of 'round and round the garden, like a teddy-bear'.
  • Every month, she's taken to a cold, clinical space where she's stripped naked without warning, flung onto a pair of scales then has to undergo the humiliation of her mummy discussing her latest bowel movement in graphic detail with a health visitor.
  • And finally, the fact that her mummy is already plotting various ridiculous outfits to dress her in over Christmas which will serve as blackmail fodder and boyfriend deterrent for many years to come.
So, next time you find yourself looking at your sweetly slumbering baby and get a case of the green -eyed monster, look at it this way: they need that sleep to grow and develop, but also to recover from all the crap you put them through!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Date Fright

This week, hubby and I did the unthinkable.  Nearly four months since little lady was born, and nearly four months since they originally volunteered, we finally took my parents up on their offer to babysit while we had a much-needed night off.  Tickets for an evening SPECTRE screening were booked (a mere night before it closed in local cinemas) and I pulled out all the stops to make a special effort for the date in between firing up the steriliser and mopping up drool, even managing to brush my hair and squeeze into a pre-pregnant frock.

Try as I might, though, as I completed the all-important handover to my parents, valiantly failing to avoid patronising a couple who have successfully reared three children as I burbled about gro-bags, muslins and nappy sacks, any excitement at the two of us finally having a break was overridden by more unwanted emotions.  Nerves that, after a particularly fractious bedtime, little miss might wake up in 'one of those' moods and put my parents off ever wanting to babysit again.  Guilt, even after four months, that we might be leaving her to see less familiar faces if she woke up before we returned.

I still couldn't relax in the lifts up to Wycombe Cineworld, and found myself frowning at my make-up free reflection, which had the odd appearance of a haggard twelve-year-old.  During the film, I had to stop myself from constantly checking my phone, convinced that during three hours of sleep time while we were out little miss would somehow manage to run rings round my parents, despite being many months off walking yet.

As we travelled back, I texted my dad, worried that we would be coming back to puke-covered parents, clutching a screaming banshee baby and a noise abatement notice from the council.  His reply, that beyond a few wriggles in her cotbed, 'all is peaceful here', made me realise how much I need to lighten up.  How wanting some respite and a chance to recharge and reconnect with your partner doesn't actually make you a bad parent, but one that wants to be relaxed and ready for anything when you get home.  Hopefully we'll get to have another date night or two before the next Bond film comes out!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Sharing the motherload

‘Oneupmumship’ is something I feared well before our little miss came squawking into the world.  Knowing how self-doubting and nigh on neurotic I can be in so many areas of my life, I worried that suddenly becoming responsible for keeping a small person alive while surrounded by immaculate and judgemental supermums and their advanced, angelic babies could send me plummeting into an abyss of anxiety that I wasn’t doing anything right.

I really needn’t have worried.  Since getting to know many mothers on the Chiltern circuit, I’ve realised that mums and their little ones come in all shapes and sizes, no baby is an angel every day and (beyond the obvious!) there are few rights and wrongs of parenthood as long as you are keeping your little one relatively clean, cuddled and fed.  That we are all allowed an off day or ten, and even an experienced mum of three is capable of having the odd mini meltdown or being flummoxed by their new, very individual baby’s foibles and phases. 

Most importantly, I’ve learned that far from trying to outdo each other with tales of our babies’ lightning fast development or ability to sleep through the night from week one, what actually exists is a lovely, supportive network of mums sharing advice, special moments and milestones, horror stories and lots of tea and cake as we all muddle through motherhood and marvel at our little ones.  And we all muck in in support of each other: I’ve been lucky enough to have someone offer to cut up my food while I tried to eat brunch one-handed while cradling a tetchy two-month-old, and I’ve seen others helping to dispense wipes and sympathy as someone dealt with an off-the-scale poonami. 

You soon learn too that everyone has had difficulties of some kind - in my case, for example, if sleeping was a relatively easy nut to crack, feeding was an impenetrable, fortified macadamia in the early days – but sharing these struggles makes you realise that you’re not alone, you’re getting by and, clich├ęd as it may seem, problems do pass in the end.

This post may be an unabashed love-in, but I wanted to relay how much of a difference this special network has made as we all grapple with the thrills and spills of first-time parenthood.  In the words of one advert, ‘you’re doing great’, and to paraphrase another, let’s make time for some ‘exceedingly good cakes’ again soon!


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Crying over spilt coffee

Up until last week, my mummy meltdowns had mainly been frontloaded in the first few weeks of my daughter's life, when, head spinning, struggling with feeding and still feeling excruciating post-c-section pain,  'Ican'tdothisIcan'tdothisIdon'tknowwhatI'mdoing' was my morning mantra.  Then somehow, around seven weeks, a magic switch was flicked and I suddenly felt a vague sense of being in control and partially clawing back some sleep and sanity, spurred on by the fact that I was no longer fighting a losing battle to breastfeed and little miss had deduced that peeing on her mummy at every change was actually not cool.

Last weekend, I regressed, and it was barely my baby's fault.  She's picked up a sudden habit of favouring her longest nap of the day at 5pm, frustratingly close to her bedtime but not late enough to start the routine unless we want a daily 4am wake-up call.  I've pulled out all the stimulating stops to try and keep her awake a little longer, but no amount of playtime or waving her favourite Vtech penguin around is enough to stop the stubborn little minx's eyelids going south.

Later that night, I made the mistake of deciding to stay up well past my usual bedtime to watch some Saturday night dross, only to be woken up at 430am by a baby who was so awake you'd think that her last feed of the night was Pro Plus tablets washed down with a triple espresso rather than the usual 6oz of Aptamil.

Clattering through the kitchen bleary eyed and frustrated, I caught my dressing gown sleeve on the door handle and knocked a full mug of much-needed coffee onto the carpet.  Up the walls.  Down the stairs.  Behind the radiator.  We'd asked ourselves when we'd moved in whether recarpeting our home in light neutral tones was a wise idea when we were seven weeks off parenthood, but I'd reckoned on baby puke and worse being the likely stain sinners, not Nescafe Azera.

Every expletive that I don't want my baby to ever learn, let alone say, erupted from my mouth as I ran wild-eyed into the bedroom to wake up my slumbering husband, then when I inevitably caught my sleeve on another door handle beating it with a muslin seemed like the best option.  Husband dutifully fetched the Vanish carpet cleaner while I bundled up my daughter, who seemed to be smiling wryly and rolling her eyes at her manic mummy.

By the time the coffee had been scrubbed from all surfaces, leaving a faint aroma of cheap station cafe, it was time to laugh, and concede that losing your cool over the mundane mishaps that parenthood brings is perfectly healthy, even character building.  Knowing that we're teetering on the brink of four-month sleep regression, further immunisations and (gulp!) teething, I have no doubt that I have many more to come.  And, as my husband up-ended his Sunday dinner over my knees that very evening, I sensed I'm not the only one!


Friday, 30 October 2015

Picture Imperfect

Ever feel like you can't take your baby anywhere?  I jest of course; it would be mildly unfair to expect a three-month-old to be cute on cue, perform for her adoring public and leave the nappies that necessitate a whole outfit change to the comfort of her own home all the time.  But once in a while would be nice!

Two recent instances have hit home to me that my daughter - mostly a gurgling, giggling delight behind closed doors - may not yet be quite so primed for the outside world.  In the first, our dreams of parading round a serene and smiling angel at a friend's party were replaced with sheepishly presenting a squawking, scarlet demon the moment we crossed the threshold.

In the second, a photographer running a session at the local baby group had set the scene for some perfect festive snaps of our little one.  I dressed her in an obscenely adorable crocheted cardigan with strawberry buttons, ensured she was well fed before we set off and arrived early to book the second timeslot.  What could possibly go wrong?

As I watched the photographer extract gurgles galore from the twins ahead of us, baby girl - who usually feeds every three hours on the dot - decided that in this case an early snack was in order.  Weighing up whether to feed her straight away or run the risk of presenting a wailing, fist-chomping banshee to the photographer, I begrudgingly got out the bottle, knowing we'd lose our turn and that the camera would probably capture her in her perennial postprandial state: sleeping, puking or both.

When we finally got seen, little miss was out for the count.  'She might wake up under the lights?' the photographer suggested.  Not likely.  One rushed and frustrating sleepy shoot later, she woke up right on cue and puked, thankfully not on the photographer's faux fur throw.  Suddenly she was all smiles - if I could blot the puke from her cardigan perhaps we could give the shoot another go? Unfortunately not - the long line of adorable babies performing for the camera before her had sent the session way overtime.

I wanted to love the snaps that came back, but propping a slumbering baby up in odd angles doesn't make for photographic gold.  'She just looks a bit sickly,' said my husband, as I killed off my dreams of bombarding everyone we know with cute Christmas cards.

It's not really a problem, of course; for one thing baby girl has saved me some money if not some blushes.  For now, if her parents see her best side more than those on the outside, I can certainly live with that!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Mummy mindreader

A recent postnatal group posed the question: 'If motherhood came with a job description, what would be on it?'.  Among the skills and roles that you might expect (multitasking, cleaner, entertainer, chauffeur, copes well with stress, etc. etc.), I was surprised that the one I offered - interpreter - was new to the speaker.

'What do you want?' and 'Why are you crying?' are the traditional, exasperated refrains of many a new mum and dad, as they try and extract meaning from a tiny person with their own set of limited, highly individual gestures and emotional cues.  If you exclude the obvious (change, feed, sleep), it's still possible that a baby might be reacting to an endless range of complex and conflicting emotional impulses in the only way they know how.

In our daughter's case, reading her mind has been one of the hardest parental skills to master in her first few months.  This is one feisty, mercurial and loud little being whose moods can swing from a sweet smile to screaming blue murder in one barely discernible movement.  Who used to eat her fist to signal hunger, but now seems to do the same for comfort, fun or out of sheer curiosity.  Who will look anywhere but the DIY sensory bottles painstakingly crafted by her mummy but finds a patch of ceiling endlessly fascinating.  Who can be preoccupied by a poo several hours before its explosive arrival.

As parents, finally working out what your baby wants after a ritual of temperature and nappy checks, play, quiet time and running the gamut of different positions and places to put them in brings relief on a par with the moments when they finally fall asleep after a long battle or when it's your partner's turn to change a particularly offensive dirty nappy.  For me, the only time that I can be sure of what my daughter is trying to communicate to me is when she snuggles up to me sleepily for a post-feed singsong, or her contented little smile of recognition when her mummy comes home from a much-needed walk round the block on my own.  It's then that I know that, at least in her eyes, I've got the job.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

The guilt mission

Guilt and I go back a long way.  From the legitimate (emptying my childhood savings account to fund  my student Smirnoff habit) to the absurd (bursting into tears when I had to throw out a mini Victoria sponge that had gone out of date), I'm not one to brush off my minor transgressions and move on when I have the option of letting them forever fester in a cranny of my conscience instead.

I probably should have called time on this uneasy relationship before I became a mum.  In those first, fraught weeks of new parenthood, not a day went by when I didn't find something to feel guilty about.  Guilty when I watched my daughter gulp down the measly amount of milk I'd managed to express and motion she wanted more of the "good stuff" rather than the full bottle of formula I'd lined up next for her.  Guilty when, in sleep deprived desperation, I tried to snooze a little longer when I knew she was stirring.  Guilty that a decision to drink in rather than take away when we went out for a restorative coffee meant she was in a dirty nappy for five minutes longer than she might otherwise have been.  Guilty when that first, terrifying nailtrim resulted in a minuscule nick on a tiny fingertip.  Guilty for relishing time away from the baby when I grabbed a shower, and eventually graduated on to an hour out by myself.

The above are episodes that should strike a chord with other new parents, and exemplify how, whether projected by society or self, guilt can go all out to eat you up inside as you stumble through those early weeks.  If you're not careful, you can constantly question the choices you make or find fault with your parenting skills, from the big decisions (breast or bottle, stay at home or back to work) to minor everyday mishaps.  Or you might let big business babyhood get the better of you, and feel bad that your child's wardrobe is mainly bobbly hand-me-downs or you can't afford to fill his or her schedule with sensory classes and high-tech toys.

It's only as I near that three-month mark that I realise that I, along with so many others in my position, need to cut myself some serious slack.  My daughter is well-fed and clothed, with somewhere safe and warm to sleep when she feels so inclined (although she's currently sleeping in her preferred bed - my arms - as I write this).  Her parents may not always get it right, but they comfort her when she cries, spoil her with cuddles and sing, gurn and dance like idiots if it means raising one precious smile.  Guilt and I are parting ways, hello (mother's) pride.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Throwing in the muslin

"Oh. Well that's a shame." The health visitor sucked her teeth with a look of matronly disappointment as she noted down my confession in the red book.  I winced inwardly, telling myself that it could have been a lot worse.

I had desperately wanted to breastfeed, and always assumed it was a foregone conclusion.  Antenatal classes talked about it as the most important thing you could do for your baby, and questions were breezily batted away.  Low milk supply?  Exceptionally rare.  Latching problems? Always surmountable.  We were sold an idealistic vision of all of our babies arriving bright and alert and knowing exactly what they needed to do to relieve their hunger.

Unfortunately this wasn't my reality.  When my daughter arrived she was three weeks early, a pound lighter than she should have been and soon to develop jaundice, while her mother was exhausted, drugged up and physically and emotionally raw after an emergency c section.  That blissful postnatal feed didn't happen, and I watched, frustrated and immobile, as a nurse bundled her away to administer Aptamil.

By the end of a five-day hospital stay, despite the amazing support from the hospital staff, we'd got nowhere.  I'd watched as my tiny, scarlet daughter, bawling with hunger, had been trussed up, flipped and flung at me during fruitless attempts to get her to latch.  On day three, when my milk came in, excitement quickly evaporated when using a breast pump for over an hour had resulted in a pitiful dribble of milk that could only be given to her by oral syringe.

In the weeks that followed, my husband and I did everything we could to build on the minimal progress already made.  We became regulars at breastfeeding clinics, invested in all the lactatory paraphernalia they recommended, from pumps to shields to fenugreek tea.  I hit my lowest ebb when half an hour hooked up to a breast pump under the supervision of a lactation consultant and health visitor produced no milk, sending me weeping back to my husband and baby.

Feeds were fraught and prolonged: latching attempts, feeding dwindling amounts of expressed milk followed by Aptamil, more expressing and an inevitable sterilising marathon before the next feed came round.  I found myself increasingly distressed and desperate to put my daughter down as soon as possible after each feed so that I could find the time to express, usually no more than 15 ml a time.

Throughout all this, I was told by almost every health professional I saw that persevering would pay off, that eventually I would be able to dispense with formula feeding altogether.  A community midwife dismissed my questions about buying a bottle warmer with: 'Well you'll be exclusively breastfeeding soon so why waste your money?", even though our session had almost exclusively focused on my failure so far.  No-one addressed my concerns that, despite our best efforts, my milk supply wasn't going up, and probably 90 per cent of my daughter's intake on a good day was already formula.

It was only when I went to the six week check and was reassured by the GP that actually the well-being of mother and baby is paramount that I felt an immense weight lifted, and moved to exclusive formula feeding within a week.  Suddenly I didn't dread the moments when my daughter, fist in mouth, indicated she was hungry.  We settled into an easy routine of feeds at home and on the go, with plenty of time afterwards for cuddles and play rather than making friends with my breast pump instead of my baby.

I applaud those who breastfeed, and this article is by no means trying to pit that brigade against those who bottle it.  All I ask is that before people judge, they understand that many formula feeding mums have gone above and beyond in trying to breastfeed their baby before conceding that for whatever reason it isn't happening.  While health visitors et al are doing an admirable job in getting those that can to persevere and achieving some major successes, I feel that some fail to spot the signs that a mother, after weeks of trying, should be told that it might be ok to make the switch.  That, whether a baby feeds from a nipple or teat, all that really matters is that they're happy and healthy, and strongly bonded with a mother who is doing the best she can.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The fourth trimester: seven things I wish I'd known

We've nearly made it! In two weeks' time darling daughter will be sailing out of the fourth trimester and reaching that all-important three month milestone.  While I'm not doolally enough to think this spells an end to a lot of challenges, and won't herald in a host of new ones, I can at least content myself in the fact that by this point, we've both got our heads round mother and babyhood a little, my tiny tot is finally wearing newborn size and her mummy has worked out how to fit the carseat without having an aneurysm in the process.  While nothing can prepare you for parenthood, there are certainly a few things I'll remind myself of if I decide to embark on this escapade a second time around:

1. Babies are sneaky
Your little one might seem helpless and adorable, but that innocent exterior is harbouring a machiavellian mastermind.  A deeply sleeping beauty will mutate into a squawking gremlin the moment you decide to take a moment out for yourself, whether you're sitting down to eat, answering the phone, dashing to the loo or trying to have a conversation with your other half that doesn't revolve around nappy contents and cradle cap.  Or, having the health visitor round to weigh the baby? What better time to unleash a triple whammy of projectile poo, pee and puke the moment the nappy comes off.

2.  Health professionals are (mostly) not there to judge you
It's easy to get anxious when incident above happens, or when you find that your baby is the only snarling beetroot in a postnatal group full of pink, pillowy angels, but doctors, nurses and health visitors have been round the block and know the drill with babies and frazzled first-time parents.  Feeding is the only area which might play out a little differently, but there's a whole blog of its own in there.

3. Mealtimes will never be the same again
How I laugh ruefully now at my optimistically alphabeticised spice shelf, arranged a mere month before the baby made an appearance.  For the first few weeks, we lived off ready meals and takeaways when we remembered to eat, and it's only now that I've graduated on to making the odd simple meal in a week of bangers, burgers and stirfries.  Meals are now erratic, frantic and usually bolted down one-handed while trying not to spill sauce or noodles on a tetchy newborn.  And you will probably never feel the same way about korma sauce again.

4. The most mundane of moments are your new vicarious thrills
Usually food-related, including: savouring a biscuit while the bottle warms up at the 3am feed, slathering indecent amounts of butter on cold toast, getting to drink half your coffee while it's still lukewarm, trawling through Buzzfeed in the early hours as you hold your baby upright for that all-important half hour after a feed.

5. That sleeping like a baby... lies
Newborns spend the night grunting, straining, snoring, squeaking, coughing and farting, and you will spend at least the first few weeks sitting bolt upright in bed in terror for every noise you hear.  The times when they are silent and appear to be barely breathing are even more terrifying, to the point where you get no sleep even when the baby is allowing you to.

6. The 'baby in bed' dream is the worst
Many other parents have shared the horror of a vivid dream that your newborn is in bed with you, only to wake up disorientated and scared to find that they are sleeping happily in their basket (probably grunting, farting, etc).  I can take this up one level, and found myself trying to burp a daughter-sized teddy bear while semi-conscious in the early hours.

7. The first smile is worth the wait
After weeks spent fretting that darling daughter hadn't raised a smile yet ('maybe she knows how to but we just aren't making her happy?'), my husband and I both succeeded on consecutive days, me from playing a silly game and him from stuffing his face with food (clearly we have an intellectual heavyweight in the making).  Like so many other things, babies' sense of humour is mysterious and peculiar, though; both of us were pipped to the post in getting a grin by the base of the armchair next to her changing mat, which she seems to find comedy gold to this day.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Welcome to my world

Mother.  What does the word conjure up to you? Before I became one, I would have envisaged an eminently sensible, supremely efficient multitasker, dispensing equal measures of cuddles, Calpol and discipline to her growing brood, or a beatific, bosomy earth mother, suckling an infant on one side while pureeing kale and carrots on the other.

Whatever hackneyed image of motherhood sprang to my mind, I can safely say I wouldn't have imagined me in a million years. While I always wanted to be a parent, reconciling my pre-baby self with the responsibility that comes with keeping a small, angry human alive has been no mean feat.

Before the baby, I could be as self-absorbed, immature, active and (mostly) lazy as I liked, whether I was careering between cocktails and cheesy music in late-night London, or enjoying a lie-in before a languid Sunday chez sofa.  Before the baby, my responsibilities beyond my career extended little further than paying rent on a shabby Camden one-bed and remembering to return my parents' calls once in a while.

It's all a distant memory now that darling daughter is here, after a tense pregnancy punctuated by anxious waits and hospital stays.  When my husband and I heard her shrill squawk for the first time when she was pulled from me during an emergency c section, and were presented shortly afterwards with a cross and scrawny (4 lb 11) being swaddled in a towel, we felt that unique mix of love, terror and helplessness all new parents can relate to.

We also felt that resounding kick up the arse we needed to accept that we were no longer alone in the world, that our family unit had been expanded with a beautiful, helpless and flatulent little person who we had to feed, clothe and nurture for the rest of our lives.

The first few weeks passed in a fug of sleeplessness, hopelessness and emotional overhaul, as we stumbled blindly into the feed-change-sleep-cry (but enough about me) cycle.  Each time we thought we'd turned a corner, whether it was mastering nappy changing, giving her a bath without all hell breaking loose or managing to get dressed once in a while (even venture outside, eventually), we'd find ourselves on a new straight fraught with colic, crankiness and a bottomless laundry basket.

At ten weeks in, I know that there are many more challenges to come.  I also know that I wouldn't change my lot for the world.  That 'mother' can mean 'me'.