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.
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.
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 “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.
Remember what Valentine’s Day used to be like? Wake up to a breakfast cooked just the way I liked it, a romantic card, thoughtful present and a bit of alone time. This year it’s a Saturday, there were 2 games of rugby on, we’d have headed to the pub to watch them, end the session sozzled, going in search of food and then more booze and dancing.
Yeah, well. Our second Valentine’s Day with the baby involved a trip round a farm in the rain, then off to warm up in a cafe, covered in mud and stinking of pig s*** to bolt down something hot and carby that’s shareable with a toddler. Back to my family’s house where she proceeded to try and play with everything she’s not supposed to, bury her dribble covered face in their cream sofa which cost more than our car, climb the stairs, scream, try to knock over the TV and cause me to have a nervous breakdown and eat a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. Then she cried herself to sleep leaving me and hubs alone at last.
It’s 19:40 and the clock is ticking til I can drag my carcass to bed.
But at least I won’t have a hangover tomorrow.
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.
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. That was always the message when I was little. I have always prided myself on having a robust immune system, and have always been irrationally annoyed by people who always seem to be ill or who keep boxes of tissues in their living room. As it turns out my immune system is about as strong as the Greek economy, and our household is apparently single-handedly keeping Kleenex afloat.
By the time my daughter was 10 months old she had suffered from about 4 high fevers, chicken pox, German measles and hand foot and mouth disease, this in addition to about 100 colds and 3 or 4 unexplained rashes. She’s no weakling and runs around happily spreading her germs around the house when she is poorly, while I sit on the settee coughing and spluttering and bemoaning the fact that I will have to take more time off work to look after her. The question at the back of mind- scratch that- constantly on my lips is “where the hell did she catch it”. The inevitable response is “nursery”, but actually that isn’t always the case. None of her little friends seem to be ill at the same time as her, and when they fall ill she doesn’t. It’s so strange. Meanwhile, when I get ill the perpetrator is always easily identifiable as the idiot who stumbles into work coughing his guts up in order to try and present the right image to the boss (n.b. – if you work for me I am most definitely not impressed by your disgusting germs).
Another thing that I find really odd is that despite her constant snotty nose her philtrum (the bit between her nose and top lip) is never red. When I get a cold and wipe my nose it goes raw, followed afterwards by an attractive dry patch as my skin tries to recover. Perhaps I am an aggressive self-wiper but despite wiping her nose constantly it never goes red. And her energy is something to behold. When I am ill (not that I am allowed to be ill anymore) I need things. I need the settee. I need a duvet. I need Dallas. I need soup. When Hannah is ill she needs things too. She needs her trampoline. She needs more banana. She needs to pick up every bloody thing on the table. She needs to run around hiding everything that used to be on said table.
In short it turns out that I am not, in fact, robust at all. I have allowed colds and diseases to master me. I even welcome them sometimes as I have an excuse- nay a reason- to rest. Hannah, meanwhile, continues on her merry way refusing to be beaten by influenza and the like. I suppose there is a lesson there for me, but for now I will return to my comfy chair and JR.
A friend of mine posted a link to an article by ex topless model Alex Simwise on the topic of No More Page 3. (http://simwisesucks.tumblr.com) and I was so incensed that had to respond. I Facebook ranted. I never Facebook rant.
I’m so sick of people being afraid to speak out against the every day inequality that we see as clear as day every single day. Let’s not be afraid to speak out, change the TV channel, leave the conversation even roll our eyes when there’s a 6 foot high semi naked woman on the bus shelter next to us advertising a strip joint or when all the female dancers on X factor are in pants whilst the men are fully clothed or a sex scene where a woman is fully displayed and the man is completely hidden…
And for the very very last time no, I’m not jealous. I am the opposite of jealous. I am very happy with my figure, I love, respect and value my body. I’m in great shape, I look after myself but do I want to show it to you in a newspaper? Hell no. Because I respect myself. I respect my husband and my family, but mostly because I am MORE than just my body! I am a person of value. I have breasts and thoughts, ideas, opinions and when I’m in a meeting with ten males I do NOT want them wondering or worse, knowing, what my breasts look like naked! I want them listening to me and valuing my damn opinions. I have depth and feeling, and the irritating thing that Alex’s article proves is SO DOES SHE. Alex, you’re articulate, you’re smart and sassy, you’re educated and opinionated – you can help change the opinion that women are there to be looked at and if they’re no good to look at then they’re no good. Women who hate page 3 and objectification culture in general are NOT “intimidated” or “Germaine Greer reading feminists” they’re not “living a grey and boring life” they’re FIGHTING every single day to be valued and respected for who they are not how they look. Join us Alex, we don’t hate women, completely the opposite.
And for reference here is my Facebook rant.
Her assumption that women who dislike page 3 are “threatened by pictures of pretty girls” is completely missing the point. What women are fighting so hard for (especially at work) is NOT to be seen as “a pretty girl” or “an ugly girl” or anything to do with their looks at all! Some women choose the difficult route (not the getting their boobs out) to make money. She even said it herself- she went to uni but page 3 paid the bills. It takes hard work to become successful and STILL you have to sit there and listen to men discussing one interview candidate’s “melons” compared to “the minger we’re definitely not hiring”. It’s the propagation of women as “nice things to look at” which means on MTV there’s female dancers in knickers while men are fully dressed. It’s why adverts at bus stop on the way to the office show strippers and gentleman’s clubs…then you have to go to work, FULLY DRESSED, and try to be taken seriously. But if you speak out against this ingrained “lad culture” then you’re a “Germane Greer reading feminist who hates other women”? Rubbish. If we ALL just said “F-it, this is too hard” started using our sexuality to get ahead the world would be a horrendous place. If I offer to take my bra off in return for a client agreeing to pay my fees, then the next woman who does business with that guy is going to be expected to do the same and so on. Women considering this career route I beg you, use your brilliant brain, keep your clothes on, do some hard work. It IS possible to do whilst being attractive. I know hundreds of attractive successful women – check my linked in, not a bare boob in sight – and note that not all feminists are ugly and they CERTAINLY don’t hate women. Oh, and sometimes not offering the world your precious, private, naked body on a plate makes you even more attractive. Adding a bit of mystery, makes the moment those boobs are finally released something to look forward to, not something you could pop to your local Co-op and see for 30p.
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.