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.