Thursday, 20 December 2012

Perfect parenting

We all know that perfection is unattainable. Right? Then why are so many of us perfectionists? 

Perfectionism crops up in various areas of my life. For a long time I let it stop me from doing what I desperately wanted to do, until I made a conscious effort to do it anyway. It was scary, because I really didn't want it to be crap. I'm still not convinced it wasn't. That's not the point. I had to reject a long-held belief that unless I could do something perfectly, it wasn't worth doing.

Before M was born, I had a special daydream. I was holding my smiling, beatific baby, and we were dancing together in his/her nursery as the sunlight streamed through the window. The song playing was something by Ronan Keating. I can't remember which one. Something about rollercoasters. This was my picture of impending motherhood. It was going to be magnificent and full of cuddles and the joy of togetherness.

If you're a reader of my blog, you may know that the reality was somewhat different. It still is somewhat different. There is laughter but there is also a fair bit of crying. I get cross a lot. Mainly, I suppose, because I want my toddler to behave like a grown up. I want him to appreciate everything I work so hard to do for him. Things I try to do perfectly. When he makes a mess, my first thought is, "I've just washed / tidied / arranged that nicely". When he gets frustrated that I'm giving something or someone else my attention, I think, "Can I not just do This One Thing without you getting uppity? It's not all about you, kiddo!" 

My son isn't conforming to the original image I had of him. Neither am I conforming to the image of a serene, well-adjusted me. We're just muddling through. Which is why I get irate (my favourite activity, it seems) when I see this sort of headline on a parenting magazine: "Perfect Play Dates - less fights, more fun". Our children's play dates are meant to be perfect now?! Here follows my letter of protest.

"Dear Coles Baby & Toddler Magazine

"I'm writing with regard to a headline on the cover of your Spring 2012 edition. 'Perfect Play Dates' is an irresponsible title for the article.

"Parents, especially first-timers, are under an enormous amount of pressure to live up to an ideal largely perpetuated by the media.

"If you were genuinely interested in offering advice and support to parents alongside self-promotion, perhaps you could consider your use of alliteration in future. Stop pressuring parents to strive for perfection. It doesn't exist."

May I encourage you also to fight against the tyranny of perfection. You will need to start by forcibly restraining me from arranging things nicely.

The politics of pink

My son is regularly mistaken for a girl. This doesn't bother me. He's only 14 months old, after all. He has lovely golden curls which I never want to cut off. (I'm going to though, alright? Eventually).

It seems to really bother those who do the mistaking, as it were. They become very apologetic and assume they have committed some terrible faux pas. I don't think they believe me when I say I don't mind. Sometimes I sense their indignation at the way my child is presented, as if he should be offering more concrete clues as to his gender: 1) he has curls, 2) he is wearing a pink shirt, 3) it is 'teamed' with blue shorts. This confuses people. 

My boy is still so young yet already there is societal pressure on him to conform. Fashion is just one area of many. Variety in boys' clothing is generally non-existent; the uniform of T-shirt and shorts is presented in a palette of navy, khaki and brown. Red for Christmas, maybe. My son has personality and flair. Khaki just doesn't suit his nature nor his skin tone. Pink is a much more suitable match. So sue me.

I don't wish I had a girl. I'm not trying subconsciously to turn my toddler into one. I just want him to be who is. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

On becoming a feminist

Am I contributing to the rule of the patriarchy by choosing to be a stay at home mother? Can I call myself a feminist even though I am dependent on a man economically? 

Perhaps, and yes, I think so. Confusing, isn't it.

I was on a journey towards feminism for a long time. I was expecting a moment of clarity, when all of a sudden I would just know, or for someone to say, 'Hey you! Yes, you. I give you permission to be a feminist.' No prizes for spotting the flaws there.

In the end I just decided that I identified with feminism, that equality was important to me, and that was that. There was no fanfare as such (but I have ordered a badge from the very lovely and inspirational Ruth). I was prepared to increase my reading on the subject, and have started with gusto; but before I have had a chance to get comfortable, it seems I may not be one at all.

Can there be more than one definition of feminism? I suppose that's what it boils down to for me. If there is disagreement on what it constitutes, who gets the final say? 

I am aware that the feminism I identify with is very much a Western, privileged brand, chiefly concerned with egalitarian relationships (my marriage, my family) and equal opportunities (my career, challenging gender stereotypes). I have little concept of the experiences of millions of women around the world who do not have my quality of life. That in itself must mean that my interpretation of feminism is different to theirs.

All I can reasonably do, I think, is apply my ideals to my personal situation (thereby making it practical rather than theoretical) whilst seeking to improve my knowledge and awareness of the bigger picture. At present, that means choosing to care for my son, until such time as it makes sense to integrate other activities, paid employment included.

I managed to become a feminist without gaining anyone else's permission. I think it's logical to assume it's up to me whether I remain one or not.

Monday, 23 July 2012

How to travel with a baby

1. Reconsider

Before you travel on a long haul flight with your baby, consider whether it is absolutely necessary. Could you delay the journey until your child is, say, seven and a half? This may be better for everyone.

2. Accept the inevitable

If the trip is non-negotiable, resign yourself to the fact that at some point during the journey, you will regret it. If your baby screams continuously for no apparent reason during takeoff, be thankful that you have saved yourself hours of nervous anticipation.

3. Prepare your baby

You may have read advice encouraging you to dress your child in his/her cutest outfit. This may charm women of a certain age, but nothing will wipe the sheer horror off the faces of gap year students as they see you approaching. Ignore them. 

4. Prepare yourself

You will not be able to watch a film all the way through. Why should it be any different to being at home? You, or your travelling companion, will need to take countless walks down the aisle only to be trapped behind the drinks trolley. You will need to apologise to strangers. A lot.

5. Resist comparisons

Why do those other parents look so serene? Why are their babies sleeping? Why has my baby suddenly become The Noisiest, Most Irritable Baby on the Plane? Am I a bad mother? Am I grumpier and more sleep deprived than my husband, therefore exempting me from the next nappy change? There are no universally acceptable answers to these questions.

6. Be polite

You may not feel like engaging in conversation with the stranger next to you. It may be the last thing you want to do to feign interest in tales of a senior citizens' group tour to Brunei. Nevertheless, it will pay to keep them sweet. (Refer to tip # 2). Is he a good baby? Yes, he is; not No, I fear he is an evil mastermind.

7. Be patient

Once the plane has landed and the seatbelt sign has been switched off, bide your time. The wait to get off may seem like the longest wait of your life, but if you can sit calmly (of sorts) and resist the urge to yell at your fellow passengers to get out of your way, you will be rewarded with all the personal space you need to locate and obtain all 23 items of hand luggage stowed throughout the aircraft. 

8. Congratulate yourself

You have survived flying with a baby! This is no small achievement. I suggest that you create and print your own merit certificate, to be framed and displayed with pride in the entrance hall of your home (from which you will never venture far again, until all memory of your last trip fades). You deserve it.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The difference a decade makes

One of these days someone's going to tell me that my blog title doesn't make sense. I don't mind, but if anyone asks, it's metaphorical. Or something.

A few months ago I bumped into a woman I used to tutor. During the course of our conversation I mentioned that we were moving abroad. "With a baby?" she asked, incredulously. "Sure! Ha ha! Why not?" I replied. I gave the impression, I suppose, that this is the sort of thing I take in my stride.

And I did, the first time around. When I was 21 and carefree (in as much as someone racked with insecurities can be carefree). With a suitcase and a plane ticket, I had all I needed. Friends? To be made! Paid employment? To be found! It didn't occur to me that what I was embarking on was a major life change. It was just an adventure.

A decade (and a half) later and I'm doing it all again, this time in reverse. I've done this before, so it's no big deal. Right? Ah. Well. That's the thing. It is. I'm not 21 anymore. This has nothing to do with age and everything to do with experience. I have commitments and responsibilities which mean that it's no longer just about me. I have more items in my possession which means a suitcase is not sufficient. I have people in my British life who I've grown with who can't come with me. I know how hard it's going to be to leave them. When I did this the first time, I didn't.

I'm scared and excited and apprehensive and many more things that I can't even begin to articulate.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

It wasn't meant to be like this.

I didn't think I was ever going to cover this topic, and even as I write I'm still not sure. What follows is a summary of my birth story. I'm going to keep it brief and devoid of detail. However, if you feel this isn't for you, now's the time to make a swift exit.

My son was born at 11:07pm on Wednesday 5 October 2011. I had been admitted to hospital the previous evening to be induced, as he was around a week and a half late. When my waters broke meconium was discovered. It meant that there was a chance our baby was distressed. There was a lot of waiting around after that but when things kicked off Wednesday lunchtime, it was the start of a very difficult birth.

I started off on gas and air which, if you have never had it, made me feel as though I was having an out of body experience every 30 seconds. I didn't like it very much but it helped to ease the pain of the contractions. After a while I had to progress to pethidine. I don't think it really agreed with me, but again, it helped to ease the pain. I have no recollection of what happened between that stage and the end stage of labour, as I was drugged up to my eyeballs.

Despite the coaching of the midwives, and despite my best efforts, our little boy wasn't able to make an entrance on his own. All of a sudden, the numbers in the room swelled from two or three to ten. There wasn't time to do an emergency cesarean so the doctors decided to use another procedure.

By the time M arrived and was whisked out of the room due to possible infection, I was exhausted and in shock. My husband was concerned (understatement) as no-one had told him what was going on and had himself been whisked out of the room at one point.

Now, the purpose of this disclosure is not to elicit kind feedback such as, 'poor you - what a rotten time you had', so please don't feel that you have to respond in this way. Rather, I wanted to give a context for what follows, namely an explanation of my psychological state after the birth.

When our son was brought back in, I felt detached. I just couldn't connect him with the bump that I had bonded with for the past nine months. I felt as if I knew my bump, or Bun, as we called him/her. I didn't know this creature, lying there staring out at the world. I knew how I supposed to feel. There was supposed to be a golden ray of light shining down from the heavens. There was supposed to be a choir of angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. There was supposed to be adoration and smiling and sudden onset amnesia regarding the recent unpleasantness. There wasn't any of that.

In the days and weeks that followed, I struggled to bond with my baby. Breastfeeding was difficult. The lack of sleep was difficult. I went through the motions, doing what I had to do, but I didn't know how to connect with my son. What made it exceptionally painful was the fact we had experienced a miscarriage. Here was our long-awaited baby, the baby we had been through so much heartache to meet, and yet I felt at best, numb, and at worst, wanting to run away.

In time, gradually, I was able to bond with my son. Now, I can honestly say that I love him with all my heart and we have a beautiful relationship.

With permission, I want to share something that helped me recently; a quote from Fleur Bickford (@NurturedChild on Twitter).

It's ok to love your baby but hate the way they came into the world.

Maybe your birth didn't go the way you had hoped or expected it would. Maybe after the birth you didn't feel the way you thought you should. Maybe you're finding it difficult to come to terms with your new life and the new responsibilities it brings.

It's ok.

You're not the first person to feel like this, and you won't be the last. You may be surprised at how many of your friends and people you know had similar experiences. Why do we pretend that everything's fine? That we're coping well when clearly we're not? Sometimes life is hard. We should be able to share our grief as well as our happiness. The good times and the bad.

I have no affiliation with them but if any of this is relevant to you, visit the Birth Trauma Association (@BirthTrauma on Twitter). It's all too easy to feel isolated, but we don't have to stay that way.

Friday, 25 May 2012

This means war.

It's Friday! Let's talk about something light and fluffy, like misandry. It's my new word. If you want to look it up, I'll save you some time. It's a noun meaning the hatred of men by (but not limited to) women.

I'm not talking about a woman letting off steam about the man in her life who lets her down in numerous, heartbreaking ways, and who is possibly the latest in a long line of men who have treated her badly. In my opinion, this is not the same thing. (In some cases, no doubt it leads to hating men. But that's not what I'm interested in).

There seems to be a trend in advertising and the media to portray men in a less than favourable light. From  a recent campaign by Boots in which two women are discussing their numerous tasks for the weekend, all to be completed whilst bravely soldiering on with the flu (whilst their partners are in bed with a cold), to this article in the Telegraph here, in which the paper conducts a straw poll, the message is simple: men are a little bit useless.

Why is this acceptable?

The implication of the question, "If you are a woman, would you trust a man to take the male contraceptive pill?" is that men are inherently more unreliable than women. Where is the evidence for this? Do we ask men if they trust their girlfriends/partners/wives to take the pill?

I've been so busy thinking about the example I set for my son that somehow I hadn't really noticed this stereotype, persistent and reinforced at every turn. I can see that it's not enough to watch my colour choices, or encourage him to play with both cars and dolls, or to try to model equality. I will have to be alert to these kinds of negative messages which tell him that because he's male, he's not expected to be reliable, or capable, or any any other positive character attribute the media deems unnecessary based on his gender.

I was sort of prepared for the nappies. (Ok, that's a lie.) I wasn't really prepared for this. Nonetheless, as my title suggests, this mean war.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Should it stay or should it go?

Moving house is one thing. Moving country is quite another.

You haven't truly decluttered until you've stared down the barrel of a miscellaneous toiletries collection and agonised over the destiny of each item. Is it: a) in date, b) worth using up, c) worth giving away, d) worth shipping over, or e) none of the above? All those bits and pieces carefully stockpiled during Christmases, birthdays and special offers on Soap and Glory at Boots, then hidden away and forgotten about until newly purchased, identical products join them in the darkness. Not for me, the luxury of shoving it all into a box and shifting it a few miles down the road. I now have to make a decision on every single thing I own. Every. Single. Thing.

Never mind the bath bombs. What about the books? Trinny and Susannah's sage words may have languished in the garage for many a year (we never did get around to installing a bookcase) but what if I need to identify the shape of my bottom at some indeterminate point in the future? It may be a life or death situation (sartorially speaking, of course) in which access to that particular book is crucial. Do I take it? Do I store it? Do I give it away? You can see the bind I'm in. Likewise with my collection of cookbooks. I imagine I could be the sort of person who enjoys entertaining (still waiting for that personality trait to emerge) and naturally, I don't need to tell you that it would be beneficial to have a little bit of Nigella on hand to see me through.

Nevertheless, we have to be ruthless. There is no point in taking two sets of salad servers, regardless of the fact they were both gifts, as I have maybe used a set only once, no doubt trying to impress upon a hapless dinner guest that I was indeed a seasoned giver of hospitality. So, neither will make the journey. The same fate awaits the cast iron tea press, the crystal candle holder and the red faux leather magazine basket I was so chuffed to find as it matched the rug, giving the illusion of a co-ordinated design effort in the lounge.

In stark contrast, all of M's possessions will go with us, including a wardrobe that would put Derek Zoolander's to shame. In starting our new adventure we may have nary a scatter cushion between us, but our son will look fabulous. That's all that matters, surely.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Ode to a Pear

You are Queen among fruit
Adored by baby
For squished, delicious ripeness
Cherished by me
For you are beige
The colour of carpet, walls, face
You do not stain
Like strawberry
Or persist
Like pumpkin
Or demand attention
Like avocado
You are peaceful, innocuous
At one with your environment
And for that
I love you.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Sorry, what was your name again?

I've just returned from a breastfeeding support session, held in the local SureStart centre. I don't know what it is about this particular social situation that makes me feel as though I've never had a conversation with another human being before, and everything I know I learned from Google but haven't yet had a chance to put into practice.

I forget the names of women I've met countless times before. I sure as heck forget the names of their babies. I have to stare hard to figure out the gender so I have at least one conversation starter. This baby is wearing purple. What does that mean? (Says she who dresses her boy in anything but blue if she can help it, jeans excluded of course. I'm anti-gender stereotyping but not when it comes to other people's children. How am I supposed to start a conversation without it? Ah - pink headband. Phew!). So, how old is your little girl now? Nice save.

I'm so busy concentrating on The Rules of Polite Conversation, i.e. turn-taking, asking questions without blurting out my life story, smiling and nodding, that I forget what's already been said. I repeat myself. It wasn't even interesting the first time around. I start a sentence, change my mind about one tiny little aspect, then finish awkwardly so as not to say it at all.

All the while trying to smile serenely, desperate to look as though I fit in, and that I am A Natural Conversationalist. Clock-watching and calculating when it would be socially acceptable to leave, seeing as I've only just arrived. In the end it is M who dictates. He's too distracted by all the excitement to feed, I'm afraid. What a shame! I'm going to have to go before he gets shirty. See you again next week?

Friday, 13 April 2012

I'll meet you at the coffee shop.

Apparently I look like the outdoorsy type. I can't think why.

I once asked my husband if he would like to go camping some day. (I don't understand why I asked. I certainly had no intention of following through). He replied that yes, he would, but not with me. For a split second I was offended, until I realised that this arrangement would suit us both. I dread to think what number and manner of gadgets would make a camping trip bearable.

This coming from a woman who was once a Girl Guide. Admittedly, the only badge I ever earned was Entertainment, which was procured by choreographing and performing a dance to John Farnham's Take the Pressure Down. (Don't mock me. It was 1988). None of the other badges appealed, for some reason. After being publicly chastised one evening for not being able to present a piece of rope for inspection, and then a flying fox incident at camp, I called it a day. I think we all knew it was the right decision.

I have been known to fake a cheery, outdoorsy air to good effect, when it mattered. Like, for example, when volunteering as a leader at kids' camps. (More than one. Again - why?) Can you lead a group game on the beach? Why, yes! Give me a moment to fetch my baseball cap and megaphone! I didn't dislike the experience. But my point is that I'd much rather be drinking coffee somewhere civilised. I like the tea room at the end of a (short) walk. I like the gift shop at the exit of a family attraction. My tat filter is temporarily disengaged and I marvel at overpriced novelty pens, pan pipe relaxation CDs and shiny books depicting animals/people/places I care nothing about and never will, whilst the rest of my party are tapping their feet impatiently waiting for me to emerge.

My problem is this. My son will, presumably, want to go outside at some point in the future. I mean, properly. To do stuff. Outdoors. This will require my encouragement and supervision. If I don't want him to end up like me, it's the only way. I'm going to have to fake it. Of course, I might accidentally enjoy it, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Walking the talk

There are several items on my list entitled Things I Will Wait For Someone Else To Do Before Committing To Doing Them Myself. Checking the oil in my car is one of them.

It's not so much the checking of the oil which bothers me. It's what this may lead to, namely identifying a need to top up the oil. This requires various searches on the interweb for instructions only to be faced with smug posts containing patronising comments such as, the fuel cap is under the bonnet. Until I remember that I own a car manual and maybe Google shouldn't always be my first port of call in a crisis.

All of this to-ing and fro-ing annoys me greatly, because surely someone else should be taking care of it. Someone else who is used to this sort of thing. Someone else who is a man. Never mind that I am in possession of an intellect and a capacity to follow instructions in a logical manner (unless sleep-deprived) and if I need to, an ability to figure it out for myself.

I believe in equality for men and women. I believe in healthy relationships between men and women. I want to be a positive role model for my son who, hopefully, will grow up with an outlook that is unrestricted on the basis of his gender. And yet, I'm still waiting to be rescued like some Disney princess. I still don't get it.

Having retrieved the manual from the glove box it took all of 30 seconds to confirm the position of the fuel cap and proceed accordingly. The whole thing was over in substantially less time than it would have taken to pack up the boy and drive to the nearest garage, pleading ignorance. Ridiculous.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Now I'm bilingual.

During a recent evening feed my baby invented a new game. It goes a little something like this: baby scratches my arm. I say "no" and pull baby's hand away. Baby laughs. Baby scratches my arm. I say "no" and pull baby's hand away. Baby laughs. Baby scratches my arm ...

I thought I'd give "no"a test drive since my more common phrases of "don't pull mummy's hair please", "don't scratch mummy's face please" and "don't attempt to throw yourself backwards out of mummy's arms please" didn't seem to be achieving the desired results.

When did I start talking in the third person? My use of language has changed so much. I was adamant I wasn't going to speak to M with baby talk (to help him gain a rich vocabulary and sophisticated sentence structure, you understand) but I have failed. New words have been coined to replace words which were already perfectly reasonable and up to the job. Not only do I use these new words with the baby, but with grownups too. It's just easier that way.

And another thing. I'm not sure I care about what other people do with apostrophes anymore, either.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Oh, how my standards have fallen.

I am currently wearing a top which has a mysterious stain in the bottom left hand corner. I have no idea what it is or how it got there. All I do know is that I spotted the stain well before I left the house and wore it anyway. I figure that it's the least of my worries.

Don't get me wrong. I've never been what you would call immaculate. My phobia of ironing attests to that. (If you hang out washing on hangers you will never need to iron again. Ever). (But you can't just hang it any old which way. You have to pay attention to the line of the shoulder seams). However, wandering about in such attire means that I have sunk to a new low.

Have you ever picked up a glossy magazine and read an interview with someone impossibly chic? Maybe a buyer for a boutique or a designer for a new label. If you could describe your look in three words, what would it be? Sexy. Sophisticated. Feminine. Of course. Before M was born I had condensed my look into three words too. Not. A. Castaway. Heck, I'm a realist. Now with this latest turn of events I can't even aspire to that. Maybe I should stop washing my hair and be done with it.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The soy bean is not my friend.

Hands up who knew bread contained soya flour. Not me. I've been so busy trying to avoid entanglements with dairy during our trial that I didn't think to check the label on something I eat all the time. Cue yet more interrupted feeds and incessant crying due to painful wind.

On the face of it, trying to steer clear of soy looked pretty easy, seeing as it tastes of pureed cardboard. No, wait. Cardboard which has been left outside in the rain, torn into strips, boiled down to a pulp and sieved through a muslin cloth to create pure essence of cardboard. You get my drift. I won't labour the point.

Now that M and I are at the end of our dairy and soy free dietician-endorsed experiment (silly mistakes aside) I think we can safely say it worked. Naturally, I am thrilled that we've finally got to the bottom of it. My excitement fades as I contemplate a future devoid of decaf lattes, Cadbury delights, blueberry muffins, hot buttered toast and cream of tomato soup. I am making up for these glaring omissions in my diet by ingesting vast quantities of ginger nut biscuits.

The only alternative is to give up breastfeeding, but as I've fought so hard to keep it going I'd rather carry on, for now. Anyway, we're preparing to wean shortly, so no doubt that will be a whole other kettle of sushi (minus the soy sauce).

Friday, 9 March 2012

Oh man.

Today I met the woman I am in my head.

She of the ethically-conscious, environmentally-responsible, sling-wearing type. She exists! She has swaddled three sons in cloth nappies. She buys ethically sourced wooden toys for their amusement. For the love of Pete, she feeds her family vegetarian food lovingly cooked from scratch. (I suspect that she knits too). In all honesty? She reminds me of all I am not. I want to hate her guts. I can't. She's too nice. Damn.

See? This is what comes from attending parent and baby groups. Next time I feel the urge to converse with another human being over the age of six months I shall sit on my hands until the feeling passes.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Everything is changing and I don't feel the same

One of the many, many things I wasn't prepared for was the tiredness.

At the beginning, the kind that hits you like a bus. The kind that induces migraines, uncontrollable sobbing and sharp words to visiting mothers who were only trying to help. Now, the kind that settles into your bones. I wonder if I will ever sleep properly again. I wonder if M will ever have a bedtime earlier than ours. I wonder if we will ever be able to watch The King's Speech from start to finish. At the moment it's only snatched episodes from Gavin & Stacey or Sean Lock's 15 Storeys High (which is brilliant by the way).

Everything from my life pre-baby seems to have changed. Not a complaint - just an observation. I used to read books. For fun. To pass the time. Now if I can get in a paragraph from the NHS Birth to Five booklet during the evening feed I consider it successful. I used to be able to dedicate a few hours, consecutively, to cleaning the house and admiring my sparkling windows/mirrors/hair. Now if anyone comes to visit I panic about the state of the hand basin. When did I last wave an all purpose wipe in its direction? Will they notice the state of the rug? Will they notice the state of me?

Everything is different and I'm just not used to it yet. I wonder if I will ever be.

Friday, 17 February 2012

At least I recycle.

Before M was born I was convinced I was going to use cloth nappies. I spent hours researching the pros and cons of each brand and was ready to order the full birth-to-potty kit. The money I would save! The smugness I would feel!

I remember mentioning it to a few friends who had children. It's really important to me, I said, to consider the environmental impact of my choices. We admire you, came the very British response, but maybe you should get some disposables too, just in case.

What they meant, of course, was that I was a lunatic if I thought I'd have the time/mental capacity/strength of feeling to actively engage in saving the planet with a newborn in the house. I mean, really. At this rate the planet is just going to have to take care of itself until the boy is 18.

It is armed with this knowledge that I bequeath my one and only cloth nappy sample (unused, still in its envelope) to another soon-to-be mum. By all means try it, I shall say. You might want to get in a few disposables too, just in case. Here, have some of mine.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

I'm asking you nicely.

I've never been one to cause a scene. I don't like to draw attention to myself. Ok, yes - my hair was a vivacious shade of red for a while, but that doesn't count because I thought I looked quirky and interesting. (Infinitely better than pale and interesting, in my view).

My point is that I'm still learning how to be assertive. Somewhere along the way in my distant past I had the curious notion that to assert yourself was akin to aggression. I took hold of that idea and made it my own. Nice girls don't cause any trouble. I really wanted to be a nice girl.

Fast forward a decade or two and this thinking just doesn't seem to work any more, however much I want it to. In attempting to manage my baby's unpleasant and distressing symptoms during and/or after a feed on a daily basis, I've been under the impression that somehow my experience was normal. That as long as the baby is putting on weight, everything was fine. Only it's not. It's not fine. It can't be.

I need some answers. Surely that's not unreasonable? Why is it ok for a medical professional to tell me that it could be anything? You have training. You have experience. I get that babies have a lot going on but I need you to narrow it down a little. In short, I need a diagnosis, not a brush off. Is it a milk allergy? Do I need to go dairy free? Do I need to change his formula? Do I need to break into song and insist you help me via interpretive dance? Because I may find that easier than putting on my big girl pants and telling you calmly and firmly that this really needs to be sorted out please.

Another doctor's appointment is booked for next week. Deep breath. Big girl pants at the ready.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Give me the inspection criteria. Somebody. Hello?

Being a new mum feels strange. At times I feel more like a primary caregiver. It hasn't quite sunk in that I'm somebody's mother. It stands to reason that I must also be a grown-up by now. I'm not sure which I find more alarming.

Having recently left a profession ruled by exams, inspections and reams of seemingly pointless paperwork, I'm wondering how to find evidence of my progress so far. All I have to go on is the to-do lists in my head. Get fully dressed. Tick. Intercept nappy contents before they make contact with the outside world. Tick. Intercept baby vomit with sleeve of cardigan. Tick. Change cardigan. Tick. Complete one daily and one non-daily housework task per day. Tick/Fail. Read at least one baby book to M per day. Fail. Read one article from the Guardian per day, thereby exercising brain. Fail. My days are made up of, and rated by, tiny successes and failures.

The trouble is, I don't know what the heck I'm meant to be doing, and I'm sure to be doing it wrong.

I guess this is one transition that will take a little longer than I thought.