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

Now Known As Postnatal Oppression

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.