Gender boxing

So yesterday I had the start of an argument with someone that I backed away from because, frankly, it wasn’t going to solve anything and my energy is best spent being distributed positively.
What happened was this: there was a news report about the fact that schools in Brighton and Hove were including a gender neutral box on their school applications. So, when parents come to select their child’s school choice they can select whether their child is male or female or, tick a box which enables them to discuss their child’s gender with the school. That’s it. It’s a gentle, mindful, way of discussing at an early age that a child may need extra support with regards to their identity.
I think it’s great, personally.
Critics argue that it’s “pigeonholing” children too early, that it’s putting them in a category before they are aware of who they are. But is it? I would argue that it’s simply a box on a form that they are never going to see and it just means teachers and staff at the school are aware that the child may be identifying themselves as a different gender to their physical one and so have the tools to hand to support that child. Yes, four is young. But it isn’t a “label” or a “box” - can we actually not put labels on people and not put them in boxes and just accept them for who they are anyway?- it’s just a way of recognising that down the line this child may need support and the school is on hand to give it. It isn’t like they are tattooing the box on the child’s head, or even that the child’s classmates, or even the child has to be aware of it -although there’s nothing to be ashamed of!
If Nives decides at any point that she wants to identify herself in such a way I am just glad that she lives in a place that supports her. I am raising my daughter to be kind, above all else, and accepting people for who they are and not labelling them goes a long way in achieving this.

Sleep sleep sleep sleep

Who sleeps and who doesn’t, and crucially, how you got to a state of sleep is one of those conversations that should carry a bit of a red alert around it. Everyone, everyone, has an opinion about you and your baby’s sleep. And actually, the only person that should have an opinion is you and your baby. And, on occasion, your other half. We are now sleeping more than we ever have. It’s been a year, but the wake ups are fewer (apart from last night when I think it was every hour and a half…) and she’s settling pretty quickly.

I’ve had all sorts of advice to get me to this stage. Sleep training, passing the egg, heavier milk, water in bottles, my husband doing all the night feeds (good luck with that, you’ll have to wake him first- not easy). I’ve heard it all. You know what works for us, what has always worked for us? Cosleeping. And comfort feeding. Every family, every baby, has something that works for them and this works for us. We’ve moved house and when it came to assembling our bed, I just said “don’t”. The three of us sleep on our lovely King mattress on the floor, we put her to bed in our room and join her later on and … It works. It more than works, it’s lovely.

And the thing is, I tell people and I add “but when I finish work I’ll make an effort to get her back into her cot”, and I don’t know why I say this. I say it because part of me knows that some people think it’s a bit weird. Some people think we’re making a rod for our own back, or whatever. Some people (who haven’t had kids- no one with kids asks this) will ask how this affects my relationship with my husband. I know what they’re getting at, and I ignore *that*. I tell them it makes it better because I have more than two hours sleep a night and so don’t have to think up ways of ways of killing him in his sleep for not waking up and dealing with a baby who suddenly wants to play with her puppets at 3am.

Anyway, two things on this. The first is that I was having an email conversation with someone at work, a guy, who had a little boy at the same time as I had Nives, and I asked how he was sleeping. And while I divulged that we were still co-sleeping and wouldn’t be forever blah blah, he just said “yeah, he’s still in with us too,” and then moved on. No apology or explanation or anything. And I know that I shouldn’t feel like I have to give the explanation, but I do. But he didn’t. And I don’t know if that is a male/female thing - do we put ourselves under more pressure as women? Or a me thing- is this another example of my guilt issues? But I found it great and I thought actually, I could probably learn something there.

The second thing is that I found this thing I wrote about napping with Nives back in December. And it was so lovely to reread it that I wanted to flag up that Cosleeping harnesses real moments of beauty and also that I should have cut out all that bullshit with trying to get her in her cot back then (she was nine months old when I wrote this) and just embraced what clearly worked for us. Here is what I wrote:

“15 December 2015 15:12

I’ve taken to having long naps with my girl. To not changing her out of her pyjamas immediately and snuffling her into bed with me. We lie side by side and sleep with our faces inches apart. Her hand sometimes reaches for mine and I wake with a little sweaty palm in mine. Her breath smells like sweet milk, mine. Her eyes flicker as she dreams and her jaw works up and down as if she’s suckling. Sometimes she’ll let out a cry - something has bothered her sleep. I soothe her by stroking her hair and she falls into a contented slumber. I wonder what bothers her?”

I know I say it a lot, but what I’m advocating here isn’t Cosleeping. What it is is listening to your gut and doing what works for you as a parent and just owning that decision and not feeling like you need to explain it. For me it’s this, for you it might be giving up breastfeeding, using CIO, reigns, routine, babyled weaning, purées. All of these things that we do. Own it and be proud of it. Because all the books in the world can’t really tell you how to read your own kid, only the kid can tell you that and I think it’s up to us to listen.

You're one

Oh god, oh god, you’re one. You’re one. A year ago I held you in what was frankly the most beautiful and baffling moment of my life and now, now, you’re one. You’re one.

This has been the best year of my life. You have been the best year of my life. I have never loved anyone or anything as fiercely as I love you and if I don’t say it enough anymore, if you’re reading this and you’re older and we’ve fought or you’re cross, or even if not: I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. I love your twisty hand dancing, the way you bob up and down when you hear a beat. Your smile, your tears, your irrepressible temper! I love you, I love you, I love you.
You love cats, rice cakes, peas and dancing. You love books, singing, ball pits and water. I rescue you from the top of bookshelves at the library, from halfway up the stairs at home, from the bathtub and your high chair when you decide to stand. You’re so loved, you were and always will be so loved. One day I will tell you all about how much we wanted you. I’ll tell you about the days I had to go away and work and how hard that was for me. Oh, my darling, happy birthday. Mummy loves you.

Today, I hate breastfeeding

There are times I hate the fact I’m breastfeeding. Times like just now, when I’ve just stuck my hand into my handbag and found that my stored, expressed, precious, breastmilk has leaked all over my make up bag. Times like earlier, when I was in a meeting and had forgotten my cardigan and so was convinced that I was leaking through my dress but couldn’t check (I wasn’t). Times like ten minutes after that meeting, when I finally got a chance to express and hung my dress on the door so it wouldn’t get milk on it and then it fell in some sort of toilet-floor puddle. Times like last night, when I was once again tasked with dealing with a can’t-sleep-won’t-sleep baby because “she only wants milk”. Times like last night when baby didn’t in fact want milk, but instead wanted to bite things. Hard.

And there’s the rest of it. The humility of having your baby slap you in the chest when you’re trying to talk to someone or pointing at your nipple and saying “that” over and over. Being drawn into discussions on how long I intend to breastfeed for (no idea, probably not much longer if today is anything to go by); also see discussions on why “breast is best” (yes I’m breastfeeding but that doesn’t mean I necessarily hold an opinion on what other mothers do or don’t do! Live and let live, people!!)

And, also, if we are on the subject of breastfeeding. I also really hate all those ‘normalise breastfeeding’ posts. I love what they stand for - I mean essentially if you need to feed your baby, you should feed your baby, that’s basically where that dialogue should begin and end - but I hate the fact they are all of women breastfeeding beautifully and successfully and not of the 'real’ side of it. Of a bleary faced new mum trying unsuccessfully to get her baby to latch, or of a close up of a chaffed, bleeding sore nipple. Of a mum wincing as the newborn latches and goes for its life, of a breast pad hanging out of a sick-milk stained (repulsive, by the way) bra and t shirt. Of mastitis. Of that purple tube of balm that you rub on yourself about seventeen thousand times a day. Of a chair with no arms and the despair that entails. Of all the hunched and sore backs and dead arms and of all the failed “rugby ball” positions. Of sitting in a restaurant, stripped to the waist and feeding. These images would normalise breastfeeding, seeing Giselle feeding in a ball gown with her lovely flat stomach and placid, non-flailing, baby does not.

I do think that along with all these positive affirmations of breastfeeding people should be more honest about the fact that sometimes it’s a bit shit.
For me, expressing is hands down a really shit experience. I hate it. I hate how it makes me feel, I hate how little I produce, I hate all the bloody sterilising and storing and labelling and hiding and the boredom. I wish I didn’t have to do it.

And the thing is, I know there are women who wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t and I know there are women who could and decided not to and I know, or at least think I know, that these women could interpret this moan as ungrateful/silly old cow syndrome. And I’m sorry, but sometimes I just hate breastfeeding and today is one of those days. I’m not even going to write something like “oh but it’s so good for my baby” blah blah blah, because frankly we’ve been hit over the head with that message time and again and this is exactly why women put themselves through the mill trying to do something even if their body is screaming “NO! I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS”. Anyway, I’m off to clean my make up brushes for the first time in ever.

#mumboss?

When I was pregnant (how many of my sentences start this way…?) I found out that I could do up to ten days work as part of my maternity leave and couldn’t stop telling everyone that I would do every single one of those days in order to get some cash.
“I’ll just do one day a month,” I trilled. “I can come up to London, get my hair done and make some money and still be involved with my team”.
Ah, hindsight.
Even though people told me I would feel different after Nives was born, I don’t think I really believed them. I think that I really thought I would be bored with the house, with the monotony of motherhood, with not having anyone to gossip with. And while I waited for five weeks for Nives to appear, finally evicting her two weeks after her due date, I was a bit bored. Now, sometimes, I think I would give anything to have a day like that again. A day of waking up at 10, ambling (ok, thundering) down the stairs and into a bath for an hour while listening to Woman’s Hour. Then, box sets and a bit of faffing around in the nursery before napping with the cats.
My days are now full. Full of washing and wiping and changing and phrases like “be gentle” “carefully” “is it hot?” “Don’t touch her [the cat’s] bottom”. But also full of laughter and of love. Sometimes I watch Nives playing on her own, invariably with something that isn’t a toy, and my breath just catches in my throat. She’s so beautiful and sparky and I just feel so proud and overwhelmed when I think that we created this amazing little being. Other times, when she is smacking her yoghurt into her head for example, I can believe it.
So, work. I’m feeling it and I’m not. On one hand I want to be this role model for her and show her that women can have careers and babies and travel and do all these things.
On the other, I want to sit in a room and watch her play some more. Take her to the park. Show her that being strong doesn’t have to mean being away from her working for The Man, but it can mean being there for her and taking the plunge and maybe carving something small out for myself. Maybe.
I do have to say that I have been into work a few times and met with my team and had lovely drinks, caught up with the gossip and got to wear shift dresses with no thought to how I would breastfeed in them. And it has been nice, but it’s also felt a little like I’m playing a part in a play entitled “Siobhan Lismore-Scott The Editor In A Very Short Dress Who Likes Prosecco And Swearing”. As much as I am not sure anyone would go to see this particular play, the point is that I feel like I have changed since having Nives and at this particular point in time I don’t know what that means for my career.

Chill. Just breathe.

Has anyone else noticed that there are certain topics amongst mothers that are like conversation dynamite? Conversations that illicit high emotions, opinions and heart rate?!
If, for example, you’d told me ten months ago that I’d get my knickers in a twist over someone telling me how I should be (or, more to the point, should not be) sleeping with my baby, I’d think you were mad. That’s more because I thought the baby would just sleep in its cot and eventually move to a bed and in between there might be a bit of crying and rocking and lullabying, but it’s not like it would be a thing or anything. It’s not like it would be me rocking and crying and the teddy lullabying and nobody would ever sleep, ever. It’s not like that at all.

Anyway, I digress. Turns out baby sleeps amazing (more than three hours) when she’s in bed with me. Sometimes. Sometimes she just wants her own bed and sleeps amazing there that’s happened about three times.) And it turns out that co-sleeping is not that unusual and weird and actually loads of people do it and babies hardly ever get squashed. You see, that’s what I was worried about: squashing the baby. I wasn’t worried about making a rod for my own back, setting unclear boundaries (seriously, what the fuck), being manipulated by my baby, or any of the other things, which is just as well as it turns out there are lots of people around who are worried enough about this to tell me I’m wrong. Or worse, tell my husband who then tells me and I tell him to fuck off and then it’s a thing and I have to tell myself off in my head because I am trying to be GENTLE and telling my husband to fuck off is probably a bit not-gentle.

As I live in Brighton I am lucky that most mums I meet are pretty like-minded and accepting and so I haven’t had too many ‘dynamite’ conversations but sometimes I’ll come across someone who doesn’t think it’s ok to just sort of make it up as you go along and then it’s just a bit… Awkward. Where do you go after someone essentially says you’re doing it all wrong?

Feeding is another one. I literally have no opinions when it comes to how you feed your baby. As long as you’re feeding him or her, that is. Bottle or boob I will support you because you have your reasons for doing what you’re doing and your kid looks great and oh my god is anyone else’s baby doing that weird tongue lolling thing? Seriously, it’s nobody’s business how I am feeding my baby, it’s nobody’s business how long I will continue to feed my baby in this way and frankly, why do you even care? I don’t ask you what you ate for every meal and where you sat when you did it so leave me the fuck alone. Also, I’m breastfeeding and my baby likes to yank whatever cover I try to wear right up, so I don’t use one of those either. I expect you’ll want to know more about *that* too.

What else? Routines. No, my baby is not in a routine. I have a vague idea how the day goes and she goes to bed at the same time each night, but she pretty much does what she likes. I feed her when she is hungry and she naps when she is tired. That’s it. That’s not to say being in a routine is wrong, or worse or better or good. It’s just… This is what we do and our child hasn’t burst into flames or started doing coke along with her milk at lunchtime.

There’s so many of these minefields: paid work vs SAHM; immunisations; TV/screen time; whether I use my phone while feeding (?!); baptisms; whether you put your child in pink/blue (seriously. This is a thing too); naughty step. I can’t, I just can’t. Live and let live, yeah?

Thing is, parenting is hard. I mean, it’s massively rewarding and fulfilling and lovely too, of course. It’s amazing and wonderful and funny and mad. But it’s tough to know if you’re doing the right thing sometimes. And if you can’t sound out close friends and relatives without being judged and branded as a TERRIBLE parent, then it sort of adds to it, doesn’t it? So let’s all chill the fuck out and try to make 2016 the year we just support each other and judge less, ok? Good.

Loss

This week’s been difficult. I say that because a lot has happened and it’s also been quite stressful. But emotionally, I think it’s been difficult for me because I’ve had to face things that I had shut off. I mean things I had shut myself off from. I’m taking about my miscarriage. I’m talking about the loss of my baby.

If it’s not easy to read that, trust me, it’s been harder to write it.

I’ve had this post in me for a long time. I’ve thought about moving on and not talking about this and not making it public for two reasons. Firstly, my experience of loss compared to others seemed inadequate. I suffered a miscarriage, or what the doctors called a ‘natural abortion’ when by my count I was ten weeks pregnant. But my baby didn’t grow from five weeks. I didn’t need an operation, I didn’t have to give birth to a baby. I know people who have gone through this and next to that experience what I went through feels minimal. Inadequate. Silly.

Secondly, I write about love on this blog, I do. I write about my love for my husband, for my friends, my family. Sometimes I am accused of over-sharing, of writing 'drivel’ even. I don’t care, I write because I always have. You just need to look under my bed at the stacks and stacks of old diaries to see that. But when it’s something this close to my heart, I almost don’t want to share it. It’s part stiff upperlip-ness, part fear. It’s hard to let people see the real you.

And that is what I wanted to address today I suppose. I wanted to say that yes, I had a miscarriage. And no, I haven’t grieved for that baby.

I love my baby, my Nives, more than I can ever come close to expressing with mere words, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about my other baby.

My loss came up this week during a massage, of all places, and it stopped me in my tracks. My masseuse, a talented, amazing, woman asked me if I had suffered a loss. And once I started to tell her, I felt I couldn’t stop. I saw her a few days later and she told me: your face has changed. And she said: you never showed anything before. And she’s right.

Since having Nives I’ve been like those bloody ducks: still on the surface, paddling madly below. I think it’s common to give an air of coping to the world but inside be screaming. I know that’s what I have done.

The day I started to lose my baby I went to hospital on my lunch break, waited to be scanned to see what was wrong and then, when they couldn’t fit me in, I walked back to work and went into a meeting with HR and sacked someone.

I knew I had that meeting and I put that above my own experience. The next day, when I was cramping and bleeding, I welcomed a friend who came to visit and went to a BBQ. I didn’t stay long because I was in so much pain. But I insisted Danny stay and I walked home. Then I got home, went to the bathroom and lay on the floor sobbing.

Why did I go to the BBQ? Why did I go back to work? Why did I walk home? Why didn’t I just shut myself and Danny in my house and go through the miscarriage in a human way? I don’t know, but I think it’s the duck theory. I feel like maybe it was more important to be coping than to be grieving.

My baby wasn’t a baby yet, not really. But in my mind I had held him, I had pictured us together, I had our future as a trio mapped out. So when I lost him, although the physical side was brutal, the emotional side was a million times worse.

And again, of course I am grateful and in love with my beautiful, clever and charming baby girl. My grief for my lost baby doesn’t change that at all. But I am allowed it.

And I suppose this week has taught me that I don’t need to look like I’m coping all the time. That it’s ok to let your guard down and it makes you softer and more likeable even. Maybe.

Flights bullshit

One thing about being a mother is that now my bullshit indicator is permanently set to high. I just don’t have time to listen to it and I’m not scared to walk away from the perpetrators.
It’s honed well. If I pick up the phone and hear a call centre in the background; I hang up. I don’t need PPI, accident claims, life insurance, or any new products American Express happen to be offering.
If I see someone waving a clipboard with an earnest smile while I’m pushing my buggy; I cross the road. I give money to charity and commend you for your passion, but I just don’t have the time mate.
And, finally, (and the inspiration for this post) if I’m getting on a plane with my baby I can weed out exactly who I don’t want to be anywhere near. This will come as a shock to those without babies, I can imagine the shock: “what, you mean YOU don’t want to sit with us?! But we don’t want to sit with YOU!” Yup, turns out we mums (and dads) also have several people we REALLY don’t want near our baby during a flight.

1: The disgruntled businessman. This guy ignores us as soon as we approach and makes no effort to help with bags. Baby is smiling and waving and clapping and still this shithead refuses to even raise a fucking smile. He motions to the air hostess that he would like to move AWAY FROM THE BABY and is forever pissed off that he hasn’t been accommodated in first class. This guy will ignore you to the point of awkwardness, but will finally look over when the baby decides to pull off your breast and look around.

2. The snarky middle England, middle aged couple.
She’s decked out in M&S’s finest and he’s wearing those trousers that turn into shorts. This pair, like the businessman, will ignore you but will talk among themselves about you and your baby. You won’t hear all of it but you catch the disapproving glances when she throws her rattle on the floor for the twentieth time and when you feed without covering. As soon as your baby makes any noise whatsoever you’ll be treated to more eye rolls and grumbles. They’ll also be arseholes to the cabin crew.

3.The backpacker.
The inspiration for this post and a bit unfair to include as generally these are friendly people who are completely unaware of the bullshit they are spouting. Worse of it is, we’ve all been this person, maybe.
But, still. Nothing will sink my heart harder than this over-friendly, annoying lot. They have anecdotes about everything and anything. They say things like “I’ve been awake for ten hours!!” And they are saying it because they think it’s a lot. They will tell you story after boring story about the last three festivals they’ve been to and will even continue once you’ve shut your eyes. They say things like “the coach back to mine is £5, but I’m going to hitchhike for the experience”. Fuck off. They will, just as your baby is trying to sleep, launch into an anecdote about how babies go to sleep in Nepal. But mostly, this person will remind you how old you are, and how different you are now. And that is too much for any flight.

4.The “expert”.
Normally an old woman. In fact, always a woman. I’ve had seventeen babies and I can tell you: You’re settling the baby wrong, she isn’t hungry, she’s definitely hungry, aww is mummy starving you? She’s teething, oh what a horrible cough! She wants to sit up, she wants to lie down, she needs a brush through that hair, you need to cut her nails, you need to bite her nails, you should give her tea, ooh some cooled boiled water for that eye!
FUCK OFF. JUST FUCK OFF.

6. The lads.
The drinking, the swearing, the loudness. No, just no. But then one of them will spot you and be super polite and helpful and you’ll feel bad for inwardly complaining.

7. The hungover teens.
You hear it as you come up the aisle. “Oh GOD a BABY”. For the whole flight they ignore you, much like the businessman, only they pepper their obvious disproval with loud “URGHs” and you can see them posting about you on Facebook and sending snapchats of their sad face with you in the background before the plane takes off.

That’s my list, although it’s not exhaustive… Who are your worst nightmares when travelling?

Don't pity me

Writing this note makes me sad. It makes me sad because there’s no reason why I should feel like I need to write this. This, what I am about to write, should be implicitly understood and respected. But it is not. And so here I write - here I scream from the bloody rafters, if you will: being a mother is the best bloody thing I have ever done.
Do not pity me, do not think your life is better than mine because you can still fit into your size ten jeans and you go to sleep each night without mashed banana in your hair. It is not.
Do not assume I want to go on girlie holidays and now am sad I cannot. I can, by the way, but I do not want to. I want to go on holidays with my girl. I want to hold her hands while she feels the sea run over her chubby feet. I want to blow soft raspberries on her pudgy belly under a sun umbrella, hold her close to me in a swimming pool as she flaps with delight. I want to fall asleep in the middle of the day next to her and wake to her beautiful face next to mine, babbling. I’ll take the nappies, the shrieks, the lack of sleep. I’ll take it all fifty times over to have these moments with my girl.
I do not want to go to clubbing. I am 35 and clubbing makes me feel old. Although it’s not an age thing. I haven’t wanted to go clubbing for years. I want to lie in the still night and listen to my girl breathe and snort. I want to feed her in the half light of the moon. You like clubbing, I do not. But it is not as a consequence of being a mother.
Do not assume that my life is easy, do not assume it is hard. It is both. Loving her is easy and, luckily for me, natural. Parenting is hard, harder than anything I have ever done and infinitely more rewarding.
Do ask after her. She exists. Do ask how she is, what is she doing. You’ll see a light come on behind my eyes as I tell you. If you love me, you must love her.
Do continue to ask me out for drinks, meals, plays. Our friendship has not altered and I want to know what is going on in your life. I love you, but don’t pity me.

#catlove 😻

Last night was the first time in six years that we spent time in our home without our cats. They’ve been taken to stay with a friend, ahead of work beginning on our floors.
I can only try to describe how odd and still the house felt without them. I was able to sit in the yellow chair without being miaowed at to move. Able to put fresh laundry down and know that no animal would use the piles as a new bed or plaything. We could have slept with the bedroom door open even, but we didn’t out of habit.
I woke up at about five to feed Nives and listened for the scratching at the door. One of my cats, Jango, always seems to sense when we wake and starts scratching to be let in at that time. I listened, but nothing came. It was at this moment that I realised how much these two animals contribute to our family. Everything just felt different without them.
I got Jango six years ago from a friend from work. I initially wanted a tom, which is why she has a boy’s name. I met her when she was only a few weeks old. She climbed onto my lap, along with her other brothers and sisters, but didn’t stick around. She climbed down and made a sort of shuffle for the open door. An adventurer, I thought.
How wrong I was. Yes, she is brave - she’s chased a fox through the park when she was only six months old - but she is more likely to be found napping than adventuring these days. We’ve had to force her out of the house at times, in the hope she will regain her love for leaping around and lose some weight, but she just sits on the windowsill staring accusingly at us until we let her back in.
Knolly came a year after Jango. I was worried about her weight gain and foolishly put it down to loneliness. We got him from a mad old French woman who lived in Streatham. She already had seven cats and one had unexpectedly had a litter. She greeted me wearing a kaftan and showed me her cats and their little purpose-built shed cat houses in her garden. I bought Danny with me a second time. I said “it’s just to look”, as he was not keen on a second cat.
But then Knolly played with his shoelace and he fell in love. At eight weeks old we took this lovable kitten to our home and subjected him to a lifetime of bullying from Jango. He seems oblivious to it, only wanting to play and cuddle constantly. Five years on and we still think of him as a kitten.
Our relationship with our pets is a funny one isn’t it? They give us so much love, their whole lifetime of love, and often it is only when they are gone that we realise how much richer our lives were because of them.
They can also show you sides of people that you were previously unaware of. My nono loved his ginger cat so much that they became a gang of two. When he died, the cat looked for him everywhere, breaking our hearts all over again. When Jutko, the ginger cat, died we felt the loss of my nono as well as of our wonderful feline friend.
Our relationship with our cats has changed as we incorporated Nives into our unit. She has practised stroking them and Jango will come and nap beside her (supervised). Knolly is still keeping his distance, but I know that as she grows older these three will be the closest of friends.

Friends

People always, always, ask me how my nights are now that I am a new mum. They ask me if my daughter is a ‘good baby’. “Does she sleep through?” They ask, to which the answer is yes, she is a good baby, because all babies are good babies you moron. No baby is bad. And no, of course she doesn’t sleep through. Because she’s a baby for Christ’s sake.
Anyway, in the still early hours, in the half light of our shared room - this room which for now holds my whole new family - I get to thinking. And I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships and love and counting the ways I am grateful for my friends and how different each of my friends are and feeling generally blessed to have all this love in my life to share with this little person.
And this is especially important because the majority of the people I am thinking about and feeling grateful about are women. And I have to say that if I respected the women in my life and the way our friendships formed and were part of my life before, then motherhood has sort of injected a gazillion love hearts into that sentiment, because now I think of my friends and I as a tribe powered by love for each other.
There are friendships that have lain dormant for years but now there is something wonderful which binds us again. These women who send a text or a random bobbly t shirt in the post for no reason other than to be helpful and kind. friendships that have stood the test of years - of former lives and loves and times - and which have had to change form, but have done so.
There are new friends, new mothers like me, who listen past the tears of frustration when my baby’s dictatorial sleep regime grinds me down to a pulp. Who don’t judge but say things like “we’re all in the trenches together”. God, if it wasn’t for these friends my journey so far would be very different indeed.
I want more than anything for my daughter to have these strong friendships too. I want her to be part of a tribe, want her to realise the importance of other women and of caring. This is undoubtedly one of the important lessons I can teach her. I hope.
Teaching her anything of substance however seems a long way off. I’ve taught her how to stroke the cat GENTLY, I think. And to giggle when the teddybear stops walking around the garden and tickles her (why is he walking around the garden?! Why should we walk around the garden LIKE a teddybear? They don’t walk!). She knows she is loved and she trusts me. And it is this, I think, which will be the starting point for all else.

Home alone

My husband has been away with work for the last four days. I honestly did not know how I was going to cope with an almost-three-month-old, two cats (one ill, one obsessed with food), all the bloody fish (that keep shagging and having more fish) and a crumbling, broken house.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard, but there have been laugh out loud moments where I’ve thought “if only *anybody* could see this”.
Here are some examples of this:

*speaking to the fat cat as if it can answer me eg “should I have lasagne or fish pie? Lasagne? Oh, ok then”.
*attempting salt dough plaques. Nives covered in paint, ill cat caught licking plaque.
*scrubbing hall carpet in nighty
*doing YMCA for Nives
* attempting to make tea while singing to Nives.

There have also been moments of beauty. The ill cat got better (not because of the paint, before you ask), the fat cat caught Nives’ attention and she tried to reach for it, we’ve had lovely baths together, been swimming, had an impromptu picnic (three chocolate bars) and I feel closer to her generally. We now have a sort of nighttime routine, which is adorable, and I think, I think, I heard a laugh.

Even the fish were treated to some bubbles. That said, I did catch the fat cat sitting on the tank more than once, so it’s not been the best week for them.

Motherhood

My baby is over two months old. I feel that only now am I emerging from what has been the most physically and emotionally testing time of my life.
I fell in love with her straightaway. As soon as she emerged, pulled out of her safe haven by cold forceps into the harsh hospital light covered in shit and screaming, I loved her. That moment was the most beautiful and defining moment of my life. Each day since I have loved her more as she has developed and swollen her personality, rewarding me at the darkest of times with an impromptu smile or gurgle.
I’ve suffered sore, cracked and blistered nipples. Raw, stretched and burst weeping stitches. Piles. Anal fissures. Sleep deprivation and utter exhaustion. My marriage has also been tested. As much as my world has changed and I have become this scarred and tired - but loving - being, my husband’s life has continued more or less as normal. It’s difficult not to throw an icy glance in his direction when he complains of tiredness when he’s had a nine hour sleep. Or, yell with frustration when he arrives late home because he “deserved” a beer after work on a day when the baby has just Not. Stopped. Crying.
But you learn to see things from his point of view. And you learn that neither marriage not parenthood lend themselves to point scoring.
Support, for me, has come from the emotionally and physically tested mothers I have met along the way. Women who I previously did not know are my lifeline. We text each other our questions, our fears and frustrations and reveal our inadequacies at all times of day. We visit each other and receive visitors dressed in our oversized Tshirt nighties. We breastfeed in front of each other and, later, we learn to do this in front of everyone. These women have helped insurmountably in shaping my confidence as a mother.
Life for me won’t return to how it was pre-baby. I shan’t ever work a 14 hour day to put a magazine to press and then drink two bottles of prosecco and get the last tube home. Mainly, because I now live on Brighton and there is no tube here and ten months of no alcohol means this would kill me. But, also, there is nothing that will keep me from my baby for that amount of time. And, I’m now pretty shit hot at time management.

Feeling you

You are 26 weeks old today! I feel you kicking and moving around and it feels … It feels like the most wonderful thing imaginable. It feels like someone has opened my belly and filled it with other hearts that are full of love for you and they are moving around inside me.
You move at the funniest times! You move when I haven’t drunk enough water, or when I am hungry. You move in the middle of a budgets meeting with my boss, causing me to stop, mid-sentence and smile, one hand on my belly as I say hello.
If I’m stressed or angry, you nudge me as if to say “don’t worry mum! I’m here and *I’m* important.” Which of course you undoubtedly are. The most important of all the important things.

Dating scan 8/8/2014

I saw you today for the first time. I was so nervous, apprehensive. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know if you would really be there. Maybe I imagined it all.

But there you were. I held my breath - a sharp inhale as the cold gel made contact with my stomach - and turned my head to the screen and there you were. A gasp! You were in there, wiggling around, kicking your legs. Big. Bigger than we thought.

Danny, your dad, said nothing, then turned to me, beaming, looked again. There you were. There was your beautiful head, little legs, your strong heartbeat. Your nose! And those legs kicking away. God, you existed! And we couldn’t stop laughing. We loved you then, instantly, more than before. It was a catalyst, that moment, meeting you. It changed everything.