Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Six Baby Weaning Foods That Are Messier Than You Might Think

The outcome of last week's EU Referendum has turned our lives upside down and the future feels bleak and uncertain.

I am concerned about what the Leave result means for my daughter, but - as those running the country appear to know as little about what will actually happen next as I do - I feel unable to put my worries into words.

So I thought I would focus on a subject of constancy and stability instead.

My baby will always need to eat, and her eating will always create a great deal of mess.

But here are six foods that took me by surprise with the amount of clearing up I had to do afterwards.

1. Breadsticks

These seemed like an ideal snack. So compact and hand-sized, I naively believed I could just snap a bit off, pop it in my baby's hand and she'd merrily chomp away without smearing it all over her face or dropping it.
How wrong I was. Her tight little fists shatter dusty crumbs in every direction, while she sucks it into a sticky cement texture which she then drools and mashes into clothes, carpets, buggies, you name it.

2. Mango

I expected sticky juice from this soft fruit. But I was not prepared for the strings of flesh it would leave behind on every surface it touched. I have quickly learned the best tactic with any baby mess is, "NEVER let it dry!" But all it takes is one filled nappy or crying fit at the end of a meal for you to take your eye off the ball, and before you know it you are attempting to scrape mango off the highchair with a knife. The other day I found some still crusted on to dress that had been through a hot wash.

3. Peas

Don't be fooled by the non sticky texture of these sneaky little vegetables. Their ball-like shape should have been the warning sign. They roll everywhere. I keep finding dried up shrivelled little peas in the strangest of places, days after I last served them.

4. Rice cakes

These are the worst part of breadsticks and peas combined. They seem a great portable snack, but they quickly disintegrate into soggy Rice Krispies which will turn up everywhere, most likely your hair.

5. Pear

Now I clearly am naive when it comes to how much chaos a baby can create at mealtimes, that much we have established. But I was knocked for six by the dirt that pear leaves behind. Bananas and avacados go black and leave dark stains on everything, I knew that. But pear?! If you don't get that into soak instantly then all those pretty, pale, pastel summer clothes will be sullied forever.

6. Broccoli

When the health visitor held a Weaning Advice talk at my Mother And Baby group, my daughter was only eight weeks old and solids seemed a world away. But one thing stuck with me. "A nice thing to try for baby-led weaning", she said, "is steamed florets of broccoli, that your child can hold like lollipops and suck the tops off." How sweet, I thought. Now, kindly tell me what kind of lollipop sheds a slimy green snowstorm all over every surface, so fine it seems impossible even to wipe up?! The worst part was the aftermath in the bath - covered with a film of floating broccoli bits that stuck back onto my child as quickly as I attempted to wash it off.

So now that my eyes have been opened to the perils of weaning, I am resolved to picking spaghetti off the floor and mopping sweet potato from between neck folds - at least I am expecting the result.
The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback
A Mum Track Mind
Admissions Of A Working Mother

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Nothing Left To Lose...

Last week I had to visit the doctor for a somewhat intimate examination.

I had worn a skirt especially to help the proceedings run smoothly and before she had finished asking me to hop on the bed so she could take a look, I was bunching my skirt around my waist preparing to whip off my knickers.

The GP began purposefully drawing the curtain around me and I blurted out, " Sorry, but since I had a baby I just don't feel like I have any dignity left."

"Yes, but we must try and hold on to a little bit," she said primly, as she pulled the curtain around me and my daughter's pram. Yes, I'd even taken a spectator, albeit an oblivious one.

My dignity. Is it really all gone? And where did I lose it, I wonder?

Was it in the labour ward when the third complete stranger entered the room and joined in with popping their fingers between my legs to check how dilated I was?

No, if I lost it that day it must have been before that. Perhaps when I sat bouncing up and down on a ball, wearing nothing but an old, baggy t-shirt bearing the slogan, "Hit Me Baby One More Time", (it seemed funny when I packed it in the hospital bag), and shouting at the baby inside me to wake up so that they could give me my morphine injection.

Did I misplace my dignity the day I came home from the hospital - no make-up on, my belly still distended, too tired to object to my father-in-law snapping pictures of me as I sat dazed beside the crib?

Or was it in the weeks after that, when I started leaving the house in sick-stained clothes to wheel my pram around the supermarket just so I could get a free coffee?

Is my dignity on the floor of a children's centre somewhere, where I shamelessly eavesdropped on other mothers' conversations, in the hope I could join in and find a friend?

Is it lurking in the tide of toys scattered across my sitting room floor, that I haven't tidied up because it would reveal an unhoovered carpet beneath?

Did I give up my dignity when I surrendered my battle with my employer to hold on to my job, and accepted a redundancy payment because it was easier than standing up for my rights?

As one great wordsmith, Bob Dylan, wrote, "Sometimes I wonder what it's gonna take, to find dignity."

A few days after I went to the doctor, I went shopping for a new bathing suit. The one I have been wearing to take my daughter swimming is old, the worn-out Lycra sagging and one underwire poking out dangerously between my cleavage.

The cheap, highstreet store I chose had a small selection of one pieces, even fewer that were plain, and just one in my size that was not designed to reveal as much flesh as possible.

I took the black, halter-neck swimming costume to the changing room to check my bosoms would be suitably contained by the scanty cladding, and hoping it was generously cut enough in the legs to require minimal pubic-pruning.

The shop assistant who checked me into the fitting rooms said the 'hygiene sticker'  - the one they put on the crotch of undergarments in shops to draw attention to the unsavoury prospect that a stranger's bodily fluids may be on the garment you are considering purchasing - had come loose and she would have to go upstairs to fit a new one.

I stood in the disabled cubicle, which was right in the entrance of the changing rooms, in view of the shop floor, with a curtain that didn't quite reach the whole way across, and pushed my pram back and forth as my daughter became more and more discontent.

By the time the assistant returned my baby was in full primal scream mode, but having come this far! I felt I might as well press on.

I stripped to my pants, trying to pretend I hadn't noticed the staff could see me through the gap in the curtain, along with the queue of people waiting to try on clothes, while simultaneously giving a running commentary to my daughter in a loud, singsong voice, aimed at cheering her up.

Once I had the costume on I yanked her out of the pram and jiggled her about in front of the mirror while we both inspected my reflection.

Overall, it was fine, but my udders were threatening to break free from the low cut neckline.

I poked my head around the curtain and appealed to the assistant, "Excuse me? I need a bigger size, please. Would you mind getting it for me? Because I've got the baby...?"

She was sympathetic, and kindly agreed to help.

While I waited for her to return I looked in the mirror at the woman in the bathing suit, a baby clamped on one hip, swaying back and forth, singing nursery rhymes. It took me a little while to recognise her. 

She didn't look like a supermodel or a film star. She certainly didn't look, "beach body ready".

But she looked comfortable in her own skin. She looked like a woman who was living her life. She looked like a mother who was doing her best to bring up the child she loves.

And in her own way, she looked dignified.
Pink Pear Bear
A Mum Track Mind

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

12 Baby Facts Yet To Be Proven By Science But Which All Parents Know To Be True

1. Your baby is hardwired to wake up the second you pour yourself a hot drink and sit down to relax. Do not even try to convince yourself you should have just said, 'Sod tidying the kitchen!', and had a cuppa first. If you had, your baby would have just woken up sooner.

2. Infants are predisposed to fill their nappies just as you are about to go somewhere. They are also naturally inclined to ensure their nappy leaks on the day you decide to put them in that brand new outfit you were saving for a special occasion.

3. A child's appetite will always increase dramatically in strength if you are in the middle of preparing, or have not yet managed to prepare, food. Just as the appetite grows larger when you are out and about and have only brought a set amount of food. It also follows that should you have pre-prepared a meal, particularly one that is homemade and requires a lot of effort, the baby's appetite will be lost.

4. Babies are genetically conditioned to sleep through the night the one time you don't bother to set an alarm but have somewhere important to be.

5. A child is not physically able to perform its best new trick in front of others, no matter how much they seemed never to tire of it in front of you. Your best option is to keep it to yourself and hope they spontaneously demonstrate it in public. But they are more attuned to do it when no one is looking.

6. A baby is able to sense the one time you don't have a clean nappy ready to go straight underneath when you change them, and are guaranteed to wee everywhere in seconds. They get an added endorphin release if it is on an occasion you thought you could get away with a quick change not using a mat.

7. Infants have a subconscious awareness of which substances make the most mess, even if they have never encountered them before. They also have an inbuilt sonar system to detect objects which are the most difficult to clean, so that they can spray said debris in that direction.

8. Babies feel most comfortable sleeping in the position which is most painful and uncomfortable for you. But, regardless of how deep their slumber appears to be, they will wake instantly should you move a millimetre.

9. Children are always more pleased to see their secondary carer the second they walk through the door, regardless of previous mood. Except if you are planning to leave them with the secondary carer and dare to take some time for yourself. Children can sense this and will act up accordingly.

10. A baby's cry will always be louder the more quiet their environment. Despite having no noise to compete with they emit a much greater sound when surrounded by silence, in locations such as a waiting room, a library, a church or a group activity populated by quiet and well-behaved children.

11. Children are able to lock their skeletons at will, imitating a plank of wood, rendering it impossible to put them into a buggy, highchair or bed when you need to.

12. A child's ability to fight sleep is colossal. They can smell exhaustion and any desire you have for an early night only fuels their fire. However, the moment you decide that keeping them awake might be at all convenient for you will trigger a reflex action in them to nod off immediately.
This Mum's Life
A Mum Track Mind

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Great Escape

4am: I can't sleep. I've been awake since about 1am with a million thoughts stampeding through my mind.

It's the day of my friend's wedding and I have the jitters.

It's not like I'm the one exchanging vows and I don't have to make a speech, or do a reading at the ceremony. I expect no one will even notice what I'm wearing, I'm only a minor guest.

But I am leaving my baby for 12 hours - the longest time since she was born almost eight months ago.

What if she won't stop crying? What if she won't drink milk from a bottle? What if she falls over and cracks her head open?

Don't be silly, my mother raised me and four other children, she'll be fine looking after her.

I need to shave my legs. And pump some milk. And find my good shoes.

Oh, maybe I shouldn't go. It's just not worth the hassle.

5.45am: The baby is awake. I must have nodded off at last.

It's a bit early, but I'll just go and get her and bring her into bed. I need to make sure she has plenty of milk. 

And I'm going to have to say goodbye to her in a few hours. I'm going to miss her!

7am: I must charge my phone so that I have full battery for checking she's okay.

Where did I put that smart vintage handbag? I need breast pads, money, keys, Oyster.... At least I don't have to pack nappies and wet wipes and an endless list of baby stuff.

8am: There's no point washing my hair until after I've fed her her porridge.

I must show my mother where the nappies are. And put her favourite books in a pile.

Is it too soon to express some milk?

9.30am: She's having a nap. She looks so peaceful. I'd better have a shower now while I can.

10am: I've forgotten how to put make-up on. I look like a clown. These eyeliner flicks don't match, but if I try to even them up I could end up having to start all over again and I just can't face it.

I can't remember when I last used a hairdryer. Is there any point? I've put some product in, I could just twist it up and leave it to dry and make it look like I've gone for that, 'Just Got Out Of Bed', look on purpose...

11.45am: I need to leave in five minutes. But she seems quite happy, so maybe I should just get out while the going is good. Before I change my mind.

If I give her a kiss goodbye it might set her off. Sod it! I want a kiss goodbye!

She's slobbering in my hair. Ah, how sweet. I'll treasure that clumpy bit of hair for the rest of the day. Hey, it adds a new authentic twist to the, 'Just Got Out Of Bed', look.

11.50am: I'm walking down the road away from the house. I feel sick. My stomach hasn't felt this lurchy since I was pregnant!

I can hear a baby crying! It can't be mine, I couldn't hear her from here. Actually, is there even a baby crying at all or is that just in my mind?!

I must make an effort to stop clutching my breasts every time I hear a baby crying.

12pm: My mother hasn't sent me any messages. Is that good or bad?

12.10pm: She's sent a picture of her playing happily. But maybe that only lasted a few seconds and she's screaming the house down now.

12.20pm: Another picture of her looking happy... It still could all be a cunning ruse just to make me feel better.

12.30pm: She's sitting in her highchair stuffing food in. Still smiling. Maybe she doesn't miss me at all.

I've read about this. There's some kind of psychological term for it, about how babies behave different away from their mothers.

12.40pm: I better not check my phone this much at the wedding. Oh God! I'm going to be one of those frightful bores who just talks about their kids and shows people pictures on their phone.

12.50pm: My mother just sent a picture of her drinking from a bottle! It's not even that really expensive miracle teat that we bought when she started refusing to drink from a bottle. She's not even making a fuss.

My mother says she's downed it all!

She doesn't miss me one tiny bit! She doesn't even care that I've gone!

That's a good thing. Of course it's a good thing. I wouldn't want her to have cried nonstop for 12 hours straight.

The little minx....

2pm: Now she's napping. She hardly ever naps for me in the afternoons. Not unless I take her in the pram and walk around for ages.

Why doesn't she behave so well for me?! I've been too soft.

5pm: That was a lovely ceremony. I'll just check my phone to see how things are going.

Ah, a video of her clapping. That's the first time she's clapped I think! She's learned to clap!

I'd better get out of this cubicle, I can hear a queue forming.

My breasts are starting to feel full already! Maybe I should have brought a pump in my handbag? Could I squirt a bit out into the basin if it gets too painful later? No that would be disgusting!

Ooh, champagne!

7.30pm: My mother says she drank another bottle and is now fast asleep! What was I worrying about. We could have booked a hotel and stayed out all night! I'm actually starting to have fun.

But I don't think I'd want to not be there when she wakes up. What if we miss the train?!

11pm: Phew! We've made the last train. We won't have to sleep at the station and we will be there for her in the morning. Actually, it's the train before the last train because I was so paranoid about missing the last one.

It was a great wedding. The band were really starting to get going. I'd quite like to have stayed a bit longer and done some dancing. Except my breasts are agony now. They might have started squirting across the dance floor if I'd risked jiggling them around too much.

12am: She's fast asleep. I'll just kiss her head very lightly so I don't wake her up. My breasts are like rocks! I could wake her up and feed her... No, I'll get the pump.

6.30am: My head feels fuzzy and my tongue feels furry. And my breasts are fit to burst again!

Oh good, she's awake.

She looks pleased to see me! She remembers who I am! She doesn't resent me for leaving! I should damn well hope so too!

Or it could just be because she's hungry. Who cares! She's sucking. What a relief.
This Mum's Life
A Mum Track Mind

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Love Thy Labour

There was quite a buzz in the air at playgroup this week.

All around me women were getting fired up and excited, talking over each other as they raced to join in the conversation and say their piece.

I'd never seen this collection of sleep-deprived, worn-out women so animated.

No, we weren't discussing the ethics of controlled crying, the damage disposable nappies are doing to the environment, or debating Brexit. 

Someone had brought up the subject of labour.

It seems any mother who gave birth to her own child, be it by Caesarian section or through the more traditional exit, has a battle story they relish in recounting, gory detail by gory detail.

Like world-weary war veterans comparing their firsthand experiences from the front line, when a gathering of mothers start regaling each other with their bloody birth tales there's no stopping them.

And there are so many subjects ripe for dissection as the oneupmanship commences.

First of all there's the circumstances in which you go into labour.

Now there is plenty of opportunity for drama here. The woman whose waters broke at a football match and had the St John's Ambulance Brigade deliver her child on the sidelines, next to the orange segments at halftime, probably thinks she has a trump card.

But it's not all location, location, location when it comes to childbirth, and a speedy delivery leaves little space for disasters encountered along the way.

So the Bizarre Situation birth is having it easy as far as the Heavily Overdue mother is concerned. She went through three extra weeks of hulking that enormous bump around in the height of summer, her back breaking, unable to sleep. And then was admitted to hospital and made to walk up and down the corridor for hours only to eventually undergo all number of extra unpleasant procedures just to get things moving.

Then there's the issue of the midwife. 

Was she the kind who talked patronisingly to you like you were a petulant child and kept barking at, "Dad", to, "Come down here and have a closer look,"? Or had she worked such a long shift you realised she'd nodded off in the corner just as you were getting ready for the big push?

Pain relief is another big topic for discussion.

You've got the 'Natural Birth' advocates who did the whole thing without so much as a tug on the gas and air, and love to tell everybody about how they just channelled the pain away with their mind. Or admit that it hurt like hell, but they felt, "a real sense of accomplishment."

The majority of us will have resorted to something to numb the agony, but even then there are a variety of different options.

My NCT midwife was really anti epidurals and had succeeded in completely putting me off. She was full of horror stories of spinal taps gone wrong, and the drawn out labours of women unable to feel their contractions. I went from a birth plan that simply said, "epidural", to one that said, "avoid epidural at all costs".

As the midwife herself chirruped, "Maybe it's because I'm from Edinburgh, where they made Trainspotting, but I can't recommend morphine highly enough."

So when the pain was getting unbearable (and I was on an oxytocin drip, said to increase the agony), I hollered, "Give me the drugs!"

But the midwife with me at the time said, "Why don't you just have an epidural? Then you won't feel anything at all."

"Oh yes, okay then," I nodded, so exhausted and uncomfortable that I'd have probably agreed to just cutting off the lower half of my body if she'd suggested it.

It was then that Him Indoors tentatively reminded me that I had said that was the one thing I DEFINITELY didn't want and to insist on the drugs. 

So I ended up feeling exactly like Ewan McGregor when he sinks through the floor in Trainspotting and then had bizarre hallucinations of two maintenance men entering the room and discussing doing some work on the wall behind my bed, but agreeing they should probably wait until I had finished having my baby first.

When they had closed the door behind them I began to observe how strange it had been for them to come in without knocking, before realising hazily that they had never really been there at all.

But the opium did its thing, because while I felt every contraction, it just didn't hurt any more. Until the very end...

I've listened to accounts from women who hadn't planned to have water births but were too late for any other form of pain relief and there happened to be a free pool so they jumped in, willing to give anything a go. 

While others were embracing their water birthing experience, until the baby got stuck and they were dragged out so the medics could use the ventouse.

I've heard tell of an epidural that didn't work while the mother was in a foreign country, so her husband had to attempt to translate her frantic pleas to the doctors and persuade them to do it again.

And others have regaled me with tales of epidurals that worked a little too well, so much so, they didn't get the feeling back in one leg for several days afterwards.

There's the mother who, after hours of pushing, had to have an episiotomy and felt butchered as she watched a midwife hack her apart with a terrifyingly outdated looking pair of pliers.

Though she won't win sympathy from the woman who had a horrific and agonising perennial tear, only to be told just a few hours later by a blunt obstetrician, while she was still recovering from the shock and trauma, that next time she will be better off having a Caesarian.

But despite all the competition, women also find sharing their labour stories something of a bonding exercise.

And it's a very good way to find out more about a mother you have recently met and so far only discussed your offspring with.

It would actually be a great way to introduce people at parties.

"Emma, I'd like you to meet Lisa, she had a forceps delivery and her epidural only worked on her right side. Lisa, Emma's epidural didn't work properly either and she felt her entire Caesarian Section. I think you will both have lots to talk about."

Do you enjoy talking about your labour? What's your stand out moment?
This Mum's Life