Monday 26 November 2012

From career to motherhood

I popped in to work today for a visit. It's weird that instead of walking in to the office with just my handbag, I am now walking in with a bright yellow pram and a nappy bag the size of Gibraltar. And Instead of being asked 'how are you?' I am now greeted with 'How are your nipples?'. I quickly change the conversation - some sort of dignity and respect has to be kept for one's body and there are some things that do not need to be shared (until I have a slight urge in the future to reveal what I've written in my diary to, you know, a close friend... or the world wide web :-o).

I glanced over to my desk and it was already occupied by a work experience girl who looked like a supermodel, and I just stood there with my rather rotund belly and sick-splashed t-shirt and felt like crawling into a hole. My boss asked if I needed to breastfeed, and said I could use the couch. What, you mean the couch where the whole office can see me? A few months ago they were all discussing my 'assets' very differently, and now I am expected to suddenly switch into 'function' mode and whip them out like I'm an ice-cream van. Not that I'm a fan of any sort of attention in that department, but I am now to be viewed very differently - something along the lines of a sack of potatoes.

They suggested we arrange a night out in a couple of months and I enthusiastically (but with some apprehension) signed myself up. I'm desperate to be normal again; to be part of the team again; to be respected for more than the quantity of milk I'm producing. By the time the work night out comes round we should be more or less in a routine and, despite looking like I could do with a bit of 'nip and tuck', I do look like I've had major surgery elsewhere. For the first time in my life, I have somewhat of a 'natural lift' and if I could physically jump (which I can't due to my c-section scar), I would with the sheer excitement of being able to fit into low cut dresses. So much for retaining one's dignity.

I could quite easily go back to work tomorrow but, then again, if I did I would say I wanted to be a stay at home mum. The grass is always greener. Sometimes I feel like it's deeply unfair that women have to give up so much - I know I just feel bitter because life feels very hard at the minute, but surely it's one thing to carry the equivalent of a melon for 9 months, another entirely to give birth to it, and then after all that you are expected to do everything else as well. How will I cope at my desk on five hours sleep? How will I act professional in meetings with sick in my hair? Welcome to life as a working mum.

Based on diary entry 17/02/11, Albie approx 1 month old).

Wednesday 21 November 2012


Before you have children there are certain things you say you'd never do as a parent. I'm not sure where this insane perfectionism comes from; I mean, it's not like you'd go into a new job and promise yourself beforehand that you will never forget to re-load your stapler or that you'll only use Bic pens. The first of these insane parenting rules is to avoid using a dummy at all costs. Well, I'm not sure who created that rule, but I'm pretty sure they haven't experienced a baby like mine who screams 80% of the day unless he's stuck to my boob. So here I'm left with 3 options: 1) to hear him scream constantly all day, 2) to have him permanently stuck to me, or 3) to use a dummy. Option 3 was selected on day two of his arrival. You whisper the word 'dummy' when you need it as though it is some unspeakable swearword.

Another such swearword is epidural, or any kind of pain relief for that matter. There's an unspoken rule that natural is 'best' and deep down all women want to believe this. I for one, am one of them! I certainly don't think it's unrealistic to experience a positive birth - I know many women who have, but when a select few of those women say things like 'I'm so proud of myself, I did it without pain relief', what that sounds like to those who've had difficult births is 'you didn't persevere enough; you didn't have a 'successful' childbirth. Well, I for one call a success by it's product; I don't care how Cadbury's chocolate got on our shelves, I'm just glad it's there to enjoy. It makes no difference to me if someone pushed them onto the conveyor belt with a headache they didn't take a paracetamol for.

Albie has had a particularly difficult day today - he has been crying constantly, and I've tried everything. He seems restless when I feed him like there's just not enough, the only reason I need breast pads is to act as some sort of bandage. I'm just sat trying to feed him all day, I'm miserable and in pain. And when I'm not feeding I'm trying to stock up on expressed milk, of which today I've produced a big fat zero. His screaming reached a crescendo this afternoon and I just flipped; I reached for a carton of f***ula in desperation - there's another of those words that I can't even bring myself to say - the F word. I feel guilty. He gluggled it down like there was no tomorrow, and I cried (just for a change!) because I haven't done the 'best' for my child yet again. At least it saves me from saying actual expletives which would have been the case had I pursued with feeding him myself.

Based on diary extract from 15/02/11

Thursday 15 November 2012

Liquid Gold... the art of expressing milk

But she looks so happy? It must be fun!
I am now starting to feel a little bit like a cow. No, that's not just because of the way I am snapping at everyone due to my lack of a good night's sleep; it's because I am producing milk at a rate that even Asda would not have enough room in their refrigerator for. Albie, on the other hand, seems to think that my milk is not sufficient for him and would like some every two hours to fill his little stomach. Now if there's one thing I remember from my maternity classes, besides the knitted boobs and midwife's birth impressions (that sounded a little too much like an orgasm for my liking), is that a baby's stomach is the size of a ping pong ball. I don't know how many shops stock ping pong balls the size of Albie's stomach but if I found one I would probably track that midwife down and throw it at her head.

To compensate for these excessive feeding frenzies, I decided to purchase a contraption that might give me a break: a breast pump. Modern technology is a wonderful thing - we now have devices the size of a matchbox that will hold 1000s of songs, phones that recognise your voice and answer your questions. Technology is getting smaller and quieter... except, of course, the breast pump - whose developer is probably the same guy who is developing the NHS kidney shape bowls right (another story)?! I was surprised the neighbours didn't come round and check if I needed help evacuating the house due to the earthquake. No, actually, nothing to worry about - please come in for a cup of tea made with really fresh milk, all 10ml of the stuff. Yep, that's right, I've been sat expressing for twenty minutes and I get 10ml of 'liquid gold'. No wonder that's what it's referred to.

I carried on until I'd got a whole 60ml - it took me an hour. At least that might give me a break later, I thought. Wrong. Right on queue Albie started screaming and, as I rushed to his aid, I proceeded to knock the 'liquid gold' over, all over my bed sheets. I wept. I wept like I'd just lost actual liquid gold. I proceeded to take the soggy sheets downstairs to add to my excessive washing pile and returned to being mardy cow once more.

(based on diary entry: 12.02.11)

Wednesday 14 November 2012

'weak'ends... what Friday means to mothers

I have decided that weekends should now be renamed 'weak'ends. This is because the once celebrated end of the week has been replaced by more week, leaving you feeling, well, weak. The days just blur into one and you only realise when you smack your head trying to walk into the automated glass doors to pay a cheque into Barclays. That'll be a Sunday then. I remember the old feeling of getting home from work on a Friday - the glug glug of the wine pouring in my glass before a night in front of the telly or an impromptu date night. The chores could wait and I would stay up late; safe in the knowledge that I would have a lie-in in the morning and uninterrupted, peaceful sleep (that is, without a few kicks in the Gluteus Maximus due to my beloved's restless leg syndrome, or his whistle-sounding snores). Well, give me whistle sounding snores any day compared with shrill Albie screams (on the plus side, it's because of Albie I can no longer feel any restless leg kicks at night due to my Gluteus Maximus doubling in size. Cheers).

Men, on the other hand, need their weekends. They've had a hard week at the office after all and the last thing they need to come home to is a baby with colic. Women who have just had babies, on the other hand, are on one big jolly holiday - dancing and singing round the kitchen with their newborn tucked neatly in one arm as they bake chocolate muffins with the other and chuckle heartily whilst watching Jeremy Kyle - because who would have a life that depressing, right?!

Me. That's who. I do. I have been mopping up sick and trying to settle a baby for two hours whilst trying to unload the washing machine and getting the piles mixed up so now I don't even know which piles I've just washed and which are dirty because I've had 4 hours sleep and I'm now going to have to do the whole chuffing pile of washing again and I may as well just apply to be on Jeremy Kyle in the first place and get a DNA test done on who my child's father is because I'm hoping it proves it's not the once currently playing football... *sobs*.

Of course, I'm exaggerating; Albie's Dad most definitely is the one playing football. I have a deep rooted jealousy that he can do the things he wants - he can just 'nip' out when he wants. The only 'nipping out' I'm doing is... you get my gist. Okay so I'm just having a bad day; a bad weekend. Before you know it I'll be dancing round the kitchen and making chocolate muffins and my 'weak'ends will be weekends once more.

(Based on diary extract from 12/02/2011)

Sunday 11 November 2012

Parental Catchphrase

People say silly things to you once you have children. It's like parental Catchphrase. You get random old ladies approaching you in the street telling you they 'enjoyed every minute' of raising their children. They seem to time these comments at moments such as your baby screaming for no fathomable reason, or your baby puking all over your face. You just have to smile sweetly, as you wipe the vomit from your earlobe with a half-used baby wipe, and simply put such comments down to senile dementia.

Another classic parental catchphrase is: 'I bet you wonder what you did before your baby came along don't you?' Wrong. No amount of sleepless nights would make me forget the things I did before I had Albie. For starters, I didn't used to get out of bed on a Saturday until gone 10am! That memory is a tough one to forget at five o'clock in the morning, believe me (although I do frequently find I am still in my pyjamas at three in the afternoon if that counts).

Despite all this, I am determined to have at least some of the life I had before. I am still the same person in here somewhere. Just because I have a child doesn't mean I've lost all humour, all desire for hobbies and a social life, or all taste in fashion (although admittedly there are a limited number of materials that can take excessive dousing in milk and vomit). My mother told me my diary would go in the bin when I had a baby; well now I've just bought another and planned my first night out. In anti natal classes the midwife told us we may as well throw away our nail polish; well now my nails are in alternate pink and orange (okay, so I had to sacrifice a meal to do so but stubbornness wills out). And the next time anyone approaches me and asks me if I'm enjoying every minute, I shall point to my screaming, red-faced baby and say in my best Roy Walker Irish accent 'Say what you see'.

(Based on diary extract from 11/02/2011) 

Thursday 8 November 2012

He's not jaundiced, just ginger

(Based on diary extract from 09/02/2011). 
The midwife came round again today and told me Albie is still jaundiced. Well, she couldn't quite work out if he was jaundiced; 'It might just be because he's ginger', was the assessment she gave me.
We've managed to escape a third trip back in hospital so far due to blatantly lying about any ailments we think he may have and using the internet as our personal doctor. Now don't get me wrong, there's no need to call social services just yet, I would do anything to make sure my little boy is alright but when you have to keep going back into hospital every time something happens to him (eg. the equivalent of him breaking a nail), well, it just gets a little bit ridiculous.
I'm pretty confident that my little boy is alright. He is, in fact, thriving. The midwife, however thought differently and short of me shaving off his ginger locks to avoid any orange reflection on his face, we've had to make another trip to hospital for full blood tests.
We waited for what seemed like ages in the waiting room. As time went on I could see Albie starting to squirm and whine and the realisation hit me that I was going to have to get my boobs out in front of a very busy waiting room of people. I could feel myself starting to sweat - I've not tackled the public yet, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for this. Thankfully we were called in before I had to do my 'earth mother' thing in front of what looked like 3 generations of an indian family opposite. I know it's natural but I'm sorry it doesn't feel like it.
We got called in and after waiting in ANOTHER waiting room I managed to find a quiet room and feed Albie for 10 minutes before he screamed the whole hospital down - that was until they told me they needed him to pee in a pot. Sorry?? Pee in a pot? I mean, I'm 30 and I still find it hard to aim and fire, how am I supposed to get a 2 week old baby to do the same??! Now, if it had been like the normal sample pots you get it may have been a little easier but yet again I am presented with non other than the beloved hospital kidney shaped bowl... except this time in miniature!! Did they not get the message after my vomiting episode during the birth?! Is there some Doctor who has patented the kidney shape that has to be in all NHS hospitals and now he's got them in baby size?! We held Albie in mid air flashing his manhood to all and sundry. He screamed and screamed and all we could do was wait. Bloody ridiculous. After about 20 minutes he did a pee, and, as the kidney bowl is specifically designed to do (!), it hit it then sprayed out all over the hospital bed. Thankfully 2ml of pee was enough.
As if that wasn't traumatic enough for him, we had to take him into another room for some blood samples. Not just one blood sample, no...6! 6 tubes of blood had to be taken from my screaming child. Now they hadn't quite taken into account that my baby was pretty strong. Strong enough to know at 2 weeks old that he did not want to have a needle in his leg and give up half his weight in blood. He was going to make it bloody impossible. So he kicked and screamed and by the end of it the nurse looked like she had been involved in some sort of massacre, and she gave up at 3 test-tubes worth.
I know I make these things light-hearted, but I could feel a lump in my throat, seeing my little boy in so much pain and distress and I just wanted to take him home. I had a realisation that we were very lucky; lucky that we could take our baby home. We walked back through the ward of very poorly children and I felt sick for all the parents who had to watch their children suffer and I cannot imagine the heartache. I am so grateful that my little boy is healthy and well. He's not jaundiced, just ginger.

Sunday 4 November 2012

One-Handed Spreading

Today I have mastered the art of one handed spreading. The dreaded day has arrived where my husband's paternity leave has come to an end and I am left trying to butter toast with my teeth whilst my baby is permanently attached to me. You would have thought a sling of some kind would help but this child does not seem to appreciate anything that would make mum's life easier; he squirms and squeals until he is held properly in my arms. Quite cute really until you try to make yourself a cup of tea with one hand, then it's just plain awkward. In fact, I didn't have a cup of tea today until 3pm, along with my lunch: haribo again. A slight contrast to the hearty meals my baby is getting every 2 hours for 40 minutes at a time. Mind you, I'm not surprised: I may as well liquidize some haribo and bottle feed it to him.

Still, it's not all bad; I've had my fair share of daytime tv and learnt how to decorate my lounge in 60 minutes, if I could use both my arms. I also arranged for a few visitors today which I was slightly apprehensive about. I don't want to look like an incapable mother if I get all flustered because I've no idea why my baby is crying, especially if I don't know them well enough to be myself and ask them to make me a cup of tea. Still, nothing quite like an icebreaker of flashing your boobs at people by accident in an awkward attempt to breastfeed. Nice. On the positive side, visitors came with chocolate muffins and cake and my sugar levels went soaring again and what could've been a tough afternoon with a grizzly baby, turned into a nice afternoon with cake.

(Based on diary extract from 07/02/2011).