It's only 9 months... but it feels like Maternity...

Now Known As Postnatal Oppression

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Things I like about having a Spawn:
  • There's always someone to talk to in the supermarket or clothes shops. He's pretty good company, and his taste in clothes is really quite advanced
  • When he wants only me to hold him or cuddle him (admittedly not that often, but it's nice to be wanted)
  • When he learns how to do something new, or learns to avoid my tricks ("what's that over there?" [raspberry on neck] )
  • Smiling and laughing at our private jokes
  • Dressing him in cute/hilarious outfits
  • Toys and kids' books
  • Being able to chat to just about anyone now about "kids" - first class small talk - I was having a thoroughly engrossing chat about breastfeeding and soreness with a strapping 24-year old (male) soldier just the other day
  • The smell of top-to-toe wash
  • Remembering words to nursery rhymes and songs
  • His expressions when he's chatting away to me about something hugely interesting, like a potato masher
  • There's always something to photograph

Things I dislike about having a Spawn:

  • Screaming fits. Two small words, that encompass sooooo much stress, despair, confusion, resentment, embarrassment and general pissed-offness
  • Poo (I really hate poo)
  • Not being able to sleep later than 6.30am, ever - late nights are embarked upon at your own risk
  • Feeling helpless and sorry for him when he's ill
  • Guilt when having to hold him still for jabs
  • Seemingly never having a minute to read or catch up on my Sky+
  • The horrible suspicion that it is going to be years before the Husband and I can ever go for a proper evening out together - cinema, leisurely meal, late our dreams
  • Having to delay all my dream holiday destinations until we retire, and book 'family-friendly' holidays now. The Maldives may well be underwater completely, and Fidel's not going to wait for me.
  • The only songs I find myself humming now are either nursery rhymes or childrens' television theme tunes (All together now - "Yes, my name is Iggle Piggle...")
  • Losing stuff. I now get apoplectic if I can't find a particular dummy, or a muslin, or something equally insignificant. I have no idea why this has happened to me

On the whole, I would say that I'd recommend it to anyone. But is that just because I'm on the sinking ship, and I'm bloody well going to make sure I take as many other buggers down with me as possible? What you have to ask yourself is, do you feel lucky?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Well, would you believe it - Spawn made it to his first birthday! You have to hand it to him for overcoming what would appear to be insurmountable obstacles (namely, the parents he's got).

We didn't have a party for him - how ridiculous. He's one - he'll never remember anything about his first birthday. I saw it as my job to make it look like he had a fantastic time, take photos as evidence, but not to actually put myself through anything resembling that amount of hard work.
Therefore, we invited no guests but assumed that an assortment of grandparents would call in at various points to bring cards, and a gift would be nice but hey, no pressure.

Spawn woke up on his birthday with not the slightest inkling, at his normal time, and happily began his day as normal. We gave him a birthday card to open from us, and hurriedly removed it when he tried to chew a corner off and rip it in half. He had Weetabix for breakfast as normal, tolerated me taking some pictures of him, a quick pitstop while me and the Husband had a check-up at the dentist, had a nice nap, and we went off to Eureka. When everyone there sang Happy Birthday to him, he raised one eyebrow and glanced around at everyone with an "O.... K...." expression on his face. So far, his birthday was going extremely well.

We got back home, had lunch, and within half an hour we were full to bursting with grandparents. Spawn happily greeted them all. Then the Husband's niece called to say she was coming over to bring a card, but she'd locked herself out and had no car keys, and no-one was around to let her back in. I drove over and picked her, and her 2-year old son, up, saying she was welcome to wait at ours until her mum got back from work. We got back to our house, and it was time for Spawn to have presents. The 2 year old (Spawn's second cousin) pounced - he was ripping paper off before Spawn had the faintest idea what was going on. When he'd got the paper off, he snatched the toys away and began playing with them. Spawn saw most of his presents whiz past him without realising they were actually for him. Whenever we did manage to sneak a present to him, his cousin would stop playing with whatever he'd got, run over and snatch the new one off Spawn. When he tired of that, he decided to chase our cats , who jumped up out of his way. So he climbed up after them - onto windowsills, the sofa, then onto the arm of the sofa, then onto the back of the sofa - at which point I told him NO, grabbed him and put him back on the floor. He decided to push our clock off the fireplace, at which point the Husband told him NO, grabbed him and put him back on the floor. He then grabbed as much food as he could off the table and began stuffing it into his face, and running around the living room spraying the floor and furniture with crumbs (Spawn only eats at the table, in his highchair, so we've never had to contend with this level of mess). He snatched away Spawn's birthday balloon, and even managed to fit in a smack on Spawn's head when Spawn held onto an In The Night Garden book that his Nanny had just given him.

His mother, b-l-e-s-s her, might as well have not been there, for all the control she had over him and the notice he took of her. When they finally left, she walked out of the house without even saying goodbye. I called after her "Bye then," and she waved without even turning her head "Oh yeah, bye" and carried on walking out to the car. Easy to see where her son got his charming manners from.

My head was thumping, I was pissed off and feeling guilty that I hadn't been a welcoming enough hostess and hugely upset that this day was meant to have been Spawn's day, which is why we'd invited no other children, and it had ended up all about 2 Year Old. The Husband tried to cheer me up by saying that on the video he'd taken, he'd managed to avoid filming 2 Year Old as much as possible, and when he played it back to show me, we found that there was something wrong with the tape and the footage of Spawn's birthday cake with everyone singing Happy Birthday to him was all distorted and liney and virtually unwatchable.

Perfect - because for a moment there I'd been hoping that even after everything, his very first birthday, which you only get once and is special for that reason, the one which brought back so clearly all those memories and emotions of that incredible day for me, hadn't actually been ruined. But no - thanks very much Gods/Fate/Karma, just putting me straight there were you, in case I might actually have salvaged a smidge of happiness from it all? I do beg your pardon. What on earth was I thinking?

What do I take away from this though? Well, Spawn was perfectly happy for the best part of the day. He didn't know that his presents (and his day) were being monopolised by a badly-behaved grubby, spoilt toddler. He finished his birthday as he finishes every day, with an episode of In The Night Garden, a bath and a bottle, and went to sleep at his normal time in his normal sound manner, having had, in his opinion, a lovely day thank you very much. The Husband's niece is the one who gave us generous amounts of clothes when her son outgrew them all, and so I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume it was a bad day for her. 2 Year Old is 2 years old, and knows no better if he's not told any differently, and Spawn may well be behaving the exact same way this time next year.

Yeah right. Over my dead body he will.

I've suddenly remembered why I didn't write anything in between New Year and now - I was reeling from having to cope with both the Husband and Spawn being incredibly ill at the same time. This was in January.

The Husband came home from work one day, and I'd made him a sandwich for lunch. He didn't look too great (and hadn't been feeling 100% for a couple of days) but he said it was because he was tired and just wanted something to eat. So he commenced with the sandwich. Half way through it, he rushed to the loo and threw most of it back up. Now I'm not exactly Nigella, but I didn't think I could get a sandwich that wrong. And in fact I couldn't remember the last time he'd been sick where alcohol hadn't been involved. Spawn had been particularly ratty for most of that day, but I'd put it down to that great catch-all, 'Teething'. I asked the Husband if he thought Spawn looked a funny colour, but he just said it was probably because Spawn was tired. Anyhoo, I carried on, bathed and put Spawn to bed, and attended to dinner.

After about an hour, the Husband looked at Spawn on the baby monitor and said "Is he - I think he's - oh shit!" We raced up the stairs, to find poor Spawn spewing like a volcano. I'd got there first, just as everything fountained back down onto him - his entire head was covered, and the shock of it had frightened him so much he was gasping. I grabbed him, turned him over onto his front and just held him as he then carried on puking his poor little guts up onto his bed.

By now he was wailing, but I just stripped him out of his sleeping bag and whisked all his bedding off the cot. The Husband took him into the bathroom and tried to see where to start undressing him - the poor little sod's sleepsuit was covered. Luckily I hadn't emptied Spawn's bathwater out and it was still warm. "Just put him straight in," I said. In he went, clothes, nappy and all. As I got everything off him and began rinsing him, the Husband sank down onto the floor in the hallway. Running up the stairs had knocked him for six and he'd gone dizzy and felt sick again. "Get into bed you," I ordered. Spawn had stopped wailing and was sobbing unhappily, then he looked at me with his big brown eyes and started to cry just as he had to let go from both ends into the bath. I lifted him out of the bath and sat him in the sink, and washed him for the third time that night from head to toe. When I laid him on his towel and bundled him up, the poor little thing was shivering and sobbing. I sang a couple of songs to him, and told him that he was a good boy, and he calmed down, but he was so tired and yawning. I dressed him in a clean sleepsuit, cleaned and remade his bed, put him in a clean sleeping bag and put him back in to sleep, and the poor baby lay quietly and dozed off within minutes. I then cleaned the bath and sink with sterilising fluid, and put all the dirty clothing, bed linen and teddies in the washing machine.

When I went in to see the Husband, he was lying in bed wearing pyjamas, with the duvet and 2 extra blankets over and he was shivering and freezing cold to the touch. I went downstairs and made him a hot water bottle - something I don't think I've had to do for him in the 13 years we've been together. By now it was about half past nine. I put the washing into the tumble dryer and settled down to try and eat some dinner. I glanced at the baby monitor and noticed Spawn starting to twitch in his sleep. I looked, and he suddenly started to thrash. I ran upstairs, and as I got into his room, the volcano was back. We went through the whole procedure again - but this time I was on my own. I stripped him out of his sleeping bag and raced him into the bathroom. He had his fourth bath, again puking into it but luckily right at the end so I could just swoop him out of it before it started to drift. I bundled him up, soothing him with songs and cuddles, then dressed him in yet another clean sleepsuit. The Husband had heard the commotion but was too weak to even move from the bed.

At this point, I'd run out of clean sheets and sleeping bags for Spawn, and wasn't happy about him sleeping in his own room if he was going to be sick again. But I hadn't anything else for him to sleep in - he was way too big for his basket now, and if I put him in his pop-up travel cot and he puked in that, it would be quite a job to get him out of it quickly, not to mention to clean. In the end, I folded up a towel, laid it on his change mat, and he slept on that, on the floor in our room, with a blanket over him. I could tell he was feeling like crap because he quite happily accepted the arrangement when I put him down on it. The Husband reached down from the bed and stroked him, which was as much as he could manage. I had another load of bedding and clothes to wash and dry.

I managed to get into bed by about 2 o'clock in the morning, and after listening to Spawn sleeping, had finally managed to doze off for about 30 minutes, when a loud noise outside awoke me. Suddenly there was the sound of two people screaming at each other, right outside our house. One young man's voice was explaining to a young woman that he did not care for her any more and she was a strumpet, who was to please leave. I couldn't believe it - I thought I was dreaming for a minute, but the Husband had leapt out of bed and was at the window. The screaming continued, as did the loud noises - the boy/man was smashing the wing mirrors off cars parked in the road as he made his way down it. The Husband, forgetting that he was in the middle of a viral illness, went into Policing mode, threw on some clothes and went out after them. A few neighbours were also out, and the Husband got in the car and drove down the road. I was leaning out of the window trying to see where he'd got to, when I heard more screaming, and what sounded like the Husband's voice, then the voice of the young man shouting "I'll fucking stab you!" I went cold - ran downstairs, and tried to see where they were from the living room window. I rang the Husband's mobile, but just got his answerphone. For the next 5 minutes I rang his mobile constantly, consciously NOT imagining what might have just happened and thank the Lord he suddenly answered it, saying "Yeah, I'm just driving back - little fucker threatened to stab me." He came back, then went over to let some of the neighbours know that he'd 'called it in', and then, we tried to go back to sleep. (HA!) We managed to miss the police car that drove down the road a few minutes later, but that was the end of that really.

And bless his little heart, Spawn had slept through the whole thing, on his change mat on the floor. We didn't hear anything more about it from the police, and the Husband and Spawn were poorly for another couple of days and the next week respectively. I did remind the Husband that running around streets in the middle of a winter's night in pyjamas and a jumper tackling drunk knife-threatening hormonal teenage delinquents is not a recommended course of treatment for Norovirus.

And - this is not the normal sort of goings-on for my street. Honestly. This is a nice respectable neighbourhood, I'll have you know. Probably. Oh, and I was absolutely fine. I don't have time for being ill, you know.

Hey, I've managed to make it back after only a month or so... stop moaning. (Yeah, like anyone is reading this).

Did I tell you that Spawn has now had 2 haircuts? The first one done by the Husband just after Christmas: I didn't want him to do it - my little Spawn had curly tendrils that looked ever so sweet, but in all honesty they were getting rather long, and he'd been mistaken for a girl so often that it was now becoming embarrassing. The Husband had been threatening to cut his hair for a couple of months, and the good Mrs. B had backed him up saying that if one of us didn't do it soon she would. I was alone in my defence of Spawn's Mercury-style wings.

Then one night the Husband volunteered to bath Spawn and put him to bed (rather than us paper-scissor-stoning to see who lost) - I should have smelled a rat, but I was so grateful to get a break that I jumped at the offer. I thought they had been quiet for a while, and then they reappeared downstairs accompanied by the Husband's triumphant "Da-da!" and proudly showing off what he'd done to my first-born's untouched locks. After the horrified shock had subsided, I had to admit, he'd done a pretty good job - Spawn suddenly looked like a proper little boy and not such a baby any more. I asked the Husband how he'd done it. "Just sat him on the toilet and cut bits off." Hmmm.

The next day, I noticed that he'd left a long strand next to Spawn's ear. "Give me the scissors - I'll do it while you're holding him," I said. "No, no - I'll do it," he replied, control bloody freak that he is.

He'd managed to nick the top part of Spawn's ear with the scissors. Ears bleed a rather unnecessary amount, don't they? What a bad daddy, oh dear, Mama will protect you from the nasty evil man... I milked that one for a good ten days :)

One thing I've noticed about Spawn's hair is that it seems to have a Magician's Nephew quality about it - the more we cut it, the quicker it grows. He needed another haircut about 6 weeks after that. By now he was much bigger and more mobile, and I suppose he knew what was coming, so every time he heard or caught sight of the scissors, he'd whip his head round to that side. I let the Husband do battle with him until their tempers were hanging by a thread, then decided that I could finish off just before Spawn's bath. I was attempting the Fringe - I know now that this is not for the novice. I wasn't going to give him an Edmund Blackadder kind of thing, just shorten what was there, but at my very first snip he moved and I ended up with a nice diagonal line. Shiiiiiit.

Long story short - I hacked a few more bits off, the Husband managed to even out the fringe, and I trimmed around his ears (a blood-free episode this time, which I hastened to point out to the Husband), and he looked fairly respectable at the end of it all. But he now needs yet another one, and we are both pretending that we haven't noticed.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Blimey. Where has the time gone? I can't believe how quickly Christmas whooshed past, and I'm pretty sure we skipped January altogether this year. Quick catch-up stuff first then.

Dunno about you but I spent the whole of Christmas feeling like crap, having managed to pick up what I suspected was diptheria but turned out to be merely "a bug." Mine was the one where you get a massive lump in your throat for days, followed by three weeks of trying to cough your lungs up. (Must be what it's like for a cat with hairballs). Fortunately Spawn and the Husband cleverly managed to avoid any kind of illness.

So, Spawn's first Christmas, which I'd really been looking forward to, was suddenly upon us. I was ill, both the Husband and I had worked right up to it (and including it, on the poor Husband's part) and the Friday before (Christmas being Tuesday), the Husband and I realised we hadn't actually bought him any presents. We hurried over to Mothercare World and guiltily made a couple of purchases - nothing much, just enough to ease our consciences.

I was most disappointed that Spawn hadn't gone bananas for the Christmas tree in the way I'd been hoping. It wasn't the spur to make him start crawling like the Health Visitor had told me it would be. He was pretty impressed that one afternoon he had gone up for a nap, and when he came down again the living room had new twinkly stuff all over it, but after the first half hour it was old news.

We spent Christmas day over at the Mum-in-law's, with my stepdad as well (I didn't want to leave him on his own). The Husband was working until around 3pm, in time for Christmas dinner, so we saved present-opening until then. Spawn was resplendent all day in his My First Christmas top (obligatory.. I think they've passed a law or something now) and heartily tucked into a blitzed-up turkey dinner. I think I rather horrified the Stepdad-in-law by shoving turkey, roast potatoes, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and a Yorkshire pudding (a staple of the Mum-in-law's Christmas dinner - I myself find it slightly odd, but as I wasn't having to cook it, who was going to complain?) into a plastic jug with a bit of gravy and some water and going at it with our £4 Value hand blender from Tesco's (absolute gem - don't bother buying anything more expensive, it does the lot). His face when he saw what it looked like suggested I was insane to contemplate giving it to his beloved grandson, however, Mum-in-law persuaded him to try a tiny bit and he was amazed that it tasted like a Christmas dinner. Dur.

Slightly embarrassing moment when we opened Spawn's presents from grandparents and both my stepdad and the Husband's mum and stepdad had bought him rocking animals - a ladybird and a horse. Still, he was far too young for either of them. What on earth made them think he'd be able to use them before next Christmas?

Boxing Day we had our own proper Christmas day, where we opened our presents. We needn't have worried about him not having enough toys - the living room looked like we'd opened a bloody creche, it was ridiculous. And a rather worrying trend seems to have been started: people had bought Spawn presents but not us. What the fuck?? When did we agree to that? No-one mentioned THAT little diamond in the stupid pregnancy books or magazines, so be warned. If our nearest and dearest had actually mentioned that this was going to be the score BEFORE we'd raced around trying to make sure we'd bought them presents, we would have damn well saved ourselves the time and money. We have Learned for next year. We have also Learned to ask for clothes for his birthday, as we had to take a week off work in the New Year to clear out and make room for all the stuff Spawn has now acquired. How on earth does everyone fit all this shit in? The charity shops have done very well out of us this past month.

The day after Boxing Day, Spawn decided to prove that see, he could crawl thank you very much, but he just didn't choose to do so right now. Over the next 2 weeks, he went from: moving from one sitting spot to another without us seeing how he'd done it, to full-speed crawling the length of the living room, shrieking with laughter and excitement the whole way. His initial style was not dissimilar to that cat on You Tube that walks like Hitler - every time he lifted a hand to move forward he waved it up in the air, but after we wet ourselves laughing at him he changed it to the more conventional style. I now cannot go anywhere without the slap-slap-slap-slap sound of him following right behind. If I go upstairs, he crawls to the door and sits banging on it to make me re-appear - however, he hasn't quite grasped that I can't actually get back in until he moves away from the door. We normally end up in a Mexican stand-off with him complaining that I'm hiding from him on purpose, and me peering at him through the crack trying to persuade him to move back, until the Husband finally realises what's going on and rescues us both.

Spawn also discovered clapping just after Christmas, and now claps whenever he is excited, and at the right parts of "If You're Happy And You Know It", although I suspect it is more to do with me nodding wildly and grimacing than him understanding the cause-and-effect theme of the song. Rather like the horse that could count.

Speaking of songs, did I mention that I take him to a class now? It's called Baby Eureka, and it's described as 'heuristic play'. I know, I know - for fucksakes, you're thinking. But I have to admit, it's pretty good. The woman that runs it is a total organic-hippy-earth mother-type, but she's very sweet. She is all about no pressure, yeah - you just pay as you go, so you can drop in this week or not bother next week, which is handy. It's for babies up to a year or so old, so no rampaging toddlers stampeding over our non-mobile lumps. It starts off with just letting them play with whatever random toys she has put out for them at the beginning - egg shakers, small beach balls, musical instruments etc. I thought they were whatever was left over from the toddler group immediately before our one, but now I think she puts things out on purpose. Then we do a bit of singing and playing peekaboo with scarves, and then - then! It's time for the Treasure Baskets. They are wondrous things and I love them. They're shallow baskets filled with what can only be described as junk - but they're magical. All the babies suddenly go quiet as they're engrossed with rooting through all this stuff in them. All the mums suddenly go and get a cup of (organic) tea or (organic) coffee and (organic) biscuits and sit back for a natter. I'm telling you, it's amazing. They (the babies) will sit there for 15 - 20 minutes and amuse themselves completely, and when the lovely hippy lady packs them all away for the next bit there are howls of protest and they gang up to out-flank her - one will hang on to a basket she's trying to take, while another will pull as many bits out of the one behind her as fast as he can, and a third will take more out of the one in her other hand. Of course you just have to have your own Treasure Basket at home - Spawn's consists of a cardboard box that I got at work, filled with whatever random things I found in the kitchen utensil drawer and other odds and sods. Bearing in mind how many Christmas presents he got, the skanky old box with junk in is his favourite thing to play with. After the baskets comes Parachute Play, and Bubbles, and Spawn goes nuts for both of those too. When he gets excited he twirls both hands and both feet like he's conducting an orchestra and trying to shake off pins and needles at the same time and either shrieks eardrum-piercingly or goes "OOOH!" It is a source of much amusement for the other mums and the lovely hippy lady.

Well, I was so pleased with his reaction to Eureka that I got over-ambitious, and signed him up for a Sing and Sign course. Now, I only have 1 day a week off, and Baby Eureka is on that day. But so was Sing and Sign. I was rather sad about him not going to BE any more, seeing as how he loved it so much, but I reasoned that he'd like this just as much, and we'd be learning as well. Bonus. So off we went to our first class just after New Year. Oh dear.

For a start, the money-grabbing wench demands that you pay for the 10-week class up front. Hmm. Fine. Anyway, we arrived, and found ourselves in a big, modern but very echoey church hall. The class began with (naturally enough) some songs. ALL the other mums joined in lustily. I glanced around, and Spawn and I looked at each other doubtfully . How come we didn't know these songs? I sing a lot of nursery rhymes to him, and we pride ourselves on our wide and varied range. Then, ALL the other mums joined in perfectly with the signing. I began to smell a rat.

It turns out, not that the money-grabbing wench had mentioned it at all, that it's the Done Thing to do the course twice, and all the other people there had already done just that. I was really cross - I had assumed that we would all be learning together.

Spawn was looking frantically from person to person, wondering what the hell was going on. It was extremely loud in there, and to make sure she was being heard, the Sing and Sign woman was bellowing her songs out. It went on and on... Most of the signs in that first class Spawn and I already knew, so we were both starting to get a little bored. There was nothing for the babies to do really, and I could see that a few others were beginning to look bored too. None of them were doing the signs. The younger one next to us had howled the whole way through. The other mums were bored and chatting to each other. We couldn't follow what was going on over the row. The Sing and Sign woman was still being overly loud and cheerful. Spawn was unimpressed. I came out with a headache.

The following week, I reasoned that we would be learning new signs this time, and if we sat a bit closer to her we'd be able to hear her better. So, back we went. The class started. The Sing and Sign woman began Singing, very loudly. Spawn took one look at her and howled. The more she sang, the more he howled. I had to retreat back from the circle we were all sitting in and try and pacify him with a bottle. Eventually his sobs died down, but when she came over to see him he wasn't having any of it and howled even more loudly. There was something about her that just didn't do it for him. When he finally calmed down, once more I could tell that he was bored, and just waiting for me to take him away from all this.

The third week loomed. I had had enough. Why was I putting myself and Spawn through all this? Then a friend of mine said "I've got the DVD from Sing and Sign - do you want to borrow it?" I watched it. From the looks of it, it was the whole course on 1 DVD. Brilliant - we never had to go back - I just wish she'd mentioned it before I'd paid out for the course. Please take my advice, save yourself some money, and just get the DVD.

I took Spawn back to Baby Eureka where he was welcomed with open arms. The only down side is that Spawn seems to have been traumatised by the Sing and Sign woman, because as soon as we started singing back at Baby Eureka, he panicked and began howling. However, once he realised she was nowhere to be seen he calmed himself and settled in for a good Treasure Basket session. The same thing happened last week, but this time he only cried for a minute or two. I'm sure that with time, and some counselling, he'll make a full recovery.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So Spawn had his 7 - 9 Month Check the other week. The Health Visitor arrived half an hour late (I think... I'm fairly sure it was supposed to be at 10am but seeing as I didn't listen when she told me what time she was coming, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt) and didn't take her coat off, making me think straight away that she wasn't intending to be here very long.

"So, how do you think he's doing?" she said. Hang on a minute, that's her job. How am I supposed to know? He's still alive isn't he? In my book, that's pretty good going.

"Erm.. fine?" I replied. She looked at me, obviously expecting more. "Well... he's very alert," I said. Spawn looked at me, then looked the HV up and down. "And he eats well," I continued rather lamely. "He's very easy going, not much fazes him," I added. She nodded. "So, much better than when he was first born then," she said with a snidey laugh. I bristled. What did she mean by THAT? Fucksakes - I'd obviously made a mistake in asking for advice on anything when he was first born. Had I been on some sort of list of mothers who weren't Coping, or was Spawn down in their paperwork as a Problem child? Remind me never to ask anyone 'professional' for help on anything child-related in the future, in case Social Services are alerted. How dare I not know what I'm doing with my first child and admit any kind of weakness to them. "Actually I think it was more I wasn't very confident in what I was doing, to be honest," I told her.

So we were off to a good start then. She got out a clipboard and began marking things off on it. "Is he crawling yet?" "Erm no - but he's rolling." "Rolling?" she said, like I'd also said "- in dog shit". "Well, is he holding himself up when he's on his front?" Sort of, I thought. "Yes," I replied confidently.
"Is he saying Mama and Dada?" Eh? He's seven months old for chrissakes. He doesn't even know he's English, let alone how to speak it yet. "Well, he's making the noises, but not at anyone," I said. She nodded happily and ticked something.
"Is he waving hello and goodbye?" Well let's see. He's still pretty impressed by his own hands, so you're asking me if he's mastered the intricacies of social greetings yet? "No."
"Is he socially aware?" What? Am I socially aware? Are you? What does that mean? I try not to fart in public, is that socially aware? I can't say the same for Spawn, if that's the case. "How do you mean?" I asked, feeling the hairline cracks starting to creep across my temper. "Does he understand different tones of voice?" "Well, he doesn't like it if anyone shouts or gets angry." Another happy nod and a tick. What the fuck?
"Is he eating family foods?" Whose family? Family-sized, like bags of crisps? "Well, we give him some of what we're having, just mushed up a bit." "Oh - are you pureeing it? You need to think about mashing things so he can have lumps." "He's well used to lumps - I get too bored to make things smooth." She nodded and ticked again.
By now I was feeling a bit paranoid. "So is he meant to be doing all those things then?" I asked. "Oh, there's a big range of what's normal at this age," she said. "He's eight months isn't he? By now some babies are cruising round the furniture and communicating well, but some just take a bit longer than others." "He's just over seven months actually," I said. She glanced down at her notes.

"Let's weigh him," she said, changing the subject. I stripped Spawn off while she got her scales out. He immediately rolled over and began pressing the buttons on them for her. After weighing (he sat up on them, laying down is for wimps) she had a feel of his bits, during which he scowled suspiciously at her, looking indignant throughout, then after I dressed him she showed him a finger puppet, which he pulled off her finger and tried to eat. "He's a very serious baby... I'm having a job getting a smile out of him," she remarked. You just insulted and assaulted him and now you want him to smile at you? "He doesn't smile at people he doesn't know very well," I said smugly. Spawn tried to pull the buttons off her coat.

There wasn't much more to it than that really. She said, in not so many words, that as far as they were concerned, I was now on my own with him. They apparently do a 2 year check, but all it consists of is a questionnaire that's mailed out to you. How reassuring. Of course, I could always ring her if I had any questions (yeah, I fell for that one before) or see her at the clinic (which she changed the day of so it doesn't coincide with my day off in the week any more), but really they wouldn't do any more visits unless there were Problems. Well to hell with you then, be-atch. Get out of my house. I'm glad you didn't have a drink, and I'm glad I never bought any biscuits for you.

To soften the blow she did give me a book bag though, and patronisingly suggested I joined the library for Spawn, to which I equally patronisingly told her I had already done so. Spawn liked the books and proceeded to chew one of them vigorously.

Oh, and he waved hello at me on Monday.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

OK - this is going to be a very self-indulgent one that I have been promising myself for ages... please do forgive me, and whizz past it to the next one if it doesn't suit your tastes, but I feel I owe it to my peace of mind just to get it out and clear some space. Actually, it's all rather embarrassingly pseudo-philosophic and preachy so just move on now please. Nothing to see here. Normal service is resumed on the next entry.

Well, don't say I didn't warn you.
  • Having Spawn, on the whole, is really great. I wish now that I hadn't waited so long to have him, because it has been such a great experience so far already, but I suppose I wasn't in any sort of place work-wise, or maturity-wise, to have gone through all this any earlier. I wish I'd just been braver about sorting everything out sooner. If you sat and thought about having kids, no-one would do it, which is why it took me so long, being a compulsive list-maker and planner. But no matter how much you plan and organise and control, at some point you just have to take a leap of faith, like Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade, and hope there's a cleverly-disguised ledge waiting for you.
  • It is the most bizarre thing, and I'm going to sound like the worst kind of hippy/shaman/charlatan mystic, but I do feel like I've joined in with, what? The yin in the universe? The feminine spirit? (I may be repeating myself here, but I'm buggered if I'm going to trawl back through my rambling nonsense to check). What I mean, is that I feel I can now empathise with women throughout the complete history of humanity. Not only women, but with female animals too. With female plants? Nah, that's going a bit far. But really, I can only best describe it as feeling like I've properly grown up and plugged into the rhythm of the planet. The experience of creating, giving birth to and rearing offspring is so unique, unremarkable because it is so essential, yet it makes you feel like you can see to the ends of the universe in both directions. A bold claim, I know :)
  • Whenever anyone I know tells me that they are having a kid, I get two feelings. The first one is absolute sheer delight for them. This consists of perhaps instinctive joy at a primitive strengthening of the group (I think that manager of mine who suggested it was onto something), with a sprinkling of "Brilliant - if I'm going down, I'm going to take as many of the bastards with me as possible, and here's another one!" The second feeling is abject terror, that anything less than their well-deserved happiness should befall them. I dare not even think of bad things happening, just in case I somehow jinx them. Even typing this I'm starting to feel uneasy.
  • In my job, I see some really sad situations. The ones that have affected me more than I realised though, are the ones where - hang on, let me give you an example. A couple of years ago, a lovely old gent came to see me. He was registering his wife's death, and as we proceeded, he chatted to me about her and about their life together. They had been married for 60 years, and had a wonderful life together - not hugely exciting, they weren't particularly rich, but they had just been each other's soulmates for all that time. Early on, they had decided that kids weren't for them, and they had never regretted their decision - they travelled all over, and had nice things, and always loved each other. He said to me then, "We just had each other, and now she's gone, I've no-one." He wasn't maudlyn about it, he was just stating the sad truth. When he said he wasn't looking forward to Christmas on his own, it was all I could do not to sweep him up and take him home with me. My point here is, I looked at this dignified, charming gentleman and saw his life as it would be now, and how it would have been if he'd had a reminder of his lovely wife in the shape of a son or daughter, and I thought about the Husband and me, and I took a big step on the road that led to Spawn. And no, I didn't have him so he could look after us when we're old (he'll find out that it's an intrinsic part of the womb-letting contract in his own good time). I look at Spawn and I see the Husband, and he looks at Spawn and sees me.
  • Speaking of which, how sci-fi is that? I grew it, and there it is, sizing me up with my own eyes. It is very surreal to see expressions peering back at you that it's either learned from you or extracted from your DNA. And another strange thing is how all babies seem to do the same things as predicted by books/medical professionals/etc - I know there are the exceptions, but generally they do open their eyes at this point, and they do start smiling and recognising you at that point, and they do start sitting up and rolling around and eating actual food and sleeping longer and so on. When you're waiting for the Next Thing, it does feel like it won't happen, but blow me, they're right again. Don't you think that's weird?
  • It is rather nice to have him not able to take his eyes off us. Depending on who he feels like looking at today, he'll spend ages inspecting the face of the Chosen One with pokey little fingers, watching your every move around the room, smiling delightedly if you look back at him, craning around other, lesser beings to carry on watching you, explaining the complexities of this toy to you and you only, kicking his feet madly and screaming excitedly when you come back into the room. Some days, he's my biggest fan, he likes me even more than my cats do. And that has got to cheer you up.
  • I can't tell you how sad I am that my Mum isn't here to see how he's getting on. The look on her face that first time she came to see me after I'd had him, and I put him in her arms, is something I hope I never forget. I think she honestly never thought she could ever be that happy , and she'd never dared to hope it would happen. Thank God I didn't wait any longer to have him. If Mum had died before he'd been born, or worse still while I was pregnant, I would have never forgiven myself. I have to be thankful that she got to meet him, and was just so thrilled and so proud, and loved him so much. He even smiled one of his first few smiles at her, for which I can only thank him for delighting his Grandma like that. Mum and I would talk about what she'd do with him when she was better (which we'd assumed she would be very soon, and hadn't been told anything different) - take him out for a walk in his pram, babysit for him, teach him to speak Cantonese (she'd already told him that she was his Ap-po), spoil him rotten at Christmas, take him to the zoo.... I am just heartbroken for both of them that they never got to do these things. Spawn adores a big white polar bear toy that she bought for him last Christmas when I was pregnant, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time to see him playing with it, but that Mum never did. Having him though, lessened the blow of losing her - I had to carry on doing normal things for him, he still needing feeding and changing and putting to bed. Mum and I were never close, but I could feel that having Spawn was going to change things - yes, she would still drive me insane, but we had something in common now, and I was looking forward to seeing how that would change our relationship. It wasn't to be though. The Mum-in-law is just wonderful, and dotes on Spawn, but every now and then I feel what I can only describe as a tiny resentment that she gets it all, and my mum missed out on everything apart from those first 8 weeks. Poor Spawn has, in grandparenting terms, kind of the opposite to what I had - I had a paternal grandmother, a maternal grandmother who I never met and no grandfathers at all. He has just 1 grandmother, and then a step-grandfather, another step-grandfather, and an actual grandfather (and technically a step-grandmother), all of whom are very much present and correct.

Oh for God's sake, enough already.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I know, I know. I'm crap at blogging. Where the hell have 2 months gone? But I have been a busy bee and no mistake.

I'm back at work now, and nothing there is any different to how I left it. Apart from all my Stuff being scattered to the four winds and hidden in strange and unusual places, and everyone being just that much more miserable than I remembered, I was dumped straight back into it all. So much so, that despite them changing our entire computer system behind my back, I was given 20 minutes' look at it and then left on my own for the rest of the first week. As in, the no-one-else-in-the-building kind of left on my own. I got the distinct impression that they'd looked up, saw I was back, and thought "Ah good - she's back. We can get on with other stuff now," that I'd carry on where I left off, not that I'd need a gentle downward slope to get me back into it or anything. And of course, I just got on with it.

I do admit to shedding 1 small tear when I left for work the first day, thinking of Spawn being without me for a whole day for the first time in his little life. Spawn, on the other hand, couldn't have given a toss. I don't think he even noticed I wasn't there. He and the Husband were far too busy male-bonding to spare me a second thought.

After a week or so of work, I'd had enough and went off on holiday to Spain.

Actually, I was dreading it. We'd booked it ages ago, when I hadn't really given it much thought. The idea was that we'd go over to my mum's place on the Costa Blanca, with the in-laws, so we'd have some back-up with Spawn. The closer the day got, the more I dreaded it. I kept telling people that it wasn't going to be any kind of holiday for us, but it was something that had to be done, so that we could make all the mistakes and learn from them for the next time, when we might actually enjoy it. When we packed, the Husband and I had our usual modest cases, not weighing a great deal (you don't need much for a week, especially if you're staying in a house that's already got everything there for you). Spawn had the biggest holdall we could buy. It must have been 5 foot long - you could have fitted a body in it - and was rammed full of his stuff, and then I took the Ginormous Change Bag that I normally drag around, as hand luggage, and that was rammed as well. He's about a foot and a half long, so how come he needed so much luggage? And we didn't even need to worry about things like high chairs or baths or toys or playmats as my stepdad (who'd already been out there a couple of weeks) had already bought every single baby item he'd come across in Spain.

Anyway, the day arrived, and off we went. All was going well - Spawn had his breakfast, we'd managed to fit everything in the car, everyone was happy. We'd been driving for about half an hour, chatting cheerfully about how we'd missed the traffic and would have enough time for a nice breakfast at Stansted, when suddenly the Husband looked in the rear view mirror at me and said "Don't go mad - but I've left my driving licence at home." A cold, leaden silence descended on everyone as he turned around. No-one spoke when we arrived back at home, or when we then sat in traffic on the second trip to the airport, watching the time tick away, or when I had to explain to the valet parking man exactly why we were going to be so late. The Husband had stopped looking in the mirror because the expression on my face was scaring him, and the Mum-in-law had had to have one of her antidepressant pills because of the speed he was now driving at. Spawn snoozed through all this blissfully.

Anyway, he was an absolute model child in the airport and on the plane - the take-off and landing didn't bother him in the slightest (I was more worried than he was), and he spent half the flight conked out on the Husband's lap, and the other half chatting cheerfully to the Mum-in-law or blowing loud, rude raspberries at the woman next to her.

When we arrived at the airport, the Husband went to sort out the hire car, with the Stepdad-in-law. Spawn, the Mum-in-law and I were stood over at the other side with trolleys laden with bags. We waited. We watched the Husband discussing things with the woman on the desk. We waited some more. I fed Spawn his lunch. We watched a rather more animated discussion. Finally the Husband looked over his shoulder at me and mouthed something. "What?" I replied. He beckoned me over. "I can't pay with a debit card," he said.
"Pay with your credit card then," I said, wondering why he needed to be told this. He looked at me. "I didn't bring it....I didn't think I'd need it."
I gave him a Look, not dissimilar to the one I'd been giving him this morning on the drive to the airport (the second one). "Well it's a good job I brought mine then, isn't it?" I paid for the car. The woman on the desk gave me a sympathetic Look. We continued on our way.

On the drive to my mum's place, I navigated and the Husband drove, and when we were almost there I told him about the right turn we needed about second after we actually needed it. He began to complain loudly. I asked him if he'd like to reconsider, bearing in mind that the Scales of Blame were rather heavy on his side. He shut up. But I still haven't got that eternity ring.

For the next week, Spawn was as good as gold. He slept for his usual 11-12 hours in the travel cot bubble thingmy on the floor, he ate whatever strange vegetables I bought and mushed up for him (oh yeah - by the way, he's on solids now), he played in his paddling pool, he rolled around on the floor, he happily splashed in the sea or snoozed in his stroller underneath restaurant tables late at night. He smiled broadly at everyone who spoke to him, in English or Spanish. He studied the Spanish landscape with great interest from his strange (rather dangerously crap, and worryingly stained) car seat (yeah thanks for that, Europcar). The Husband observed one day that Spawn seemed to be on holiday too, and was really enjoying himself.

When we got home, he took a look around, thought "Oh yes, home again," and settled straight back into his old routine. The Husband and I told each other that we were extremely lucky and wondered why he had let us off so lightly. I am certain he is storing it up for future use.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

This is all degenerating into randomness I know, do forgive me. When I go back to work, maybe my brain will awake from hibernation and I'll get back to this regularly... but for now, are you ready for more aimless ranting? Here we go:

  • Once you get past about 3 months, nobody seems to know if you count baby-age in weeks any more, or start using months. It may not seem that important, but when you're buying Stuff, and it says 'from 4 months', does it mean 16 weeks or 4 calendar months? I asked my health visitor which one it was. She said "Hmm. That's a good question."
  • I am bursting to buy Stuff for Spawn. There are tons and tons of things you never knew you needed, and have been doing perfectly fine without, until your eyes wander across something in yet another catalogue, or someone says "Have you heard of so-and-so?", and suddenly the Retail Angels are singing and a heavenly beam of golden light is cast across said Stuff. Luckily, for the most part, common sense has prevailed. Normally, if I leave it a week or two and then go back to it, I can see that we don't actually need a complete sunblocking black shroud to cover the pram from handle to wheels and make it look like I'm wheeling a junior Addams Family member around after all. But that's the tricksy thing about babies. Their needs keep changing, and so you con yourself into thinking that you MUST completely buy everything for that Next Stage. Resist. Someone will give you it for free sooner or later anyway. I would honestly say that I have only actually needed to buy about 10% of the things I thought I would need.
  • Meeting up with other mothers - now that is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I think "Yeah, it'd be nice to get out, chat to someone else going through the same things, be a bit sociable." But on the other hand, you're entering an absolute minefield. There are mums you like, but you don't like their kids. Kids you like, but you don't like their mums. Mums you like, but you don't like their friends. Mums who see you and everything about you as competition. Mums who seem to be on commission from the NCT/parenting websites/mum-and-baby-groups/local nurseries/etc etc (see previous entry's rant about conversations with other mothers). I have bumped into this woman a couple of times, at the baby clinic and at my corner shop, and I have been Nice and said Hello and asked after her numerous offspring. Then the other week, I saw her when I was coming back home from a walk, and we again stopped for a quick exchange of hellos. The next thing I know, she's grilling me. Where did I live? What number? Which end of the road was that? When was I going back to work? Where did I work? Was I married? What did my Husband do? She finished off by threatening to call in one day! Hells bells! I have started locking the door and keeping all the windows shut whenever I go upstairs, just in case I come down and find her stretched out on the sofa flicking through Sky.
  • Oh you'll never guess what, I have come across Scandinavian girl from my antenatal classes again! Apparently she and cat's-bum-mouth have really chummed up and see each other all the time, and I've been invited to join the hallowed circle. Hmm. I bumped into her when the Husband and I took Spawn swimming (her baby had, naturally, already completed a whole swimming course. What. Ever.) Spawn, incidentally, loves the water. We paddled him in the sea first, which he didn't object to, and last weekend we took him back to the beach, he got upset when a wave crashed over his head but other than that, it was all good. We decided to try the local pool out despite the negative comments I'd heard from one of the mums at the baby massage class I went to, and it was absolutely fine. He rather enjoyed bobbing around in his inflatable throne, and when we took him out of it and swooshed him around in the water, he kicked his legs energetically whenever he was on his front, and screeched angrily if we tried to put him on his back. Tip - the pool was a great opportunity to check out all the things that I'd seen in the catalogues and websites too, because there was every imaginable floating device and all the variations of swimming clothing being modelled by all the littluns. The best thing though, was that Spawn didn't puke in the pool.
  • I can't wait for him to start weaning, because I am a bit bored of milk. He probably is as well, seeing as he watches everything I eat or drink with great interest. But I'm going to wait for a bit, as he's perfectly alright with milk for now. But here is another weird thing - literally, every single mother I have come across, has told me that they HAD to wean their baby so early, because they were SUCH a Hungry Baby. Now, is it that, because of the marvellous parenting it had, their baby grew so fast and so strong, it just NEEDED this extra nutrition to sustain it's superbrain/athlete-type growth? Is it bollocks. It's just another very strange way for people to wear their I'm Such A Great Parent badges.
  • I am getting extremely ratty with the Husband. I can't imagine it's all his fault, although it does seem like it at times. I do find myself swooping down on the tiniest thing and using it as more Evidence That I Do Everything. Last night, I had bathed Spawn and was feeding him in his room, all nice and quiet like. The blinds were drawn, I was listening to some comedy thing on Radio 4 (music keeps Spawn awake), the birds were singing, he was beginning to doze, all was calm. Enter the Husband, stage left. Remembering a lecture I'd given him about Me Doing Everything, he was clearing up for me in the bathroom. Suddenly he did one of his gigantic sneezes (I normally measure them in the number of cats they make leap up and run out of the room - this was a 3-cat sneeze) which shot Spawn upright with wild, staring eyes. He (the Husband) then had a Victoria Falls pee, flushed the loo loudly, dropped the plastic jug in the bath, cursed, whistled as he put things away in there, and then tiptoed into Spawn's bedroom so as not to wake him. We both gave him a Look, and I had Words with him once I'd put Spawn to bed. Tonight, I went into the bathroom after Spawn had gone to bed, and the Husband hadn't cleared anything. I thought "Lazy bastard. I do Everything around here." Call me unreasonable if you will, but there's no sign of that eternity ring yet...