Thursday, 28 April 2016

My London Marathon

My daughter was Christened on Sunday.

What we didn't know when we accepted the date offered to us, and what we only realised the week before, was that it was the same day as the London Marathon.

The service was held at our old church in central London. But we recently moved out to the suburbs and the direct train from our local station wasn't running.

On top of making sure my daughter was fed, washed, dressed up in my family's antique Christening gown, strapped into the pram with full changes of photo-friendly clothes and plenty of toys to keep her occupied, we were going to have to negotiate two separate train journeys around and into London to get her to the church on time.

After she had woken for a feed at 5am I had lain awake going through everything I had to do and remember, and just generally worrying about everything that could go wrong.

The trains near us are prone to delays. Often they are so late they just cancel them. Or run them fast, skipping out stations full of frustrated passengers who are left raging on the platform as their intended connection whizzes by.

What if we caught our train and it broke down and we were just left stranded in a siding for hours, sucking wet wipes to keep hydrated while everyone else waited at the church in vain?!

By 6.30am I decided to put my make-up on, using three different kinds of supposed wonder products on my dark circles.

My daughter woke up later than usual after a bad night's sleep, feeling grotty with a cold. So I chucked some Calpol into my bulging changing bag for good measure and prayed it wouldn't leak all over the silk gown.

Half an hour before our train was due to leave we began the ten minute walk to the station and she promptly fell back to sleep.

On arrival at the platform my heart leapt into my mouth as I saw our train did not have 'On Time' written by it, but an actual time in numbers, indicating a delay.

Squinting at the 'Expected' time I realised it said the actual time the train was due. Why do they do that?! They were clearly taunting me.

Then the time went up by one minute.

This is usually how it starts. A minute's delay, then three, then 10. Next thing you know you are begin advised your ticket is valid on local bus services.

Then the clock changed back to the correct time again, and as the seconds counted down I could see the train pulling into the station.

We arrived in Victoria on time, with an hour to make the 20 minute journey to the church.

The station was full of people with wheelie suitcases, wandering slowly as they looked up at the signs for directions and cutting me up as I tried to weave the pram swiftly towards the tube.

Arriving on the Underground there was no Circle Line train advertised. This could be a 12 minute wait at least.

I started twitching as I looked at my watch, trying to remember if I had set it five minutes fast, or seven minutes, and attempting to work out exactly how much time we really had before we were late.

Then it flashed up, 'Circle Line. 1 minute.'

But would we get on? There were so many people heading to watch the marathon. And it was FA Cup Semi-Final day.

The train pulled in and there was already a buggy on the carriage that stopped in front of us. I started trying to hurry to the next set of doors, but there was a group of little boys in football vests bunched up in the middle.

Then the buggy got off and we whizzed back into the space they left behind.

Getting off at our stop there were extra stewards all around the station to direct the crowds.

The crowds who had not yet arrived, because it was too early and the male wheelchair racers, who are first to set off, had barely made it this far yet.

We walked up the street to the church, and with 20 minutes to spare and the finish line in sight, we popped into Pret to use the loo.

I may have completed my own personal London Marathon, but I'm no Paula Radcliffe.
Pink Pear Bear
The Pramshed

Thursday, 21 April 2016

You'll Never Walk Alone

Where is the most inappropriate place you can take a baby?  I am certainly testing the boundaries.

The trouble is I don't have anyone close by we can leave her with, so wherever I go, my daughter comes too. She is joined to my hip. Well, actually my bosom most of the time.

After our old favourite barred us for daring to bring a child into the world, we have found other drinking establishments that will allow us in.

And so I have been know to sit flagrantly breastfeeding and drinking a small glass of wine - or iron-rich stout - at the same time, while other patrons cast disapproving glances. At least it feels like they do.

Then there was the dental check-up with her strapped to my chest, asleep, in the baby carrier. That certainly felt awkward.

But we were just getting started on our journey of unsuitable destinations, it seems.

It probably wasn't wise to take her to my eye test.

The sweet optician did her best to keep her distracted with coos and bright coloured objects, but I had to divide my attention between squinting at the bottom line of letters and trying to shush her as she wailed in the pram next to me.

Perhaps my eyesight would not have been deemed to have deteriorated quite so much if I had been able to give it my full concentration.

At a recent visit to the GP, it felt rather ill-fitting to break off from a discussion about contraception to return my baby's smile and waggle a squeaky toy in her face.

Since she hasn't actually moved into her own bedroom yet, she's doing her own job of family planning precaution anyway.

I think perhaps the most inadvisable - and in fact illegal - location to have taken my daughter was the bookies.

We didn't actually go in, although it was her father who reminded me that we would have to loiter in the doorway while he went and placed my bet on the Grand National for me.

But as I stood wheeling her pram back and forth and asking if she thought Morning Assembly was going to be the best horsey in the race, the manager appeared.

"Excuse me madam? Could I ask you to move along the street a little? We have to be very strict these days and I can just imagine the story on Panorama next week if someone got a picture of you in front of the shop!"

So I wandered off obligingly, leaving the reputation of the bookmakers in tact, while mine lay in tatters in the gutter right outside.

Odds are I'll still find somewhere even more unbecoming to take her.
This Mum's Life

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Parents Behaving Badly

Everyone's proud to be a bad parent these days.
Blogs, books, podcasts, you name it, are full of people proclaiming what a terrible job they're doing of raising their children.
It's de rigueur to confess we're not coping and have given up any attempt at routine, dumping our kids in front of Peppa Pig and reaching for the corkscrew.
We're leaping over each other to have the worst behaved tantrum-thrower, or the most excruciating anecdote about going mad during the school holidays and locking ourselves in the biscuit cupboard to binge watch Game Of Thrones, while the children were left to eat crayons and fall asleep in the bathtub fully-dressed.
Of course it's cathartic to get all your insecurities off your chest. And it's reassuring to know that we are not alone. 
Everyone is struggling under the incredible burden of being responsible for another life, and bringing up baby is not easy.
But it can't all be terrible, can it?!
You don't want to sound smug by bragging about how great your first experience of baby-led weaning was. Okay, the kitchen ended up pebble-dashed with banana, but watching the little tyke put food in their own mouth for the first time and chomp away merrily was actually pretty entertaining.
How boring would it be if we all blogged about our brilliant bath time last night? They looked so cute splashing about and giggled at your duck impression and you just can't get enough of sniffing their clean fluffy hair as you dry them afterwards.
And okay, they woke you up at 5am this morning, but when you stumbled over to the cot they immediately stopped grizzling and gave you this big smile that just melted your heart.
Nobody wants to hear that.
And actually, that's not really the stuff you want to harp on about either. Because you're too busy enjoying it.
You take to Twitter to complain that your toddler just threw a tantrum at the supermarket checkout and brought everything to a standstill, because you know there are people out there who will understand.
Your baby isn't going to listen to you moaning about how tired you are, so you have to get it off your chest somewhere.
But maybe we're all being a bit hard on ourselves by doing our own efforts down all the time.
Raising children is not easy. It's exhausting and terrifying and even lonely sometimes.
We're not all bad, we are just parents. Plain and simple.
Or God help our children's kids...
This post first appeared as a guest blog for social networking site Meet Other Mums

Friday, 15 April 2016

Hard To Swallow

Our boiler broke down this week.

Aside from the painfully large repair bill, which we could do without having just moved house and still yet to purchase a sofa or a vacuum cleaner, the timing was an extra blow.

My daughter turned six months the day before and had just indulged in her first attempt at baby-led weaning.

After half an hour of watching her squash carrot and broccoli in her fists, suck mistrustfully and then let them slide out of her mouth and down her chin, she was pretty filthy.

She resembled tinned soup in human form, with vegetable chunks floating on every visible surface.

The worst mush was seemingly ingrained into the folds of her little tortoise-like neck, which I usually find so adorable.

I was feeling pretty fraught after spending the entire time panicking every time she gagged on the unfamiliar tastes and textures, leaping up and scrabbling to undo her highchair straps so I could put her over my knee in a bid to save her life, only for her to cough out yet more goop and merrily suck down some more water. 

Meanwhile, her father calmly made videos on his phone, insisting on playing Food, Glorious Food from Oliver! The Musical to make a fitting soundtrack.

As she began to tire of the novelty of her nouvelle cuisine, wriggling, whining and deciding the thing she most wanted to chew was her bib, I decided bath time would do us all good.

But when I turned on the hot tap the water ran cold, and then colder, and an inspection of the boiler revealed the 'fault' light was flashing.

The evening went downhill from there as I became hysterical that the pilot light had gone out, only to learn our boiler doesn't have one.

And then we argued as we attempted to top up the water pressure, drenching half the kitchen in the process, and then discovering the problem went far deeper.

I resorted to wet wipes to scrape encrusted veg from my daughter's crevices and we all went to bed dirty, exhausted and bad tempered.

A man came to fix the boiler the very next afternoon and after a meal of much more smoothly mashed-up carrot we indulged in a lengthy bath time - ducks, blowing bubbles, the works.

Then it was my turn, and I relished the feeling of being warm and squeaky clean all over as I let the water wash away the stresses and strains of starting on solid food.

It didn't last long though. While waiting for the bus today I found a lump of banana in my hair.

It's parsnip on the menu tonight. I wonder where that will turn up...?
This Mum's Life

Thursday, 7 April 2016

What Are You Bloomin' Saying?

Ever since I became pregnant people I know have been telling me how well I look.

It has been almost six months since I had my daughter and even though I know I have dark circles under my eyes and haven't washed my hair for several days, the compliments about my appearance keep on coming.

"Don't you look well?!", they remark. "You're blooming!", others gush.

Now, I am not ungrateful to my close friends and family for offering me a kind word, not to mention tearing their eyes away from my baby for a few seconds to consider me. But the more I hear these phrases, the more I have cause to question how genuine they are.

At first I gladly accepted them and allowed my self confidence to take a boost.

While I was pregnant my hair grew thicker, my skin got clearer, and, as I was being very healthy, I could believe that maybe I did have that special glow.

Even after giving birth, with the gruesome experience of labour behind me and high on that wonder hormone oxytocin, I was still willing to believe that perhaps I had been doing myself a disservice by piling on make up all those years, and I was actually radiating a natural beauty I had been suffocating until now.

But after months of spending the day at home with my little one being sick on me and dribbling in my hair, not to mention pulling it out in fistfuls, my appearance has certainly taken a downturn.

I try to force myself to make an effort in at least getting dressed... before midday. But I see little point in wearing anything other than the same black leggings and breastfeeding T-shirt I have been wearing all week.

Make-up seems pointless, and when I do look in the mirror to slap on a bit of mascara, a tired and drawn face blinks back at me.

And, as relatives want live video footage my daughter, I am subjected to the horror of seeing myself in HD on FaceTime on a daily basis.

I can only pray that I do not look as hideous to the naked eye, as I do to the all-seeing camera of the iPad, which seems to highlight every flaw and enlarge every pore.

But when people tell me how well I look, I know they are just trawling out the generic line one is supposed to throw at new mothers.

Worse still, perhaps I look so bad they feel they must overcompensate to make me feel better.

The other frequent observation is how slim I am looking.

While some people struggle to lose their baby weight, it is true that I have ended up thinner than I was before I fell pregnant.

However, I know the reason for this is that as a pregnant woman, and now a breastfeeding mother, I consume far less alcohol than I used to. And if I had the choice between having a large glass of wine whenever I fancied it, or dropping a dress size, I'd choose the wine every time.

When people go on about my weight loss I just hear the subtext, "You are not as fat as you used to be."

I accept these supposed compliments through gritted teeth, and feel even more in need of a stiff a drink.

So, while it is the done thing to tell new mothers how blooming marvellous they look, personally I'd rather hear the truth or nothing at all.

So keep your niceties to yourself. Or just save them for the baby.

This Mum's Life

Friday, 1 April 2016

Nappy Napalm

"You're in for a big surprise this morning, mummy", said her father with a twinkle in his eye as I entered the bedroom bearing coffee.

"I was going to change her myself but then I realised it was everywhere and I am going to be late for work," he added.

My daughter lay on her changing mat gurgling happily and kicking her legs, one of which had a sticky yellow substance oozing down it.

The explosion was slowly spreading across the back of her white nightie and there were spatters on the delicate wool blanket she had been wrapped up in, a family heirloom.

She looked extremely pleased with herself.

Now, I know unpleasant bodily fluids are a fact of bringing up baby, and I am not averse to getting my hands dirty.

Yesterday morning's nuclear nappy was not really such a disaster. It was quite convenient actually, as I just shoved it all in the washing machine and got her clean and dressed.

It's the timing of her other 'random' splat attacks I object to. I say 'random', but they never happen when we have plenty of time and clean clothes to hand.

And my suspicions that my daughter is waging warfare against me when it comes to her bowel movements are further aroused by the outfits she chooses to decimate.

Her nappies never leak toxic stains on a plain old hand-me-down babygrow while we're hanging out at home with nothing to do. Well, very rarely.

But should I go to the effort of dressing her up in a matching ensemble, perhaps that she is wearing for the first time, that's when the s***splosion is sure to hit.

More likely the outfit is a gift from someone we are going to meet. She is looking smart, especially for the occasion, and about two minutes before we are about to leave the house the sirens sound. She is soiled and sodden and must be stripped down and quickly changed into the nearest dowdy old all-in-one I can find.

I have finally learned there is no point saving clothes 'for best', as not only will she grow out of them but they are always the ones she saves her 'best' efforts for as well.

And she always looks so pleased with herself.

Was it really too much to plan for her to wear a little woollen dress with bunnies on and matching tights at Easter? An hour after getting her dressed the answer was yes. Even the baby bouncer took a hit.

And it's no good being on the alert. It might sound like I'm kidding myself, but this stuff don't stink.

I know it will all change once she's on solids, but at the moment it's not easy to distinguish between the smell of her wet nappies and something much worse.

Her wind on the other hand is a noxious gas.

So when I do get her all dolled up with somewhere to go and am suddenly hit by a waft of what smells like old cheese and cabbages, I quickly whip open her nappy, only to find it empty.

Then I drop my guard and boom!

I must have tempted fate. I have just broken off from writing to check her nappy and found a tsunami of oomska gushing up and out of the front and all over her tummy!

She just giggled and sucked her toes smugly while I tried to ease her vest over her head without smearing the muck across her face.

And another good outfit hits the soak overnight bucket.
This Mum's Life