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…..

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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.

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.

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.

 

Germs, snot and Dallas

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.

The rules of the nursery

I have always been strangely reassured by the way that human beings form themselves into groups, that those groups have rules and that the rules are, generally, observed. That is why, for example, we get annoyed when someone pushes in front of you when you queue, and why we bother to have laws. We all need to know how we fit in to the system.

What I find surprising is the way that applies to really small situations, and to babies and toddlers. I first became aware of this when I started to drop my daughter off at nursery. Now, the nursery drop is very tense. By and large our children are at nursery because we have to be at work, and so it’s essential to get the drop-off procedure right. It’s a fine art which involves knowing the rules about who arrives when, as this helps us to get to the next place on time. We dash down the road, rushing past Mr Stressed-with-2-kids at 7.56 who falls in behind us. Mr “Shit I’m going to miss my train” nearly collides with us at 7.58. The Other Hannah and her mother are already on the top step waiting for the door to open. Mrs. “Casual Approach” saunters down the road and gets in everyone’s way as she mucks about with her pram (clearly doesn’t have to catch a train). Muttering and swearing ensures. Mr “Shit I’m going to miss my train” is starting to go purple. It’s now 7.59 and the tension in the air is palpable. Door opens. Bundle as the children go in through the narrow corridor. I’m holding Hannah, Craig unbuttons coat as I fumble for her shoes with my remaining hand. Mr. “Shit I’m going to miss my train” hands over his child, who was derobed before we got in the door. Bag in box, coat on peg, kisses goodbye, GO GO GO. Until Bruno’s mother arrives and squishing of bodies in the corridor as we push past each other ensues. Same every day – except yesterday when Mr “Shit I’m going to miss my train” actually passed his son to me to deal with and hand over because he had parked in the middle of the road out of sheer terror of actually missing his train. It’s mild panic every day but also a comfort knowing who is going to turn up when; what order we walk in to the room; whether we should talk to the other parents (only before the door is open, not when we are in the corridor itself as this just wastes train time) etc.

On the return everyone is much more chilled. I usually do the pick up and it’s a case of wander in, chat to the nursery assistants, say hello to the other children, faff about with the coat etc…. and the other parents are the same. It’s cool, the day is coming to an end, we are going to look after our child for an hour or two before bed time and it’s going to be lovely. Work is over for the day, who cares? Let’s just chat and relax.

The babies, however, have their own protocols to observe as follows:
1. Do not interact with anyone but Mummy and/or Daddy until you have been dispatched to the assistant.
2. Run away to find breakfast, no longer caring whether your parent is there.
3. Do not, at any point, touch the gate. The gate belongs to Freddy and Billy. They guard it, you do not. Only the assistants are allowed to touch the gate instead of you. Do not touch the gate, do not approach the gate, do not even look at the gate.
4. Do not interact with a nursery assistant who has already been claimed by another child.
5. Do not drop your food or cease to pay attention to it, even for a second. If you do it will be forfeited to Hannah or Bruno who will consume it as punishment.
6. Get out of the way of all other children when Mummy or Daddy arrives, otherwise you WILL get hurt.
7. Make sure you cry if any adult who isn’t an assistant speaks to you. They need to know that they are not your parent and that you are not interested in them being nice to you.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall and see what other rules they have in place for organising their days. Never forget, they rule the roost. You might like to think you are in charge, but if you ever really start to believe that just remember who is preparing to wake who up in the middle of the night, and who is laughing and giggling at you as you madly do the drop off in the morning…. they are laughing AT you, not WITH you.

These are just some of the nursery rules

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.

Going back to work….

I thought I’d leap in and write a blog post about going back to work and putting my daughter in nursery following the great posts of my gorilla mums friends.  It’s so hard knowing what to do and each solution has to be the right one for you and your family.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s precisely because I just haven’t had any spare time and when I do have a brief moment of opportunity I try to use it sleeping!

For me and my husband there really was no option.  I had to go back to work and I had to go back full time – we both did.  For us, when I became pregnant, the most sensible thing to do was to sell our cute flat and buy somewhere that could happily accommodate a baby, so we moved and bought a house.  That increases the mortgage, the outgoings, paying for the baby etc….  Anyway enough of the justification.

We were incredibly lucky to have found a nursery that we were happy with when I was just 5 months pregnant because (a) the place for her didn’t become available for over a year later and (b) I knew it was an excellent place and just the kind of care I wanted for her because my nephews had gone there before they moved to Singapore. 

She’s there 4 days a week; I look after once per fortnight on  the remaining day (I work full time but work compressed hours) and my parents or my husband looks after her once per fortnight.  It’s exhausting but it’s the best solution for us and I can honestly say that it’s one of the best things we’ve done for her.

I had a melt down about a month before my maternity leave ended and ranted to my friends about how unfair it was that my baby wasn’t ready to be separated from me and that I was an awful mother, but in fact I think the reverse is true.  It’s me who wasn’t ready to be separated and actually I think I’m turning out to be a pretty reasonable mummy – and our daughter is turning out to be a happy, feisty and well developed little girl.

The days are most certainly long – she’s waking up at 5.30am and since I mentally don’t switch off properly until about 10.30pm that usually adds up to a very tired woman pretending she doesn’t have bags under her eyes and trying to pull off the impression of a diligent and capable senior policy manager.  I am without fail on the 7.38 train every day, have 20 minutes for lunch, and around 4 policy/personnel meetings per day. Yet my 8.25am – 4.30pm working day (with top ups in the evening) is not the longest part. The longest part of my day is undoubtedly the walk from the station to the nursery – it takes 15 minutes but as I turn the corner to the road where it’s located I break into something of a frantic walk (I must look like a mad chicken on speed and dressed in a suit) and reach my hand out to knock on the door long before it is able to make contact with it.  I’m not kidding – I’ve tripped a couple of times.  And there I am, excited and giddy as a schoolgirl and with arms outstretched, at 5.40pm  to cuddle my girl.  The walk home is fun – she’s excited to see me too and we have a play at home for about 30 minutes before she’s ridiculously tired and it’s bed and bath time. We don’t see her much during the week but those 30 minutes are magical and those bedtime cuddles are the best in the world.

Weekends are precious.  It’s not just us who love her and want to see her, and we have the usual household stuff to do and people we want to see too, so packing everything us and having family time is difficult – there’s no two ways about it.  And I miss seeing my friends and their babies too, and having a tidy and ordered house, and spare cash to spend on this and that.

I tell you what though, I wouldn’t change it.  Yes, of course I would love to see more of my beautiful daughter and yes, I could definitely do without all of the stressed that I’ve just described above. The Fridays I’ve had off with her are brilliant.  But to be honest I enjoy work and, for me, I want to work and see that as part of being a positive female role model for my daughter (nb I know there are lots of positive female role models).  I’m mentally stimulated, I have friends at work that I can whinge to, and I believe I’m more rounded and fulfilled for being there.  But – crucially – the most important benefits are my daughter’s.  She absolutely loves nursery – she’s very very happy there.  Yes she is excited to see me when I pick her up, but I’ve also seen how happy she is when she thinks I’m not there too.  She spends her time there being cuddled, playing, copying the older children and having regular sleep and healthy food.  She’s learned to stand, crawl and cruise far more quickly than we expected her to; she’s communicating more confidently; and she’s learning far more social skills than she would have done if I had been caring for her full time.  She’s not as dependant on me or my husband and is generally much more tolerant of new people, she sleeps without a fuss (usually) and eats like a trooper.  She goes for regular walks, feeds ducks, learns about flowers and trees… the list goes on.  I know I did some of this with her before when it was just us, but rather than seeing nursery as a childcare solution I now see it as an investment.

My heart breaks every time I leave her.  I spend all day at work wanting to see her and missing her.  I think about her all the time and, frankly, just don’t care very much about things at work that used to stress me out.  . As I type this she is being cuddled to sleep by her daddy and it’s images like that which come to mind and almost make me cry when some idiot is being annoying about a deadline at work. Every day, the best part of my day is seeing her. I adore my girl and the best part of my day is seeing her.  I applaud those women who stay at home to look after their little ones.  Their reasons are as valid as mine and if being a mother has taught me anything it’s that one size does not fit all – mothers and their babies are all different.  But for us, this is the best way.

Women are amazing

I am, yet again, watching “One Born Every Minute” (for those who haven’t seen it, this is a British TV programme about women giving birth – very graphic).  Every time I watch it I think “WOW those women and nurses are AMAZING”.  Every time I watch it I cry.  And every time I watch it I think “Did I REALLY do that too”?

I’m so proud of myself for giving birth, and am in awe of every woman that has too.

That is all.

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!