Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Among the various mythical, magical and apocryphal figures who have visited our abode in the last 12 months (The Boob Fairy, The Stork, Santa Claus...) we have a new arrival: The Tooth Fairy - or rather, whatever evil cousin of hers it is whose duty is to implant teeth in the gums of babies and then force them up through the skin, rather than creating little gum sleeves for teeth that don't require ripping open.

Us humans (I'm assuming we're all human here) have a fair few design faults (Testicles? Kidney stones? Split ends? I digress) and this is a doozy. Two years, say the accursed parenting books, two years it takes for all teeth to come through. Two years while (and I'm going to quote another website here) 'razor blades' push through baby gums.

Evolution favours a gummy baby of course. No Mother is going to spend six months breast-feeding a child who is trying to nibble down his dinner - but why can't teeth slip gently into existence rather than causing all this trouble and drool? Currently Charlie is experimenting with differing ways to ease the pain in his gums and a significant majority of these involve varying parts of my anatomy. To date Charlie has chewed on the following: my boobs, my fingers, my chin, my nose, my arms, my cheek, my hair. Clearly some of these have higher success rates than others (vis a vis the radius of human cheek to the size of a baby's gape) however fear of failure is not one of Charlie's strong points and so he just keeps on trying until something goes into his mouth successfully (not to mention wetly).

I in turn am becoming obsessed with teethers (anything to stop the gumming). Charlie has three or four and I have spent hours online searching for more. Wooden ones, plastic ones, ones with gel inside them, ones filled with water, rubber ones, ones that rattle, ones that freeze, ones with bumps, ones on books... Charlie however is just as happy chewing on the corner of a washcloth although he is always willing to try new things - like the edges of tables, books, my laptop, the telephone and I'm sure if our cat were still alive he'd have had a go on him as well.

The key thing for a teether is that he has to be able to hold onto it and luckily, the Co-ordination Fairy appears to have arrived right on cue so perhaps they're working together on this one. Now all we need is the Poo Fairy to come along and train him and we're away.

Meanwhile, any suggestions are welcome

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A shameless bid for votes

I have just discovered that I'm on the shortlist for 'Best New Blog' award at the Bloggies - so thanks to everyone who's voted so far (and btw, while you're at it, why not vote again - right here?!).

It would be very cool to win however I note that many previous winners of Bloggie awards have written about sex. Since this blog is mainly about telling the unvarnished truth about giving birth and raising a baby, sex is hardly the central theme... although of course sex is what got us here in the first place.

I do remember the furtive and fearful looks I received from teenage boys as I trundled down the street while enormously pregnant and at the time I liked to think of myself as a Living Warning. I also remember the somewhat wistful looks I received from women of many ages and on a good day I felt like the Living Embodiment of 'This is What it's All About'. What I did not feel however was particularly sexy, a situation which without treatment can last for a very long time - particularly when breast-feeding as suddenly those boobs don't feel very alluring anymore, attached as they normally are to a baby who is just as likely to spit up on them and punch them as he is to have his breakfast from them. The subject, however, doesn't just go away.

Here in the UK, when your baby is somewhere between 6 and 10 weeks old an appointment is made for you both to visit your friendly local doctor, who in between checking baby's responses and making sure he isn't a martian slips in the question 'Are you having sex yet?'. Rather like a biology teacher in front of a class of 14 year olds, the poor Doc then has to run through birth control options, as if the bare fact that you have a baby indicates that you are in serious need of instruction in this area.

A short survey among close friends revealed that a surprising number of couples are At It again as soon as they possibly can. The remainder however are of the opinion, certainly at 6 weeks post-baby, that they will Never Have Sex Again.

The main worry, apart from about any damage that may have occurred to one's nether regions during birth, is less about 'will it hurt' and more about 'will I feel anything at all?'. Clearly, one's partner (if male) is not the size of a baby and most likely not the size of a baby's arm either no matter what he likes to think - and crucially, there has been some serious expansion in Certain Areas that no amount of Lady Gardening can disguise.

If one has been obsessing about this in any way one will have been doing those pelvic floor exercises that one is always lectured about doing on buses and while feeding baby and in the queue for the post office and all sort of other unlikely places where squeezing one's bits together seems a bit filthy. I suspect however that no matter how many one has done there will always be a little suspicious thought that one is no longer as one was on the honeymoon and on this topic I can tell you to relax. Your partner has not had sex for 6 weeks or more and to him, you are Venus on the half-shell with Angelina Jolie thrown in for good measure.

More to the point, now one (and I am talking about myself specifically here) has some significant weight to lose, one could even consider sex as part of one's exercise programme and therefore A Good Thing even if one isn't feeling that keen. How effective it is remains to be seen. I, however have purchased a new heart-rate monitor for my venture into the gym and one night, it is bound to make it's way into the mysteries of the parental bedroom, at which point I will tell you how many calories The Act actually burns.

Meanwhile, no, I am not going to start writing about our sex life, to the no-doubt relief of my family and close friends. I hope this doesn't predjudice any of you potential voters out there... I hope however that this post somewhat offsets this glaring omission.


The magic sleepsuit

Once upon a time there was a very little boy, a baby in fact, who wouldn't go to sleep. This little baby wanted to stay up all night and do whatever his parents did, even though he was very tired.

At 6:30 his Mummy would give him a lovely warm bath, a massage with calming oatmeal lotion, put him in a nice new clean nappy and dress him in one of his many sleepsuits. He would be very happy. He would also be hungry, so his Mummy would lie down beside him on the big bed and give him a nice dinner. He would nurse happily for a while and then, contentedly, he would fall asleep, resting on his Mummy's warm breast.

The little baby's Mummy would be very pleased. She would carefully swaddle him in his favourite blanket and tuck him under a nice cool sheet and another blanket and leave him in his cot with a nightlight to keep him company. Off she would go to prepare dinner for the little baby's Daddy, looking forward to the nice evening they would spend together while the little baby slept like an angel.

However, when the little baby heard his Daddy's voice he would wake up very excited. When his Daddy didn't come in to see him, he would start calling and crying until someone came in - and that was it, the little baby would be awake and no amount of food or rocking or music would make him go back to sleep, he would rather lose his voice then be left in his room and the little baby's parents would have to forgo their evening together and instead spend it making the little baby happy.

This went on for a while until one day, the little baby's Mummy found a magic sleepsuit from the mystical land of Ca Na-Da. This sleepsuit was not like the other sleepsuits the little baby had. It had a zip instead of pop-studs so it was easy to put on. It was made of fleece, not cotton and so it was warmer and cosier than the other sleepsuits. The little baby liked this sleepsuit and when his Mummy put him in it, he smiled a lot.

The little baby's Mummy zipped up the sleepsuit and put him on the bed for his dinner. When he fell asleep, she swaddled him in his favourite blanket and carefully carried him to his room to put him in his cot. She put him under his cool sheet and then put the other blanket over him - but only over his legs as the magic sleepsuit was so warm.

When the little baby's Daddy came home, he and his Mummy waited for the little baby to wake up - but he didn't! No, all through dinner, the little baby's Mummy and Daddy were able to talk to each other and eat! After dinner, the little baby's Mummy woke him up to feed him and he went back to sleep - and he slept The Whole Night Through.

Ever afterwards, whenever the little baby wore the magic sleepsuit, even if he wouldn't go to bed right away, once he was asleep he would always sleep The Whole Night Through. Now, the little baby's Mummy and Daddy say a prayer of thanks every night to the god and goddess of Ca Na-Da, Ontyshlee and Unca-oto and the little baby always sleeps... like a baby.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Big Mama

I felt so English today, walking around the park with my baby sleeping in his pram, strolling past the iron railings around the duck pond, dropping into conversation with a total stranger over the fact that we have the same stroller and our babies are teething and then, after that, ambling past the trees to the exit. Then, just as the park gate was approaching, I realised that I was supposed to have been power walking and that I had just blown my exercise for the day.

I may not be as brave as my brother was, posting his real weight online for all to see but I can tell you that I weigh an enormous amount, more than I am willing to admit to in public - however I am going to come out and say that I have 40 pounds to lose, or rather, that I had 40 pounds to lose a couple of weeks ago and that I only have 36 pounds to lose after today. Probably 38 after tonight however when chocolate biscuits have become a feature of my evening. Why deny yourself a chocolate biscuit or three when you've had a massive power workout?

The mildew answer to that would be that the biscuits together probably equal the entire caloric loss gained by the workout. The real answer of course is: 'Don't deny yourself those biscuits... you've earned them'. I like this answer. This answer tallies exactly with the picture I hold in my head of how much energy I use up every day because even though most of what I do involves sitting around on various chairs, bouncy balls and carpets, it feels exhausting and that's what counts. Picking him up. Putting him down. Listening to him complain. Turning him over. Listening to him complain. Turning him over again. Listening to him complain. Putting him in his chair. Listening to him complain. Changing him. Putting him in his cot. Listening to him complain. Putting him in his bouncer. Listening to him complain. Changing him. Picking him up. Playing aeroplanes. Putting him down. Sitting him on the bouncy ball. Putting him in the bath. Oh, and breast-feeding, over and over and over again.

Surely, some of that must burn calories? In fact, I think what burns the most calories is the 'listening to him complain' part. Charlie, as I am sure is true of most babies, can complain in a way which has been fine-tuned carefully over the past five months to exact the most response. Clearly, laughing or being quiet or gently cooing to himself does nothing in terms of getting a good return on his investment in parental units and so he has perfected a system of escalating complaints based on exactly how much response he wants. The more desperate or annoying the sound, the more response he gets. The most effective, QED, is therefore the sound that grates the most on parental ears. Having achieved the return he wanted, he now knows that he can use this sound to get what he wants (and here I am forced to italicise once again) At Any Time. So effective is this noise that he is now employing it for the barest of reasons - for example, when his toys are slightly out of reach. Where he used to start with a sort of muttered expletive that he would keep up for several minutes before moving onto the next stage, a sustained grumble, now he goes very quickly through these stages and gets his hands on the big guns as fast as possible.

All this crying of wolf means that I spend my entire day on tenterhooks waiting for his command and because he is now using one sound for everything, I cannot tell whether or not he has got a blanket stuck over his head and his nappy is filthy or, more commonly, he is merely tired of his bunny and would like to be moved closer to his frog. The effect of this is that whatever I am doing I have to drop it and run just in case Charlie has managed to hit his head on something or bury it under something or... well there's not much he can really do to himself but you try telling youself that when you're on the loo and your precious bundle of joy is telling you that he is being kidnapped at knife-point.

The other effect is that I am knackered without actually having burned off any energy, other than all that remains of my mental energy, ie, Not Very Much. Because I am knackered, I feel deserving of chocolate biscuits and therefore am finding that all this fat which has accumulated around my middle since Charlie was born (and, let's face it, for years before hand) is stubbornly sticking around and I look like a toffee apple.

So, I have restarted my gym membership and am going several times a week. I have lost a gratifying 4lbs in the last two weeks and am hoping that I can lose another 16lbs in the next two and a half months. That's the goal. I am going to force myself to post gains and losses on this blog and swear blind I will be truthful. Who knows, when I reach the target I may even post a picture of the scales. I will try to be as Bridget Jones about it as possible... ie, 'gym, 40mins, v good, calories burned 300 good, choccie biccies, 5, v bad' rather than inundating you with the contents of my gym playlist and the order in which I tortured myself on various implements (although I could do, I'm terribly enthusiastic about it all at the moment...).

Finally, having managed to type this blog all through Charlie doing a big poo, I have managed to get his father to change his second pooey nappy of the day - and that's a result I'm happy to post right here, right now.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Basket case

Since having Charlie I seem to have lost all rational conception of my age. On the one hand I indulge myself in the invidious fiction that I am a young Mum like so many of the other young Mums in this area. On the other, I get to see in full Technicolor™ the contrast between my wizened hide and Charlie’s pure, perfectly nourished, non-sun-damaged and toxin-free skin. He's got the sort of skin you can only normally get via air-brushing and as I am going to be spending the next 18 or so years within the sort of proximity guaranteed to generate comparisons, I am becoming fixated upon treatments designed to give me back my youth, or at least the appearance of it.

There seems to be a direct correlation between ageing and motherhood. The more time I spend with Charlie’s extreme youth, the older I seem to get. Perhaps this is something to do with the fact that much of the time I spend with Charlie is time in which I would otherwise be sleeping, exercising, relaxing or eating properly. Further, a serious percentage of this time he spends actively draining me of nutrients which, due to his endless need to be cleaned, changed, dried, fed and entertained, I have little time to replenish. Do I begrudge him this, the last of my looks? The end of my youth? The flexibility of my skin? No no no, why of course not - because I mainlined ‘Motherhood’ recently and this most pernicious of drugs makes me totally, utterly and completely in thrall and I can deny him nothing except denial itself. I tell you, if we could isolate this stuff the world would be a much nicer place - if staffed with wrinkling zombies.

This child can scream at me, pinch me, punch me, keep me up all night, wee on me, throw up all over my new silk robe, poo on the new bed-linen, shout all through important telephone calls, rip pages out of the book I’m reading and have hour-long ear-splitting hysterics for no reason and all I am capable of doing is patting him gently on the back and uttering the most cliched, bland and sickening phrases - 'There there shh little one everything's ok Mummy loves you'. 'Mummy loves you'??? 'Mummy loves you'??? I mean, yes I do, like anything - however I could be saying 'Mummy wants shoes' in the same tone of voice and he'd be just as happy. But I don't. I say 'Mummy loves you' and it seems So Much More True than I would have imagined prior to the onset of Motherhood. In fact, it may be safe to say that, despite a modest handful of varied and intensely-felt love affairs culminating in my marriage to the frog, I do not believe I actually knew the final meaning of the word ‘love’ until Charlie came along. It’s as though someone has attached a tow-rope to a point somewhere inside my rib-cage, handed the other end to Charlie and he just sits gently tugging on it 24 hours a day. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the little spud and this is making getting him to sleep in his own room at night a very difficult matter.

It’s one thing for the books to tell you that it doesn’t hurt a baby to cry himself to sleep. It’s another thing entirely to listen to one’s baby get progressively hoarser and hoarser over an half hour period until the last time one goes in to show one’s treacherous face and let the baby know he’s not Crying Alone In The Void he emits a dry, whispery little ‘Whuhhhhhh…whuhhhh…whuhhhh…’ and finds himself scooped up into the desperate arms of his mother who is now a complete nervous wreck. The cameras pan back and a very smug and contented little baby is happily attached to a boob while his mother sits white-faced, ragged and tearful on the nursery sofa. After a short montage of baby being suckled, burped and cuddled, the cameras pan back yet again and baby is sleeping happily in his parent’s bed to the vast disgruntlement of his father who not only is relegated to the outside edge of the mattress but who is forced to listen as boobs which once were his alone are deployed else-where for the remainder of the night.

The problem is that Charlie is measuring the length and weight of an average 7-month-old child. As he is only 4.5 months, this is proving troublesome in terms of The Stuff. OK, so baby clothes are cheap and so what? No, the trouble is all the other Stuff which Charlie is now growing out of, to whit the Moses basket, (where-in he has slept exclusively for his entire life), the pram, and very soon, his car seat. While the car-seat and the pram have a few more months left in them, the basket sadly doesn’t. Charlie looks like a cuckoo in a wren’s nest and it is time for him to leave our room and strike out on his own.

I think it is actually harder on me. All he has to do is to have hysterics and lose his voice. I, on the other hand, have the tow-rope yanked so hard I think I may lose a lung and after he’s been catered to, pampered, calmed down, put down, gotten up, played with, fed again and put gently into his cot once finally asleep I then have to face The Night. The Entire Night, that is without being able to hold my breath and hear him snuffling away, without being able to reach a hand into the basket and have a soft little fist grab my finger until we both fall asleep and without, crucially, being able to simply reach into the basket and pick him out to feed him. Instead I am now lying in bed with my hand on the baby monitor looking at the lights that indicate his breathing and waiting for him to wake up. Once he's up, in a sort of deja-vu from three months ago I get out of bed and stumble to the nursery sofa to feed him and then try to settle him back to sleep again before falling into my own bed after breaking a toe on the way (eight to go, it's an excuse for new shoes).

Charlie is getting used to this. This does not mean he is accepting it, oh no, but he has realised that now, when he goes down in the cot, he isn't going to get plucked out and lain in his cosy basket. No, he's finally clicked that he's in the cot For Good, which means that rather than a perfunctory three minutes of lacklustre tears and then the gentle thump of baby head hitting mattress, we have the Performance. This involves a short introductory whinge followed by an aria of shouts, some pizzicato sobbing and the finale, a bel canto of moans and plaintive wails. This last successfully plucks on the old parental heartstrings and accomplishes the denouement, in which baby is plucked from his cot prison and whisked onto a boob or, equally to his satisfaction, to the livingroom where he risks permanent neck damage straining to watch CSI over the back of his bouncy chair. Meanwhile I pick up my hair from where it has fallen out and embark on some deep breathing exercises in an attempt to regain my sang froid.

It's sort of working and I'm sure in a few weeks it'll all be fine. D is happy at least, but I need some serious maintenance. Somebody please get me a facial.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Have Baby, Will Travel

Home again home again… after a fairly marathon 2 week journey involving three plane rides, three time zones, four bedrooms and at least two dozen new people, Charlie is home. He’s got a few new skills, a few new photographs, the starring role in a few new videos, a few new toys, a few new clothes – oh, and jet lag. Not just any jet lag mind you, but full blown, up until 4 am, bells and whistles jet lag. For a week and a half.

It’s getting better now, however it feels like we were away for months - we certainly did enough things, met enough people and took enough luggage to have been gone for months. By the time we got back, the Spider In The Bath had been stuck there so long he’d spun a hopeful, if somewhat desperate web all around the bottom of the tub – presumably on the theory that if he could get stuck there so could anyone. He was very slow to crawl back into his vent when I rescued him and I haven’t seen him since. We were gone so long in fact that Charlie lay under the mobile he’d gotten bored of by the time we left and just smiled and smiled and smiled. He didn’t sleep though.

Travelling with a baby has it’s moments, chief among them is the part where you get onto the plane ahead of everyone else with plenty of room for your bags in the overhead lockers and plenty of time to settle yourself in before the sweating hordes start pouring in. Charlie got his own bed on the plane, which is the only time he’ll have a lying-down seat on a long-haul flight until he starts making his own cash. Lower on the list would be the part where you stand in a lurching aeroplane loo with the changing table down holding onto your kicking off-spring with one hand while the other tries to undress him, clean him, put on a new nappy and fasten his pop-studs back up. He seemed not to mind the plane and slept most of the way there, waking only long enough to feed and then to charm the air stewards. At the other end he slept when he was supposed to sleep even though he woke a lot more, he ate on command and seemed blissfully happy to meet so many new people. He was charming the whole trip in fact.

I’d like to wax positive about it all and make you all lunge for your passports with baby in tow but the reality is that when you travel with a baby, while it’s not as bothersome as it may seem, it’s not all roses either. There is so much Stuff to drag along that we went from people who travel lightly to people who need a small moving van to get us to check-in. And, with all that being towed behind one, something is bound to get lost on the way and top of the list is one's patience. Lower down one finds (or rather, loses) various items of baby apparel and any part of the buggy which is not permanently attached. There are all sorts of new experiences to be had in airports – airport baby loos, for example – a nice, big, clean bonus. Waiting for 2 hours with baby without him screaming the place down out of boredom. Security, for another example. Did you know that baby buggies have to go through the xray machines? This means taking out the baby, dismantling the buggy, taking off all the decorations with which it is strewn such as changing bags and spare hats and spit-up rags and then folding it down and shoving it onto the conveyor belt only to be told that it’s too big and it has to go through the super-size-me xray machine at the other end of the airport. Such is the thing that lost baby coats are made of.

Charlie got his first (and second and third) flight in an airplane, his first voyage on a BC ferry, his first view of the sea, his first sight of his grandfather, his great grandmother, his uncle and aunt, his first view of snow, his first Christmas tree, his first Christmas lights, his first night in with a babysitter and a host of presents that meant we had to take an extra car to the airport on the way home.

It wasn't so bad - and in fact we are already booked to do it again soon on a somewhat shorter flight to France. We will be taking with us the lessons we learned in Canada. Take fewer clothes and just do laundry. Bring toys. Bring soothers. Bring bottles and boiled water. Clip the baby seat together before going on the plane. Pack extra nappies. Pack more nappies. Generate a thick skin to block out those disgruntled looks from fellow-passengers. Parents don't need to pack clothes.

The chief thing we have learned is that babies take about two weeks to adjust to a new time-zone schedule and two weeks at the other end to adjust back, so 2-week holidays may not be such a good thing. And, it's worse flying East no matter who tells you what. Oh, and sleeping 18 hours with your baby in the bed is a bad thing, particularly if that 18 hours ends at 6pm the night before you are due to do anything important. You may all have had a lovely cuddly sleep, but count it as your last for the forseeable future.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Escape from Cellblock Nursery

I have realised a truth about babies. They’re not just our precious little bundles of joy, neither are they merely our hopes for the future nor our own special loves. They are, in fact, our prisoners. Never mind that they are prisoners in their own bodies, that's not how they see it.

Tied into their seats where-ever they go so they cannot run away, unable to move, eat or clean themselves up without permission and assistance, they lie on their backs behind the bars of their cots, staring into space, plotting their escapes.

Charlie has even developed a prisoner mentality about his food. He buries himself in the boob and then throws one arm around his face, presumably so that nobody can steal the nipple while he’s on it. He grabs, punches, gulps, belches, farts and waves his little fists around threateningly Just In Case, you understand, just in case anyone else may think of muscling in on his dinner.

Sometimes, he sits patiently staring around him. I see him eyeing the doorways and calculating distance ratios comparative to his own ability to run/walk/crawl/roll/wiggle his way there and then see the dawning realisation that it will be many moons before the doorway is his to use. Then, I see the tears of rage and it is quickly time to put him in lock-down on a boob to distract him.

There’s more to this than just simple fancy. I see it in action all the time. Some very good and long-time friends of mine were here the other day with their children and it’s very clear that as the human brain ages, visions of escape don’t go away, they just get grander and more subtle. While a one-year-old girl may see escape as any door out of any room, a five-year-old boy sees it as the chance to get in a car and go home from somewhere tedious. A 12 year old girl may not give away any clues but in her mind there is a world out there just waiting, while at 13, a boy is probably tossing up between escaping to a Playstation or just being old enough to stay out as long as he pleases. To their mothers, escape is possibly a baby-sitter or a day at the spa - or perhaps a map for the drive home with instructions, a guide car, sherpas and a couple of strong cups of tea.

As we age we never really lose this prisoner mentality. Freedom may be a new pair of shoes, a new apartment, a new job, two weeks in the sun or a whole, entire, uninterrupted night's sleep (or perhaps that's just me?), In fact, escape could always be having a baby and repeating the whole circle. There’s always somewhere better, freer and bigger and perhaps maturity is just realising that at some point, one has to stop finding greener pastures and start appreciating the grass one is eating already.

Or, in Charlie’s case, the boob.