Big Girl Bed: The Aftermath. 

The prelude to this post is that I have recently ruined my life by introducing my nearly 2 year old to a “big girl bed”. In non public forums I am referring to it by a slightly longer, less family-friendly name involving all the swear words. 

After 3 days, 4 beds, gallons of tears and a fair amount of post-bedtime alcohol, the big girl bed is in pieces in the loft (not a pile of ashes in the back garden as I would like), the cot is standing empty in her bedroom, the new baby is in a co sleeper (with the co sleepy bit resolutely zipped up, as it shall stay) and The Queen is finally sleeping (of sorts) in a big girl bed (of sorts) – the enormous double bed in her room.
In theory I know that being nearly 2 is a confusing, scary, frustrating time and it’s my job to guide her smoothly through this transition year from baby to child with empathy, compassion and understanding. This afternoon I was feeling especially resolute (helped by the blissful silence of both kids being asleep in the back of the car as I drifted home through pretty Christmassy villages in the dark). I decided that tonight I would take some advice from an article I’d read the previous night at 4am whilst I winded the baby. It’s main message was that when you’re stressed, you should think “only love today”. That, and the old favourite, the phrase thrown out there like an agitation grenade by smug parents of older kids “it goes so fast, you won’t get this time again”. A phrase that frankly, when you’re watching peas get thrown across the kitchen by the handful and a screaming toddler running naked away from you when you were meant to be at a swimming lesson 5 minutes ago only warrants the answer “GOOD!”.
Anyway, in my resolute state, feeling loving and Christmassy, I decide yes, I will try it out this very night! I get both kids into the house and decide to treat myself to a trip to the loo whilst they were both calm. As soon as the baby was put down he began crying and the toddler tries to pry me off the loo to look inside it whilst repeatedly informing me that the baby is crying. As soon as the baby is fed, he switches from crying to screaming and the toddler starts asking for a snack (to those unfamiliar with it, a toddler asking for a snack goes like this: “snack mummy snack, snack, mummy get snack, mummy, mummy? MUMMY? Snack mummy! Mummy I need snack please! PLEASE! Snack mummy, SNACK please, I want snack, make snack now mummy, mummy make it snack, make it snack mummy!…”). It was to this soundtrack that I picked up a message from my husband informing me that his client wanted to stay for another drink so he’d miss the bedtime train. Bitterly sarcastic reply and soundclip of the little darlings losing their sh*t sent in reply to hubby, I make the damn snack and set toddler down in front of the safest show on earth, In The Night Garden. This buys me the respite I need to wind the baby, prepare 2 bedtime milks, pyjamas, bath and put the baby to bed. Just as the baby is off to sleep, the toddler is running upstairs in floods of terrified tears. Apparently in the night garden was “too scary”.
Toddler bath accomplished, story read, and still resolute in my “only love today” bedtime, I sit with the toddler in her enormous double bed as she turns straight over and falls peacefully asleep.
The End.
Of course that is NOT what f*cking happened.
We talked for 25 minutes about the “scary man” on “Iggle Piggle”. “Scary man go way!” “Scary man! Ooh too scary!” “Mummy say scary man, not real!” “Scary man” “I not watch Iggle Piggle any mo’!” “Go ‘way scary man!” “Ooh scary!” “Go ‘way!” “Not real scary man”. For F*CKS sake I am going to write to those BASTARDS at the BBC first thing in the morning.
Reassurances that mummy would rid the world of the scary man finally accepted, she laid down and closed her eyes. Brilliant.
What was NOT brilliant was that she then found a toy fire engine under her pillow. After repeated attempts to get comfortable whilst hugging a jagged fire engine, who is repeatedly assuring her that “a good fireman is never off duty” she hands it over. It is then that she remembers the scary man on ITNG. “Only love today” I remind myself and I decide to get into the bed with her to offer the ultimate scary man protection.
She then of course needed to decide the most comfortable position in which we should lie together. Would it be for her to hold my hand? No actually, hug, no, my hand on her back, actually no, spoons. No, hugging front to front, me sitting up? No, her sitting up? No, spoons again. No her hair draped entirely across my face. Actually no, her on her back with her doll on top of her with the covers EXACTLY positioned. No, still not right, hard headed doll thrown directly into my face, no covers. Actually covers. No covers. Covers. One leg out. Actually no, both legs out. During this ridiculous episode during which the only definite decision that had been made was that I should lying with no covers, I am silently repeating in my head “only love today”. Although the voice in my head is now crying. She finally decides on a position and goes silent for a good three minutes. It is at that moment that my husband decides to make his entrance by “creeping” up the stairs.
“DADDY! Daddy there! Daddy there mummy, daddy. Daddy on stairs, Daddy there. Mummy! Daddy there. Mummy? Daddy…”
“Time for sleep” is all that I trust myself to say at this point. Maybe it’s the ominous waver in my voice, but unbelievably she yields. And she has chosen a new position. Lying ON my head as though it were a pillow. Aaah, “you never get these f*cking moments again” I think to myself as she tries to exactly position our cheeks to her liking. She’s comfortable except for one small issue, which is my ear. Apparently it’s not the most comfortable to lie on. So let’s just move it, oh it won’t brush away. Let’s try again, no. Ok how about doll on mummy’s head, then me. Yes that’s better.
At this point I am thinking many things. Shall we play a game?
Which do you think I was thinking? Tick all that apply:
a) This experiment has worked well, maybe I will do this again tomorrow!
b) I will never get this time again
c) Only love today ❤️
d) F*ck this f*cking SHIT
She eventually went to sleep. I moved. She got me in a head lock. After 5 minutes I moved again “NO MUMMY!”. I jumped out and sat next to the bed going “shhhhhhh”. 5 more minutes and I moved again half way to standing. She was still asleep. My ankle cracked, her eyes opened. I sat down again.
The call of the alcohol downstairs and the image of my husband reclining comfortably in front of the TV eating crisps spurred me on. Yes reader, in desperation I slithered to the floor and commando crawled out of the room.
So, no, I will not be trying this method again.
And if anyone in the near future decides to tell me that I will “never get this time again”, I will simply smile and package it up in my box. “The box”. The box marked repressed rage. That’s the British way. It’s totally safe. Totally. Just a word of advice. If you ever see a sensible looking family car with 2 child seats in the back, for the love of God, don’t ever cut them up. And if you do, just drive away.
Drive away and don’t look back.
Advertisements

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. 

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.

Zombie parents

As readers of this blog will know, I like to moan a lot about how tired I am.  There’s no getting away from it, I am tired all the time and can go to sleep at any moment.  This is largely because my daughter has started to get up really early, at 5am every day.  Now, I know that some of you will be reading this and thinking “Ha! That’s nothing! 5am sounds like a dream”.  And you are absolutely right.  That my daughter affords me at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep per night is wonderful.  I am, nevertheless, still tired and have been since about September 2013.

This does not, however, mean that other people aren’t more tired than me, and I’ve noticed a certain amount of playful competition going on with other parents in that regard.  Enter Mr. “Shit I’m going to miss my train” (see previous post), who was remarkably two minutes early for nursery today, as was I.  Mr. Smile (a friend who I like very much, and whose daughter goes to the same nursery) says hello and asks how I am.  “Tired.  Up at 5.30 again” was as much as I could muster (I am known for my plain speaking).  Mr. Smile boldy counters by telling me that his daughter woke them up at 7.30am.  That was just too much for Mr SIGTMMT who entered the conversation by saying “11!!!! 1!!!! 3!!!! 5!!!!”.  It took me a few moments to register that he wasn’t just shouting out sequential numbers but was talking about when his son, who is only a month or two younger than my child and Mr. Smiley’s child, woke him and his wife up last night.  Poor Mr and Mrs SIGTMMT.

The amusing thing about this was the brief conversation which ensued, since it appeared that Mr and Mrs SIGTMMT argued at every waking-point about who should get up and “sort him out”.  That had us all nodding in sage agreement, since we’ve all had morning arguments about who has the busiest day ahead, who did it last time, who the baby wants etc.  You both fight hard for your corner.  You both press your case.  You both don’t feel like being nice at 3am (or 5am in our case). But the baby is still crying, so one of you capitulates and then has amunition for the rest of the day – “who’s making dinner”? (not me, I got up at 3am); “who’s turn is it to do the bins”? (not me, I got up at 3am); “can I put the sport on”? (no, I got up at 3am) and so on and so forth.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who wins the war.  But perhaps I’m only saying that because it was, today, my husband who capitulated.  And because the truth of the matter is that we are fortunate to have a little girl who has slept through since she was about 4 months old (sorry sorry sorry but it is true).  So while it is true that I am always tired, I really need to applaud and salute those parents who get through the day having got up at ridiculous o’clock however many times with a baby who, despite being amazing, the centre of their world and otherwise a joy, is a little sleep depriving s*d at 3 in the morning.

 

How to survive work when your baby doesn’t sleep

1. Arrive early. This will give you a chance to come to before everyone else arrives.

2. Have a sturdy breakfast. You need fuel.

3. When having a conversation, technical meeting, chat over coffee, try to make sure your expression is similar to the expressions of other people involved. It’s easy to forget what your face is doing, and you don’t want to be the one smiling when they’re talking about sacking people.

4. Don’t babble. If you find yourself babbling, right yourself by saying a couple of big words. It’ll get you back on track.

5. Other parents are your allies (unless they have those magical babies who slept through from 3 months…in which case avoid at all costs).

6. Get up. Take a walk around. If you need to, carry some paperwork to make you look busy. Exercise will wake you up, if only temporarily.

7. Trust your brain to come up with the goods when it needs to.

8. Treat yourself. If it’s biscuits, listening to some music, or checking your phone now and then, do it. You need to be nice to you because this is hard.

9. Make the most of the good bits, like the freedom to have lunch when you like and to eat it all yourself without being pestered by someone small and squidgy.

10. Don’t worry about how you look. You probably look better than you think you do.

Reflections on year one

When I woke up (was woken up) prematurely this morning we went through our usual wake up routine of “I’ll pour the milk, you go and get her”. I took her downstairs and I checked my phone and looked at an app which reminded me that exactly one year ago my husband and I had a huge argument about responsibility and how hard it is looking after a baby. I remember that argument well; I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours for 2 months, my boobs were full and sore, our house was a chaotic mess of baby and boxes (we’d recently moved in) and my daughter wouldn’t stop crying. I can even remember thinking that there was no way that our marriage would last……well I am happy to say that it’s a little over a year since our tiny bundle of joy entered the world and we are still very much together, and very happy. Other things which have surprised me:

1. I have discovered a new kind of tiredness. Bad news- the tiredness never ends; you just learn to cope with it. Actually, you just find a new kind of tiredness.

2. Babies fart. I didn’t realise this (I know I’m stupid) and it came as a big shock when she did her first blow off. I have also regressed and joined my daughter in finding farts funny again.

3. I don’t feel guilty about going to work. I know some mothers do, but I dont. I adore my girl and I wish that I could spend more time with her, but I’ve got used to sending her to nursery and get a huge rush every day when I pick her up. It’s wonderful knowing that she has had a great day of playing and learning with people who are more experienced in child development than me, and I enjoy my dual role of pen pusher and mother again. I even don’t mind that my daughter has a girl crush on one of the nursery nurses – Zaneta that’s you- because I know that Mummy is number 1.

4. Work is better. I work because I have to. When I went back, I went back to the same job. It’s satisfying and rewarding to me, and I make more of an effort than I did before- mainly because I want to, whereas before I felt that it was just sort of expected. However, as I explained to my manager just before my mid year appraisal I don’t really care anymore, which makes my decision making more rational. Or something like that.

5. I am not heartbroken when my baby cries. I find it quite annoying sometimes. It’s heart breaking when she is hurt or in pain, and I want to make it all better for her, but when it’s a case of “I want the remote control” or something like that, it’s irritating.

6. I am superwoman. I don’t think that my husband realised this when he married me, and I certainly didn’t reveal my powers to him until I gave birth. I have the power to reproduce. The power to comfort a screaming baby. The power to put a baby to sleep. The power to maintain a clean(ish) house, a full time job, a full-up husband, and a baby that is still alive after 13 months of being assigned to us.

7. How amazing she is. I thought that would die down a bit, but every time I look at her she has a new expression, or does something that I didn’t know she could do, or when she responds to something I didn’t think she’d understand, I get a huge rush of love and just want to pick her up and cuddle and kiss her. This happens practically on a second by second basis.

I love my new life. It’s totally weird and different, and there is plenty I would change, but I love it. Thank you my little miracle baby.

Sleep Training A Diva

IMG_7808

When my baby was 7 weeks old smuggins over here knew NOTHING. “My baby is sleeping through!” I’d crow, skipping through the flat noisily at 11pm. In the daytime I’d put her down in her cot for a nap and walk out merrily, revelling in the silence of my sleeping angel child.

Fast forward to, yep you guessed it, teething and holy God were we in for it. At 5.5 months the appearance of The Teething Monster coincided with us packing up to move house and blithely saying to each other “Shall we use her room for box storage?” “Yes she can come in with us” “Oh yes that’ll be no bother”

HA!

So The Teething Monster arrived and my formerly awesome self soother transformed. It happened gradually you see, an extra long hand holding here, a night feed there, until at 7 months we’d been reduced to blithering sleep deprived maniacs at each other’s throats at 4am trying to get her to sleep after the 18th time of her waking up. Every time my husband turned over in bed she’d stir, every time she stirred we’d wake up, if we dared to speak she’d be bolt upright trying to pull herself up and if we left her she’d cry like her world was ending.
It gets worse. Our sale fell through. Yep. It took until she was 11 months old before we finally moved. By that time she was waking up approximately 378 times a night and at the stage where naps would only be considered if we attempted them at exactly the right time of day, precise location, hand holding position and astrological alignment. Our daughter had become a complete and total sleep diva.
My husband and I woke up livid, spent the day livid and went to bed livid. It was a dark, dark time.

Then the move happened and because of the angle of the door, the movers couldn’t get her cot into her new nursery. As soon as they left, knackered beyond belief, hungry, thirsty and still traumatised from another night from hell with baby JLo, I got out my screwdriver and got on my hands and knees. Silently, my husband joined me until (somewhat jubilantly) we placed the cot in the nursery, amid the boxes, and shut the door.
Needless to say, after mini Mariah was deposited in her own room that first night, we simply traipsed blearily 375 times into her room, down to the kitchen (now heartbreakingly 2 floors below) and back to bed, lying tensely waiting for the next cry.
It took 2 more weeks before we were mentally ready to sleep train her. One night after a particularly traumatising 4am conversation involving the word “aaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh” we decided. Enough was enough.
We looked it up. We looked at each other and we silently nodded in solidarity. That beautiful little insomniac needed taking down a peg or ten.
Night one. A fresh DVD box set ready, we gave her a bath, warm milk, read her a story, and kissed her goodnight, turned on her dream sheep and got the hell out of there. What followed can only be described as intensely traumatic. There’s a very good reason why the sound of a baby screaming is used as a torture method. That shit is awful. She wailed, she screamed, she stood waiting for me to come back with tears and snot pouring from her little red face, sweat slicking her hair back like a Soprano, eyes wide and scared. It was dreadful. There was so much cortisol and adrenaline flooding my body that if a wild lion had walked in on me at that moment, I could have killed it with my bare hands.
Ten minutes later we suddenly turned to each other – the sound, the terrible, awful, gut wrenching sound…had stopped. Now to how check she was still alive whilst avoiding waking her…in a very old house with very creaky stairs (there was commando crawling involved).
She was asleep. Mission accomplished. That night she woke once, one visit from me and she was back down with not a murmur.
The next day we put her down, endured just 5 minutes of the noise from hell and that was it.
I woke up the next morning at 4am in a cold sweat, I ran into her room mentally rehearsing what I’d learned from my paediatric first aid app and there she was, sleeping peacefully like a soft pink cherub.
The next night just 3 minutes of moderate whinging and another full night’s sleep. Thereafter I’d turn her over after her story, kiss her goodnight and skip downstairs like a pilled up pixie high fiving myself all the way (my poor, traumatised husband conveniently had 3 work Christmas parties that week so missed most of it).
Aaaaaaand breathe. Sleep was once again mine for the taking, I could go to bed without a stomach knotted in dread at how long I’d actually get to sleep before she woke up the first time.
After that first week I would have gone on stage in front of the world and extolled the virtues of the so-called CIO method.
All sorted. Life was good again. Job done. Thank you and goodnight.

Except 2 weeks later she got a bug.

Then it was Christmas.

So here I sit after 3 weeks of Sleep Diva’s return, back on day 1 of training. This time I invested in a video monitor which is currently sitting on my lap finally displaying a sleeping baby. This time was worse than the first time with an hour and 50 minutes of repeating the scream-lie her down-shh-exit cycle and I fear the older she gets the harder it will be to re-train her. For now though, it’s finally quiet.

But if a wild lion walks in now, it’s dead meat.

Me and the Sun need to have words….

Being British, I do like to moan about the weather and today I’m going to moan about it being too hot.

I don’t know what to do about this thing called The Sun, to be honest. I’m fine when it’s cold because I wrap my daughter up in blankets, and I have a whole range of jumpers, cardigans, dungarees, vests etc. that can be mixed and matched according to how cold it happens to be that day and I have parasols, rain covers, hoods etc. for the pram that I can take off or put on at a whim. I feel comfortable with the cold and rain. I know where we stand with each other.

When it’s hot it’s a different story. The Sun seems to declare war on me and my instinct. For example I went out with my daughter for a walk the other day with 2 other gorilla mums who had dressed their babies in exactly the right clothing. Looking back I don’t know why I didn’t think she would need a hat in the sun, or why I thought a long sleeved T Shirt and jeans was a good idea for her. At least she got some sun lotion, and she seemed happy enough as she looked up at me through squinty eyes (I had forgotten her parasol as well).

To be fair, I was extremely tired. I know that’s nothing new but the previous night had been exquisitely bad – the usual paranoia I feel about leaving a sleeping baby in a room on her own had been supplemented by fears about the heat and whether she had the right clothing on and, despite checking numerous times that all was in order I kept waking automatically just to check she hadn’t overheated. That wouldn’t be so bad if the times when I did manage to get to sleep weren’t disrupted by an unusually grumpy baby.

I blame my new thermometer for the latter which changes colour according to how hot it is. This time it was orange which means that I should try to turn the temperature down. Fine, but the only way to do that is to open a window and that just means that my daughter will wake up when she hears an ambulance drive past…. So I just consulted the other 7 thermometers I have and found that the temperature was fine on some and “hot” on others. Which one to trust???? Instinct perhaps??? Come on Sun, help me out here!