Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Bouncing Back

I have found myself feeling a little deflated of late. Literally.

One year of being milked has left my bust a lacklustre reminder of what it used to be.

It's not as though I was ever a particularly garish flaunter of my d├ęcolletage, but I had an ample bosom which, mostly thanks to finding the right bra, I had come to embrace.

We've had our ups and downs over the years.

When I was 12 and all the coolest girls in my class had been bought their first bra, I hated my pathetic gnat bites for not warranting anything more than a lacy crop top.

Then the buds sprouted and they were off, blossoming into pert little breasts that I didn't appreciate at the time, but I now remember fondly.  Just the right size to stand proudly, but alone and unsupported.

Oh, how I took for granted the luxury of being able to wear strapless and backless dresses with no supportive undergarments to pull them into place.

I inherited a generous cup size from my foremothers and if anything they soon became a little larger than I considered to be ideal.

I wasn't like poor Jemma G in my class, who was a double G and really into gymnastics, and had to wear two sports bras in a desperate bid to pin them down.

But as a teenager, when Calvin Klein underwear was my 'Must Have' and I spent all my waitressing wages on a designer bra, the largest size available didn't really contain them.

It took me until my early twenties to fully understand the value of a good over-shoulder boulder holder.

I happily used my student discount to buy cheap, brightly coloured, sometimes cartoon-print, bras from Topshop, not really aware of my true measurements and still under the misapprehension that the aim of a brassiere was to force them together, rather than lift and separate.

Then once I got my first real job and had a bit more to spend, along with a wiser head on my chest, I discovered expensive lingerie.

I visited Rigby & Peller, Royal Warrant holder and therefore, one assumes, official bra-makers to The Queen.

For my first fitting I was shown into a cushioned booth, given a silk dressing gown and told to strip down to the waist. A rather stern and matronly woman then came in and asked me to open the dressing gown.  There was none of this faffing about with generic measuring guides like you get at a certain well known high street store that has always let me down on the bra front. She just measured the circumference under my bust and then scrutinised my bosoms, before declaring me a 32F and returning with a selection of bras for me to choose.

For the first time ever I discovered what a properly fitting bra felt like... and it was quite magical. Like two gloved hands were holding my breasts comfortably in place.

From that day forth I was a convert, and while they didn't come cheap, Rigby & Peller became my official bra-makers too.

So imagine my dismay when I got pregnant and discovered they don't do maternity or nursing bras! At first I couldn't believe it. I mean, The Queen has had four children. But then she probably had a wet nurse.

I was back at the aforementioned high street store, trying on nursing bras, which have no underwire, and asking the assistant, "It doesn't really feel like it's giving me any support - is that's how it's supposed to feel?" To which they couldn't really give me an answer.

I had to assume that as you're going to be flapping them out all the time, a nursing bra doesn't really do much but hold breast pads in place in case of leakages.

And now I have fully weaned my child and none of my structurally-engineered undergarments fit me anymore. They just hang there limp and pathetic inside the cups.

Where once I had two plump melons, I now have two overripe donut peaches - flat, with rather wrinkled skin.

I have considered trying to reinstate them to their former glory. Plastic surgery is not an option I would really consider, so perhaps, if I just ate masses of high-fat food I might gain weight in the right place?

I may have to save up my pennies for another visit to Rigby & Peller and be fitted for a downsized structure to suit my new assets.

But most importantly, I just need to learn to accept my breasts for what they are. Not those of a pre-Raphaelite goddess,  but those of a thirty-something mother.

There - that felt good to get off my chest.
The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Friday, 21 October 2016

Why my baby NEEDS to be wrapped up in cotton wool

When my daughter was born you couldn't see there was anything different about her. Everything seemed present and correct and all in the right places.

But then I was the same when I came into the world.

So it was impossible to tell if I had passed on the curs├Ęd gene.

However, one year into her life and it is has become clear that my daughter has inherited my affliction. Two left feet.

And now the evidence is staring me in the face whenever she smiles at me... with half her front tooth missing.

To a parent, their child will always look perfect. But they truly are closer to perfection at the start of their life. Their skin so smooth and unmarked. Their teeth so pearly white.
Fresh out of the box, they are so shiny and new and untarnished.

Looking down at the battleground that is my body all I can think is, "The poor little little mite doesn't stand a chance."

My knees are covered in the scars of trips and falls spanning three decades. My hips are littered with bruises from the numerous times I have bumped into doors, chairs and the pushchair over the past week. My hands are branded with burns from various mishaps with the oven or potato peeler.

My daughter's knees are always bruised now, the result of crawling doggedly over anything that gets in her way - from wooden blocks with sharp corners, to gravel and stones. Her forehead and nose often tell a tale of bumps into tables or tumbles over piles of toys.

As if it wasn't bad enough that her own mother is prone to clonking her head on the odd doorframe if we have to dash for a nappy-change, she is just as prone to clonking herself in the face with her cup or a book.

We've already been through the trauma of the A&E dash after I tripped over in the street while wearing her in the baby-carrier, and narrowly avoided crushing her beneath me. She escaped with a grazed face, while I bear fresh physical scars on my knees and raw emotional scars that prevented me ever using the sling again.

Together, we are a recipe for disaster. As Bath Time after a long, tiring, First Birthday weekend proved.

Having spent the day tidying up the house, playing with her new toys and eating leftover cake, we were both feeling shattered.

She didn't want her hair dried, but she did want to stand up against the side of the bath. So, for an easy life, I let her, while I hurried to dry her hair and get her pyjamas on so we could all go to bed.

But she really didn't want her hair dried, and she suddenly pulled her head away from me with all her might.

There was the most almighty bang, which echoed through the bathroom and shook me to the core.

I grabbed her and pulled her close to me, at the same time desperately trying to peer at her and work out where she was hurt.

Her face contorted in agony and that terrifying silence before her first shriek of pain seemed to last for an eternity.

I could see no blood. I could see no obvious bump.

Then there in her wide open mouth, on her outstretched tongue, I saw it - glinting like a gemstone, a bright white shard of tooth that appeared, to me, to be monumental in size. 

And then she started to howl.

Her cries didn't last that long. And within minutes she was all smiles again, tears still trickling down her cheeks.

The next morning I rushed her off to the dentist.

As I unfolded the sandwich bag in which I had kept the lost fragment of tooth, it suddenly seemed a lot smaller than I remembered.

"I'm not sure I can do anything with that," sighed the dentist.

The verdict is that the point is very sharp. But as my daughter went from smiling and waving, to screaming as soon as the dentist put her white gloves on (an irrational phobia in action), there is no point risking further injury by pinning her down and trying to file it off.

And eventually her milk tooth will fall out and she'll grow a new one.

The night it happened I lay awake, wracked with guilt and What Ifs and If Onlys.

But I've stopped beating myself up over it now. We've both got enough bumps and bruises already.

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

One Year Ago...

A year ago today I ate toast with butter and jam for breakfast, and drank my first cup of caffeinated coffee in almost ten months. The toast was cold and a bit soggy, and the coffee was only instant and also pretty tepid, but I was so hungry and grateful for them that I didn't care.

I was lying in bed in a cramped, curtained cubicle, hooked up to a bleeping machine that I'm still not sure quite what was meant to be monitoring.

It was around 6am and I had been awake for well over 24 hours.

Blinking under the throbbing strip-lights I had just begun to realise I had a headache among all the other different parts of me that were hurting.

In a little Perspex box on wheels next to me lay a sleeping baby. My baby.

I knew I should try to get some rest but all I could do was stare.

After about an hour they unhooked me from the machine and a nurse told me I could have a shower while they kept my baby at the nurses' station.

That hot water felt so good, but the shower didn't feel quite the same as usual. When I closed my eyes and tipped my head back and let the water gush over me, I still wasn't able to completely let go of reality.

Part of me was still attached. Not to the physical world, but to another life, lying in that box out in the corridor.

Since that day I have never been able to find a feeling of total detachment again.

A year ago today I created a new life in another person.

When she is tired I can't feel rested. When she is upset I feel her pain. When she laughs I can't help smiling. And when we are apart I feel like a part of me has been left behind.

Over these twelve months I have occasionally felt lonely, but I haven't ever felt alone.

My thoughts are never fully mine, for a part of my mind is always with her.

I see dangers and mistakes all around her and I want to make her world a perfect place.

I see hopes and dreams dangling just out of reach and I want to lift her up so she can grasp them all.

For a while I wondered if I had lost a part of my old self, but I have come to realise I have gained a new side that has changed me forever.

A year ago today I learned how it feels to love your child - a love so powerful you would do anything to protect them, anything to make them happy, anything to put their life before your own.

A year ago today I stopped being the centre of my own universe.

A year ago today I became a mother. And I know I won't ever be able to completely let go.

Happy Birthday M.
The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Are These Symptoms Of Madness Or Motherhood?

There are certain things I was prepared for when I decided to have a child; sleepless nights, changing dirty nappies, playing repetitive games, even having no time to myself.

But some things have taken me by surprise. 

I am often hit by sudden out of body experiences - for instance, as I walk down the supermarket aisle, talking aloud to myself, "Now, what do we need to buy? Ah, yes, bread!" Looking down on myself I think, "Who is that person? What is she doing? Is she actually insane?!"

My daughter will be one next week and I have been looking back at the past year and how I have changed.

I realised I have developed some new habits, which a year ago would have made me think I was mad, but that I have now come to accept as just part of my life.

::Making Up Songs About Household Chores
My baby is bored/tired/hungry and is making her feelings known. But I still have to wait for the pasta to boil/empty the bins/finish taking the washing off the line.
In a bid to buy myself those extra few much needed minutes I try singing distractedly. "Mummy's making the food, Please don't be rude. I just need a bit more time, You won't get any lunch if you whine."

::Going To The Loo With An Audience
Life really is a cabaret these days, as I am always trying to distract a mischievous child from household hazards she shouldn't be playing with, whilst also avoiding a tantrum.
Hence any bathroom break means taking her with me and keeping up the performance from my porcelain throne.

::Hiding In My Own Home
A rustle goes up from the corner of the room. She is waking up! But if she doesn't realise I'm here she might go back to sleep...
So I drop to the floor or duck behind the door and hold my breath, pretending I am some sort of spy on a covert operation, before commando crawling or creeping away.
A futile exercise, as she never falls for it.

::Clandestine Eating
I don't want to share my cheese on toast! I haven't eaten since breakfast, I've been on my feet all day, and I am starving.
But if she sees me eating it, she'll want some too. Even though she's already had her own, lovingly cut into fingers, followed by two bananas.
So I hide it on the kitchen counter and duck in to sneak a bit when she isn't looking.
It's the same ritual for chocolate biscuits.

::Making Animal Noises In Public
Will I spend the rest of my life pointing at every animal I see and shouting out their associated sound? 
"Look! Quack quack! Miaow! Woof woof!"
I am officially barking.

::Checking Vital Signals
"The baby alarm is very quiet tonight. I'll just turn the volume up a notch and press it to me ear. Hmm, that could be breathing, or it could just be the radio crackle.
"I'll just pop into the nursery and check everything's okay.
"Aah, she's totally out for the count.
"Hang on, is that her chest rising? I think it is. I'm not sure... I'll just pop my finger under her nose to see if I can feel her breath.
"Oh, that's disturbed her! Phew! She's definitely alive.
"Quick, I'd better run before she wakes up!"

::Gazing Gormlessly
But I secretly quite like sneaking into her bedroom and watching her sleeping.
I quite often find myself just sitting and staring at her with a silly, big grin on my face.
Because as much as she drives me round the twist, I'm mad about her.

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback