Thursday, 17 March 2016

Food Glorious Food

I miss eating.

Since I became a mother I still consume nutrients several times a day, but I can't remember the last time I was able to sit down and enjoy a hot meal.

My daughter seems to have been born with a sixth sense. She can't see ghosts, but she is able to tell exactly when I am feeling hungry and have dared to think I might just grab myself a quick bite to eat. Then, no matter how short a time she has been happily playing or peacefully napping on her own, she demands my full and immediate attention.

And so whatever food I have managed to prepare must become cold and soggy and disappointing while I tend to her needs.

Or I can opt for shovelling scolding hot, poorly prepared dishes into my mouth at an increasing speed while her wailing becomes increasingly fraught, spluttering, "Please just let Mummy eat something, if I don't eat, I won't make enough milk for you."

The latter scenario ends in discomfort for us both as she sobs and suckles resentfully on my breast, while I try to ignore my indigestion.

There is a third option. Eating one-handed at the same time as nursing, with a plate precariously balanced on my baby.

Experience has proved this method to be the best. As long as I remember to pick all the crumbs off my daughter before we go out in public.

And no matter how hot a wash I put the my breastfeeding pillow cover on, I can't seem to get out the unsightly chocolate hobnob stains...

On the few occasions I have dined out I have become menu blind. I see only food that can be forked single handedly, or better still consumed with my fingers.

I recently enjoyed a burrito on a lunch out with friends, managing to feed my daughter at the same time so she didn't bawl the house down, and was feeling quite pleased at how I was managing to have my burrito and eat it. At the end of the meal I looked down to see my baby, whose head I had draped in a napkin, was showered with little bits of rice that had dropped out of the bottom.

When I was pregnant I would spend hours fantasising about the enormous surf and turf feast of forbidden foods I was going to have - rare steak, blue cheese and seafood, all washed down with a glass of red wine.

Needless to say I am yet to have truly indulged. It would just be a waste.

Meanwhile, busy with moving house and using up jars and tins of odd food from the back of the cupboard, I even worried that by not getting my full five a day, I was doing my daughter some sort of disservice on the nutrition front.

"Oh don't worry," a friend cheerily informed me. "I'm pretty sure your body strips out all the vitamins she needs and puts them into the breastmilk, so it's only you who loses out."

So I could literally be malnourished, as well as unsatisfied, while my baby chomps on regardless.

But I am starting to have my revenge.

She has become interested in food and is now fascinated in anything that anyone puts in their mouth.

Wave a banana in her face and her eyes become as big as saucers, her mouth a gaping vat of drool and she pumps her fists in excitement.

And thus a window of time has been opened to me.

"Do you want to watch Mummy eat a sandwich?", I ask as I tiptoe around the kitchen, lest the sound of clinking cutlery alert her to the fact I am planning to feed myself.

Then, just as I am about to eat, I strap her into her baby bouncer and sit in front of her while I savour a bowl of warm pasta and she enjoys the show.

I relish taunting her with a forkful of spaghetti dripping with bolognese.

"Mmmmm, yummy. You can try this yourself one day soon," I tell her as her eyes pop out of her head. "It tastes SOOO good."

And, Oh! It does. It really does.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Trouble Sleeping

I have a confession to make.

It is very hard for me to reveal this, and I ask you, please, not to judge me.

My baby is a good sleeper.

I am not one of those smug parents who brag about how she has slept through the night since she was six weeks old, or goes on about how much energy I have had since giving birth.

Make no mistake, I still feel pretty tired. Looking after a baby is hard work, draining even. But I do average six to eight hours sleep a night.

And I feel guilty.

We met up with some friends recently for the first time since my daughter was born, parents to two young children themselves.

"You don't look tired enough!", they complained.

My baby has been known to sleep through the night, sometimes several times a week. 

If she does wake it is usually just once around 4am. Her whimpers of complaint and shuffles in the cot, which is still right at the end of our bed, will in turn rouse me from my slumber and I will roll over and haul myself out of bed.

I pick her up and sit in the comfy chair I have padded with pillows, wrapping myself in a thick baggy cardigan and use a support pillow to feed her, and I often nod back off before she does. (Please don't tell the health visitor!)

After about an hour she is ready to go back down and I return to bed until she gives us her gurgling alarm call just before 7am.

Some may say I put her to bed too late - about 8.30pm or 9pm. But our compact life in a studio flat has made establishing a bedtime routine that works for all a little more complicated. And she often doesn't sleep that much in the day.

But until now I have kept my daughter's sleep patterns close to my chest.

The other parents I speak to all seem to relish sharing their stories of being woken every hour throughout the night. Or wax lyrical on the torment of not being able to get their baby to go back down in the very early hours.

They brandish their dark circles like badges of honour, and indulge in their yawns, exclaiming, "I could just go to sleep right here, right now!", while everyone else groans in understanding.

When some fool dares to pipe up about how well rested they are feeling thanks to their little darling's perfect routine, dagger stares are flashed and teeth are gnashed.

And so I have learned to nod along in empathy with the sleep deprived.

I would never dare admit the truth about how many hours of REM I clock up.

Further still, if I am ever I am quizzed on my baby's nighttime habits, I immediately become apologetic. And my vague description is probably closer to a little white lie than it is the truth.

"I'm very lucky," I say quietly and guiltily. "She only wakes up a couple of times a night."

And then I feel I must compensate before I lose these people's trust and companionship entirely.

"But she doesn't sleep at all during the day", I add more assertively. "So I can't get anything done around the house," I moan, rolling my eyes.

"And I put her to bed far too late." Now I'm in full swing.

"I'm always waking her up watching unsuitable shows like The People Vs OJ Simpson and then I have to resettle her all over again, so she's probably exhausted, poor thing."

And so I keep my terrible secret to myself.

But she is only five months old, and she is just starting to teeth. In fact last night she woke up three times. And she hasn't slept through for a whole week.

So perhaps the Sandman has had enough of me bending the truth.

And then I can claim official membership to the Sleep Deprivation Society without feeling like a fraud.
Pink Pear Bear
Pink Pear Bear

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Mad Woman In Residence

Oh dear. We told everyone at Stay and Play we are moving house and they had a leaving party for us!

It was lovely, people brought cake, they made us a laminated picture montage of all the activities we'd done, they even signed a card.

But now our move has been delayed a week and I feel like we can't go back.

What would they think if we turned up again?!

Maybe they were relieved to see the back of us, what with me gabbling non-stop about not having done any packing and her spilling forth a tsunami of dribble all over the playmats and toys, with not a tooth to show for it.

Or they might think I'm some mad woman who makes up stories about moving house just to get attention.

They say two of the most stressful things you can do are have a baby and move house, and going out to different groups are part of what has been keeping me sane.

Ever since she arrived on the scene I have begun to feel slightly unhinged.

I have taken on the role of narrator in the crazy little pantomime that is our daily life.

Walking down the street, around the supermarket or in the disabled loo with baby changing facilities, I describe my each and every action to my daughter, all in a high-pitched and over enthusiastic voice. Sometimes even in song.

I point out the sights; "That building used to be owned by The Masons before they sold it to be turned into luxury flats. Masons look like regular men but they have funny handshakes and take part in strange rituals." Vital information for a four-and-a-half-month-old.

Or I discuss my personal agenda with her; "You must remind Mummy to fetch her new glasses from Specsavers and buy some milk, okay?!"; "Do you think Daddy would like pasta for supper? Or do you think he'll be fed up of it by now?"

And of course most often I use our one-way conversations to excuse myself to the people around us; "Don't cry darling, we've only got three more stops before the bus gets home and then you can have some food. It really isn't my fault we got stuck in traffic and I don't know why you're so hungry - I only just fed and changed you before we got on. I'd love to pick you up and cuddle you to keep you quiet but this bus driver seems to have some sort of death wish on corners and it would be very dangerous."

The latter begins in an attempt at a calm and soothing voice, becoming increasingly frantic and hysterical as we get stuck at yet another red light and she invokes the primal scream.

My reputation as the mad woman who talks to herself is probably sealed by the fact I now seem to find it impossible to stand still, and begin rocking back and forth whenever she starts griping, even though she is in the pram. I am pretty sure I have even found myself swaying from side to side in queues when she is perfectly happy.

This constant chatter with a person who can't talk back means I am immediately grateful every time any adult engages me in conversation.

But why, when you have a small child who can't speak, do people address every question to your baby?

"Hello, you're a sweetie, aren't you? How old are you?"

Seeing as I have already lost most of my social faculties you'd think I might snap back, "She is four months old, she can't talk."

But instead I dutifully enter into a bizarre, third person, sing-song conversation on behalf of my daughter.

And now we have officially 'left' Stay and Play I can't even have the same old chats about sleep patterns and weaning and remarking how much everyone's baby has grown in just one week.

We will have to spend the next two weeks sitting in the park drinking free Waitrose coffee and diving into a bush every time we see a buggy we recognise.

That should make my status as the local mad woman official.
Pink Pear Bear
Pink Pear Bear