Archive | June, 2013

It’s not all doom and gloom, sometimes it just feels like it.

12 Jun

I have days when I feel like shit. When I feel like a terrible parent and a domestic slave. I’m assured by my friends that I’m not alone in this.

Feelings of desperate sadness can tap me on the shoulder, out of the blue. I could be clearing up food/wee/vomit/toys/a whole packet of wipes from the floor and it hits me.

This is it.

Not forever, I know, but for now, this is my life. A constant cyclical flow chart of cooking, cleaning, tidying, nappies, supermarket, laundry, cooking again, tidying again, interspersed with some work and some outings/play dates here and there.

My husband works away a lot and occasionally complains about his boring hotel room or his mediocre cooked breakfast, or “having” to go out to a restaurant. I haven’t been away from my daughter overnight. Ever. Mainly because I don’t have a high flying job that would necessitate it and because all my friends have young children or babies. When I spoke to a mum of a 4 month old recently, she told me she was going on a hen weekend. 2 nights away. Booze! Hotel! Fun! Life!

Jealous much?

Sadly, most of my mates are married already or have kids so hen weekends aren’t going to happen any time soon. Shame.

So, sometimes I feel rather sorry for myself. Is this wallowing just self indulgent? My husband tells me to take a weekend away. Where? With whom? I ask him.

I know he’d cope with our daughter alone. It’s not rocket science. She would be fed, washed, dressed, played with. But she might break him. From what I can tell, the parent who’s not used to doing full time care gets a bit of a surprise when it’s their turn. I get a lot done through sheer multitasking and powering on through. There’s not enough hours in the day to do things are the normal pace. You must maximise the time available. Quick! Run!

Anyhow, I have nowhere to go and nobody to go with so it doesn’t really matter.

So, on dreary days like this, when a strange situation throws a spanner in the day’s plans (I think a neighbour might have stolen my cats. FFS) I feel that I need a little moan. Some Woe Is Me time. To just wallow in the stuff/plans/freedom I do not have.

Confession time: I love Bruce Springsteen. He’s playing in London this summer. I live in London. I’m not going. I didn’t even really consider it. Sob.

So, I allow myself the little indulgence, the luxury of wallowing, of mourning my old life. Of nights out, gigs, festivals, weekends away. Then the moment passes. My daughter will shove a piece of soggy, jammy toast into my mouth and laugh, or lick my face (a kiss, apparently) and I’ll feel just fine being Mummy again.

People say to enjoy the early years. They are brief and magical times (and exhausting and tough) and I know I’ll look back on these days with happiness. I already miss the old days of Immobile Baby. Remember those days? Before your baby could move about and you thought you were busy? Ha!

Every day is a discovery. Toddlers are hard work and that work is repetitive, tiring and messy but its fun and I love it. Generally. And when I don’t love it, when my shirt is splattered with yoghurt and the baby has marmite in her hair and it’s raining and we have no activities or friends to see, I put on Born To Run at top volume and have a good dance around my living room with a shrieking, laughing toddler in my arms.

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Love hurts. Especially when it gouges your eyes.

8 Jun

My baby is an expert in physical violence.

Tiny pincer fingers grab the skin underneath my arm, jab up my nose and poke at my eyes. My ears are often used as some kind of steering wheel. I have been kicked, pinched, gummed, bitten, slapped, scratched, punched, scraped, elbowed, winded and bruised by my baby.

Nobody told me about this. And, they are ridiculously strong for their size.

I’ve had my gums scraped with fingernails. Fingernails that grow faster than bamboo, by the way.

I’ve had a fat lip, a kick to the throat, my hair pulled, my nipple bitten. I’ve had my head grabbed with 2 hands and thumbs jammed into my eyes. My baby is channelling Steven Segal with alarming accuracy.

Since my darling offspring began to stand up, anything is fair game as a hand hold. The flab on the inside of my thigh, my ponytail, my jaw. I have been fishhooked more times than I care to remember.

I’ve been headbutted. Regularly.

I take solace in the fact that none of this is intended to hurt me (or is it? Hmm?). The physicality of babies and toddlers is astounding. They are strong, motivated and determined to get around and get their own way and they’ll use whatever means necessary to achieve it.

Learning new physical skills is a wonder to behold. But with it comes brand new ways to injure the parents.

Pincer grip! Yay! Oh, you’re pinching my eyelid. That is not cool.

The standing on tiptoe thing my daughter does is excruciating when done, say, standing on my lap. Digging tiny toes into my thigh. Ow.

Of course they also hurt themselves with quite worrying regularity. Bumped heads, scraped knees, trapped fingers are all part of a steep learning curve. Not that they learn the lesson that fast, but they’ll learn it eventually. Right?

My daughter has a dangerous mix of enthusiasm, wobbliness and total lack of regard for personal safely. She’s stopped lunging head first off the sofa now. I caught her halfway off a few times. Climbing the stairs is like crack to this child. She’s addicted to stairs. She’s not fallen there yet, but she will at some point I’m sure and I’ll be there to catch her.

I try to let her explore the physical world, to climb and experiment. It’s how she’ll develop and learn her abilities and limitations. I try not to hover too close. But it’s hard when instinct is yelling DANGER DANGER in your mind.

I’ve not baby-proofed my house to hell and back. I’ve not covered all the corners with protectors, or covered radiators or hidden away all the cables. I’ve taken steps to ensure she won’t get crushed, electrocuted or poisoned but other than that I want her to learn to live within her environment. There will be a few cuts and bruises along the way, but so be it. She’s already had a cut on her temple glued closed after an altercation with a sliding door. She survived.

What new and inventive strategies to inflict pain lay ahead, I do not know. But, I may invest in some safety goggles.

Is the future bright? Or is it really a dark maze of sexual predators?

7 Jun

I have worries about the future. Real, serious, sick-to-my-stomach kind of worries. Since becoming a mother I have become incredibly sensitive to news stories about child abuse, neglect and violence. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a bit softy when it comes to those charity adverts for Dogs Trust/Salvation Army/Red Cross etc. I even shed tears at documenatries. March of the Penguins had me bawling like a baby when I was pregnant. I just hate suffering, cruelty and pain. I hate seeing the vulnerable exploited.

Recently news stories such as the Operation Yewtree arrests, blokes from Corrie, Stuart Hall and Ian Watkins from Lost Prophets make me despair.

Rape. Sexual abuse. Assault. Paedophillia.

What the fuck has happened to make men do this to kids and even to babies?

I have no answers. No empathy. No understanding at all. A few years ago we were reassured that paedophilia and child abduction were not on the increase. It was just a matter of increased media reporting. I think that’s bullshit now. People who lean towards the extreme now have access to material that they never would have had before via the Internet.

People who wouldn’t have actually abused a child themselves can now access images of such acts and this drives demand and fuels their interest in the pursuit of even more shocking, depraved pornography. This must’ve led people to paedophilia. The ultimate sexual extreme. The taboo is now commonplace in our media, in parents minds.

Then there’s the murders. The killers of April Jones and Tia Sharp were sentenced in the last month. Both had used the Internet to search for indecent images of kids.

What’s happened to men (I know women are involved too, but its mostly men) to lead them here? Are they so emasculated, so desperate for dominance in any area of their lives that violating children is their outlet? Is it a concrete sexual preference? Not in all cases I don’t think. Yes, there are some paedophiles whose attraction to children is all they know. They know they offend and reoffend because the compulsion, the drive for gratification is too much to resist. But then there’s others. The growing pool of opportunists, the sadists, the predators.

The Internet can not be controlled. The people can not be controlled. What is the solution? How do we tackle this hidden and life destroying situation and prevent it from getting worse? It’s a psychological phenomenon that abused children grow up into abusing adults. And, most children are abused by someone they know. How can they be protected from behind the closed door of the family home?

All I hope is that the media can encourage children to speak up. They must break the abusers spell that it must remain a dirty secret or that its in some way the kid’s fault. The media must give children a voice. The police and social services must act more efficiently to protect children.

The sexualisation of children can’t be helping this issue, or the availability of free pornography online. Young kids are seeing content that they really shouldn’t and this will mould their ideas and expectations about sex, relationships and body image. Gone are the days of finding ragged pages of soft porn in a park. Now it’s all hardcore, huge fake tits and orgies, and its potentially in every kids pocket in their smartphone.

The talks about sex are happening younger and younger now. Questions kids ask are not about where babies come from any more. Questions my mates have been asked by their under 10s include rape, paedophilia, blow jobs and sexual violence. Great.

My daughter is still tiny. The only time she’s away from us is with a wonderful childminder or my mum. For now I feel she is safe. But how will I feel when she wants and deserves independence?

Scared I reckon. No, terrified out of my wrinkly skin. I get worried if my cats are out too long for fucks sake. It’s going to be hard to let her out into the world, but let her out I must.

I don’t want to wrap her in cotton wool, to be overbearing or overprotective. Most of all I don’t want her to be scared of the world at large as I know the chances of her being attacked or abducted are low. But, it happens to Someone’s daughter every day.

I’m hoping my daughter will inherit her father’s enthusiasm and dedication to brutal martial arts. That’ll help.

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Sleep like a baby. Restless, noisy and at the most inconvenient times.

6 Jun

I’ve been really lucky with my baby’s sleep.

Wait! Don’t shoot!

What is it with the jealously, snide oneupmanship and passive aggressive snipery when it comes to sleep or lack thereof? Some parents wear their sleep deprivation like a badge of honour and resent others whose baby sleeps well. Why? I know not. I never resented the good feeders. Sleep is a touchy subject.

My baby came with her own problems. Colic, reflux, low weight and some rather shocking facial scars (more on this another time, but she’s healed now and fine). Sleep was (and still is) a piece of piss.

My skinny, 3 weeks prem baby was never very eager to feed. She never cried or woke for feeds as a newborn. She was fed by the clock for months. I think this is one of the reasons she sleeps well and responded to sleep training. Hunger never really disturbed her.

I used Elizabeth Pantley’s book The No-Cry Sleep Solution and it worked for us. It’s a gentle, sensible and helpful book. I recommend it.

My baby slept in our room in a Moses basket at first. Nobody slept much. She was nocturnal for the first 3 weeks. 3 weeks she should’ve really still been inside. She barely opened her eyes during the day. When she did her eyes were black. Like a shark. I’m not kidding.

The colicky rage began at 4 weeks or so. I was feeding her every 3 hours. My husband went back to work. Nobody was sleeping at night. It was harsh.

In the middle of the night my husband ordered a rocking stand for the Moses basket. That’ll help, we thought.

The baby continued to take an age to settle after every night feed. And then, when she slept she would snuffle, squawk, make tiny pterodactyl noises and even scream IN HER SLEEP. I was mostly awake. Yawn.

I wasn’t comfortable with co sleeping all night. We’d nap together just the 2 of us, but my husband and I didn’t feel co sleeping was a solution for the 3 of us at night. I move around a lot in my sleep and felt restricted and uncomfy with the baby next to me at night. And I was terrified of hurting her, although I know this is very rare when co sleeping correctly.

After another restless night with my phone alarm going off for feeds at 12, 3 and 6 my husband rise for work exhausted and I felt tearful at the prospect of the day ahead. I ordered a co sleeping cot, mattress and sheets. It was expensive. This’ll help, we thought.

The cot came. I built it. It was fantastic. It helped a lot and I recommend it over a Moses basket. It’s this, by Troll.

The baby slept better with my arm sound her, but she didn’t sleep quieter. I did not sleep.

She made choking noises in her sleep. Why? To render me useless, exhausted and hyper vigilant at all times it seemed. I feared cardiac arrest, hallucinations and insanity.

At 8 weeks we moved her (and the co sleeping cot) into her room next door. I know the guidelines say to keep a baby in your room for 6 months, but its not The Law. It didn’t work for us. I was knackered.

The first night she wasn’t in our room I felt horrendously guilty. Then I went to sleep. It was awesome. I still had to feed her in the night. The late feed at 11pm saw her through til 2.30, then she’d go til 6.30. It was better for everyone.

Bedtime was a bit of a mare at first. She’d shout, refuse milk, generally writhe like a speeding squid, make a huge fuss and attempt to win the prize of falling asleep in my arms. I was keen to not let this become a long term habit.

At 10 weeks I felt ready to try to put a new regime into place. Using Elizabeth Pantley’s wise, gentle and common sense words we began sleep training. The first night was awful. She cried. I cried. I wanted to give up. I wanted to scoop her up and take her downstairs and forget all about it. But I didn’t. I kept going in to soothe her, and left as soon as she calmed. I did this approximately 90 billion times.

The second night was harsh, but she settled quicker.

The third night was ok. I was still going in to her room a lot but she was settling down well and I no longed felt like an ogre.

On the fifth or maybe sixth night I put her into the cot, kissed her and closed the door and went to sit in the garden, staring at the baby monitor. She slept.

As we drank wine in the early evening sun I felt very peaceful (if somewhat drained). The week of sleep training had been hard on me. I’m not sure how hard it’d really been on the baby though.

Attachment Parenting people will tell you that every cry inhibits a baby’s neurological development and damages their confidence/self esteem/fucks them up in later life etc. This is clearly bullshit. Babies cry. It’s their only way of communicating. And, babies don’t know what’s best for them, because they’re babies. They haven’t got a fricking clue. You can’t just do what they want all the time, forever.

Of course when babies are tiny and new they need their needs to be met at all times, but if say, you’re stuck in traffic and your 4 month old starts to cry, then I don’t think much long term damage is going to befall them if you don’t stop the car in the middle of the South Circular and get them out of the carseat immediately. Same with bedtime. Babies need parents to help them learn that the cot is for sleeping. Of course if you rock them to sleep each night, they’re going to be mightily pissed off when you just put them in the cot one night and sod off. But, unless you want to he rocking your 7 year old to sleep each night (or worse, having them cosleep -shudder) at one point you need to bite the bullet and establish a new, more appropriate routine. It takes time (up to 8 days) for a baby to adapt to a new routine. You need to be consistent. It’s not about bring mean or rigid. It’s about creating an environment where the baby understands that its time for sleep and feels comfortable.

As I said, this worked for our baby. I am an expert on my baby. Not all babies. Not your baby. But I think her good nights are partly down to setting up the framework for independent sleeping early. Now at 15 months she goes to bed at 7pm and wakes up between 6.30 and 8.30am. We’ve had a couple of teething induced night waking phases. Starting the day at 4.15am is shit. End of. I remember holding my 9 month old in one arm while trying to open the door to my car with a huge set of Early Learning Centre keys. Sleep deprivation: making parents act mental since the dawn of time.

Right now, all is well. I’m just taking the good while we have it, as with everything This Too Shall Pass. Apply this to everything. I owe this calming mantra to a very wise woman, The Parenting Geek. Read more from her at here.

The good times are temporary and teething, growth spurts, language and all kinds of developmental stuff impacts sleep. The idea of moving my child into a bed is unthinkable. It will involve bolting all the furniture to the wall for a start (she’s a climber). I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to it.

As for the bad sleepers, my advice is this: If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something new but try it properly. Give your baby a chance to get used to a new routine. Be consistent. Remember you are in charge. You know better than your baby, even though they will try to convince you otherwise. Remember, they are essentially tiny terrorists, hellbent on getting their own way. And everyone knows you shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists.

And if all else fails remember you can always wake them up whenever you like when they’re teenagers. It’s a long game, parenting.

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