Wednesday, 25 May 2016


Once upon a time there was a little princess whose mother breastfed her to sleep every night until she was seven months old.

The idle queen was so lazy she would sit for hours in a darkened room watching trash TV on an iPad, waiting for the princess to drink herself into a deep sleep, so she could lay her in the cot and creep away.

If the princess ever stirred the queen dashed in and thrust her teet into her rosebud mouth as a quick as a flash, in order to keep peace and quiet reigning throughout the kingdom.

Then one day the queen was invited to a ball to celebrate the wedding of a friend.

It would be the king and queen's first night out together since the princess was born, but just a few weeks before the big day there was an addendum to the invitation which said, 'No babies'.

The queen knew that she must persuade the princess to take a bottle and learn to settle herself to sleep so that the queen mother could babysit, and she could go to the ball.

So the queen trawled the World Wide Web for spells and knowledge and embarked upon her new quest - sleep training.

On the first night bedtime began as normal for the poor, little, unsuspecting princess.

The queen read her the same story, wrapped her in the same blanket and breastfed her in the nursery chair as normal.

But just as the princess was drifting into The Land Of Nod, the wicked queen popped her into her cot, kissed her good night and vanished from the room.

The precious little princess awoke with a start and wondered where her warm, cosy mummy could possibly have gone and why she was left all alone in the cavernous cot.

Her cherry red lips trembled and tears immediately sprung forth from her big blue eyes, streaming down her face and pooling up in her ears.

The princess wailed and wailed with all her might, sure that this would bring her mother dashing back to her side, as it always had for the whole of her life until now.

Her tears flowed out of her eyes and down her cheeks and filled the cot, until they spilled onto the nursery floor and seeped under the door. Or so it seemed.

But outside the nursery door the cruel queen sat on the stairs listening to the princess' cries and looking at her watch.

After five long minutes that seemed like 100 years, she returned to her daughter. But when the princess realised she wasn't going to pick her up, her screams only grew more hysterical.

The cold-hearted queen administered superficial kisses and pointless pats before turning her back and deserting her little darling once again.

And so it went on for about an hour until eventually the princess gave up and sobbed herself to sleep.

Later on in the dead of night, the silence that echoed around the castle was broken by the sound of a weak and feeble whimper.

The princess had awoken once again, but had clearly lost all faith in her mother and didn't have the strength to call out for her in her usual manner.

The queen lay awake staring at the baby monitor, waiting.

If the cries grew worse she resolved she must go and tend to the princess. But she knew that as soon as the princess set eyes on her, the hysteria would begin all over again.

After letting out a couple more pathetic whines the princess gave up.

The queen checked the baby monitor and could hear breathing.

She felt deep down in her heart she should go and check the princess was tucked up tight, but she didn't want to risk disturbing her, so she remained rooted to her own bed.

In the morning the wicked queen woke up and went into the nursery to see her baby.

The princess had kicked off all her blankets and wriggled her way up to one corner at the top of the cot, where she lay awake, blinking her wide, sorrowful eyes in disbelief.

The queen reached out to touch her tiny toes and they were cold as ice.

She pressed her heartbroken princess to her rock-hard bosom and promised to buy her a new sleeping bag to keep her warm through the night.

The princess suckled forlornly at the milk she had been denied all night and gazed up at her mother with a look of disillusionment.

Eventually she came up for air and broke into a grin. "Dadadada", she chuckled.

The queen hugged her princess to her chest and hoped she had forgiven her for her wicked ways.

But there on the princess' cheek she was sure she could see, one last, tiny tear, frozen like a diamond, shimmering there forever after.
Pink Pear Bear
This Mum's Life
The Pramshed

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Omen

There is a magpie that appears to be shadowing me.

Since I moved out of the city to my new suburban home, every time I leave my house with my baby daughter I see it.

On the way to playgroup to try and make friends in this unfamiliar neighbourhood, there it is, pecking the grass beside the pavement.

As I am walking to the shops each day to buy food for that evening's meal, something I spread out all week just to give myself a reason to leave the house each day, it swoops over me and lands on a wall.

I even saw it while I was pegging washing on the line, squawking ominously above me from the branch of a tree in the garden next door.

In case you don't know the old rhyme, seeing a single magpie means, "One for sorrow."

"One for sorrow, two for joy. Three for a girl, four for a boy. Five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret that's never been told."

Maybe it's not always the same magpie but they're not a friendly bunch round here. I only ever see them alone.

Here is my secret. I feel alone.

I miss my job. I miss going to an office everyday and seeing the same people, making small talk about the day's headlines, the dripping tap in the loo that's still not fixed, moaning about that telephone bore who is impossible to get rid of, and joking about who managed to get a free coffee at Pret.

I miss my friends. My friends I've known for years and live so far away, who knew me before I was a mother, before my conversation became stuck in a cycle of weaning recipes, teething solutions and sleep patterns.

And I miss my new friends that I met at baby groups with my daughter and bonded with over all the new and overwhelming experiences of parenthood we shared, before I moved away and had to start all over again.

I miss a door that opened up my whole life onto the world and made me feel free, before a wall of parenthood came down and boxed me in.

And I miss my own mother, who is always there at the end of the phone but can't give me a hug to let me know everything will be okay.

Moving to this new place, shackled to my pram and knowing nobody has been a lot more challenging than I expected.

But as the weeks ticked by we've been going to groups and started meeting other mothers. 

Even though at first it seemed like we had nothing in common, they have been kind and supportive over shared problems and seeing our babies develop alongside one another.

And gradually bits of our personalities have begun to peep through, like baby teeth emerging from where they were hiding beneath dribble and cries.

And I have started to feel not just a mum, but a person again.

I have even been invited to the pub by a group of mothers, not as my daughter's plus one, but for my own company!

After a playgroup session this week I walked through the park with some of the other women, processing along with our buggies, and exchanging chit chat about our children and also ourselves.

As we turned onto the road to head home I saw that magpie perched on the kerb, eyeing me.

"Another magpie!", I sighed aloud, "They always seem to be on their own round here."

"No, look", said one of my new found friends, as another black and white bird hopped out from behind a bush.

"There are two. 'Two for joy.'"
Pink Pear Bear
Best of Worst
This Mum's Life
The Pramshed

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Fahrenheit 111

My mother probably will mind me saying this, but she is something of a hypochondriac. Not so much where her own health is concerned, but when it comes to her children being sick she most definitely overreacts.

As a child we spent so much time at the doctor's surgery the waiting room felt like a second home. I can still picture the play area now... Before and after the refurbishment. 

Long beforeGoogle self diagnosis was even a possibility, my mother regularly visited the local WH Smith to thumb through their medical dictionary. So much so they eventually wrapped it in cellophane, perhaps in an attempt to get her to fork out and actually buy her favourite book.

I can vividly remember if I ever even so much as hinted to my mother I might be feeling unwell, the first thing she would do was make me look up at the light, the initial check for meningitis at the time to ascertain if your neck was stiff. And any hint of a rash would always be submitted to close scrutiny under a glass.

When we were slightly older and saw an episode of Casualty in which a disturbed mother was making her child ill, we learned the term Munchausen by Proxy and used it to taunt her.

So I always resolved I would be a relaxed parent when it came to illness.

I was not going to be one of those mad mothers who dial 111 every time their child gets a sniffle and takes them to the GP just to check their nappy rash isn't something more serious.

And so far I have remained calm.

My daughter has had her share of colds and I just let her snuffle her way through them since she didn't seem to be suffering.

I didn't buy any medical kit until the nurse told me I'd have to give her Calpol after her first set of jabs.

And I only bought a thermometer last week, when she was almost seven months old, because a mother at playgroup expressed surprise when I said I hadn't got one.

Maybe that was where it all started to unravel.

The other mother's baby had been ill with a fever and kept her up all night at the weekend. And while he now seemed fine, he indulged in some face pawing with my daughter, spreading invisible germs I can only see in hindsight.

Anyway, she'd had a runny nose for about a week already, when she awoke at 2am and would not settle back to sleep.

Though she seemed okay, not floppy or bawling her head off, she felt unusually hot. 

But testing out my new forehead strip thermometer at 4am it said her temperature was normal.

Then she started coughing and I resolved to take her to the doctor in the morning.

She woke up smiling and perky, but still hot and coughing, so we trundled down first thing to get in the queue for the unscheduled appointments.

When we got in to see the GP she began grinning and flirting with him, and I babbled excuses about why I was wasting his time.

"I know she looks fine, but she's had a cold for a week, and now her cough sounds nasty and her temperature seems high."

"It is high", he told me sternly, showing me the reading of 38.7 and ordering me to buy a proper digital thermometer.

After examining her further he diagnosed an ear infection, as well as the cough,  prescribed antibiotics, and instructed me to give her Calpol for the temperature.

"If her temperature is not down within four hours you need to take her to A&E", he told me. Twice.

I hurried home via the chemist feeling guilty and a little dazed.

We holed up in bed with biscuits, toys and Netflix and a range of plastic syringes for dispensing sticky sweet liquids into her mouth and she had a feed and dozed off.

But four hours later her temperature was still high. And fifteen minutes after giving her more Calpol it had gone up.

I called her father and told her we were off to the hospital.

"You're mad!", he scoffed. "There are more germs there. You're turning into your mother."

But a medical professional had told me to go, and you don't take chances with your child's life, I retorted indignantly.

We checked into A&E and took a seat in a waiting area full of broken toys and several slumped children holding cardboard sick bowls or bandaged arms, while CBeebies blasted out of a huge TV screen.

It wasn't long before we were called in to see the nurse and I explained the GP had told us to come.

"I'm not one of those mad mothers," I said.

"That is so naughty", tutted the nurse. "He should not have told you to come. She looks fine, you are the best judge of baby's health. And now you're going to be stuck here for hours."

Four hours later I arrived home with a leaflet on how to treat a high fever.

My mother seemed pretty blasé about our little trip.

She'd Googled it and concurred with the paediatrician that I needed to combine Calpol and Neurofen to treat the temperature.

"At least you'll be able to gauge the seriousness of her condition in future", she said sagely.

Diagnosis: Hypo-hypochondriac, hereditary.

I would like to dedicate this week's post to my dear mother, who is feeling under the weather.
This Mum's Life
A Mum Track Mind

Friday, 6 May 2016

A Place Of Her Own

My daughter has moved out and I can't help feeling a little bereft.

She's only gone down the hallway but the gulf seems vast, especially in the middle of the night when I have to trudge to her room to answer her cries.

The time had come, and as I got the nursery ready for that first night apart I felt like we had reached an important milestone and I should consider it some sort of achievement.

She's nearly seven months and her cot has been sitting fully-assembled, made up and empty, in the spare room of the house we bought specifically because we were having a baby, for several weeks now.

On the evenings she did go down relatively easily and we savoured some time to ourselves downstairs - vacantly watching trash TV and chomping biscuits or swallowing wine - it did feel a chore to creep into our room without waking her up again.

We'd stumble in the half dark towards the bed, stubbing our toes, muttering expletives and then freezing, as in a game of Musical Statues, while she turned her head and snorted, before sliding with relief past the crib as her breathing pattern became steady once again.

Night feeds aside, we were woken before 6am every day by a dawn chorus of babbling, kicking and a rather disturbing noise made by her enjoyment of scratching at the canvas sides, which bore an unfortunate resemblance to the sound of a rodent making its home in the corner of the room.

So I thought I'd relish reclaiming my territory again, and foolishly dreamed of getting a quiet night's sleep.

But it seemed so empty without her snuffling away at the foot of the bed.

The sound of silence hanging all around us was far more disturbing.

And despite having the baby monitor right next to my head, I couldn't help getting paranoid if things were too quiet for too long, and had to pop in to check she was still breathing.

My separation anxiety didn't last long though.

The first night she woke five times, despite all the precautions I had taken including blackout blinds and white noise-making animals.

On the second night she decided at 2.30am that she was quite ready to start the day, staring up at me with big wide eyes, smiling and chattering away.

By 4.30am, having failed in my attempts to persuade her it was in fact bed time, I gave up and brought her into our bed.

I lay down exhausted, drifting in and out of consciousness to the sound of her pounding the mattress with her feet and squawking her favourite vowel sounds with gusto, while simultaneously poking at my face.

When things finally went quiet I cracked an eye open to see her sprawled like a starfish in the middle of the bed, snoring victoriously.

Our boarders were breached, we had been invaded, and I surrendered.

Anything in the name of peace!
This Mum's Life
The Pramshed