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

Now Known As Postnatal Oppression

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.


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