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

Now Known As Postnatal Oppression

Monday, June 25, 2007

Damn that Health Visitor - she kept saying to me, "By 12 weeks, all of this will sort itself out," and I thought "You bloody patronising cow, I bet it won't, and anyway I need help NOW." But it seems she may have been not quite wrong...

Spawn is all laughy-smiley most of the time now, and we have a pretty good idea what he's yelling about when he's not (like she said). He's also been Sleeping Through for a couple of weeks now (like she said.. the woman's a witch. Burn her!) which has become extremely important. God this is all so boring I know, and yet at the same time utterly crucial.

This very bizarre thing happens, maybe it's just me but speaking to other people I don't think it is. Once you have pushed through another horrendous stage, you forget all about it and just what a fucking trauma it was... it floats away like a bad dream you can't remember when you wake up. I was at the Clinic the other week and there are now other, younger babies appearing so Spawn is no longer the smallest (he's still one of a very few boys though - I'm telling you, the ratio has gone to pot. He's going to be in demand when he's at school). I got chatting to a mum of one of these and she seemed extremely edgy and fraught and was bending the Health Visitor's ear when she was getting her spawn weighed. I observed placidly, thinking "Glad I'm not like that," when it suddenly dawned on me that I was a MILLION times worse than that....

The Baby Massage classes came to an end, and we were all really sad about it because none of us knew what we were going to do with our time now. Some of them are off back to work soon, but I've lost my anchor and am now drifting gently through the week, oblivious to calendars or weekends or any kind of usual marker of normal time. It doesn't help that the Husband works shifts, so it's not even like I can think "oh he's at home, it must be a weekend." I swapped phone numbers with Nice Mum, but we haven't been brave enough to call one another yet (or... was she just being polite and has no intention of meeting up? Did she delete my number the second I wheeled Spawn away?)

Spawn has started doing a number of annoying/revolting/charming things
  • Smiling massive huge whole-face smiles on cue, which make his eyes look like half-moons
  • Doing tv advert-type baby laughs
  • Shrieking at the top of his voice purely for shits and giggles. I mean, it's a really piercing sound, only dogs can hear the top end of it
  • Putting everything into his mouth and drooling like a mastiff
  • Puking (deliberately, I'm pretty sure...)

The things I have found myself doing which seem quite normal at the time but are clearly more evidence that I have Lost It Big Time:
  • Baby bloody Massage
  • 'Putting his name down' for the pre-school up the road, even though he won't be going there for 2 more years - they didn't bat an eyelid when I filled the form in
  • Buddying up to the headmaster of the primary school - he thinks he knows me from somewhere, so he always says hello when he sees me. The Husband gets a Look on his face when I mention this
  • Singing Nellie the Elephant 5 times straight in a row (ridiculously, it's Spawn's all-time-favourite song. Don't ask me why. However, The Bear Went Over the Mountain reduces him to tears instantly. The Husband agrees with him on this one - "Stop singing that stupid bloody song, it doesn't even make any sense") and then singing it to myself when I'm doing the housework
  • Realising that my last 10 purchases on ebay have all been baby-related crap, and probably my last 10 purchases anywhere else too. Not that I have any money left now anyway.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I managed to have Spawn the week leading up to Mother's Day, so I got a card and a present! Bonus. If that's not reward enough for squeezing him out of an opening 50 times smaller than him and waving goodbye to life as I once knew it, I don't know what is. (Yes, I am being a tad sarcastic, in case you missed it). The present was a large cactus - the Husband reckoned that it would remind me of what it felt like I was pushing out when he was born. Damn right. No sign of an eternity ring though; he's holding fast on that one

I was conned by the baby books/booklets/pamphlets/articles. They all reckoned that the midwives would come round and see you for the first 10 days that you are back home with your sprog. What they actually meant was, the midwife might possibly come and see you at some point within that first 10 days. If you dare to create a fuss, or look like you're really not coping, oh well, fucksakes, I suppose they might drag their arses round to see you every third day, if you're very lucky, and if they can fit you into their incredibly busy schedules of not visiting new mums.

Of course the midwife I'd had was on holiday yet again, so I got Frankenstein's Midwife. She lumbered in on the fourth day, peering at me like she thought I might stab her. She wanted to weigh Spawn, so I had to strip him completely naked, which he wasn't keen on and showed his disapproval by peeing in her scales (good lad). She asked me questions about what was in my pants and whether I'd had a poo and furtively wrote down things in the book they give you. When I asked her some questions, she looked rather put out, like she was worried the union bosses might find out that she was giving away all the trade secrets.

In all fairness though, she did advise us to bin the bath thermometer and just use our elbows and forearms to test the temperature of bath water - which I'd originally been intending to do but being all "let's do it right", we naively thought the thermometer might be Accurate rather than, as it turns out, just a Rough Guess. It also would have been more accurate to have bought a nice middle-aged lady to stand in the corner of the bedroom and say "ooh it's a bit parky in here, best shut the window tonight," than rely on Modern Technology. Just goes to show, eh?

I saw Frankenstein's Midwife once more four days later, and she was in and out in 5 minutes, then I saw my regular midwife on the 10th day for about 10 minutes, and that was it. I've now realised, when they ask you how you are, if you say "Oh, fine," to them it means "I am a complete childcare expert, your work here is done. Good woman, be off with you."

But let me just say, my God, dealing with a baby is hard work! Yeah yeah, I win a prize for the Most Obvious Statement of the Year, but bloody hell... No-one properly explains it to you beforehand. They laugh and smile and raise their eyebrows and say "tsk, well, yeah," like that covers just about everything you need to know.

The first 12 weeks have gone rather like this:
  1. Spawn either sleeping or eating. Endless stream of visitors, not one of whom will offer help, but all of whom will accept you running around after them. Every day loads of cards in the post. Finding out which of your relatives and friends do actually care for you and being gobsmacked at how generous and lovely those ones are, and disappointed with others that you believed thought more of you. We can see Spawn growing literally right in front of our eyes, every day he's a bit different. Terror at having to do anything to him. Our beautiful gingerest most handsome ginger cat in the world, Carrot ("Mr. C"), dies. We are heartbroken and weep for days.

  2. Spawn still eating or sleeping. Paranoia that he isn't 'doing what the books say'. Conversations between the Husband and me where we discuss how he doesn't feel like he's ours, it feels like we're looking after him for someone else (and they're really taking bloody liberties), they're going to come and take him away again and we can go back to our lovely normal lives. Spawn getting the idea of going to bed when we say, but not for how long we say. The Husband and I agree to stop calling Spawn 'Monkey', and to stop moaning about him to other people, seeing as they all either (a) tell us how much worse their kids were/are, and how lucky we are that we're only having to get up a couple of times a night, or (b) tell us how much more perfect their kids were/are and how they never have any problems like that at all, all the while looking at us like we're some sort of monsters. Both these attitudes are really annoying. I get my jeans back on and feel smug until I realise that they're my biggest ones and none of the others fit and don't look likely to fit me ever again. Also none of my blouses do up over my boobs.

  3. Spawn howling quite a lot. The Husband and I both doing anything to avoid having to be the one that does things to him, without actually looking like we're trying to avoid him, in case the other one spots it. Luckily for Spawn, we seem to manage not to be pissed off at the same time, if one of us has had enough the other feels sorry for Spawn, so he survives. (Calm down Social Services). He also pulls off another survival winner and starts smiling at the Husband. First trip to the supermarket, we catch ourselves moaning if we can't find a Parent And Child parking space (god they really are useful...) Suddenly trolleys with those little baby seat things on are crucial, and lots of comments from ladies in the aisles. Spawn smiles at every lady he meets (except me) because as the Husband says, "he love da laydeez", and in some sort of primitive survival instinct, every man, just in case they were thinking about killing him. First visit to The Clinic - Mother-in-Law comes along for moral support. Clinic is in the church hall. There are lots of younger, bordering-on-chav mums there, all with much older babies. None of these mums talk to us. There is a really nice mum there with a pretty little baby girl with the most enormous eyelashes, Nice Mum has her mum with her and we all get on famously. The lady from the church makes everyone teas or coffees and we don't have to pay. I get Spawn weighed (stripped naked again). He's put the right amount of weight on and he is long enough to make the Health Visitor surprised, she tells me he is in the 75th Percentile for his height. I have no idea what this means, but I am pleased anyway

  4. Spawn howling mainly in the early evening now. Paranoia about 'Colic'. Try Infacol (doesn't work). Try Gripe Water (seems to work sometimes). Try bouncing him like a nutter in his baby bouncer for an hour (works a treat). The Husband and I keep talking about going out on our own somewhere but with the unspoken agreement that it will never actually happen. The Health Visitor (scary pursed lips, talks in very rehearsed sentences like she's bored of repeating this crap over and over again) makes us paranoid about not winding him properly, and lectures me about not overdoing it. Yeah right, you do my hoovering then.

  5. Second visit to the Clinic, Mother-in-Law comes along again, in fact I have been spending a lot of time with MIL and she is being a really great help, for someone to talk to as much as anything else. My mum is madly in love with Spawn and has probably by now kissed every part of his body and started teaching him the Cantonese for Grandma. Anyway I accidentally jump the queue at Clinic but nobody seems to mind. Nice Mum is there again and we get on great again. The Health Visitor asks if I want to go to Baby Massage classes next week. I don't think I do. This week we have a Very Bad Night with Spawn where I end up taking him in his basket downstairs and sleeping on the sofa so that the Husband can get some sleep before he goes to work. When Spawn shoots liquid poo half way across the bathroom I take him to see the doctor who says he's a bit dehydrated and takes a poo sample (the people who have to look at those have got a nice job eh?) but nothing's wrong and Spawn rallies the next day. He was just doing it to wind us up. We resolve to be firmer with him and show him who's boss.

  6. Spawn still not feeling 100% like ours but we're getting there. I finally manage to stop reading the books and the panic dies down. The books were making it all much worse and Spawn and I are getting on a lot better without them. (To anyone else, I really do suggest reading as much as you can before your spawn arrives but just put them away afterwards, they will only make you feel paranoid and useless and upset you). Can't help the occasional sneaky peak just to make sure I'm not going completely off-track but each time I'm only reassuring myself that they don't help. We go to the Baby Massage classes, which I dismissed as hippy earth mother crap but which are actually a bit of a laugh once everyone relaxes. Nice Mum from the clinic is there too. All the mums use it as an excuse to have a good natter. My mum has started buying us baby wipes whenever she sees them, we now have the EU baby wipe mountain stored in our bathroom, Spawn's bedroom, the cupboard on the stairs, the change bag.... BUT she also buys us a big box of disposable latex gloves from the boot sale/market, like the ones you get in boxes of home hair dyes. At first I thought "for crying out loud, I'm never going to use these," but they are BRILLIANT. When you're having to get into crevices filled with stinking yellow poo armed with nothing more than a baby wipe, believe me, you'll be glad you were wearing gloves. Oh, and if you can, use scented wipes. Perfume-free ones just mean you have to endure the smell of shit for longer. Don't believe anyone who says breastfed baby poo doesn't smell.

  7. Spawn is finally smiling at me. He's also taking an interest in his toys and in the black and white cards I made up for him. I'm not sure when this started happening but it is quite nice. Baby massage is the only thing anchoring the week for me - without it I have no idea what day it is or what I'm supposed to be doing and when. A trip to Tesco is probably the highlight of my week, and I can go a whole day without setting foot out of the house, literally - not even into the garden. Don't ask me what I'm doing on those days, I haven't got a clue. I know that I wake up with ideas for walks, or trips to see this person or go to this place, and then I start the feed-Spawn-change-Spawn-pacify-Spawn treadmill and next thing I know it's 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

  8. Spawn had his first lot of jabs, and slept for 12 hours after the dose of Calpol. Am tempted to give it to him every night but resist the urge. Suddenly this becomes the worst week in the history of weeks. First the Husband's auntie dies, and the Mother-in-Law is devastated (her sister). At the end of this week my mum dies. I can't say anything more about that at the moment. Another time. I took Spawn round to see her 3 days before she died, thank God. I wish it had been the day before.

  9. Unexpected benefit of giving Spawn formula as well as breast feeding - means I can let the Mother-in-Law look after him most of the day while I get things sorted out for mum with my stepdad. I am living a nightmare. We had just put the baby cards from everyone away, they are now all replaced with sympathy and Thinking of You cards. Every one of them makes me cry.

  10. I'm phasing the breastfeeding out, I've had enough of it now. I think I probably needed someone to show me how to do it exactly right, because Spawn and I have been fighting each other a lot recently. I've not had any of the problems some people have, with pain or things cracking or getting blocked up or bleeding (groo! By the way - Boots Expert Lanolin Soothing Nipple Cream after every feed probably went a long way to helping me there, everything is still soft and pink and it's cheaper than the branded stuff) but neither of us are enjoying it any more so bottles it is. But you have to reduce breastfeeds gradually or your boobs explode. The Husband's birthday, he gets his first Dad birthday card and we go on a day trip - London to Brighton with 2000 other Minis. Spawn behaves beautifully. We buy him a babygro with a Mini on it as a reward. However, putting a baby sling on is not as easy as you might think - putting a parachute on as your plane hurtles towards the ground would be marginally easier. I tell the Health Visitor about mum and she gives me a big hug and nearly makes me cry again. She keeps telling me to look after myself. Mum's funeral - MIL is looking after Spawn and he screams blue murder at the start but eventually calms down.

  11. The Husband's auntie's funeral - Spawn behaves beautifully again. The vicar forgets that he has a funeral to do this morning, the hearse is sat outside while people run around the village to find him. Eventually he comes rushing in 30 minutes late wearing biker boots and getting his words mixed up. Midweek I meet up with the daughter of one of the women from work who had her baby 6 weeks before me, we sit in a coffee shop all afternoon with prams and change bags and babies and bottles spread out everywhere, and have a really good natter. We end up in the Early Learning Centre playing with all the toys while the babies ignore everything. My friend from university comes to visit and brings her 18-month-old daughter with her, whom I have to steer away from the cat litter tray that she has been happily mixing with the cat biscuits by hand. Make a million mental notes for when Spawn is that age. I can't imagine Spawn getting to that age, it's impossible to picture him running around and talking and having a conversation with me.

  12. Spawn's second lot of jabs. He screams the place down and I feel like a complete bastard for holding him down while they are done. But he forgets about them within 5 minutes and sleeps for 13 hours following the dose of Calpol (which he hates by the way). The temptation is there again... the Husband is thinking the same thing and we both have to resist. I keep running into Nice Mum wherever I go and we're starting to become pretty friendly. I must make sure I don't screw it up by moaning too much or being weird. One of the Sister-in-Laws has an impromptu barbecue and asks us over right before Spawn's bath-bottle-bed merry-go-round begins. We debate it and decide to go as soon as he's had his bottle, reasoning that he'll just go straight to sleep. We get to Sister in Law's and there are a dozen teenagers playing loud music and football in the garden and pulling Spawn's covers off to 'have a look at him' and we park his pram downwind from the barbecue so the smoke is billowing over him. He goes berserk. We leave. He is so unreasonable sometimes.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Now Known As... Postnatal Oppression

Now then, where was I?

Ah yes. So I had a baby, and 12 weeks seem to have whooshed past me without so much as a by-your-leave. Well, well, well, having a baby eh? Do you want the good stuff, or the horrible stuff? Let's do a bit of both.

First of all though, I will quickly go over the first day.

I highly recommend having your spawn in hospital, because you get cups of tea and a mountain of toast to eat straight after you've had it. And a free bottle of Top-to-Toe wash (smells very nice to my nose; to the Husband (who hates it)'s nose it smells "like man-juice") to have your shower with.

God, that first shower - it was rather worse than the Psycho scene, and I was concerned about my wibbly wobbly stomach. It was really soft, like a barely-set jelly. But at least my belly button seemed to have decided it was going to stay an Inny after all. Also I was aware of an unusual... erm... draft where, let's just say, the door hadn't quite pushed closed yet. And I don't mean the bathroom door.

I got wheeled up to the ward with the Spawn in my arms still scowling furiously at me and the Husband staggering along beside. There were only 2 other women in there with me, both of whom had had c-sections I gathered. Once the Husband cleared off, I spent a while having a chat with the Spawn and explaining how things were going to work, and examining the bag of free stuff I'd been given (Fruit Flakes - nicer than they sound). I had dinner, then read my book a bit, and Spawn slept happily in his goldfish tank. During the night, he was the very best behaved baby on the ward - if it wasn't the one next to me screaming, it was the one opposite; and when the babies were quiet it was the other mums buzzing for the midwives. Spawn did puke once, so I had to do a bit of summoning myself. Safe to say, I got about 2 hours' sleep.

The next morning, I had a bit of brekkie and so did Spawn, and we blundered through our first nappy change together. He was very patient with me, looking very philosophic while I worked out that the picture goes on the front. Just as I got it in place, he produced a big black slug and I realised that I hadn't brought in any sort of baby wipe things with me (I'd had to use the free nappy out of the goody bag as well). Midwives to the rescue again, this time a whole pack of wipes smelling of baby lotion, and a stack of nappies. See, who says you need to bring all that stuff in with you? Rubbish. All you need is a book and a Mars Bar.

There were various people who kept coming round to poke at Spawn:

  • the paediatrician, a very nervous young girl who had clearly just qualified. Every time he squawked, she jumped, and her hands were actually shaking. When she tried to look in his eyes, he screwed them up as tight as he could, and no amount of prising, blowing and begging on her behalf was going to change his mind.

  • the Is-Your-Baby-Deaf girl, who again seemed a bit unsure of herself and didn't know how to work her laptop.

  • the Bounty Woman (why they were all women I'm not sure. Has the male-to-female ratio gone wrong? It bodes well for Spawn's future, all these ladies to choose from) who, sadly, did not come bearing chocolate-covered coconut. Bounty are the ones who give you the free stuff in the bags, and they also take a photo of your nipper in the hospital where they hope you'll be so brimming over with irrational hormones and high from delivery drugs that you'll buy anything. Spawn looked like Les Dawson in the first photo she took. She frowned and said "Erm, let's do another one shall we?" This time, he looked like an angry gnome. I'm not blind, there was no way I was parting with cash for that.
I only stayed until midday, then I was outta there. I carried Spawn out wrapped up in a blanket (we left behind his little woolly hat, I wasn't sure if we were allowed to take it so I left it behind. Plus it had all bloodstains and goo on it) and the Husband had to carry all the bags (my bag, Spawn's bag, two and a half bags of free stuff).

Things to note about the hospital:

  1. They didn't show me how to do anything with Spawn. Not one thing - not a nappy change, not how to bath him, not how to feed him or dress him, nothing. In fact no-one asked me if I wanted to bath him, so I didn't.

  2. They didn't want to check that we had a car seat for him. We got one that stays in the car, so we weren't carrying him out in a seat, but no-one asked us how we were getting him home, or wanted to check to make sure it was fitted ok. As far as they knew, we could have been slinging him in a sidecar on our motorbike.

  3. The food wasn't that bad.
When we got home, the cats were not in the slightest bit interested, apart from one of them who briefly licked Spawn's head as he went past. Then it must have been all of 20 seconds before the Mother in Law arrived, along with a Sister in Law. There was much cooing and holding and examining of Spawn, while the Husband and I ran around putting things away and making cups of tea for everyone.

Once they'd cleared off, we showed him around the house, and then ran him a bath. Using the highly scientific bath thermometer, the Husband got it to the exact recommended temperature, and we popped Spawn in. He SCREAMED the house down.
We looked at each other with white faces. I put my hand in. "It's bloody freezing!"
After a short argument about the bath thermometer versus my hand, I spectated the bath through my fingers from the door while the Husband persevered with Spawn...

We got him dressed and in his basket, then went downstairs to find that the monitor we'd been given by my stepdad wouldn't work properly, it kept turning itself on then off then on then off again. Of course, each time it turned on, Spawn was screaming. After half an hour of racing up and down the stairs and cursing the monitor, we turned it off and just kept the door open. Eventually Spawn fell properly asleep and we tried to eat our dinner. It felt like eating lumps of sawdust and we sat side by side on the sofa, quivering and on the verge of tears. We kept reassuring each other that it could have been worse, that we'd managed to have a meal and he was asleep and it was only 8 o'clock. (But not much worse). We both felt very small and scared and we held hands hoping someone would come along to take us away from it all.

When we went to bed, I'd had the night in the hospital with Spawn so I knew that he made lots of whistling and squeaking noises while he slept, whereas it was the Husband's first night and he kept jumping up to check on him. It was his turn to get just 2 hours of sleep. However, I woke up at about 5am with my mind racing, which is when I updated this blog with the birth entry.

All in all, I would say that our first day at home was hell on toast. It wasn't Spawn's fault, he was just as confused as we were. But I was really pissed off at having to run around after guests when I'd literally been home not even an hour and I'd just given birth, and they hadn't offered to help either. We hadn't a clue what we were supposed to be doing with him and I felt really sad about taking him away from his first bed (the hospital goldfish tank) which he'd really liked, and he didn't seem to like the one we'd bought him. Those hospital ones are brilliant, you can see them when they're lying in it, and they tilt up if you need to raise their heads (e.g. if they keep puking), and they rock backwards and forwards gently, and they have a handy cupboard and shelf underneath. I need to see if I can find one on ebay.

Other things I recommend:

  • disposable knickers. Not glamorous, but saves you ruining your smalls, or having to put a wash on as soon as you get home

  • Tesco big thick maternity pads - nice and comfy

  • Bio Oil - I have not one stretch mark. (Well, none from pregnancy anyway).

  • Summer video baby monitor (which we went out and bought from Argos the very next day).

"Quickly" go over the first day? God I do go on.