The last 2 weeks of pregnancy number 2, in stages. 

Sheer physical enormity…

Breasts rest on belly, belly rests on thighs, thighs spread to fill any flat surface unfortunate enough to be bearing my considerable heft.

I now walk with the gait of The Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

Weirdly mobile joints make standing up more of an exercise in trying not to look like a weeble.

Due to the unfamiliarly large volume I now take up, my belly bumps into everything and everyone, gets spilled on, wet from standing too close to sinks, grazed regularly by things like toilet cubicle doors (manoeuvring into those has now become a fifteen-time-a-day chore) and gesticulated into by colleagues.

Rage glorious rage…
My all pregnancy-long even temperament this time around has been lovely, I’ve floated around, donut in hand feeling accepting of others and unusually tolerant. I’ve let things wash over me at work, showed understanding and empathy when people have muscled in front of me on the tube and generally had a long fuse.
Over the past week my hormones have undergone the “two weeks to go” change and the main symptom is that I now take extreme pleasure from fantasising about kicking people down escalators. All I want to do is go through my daily commute screaming in people’s faces and hurting anyone who comes within 12 inches of me, which, because I get the Northern Line, feels like EVERYONE IN LONDON.
The heavily pregnant rage has set in, I have NO fuse and I am scared. I am scared for my poor husband who put a plate in the wrong area of the dishwasher the other night and I am scared for my fellow commuters who don’t realise the danger they are in on a daily basis.
Veering between desperation to go into labour and sheer terror of going into labour…
I know what it involves, I know it hurts like nothing I have ever felt before. It is a kind of inhuman pain that turns normal women into demons. I remember clawing rampantly at the window in the admissions ward the first time around growling in a terrifying, possessed voice “if this window opened I would be jumping out of it, get me drugs, please just give me some drugs!“.
I sit at my desk thinking about this and the fact that I will have two children soon – two. Two children under two.
I shudder inwardly and try to block the images of a toddler tantrum, newborn screaming tag team, supermarket trips from hell and general double death worry that will occupy the next what, 4 years of my life…
The next minute I am googling “how to give yourself a sweep” and scoffing pineapple until my mouth bleeds.

For sale: One Mummy, surplus to requirements (Used, Without tags)

For about 2 years or so now it seems that every waking moment was about my daughter.  “I must eat more grains so the baby develops properly”; “I must eat the right food so my milk is nutritious”; “I must make sure she eats her 5 a day” and so on and so forth, not counting all the other things like cuddling and clothes washing and bathing and putting to sleep.  My life, probably quite rightly, is centred around her.  So I feel entirely justified in being pleased that her world is all about me. When she tripped, she wanted me, when she wanted to play, she wanted me, when she wanted to sleep, she wanted me.  As exhausting and sometimes irritating that was, I was secretly pleased.  But note the use of the past tense here, for things have changed.

A few weeks ago my parents came to look after Hannah while I went to work, and my mum stayed on so that we could go to an exhibition together the next day.  While we were at the exhibition Hannah and her daddy went to see her other grandparents.  Since then, it’s been all about other people- Grandad, Grandma, Daddy, Nanny, the nursery assistant, the bloked over the road- anyone but Mummy.  She stepped up this anti-mummy sentiment a week ago when she had a minor trip to hospital because I was the evil satanist who kept her awake and let the men in the white coats prod at her.

This has, unfortunately, coincided with a renewed passion for the word “no”, which she uses with such feeling and convincing that you know she wants you to feel how totally she means it. This has mostly been directed at me.  I ask her if she wants a cuddle “No!”. And then promptly wanders over to her Daddy for one. I ask her for a kiss. “No”. I ask her if she wants to play “No”. What really took the biscuit for me was when my parents were baby sitting again; I had a really tough day at work and was so looking forward to my cuddle with her, and when she saw me she turned her head away and buried herself in Grandma.  I felt rubbish, and irrationally upset that my daughter “hated” me. I had no idea what I had done wrong and felt really, really hurt. Where was my little girl whose face lights up every time she sees her Mumma????

So there I was, for two weeks, feeling miserable, unloved and wondering what I had done wrong, when she did a little stumble and bumped her head. I was back in the room. The cuddles, the kisses, they were back! Mummy was number one again! “No” became a random word again (sort of )! Hurrah! And then I made the cruel mistake of clipping her nails. I mean what kind of horrible person would want to stop their child from scratching their arms to pieces?  I guess I’ll just have to wait until she trips over again to see how long this phase lasts…..

Lady Luck is real b*tch

Last night, Saturday night, I was walking round my newly installed and decorated  kitchen, getting ready to make our dinner. Thanks to my (genius) subscription to one of those companies for lazy, uninspired people who still want a nice non ready meal of an evening, it came ready measured with a handy recipe card. Basically I was feeling pretty smug. Nice new (tidy for once) house, husband I fancy, cute kid. Life was good. I told my husband and he said “watch it, you know our luck, it can’t last long”. Pessimist. 

Well, today I went shopping for maternity underwear. Needless to say, my bubble burst pretty quickly. It’s certainly a first world problem, but sifting through racks of pants, right to the back, for the pairs which might as well be labelled “sew up the legs and these can also be used as childrens’ sleeping bags!” is pretty soul crushing. And the bras which, at the size I now need, only come in flesh tones…I wanted to cry. When I finally found a huge enough boob-restraining device that didn’t come in “insipid”, I saw with joy a little tag that said “comes with matching bottoms”. Which turned out to be Brazilian briefs. Basically the ones that let your butt cheeks just dangle out the bottom. I threw them down in horror. I mean seriously, if you’ve got a rack that uncontrollable, you’re going to be pretty out of proportion if you’ve got a butt that can hold up to those pants. And if you’re in proportion, surely you need a butt restraining device just as sturdy as needed for the top half?
I headed home with my bag of flesh-tones, thankful that my husband was mature and understanding enough to accept that I would now be undressing and showering in the dark for the foreseeable future. 
The first thing he did when I showed him my new breast hammocks was to shout “whheeeeyyyyyyyyyy” and approach me, hands outstretched, to try some sort of jiggling manoeuvre. 
Then he asked if he could put a dart board in the newly decorated “grown-up” spare bedroom room. “Right there” he pointed “Above the feature fireplace”. 
I suggested an anatomical location for the dartboard and went to console myself in the kitchen, with some food to aid the rapid expansion of my booty, suppressing a vengeful cackle that I knew that tonight’s dinner-in-a-box involved quinoa, lentils and just a teeny spoonful of meat. 
Then I bit into a chewy sweet and my root canal fell out. 
Damn you lady luck. Damn you all the way to the damn dentist and back. 

On synthetic babies

This morning, I got up at 4.30am.  Not because my baby was crying, but because I had to go abroad for work (when I say abroad I mean Brussels, but “abroad” sounds more glamorous).  I felt like I did going to work on a Monday when I was 25 – way too tired, not rested, and looking like a zombie.  Meanwhile, my girl was fast asleep dreaming of Iggle Piggle and Peppa Pig, having spent the evening before tearing around the living room as if it was some kind of baby/toddler/army training course.  A real baby, doing real things, just as she is supposed to. “Mumma”, meanwhile, like many other working mothers, just had to get on with it!

I digress. About a month ago I read the furore about synthetic babies and Dolce and Gabanna and how Dolce (not that there is anything “dolce” about him) thought that babies born through IVF were synthetic and how homosexual couples shouldn’t have children. I was on holiday and had had a wonderful day with my family, but it made me cry.  Now I know that’s a bit of a paraphrasing frenzy and that I am “prone to emotion” but if he doesn’t feel the need to be careful about his choice of words then neither do I.  So I say, the man is an *rsehole. I know that his main point was about same-sex couples but, though I think that point was in itself ridiculous, he also belittled the love and purity that all IVF families share. The broader point I want to make is that babies who are born through IVF or whatever means are still babies, and that parents are still parents, in whatever form they take – 2 Dads, 1 Mum, an older brother, an Auntie, a step mum and a Dad, a Grandma (obviously not all IVF – it would be a bit odd if your IVF Mum was actually your sister)…. who cares what the formulation is as long as the child is loved and cared for?

That has, so far, been the only ever time that someone in society has ever tried to make Hannah different because of the way that she came into the world.  The only time.  When I was pregnant I was worried what the Church would think.  All the Church cared about was how wonderful it was that a baby was about to be welcomed into the world.  I was worried about what my friends would think.  All my friends thought was how wonderful it was that I was finally carrying a baby to term. I was worried about what my family would think.  All they cared about was that it would actually work.  Noone cares now about how Hannah came in to the world because it isn’t relevant.  So Dolce and Gabbana will never be relevant to me.

Let me be clear.  IVF is hard.  It’s hard and it’s hard for anyone doing it.  You don’t choose IVF to be fashionable – you generally choose it because you are desperate and because you have a primal urge to be a parent and to love a child that is your own. For the lucky ones, you get a baby at the end of it.  And that baby will puke.  It will wee, it will poo, it will eat, it will sometimes sleep. It will make you feel like a crushed snail one moment and like you are on top of the world the next.  It is a real baby and it will have real parents who will sort all of that stuff out because they love it.

Hannah might be our only child.  I hope we have more but for us and thousands of other people “natural conception” isn’t an option. That doesn’t mean we and they shouldn’t be parents and it certainly doesn’t mean that IVF babies are lesser people in some way. Thank Goodness – thank God (and I don’t say that lightly) – for IVF.  Thank God that there are parents in the world who will bring children up with love and care irrespective of their gender preferences.  I will never be able to afford Dolce and Gabbana and though it sounds cliche to say it I don’t care because I have all the riches in the world already. And, for the record, I know that I have probably spelled Dolce and Gabbana incorrectly, but since they don’t care about me, out of spite I didn’t check the spelling of Gabbana.  We’re blessed.  My perfect little little girl, fast asleep in her bed. She’ll be awake at 6.30am, smiling and wanting some banana and a cuddle. Nothing synthetic about that.  Nothing synthetic at all.

The right side of 30?

I was in my new office last week, where I sit on a bank of desks with 3 other women. I thought, maybe (ambitiously) we were all around the same age…until I got to know them a little better and realised I was simply the wrong side of 30 to join in with their banter. 

The “fittest guy in the office” discussion left me cold when I realised the person they were referring to was a teenage looking boy I had actual maternal feelings towards.

I’m simply no longer attracted to slightly scruffy, slender hipped, chest hairless man-boys with directional hair. Bring me that roughty-toughty bloke nudging 40 that’s digging up the road out there and I’d be putty in his big ol’ man-hands. 
The flat, leather hush-puppy style shoes all of them were wearing, and discussing breaking in techniques for are apparently now must-have fashion items. My dad used to wear them in brown, and whilst I coveted Kickers for school, I was forced instead, into these, heinous calf thickening clodhoppers. I detested them with every fibre of my being and, like navy cardigans, duffel coats and other school uniform items from the 80s, I wouldn’t be seen dead in them now.
Leather satchels complete with name tag holder on the front: see above. Had one, coveted a Nike backpack and will never let a satchel darken my doorstep again. 
Friday rolled around and the 3pm Spotify playlist was put on. A “Requests please” chat window popped up on my screen. “Great!” I thought but I decided to hold back to sense the tone before diving in with some Friday afternoon classics of my own. I’d been burnt whilst working at TimeOut London where the music was all by bands I’d never even heard of and my music choices were reserved for times when everyone needed a good belly laugh. Luckily here the music was recognisable and my request went down well, however it sparked a discussion about what it reminded everyone of. For me it was my first year in London as a working girl of 22. For the majority of the office it was the first years of junior school and for one it was “when I was 8”. To quote my TimeOut colleagues “*facepalm*”. 
They all went to get ready for the night ahead in outfits stashed under their desks and came out in a bronzed haze of perfume and eyelashes in metallic shorts-over-tights, culottes and all manner of outfits that I clearly missed the fashion update on. I squeezed my pudgy, pregnant feet into my commuting flats and headed home to my family where my outfit for the evening was pyjama bottoms and comfy slippers and my company was my roughty-toughty husband whose man-hands were deftly managing a BBQ. 
Surely right side of 30 is the side where I wake up on Saturday morning, complete many productive tasks before breakfast time and am ready and out of the door by 9am? But any smugness is ruined for, due to the wonder that is pregnancy, I bet I feel more bloated, nauseated and have a far worse headache than the ones still in bed at noon. *facepalm*

Performance Review 2014/15

Last Thursday I had my performance review, and earlier in the week I did those for the people I manage. It occurred to me that I also manage my baby, and that she should not be excluded from the process, so here’s her review.

Hannah has had a successful year at being a baby, having met or exceeded the majority of her objectives. These have included being cute, walking, eating solids and growing teeth. She has also met the objective concerning sleep however there is room for improvement in this area. She has also given added value to her job by being a highly competent entertainer.  Feedback from stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive; Nanny and Grandad have been impressed by her cuteness and trampoline bouncing, Grandma and Grandad agree that she is cute and funny (although Grandma did note a number of smelly nappies), and the nursery staff have all noted the strength of her eating capabilities. The nurse, however, did note that she is under confident when it comes to injections and Daddy has recommended sleep at weekends as an area for improvement. Mummy also noted her disappointment at a recent milk vomiting incident although it must be underlined that this arose because of Hannah’s attempt to make Mummy laugh instead of going to sleep.

Specific deliverables have included walking early – a significant achievement- growing 8 teeth on time and managing the complex milk to solids project. She has also successfully negotiated the stairs and has knocked down a number of towers made with stacking cups. At the mid year review stage I noted a lack of confidence with her toy frog however she has overcome this and I am pleased to say that she now tries to feed him milk in the mornings.

Hannah should be proud of her achievements this year and I believe she will attain a high position in the performance/achievement ladder of her peers.

New mums and pregnant women are annoying

I won’t be joining NCT again because new mums and pregnant women are annoying. 
Ok hear me out, hear me out. You know how annoying I sound to you, mum of two? Or you, mum of a 5, 10 and 13 year old? Yeah, well I know that now because I now know my place in the mum hierarchy (and there is definitely a hierarchy). Most higher-up mums nod kindly when you’re bleating on about teething or sleeping or whatever insignificant crap you’re on about. They kindly listen, and offer advice only when explicitly asked, they make the right faces and sympathise at the right times but what they’re really thinking is what the other higher-up mums actually SAY which is “just you wait!” or “that is nothing compared to XYZ” or “try having three under three” or “awww, I remember that stage” or “YOU ARE SO EFFING CLUELESS, GO AWAY!”. 
Most higher-up mums don’t ram it down your throat in a “know your place!” kinda way. But some do. And now I completely understand why.
My 14 month old didn’t sleep a wink, A WINK, last night. She had a raging temperature, couldn’t drink anything without throwing up and made a constant “uuuuuuuggggghhhhhh, uuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh” noise ALL NIGHT and has been doing it ALL DAY today so far. Now, there will be mums at a similar mum grade to me reading this who will be nodding sagely and thinking “it’s hard isn’t it?” and higher mums reading this who are yelling “I HAVE THREE UNDER THREE WITH CHICKEN POX, BITCH!”. They probably won’t read my whiffling navel gazing mum of one trifles any more, which is good because anger is an unhelpful emotion and leads mums of three under three to start secretly daytime drinking in the under-stairs cupboard. 
In the same vein, I won’t be joining NCT again for my second baby as I thought I would. I moved towns and thought that when I got pregnant again I’d try to recreate my long lost NCT group in my new town – but I just can’t. I can’t sit there and listen to all the first time preggers talking about birth pools and natural labour and hypnobirthing and saying things like “I heard Pethidine is like giving your baby heroine” and “Epidurals are the work of Satan” and “I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t breast feed, it’s just so selfish” and “tee hee is it true that I might pooh during labour? Eek! I really don’t want to!”
I’d just have to sit in silence the entire time for fear of blurting out things like “I guarantee that NONE of you bitches will give birth in a pool!” And “you will probably ALL crap the delivery table but you won’t care!” and “Most of you will end up having the baby heroine AND Satan’s needle because newsflash wazzocks – IT REALLY REALLY HURTS”. And “don’t come crying to me because you’ve decided you ONLY want to breast feed and your baby is awake crying every two hours because I will be combination feeding for that VERY reason” 
I’ll still tow the line when I encounter a new mum, I’ll still edit my birth story for first time preggers and nod encouragingly when they say they’re going for a natural birth. I’ll be like the kind higher-up mums were to me and I promise NEVER to belittle what they’re going through for the first time by one-upping them. 
But one thing I will tell them is something a friend warned me about: your first post-baby period. Because I don’t care where you are in the hierarchy, no one needs to get caught out by that. In fact I won’t tell them anything, I’ll just show them the same picture that my friend showed me. 

“A dog licked my baby’s mouth” and other horrible stories

Yesterday I met up with a friend who is basically Mary Poppins mixed with Supernanny. And she reminded me what a lazy, crap mum I am.

“The jelly looked fun!” She said hopefully, referring to the photo I sent her after the last time we met. I’d felt so guilty that I hadn’t done a single thing on her list of “fun activities to do with kids” that I immediately picked the least messy sounding one and did it the next day.
Except that it was messy. So very messy and…just so messy. I’d selected sugar free jelly in the hope that it would be less sticky but alas it was as sticky as a MOFO and went All. Over. Everything.

Later that evening as I scraped jelly out of the crevasses of the high chair, off the walls and from under the fridge (how the hell?!) I thought “maybe I’ll try the baking idea tomorrow…or actually maybe I’ll do the painting instead…”. I didn’t do either and I’m still finding that damn jelly places. I had to get the mop out. I dislike housework.

Instead, the next day we drew on the fridge in whiteboard markers for, like, ten seconds. And that’s when I realised it, she’s 1 year old – she doesn’t give a sh*t about drawing on the fridge. And she didn’t particularly like the jelly. I put it down in front of her and she touched it tentatively with one finger and then sat back and looked at me like “er Mum are you sure about this? You’re usually pretty up tight about me throwing sh*t all over the place”. I just smiled and said “dig in” but she knew, and I knew. This was going to be no fun really. It’s like when your husband says “no, no honestly it’s fine, we can watch Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” and you know that he’d prefer to be watching something with a lot more killing and a lot less cabaret, so you spend the whole film thinking “I bet he’s hating this” instead of chuckling at the whimsical banter and marvelling at Sandra Bullock’s amazing bone structure.

Yesterday my Mary Poppins friend asked if I’d been to any music classes yet. I said “no but I’ve got a list of them off a new friend I made!” (I’d ticked “make a new friend” off my list that week and it was so big that I hadn’t bothered doing any more tasks after that). Then she asked if I’d been to the library for stories yet. I said “er, no”. “But it’s at the end of your road!”.

“Ok, have you been swimming?”. I hung my head. “No”. I was ashamed.

On the way home I bumped into my fourth local friend and we had a 5 minute chat and arranged a coffee date. That’s when I realised the reason I haven’t been to any activities alone yet. I’m a follower. I’m a total follower. I do things people suggest but I rarely suggest anything myself. This is why I’ve been more concerned with making new friends in my new town – so they can suggest things to do and I can agree to do them. That is how it must be.

Later that evening whilst I was putting on a puppet show with a zebra and a lion (the zebra explaining to the lion why he shouldn’t be eaten) amid peels of laughter from the baby, I decided 2 things. 1 If neither of us enjoys messy play, then there’s no need to force ourselves into it just because other mums are doing it. We’re more into physical play. We run after each other, play hide and seek, catch, fetch and go out walking. We splash in the bath until 50% of the water is on the floor. This is fine, in fact it’s my favourite part of the day. We like water. Water isn’t sticky.
We dance in front of the mirror to my “running” (LOL!!) playlist, she loves nothing more than admiring her little reflection bopping away, complete with range of hilarious facial expressions. We have the same taste in music, she crawls over to the iPod dock and flicks past the rubbish ones herself. We play “feed the scary monster” at the baby gate every day (rice cakes, me crawling up the stairs to the gate, her laughing hysterically and feeding me pieces of soggy rice cake).

The second thing I decided was that I’m the same type of mum as I am type of person and I think my daughter likes our little bubble the way it is. Let me explain. I don’t have birthday parties and I hate being the hostess. That’s why I don’t suggest things and why I married the world’s most popular, and sociable man and the funnest person I know – so he can deal with that stuff for both of us.
I have 4 friends-with-kids here after 3 and a half months. If I make a new friend every month then I’ll go to plenty of things (but only if they suggest it, there’s no use pretending). In between dates we’ll be happy with our own mirror dancing, monster feeding, chasing each other round the dining table brand of fun.

And a final thing. Because we are like two little peas in our own pod, when deciding if my daughter would like to do something in future, I’m just going to think “would I like to do it?”. An example from today is that a lady asked if my daughter would like to stroke her small, reasonably cute dog. “He’s very good with kids, he never bites” she said. So I lead my daughter over, she looks at me like “mum? What the hell?” And just stares from me to the dog and back in disgust. Then in one quick motion the thing jumps up, puts its paws on her shoulders and LICKS HER ON THE MOUTH. My daughter and I both stumble back in utter revulsion, me saying “eeeeeewwwwww def con 3! pass the baby wipes” at the same time the dog owner says “aaaawwwwww he’s giving you a kiss!”.
I looked at my daughter for the final verdict. She started crying. Agreed. I thought lets go home and hand sanitiser your face.

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See the sleeping bunnies…

…sleeping til it’s noon,
shall we look at their happy parents’ smiles?
Oh they’re happy,
why is that?
Because their babies sleeeeeeeeeep.

This is how our new version goes anyway. Similarly they words in James’ baby books frequently become “Oh look, here’s a happy cow, she’s happy because she was allowed to sleep. And here is a happy horse, he’s so happy because his children slept all night. What lovely children they are.” You never know, it might work.

One night in the doldrums, one night of bliss

Angry, shaking and nearly in tears I grabbed my dressing gown and phone and headed downstairs to spend the night on the sofa. I couldn’t bear to stay in the same bed. It was too much, enough was enough. That was the night before last and the person I was escaping from was small, wild haired and very uncute right at that moment. Let me tell you that “Booooob” “Mum-mum” “Boob” followed by pinching, scrabbling and the odd foot in the belly are not in the gentleman’s guide to persuading your fellows to come around to your point of view. Equally, they are not in the mum&baby guide to maintaining an harmonious family life when your parents are working long days and need to sleep.

So there I was, downstairs and unhappy. Kicked out of my own bed by my darling offspring. I spent most of the following day unhappy, dreading going home because I’d be straight back into the no-sleep torture chamber. Then it came to me…I could choose to sleep in a different room from the start. My other half could look after our sleep thief and I could escape.

Queue that evening, I unfurled the sofa bed hopped on in. Aaaaaaahhhhh. It was like I’d gone on a dream holiday. Ok the accommodation was a dive (walls unfinished, no curtains, paint tins on the floor) but to me it was heaven. I didn’t care that the full moon was beaming through so brightly that it woke me up several times during the night, because they were natural wakings. I think if I count on my fingers and toes the number of times I’ve woken up naturally in the past 15 months I’d have plenty of digits left.

And where am I tonight you ask? Back with my husband and baby because I missed them so much? Don’t be silly. I’m in the other room.