Thursday, 10 December 2009

Crabby

We are attempting our first holiday as a family of four. This morning we're off to Bluestone - a bit like an independent Center Parcs, with much nicer accomodation and staff and in a beautiful part of the world. Well, officially we're going there tomorrow, today we're driving through Snowdonia to Aberystwyth (is there a harder place to spell in the UK?) to break up the journey.

I have done plenty of preparation for the mammoth undertaking that is a holiday with a toddler and a newborn. The solar-heated swimming pool can get a little chilly, so I've picked up a wetsuit for C and took her on a dry run (or should that be wet run?) to a local pool just to check she's going to enjoy the trips we have planned. We have enough vests and nappies to allow for all manner of potential sick or poo explosions, but not too many that we can't close the boot. Oh, and I've booked my husband onto a whiskey tasting session on Saturday night so I can watch the X Factor final in peace.

I haven't however prepare for crabs. Crabs you say, are they a major problem in the Greater Narbeth area? Why yes they are if you're my toddler. When asked whether he was looking forward to going swimming this weekend he said no. Surprised, I asked why. The crab Mummy! Crab? Yes, 'the crab, with two eyes, and wings like a butterfly and, and, and ... shoes and socks! I no like swimming with crabs'.

Well what can you say to that?




Monday, 7 December 2009

In a days work

My husband is a wonderful father. He winds babies, changes nappies and gives piggy back rides. He takes the big one to football, giving the little one and I lazy Saturday afternoons at home, and blows gentle raspberries on the little one's tummy so I can read the big one's bedtime stories in peace. Pretty good eh? He does however have one major failing. An insistence that my maternity leave is a 'holiday'. Dare I open my mouth to complain that the baby has been grumpy, or the toddler obstinate, and out it comes ... 'you think that's bad. I've been at work all day!'

No amount of persuading will make him see that a full day at home with a baby-with-cold and toddler-with-attitude is probably not a holiday in the traditional sense. For the next 10 months or so this is my job. I don't have an office or an identity badge and it doesn't pay well. Yes I enjoy it, but I resent the suggestion that it's easy. So here, for his benefit, is a day in my life as Mum of Two.

I say a day in the life, there are also night feeds of course, but for the purpose of this post I'll start at 7.45 am, when (following a couple of hours of playtime at 3 am) the baby woke.

7.45 am - Breastfeed the baby. She has a cold so this involves liberally squirting saline to clear her nasal passages and allow her to breathe whilst latched on. It's not perfect of course and she's gulping in air by the bucketload. The feed takes so long as I have to stop every few minutes to wind her or mop up my over exuberant milk supply.
9.00 am - Take the toddler downstairs. Assemble Weetabix and fruit concoction and allow him to eat in front of CBeebies. Breastfeed the baby whilst he eats.
9.45 am - Wash up the breakfast things. Dash back in from the kitchen at the telltale sound of the toddler playing with the Christmas tree when I realise it would fall over onto where the baby is napping.
9.50 am - Having been moved, the baby is awake again. Shhhh and rock her whilst operating Early Learning Centre play toaster with my free hand and 'eating' plastic toast.
10.00 am - Take the toddler into the kitchen and give him a bowl of sprouts to peel whilst I finish the washing up. Start assembling the fishcakes we'll be having for lunch.
10.15 am - Regret letting the toddler spoon chopped vegetables from the food processor into a pan. Set him up with Ballamory on Sky+ and a snack of cheese and crackers whilst I clean the kitchen floor and eat my own (very late) breakfast standing at the worktop.
11.00 am - Let the toddler help add the now cooked veg and fish to the mashed potato and build fishcakes. Clean the kitchen floor again when he waves his coated hands around in excitement.
11.15 am - Breastfeed the baby whilst the toddler unpacks the contents of the downstairs nappy changing box.
11.25 am - Put the baby in her crib under her mobile. Desperately hope the occasional squawks wont turn into full-blown crying before I've washed my hair. Strip the toddler who demands the potty. Shower with one ear on the baby and the other on the toddler (adjacent to the shower screen) shouting 'I'm doing a big poo Mummy!'
11.28 am - Realise baby meltdown is approaching in T - 2 minutes. Clean out the potty (bleurgh!) and shower the toddler. Taste soap and realise I have forgotten to rinse my facewash off.
11.30 am - Wrap up the toddler and sit him on the (closed) toilet seat to clean his teeth. Grab the baby and rock her whilst cleaning mine.
11.33 am - Realise a crying baby is incompatible with a lack of breastpads. Despair at the two large wet patches forming on my towel and throw it in the wash.
11.40 am - Dress the toddler. Put the baby down to much screeching. Dress hurriedly in ill-fitting unflattering clothes.
11.45 am - Remove the fishcakes from the oven and assemble lunch.
11.50 am - Eat quickly, jiggling the baby in one arm.
11.55 am - Reassemble the nappy changing kit and change and dress the baby. Start the 'one more mouthful and you can have ...' routine.
12.05 pm - Breastfeed the baby.
12.15 pm - Provide the toddler with fruit and yoghurt for dessert.
12.20 pm - Breastfeed the baby whilst fending off requests for chocolate buttons.
12.45 pm - Round up the toddler's week-late library books.
1.00 pm - Arrive at the doctor's surgery for the toddler's appointment with the Orthoptist. Spend the next half an hour shamefaced as he stage whispers 'I no like the eye doctor!' and whines 'she's hurting me!' whilst resolutely refusing to name the pictures on the cards she is holding up.
1.30 pm - Comfort the screaming baby who has been accidentally bashed on the head by her brother
1.35 pm - Change the toddler's nappy on the cold floor of the disabled loo
1.45 pm - Run (carseat in one hand, toddler in the other) in the rain from the doctor's to the library. Return week-late books and beg forgiveness from the brusque librarian. Try to persuade the toddler there's no need to borrow books we already have at home. Breastfeed the baby and wave a series of stories in turn until the toddler's distracted away from the Bumbo seats (I don't want a repeat of this performance). Grab the entire back catalogue of Judith Kerr then realise I can't control both children, changing bag and books.
2.15 pm - Ignore pointed stares from little old ladies as the toddler entertains himself with the automatic library doors whilst I check out the books. Turn slightly puce when the librarian reminds me four times what date the books are due back.
2.20 pm - Run back to the car (still raining)
2.30 pm - Arrive home. Quietly place the sleeping baby in her carseat on the dining room floor. I daren't remove her snowsuit or she'll wake so I leave the vestibule door ajar so she wont get too hot. This of course means the house quickly becomes freezing.
2.40 pm - Read one of the new library books to the toddler as he demolishes a fruit snack, snuggled into my side for warmth. Feel intense guilt that we can't do this more often.
2.50 pm - Realise the toddler, who insists he no longer needs a daytime nap, is asleep. Gently carry him up to bed and shuffle silently out of his room before he wakes.
2.55 pm - The baby is awake again. Breastfeed her on the sofa whilst typing this with one finger.

So there we are. It's only 3 pm and I'm already exhausted. The afternoon stretches ahead of me. Five full hours until the toddler's usual bedtime of 8 pm. The baby falls asleep, still latched on, and in my head I hear my husband's voice ... 'you can't be that busy, you still had time to update that bloody blog'.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

It's all about the adjectives ...

T's vocabulary continues to increase at a rate of knots. This week it has been all about the adjectives.

We have started a baby ballet class, and he is very taken by the teacher ... 'Mummy, the lady is bootiful!', I'm not sure why he says this with more than a touch of the Bernard Matthews, but it's still very sweet. Less sweet is his descriptive word of choice for me ... 'Look Mummy, that tree is massive [pause for thought] Mummy's massive!'. Yes, thanks love! I wouldn't mind, I'm five foot six, hardly Giant Redwood standard.

Then on the dark drive home from nursery last week T fiddled with the sunshade on the rear window and excitedly proclaimed 'Mummy, I can see the boob!', I hadn't left my nursing bra unclipped again, he meant moon but has another cold and slightly blocked nose.

'Yes darling I can see it too' I said, eyes firmly on the road.
'It's a sharp boob'
'Hmmm?'
'Sharp boob Mummy!'
'I don't understand darling'
'It's sharp Mummy, someone cut it up, with a knife!'

I glanced sideways out of the window at the crescent moon ... waxing, waning, I didn't know which. In a crisp, cloudless winter sky at less than half of its round whole it did look rather like someone had taken to it with a sharp pair of scissors.

I explained, on dodgy scientific ground, that he was very clever to have noticed that the moon does in fact grow ('like C!') and shrink again every month, but that there are no sharp implements involved. I was quite proud of myself until the 'why?' started and I ended up having to distract him with a small packet of chocolate buttons.

Learning about the world is magical!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Feeding

I always knew that I would be a breastfeeding mother. As little girls my sister and I shoved our dollies up our jumpers in a show of solidarity with the various aunties and friends who nursed their little ones at family get-togethers. Once over the plethora of problems which plagued the first days of feeding my son I adored the special bond our breastfeeding brought, and was emotionally torn when, already pregnant again, he self weaned.

There is something magical in watching a child grow before your eyes and knowing that you did that. C is now more than two pounds above her birthweight, and every single one of those ounces is down to me. The gluggy nightfeeds, frantic oft-interrupted by toddler day feeds and endless evening clusterfeeds are all more than worth it now I can no longer stuff her into a newborn babygro. I am a simple type, I work well on a reward basis (sticker chart anyone?) and I now have the ultimate visual reminder that the hard work is worth it. And it is hard work. No-one else can feed C. I'm still Leaky McLeakerton and getting through breastpads and matronly feeding bras at a rate of knots. Although I quite fancy my husband again, in a sad reversal of my teenage exploits any fumblings for the next few months will definitely have to be bottom half only. Until I can find the time and inclination to sterilise the breastpump and a bottle I have no hope of leaving her for more than a few minutes at a time, and she might, like her brother, reject anything but the good stuff straight from source anyway.

With reward also comes great responsibility of course, and I have always been a worrier. I scrutinise nappies, weighing up whether their wetness means C's getting enough. If she has a short feed I panic my supply will dip in response. If she has a long feed I worry my milk is drying up. As she flops drunkenly from my breast, the last drops dribbling from the corner of her mouth, I scrutinise them for evidence that it's creamy hindmilk goodness rather than grey, watery foremilk that's sent her into a warm fug. It's all OK of course. In reality C would make herself very well heard was I starving her. But much as I would love to be one of those laid-back breastfeeding mothers, I feel that despite the fantastic weight gain I will always be on the look out for extra reassurance that I am doing a good job. Imagine having sole responsibility for the most precious thing in the world. Surely that would keep anyone on their toes?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Starving

There is no hunger quite like that which you experience when breastfeeding a newborn. It is of the 'bottomless pit' variety, only allieviated by throwing down a ridiculous amount of food which barely touches the sides.

For example, yesterday I ate ...

4 potato cakes with butter
A blue cheese toastie, crisps and a pear
A packet of Percy Pig sweets
12 M&S party food duck spring rolls with hoi sin sauce
A giant M&S readymeal, enough chicken and chorizo to serve two hungry adults
Almost an entire box of Celebrations chocolates

I also drank 15 pints of fruit squash in an attempt to remain hydrated.

Oh, and in the course of producing enough milk to grow my daughter from 8lb 4oz to 9lb 7oz in her first two weeks I've lost more of my pregnancy weight. Imagine, if I had a modicum of self-restraint and the urges could be quelled with fruit or (shudder) vegetables, I might even be (gasp) thin!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Getting ahead of myself

Our wonderful birth experience has meant I am rather ahead of myself. Following T's difficult delivery I spent five days on a postnatal ward at the Royal Blackburn Hospital. Breastfeeding was a challenge, delaying our departure, and once I came home and gingerly installed myself on the sofa, nipple shields and Lansinoh within easy reach, almost half of my husband's paternity leave had gone, spent driving to and from the hospital and feeding the pay and display machine.

This time has been very different. My husband was in the office two and a half hours before I gave birth, and of course I haven't been near the inside of a hospital. We were out and about the day after C was born, and being more relaxed about feeding this time around seems to be paying dividends. The midwife warned me not to be too disappointed at C's seven day weigh in, 'all babies lose some of their birthweight in the first week', but once on the scales (C, not the midwife!) she confounded expectations and had put on four ounces. My superwoman labour hormones still don't seem to have dissipated. I'm even (shhhhh!) coping well with the night feeds and odd five am exploding nappy.

This week I decided then that I needed a new wardrobe. My maternity stuff is all too big (not to mention almost entirely summery after two early autumn due dates) and opening the door on my non-mat clothes didn't fill me with joy. So off we trotted to the shops. Avoiding anywhere 'fashiony' (I'm not in denial about the fact I can't carry off jeggings) Next shone like a high street beacon, offering breastfeeding-friendly tunic tops and dresses that didn't cost the earth. C was starting to root for a feed so I loaded an arm up with hangers, paid and ran for the nearest bench.

It was only when I returned home and tried on my stash that reality bit. I had a baby only nine short days ago. I still have the appearance of a 20 week pregnant Weeble, but with a slightly bigger backside. Nothing fit. Nothing was anywhere near fitting. It's some sort of miracle that I didn't rip anything in the putting on and taking off. It all has to go back of course.

So I was guilty of getting ahead of myself. Clothes shopping is on ice for another month or so, and I've resolved to layer up some mat clothes to get me through the next few weeks, and hope for magic breastfeeding weightloss. But hey, I might not look it, but I feel good. And no number of size 14s could make me want it the other way around.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Brotherly love

I like to think it was brotherly love that caused T to tell everyone at nursery that his new baby sister was called Timon. I wondered why, when we took C in to visit, the staff gingerly asked us what her name was as they 'couldn't tell' what T had been saying. Couldn't believe that we'd be so cruel more like!

I'm pretty sure brotherly love was the reason I found C in her bouncy chair with a pile of M&S baby t-shirts (a present from a generous friend) on her head. T said he'd been 'showing' them to her.

I know however that it's brotherly love when C mumbles and peeps and T runs over, pats her hand ('s'OK C') and shouts for us ... 'C needs a mummy milk, C needs a daddy cuddle'.

I am so proud of my little (big?) boy and the way he's handled this massive adjustment. Whether it stays this way remains to be seen, but at the moment, four is very, very good.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Remembering

C is the spit of her big brother. She has the same velvety head with its soft covering of black fuzz, the same lips with a tiny milk blister forming in the bow, and the same newborn blue eyes. Is it any wonder then that I'm spending most of my time telling her she's a 'good boy'?

Must. Remember. Baby. Is. A. Girl.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

C

48 hours ago I was tossing and turning in bed, trying to find a comfy position for my giant bump, now I have two children, and it being almost 3 am as I type this (and 6 am as I finish it, one fingered and with a rest inbetween) of course we are sleepless again. Sitting on the sofa breastfeeding my little girl*, I wouldn't swap it for the world.

So you know the key facts, which are that she arrived quickly, but safely, at home, but I wouldn't be a good blogger if I left you hanging like that would I?! Let's talk details (again, squeamish types look away now).

It seems that after all that hanging around, once she had decided to come out C just couldn't wait. I spent most of the morning of her birth pottering around, wondering if the crampy 'Braxton Hicks' feelings I had would come to anything. Around 10 I called my husband and said I thought there might be pattern and did he want to come home. In the back of my mind I did worry that I might be dragging him away from his beloved office for a false alarm. Yes I could now predict that my bump would tighten every five minutes or so for about 20 seconds at a time, but it didn't hurt. I put it to the back of my mind though and carried on with some chores. Putting the cover back onto our Maxi Cosi carseat was probably my proudest achievement, a task that's almost impossible to accomplish even when not in labour.

My Mum arrived for a long arranged date to play with T. I told her things felt like they were getting started and she arranged to take him on a bus and tram adventure to her house, giving me some space and peace and meaning I could relax even if the tightenings turned out to be just another trick my overdue body was playing on me. At 11.30 they left and I went upstairs for a lie down.

Once on the bed I felt the tightenings ramp up. I put on my iPod and listened to Marie Mongan's Rainbow Relaxation, the hypnobirthing script which had lulled me to sleep almost every night for the past four months. The practice paid off, and although the cramps were getting harder to ignore I was managing to breathe through them with ease, inflating an imaginary balloon with each contraction, counting up and down to 20.

It's only because of the script that I am able to time much of what happened with the rest of my labour. I stayed on the bed, on all fours, breathing through two plays of the Rainbow Relaxation, a total of 50 minutes. I heard my husband call the midwife to warn her I was in early labour, and start to organise the birthing pool, the low hum of the pump intruding into my headphones.

Then suddenly whatever I was doing stopped working. The Rainbow Relaxation started for a third time, but the surges were so strong I could now no longer concentrate on the breathing. From far away I could hear myself groaning, and knew the contractions were suddenly much closer together. I called for my husband who, although having completed nine tenths of the hypnobirthing course with a look of disdain on his face, remarkably managed to coach me back into the correct pattern, which helped, albeit temporarily. Despite my clinging to him for dear life, he left to call the midwife again and ask her to start the 15 minute journey from the hospital to our house. He returned and I hung my arms around his neck, levering myself off the bed in a desperate attempt to relieve some of the pressure I was feeling at the bottom of my bump. My waters went all over the bedroom carpet.

Despite being encouraged to get back onto the bed (which in hindsight was probably my husband's futile attempt to protect the new landing carpet from, erm, leakage) I demanded to go to the toilet, hobbling doubled over to the bathroom. The pressure was too great to allow me to sit on the loo, so I got onto the floor.

'I'm pushing'
'No you're not'
'I am, I can't stop it'
'Calm down, the midwife will be here in a minute'

More of my waters released

'I can feel the head'
'No you can't'
'I can, I can feel it, the baby's coming'
'Stop touching it you might do some damage'
'I'm pushing!'
'Hold on, the midwife's on her way'

'I need to stand up'
'You'll slip on the wet floor and hurt yourself, stay down there'

I hoiked myself up on the sink

'The baby's coming ... catch her'
'HEEEEEEEELLLP!'

And so C was delivered into her disbelieving father's arms. His shout for help was answered by the midwife who had just arrived and let herself in through the (thankfully open) front door. She came up the stairs to hear the baby's first cries and began a well rehearsed operation to get us wrapped, warmed and fully checked out. The time was 12.45 pm, just an hour and a quarter after I'd gone for that first lie down, and we were back in bed, this time plus one. More towels than I thought we owned were called into service. Sadly though I'm not sure the landing carpet will ever recover.

I did it. I had my homebirth. The baby arrived safely. No pain relief. I am superwoman!

*learning to BF lying down is high on my list this time. T didn't get the hang of it until around three months when he was a bit bigger and I realised the joy of feeding and sleeping at the same time. C had her first feed lying on a pillow next to me, but it's been hit and miss since. Still, I shouldn't complain, it's not like we're not going to get chance to practice is it?!

Monday, 26 October 2009

She's here!

Baby C, named for her great grandma who sadly never had chance to meet her, was born at home this afternoon. Her entrance was a little unorthodox, after only just over an hour of active labour she was delivered on the bathroom floor by Daddy as the midwife let herself into the front door! She cried straight away, weighs 8lb 4oz and is feeding beautifully. More details once we've got our heads round it all.

Oh, and I never made the acupuncture.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

40+9

This baby is officially more lazy than her brother. He'd managed to find his way out by 3.35 am on the 289th day of my pregnancy. Today, as the clock ticks down towards day 290, I am officially fed up.

My inlaws are visiting from Essex this weekend. It's their 40th wedding anniversary and my brother and sister in law, niece and nephew are in tow. They're staying elsewhere (they wouldn't all fit in the house, even if we didn't have all of the birth pool paraphenalia hanging around the place, plus I don't want anyone seeing me in this intense hormonal state!) and there's no denying they would have loved to have been meeting the baby today. Not as much as I would have been of course!

As the days pass, I'm finding it harder to manage the emotions of being VHP (Very Heavily Pregnant) and absolutely concede I am harder still to live with. My husband has done both of the weekend get ups with our lively toddler. Yesterday, knowing I hadn't slept well, he took him to the Museum of Science and Industry for some train time, even managing to feed him lunch, take him to play with friends and pick up a yummy M&S tea on the way home. As they walked through the door, happy and tired, having had a full day to nap, read and catch up with guilty TV pleasures, of course I cried at the fact that I'd 'missed them' and moaned about being lonely. Talk about a kick in the teeth. Contrary, or hormonal, barely covers it. But despite being well aware of how irrational I was being, I was unable to stop the tears from coming.

Today I have tried to spend the baby out. The Boden Spring preview, replacing a lost baby toy via ebay and a massively expensive but lovely to look at baby seat thing. I am still pregnant. Poor and pregnant in fact.

Tomorrow, sweep number two and acupuncture. Oh, and my Mum. I think this is a 'my head on her lap' occasion.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

40+8

Yesterday, in another attempt to get the baby moving, we went with friends to play in the snow at Chill Factore in Manchester. T loved the special children's area, especially the super fast slide, giant building blocks and being dragged around at high speed in a kid-sized innertube.

Once I had managed to pull on the snowboots provided (even I couldn't justify wearing my Birkies in the snow, despite the fact they're infinitely easier to wear, not requiring bump navigation like 'proper' shoes) I surprised myself by managing to enjoy it. You'd have to be really, really grumpy (+10? +11?) not to be cheered by a squeal of excited toddlers. Plus I had a giant hot chocolate with marshmallows afterwards.

Of course what you all want to know is whether the cold and exertion managed to encourage the baby to head for the exit. Although I went to bed early, my bump firm and with some familiar PMT style backache, this morning I am definitely very much still pregnant. Snow baby news I'm afraid.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Lines 2

On Monday 9th February, I was seeing lines. This morning, as I got up for the seventeenth post-midnight wee and caught sight of my giant, low-slung bump in the bathroom mirror, I was seeing lines of a different sort.

Oh yes, after two pregnancies, more than 18 months of growing babies, in what will be my last week of child carrying I have finally succumbed to the dreaded stretch marks.

I've not been completely immune until now of course. My thighs bear the tell-tale silvery spider tracks of having once been a size 10. That was a long time ago though, as evidenced by the fact they've faded to almost nothing. The new lines on my tummy - which until now has been pillowy, white and clear - are angry, red and raw, showing that as I approach the end of my tether, my skin has reached the end of its too.

Come on now, one week late is just not cricket. BABY OUT!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Dick van Dyke

If you are squeamish, please look away now. Similarly, if you don't want to know me in a kind of intimate gynacological way, STOP READING. Now, don't say I didn't warn you.

The baby has still not made an appearance. I am 40 weeks and six days pregnant today, which is somewhere between seven and eight on the frustration scale. T was nine days late. I keep being told that I'll have a sense of humour failure just before I go into labour. I don't like to keep reminding people that I don't have much of a sense of humour anyway (especially as it appears I'm managing to get away with it) but I do believe that by Sunday, should the little one not have made an appearance, I'll be lying on the floor, screeching toddler style and thumping my fists.

I remember that the NCT classes we took during my first pregnancy told us that women in the final stages of giving birth often claimed that they 'couldn't do it' and 'wanted to go home'. I distinctly remember trying out those words an hour or so after I'd arrived in hospital, in the hope that by some sort of midwife magic I'd end up being further along than I thought. I wasn't of course. I'm not sure whether the same reverse psychology would work with tantrums though? Maybe if I force one out it will, well, force the other one out too! Got to be worth a try.

In the mean time I am trying a variety of old wives tales to try and get my labour started. Curry? Check. Raspberry Leaf Tea to tone the uterus? Check. Evening Primrose Oil to soften the cervix? Check. Bouncing on the birthing ball to move the baby down into the correct position? Check. Realising it's impossible to browse the internet whilst doing so and falling off, more than once? Check. I have drawn the line at pineapple, mainly because you need to eat 27 whole ones within 20 minutes of them having fallen from the tree or something for the specific enzyme to have any effect, and there aren't any pineapple trees in Ramsbottom.

Yesterday it was time to get a bit more brutal, and after an appointment with the midwife I volunteered for a membrane sweep. To my disappointment this didn't mean her bursting into a verse of 'Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim chim cher-ee!' whilst Dick van Dyke kicked up his heels in the corner, but did involve a quick rummage about and some cervix related news. Not great. Despite the baby's head being very low (good sign) the route out is posterior and 'unfavourable' (bad sign) and I might have a bit of a wait yet.

On the plus side the baby seems very happy in there. She's wriggly, although less so as she runs out of room, with a lovely strong heartbeat. My blood pressure is normal, which is astounding frankly given the amount of time I've dedicated to stressing over WHY SHE HASN'T COME OUT YET.

If I manage to get past the weekend without having given birth, Monday promises another sweep plus acupuncture in an attempt to get the baby moving. In the mean time, pass me that ice-cream, and budge up, I need a nap.

Loser

I didn't win anything in the Manchester Blog Awards but to be fair I hadn't really expected to, and it was lovely, and surprising, just to be nominated.

Special congratulations go to fellow Mummy blogger (who's much more eloquent than me of course!) My Shitty Twenties who won in not just one but two categories. Her writing is warm and witty and I'd highly recommend you bob over there for a read through some of her posts.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Manchester Blog Awards 2

It's the Manchester Blog Awards tonight. Much as I'd love to be at Band on the Wall with the rest of the nominees to hear the results of the judge's vote, I am the size of half a house and wary of going out after dark in case I sneeze and the baby pops out or something. They've only just done up BOTW, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't appreciate the mess on their nice new floor.

So best of luck to those nominated, there are some tremendous writers out there and I've loved discovering new blogs through the shortlist. I'm heading to bed shortly and will report the results in the morning.

Oh my ...

When T is learning to say something new there is always a lot of repetition.
When T is learning to say .... no, not really.

On the way to and from nursery we drive over the high road which has a fantastic view of Scout Moor, our friendly local wind farm. On clear days, the statuesque blades rotate gently against the blue sky. We've not quite got as far as 'turbine' yet but T is very taken by the giant white battlements protecting our Lancashire village from the Pennine hills ... 'look Mummy, windmills, turning round and round'.

As his language and understanding become more sophisticated, there is more to say. As the road dips down past the traffic lights and we enter the final stretch home T used to say 'windmills gone!', to which my reply is now 'they've not gone, we just can't see them any more'.

And thus it starts. 'Mummy say it ... mummy say it ... mummy say it' and I repeat the sentence up to ten times, T listening to the words, rolling them in his mouth, until he's confident enough to repeat them back to me - 'not gone, can't see them any more ... I DID IT!' followed by clapping.

It's not black and white though of course, and sometimes there are words and phrases I have to repeat only once or twice before he takes them and runs with them, whether I want him to or not.

I picked T up from nursery yesterday and strapped him into the carseat. We began the usual 'way home' routine, talking about what he'd done that day, choosing which way to go at the traffic lights ('turn RIGHT Mummy') and discussing what to have for tea. Then it started. Giggling. Not normal giggling, the soft rumble as I tickle a round toddler tummy or kiss a sensitive little boy's neck, but naughty giggling. Crafty giggling.

'What's the matter T?'
'Oh my ...' (dissolves into fits of laughter)
'Pardon?'
I was laughing myself now, toddler enthusiasm being pretty infectious
'Oh my ... oh my ... oh my ...' (he was gasping for breath by this point) 'Oh my ... BOLLOCKS!'

Yes, I am that parent, the one who, once or twice (honestly!) might have used a curse word within my child's hearing. I might sometimes say 'oh my god' too and so, of course, he has combined the two into a whole new level of maternal humiliation. Not just swearing, but creative swearing! T was inordinately pleased once he'd got the words out, and even had the gumption to try the 'Mummy say it' line.

I did the obvious of course, talked at his level about 'naughty words' which he shouldn't say, but didn't make too much of the issue, not wanting to encourage his contrary side into repeating his new phase at grandma, or (worse) nursery. Then, as he tucked into his tea, I buried my head in a cushion and laughed and laughed, and resolved to watch my words much more carefully from now on.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

40+4

Massive congratulations to blog friend Muddling Along Mummy who, despite a hugely difficult pregnancy, has given birth to a beautiful baby girl.

Meanwhile I am tapping my fingers and still waiting for our baby to make an appearance.

When asked how old he is, T insists that he is 'free' (as in the number, rather than available for customers John Inman style). It brings its problems of course. In reality he's a petite just-two year old, still wearing trousers designed for six to nine month old babies, but he has ideas above his station. One of these is that he can reach the pedals and self-propel some of the pre-school bikes in the nursery playground. He can't of course. Well, we thought he couldn't. Last week, perched on the very edge of the seat, he managed to push his tiptoes onto the pedals and went. His face was the very picture of glee, I'd imagine there was cackling. Then, disaster. In an attempt to steer away from a group of his friends of course T lost control and tipped onto the soft-surface, the bike falling on top of him.

When I went to do the nursery pick-up, T had a lovely pink cheekbone, over the weekend that's developed into a cracking shiner. Yes, my little boy has a black eye. He's remarkably unbothered by the whole thing, except to stick out his bottom lip whenever anyone asks about it, giving his face a rub and saying 'ouchie'. Drama Queen, much? It's telling that as nursery were frantically trying to apply a cold compress post-bump he was all pumping legs crying and reaching for 'my bike' as one of the big girls rode off into the sunset.

Anyway, a black eye would surely spoil the 'new baby meets big brother' photos, which is why, I tell myself, 'baby dister' is still tucked up warm an snug inside. T's eye is now a lovely lemon and lime colour, which I reckon gives us only another couple more days to wait.

In this overdue no man's land, my hormones mean I can justify anything!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

40+2

And I feel like I have stepped out of the back of the wardrobe and into a sort of Baby Narnia. Always pregnant but never giving birth. Weep.

Sadly there isn't anyone to ply me with Turkish Delight to make me feel better, but at least it isn't snowing. This is a Very Good Thing given I can reach down past the bump to pull/zip on winter boots and am STILL wearing my summer Birkies which are falling apart on my feet.

Come on baby, it's time to come out to meet Mummy now.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Adventures in Speech

I really should have started a diary for things like this, I'm so worried about forgetting all of the little sentences which make me say 'wow!'

I still have T's incomplete baby record book to fill in at some point though, so perhaps I'm getting ahead of myelf. In the mean time, some recent speech gems ...

T's pyjama bottoms are much too long. I helped him pull them on, then jokingly tugged them up under his armpits. 'Oooh look, Simon Cowell trousers' I said (cue husband sniggers). T looked at me scathingly. 'No Mummy, I'm a fisherman!'

On walking down the stairs: 'I want to hold the bannister'. At the bottom of the stairs: 'bye bye bannister!' (where do they pick up words like this from?!)

When not wanting to go to nursery: 'I want a Mummy cuddle ... on the sofa ... sitting down ... and CBeebies'. SO much more effective than a 'refusing to get dressed' tantrum!

My little boy is growing up so quickly. And look, it's my due date, and I haven't even mentioned it once .....

Monday, 12 October 2009

Something's-going-on-itis

Yes, I know it's a bit of a mouthful, but I didn't make it up. After a couple of days of not being quite himself, nursery have made the official diagnosis. There is something going on and T knows all about it.

I'm talking about the baby of course. Sorry, I am aware, in a sort of 'had slightly too much to drink' kind of way, that I am going on and on about my pregnancy and the impending arrival at the moment and that people are probably willing me to shut up, but in a 'Pinot Grigio has my tongue' kind of way I'm also utterly unable to stop.

Anyway, I know that older siblings can 'regress' when a new baby comes along. Although T's showing a willingness to potty train, we've deliberately held back, moving from my beloved cloth stash to extortionately priced Bob the Builder branded pull-up nappy pants, meaning he can use the big boy toilet when the mood takes him but I'm not constantly worried about keeping the living room carpet dry. In the next couple of weeks (days?!) I'll be changing a lot of nappies. An extra few shouldn't be too much of an issue. We'll tackle training proper once we're more settled. Perhaps around the time he'll be five?

There is no denying though that despite his fierce independence and constantly improving language skills T is very keen on reminding me that he's the baby at the moment. His new favourite phrase is 'I want a mummy cuddle', followed by a leap at speed into my arms whence he clings on like one of those clip on koala toys. No amount of pressing his shoulder blades together can persuade him to release the iron grip, which sometimes also involves licking my neck.

He's developed a fascination with my breasts, hardly surprising given they were a source of food and comfort for more than sixteen months of his life, but worrying when his rummaging down my front pulls my baggy maternity tops down to my navel, exposing me to passers by. Still, the koala cling-on does do a good job of disguising that.

Each morning drop-off at nursery and bedtime kiss goodnight has been wet with tears, and our bed home to three (and 3/4!) for much of the last week.

Then, the final straw. I woke T from his nap (that's one baby habit I'll be very happy for him to keep!) and took a strangely quiet boy downstairs. We sat together at the table, ready for lunch before our afternoon music class. He started to cry. I asked what was wrong.

'Mummmmmmeeeeeeeeee, I want a dodie*'

Right. My two year old son, who never took a dummy, even when we set aside our rubber soother snobbery and desperately held it in to stop the constant crying/feeding/crying cycle, now wants something to suck on.

We never got to our music class. Instead I let my boy cling to me, feeling his sobbing chest heave against mine and his tears drop onto my front. We stuck together on the sofa, and I murmured into his ear, stroking his hair. There are big changes coming. I'm a grown-up, with a bump, and a husband to moan at, and to be honest I'm pretty terrified. Why should my two year old feel any differently.

Something's going on. But are we ready for it?

*colloquial for dummy

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Goodbye

How do you explain death to a toddler?

My son is a lucky boy. He has a full complement of grandparents in rude health who adore him, and is cosseted in a family web of safety and security. I would do anything within my power to protect him from sadness or harm. I hold his hand as we descend the stairs, and when bad dreams wake him in the night even in my elephantine state I'm willing to shove up a bit so he can go back to sleep in his preferred comfort position, snuggled up on the edge of Daddy's pillow holding a fistful of my hair.

I realise this could be so much worse - my husband lost his beloved grandmother earlier this year - but we have been faced with the loss of one of the family pets, and at just over two, T 'knows'.

The rabbits predated the boy of course. Five and a half years ago with a patch of grass and too much time on our hands we relieved a colleague of two unwanted baby dwarf lops. When we arrived to pick up our new arrivals the mother (human, not rabbit obviously, this not being Watership Down) said 'I know I'm biased, but they're really bonny bunnies', and Bonny and Bigwig (OK, so maybe it was a little Watership Down) were named.

We lost Bonny a few years ago, before T was born, and replaced him with Bernadette, a completely bonkers rescue rabbit fond of chasing her own tail and trying to escape. Bigwig, older, slower and more sensible, was always T's favourite, happy to sit on the grass and be stretched towards, crawled towards and eventually toddled towards, always darting out of the way at just the right moment, leaving my boy giggling in a heap in the garden. T could say Bigwig long before he could say 'raddit'.

In the way of all things though, Bigwig had grown old and tired. As the weather cooled this autumn and he failed to fatten and fluff up in preparation for the winter ahead, we knew the end was in sight. He wasn't eating or cleaning himself and had a horrible recurring eye infection. Obviously miserable, we sadly made the decision to have him put down. My husband, tears in his eyes, made the trip to the vet yesterday morning and buried Bigwig alongside Bonny, under the rosebush in the front garden.

But how to explain to T?

I definitely didn't want to say that our missing pet had 'gone to sleep', potentially leaving our toddler terrified of closing his eyes, but talk of stars and heaven doesn't sit particularly well with our agnosticism. With T's diary stuffed full of hospital and clinic appointments, I was similarly loathe to tell him that the vet (or the 'rabbit doctor' as he calls him) couldn't make Bigwig better, which was why he hadn't come home. So what to say? Luckily, two wet days mean we haven't been out in the garden since yesterday morning. T hasn't yet noticed his furry friend's absence, buying my husband and I another day to get our story straight before the inevitable questions.

In need of a change of scenery, we trudged around the Trafford Centre yesterday afternoon. Dodging the hyper-keen early Christmas shoppers, we took T to John Lewis to choose a new toy as a present for his baby sister. Once he had been persuaded away from the big red buses, he selected a super soft, snowy white, floppy eared bunny. Snuggling it close to his chest he said 'like Bigwig, for baby'. And that made us smile.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

It's not a competition ...

... words which are only spoken when it IS of course.

There is sickness in the B household. After being deaf in one ear for more than a week, I finally dragged myself to the doctor yesterday to be diagnosed with an ear and throat infection and be prescribed antibiotics in a bid to get me 'tip top' for labour. Yes, those were the doctor's actual words. I stepped through the sliding doors and into 1950.

Not to be outdone, my husband is also off work sick. He has aching muscles and (again) a sore throat. Thankfully the lack of a temperature means it's unlikely to be Swine Flu, and having checked him carefully for rashes and forced him to look into the heart of one of our energy saving bulbs until he saw spots for a good few hours, I'm pretty sure it's nothing more sinister. After a phone consultation, his doctor prescribed ibuprofen, which is an over the counter drug. I am adamant therefore that he is Not As Sick As Me. I got a real prescription and everything. And that's before taking my almost 39 weeks of pregnancy into account.

He's not having any of it of course. We follow each other around the house, coughing pathetically, draping ourselves over the sofa, fighting over who gets the most room and who has to get up to make the drinks. We nap, and quarrel over the duvet, best pillows and whose wriggling has caused the stretchy bottom sheet to come away, leaving us lying on the raw sheeny mattress underneath. When the baby monitor squarks we argue whether 'poorly and on maternity leave' trumps 'poorly and tired', and the loser both gets to give our son his breakfast and later craftily deposit him on the bed with the still sleeping parent whilst sneaking off to the bathroom for a bit of respite and to gloat.

As I sigh heavily, turning over and yanking my share of the duvet from wherever he's squirreled it, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in, I say a silent prayer of thanks for the fact my husband is, underneath it all, a real workaholic, and planning to go back into the office tomorrow. He can't be that sick then. And I need a drink. This is one competition I'm not going to lose!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Practicalities

I finally finished work on Thursday evening at 37+6 days pregnant. 37 weeks is considered 'term' and had I gone into labour at any point over the last week or so I'd have still been able to have my planned homebirth. The midwife visited on Monday, and having given our house and bump the green light (ambulance access in case of emergency, baby in the correct position) gave me a list of things to procure before B-day. Although of course I could go ahead without, these are the little items which apparently will make the whole business a lot simpler.

Some of the orders weren't a surprise, plenty of towels is perhaps one of the oldest labour cliches, and we have already procured a packet of B&Q decorator's sheets to waterproof the lounge floor. We seem to own a plethora of buckets, but I wanted a new one which hadn't previously been used to clean the bathroom floor or for a hungover husband to vomit in. I was confused when it was suggested I procure 'a large piece of tupperware' for the placenta though. Apparently this is so it can be inspected, if required, before disposal. Tupperware? Tupperware? Much as the thought of my baby's internal life support system fascinates me (last time I paid the dinner plate sized cartoon red blood cell scant regard, much to my regret when I eventually came round from the birth) am I really going to want to wash out its container, and perhaps retell the tale whilst producing a large portion of fruit salad in the same box at a family picnic? I have settled for a large plastic box which once held washing tablets.

The box sits in the living room, along with a large brown envelope containing the surgical gloves the midwife will wear to deliver the baby and a sterilised mouth piece for the Entonox which, I am assured, will be provided at the requisite time. There are two small vials of Syntometrine in the fridge, should the placenta need a little help in its journey from uterus to outside world, and one of Vitamin K on the windowsill. We have a pool, pump, liner and even (to my husband's disgust) a sieve.

All we need now is the baby!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Manchester Blog Awards

I'm surprised and of course very pleased to have been nominated in the Best New Blog category at the 2009 Manchester Blog Awards. There are some supremely talented Manc-based writers out there, and I'm amazed that my hormonal child-centered ramblings have found a small space amongst them.

If you nominated me, thank you. If you're a new visitor, directed here from the shortlist, welcome and I hope you enjoy the read. If you're an old visitor, I hope my newly commenced maternity leave means I'll be able to post more often very soon.

The results will be announced at a do at Band on the Wall on October 21. If baby two has not put in an appearance by then I hope to be able to make it.

Pizza

My mother is a technophobe. In the years since we bought her first (and only) mobile phone it is telling that she's only had to top up the credit twice. It pains me to say it, but she might as well carry a small-ish stone around in her handbag, so rarely is it switched on, within earshot or of any practical use whatsoever.

Actually I am doing her a great disservice. When it comes to the crunch, with a mammoth effort (quite possibly involving roping in one of the errant teens hanging out behind her house) she can compose and send a text message. There have been precisely three ... the first (under my tutelage) said 'dear eve i luv you mum', the extra letter in love and any punctuation being a step too far. The second was to my husband after he'd left a message to tell her my first labour was relatively advanced and we were heading to hospital, and said 'on my way'. The third, a couple of weeks ago, was the longest yet. 'In America there is a bumper sticker which says home delivery is for pizzas'.

I am 38 weeks pregnant and planning a home birth for my second child, and the text is indicative of a general parental rumbling which has become louder as B-day becomes closer, disapproval nudging just beneath the surface that I am about to attempt something foolhardy, risky and somehow just a little unsavoury.

I'm not of course. Earlier this year, a study of more than half a million women demonstrated that 'low risk' labours supervised by a midwife are just as safe at home as they are in hospital. Given my baby is head down, in the correct position and I've had a previous vaginal birth I see little reason to trouble the soon-to-be-condemned maternity unit at Fairfield Hospital. I've been loaned a birth pool, and there's no risk that someone else will be in it at the critical moment, and have my midwife's approval. Anecdotal evidence suggests that being at home amid familiar surroundings helps promote the release of oxytocin, the happy hormone which helps labour progress naturally.

So why are there still so many doubters? I think for so many women, indeed generations of women, including my mother, home birth is just totally removed from their sphere of experience. They can't see why anyone wouldn't want to rock up at a lovely clean, white hospital filled with experienced professionals and hard drugs and give birth to a baby without having to worry about getting blood on the carpet. My Mum's concerns are that her grandchild and first born daughter get through labour as safely as possible, and to her, that means surrendering to the consultant-led unit, with its monitors, lights and beeps. And until more women choose to give birth at home, nudging the percentage of births from 2.something upwards, how can I be expected to to change her mind?

I'm treating the situation diplomatically of course. I laughed at the text and continue to remind my Mum that should the remainder of my pregnancy deviate from the norm I will of course reasess whether a home birth is still the right choice. As I type this on my sofa though, I look around the room filled with photos, toys and familiar clutter and know that, given half a chance, this is where I would like my daughter to be born. Straight into the heart of the family who are desperate to meet her.

And being at home, if I have a sudden mid-labour urge for a deep pan with extra pepperoni, I can, from my own phone of course, order a pizza.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Snacktime

AKA confessions of a guilty Mummy

If you know me in real life please look away now. I am posting this under the cloak of Blog anonymity for reasons of my own parenting dignity.

This weekend my husband's team, Colchester United, were playing in the North, away at Tranmere Rovers' Prenton Park ground. It's been an age since we caught up with the rest of the Northern Exiles and T had a chance to practice the football chants Daddy teaches him in the bath most evenings, so we packed bags and trotted off towards Liverpool for a Saturday afternoon out.

I always consider myself to be a fairly organised person. Whilst camping, it was my husband who had to race a non-toilet trained bare bottomed toddler back from the showers as he'd forgotten to take a clean nappy. I'm usually the one bringing up the rear under the weight of a giant rucksack stuffed with toys, books, snacks and a change of clothes, most of which are now too small (clothes), young (books and toys) or not to his taste (snacks). But hey, be prepared!

This weekend then when T proclaimed himself hungry only five minutes after kickoff, I was organised, with treats for all occasions. What I'd not considered was that he might want not just one or two, but ALL of my emergency rations. Perhaps we're coming up to another growth-spurt (about time too!) or he was just using food as a desperate attempt at distraction from the woeful performance on the pitch. In half an hour, after a large breakfast and lunch, T ate:

One round of cheese on toast (cold and sliced)
Two satsumas
One nectarine
One grown-up handful of grapes
One bag of Organix 'No Junk' cookies
One Organix fruit bar and
One disgusting pouch of 'fruit squish'*

He'd also have eaten a Humzinger had Daddy not dropped it onto the floor whilst opening the slippery packet. We had almost 15 sold minutes of plaintive 'umziiiiiiinger, umziiiiiiiinger' until half time, but even with my vaguely lax cleanliness standards (probably the main reason very few people have seen our kitchen!) I couldn't bear to pick it up from the concrete floor coated with the grime of thousands of pairs of football supporters' boots so he could eat it.

So the ref finally blew the whistle. Half time. T was still complaining about being hungry so whilst I took him for a run around (not on the pitch sadly, although he'd have liked that, mostly on a vomit inducing tour round and round the pillars holding the corrugated roof in place) Daddy went in hunt of more food for a 'starving' toddler, and his increasingly hungry mother.

He returned with two of these. Yes, amongst a landscape of lurid fuschia 'sausage' rolls and mystery meat pies, the most suitable foodstuff was the one that helps you work, rest and play. A bloody Mars Bar.

T wouldn't share of course. He ate 3/4 of the whole thing in around half an hour and then dropped the remainder on the floor, cue more tears. I was so ashamed at being the mother of the child with a brown chocolate moustache that I didn't really notice not getting any. On the plus side he was quiet, stopped wriggling and the game finished 1-1.

There is something magical about football. The result of a couple of hours outside, jiggling and watching and jumping up (ahhhhhhhhhh!) and sitting down and jumping up again (yeaaaaaaahhhhh!) and cheering which always knackers me out. T and I both slept all of the way home, even after his massive calorie intake.

Interestingly, since the weekend T has eaten very little. Perhaps for one day only he imagined he was a hamster, and stored that massive combination of snacks and, yes, Mars Bar, in his cheek for future sustinence. That, I tell myself, would make it Not Quite So Bad.

*If anyone can tell me why my lovingly Baby Led Weaned toddler, who has always refused anything pureed, has suddenly decided that sucking these Stage One sweet sachets is the best thing ever, please let me know!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Wishes for Spring

One day of our recent holiday took us to the wonderful Eden Project in Cornwall. T adored it of course. There was plenty of space to run around, amazing sculptures to gape at, willow tunnels to race through and of course the giant (and very hot!) Rainforest Biome full of massive leaves which make great hats or fans. Our buggy was laden not with toddler but with handfuls of fallen (and slightly brown and mushy) ones by the time we reached the exit. Oh, and they have a 'train', carriages pulled by a giant tractor, for people who might need help walking up the steep ex-quarry's sides to the entrance and exit at the top. If T wasn't glad that I'm cooking him a sister before, he is now. He still speaks daily about the 'tractor train' that helped this tired bump up the hill at the end of the day.

Anyway, we spent our Eden morning exploring, then after a picnic lunch ventured into the slightly cooler Mediterranean Biome where, amongst olive trees and fragrant herbs, T was invited to plant a pot with a couple of tulip bulbs.

We patted down the earth, made sure they were pointy end up and sprinkled some more compost on top. T also prodded his with a stick, apparently an essential part of the planting process. We were then handed a card on which to write a wish for spring. The bulbs came home with us and when they flower, the wishes we left behind at Eden will apparently all come true.

Daddy wished for 'T to play nicely with his baby sister'. T wished for 'a train'.

Perhaps by spring we're going to need a bigger house.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

In the pink

I have done a crafty clothes swap with a friend who recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. A giant bag of our small blue things has been swapped with THREE huge sacks of baby girl items long outgrown by her sparky toddler. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not adverse to putting my soon-to-be daughter in car-print vests, they're on the inside for a reason, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to run my hands through piles of pink, yellow and flowery patterned babygrows, tees and socks.

In a fit of nesting I emptied the bags into the washer and switched it on. In a fit of pregnancy forgetfulness, long after the cycle had finished I was gainfully employed elsewhere ... possibly napping, or Facebooking or perhaps listening to my Rainbow Relaxation hypnobirthing script. Whichever way, it was 12 hours later, my arms full of damp towels, before I even went near the machine again.

My eyebrows raised in horror. The new load fell to the floor. Tears spiked at my eyes. I couldn't believe it. Only weeks after I spent hours up to my elbows in Dylon colour run remover when an errant red sock ruined a whole pile of whites, including almost all of my maternity clothes, it had happened AGAIN. In a fit of petulance I knocked a pile of paperwork from the kitchen worksurface onto the floor. Had I been wearing shoes I might have kicked something. I mentally composed a verbal attack on my husband. It must have been him of course, I just don't make mistakes like that.

Then it hit me. The view through the concave door was meant to be pink.

I'm blaming hormones.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Holidays

After the disaster/fun adventure (depending on whether you ask my husband or I!) that was our Bank Holiday weekend camping trip, there was no arguing that Family B were really in quite desperate need of another holiday. It's all relative of course, we're not talking food, oxygen or money (although we'd also quite like some more of that please) here, I know holidays are not one of life's essentials, but the week before last saw us tired, grumpy and worried about the new arrival. We'd finally washed the last of the mud from our clothes and dried out the sodden tent, so a last minute booking was made and we began the marathon trek from our home in Lancashire to the Cornish coast.

And what a week we had! Sunshine, blue skies and a cool breeze met us every morning. The cottage, chosen for its wet weather friendly swimming pool, barely got a look in as we explored beautiful beaches, made (and demolished) sandcastles and ate rather too many scones with clotted cream and jam on.

There are an awful lot of companies flogging holidays for families. Soft play, kids clubs and baby listening services were on the menus of many of the locations we considered and dismissed. Well, mainly they dismissed us, even a clear fortnight after the end of the school holidays there was remarkably little availability. It was amazing how many toddler families of almost four we saw on our travels, a plethora of bumps who, like us, had taken heart in the long range forecast and made the trip in search of some Indian summer sun. It got me thinking though, what do you need for the perfect family holiday?

There are practicalities of course. Schlepping stairgates, highchairs and travel cots across the country isn't fun. But beyond that, what are the key ingredients for a good time?

It pains me to say it, but Mummy, Daddy, a few toys and books and the space to run around are T's key happiness-makers. I loved seeing his face as the waves on Widemouth beach tickled his tiny toes, but it pains my husband to note that he loved the Lake District rain just as much.

Admittedly happy parents make happy children, and it did make a huge difference to have a cheerful husband rather than a constantly complaining one, but for me, future holidays could definitely be of the cheap and cheerful variety. Now where did I put that mallet?!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Changing his mind

Remember this post? I was very excited when my husband and I finally agreed on our daughter's name, and since then have been calling her by it (in private of course, I'm still irrationally worried someone will come along and 'steal' it before I give birth!) and ignoring the multitude of baby name forums out there, well except to read and dismiss all their suggestions as not as good as ours.

So it was bound to happen wasn't it. My husband has only gone and changed his bloody mind!

It started with an email. It was a professional exchange, something from the press office. The name? The one we have chosen for our daughter. The effect? He's well and truly put off.

I sympathise of course, there are plenty of names I like but that we can't use for lots of reasons. The moniker of my childhood bully for example, or of my husband's ex-wife. But one email? One lousy email?! He wont be swayed though, it's 'spoilt it' now.

Back to the lists tonight, and the forums. Less lurking and dismissing, more posting and asking for help!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The curse of CBeebies

T is a big fan of CBeebies. I always swore I'd be one of those mothers who only let their child play with organically produced battery-free fair-trade wooden toys until they were six, and that the telly would be reserved for special occasions only, but then reality bit. Admittedly we've never watched quite as much of Auntie's offerings for under-5s as we do now, but my exhausted, elephantine state is temporary (I hope!) and we do balance a couple of hours in front of the goggle box with plenty of runs around the park or trips to the library. And at least there are no adverts.

There are perils though. T loves the hideous 'Big Cook, Little Cook', a programme I regarded with suspicion even before I saw its presenters moonlighting on Nuts TV, and I can't get the Numberjack's theme tune out of my head. Then there's Timmy. Timmy is the epnoymous star of an Aaardman animation about starting nursery school ('he's a little lamb with a lot to learn'). Like Gromit before him, he doesn't speak, but communicates via noises and expressions. It's very clever, and although in the 'bright and loud' camp, unlike other new favourite 'Waybulloo' it's nowhere near as offensive as 'Lazy Town'.

In an attempt to get organised and save money I've spent this afternoon batch cooking meals for the family. Mash and home-made potato wedges have been bagged and put in the freezer and a giant pan of T's favourite, lamb curry, simmered on the stove.

I served up a giant portion for tea. T tucked in with gusto. I sat next to him in a halo of smugness, gleeful he was consuming a lovely giant bowl of lentils, sweet potato and kidney beans. I'd even managed to sneak some spinach in there this time. Then came this exchange.

T (holding a piece of meat): 'what's that Mummy?'
Me: 'that's lamb darling, it's lamb curry'
T (regarding bowl suspiciously): 'lamb? lamb? Timmy?'

His bottom lip began to wobble. I panicked. Thinking of the huge vat still on the hob, cooling before being transferred in portions to the freezer, I did what every mother in the same circumstances would have done. Distraction.

'Oooh look darling, there's a cat outside the window'

Momentarily distracted, he continued to wolf down his tea. I watched nervously, half expecting him to turn up his nose at any moment.

He didn't of course. In fact in the end he had seconds. He has obviously inherited his mother's fickleness rather than his father's hard-core vegetarianism.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Countdown

We're officially on birthday countdown. In two weeks time I will have (gulp) a two year old, and I wonder, how did the tiny babe, barely seven pounds, suffering from post-ventouse cone head become my blonde-haired, passionate toddler boy.

The clues are there of course, the nose is the same, although he's grown into it, and those lips. But where does the rest of it come from? Less than three years ago there was a bundle of cells, how have I, have we as a family, grown it into this whole little person.

In the last two years my life has changed beyond recognition. I have new friends, a house full of toys and a previously undiscovered passion for the best bits of CBeebies. I am not the mother I thought I would be, but for almost every behaviour that disappoints me - my lack of patience and occasional resorts to fishwifery - there is something else that I'm proud of.

Two years ago T's life on the outside had not even begun, today he's played at toddler group, collected sticks in the park and politely asked for (and demolished) 'more nectarine please Mummy'. It's timely that his new favourite song is 'Happy Birthday', sung several times a day at top volume.

Heavily pregnant again, it's hard to remember how I felt two years ago today, exactly one week before my due date. Was I ironing babygro's (no, really!) or frantically trying to finish one of the home-made pictures I lovingly completed for the brand new nursery. Maybe I was nervous about the impending birth, obsessively rereading the relevant chapters in one of a large pile of baby books. Perhaps I was rubbing my bump, cursing the indigestion but secretly quite enjoying the pop, pop, pop of tiny hiccups deep inside my abdomen.

One thing is certain though, as the baby monitor snores by my side, I didn't know it would be this good.

Monday, 31 August 2009

It's a Hard Knott Life For Us ...

AKA is it really possible to go glamping with kids?

This weekend started innocently enough. A friend, fresh from a sunny Whitsun break away, asked our mum's group whether we fancied a late summer camping trip. Well I was in the Guides of course, I'm handy with the square lashing and know just where to put my kindling for maximum impact. I've enjoyed many a festival, and managed to survive the great Glasto flood of 2005, so despite not having ventured out under canvas since T arrived we signed up straight away. And so it was that six families (including two pregnant mums) and their eight children trotted off to the Lake District this weekend.

I need to rewind a bit, it wasn't quite that simple of course. Finding a site that would let us pre-book and which was family suitable was a challenge, but Church Stile seemed to fit the bill. We dug out our old tent, tugged on the guy ropes and scratched our heads. Somehow even a giant double skinned dome didn't seem suitable for three plus bump so I began the search for a new one, as did many of my camping compatriots. I read up on glamping. In these credit crunch times, eco friendly families are going back to basics and putting their money where their tent pegs are. I looked at blogs featuring pictures of Bodened-up children frolicking in front of Cath Kidston teepees. They extolled the virtues of jam jars as vases and talked of vintage table cloths and mismatched china. I imagined that could be us, and rinsed off the multi-coloured plastic Disney picnic ware.

I should have known of course. The weather forecast was the first warning. As departure day drew nearer my claim that the long-range prediction of torrential rain was wildly inaccurate began to sound a little thin. My husband made 'not coming' noises, but undeterred I booked him a train ticket to join us after work on Friday, planning to greet him with a cold beer served in a warm field as the children entertained themselves with nature's playthings.

Oh dear.

It is only thanks to two of the wonderful husbands present on the trip that my tent got up at all. A dry run having been thwarted by the bleeding episode earlier in the week, it came out of its bag for the first time in the really quite muddy field where we planned to set up a mini village. My husband missed his connection, and a lack of mobile phone signal meaning we spent 90 minutes waiting on a freezing station for him to arrive. He stepped from the train, despite having been a mostly sunny afternoon, the heavens opened.

Oh the rain. It rained, and rained and rained.

I am taking full advantage of poetic license here of course. There was respite from the showers. Saturday in particular was a lovely day. We spent the day owl-spotting at Muncaster Castle and ooohing at the beautiful scenery. The company for the weekend was wonderful, I am lucky to have such lovely friends who in turn have beautiful children. The setting was picturesque, and T has probably never had so much fun. There are definitely some things our three days away have taught me though:
  • If your husband really really really doesn't want to go camping, but agrees to placate you, he will be miserable, whatever the weather
  • If your husband is miserable, you will be miserable, however hard you try not to be
  • When the only clothes that fit are your summer maternity wardrobe and it turns cold, you'll have to resort to interesting combinations. Black leggings, a cream skirt, two layered tops and blue wellies was the real low point
  • One Size 5 toddler nappy does not contain the wee of a pregnant adult human. When it's pouring down in the middle of the night it is far better to brave the outdoors than to have to exercise your poorly performing pelvic floor to pause mid flow to grab another one, the alternative being to pee on the floor of the tent
  • Asda camping equipment is cheap for a reason. Our 'table' was so shoddy that even a vintage jam jar of wild flowers would have keeled over, had I been arsed to bring one
  • A tent village defies all laws of physics, and sound travels huge distances in the open air. This is good when you're after the gossip and very bad when trying to whisper-argue with aforementioned grumpy husband
  • If your toddler wants to stand at the water's edge and watch the stream, there is a 95% chance that even if you are within a foot of him at all times, he'll still manage to fall headfirst into freezing water

There were good bits too of course. Watching the children play together (albeit in wellies and waterproofs), communal cake by lantern light and the pride I felt at actually having managed three nights on an airbed in my heavily pregnant state. We were definitely camping though. The mud that came off my legs in the shower this afternoon, back home and dry, is testament to that. More back to nature than glam in any way shape or form.

Next year though, with a stronger table, larger stove, more enthusiastic husband and (gulp) two children. Who knows??

I'm game if you are.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Vulnerable

At points over the last seven and a half months I have been guilty of almost ignoring this pregnancy. With none of the SPD which made expecting T more painful than it might have been, a new job and a manic toddler I haven't had the time or, to be honest, the inclination to pore over the Mamas & Papas catalogue and indulge in daydreams about life with a newborn again. If it wasn't for the giant football up my jumper, the constant need for new bras (how big?!) and the bottle of Gaviscon on the bedside table, life could almost be carrying on as normal.

I'm not saying I'm ungrateful of course. Every day I remember how lucky I am to be able to complete my family when I want to. I say a silent prayer of thanks when the baby kicks (less angrily than her brother did, I wonder if this means a more chilled out baby is on her way?) and have a sneaky rub, gently pushing back on the tiny elbows or heels making a bid for freedom through my abdomen, whenever I can. But until now I've been lucky enough not to have to worry about my pregnancy.

Then on Monday, en route to the shower, it happened. I spotted blood. Not lots, but it was there, red and angry and for one moment the bottom fell out of my world. It is impossible to be rational in situations like this, but whilst T played with toys in the (empty) bath, safely out of the way, I called the hospital, my husband and put a friend on standby for childcare. As advised I stuck on a maternity towel and drank two pints of ice-cold cordial to encourage the baby to move.

After an hour or so of monitoring, a dignity-shrinking series of internal exams and swabs and a few tears, the midwives at the local hospital pronounced the baby was fine and sent me on my way with instructions to rest and come back if the bleeding, by now little more than spotting, got any worse. 'Just one of those things'.

When we returned from the hospital, and my husband went back to the office, T needed a nap. I joined him, and tried to sleep off some of the worry. When he woke, I asked what he wanted to do for the afternoon, and received the reply every Mummy in need of some TLC wants to hear:

A wee wee on the potty
Cheese toast
CBeebies on Mummy's knee

We spent the afternoon snuggling, and the next day, boy at nursery, my bump and I rested up and lazed about. As the spotting tailed off and eventually stopped I made a promise to myself to celebrate these last weeks as a pregnant woman and take some time out for just me and my girl.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Listening

T moved rooms at nursery last week. I adore his childcare. Despite it not being our first choice, he has grown and thrived in his three days a week there for almost twelve months, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Well, unless I won the lottery of course.

The leap from the oldest room in the Kindergarten unit to the youngest in the pre-school unit has been a great one though. The nursery is split site, with two buildings straddling the entrance to the local park. The drop-off area for parents is outside the Kindergarten unit, and every morning since the change T has raced from my grip and clung to to the gates of his old unit, asking for his favourite keyworkers Nad-Nad (Nadia) and Kelly, before I've prised off his fingers and carried a wriggling parcel of screeching toddler to 'Big Boy Nursery'.

The new unit is wonderful. There's a much larger outside play area, a vegetable garden and even a suite of tiny toilets and wash hand basins, although T doesn't need any help with his obsession with 'wee wees' (more on that later). The activity is more full-on, and he's come home truly knackered every day, full of tales of dancing and with green paint in one ear.

It's hard on days like these, especially when his younger sister is trying to force her toes through my solar plexus in a bid for the outside world, to remember that of course T is still a baby. There remains so much to learn. Although his language has come on in leaps and bounds in the last weeks there are still comical errors.

This afternoon we made a swift trip to the supermarket to buy ingredients to make biscuits for the aforementioned keyworkers. Yes I know 'proper' presents to say thank you are probably in order, but I'm broke and like a project, so vanilla mixture with icing and sprinkles it is.

T didn't want to get in the car. Then he didn't want to get out of the car. Then he didn't want to get into the trolley. Then he didn't want to wear the waist strap unless he could fasten it himself. In a desperate attempt to save my sanity I offered him the contents of my shopping bag in turn ... he was distracted for around 40 seconds by 'holding Mummy's pennies' until he realised he wasn't allowed to throw each of my credit cards on the floor in turn. He was distracted by my phone for the same amount of time, before I refused to let him call his cousin A (currently on holiday in Spain, I'm not that cruel!) In desperation, I handed him the shopping list, a copy of Nigella's recipe to remind me how much butter to buy.

He held the scrap of cardboard in his hand, turning it over and over, studying my scrawl on one side, half a portrait of Tony the Tiger on the other. Then he held it to his ear. He was quiet, and I didn't click for a while that he wanted my attention, although he was trying to catch my eye. In the end, almost bouncing out of the seat in excitement, I asked if he was OK.

'Mummy, mummy, mummy' he said, my list still pressed firmly to his ear like a bad toy mobile, 'I'm list-ing, list-ing ... good boy!'

List, listen. You can see what he did there. How do you explain the vagaries of the English language to a boy who is not yet two, but thinks he is so much more?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Grey

I have been AWOL for a fortnight now. I keep logging on, meaning to update and tell the latest tales of what’s been going on in our little family, but never quite getting round to it. I always have blogging down in my head as a happy activity, this site is somewhere to share the funny things that happen when a two year old and a burgeoning bump are jostling for their Mum’s attention, but for no real reason the last couple of weeks have been fairly grey.

I’m not being needy, honestly. I have no cause to be sad. In fact I have lots of reasons to be happy. Baby news from a friend, holiday plans and my sister’s upcoming wedding have all made me smile. I am eternally thankful that my pregnancy is progressing normally - baby growing, skin stretching, bra bulging. I rejoice in feeling tiny feet digging in under my ribs, and am much less tired than I was when carrying T.

So why the gloom? Well, can you blame hormones? It feels churlish to complain about nothing whilst others cope with life’s real challenges with dignity and aplomb. Perhaps biology is my ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. Or perhaps I have caught a dose of toddler irrationalism from T. My bump makes me increasingly public property. Strangers on the street ask whether I know the sex of the baby, parents with buggies in lifts ask how I’m feeling, and the women in the local charity shop reach in for a sneaky pat. I love it, the extra attention, the knowing smiles from other bumps I pass in the corridoor at work, so why then do I feel utterly lonely?

I hate this feeling. If nothing else, it’s just not me. God willing, this will be my last pregnancy. I have nine weeks (and probably more than a few days) left to enjoy it, and it makes me cross that I’m not doing. I shout at T, I bait my husband into snapping at me. I get up, dress and go to work every day hoping that today the sun will peek from behind the clouds, slap me around the face with a wet fish and tell me not to be so stupid. Is this feeling nothing but an expectant mother’s indulgence? Maybe I need to be keeping busier, thinking less. My Mum’s voice echoes in my head … ‘I’ll give you something to really worry about’.

I hope to be back telling tales again soon. In the meantime if anyone knows of a magic enthusiasm tonic, please send it in my direction. I want my voice back, or a kick up the backside. Maybe both.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Things my parents have argued about ...

OK this could be a really long post. My parents, who separated more than 20 years ago, really don't like each other very much. At all. A much shorter post would be 'things my parents haven't argued about'.

But anyway, this isn't actually a post about family dynamics, it's a post about books. I'll explain.

My sister and I were raised in a house full of books. Our teacher mother was obsessed with the written word, and had much more patience than I have with my own child. Although it was probably easier to resist the lure of the 42" flat screen babysitter in the corner before CBeebies was invented.

Emma Bradshaw posted this quote from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on her blog, and it instantly reminded me of life on Fairholme Avenue in our childhood home which felt as big as a castle. A castle with its own library.

The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens and whales
And treasured isles and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants...

There were books to read ourselves, eyes straining under the covers in the gloam of Manchester twilights when we should have been asleep. There were trips to the library and sometimes, for a treat, to the tiny bookshop wedged into Urmston precinct between Boots the chemist and the pound shop.

Then there were books that were read to us. In later years my sister and I held each other and cried as Bambi's mother died, and begged my Mum to stop reading. Before that there were picture books. Dog-eared and with pages attached with sellotape we had the same stories read over and over again to us. Being a sentimental old fool, I've rebought many of these old favourites for T, the originals having been donated to my Mum's school in the years after we outgrew them, or finally consigned to the great library in the sky when the missing pages outnumbered the remaining ones.

Thus we have Meg and Mog, Peepo, Funnybones and of course the book which has become a bit of a blogging obsession for me, Dogger.

There is something about Shirley Hughes' illustrations which brings the simple story to life. I went to an exhibition of her artwork at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool a few years ago and saw the original Dogger, the toy the story was based on, locked in an airtight fishtank in the manner of a priceles antique. Smaller than I imagined, and definitely well-loved, he bore little resemblance to the picture in the book being 'pulled along on a lead made of string like a real dog'.

T adores the story, and unlike some of his other favourites (Meg and Mog's Touch and Feel Counting Book) it's a delight to tell. Bloody good job as we've heard it at least once a night for the last three months. But I don't mind. I sit by the side of his bed, reciting it by heart as he turns the pages and points out more and more detail. It's even Daddy friendly, allowing my husband to have taught his son to recognise a Dalek, part of the fancy dress parade montage in the section about the school summer fair.

In my childhood home though, an innocent tale of sibling love was apparently a source of marital discontent. The section where Mum gives Bella the money for two ice-creams, and Dave shares his with Joe? Joe wanted 'more in-between licks'. Apparently my parents argued over the inflection ... was it more, in-between licks or more 'inbetween licks'. Each parent picked their own side. Twenty years on, my Mum can still remember.

I find it hard to imagine any clearer sign that their life as a couple was nearing its natural end, and there's no contradicting that it was for the best. But this story is filled with such happy memories for me. As it's woven into the threads of T's childhood, the endless repetition almost guaranteeing he'll read the same words to his own first born, I can't imagine compromising this feeling for anything, and I'm sad that my parents' recollections are not as strong, or as comforting, as my own.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Poetry


One of the last tasks in the final days of my old job was a difficult one. As part of the BBC's poetry season I was given a group of 10 sullen teenagers, some technology and an empty room for two days, challenged with turning them into poets.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the group. They responded well to short work by Michael Rosen and Roger McGough, and argued that the example I'd found online couldn't possibly be a Haiku because it had just the wrong number of syllables, alright?

On my way out of the door that morning, laden down with resources for the first session, I'd grabbed a rarely used magnetic poetry kit from one of the kitchen drawers and added it to my bag of props. Now I divvied up the words, each student getting 10, and asked them to compose their own poems.

I realised just in time that I was probably risking a teenage giggle fest, and removed three letters from the pot, the magnet saying 'sex' was stowed in my wallet whilst the workshop continued. I didn't need to give the group any extra ammunition. I promptly forgot about it of course.

Fast forward to Friday, and I met a friend at the local pool for our weekly aquanatal session. The seventeen year old lifeguard collecting the fees shared some sort of hilarious anecdote with his friends as I scrabbled in the bottom of my purse for the correct change. Four pounds ten, fifteen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty. Got it! I handed over a pile of silver and copper and waited for him to confirm I'd counted the right amount. The coins clattered into the till, there was a pause. Oh no, is it short? I rummaged in my bag again to find my purse, and unzipped it, ready to dig out the five pence or so I'd probably miscounted. The lifeguard studied what was in his hand. What's this? He held it up to me. Ah yes, that little magnet, those three little letters I'd removed from the kit earlier this week were there, stuck to the back of a 1p piece. Sex.

I went purple. The lifeguard's friends fell about laughing. She wants you mate! She's after you! It was a message! I tried to explain, but my garbled mutterings about poetry were lost amid the cackling. The lifeguard looked me up and down, taking in my giant bump, Primark vest and super sexy maternity leggings. My head drooped. I apologised, and grabbed the magnet from his hand, stuffing it back into my purse and making a dash for the changing rooms.

Accidentally propositioning someone? Now that's poetry.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Girls

There is no denying that T has a real thing for the girls. I don't know whether it's because the majority of my friends have small pink children, but he does seem to attach himself to female persons with ferocity.

T quite likes men. He's always pointing them out, his favourites being 'man in van' and 'yellow man', for K our next door but two neighbour who works as a refuse collector and is often out and about in his high vis jacket. He adores my husband of course, and Grandpa. Other little boys though? Meh!

T has two cousins, C and A. A is 8 and the absolute apple of T's eye. He talks about her constantly, fetching her picture from the bookcase and asking to 'kiss A'. C, well when asked who we're going to see when we go to Essex to visit the outlaws T goes through the names in a list, counting them on his fingers as he goes ... Papa (Grandpa), Mama (Grandma), A. Then he stops. I prompt, who else? We look at the picture of two smiling siblings in school uniform next to each other. Who's that with A? Choo choo! C? Yes, choo choo. T plays with a big box of C's old trains at Grandma's house and, it appears, has been relegated to nothing more than a provider of Thomas-themed entertainment. He doesn't even have a name.

T's two best nursery friends, G and A, can do no wrong. I picked T up on Wednesday evening and, in the car on the way home, asked him what he'd done that day. 'Gave A a kiss' came the response. It must have been some kiss to be the highlight of eight hours of fun and play.

On Thursday evening he was playing in the garden when I arrived, and was so excited to see me he almost strangled himself trying to climb out of the window of the Cozy Coupe toy car for a cuddle two seconds sooner than could have been achieved had he opened the small plastic door and clambered out of the opposite side. The Mummy joy lasted only a few seconds though before he spotted G still playing away and demanded to 'get down'. He ran over, arms outstretched, they hugged and kissed and trotted off, hand in hand, babbling about something or other.

I know like many features of this toddler age (including insisting on cuddling his milk cup to sleep every night) this is a passion that will probably pass. Despite my previous rantings on people who stereotype the sexes, there are very few little boys who go to school still happy to be dressed in a tutu like their best friends. In the mean time though, I stand at the nursery door, peeping through the glass window, and watch him share books and toys with the people who, for now, are the centre of his nursery universe.

I do hope he loves his sister just as much.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

You and Me Song

Our house is full of family photos. There's the small, scrunched baby, eyes tightly closed, his face full of thought, cuddled up to a small blue teddy in a hospital plastic fishtank cot. There's the nursery portrait of a toddler who's changed so much more in the months since it was taken. There's even a rare photo of the three of us on a Welsh beach last year. I have a double chin on this one, but there are so few pictures of Mummy, Daddy and boy that it made the cut. I just try not to look at it too much!

T is confused though. When looking at pictures of himself, he says 'you!'

Who's in the picture T?
(pointing) Mummy ... Daddy ... and YOU!
Well yes darling it is you, but you don't say you, you say 'me' ... look, I'm Mummy and in the picture that's me!
Yes, Mummy me, Daddy and youuuuuu.

I assume this is a learning process, part of T's complex language development, and will pass soon. Has anyone who has been there and done that got any advice?

On the plus side, I've realised why he was getting so cross when I opened yoghurt pots, fastened his shoes and carried his bag in response to the command 'you do it!'

Monday, 13 July 2009

Sending me potty

Try as I might, I have been utterly unable to distance myself from the Parenting Olympics. By this I mean the 'my baby's better than your baby' because s/he walked/talked/went to University earlier than yours thing, and the inference that because of the above I am a better parent/person than you.

I've been on both sides of it. Friends were agog when T got onto all fours and crawled at just over five months old. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intensely proud, and of course I didn't keep it to myself. Conversely, I more or less hid in the house when, for more than a month after starting to walk properly, he went back to his much loved crawling and resolutely refused to get to his feet again as his friends toddler happily around him. My exclusively breastfed baby piled on the weight in the early days, often more than a pound a week, turning mums of skinny minnies green with envy. Of course this came back to bite me on the bum when, between four and twelve months, he failed to put on more than a pound in total!

Try as I might to embrace the 'they'll do it when they're ready' mantra, there's nothing that makes you (by this I mean me of course) feel worse than a raised eyebrow at baby group when you say no little Johnny or Jimmy isn't sleeping through the night/cooking his own meals/solving sudoku's yet.

I thought I'd more or less passed the Baby Olympics stage though. T's NCT peers are all walking, and talking at about the same level. I'm quite happy being neither exceptional nor lagging behind. But there's something big and scary looming on the horizon, and like feeding, sleeping and even how many layers your baby is wearing, it's something everyone seems to have an opinion on. I'm talking potty training of course.

Now I'm being sensible about this. Come October I'm going to be changing lots, and lots, of nappies. I know toddlers have a tendency to take a step backwards, reminding you that they were the first baby here you know, once a younger sibling arrives, and T isn't even two until the end of September. I don't know what posessed me then to pick up a couple of luridly coloured potties on a trip to IKEA a few months ago.

Pick them up I did though, and they've sat there, mainly being used as hats/storage containers for toy trains/trip hazards to barefooted parents for more than a few weeks. That all changed thanks to Gabriella though. One of T's nursery cohorts (whom he endearingly refers to as 'babby') she's trained over the last month or so, and sits on the potty during the toddler room's regular 'nappy change' periods. Not one to miss out on a bit of one on one with his favourite girl, T has been asking to sit on the pot alongside her, and of course, is learning what it's for. Last week we had our first 'at home' potty wee. I did have a little glow of pride, until he put his hands in it and wiped them on me afterwards.

All this has made me wonder whether I should be rethinking the issue and planning to train T properly before the new baby arrives. I even wonder whether he might force my hand. Fighting to put his nappies on has become more and more of a strain, although he's always loved a bit of running about naked time, and he's started to remove wet and dirty ones himself if I don't have chance to get to them first. I have to admit that I've actually no idea how the whole things works, and the thought of days without leaving the house whilst he gets the hang of it fills me with dread.

This afternoon, after our music class, I took T to the library for a bit of distraction. The children's area is bright, with a small table and chairs, puzzles, floor cushions and accessible book cases for littlies to choose their own reads. There are also a selection of Bumbo seats. The library doubles up as HQ for the local Children's Centre and mums are encouraged to bring babes in arms from a very young age to foster a life long love of books. So far so good.

T was quiet. I'd left him pulling the dinosaurs out of an ELC wooden peg puzzle, and was rooting in the book bins to find a decent bedtime story. Then I heard a squeal. 'Mummy. Wee wee!' I looked up. T had pulled down his shorts and wedged himself into one of the Bumbo seats. He was in the process of undoing the velcro tabs on his nappy as I raced over to him and quickly explained that although they did look a little bit like a potty, those are actually chairs for little babies and not toilets for big ones! At that precise moment my mobile phone started to ring from the bottom of my bag, under a collection of Tesco shopping and the assorted accoutrements that make life with a small person more bearable. The librarians who had been watching my attempts to extricate T from the seat and dress him quickly with interest, now tutted loudly. Red with shame, I shoved T under one arm and (bag still ringing) headed swiftly for the exit.

Ignoring the fact I might not be able to show my face in the library again for a little while, today's fun reinforced that I might actually have to potty train on T's schedule, whether I'm ready or not. And, having looked carefully at both a Bumbo and his Ikea potty. Can you really blame him for getting confused? I am!