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!