Pre-Parenting

I don’t mean massive life changing events or global travel, although a great many of those are probably worth doing before you become responsible for another life. But I mean the small everyday things that will quietly disappear almost without you noticing. The little things that you took for granted and that now, post pregnancy, require a logistical plan akin to an Everest expedition to achieve.

Go to the Cinema. And see a film that is no good for kiddies. The next one you see will involve cartoons and may not be for some time.

Go to the Theatre. I kicked merry hell out of this one- 4 plays in a month – sometimes with friends, sometimes on my own – nothing like a big pregnant lady elbowing her way along the aisle to the middle of the row (and back again when she needs a wee halfway through act one). Heavenly.

Have a pedicure. You can’t see your feet now but when they return to view, it would be nice if they were pretty.

Manicure. Because your nails are about to dry out and flake so spoil yourself now.

Get some sleep. At anytime of the day. In bed, on the sofa, in the car (not when driving). Wherever. Just pass out, snooze, snore and pad round in your PJs. Yes, you’ll do the latter when baby arrives but that won’t be out of choice. And the first three will never happen again.

Phone your friends. Chat and catch up. Lord knows we don’t do it enough anyway but time will pass in a way you hadn’t realized it could and it’ll be eight months later and you won’t have talked to them so do it now. And try to remember to do it later too.

Go for a posh meal in the evening. Look, no babysitters, expressing or worrying required. In six months, this level of freedom and spontaneity will all seem completely surreal.

Take a picture of you at bump maximus. You’ll look at you in that picture in six months time and it will seem a lifetime a way.

The Cliff Edge

The Cliff Edge

Probably like a lot of ladies out there, the better part of my life has been spent in training or education to do a job and then actually doing that job. My job is part of who I am. In many ways, it’s the main part of who I am – I define myself by what I do, how well I do it, whether other people respect how I do it, how much I enjoy it and yes, the status I gain from doing a job, this job, my job.

So as I pass 30 weeks of pregnancy there is a looming cliff edge coming up that I am becoming horribly aware of. The cliff edge that is maternity leave. And what that will mean to me, and my definition of me.

I’m lucky, my employers will pay me for a full six months of maternity leave and they’ll hold my job open for me. And I’m fully aware that maternity leave isn’t about putting your feet up and having a cup of tea while watching shocking daytime telly, it’s going to be pretty tough at times and pretty amazing at others. But the notion of six months (or longer) of not ‘going to work’ is fundamentally different to the my current definition of me.

So this definition of me is going to have to change, or adapt or be ripped up and started again. I will have to take off the mask of me as worker, career lady even simply paid employee to a degree. And wear different, unfamiliar masks – mother, dependant, housewife, homemaker. All of which appear to be true but are not quite the me I thought I knew.

Dr Google

Paranoid parenting strikes again… I started typing in to Google this morning as Bimp has a wheezy cough. And google did that thing where your previous searches come up. I realised with some horror, I have come to rely on Google to raise and at times diagnose my child… Previous searches include:

The Baby Whisperer
Tracy Hogg
Baby Ear Infection
Baby screaming on back
How long can I keep baby in a car seat
Apple and Banana Cake
Feeding Baby Evaporated Milk
Medical Advice Baby Cold
Rand Farm
Baby Activities Lincolnshire
Ball Pit
SIDS
Toddle Truck
Rockabye Baby
Capybara
Fluffy Spiderman Pyjamas
Mother and Baby Magazine
What Should I Buy a One Year Old
Controlled Crying
Gina Ford
Katie Hopkins and Peaches Geldof
Meningitis Symptoms
Puddle Ducks Swimming
Baby on Board Badge
Calpol

And thats just the last six weeks…

How does it go again?

Bimp seems to like lullabies while he drifts off to sleep. So I begin to quietly sing to him in the evening. It’s not really going to plan though. To be honest its been a while since I last heard a lullaby so I’m a little rusty. Oh well, give it a go….

“Hush little baby don’t you cry,
Daddy’s going to buy you a…”

What rhymes with cry? Am I even sure about the first bit of that sentence? To be honest, I’m a little hazy on it but the last version of that song I remember was as a sound track to a rather poor eighties movie called the Fly II with Jeff Goldblum which went “Hush little baby, don’t you cry, Just because your dad is the Fly” But I’m pretty sure thats not the original. And it’ll freak the baby out. Right, try a different one…

“Old King Cole was a merry old sole and a merry old sole was he.
He called for his…errr….. what did he call for?…errr”

Hmmm, this is not going well.

“Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.” Down will come baby? Fall? That definitely cannot be right. Did they sing that in The Goonies?

I give up, at least on me singing to him. We have a CD of lullabies – wonderful! The first song is “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. What?!?! If you’d told me that was a lullaby, I’d have been fine*. As long as “Bread of Heaven” and “Flower of Scotland” are next, we’ll be happy as Larry. Not that either of us will be asleep.

*for those of you unfamiliar, it is the England Rugby Team’s Unofficial Anthem.

The Cardinal Rule

Oh seriously, child, go to sleep. You didn’t want your milk so lets go back to sleep.

Yes, I appreciate the shadow on the wall is fascinating. But its two am and we both need to sleep.

I know that doesn’t make you happy. Please stop wailing. There is no one in this time zone who wants to hear it. Perhaps if I rock you for a few minutes.

Yes, I love you dearly but sleep my child, sleep. You don’t like the rocking, do you like the bouncing? Apparently not. If you don’t like either of those, how about upright against my shoulder? No don’t bite, sweetheart. Perhaps sort of seated against me as we walk around the darkened room and I break my neck on the play gym. No, apparently not. Back to rocking. No, sweetheart, don’t arch your back. Because eventually this will cause me to abandon you in your room and go back to my own. Whatever it is I’m doing wrong, its not deliberate. Oh child… seeeeeeeeeriously.

Please close your eyes. Please, please, please. No, don’t grab mummy’s face. Or hair. Or pyjama top. No, gentle hands, darling, gentle hands. No. Not. The. Face. Child.

Sssssssshhhhhhhh, sweet pie, sssssssssshhhhhhh.

Nothing, oh nothing is working. He’s just awake. Horribly horribly awake.

Are you sure you don’t want your milk, sweetie? Are you not hungry? Lets just try it (a little more forcefully). No, don’t play with the bottle, child. Hands out the way. No, child, honestly – if you squeeze the bottle teat like that you cover mummy in milk. Seriously, darling, I will strap your hands down if I have to.

Oh, at last, bless you child, thats it, drink the milk… keep drinking. Yes, I know mummy is breaking the cardinal rule of ‘don’t feed the child to sleep’ but its now half two and I am falling asleep on my feet. Drink, my child, to sleepy drunk and happy dreams.

Night night baby. Night Night. And please please stay asleep when I move you from my arms to your cot. Please.

ADHD

This link is an interesting take on the psychological issues affecting children, specifically ADHD. I don’t specifically adhere to the way the French or the Americans raise their children- there are fantastic points in both countries styles.
French vs American diagnoses

Points I was surprised at…

US children have a 1 in 10 chance of being diagnosed with ADHD; as compared with 1 in 200 French children.

Food Reaction and Social background is as important to French diagnoses as psychobiology.

The emphasis the US puts on psychotherapy in their adult life is apparently not carried through to childhood diagnoses. (I’m happy to be disproved with this).

The French use the Cry it Out method which has in other studies (such as one done by Harvard University) been found to be detrimental to children in the longer term and significantly distressing to them in the short term. Is this a societal difference?

Your thoughts?

The Story

It’s 2am. The wind outside has been whipping up a storm and the rain is clattering the window. It’s a dark dark night, the kind that feels cold when you stick your foot out from under the duvet.

Baby can’t sleep. He’s been crying and agitated all night, sleeping fitfully but then waking with a pained and broken scream. Each time I go in to comfort him, it seems to take an age and all the child care gurus in the world probably can’t help me on this one. Patting and soothing; shushing; pick up put down. They work for a little while but forty minutes later he wakes with that painful scream again. This is not a well baby. He’s pulling (yanking) at his ear but turns his head away quickly if you go anywhere near it. Ear infection. My poor little man. And every time I lay him on his back it’s agony for him.

I pick him up, wrap him under my dressing gown with me and sit down in the big comfy chair in his nursery. I keep him upright but leant against me and he seems to slowly slowly settle. He’s exhausted. And as I stroke his head and rock him slowly to sleep, I start whispering to him. Telling him a story. The story of him- of his great grandads and grandmas- what they did in the war and how I remember them. Of his grandparents and their marvelous adventures around the globes. Of myself and his Dad, what we have done and our story up til now. Of his uncles and aunts and cousins. And of him and what we hope of for the future. That we hope we give him a childhood of magic and dreams and puddle jumping and fishing with sticks and pretending to be superheroes. That we want him to be happy and live a life of positive purpose but to do it in the way he wants. That we will be here for him when things go horribly wrong and wonderfully right. And we will love him, no matter what.

And as I sit with my son, who smells of formula and baby bath, and we both gradually fall asleep, I have never been happier.

The Mummy Bus

My beloved car. My nice, little, sporty, cabriolet, “young, free & single” girl toy (silver with a black roof) will simply have to go. It’s a logistics issue. It may look lovely, drive nicely and make me feel as close to the “wind in your hair, sunglasses on, California beach girl” as I am ever likely to get in Lincolnshire but…

The baby seat and the baby aren’t going to get on with it. Imagine fitting said baby seat and darling baby and then going for a waltz round the countryside with the roof down. The child would either come back frozen cold or sunburnt and with one of those looks on his face that skydivers have when they are in freefall – all teeth, gums and a smile that looks like a cross between the Joker and wobbly jelly.

So it has to go. And in its place? A mummy bus. A derivative of the Chelsea Tractor for those of you who are familiar. Designed solely for the protection of the paranoid parent and their darling offspring. To all intents and purposes a civilian tank. 4 wheel drive – natch. More security devices than the front entrance to Mi6. And so many airbags, if they all went off at once you’d be in danger of floating off. Oh, and zero cool

So bye bye California girl. I look forward to your reincarnation in 25 years time once the beloved children have flown the coop. Til then I will simply dream of my Aston Martin Vantage while I do the school/guitar lesson/swimming run and curse the audacity and stupidity of every other driver (especially the ones with the nice convertibles).

Baby Brain

Lose phone.

Growing concern as realise wealth of lost info and access random stranger (who clearly has my phone) may now have to all aspects of my life.

Empty (ridiculously over sized, over stuffed) bag. Wallet, keys, tissues, lippy, mascara, gloss, hairbrush, stamps, cafe nero card, book (with manly folded over corners), notebook, pens (thousands of them), three tampons (why?), 7 business cards for people I don’t know, 2 hairbands and one hair clip, nail file. No phone.

Search last known whereabouts (lecture theatre). Check coat pockets and jeans pockets. No phone.

Start panicking. Go to lost property. No one has handed a phone in. WHy would they? Nice gentleman behind lost property desk phones three other lost property sites on campus to ask if they have had phone handed in despite the fact that I have been nowhere near that part of campus. No phone.

Beg (in manner of Oliver asking for more… MORE!!!) nice but now unamused man behind counter to please phone my phone. Lost property man even less amused when he (and I) discover my own bag is now ringing… with very familiar ring tone.

Oh, the humiliation of baby brain.

The Birth Plan

The Birth Plan. The what? I looked cluelessly at my midwife. Honestly, I had no idea. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. A Birth Plan? Hmmm, like “waters break, contractions start, take drugs, have baby. Preferably in fifteen minutes”?

Apparently not.

Once she realised I genuinely didn’t know what she was talking about, she started to explain. A Birth Plan covers all your options. Where would you like to have the baby? erm, in hospital with as many qualified people surrounding me as possible. Had I considered a home birth? erm, no. I live in a tiny rented flat with very thin walls. My loud, shouty, next door neighbours may look even more disapprovingly at me after they’ve listened to 12 hours of contractions. You could consider a maternity unit rather than a full up labour ward? er…. I looked blankly at her again; at which point, I think she became pretty convinced that I was either stoned or stupid or just badly prepared (the last of which was spot on). Maternity unit – straight forward births, no complications, often attached to main hospitals where you’ll go if complications develop, no epidurals available. Labour ward – for complicated births and drugs. There’s far more to it obviously but you get the gist.

Perhaps you ought to go away and have a think about the options. There’s a sheet in your maternity notes to write your birth plan on. There is? Oh, yes, I see, there it is. On page 9 of the notes I haven’t read. Look at all those options.

A water birth. In a mini warm swimming pool. That sounds nice. With music. Of my choice. What would I want bump to emerge to? Perhaps an opera, La Boheme? A bit tragic. Maybe… Don Giovanni? maybe not.

What else? Hypno birthing. Hypno what? seriously? Yes, apparently. And for those who got the practice in and understood it far better than I did, apparently it was quite helpful.

Use of drugs? Would I want to go a bit earth mother and try and do this without drugs? Or would I want to have an epidural from the moment I arrived* until the bump was, oh, eighteen and financially independent? Well, hey, I’ve been through some pretty tough stuff so you know I’ll give it a shot without but if the consultant thinks I need drugs (or I begin weeping) then perhaps I’ll take some gas and air (ha!)

Who is your birth partner? Do you plan to use a doula? Again, I had to turn to Dr Google. Who knew a doula could be available on the NHS! A great idea and a thousand pent up, nervous husbands breathe a collective sigh of relief.

So at my next appointment, I presented my Birth Plan to my midwife, not without a little pride in this complete work of fiction I had created. She read down, nodding. This looks great, she said. But I need to warn you. Birth is a complex and long process and lots of variables can change throughout. While I see you’ve gone for the hypo birthing, whale song, water birth, I should warn you not to hang your hopes on it entirely. Yes, it may well happen like this. But if things change, then you will need to be flexible. A lot of women often feel they have failed if the birth doesn’t go how they wanted it to go. You haven’t, its just the team around you need to change the plan to ensure you and bumps health. Wise words as it turned out.

*note to self, “from the moment I arrived” was what I expected. It got explained to me once in hospital that that wasn’t quite how it worked.