Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Piglet Goes to Church

Argh.  The trouble with Christmas is that every Tom, Dick and Harry that you may or may not be related to wants to spread the festive cheer by having their say about your parenting skills.  

Take yesterday, for example.  Mother and I had been out with Piglet, running errands, and on the way home passed the house of a friend of hers.  We went in, to find that my mother's friends were entertaining a friend of their own, one of the Older Generation.

My mother's friend kindly offered us a lift home and I wanted to walk home with Piglet in the sling, so declined the offer, citing the fact that we didn't have our car seat as a reason.  I could have told the truth, but saying, "actually as nice at it is for you to offer, I hate accepting lifts from people who are not members of my immediate family, as it makes me feel like a carless pleb reliant on the charity of others," but that might have been considered a weird answer, so the car seat was a handy excuse, and also factually correct so unlikely to offend.

Then Older Generation chipped in with the obviously well-thought out point, "well, what do you think people did in the days before car seats then?"

I don't know.  Die horribly in car crashes?

Sorry Fire Brigade, it was nice of you to offer to install one of those new-fangled smoke alarms, but I'm going to pass, thanks.  If there's a fire, it'll be OK.  I'll just burn to death, like in the olden days!

No Doctor, no need to use any of that modern medicine on me.  Just leave me to die in wretched agony.  It's what people did in the olden days!

And while you're at it, you can forget that anaesthetic too.  I love the pain, me!  Everyone knows things were better in the olden days!

I might add that Older Generation had already at this point come out with a few non-child-rearing related gems, including a denial of climate change ("I'm sure it's getting colder.  They just don't want to admit they were wrong!") and the astonishing possibility that the hole in the ozone layer may have been caused by spacecraft flying through it ("funny how there was never a hole until after they started going into space, isn't it?").

I shot back that it was the law to put your child in a car seat, thank you very much, which led to a few discussions about whether it actually is the law.  I can only assume that if seatbelts are mandatory then surely so are car seats.  Anyway not only am I not planning on testing it out, but surely they wouldn't pass a law against smoking in cars with children if it was still OK to be driving about with a baby sitting on your lap, even though I'm pretty sure that Britney Spears managed to do just that a few years back without being arrested.  Only in America.  Thinking about it, it's remarkable that the police over there didn't shoot her.

Anyway, if I had thought that being criticised for wanting to make sure my baby travelled in relative safety rather than on my lap, Spears-style, just like it was in those halcyon days of the 1970s when Britain's roads were so much safer, everybody left their doors unlocked and beer was 10p a pint, was the only critique of my parenting skills that I would have to put up with over the holiday, I was sadly mistaken.  On Christmas Eve, despite being a godless heathen, I suddenly developed a nostalgic urge to go to church.  Probably something to do with the pretty candles and nice, cosy Christmas carols, rather than any of the Word made flesh, Jesus came to earth to deliver us from our trespasses, God stuff.  And also I do have a bit of an affinity with the Virgin Mary, especially at Christmas with all that virgin birth stuff, what with Piglet being an immaculate conception, and all that.  And also I once saw her, in a Renaissance painting, spraying milk out of her breast literally across the room into the mouth of a kneeling saint, who looked absolutely ecstatic with joy at the privilege.  And I can now do that.  I sprayed Piglet right in the eye the other day.  He wasn't quite as happy about it as St Bernard of Clairvaux seemed to be, in fact he screamed, but the point is I have magical Virgin Mary-style breastfeeding SKILLS.

What was I saying?  Oh yes, so I decided we were going to church.  Me, Piglet and my mother, off to the church where my mother got married thousands of years ago, to sing Away in a Manger with the lights off whilst holding symbolic oranges.

I thought my mother would approve of my sudden religiosity.  She did not.

"IT'S TOO COLD OUTSIDE!" she thundered, as if I had just suggested taking Piglet to the South Pole in a re-enactment of Captain Scott's ill-fated voyage, complete with authentic equipment from 1912.  "HE'LL CATCH A COLD!"  

I pointed out-wisely, I thought-that one did not catch a cold as a result of being somewhere cold.  One caught chilblains and frostbite, yes, but not the common cold.  In fact, a cold is a virus that one catches from another infected person.  Reluctantly, Mother agreed to join me at church, but not before berating me throughout the entire journey for my fecklessness in taking Piglet in the sling instead of the ("much warmer") pram.  Once we got there, we took a seat right at the back, Mother reasoning that it would be easier to make a quick exit in the event of the relentless screaming that she obviously thought was going to be the outcome of forcing a five month old baby to sit through a church service.  Piglet, clearly his mother's son, did not seem to enjoy all the sermons and Jesus stuff, causing a small child who was sat in front of us to turn around and say to me knowledgeably, "I think he's tired."

Yes I know, I'm a terrible mother who has dragged my poor long-suffering baby to church against his will, when he's tired.  Which he always is, BECAUSE HE CAN'T SETTLE HIMSELF TO SLEEP GODDAMIT!  ARGH!

There was one moment when I thought I was going to be launched into the role of Pushy Stage Mother when one of the vicars (there were, like, three.  Times have changed since I was last in church) asked if there were any babies in the church and I waved Piglet enthusiastically above my head, thinking he was going to get to play the coveted role of the Baby Jesus in some sort of Christmas nativity play, but sadly all I got was to say his name and age into the microphone, while the vicar looked at me slightly puzzled, clearly thinking she had never heard of a baby called that before and why wasn't his name Alfie or Harry or some other sort of popular baby name, and was it a boy or a girl, one can never tell these days.

Anyway, despite my mother's best attempts to save the day by grabbing Piglet off me every time he whimpered and trying to exit the church in a dramatic fashion and prove that her silly daughter was a far inferior specimen of mother as she couldn't even keep the baby quiet in God's Holy House, we managed to last until the end of the service.  Long enough, in fact, for me to get to go to the front and collect a special candle stuck into an orange for Piglet, leading one of the vicars to remark sniffily, "He's a bit young!" as I did so, clearly thinking he hadn't spent the best part of Christmas Eve sticking jelly babies on the end of cocktail sticks so that inadequate specimens of motherhood such as myself could pretend to take them for their babies and then eat all the sweets themselves, and then never darken the door of the church again until next Christmas Eve, for the free sweets and nostalgic Away in a Manger singing.

He obviously didn't know about my immaculately conceived child and special Virgin Mary breast milk-squirting skills.  We would have been PERFECT for the nativity play.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Yet Again I Impress the NHS with my Great Knowledge of Medical Matters

Just taken Piglet for his BCG vaccination.

I don't think this was as entertaining for Piglet as it was for me, as he screamed blue murder throughout the experience.  However, it was necessary, warned the nurse, as TB is "everywhere."

"Ah," she said, leafing through Piglet's red book, "you have just moved here."

"Well, not moved exactly.  I stayed with my mum for the birth, so Piglet was born in Bristol."

"Hmmpphh" said the nurse, continuing to look through the red book, "anyone would think it was a different country.  These books are all different!  Everyone does their own thing, every borough, every county.  Even in East London the red books are different!"

"Are they?  Sorry."  Yet again I have inconvenienced the NHS with my rudeness as not remaining in the same village from cradle to grave like an eighteenth century peasant.

"So," the nurse continued.  "How old is he?  Why hasn't he had a BCG vaccination yet?"

"They don't do them in Bristol."

"Ah, it is because they are posh!  They think it doesn't affect them, but I tell you, TB is EVERYWHERE!"

I have visions of it chasing us down Wembley High Road.  It must be a miracle we haven't already got it.  We are probably literally surrounded by it every day, despite the fact that the NHS website says you have to be in "close contact" with a sufferer to be infected.

The nurse then launched into a potted history of vaccinations, taking in the discovery of penicillin, the pitfalls of international air travel and the Western colonisation of Africa.  She also reassures me that vaccinations are preventative medicines, not attempts to infect Piglet with anything.  I nod knowingly throughout this and assure her that I am aware of all this.

So there are people in the world who think the NHS vaccination programme is a huge government conspiracy to infect babies with once-prevalent terrible diseases??????

"Ah," says the nurse, "you must work in NHS!"

This is not the first time in the course of my child-rearing experience that someone has said this.  I know what tuberculosis is.  I've read Victorian novels.  I know that when someone coughs and their cheeks look a bit rosy they'll be dead from consumption by the next chapter.  I also have a modicum of education.  I even did the History of Medicine paper in my GCSE History, it's not difficult.  Do people exist in the world who don't know these things?  Am I so unusual in having a minimal level of knowledge about infectious diseases that only people who are actual doctors and nurses can match my peerless expertise?

I fear for the future of the world if this is the case.  It is starting to make sense to me why all NHS leaflets appear to have been written for a five year old (although my all-time favourite is still one produced by the Miscarriage Association: "Miscarriage does not happen just because the baby is a boy."  Let's imagine that it did for a second.  Think of the logical conclusion here).

Anyway, Piglet is now comfortably sleeping off his traumatic experience at the hands of the nurse and I, so I am going to take this opportunity to cook myself some brunch, and maybe train as a doctor, since I am clearly more than qualified for the role.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Household Emergency: TV Not Working. How does one overcome this dilemma without making one look as though one is incapable of dealing with electrical malfunction?

Last night I made a decision.  I decided that I was spending too much time checking the internet on my phone instead of looking after baby, so I decided that from now on I would only check the internet on my phone if the baby was asleep.  Or if someone had texted me, as one needs to be able to check texts immediately, as may be very important (case in point, this very morning I received a text from a friend telling me that she had just got engaged).

This has all been going very well.

What has not been going so well, however, is that in celebration of my decision to spend less of my life looking at a screen and not at Piglet, the television has decided it is no longer working.

I got up this morning, laid Piglet down on his play mat, made myself a cup of tea and some toast with a nice bit of Nutella and sat down on the sofa to watch the Andrew Marr Show, Saturday Kitchen Best Bites, or whichever other Sunday morning television programme which I don't even like happened to be on, and nothing.  Nothing.  Just a message saying "weak or no signal."

Aha, I thought.  It's on ITV at the moment.  I switched it off last night after X Factor.  Clearly what has happened is that there has been a ferocious but very localised storm which has blown over the main ITV transmitter.  Let's try BBC.


Aha, I thought.  I know what's happened here.  There has been a huge solar storm and the Earth has been buffeted with electromagnetic waves from the Sun which have knocked out all the power lines and consequently there is currently no television across the whole of the UK.  This happened in Canada once.  I saw it on a documentary about the aurora borealis on BBC4.  BBC4 which has now been obliterated by cosmic rays.  Or perhaps there has been a terrorist attack and the TV stations have all been taken over by crazed fundamentalists who believe television is the work of the Devil and so have attacked all the transmitters.  Let's go to the BBC website and have a look.  Surely there will be a message like "TV transmitter problem causes widespread disruption" or "TV down across the nation after hostile takeover."

Hmm.  The main headline on BBC News is "Deal reached at UN climate talks," but then, they would say that wouldn't they?  The terrorists have cunningly taken over the website as well and replaced the real news with an innocuous headline about the UN and climate change to make us think there's not really been a hostile takeover and it's all business as usual.

Upon looking out of the window I then spotted that the television in a flat on the other side of the building was noticeably on, and appeared to be working normally.  Oh God, maybe there's something wrong with my TV, and it's JUST ME, and I will have to figure out what's wrong, and then fix it ALL BY MYSELF.  I am just going to have to step up to the plate and be a Capable Woman.

"Help!" I texted my brother, who lives 125 miles away, "my TV is not working.  And yes, it is plugged in."  It says this:

"There must be a problem with your building," came the reply.

Oh Christ, I'm going to have to climb onto the roof and start fiddling with the aerial, like Rod Hull and Emu.

There are two potential solutions here: 1.) assume there's a problem with the entire building and go and ask the concierge if anyone else is having problems with their TV, or 2.) assume that the problem is your TV and you've either unintentionally done something to cause the problem, like accidentally pull out the aerial despite the fact that after checking it multiple times, it definitely looks plugged in, or the TV/aerial is broken (the latter v. bad as have to purchase new one in time for X Factor final in four hours, with no money).

The first one is easier, but is clearly going to result in me looking like a total idiot, bumbling down to the reception desk, explaining to the concierge that my TV isn't working, and him giving me a withering look before asking if it is plugged in, before telling me that I am an idiot woman who doesn't understand how to operate the most basic of electrical appliances.  This is what always happens when trying to explain any kind of technical malfunction to a man.

The second one is of course terrifying but, given previous experience with technicals, most likely correct.  However, I must be Capable Woman and Resourceful Mother and not let any man know about this, as must prove to Piglet that women are just as capable as men when it comes to operating television, so that he grows up to be liberal, progressive, feminist man, and Mummy does not need to go running to her nearest male relative whenever there is TV problem, lost internet connection, dishwasher malfunction, broken lightbulb or any other type of household emergency.  I decide to start exploring the many buttons on the TV remote to see what they all do and whether any of them will solve the problem.

Aha!  There is TV button called "troubleshooting."  This is what I need.  Thank you, O holy TV remote.  Ah, aerial is set to "air."  Clearly this is not the problem as it was working yesterday with identical settings, but maybe it needs to be changed to "cable" now, even though I do not have cable TV, as TV is, like, digital now.  Maybe BBC website has something to say about this.  Maybe there has been whole-country changeover to cable television and all aerials need to be reset.

Go to BBC website.  Headline is still "Deal reached at UN climate talks."  Perhaps this cable TV changeover is so universally known by everyone except me, that it does not even merit a mention in national news.  But I read the Guardian Online every day, and nothing has ever been mentioned.  Perhaps the Guardian is too interested in worthy news stories about social issues and feminism and why I should be able to work my own TV, as a Capable Woman who does not need the help of men, to mention small thing like entire country cable TV changeover.

Right, let's reset all channels by tuning television again.  I know how to do this.  This is easy.

Argh have lost all TV channels, possibly permanently.

OK let's see if there is whole-building TV aerial malfunction.  Definitely not going to climb onto the roof like Rod Hull, so will just have to bite my lip and ask concierge.  Will need to go to Cafe Nero first, and purchase latte to steady nerves.

After peering through door into reception area, it turns out that it is Nice Concierge on duty, and not Smug Concierge, who once previously gave me withering look in relation to not knowing how to read the electricity meter.  Breathe sigh of relief.

"Er, you wouldn't happen to know if anyone has reported a problem with their..."

"TV signal?  Yes.  The whole building's down.  Everyone's annoyed because it's the X Factor final tonight."

THANK THE LORD.  Am Capable Woman.  TV is not broken, and I have not unintentionally forgotten how to plug it in.  Compared to this, not being able to watch X Factor final is minor inconvenience.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Who is even allowed to use the birth centre?

Just returned from a quick excursion to the toilet to find Piglet slumped in his bouncy chair, hanging off the end.  Perhaps the time has come to start strapping him in (what's that sound?  The sound of social services being called at the fact that I have so far failed to do this).  Either that or I am going to have to start taking him with me to the toilet.  Last night he cried when I left him in his cot in the bedroom while I went to clean my teeth, and I had to take him into the bathroom with me and lie him on a towel on the floor to keep him quiet.  I may never have a moment to myself again.

Anyway, today we have been to the library, so that Piglet got to have an excursion in the pram so that he could go to sleep; and we went swimming.  There was a nap required before the latter as well, and as Piglet did not seem to want to nap in the bouncy chair, or go anywhere near the bouncy chair, crying every time I tried to put him in, and thinks his cot is a receptacle for bicycling his legs around and giggling, we had to leave half an hour early for swimming, and sit in the "London Designer Outlet" (sorry, that still cannot be written without the use of inverted commas) for ages so that we could get a good nap in beforehand.  Luckily, it paid off and Piglet was surprisingly cheerful throughout swimming, managing to crack no less than three smiles.  As usual he behaved impeccably, which made me feel better about having to sit through the following poolside Competitive Mother conversation that took place beforehand.

"My labour was really quick-just six hours."

"Really?  Mine was three hours."

"Mine too."

I HATE YOU.  I HATE YOU ALL.  Perhaps I should just dive into the very shallow pool head first and kill myself now as I am obviously a failure as a mother and as a woman in general.  One of the women even said she gave birth in the birth centre.  The BIRTH CENTRE.  I thought giving birth in there was banned.  Isn't it just there to make women feel better and make sure that the species doesn't die out by making us all think that maybe there's a remote possibility that giving birth is just going to be a matter of bouncing on a beach ball a couple of times, playing some whalesong and sitting in a paddling pool grunting?  One of the women from my antenatal class was banned from using the birth centre just because she'd visited the hospital a few times during her pregnancy worried that she wasn't feeling the baby move enough, even though there was nothing wrong, and even though the birth centre is like, in an actual hospital.  WHO IS EVEN ALLOWED TO USE THE BIRTH CENTRE?

Piglet is gazing at me forlornly from his baby gym, sucking his thumb.  The look on his face says "yes you are a rubbish mother.  You are not even fit to call yourself a woman.  Because of that caesarean, I am now traumatised for life like it says in your hypnobirthing book.  And it's ALL YOUR FAULT."

And if that wasn't bad enough, due to my rubbishness as mothering, he then banged his head on the lockers in the changing rooms, mercifully not enough to do himself an injury, but enough to make him howl for long enough that all the other mothers considered calling social services.  And then I accidentally poked him in the eye whilst trying to soothe him.  ARGH.

He later did a projectile wee into that very same eye while I was changing his nappy later in the day, which I imagine must sting a bit, but as we were at home and minus an audience, that didn't even register a whimper.

The Public Badge of Good Motherhood has now been confiscated.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Curse of the Mummy Clothes

Not a terribly productive day.  Currently procrastinating cleaning the flat and using Piglet's current slumbers as an excuse.  We cannot have him being woken up by the vacuum cleaner after all.

In fact, today's activities consisted of: going downstairs to check my mailbox, baking chocolate cookies and going to the bank.  As I am currently desperately trying to reclaim my Public Badge of Good Motherhood and also as the first of these necessitated going outside briefly, Piglet was trussed up in a snowsuit for a walk of several metres across the courtyard, whilst I was wearing leggings and a T-shirt.  Granted we were only actually outdoors for a matter of seconds, but what would people think if they saw a wee bairn like Piglet snowsuitless and wearing just a hat and indoor clothes in December?  I also had to put him in the sling for the journey, as what would people think if they saw me carrying around a baby in my arms?  I mean, it's just not safe.

Later on we went to the bank and Piglet finally managed to have a nap in the pram, and we went into a charity shop for a look around, only for Piglet to be woken up by a screaming child who wasn't him, and who in my opinion was a bit too old to be sitting in a pushchair, but then I'm no expert in toddlers and I can envision a day when someone thinks that about Piglet, so I will try not to judge.

Anyway, by far the most important thing about the visit to the charity shop was not Piglet's rude awakening, but the fact that I found a dress for one pound.  Yes, ONE POUND.  It wasn't exactly a masterpiece, but ONE POUND!  I found myself explaining the style of the dress to my mother thus:

Mum: "So, what's it like then, this dress?"
Me: "Er, it's kind of like, a dress."
Mum: "What colour?"
Me (realising this makes it sound like a primary school summer uniform circa 1989) "Pink and white checked."
Mum: "What size?"
Me: Noting that the size had not even occurred to me when I bought it "Well, it fits.  Sort of.  It's long.  It looks OK with a belt.  It would have cost, like twenty pounds in a vintage shop."

I stopped just short of describing it for what it was; a tent-like object which which was probably previously worn as an overall for cleaning the house, but still, ONE POUND.  And yet I still feel guilty for buying it, even more guilty, randomly, than I do when I spend £2.50 on a latte, even though that is more than twice what I paid for the dress.  There's just something about clothes, sitting there in the wardrobe, that invites guilt.  Perhaps it's the fact that the only things I wear these days are those in the list below.

My list of mummy clothes, a.k.a. the only things I am allowed to wear now that I am of the maternal persuasion.
Leggings-some of which are from Primark-ugh.  A total waste of £3 as they don't even fit properly.  Thanks Primark.  Thanks for making your size eight leggings more like AGE EIGHT.
Orange T-shirt from American Apparel which slides off easily, therefore good for breastfeeding.  Also good for accidentally revealing entirety of bra to Wembley High Road.  Speaking of bras....
Two M&S nursing bras (all other bras currently in storage until they can be worn/fit again).
Multipack of M&S Giant Mummy Pants.  I'm not sure that's the name they were advertised by on the website, but it is implicitly understood that this is what they are.  And my Caesarean scar is still a bit too tender to wear anything that isn't a Giant Mummy Pant.  The jury's out on whether I will ever wear acceptable underwear again.  Once you've worn a Giant Mummy Pant, nothing else is ever comfortable enough.
Sensible shoes.  I grant that what is sensible for me isn't necessarily sensible for everyone else, but put it this way, they are not Jeffrey Campbells.
Parka coat.  No more spectacular furry creations.  Everything has to be waterproof and have a hood.
Pyjamas.  In fact, I basically just live in these.

So in other words, that pound might have been better put towards the cost of a latte.  I probably would have got more wear out of it.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

New Sport of Ostentatious Breastfeeding Makes Wembley Debut

And so for a bit of ostentatious breastfeeding.

Well not at the moment.  At the moment I am watching X Factor on mute so as not to wake Piglet from his slumbers.  Michael Buble is either singing or talking to someone who may or may not be Nelly Furtado.  Without the benefit of sound, they both look like they're hosting the Eurovision Song Contest and are having a faux-hilarious conversation about the merits of Azerbaijan whilst pretending to look excited about the prospect of someone from Bosnia-Herzigovina singing a heartfelt ballad in Serbo-Croat.

Anyway, today Piglet again behaved impeccably throughout swimming, and another comment was made about how relaxed he seemed to be in the water (another star on my Public Badge of Good Motherhood).  One poor child was screaming so much his parents took him out of the water, which would not have even merited a comment here were it not for the fact that I caught Piglet watching him with interest as his parents tried to take him to the other side of the pool to test to see if he could go in again without crying, and I am pretty sure that he was taking notes.

Piglet's impeccable behaviour continued throughout the afternoon as I went to meet friends for coffee, but then sadly decided to deteriorate right at the point when Mummy and friends decided that they wanted a mulled wine at the Christmas market.  The following farcical events then ensued.

1.) Piglet starts screaming.  This is worrisome.  Previous attempts to feed him in Costa Coffee have been unsuccessful; partly because my eyes are constantly scanning the room for any signs of Nigel Farage or Katie Hopkins come to chase me into the corner, where I will sit behind a taped-off police cordon marked with the sign "Danger!  Breastfeeding woman ahead!" with a napkin draped over me; and partly because I am wearing an enormous fluffy jumper which gets in the way.

2.) Piglet is briefly distracted by some fairy lights.  Thank the Lord for fairy lights!  And for being born at Christmas, allowing us all to have fairy lights!  This gives Mummy enough time to chug down the greater part of of a cup of mulled wine, keeping it well away from Piglet of course (remembering the health visitor's dire warning about a baby they saw recently who had been scarred for life by a hot drink).

3.) The fairy lights are forgotten, and the crying resumes.  Mummy attempts a fair bit of ostentatious breastfeeding, standing on the table yelling "Look everybody!  I'm breastfeeding!" squirting jets of milk at the two other people in the open air Christmas market bar, and the five bouncers they have inexplicably needed to employ to keep those two people under control.

4.) OK that last one was inaccurate.  What actually happened was that Mummy had to take off Piglet's hat and unbutton his coat while the Public Badge of Good Motherhood fell from its privileged position on Mummy's lapel in the cold December air, and attempt to latch Piglet onto the breast while the fluffy jumper and Piglet's fluffy coat conspire to render such a feat impossible.  Well, I couldn't take the coat off as IT'S DECEMBER GODDAMIT AND THE BABY MIGHT FREEZE, and I couldn't remove the fluffy jumper either in case Nigel Farage happened to be promenading past arm in arm with Katie Hopkins and THERE WAS NO CORNER IN THIS EDIFICE.  I mean, it was like, in the open air! It was just a roof with some tables!  And it was sort of a bar as well, which serves ALCOHOL, so what was I even doing in there with a baby?  Off with my head!

5.) As things get even more fraught, I decide we may have to vacate the area, and knock back the remaining mulled wine.  As I do so, some of the mulled wine spills onto Piglet's fluffy white coat.  It looks like blood.  AARGH!  I am terrible mother!  I have done something terrible to baby!*

6.) That's it.  We're going home.  I look around.  The five bouncers are looking at me in a judgemental way which says, "you are a disgrace to motherhood.  Get Nigel Farage on the phone IMMEDIATELY."

And that, my friend, is ostentatious breastfeeding.

* I must add here, before you all call social services, that the mulled wine was, by this point, cold.  Piglet was never in any danger from the mulled wine spillage.  Put down your phones, people.

Friday, 5 December 2014


It is 9pm and Piglet is asleep in his bouncy chair.

I am pretty sure that this is VERY BAD, as apparently babies are not supposed to sleep in their bouncy chairs.  Especially without the little seat belt attached to strap them in; the little seatbelt that Piglet has recently discovered and now regularly tries to eat.  However, for the last few nights, Piglet has (finally!) been going to sleep at the very reasonable time of 8.30pm (HALLELUJAH), with the result that Mummy is now in a quandary.  Do I join him in the bedroom at 8.30pm so I can keep an eye on him, or do I put him in his bouncy chair in the living room for a bit, so that if he wakes up I can immediately rock him back to sleep?  I have cautiously chosen the latter for now, on the assumption that should this happy routine continue, I will start putting him in his cot earlier.  Trouble is, I cannot now move Piglet to the cot while he is asleep, as then when he wakes he will freak out and start screaming, as he will not know how he got there, so now I have to wait for him to wake naturally so that I can move him into the cot while he's awake.  This is according to the oft-quoted Golden Rule of Baby Sleep: put them down in their cots drowsy but awake. Only then will they learn to go to sleep on their own in their cot, and only then will you be liberated from the potential future scenario of a child who wants to be rocked to sleep, preferably in your arms, and then sleep in your bed for ever and ever until they finally leave home at the age of forty five.

AHA!  He has just woken up and I have placed him in his cot.  I am no longer the cruel, neglectful mother making her child sleep in a bouncy chair instead of a proper bed like a properly cared for child.

Anyway, went to see the health visitor today.  I was given the usual large-print leaflets about what the local children's centre is for (special groups for fathers and male carers; how to live a healthy lifestyle).  I was disappointed, having settled Piglet to sleep and sat down with a nice cup of tea to read these rather hefty tomes, that they took mere seconds to read, as consisted of mostly pictures and a few massive words.  I know the NHS means well and is to be commended for trying to help people out, but not sure why it is automatically assumed that all men are feckless, irresponsible and unable or unwilling to spend any time with any children who may be related to them, and that as I have had a baby, I must have never heard of fruit or vegetables and be buying my groceries at Chicken Cottage.  Not to mention the fact that most of this literature seems to be written for someone with a reading age of five.  Then the health visitor (who also meant well) remarked about how happy Piglet must be to see his father every day and I had to say he didn't have one, thus unintentionally perpetuating the unfortunate stereotype of feckless babyfathers.  Also had to fill in a questionnaire which asked me how I felt about being a parent ('fantastic") and whether I was experiencing domestic violence ("no").  I'm not sure that many people with answers that varied greatly from those I gave would be willing to say so on a questionnaire, but as I said, they mean well.  And after all I don't particularly want them coming round to my house to check for domestic violence because they might notice that I haven't cleaned the kitchen.

I also wonder why it is, when it is automatically assumed in the literature that your first language is not English and that you may even be an asylum seeker, that when it comes to getting anything done or having a conversation with an actual human, everything is so impossibly complicated that if you were an asylum seeker who didn't speak a word of English, you would probably end up sitting in the waiting room all day wondering what was going on; that is if you could even find the entrance to the clinic.  When I got there the entrance was deserted and the door didn't appear to be working, so I had to wait for someone to come out so that I could actually get in, and when I managed to find the receptionist and ask where we needed to go for our appointment with the health visitor, she looked at me as though I was Oliver Twist proffering an empty bowl of gruel at the workhouse master, asking for some more, and gave me what turned out to be completely inaccurate directions.  When I finally asked another receptionist where I needed to go (shortly after the same receptionist had shouted across the crowded waiting room "DOES THIS CHILD HAVE A PARENT?" at the top of her voice because a small boy-mercifully not Piglet, who was sleeping peacefully in his perambulator-was fiddling with the blood pressure machine) she too seemed to assume by her tone that I was incapable any kind of rational thought, rather than was just someone who happened not to have visited the health centre before and so could hardly be expected to be on familiar terms with the layout, and told me that I had to go to a completely different waiting area.

Once we managed to get inside and actually see the health visitor, fortunately Piglet was on his best behaviour and seemed to enjoy basking naked in the bowl of the baby weighing scales.  In fact he is loving being naked in general at the moment, and it is getting to be quite a struggle to change his nappy, as he cannot stop kicking his legs around at a ridiculous pace every time they have a modicum of freedom.  I do hope he's not going to start taking his clothes off and running around naked in public.  I don't think I could stand the humiliation of the receptionist at the health centre hollering "DOES THIS CHILD HAVE A PARENT?' at me.

I'd have to blame the proverbial feckless and irresponsible babyfather.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

And the winner of the Best Dressed Baby Award is....

It sounds like something out of the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party circa 1993, but it's official, I have the best dressed baby in Wembley.  Winner of the Elle Style Awards, Special Commendation from Anna Wintour, Vogue Baby of the Year.  Move over Blue Ivy, Prince George and North West.  Yes, the play worker at Baby Club (n.b. this is not a nightclub.  That would bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "nappy night") complimented Piglet on his outfit today with the words, "another lovely outfit this week!"  Yes ANOTHER.  See, Piglet is known throughout North West London for his baby chic.  Let us gloss over that incident with the poo in the dungarees. That was, like, MONTHS AGO.

As for myself, I have not been faring quite so well in the sartorial stakes.  For the second time in a row, we got up too late for me to have time to apply any make up before we left the house, so not only was I slap free-something that has become alarmingly commonplace in recent weeks-but the waistband of my maternity jeans (yes I am still wearing them) sits sufficiently low on the hips for me to have to continually hoist them up to avoid displaying my giant M&S mummy pants to the world.  Not that this was the biggest fashion faux pas at baby club today, as just as we were leaving there was a woman bending down to put her shoes on who was showing her entire bottom.  Imagine the furore if THAT happened in Claridges.

Speaking of which, I have been trying to express milk again, to no avail.  My euphoria upon discovery of the fact that hand expressing is a) possible and b) not the excruciatingly painful debacle I had expected it to be was tempered by the fact that the couple of drips I managed to squeeze out did not, as I had hoped, make much of an impact on the bottle.  One of my antenatal class said her sister had "only" been able to get out 70mls, which compared with my measly few drips, which didn't even register on the millilitre scale, must have been like Niagara Falls.  It now looks increasingly unlikely that I will ever be able to leave Piglet with anybody for longer than half an hour as I have read in baby books that if babies don't learn to take a bottle early on, they never will, and Piglet has never even seen a bottle.  He's going to be the breastfeeding equivalent of those old men in pubs who complain about the yoof of today drinking lager out of bottles instead of real ale from a hearty tankard hung above the bar with their name on it.

In other news, Piglet has discovered that if he flaps his arms about a bit whilst sitting in the washing up bowl (still currently too scared to put him in the giant baby bath, so he is having his baths in the washing up bowl.  The washing up, you will be relieved to hear, goes in the dishwasher) an interesting effect, commonly known as a splash, is created.  Mummy is now soaked to the skin.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Expressing Milk Attempt no. 1: Abject Failure

11pm and Piglet is lying in his co-sleeper, shouting.  God knows what the neighbours must think.  Frankly I'm amazed I haven't had a note through the door telling me to keep the noise down, and while we're at it, social services have been called.  In fact, everybody in my building must see a good deal more of my parenting skills than they would like, given that my living room has no curtains and overlooks a whole bunch of other flats.  Today, for example, the neighbours were treated to the sight of what must have looked like me abusing my breasts with a plastic bottle with a big suction pad attached.

Yes, I tried to express milk in the futile hope that at some point I will be able to leave Piglet with a relative for an hour or so to go out and enjoy some wild times.  Maybe a glass of wine, maybe a day at work, maybe even-gasp!-a date.  OK not the last one.  I have officially retired from the dating scene.

Anyway, this was not a wildly successful enterprise, as the photograph below revealing the results of this experiment shows.

Just to reiterate, in case the photo didn't make things entirely clear, this bottle is EMPTY.  I think most of the few droplets that can be seen are the remnants of a spin in the dishwasher that the breast pump had before I started using it.  So I now have both a manual breast pump and a steam steriliser that are both completely useless.  This was what I ended up with after a walk around the baby section of Boots with my mother while she pointed out the baffling array of items that are required for any sort of bottle feeding: bottles in a variety of shapes and sizes, teats which let the milk out at varying speeds, breast pumps, sterilisers.  I'm still not sure what the latter even do.  Mine is sitting in its box in my living room; a room which, I might add, I until recently described as "minimalist" and which now contains the following: bouncy chair, weaning chair (a small chair for Piglet which looks like a high chair, but on the ground.  Essentially, it's a low chair), feeding pillow, car seat, toy arch, baby gym, play mat, selection of cuddly toys and now a breast pump and steriliser.  And yet I found myself looking at this very room this evening-a room whose strict colour scheme and lack of plastic tat I had previously prided myself upon-and thinking to myself, "now, what this room really needs is a jumperoo."

No, what I really need is a bigger house.  And some curtains.  Definitely need those.  Poor Piglet had to have his bath this evening in full view of most of Wembley.  I'm surprised his naked bottom didn't accidentally end up being beamed to the nation on X Factor.  In fact, what I really need is one of those houses on Escape to the Country, with a large kitchen diner, exposed beams, wood burner and range.  I've already chosen which Aga I want.  The blue one.  And I'll have at least an acre of land with a few outbuildings, hot tub, sauna and holiday let.  Or failing that, I'll just live somewhere that isn't Wembley, and will no longer be followed down the high street by a mentalist waving a can of deodorant in my face and explaining how he bought it, but he no longer wants it and wants to exchange it.  I think he must have mistaken me for this.

We do look pretty similar.

Anyway, thankfully Piglet has now gone to sleep.  It only took about two hours of feeding.  Thank goodness I wasn't relying on that expressed milk.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Motherhood: Organisation, Christmas Cards and Tin Openers

Today I bought a new tin opener.

For some unknown reason, neither of the two adults I spoke to today (my mother and brother.  I'm not including the man in the shop where I bought the tin opener, since the conversation consisted of "that will be six pounds please" and that was it.  I KNOW, EXPENSIVE) were even remotely interested in this, and when I pointed out that it was the highlight of my day, they basically accused me of being a very sad person with no life.

They didn't see me struggling with that tin of baked beans this morning.  It took my old tin opener about twenty minutes to get halfway round, before I gave up and nearly ripped my fingers off by bending the open edge of the lid back and trying to squeeze out the beans.  It was all very traumatic.  Then I got my new tin opener, and it had the lid of a tin of chopped tomatoes cleanly off in seconds.  It was AMAZING.

This is my life now that I am a mother.  I get excited about tin openers.  And Christmas cards.  I decided that it was finally time to start sending my relatives Christmas cards.  Proper ones that you buy in shops and post via the post box, rather than ones which I made at school and got my mum to give them.  My elation at buying a pack of thirty cards for £1.50 was sadly short-lived after I realised I was going to have to spend at least £10 on stamps.  Next year everyone's getting e-cards.  Even my 92 year old grandmother who's never used a computer.

There was a certain satisfaction in writing the cards, and signing them as being from Piglet and I.  Yes, there are two of us.  I am no longer an ageing teenager who spends every Christmas in a single bed in her parents' house still secretly a little bit scared that the forbidding-looking angel who has sat atop the Christmas tree since 1982 is watching my every little misdeed and reporting back directly to Father Christmas.  I am now an ageing teenager spending every Christmas in a single bed in her parents' house WITH A BABY.  Therefore I am validated as a genuine adult in the eyes of the world, and obliged to send Christmas cards like the grown ups do.

When I told my mother about this she said not to worry as she had already added my name to all her Christmas cards.  Two things:  1.) I am sure that my mother thinks that Piglet and I are both her children.  In fact I am pretty sure she has referred to me as his sister on more than one occasion; and 2.) How has she managed to write all her Christmas cards already?  It's NOVEMBER for God's sake!  I thought I was the first person in the world to write a Christmas card this year, smashing all previously held records.  Surely no normal person even thinks about this before 20th December?  There is only one thing I can possibly conclude from this: one's organisational skills rise exponentially in line with one's number of years service as a mother.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Life: Entirely Governed by Piglet's Naps or Lack Thereof

Piglet is currently forgoing his afternoon nap in favour of lying in the baby gym chewing his favourite hanging plastic ring.  He is concentrating very hard.

OK he just started screaming for no apparent reason.  Just removed him from the baby gym and sat him in his bouncy chair, where he is violently shaking a blue rabbit.  A toy one that is.  Otherwise that would be weird.

It's now two hours later and he has finally started his nap.  How long it will last is anybody's guess.

Had a fairly unproductive day.  My plan to buy baby wipes, go to the library and get some milk was scuppered by Piglet deciding he was hungry in the middle of a very rainy Wembley High Road and having a non-stop screaming fit inside the pram which did not subside until I took him home.  I had been hoping he would take the opportunity to have a nap in the cosy environment beneath the fleecy blankets and industrial-strength rain cover, but it was not to be.  The remainder of the day was spent watching old repeats of Escape to the Country whilst walking Prince Piglet around the house imploring him to sleep, which he responded to by protesting loudly every time I tried to sit down.  Now watching Countryfile on mute.  One of the presenters just held up a poster emblazoned with the words "Bird Crime."  I have no idea what's going on.  Are birds going around terrorising the countryside with their criminal ways?

Absolutely knackered and in need of a nap myself.  I wonder what the neighbours would think if I started shouting in baby language, crying and making straining noises every time I needed to sleep, in the style of young Piglet.

Friday, 21 November 2014

My Thoughts on Baby Fashion, and Other Matters

Love maternity leave.  So far today I have been mostly doing online quizzes ("which wife of Henry VIII are you?" I got Katherine Howard.  I always get her, which I presume means I am dead and wandering around Hampton Court Palace at night, sans head).

I also invented a drinking game to be played whilst watching Escape to the Country.  It is well good.  Get this:
Wood burner/exposed beams=1 finger
En suite/kitchen island=2 fingers
Sea view/added holiday let=3 fingers
They buy one of the properties=you down your drink

So a productive day then.  Good job I wasn't actually playing the game described above today for real as by the time they got to the mystery house I would have been hammered.

Actually I did do a couple of productive things.  Discovered an ancient Next gift card in my purse so went to purchase Piglet some clothes; two T-shirts (one of which was a Rolling Stones T-shirt-Piglet's second.  Bizarre as they are old enough to be his great-great-great-grandfathers) and two sleepsuits, to be precise.  The latter raises two questions:  firstly why are all babygros marketed as sleepsuits when everyone I know dresses their babies in them ALL THE TIME, as is only right and proper for a four month old, and secondly why are the only trousers one can buy for the under-twos little baby jeans?  Why would a baby want to wear jeans?  Why does anyone wear jeans?  Are we all just herd animals like cows who can't even be in the same field as one who's lying down without all of them doing it? For the record here are my thoughts on baby fashion:

Things babies should not wear:
Little baby jeans (they are not adults.  Not that adults should all wear jeans either.  At least not all the time.  Have some imagination).
Little baby Converse (see "little baby jeans" above.  Plus, they can't walk so what's the point?)
Things with slogans like "I'm a naughty boy and I like football and cars," or "I'm a nice little girl and I like fairies and glitter and my greatest ambition in life is to marry a handsome prince."
Hairbands (if they don't have any hair.  Never seen the point, unless it's to let passers by know that yes, this baby is definitely a girl.  In which case I still don't see the point).

Things babies should wear:
Babygros (let's face it, babies are the only humans who can successfully carry off a onesie.  We all know what happens when adults try it.  Except Snoop Dogg.  Because he is a legend).
Dungarees/lederhosen (something else that should not be attempted by anyone over the age of two).

Also today, we went swimming.  I had finally managed to get Piglet a little wetsuit-style wrap to wear in the water to keep him a little bit warmer as the last two weeks he let out a little cry when we first entered the water, and then spent the next half an hour shivering, before we finally got out of the pool and went into the changing rooms, only for his ever-sympathetic mother to cry out "Ooh he's REALLY cold!  Look at his little shrivelled testicles!"

This week was better, and the instructor even commented how chilled (as in easygoing, not cold) Piglet was, and asked if he was like that at home.  Sadly, he spends most of his time at home shouting at me, the naughty mummy who denied him a father, occasionally leaves him in the baby gym because she wants to watch Escape to the Country in relative peace, possibly playing the Escape to the Country drinking game albeit with a giant bar of Dairy Milk rather than hard liquor, and who is frankly inept at spotting his tiredness signs, meaning that every night is a pantomime where Piglet flails his arms and legs around and screams at me from his bouncy chair as I try to rock him to sleep, then I pick him up and carry him around the room for two hours while the voice of my mother warning of Piglet's inevitable future as an overindulged Augustus Gloop character echoes in my ears.

He is now asleep-unusually early for him, which probably means he's saving up his best screams for later; possibly around 4am-and I am watching Coronation Street on mute, which I have to say is a much improved way of watching it.

Argh he's stirring.  I have to start doing my warm-up exercises so that I can carry him around the room again.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Surrendered Mother

Piglet is sleeping blissfully in his bouncy chair following his 16 week jabs.

Blissful sleeps seem to be increasingly rare these days.  Most sleeps are preceded by hours of fretfulness where he screams for ages until Mummy finds the exact position which he has chosen to fall asleep in that day, and he finally conks out.  I have lost count this week of how many times I have had to remove him from cafes and restaurants before we get chased out with torches by childfree twentysomething hipsters.  One suggestion this weekend from a thoughtful waiter was "Do you want some whisky for him?"  Er, no but maybe for me.

Even today at the doctor's, I had to pace up and down the waiting room like a 1950s father-to-be until a screaming Piglet finally fell asleep and a woman in the waiting room helpfully informed me that my "daughter" was now asleep in my arms (LOVING the fact that everyone thinks Piglet is a girl btw.  My   policy of trying to dress him in gender neutral clothes-i.e. girls' leggings and fluffy coats in the style of East 17 in the Stay Another Day video-as much as possible is clearly paying off.  Kanye wears womenswear all the time you know.  It's what all the fashion pack are doing.  OH GOD I JUST COMPARED MY CHILD TO KANYE WEST.  LORD HAVE MERCY).

OK I'm back.  Piglet just screwed up his face into an almighty cry in the style of an X Factor contestant warbling the highest notes of a Mariah Carey song and I had to pick him up and intermittently walk him around the room for about seven hundred years whilst watching Miracle Babies on Channel 5 and weeping into the nearest muslin cloth (which was very close by-one can never be far from a muslin) and thanking the universe that I did not have a premature baby.

Spoke to my mother on the phone last night and she suggested that "things will get easier once he's on solids."  And there was me dreading the mess all over the flat and the increasingly awful smell of Piglet's nappies, which are already flooding the kitchen with their heady aroma of digested breast milk. She practically suggested I should be putting him on solids now as "you were weaned by his age."  He's not even four months old for Christ's sake.  He doesn't have any teeth and can't co-ordinate his hand to his mouth sufficiently to suck his thumb except on rare occasions, so he's hardly ready for a three course cordon bleu meal.  Mother thinks Farley's rusks are the ideal weaning food, which I'm pretty sure goes against all advice about weaning that I have ever read, although it might be worth buying rusks just for me as from what I remember of my own toddler years they were a real delicacy.

In other news, I now officially no longer exist as an individual and am reduced to the role of carer for King Piglet.  Mother even asked me if I wanted a Christmas present for myself this year, or if I would be satisfied with just Piglet's presents.  Newsflash:  No I will not be satisfied with a new cot and a selection of onesies from Mothercare.  I DON'T FIT INTO ANY OF THEM.  In the end, I asked Mother if she would consider purchasing me an American Apparel voucher, to which her response was "oh, so you still want to shop there then?" implying that mothers are not allowed to shop at American Apparel as the clothes are "a bit clingy" (her words, not mine).  So basically Mother, what you are saying there is that I am now not only too old for American Apparel, but also too fat.  This was then followed by a comment about how the weight might come off when I finally stop breastfeeding.  So too fat then.  Thanks Mum.  On second thoughts, I might ask for a breast pump for Christmas, so yes, it looks like this year's presents will be baby-related.  I may as well just give up now and put out an announcement on Facebook that from now on I will be a Surrendered Mother.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Positive Sleep Associations

This is my latest scintillating read.

The wrinkled sheet underneath (yes that is on my bed) is basically a metaphor for Piglet's current sleeping patterns.  Well, who irons a sheet anyway?  I mean, who even owns an iron?

As I write, Piglet is sleeping soundly at my feet in his bouncy chair.  To look at his angelic face, anyone would assume that the last thing he has is a sleep problem, but appearances are deceiving.  For reasons unknown, today he has been sleepy all day and whinging loudly whenever awake.  I have therefore spent most of the day feeding, rocking or walking him to sleep; the latter around the industrial estate encircling Wembley Stadium in the wind and driving rain, with a nearby concrete-making works blowing bits of sand and gravel into my face at approximately the speed of a tornado whilst I clung desperately to the pram to avoid it being whipped up into the air and Piglet having an unintentional Mary Poppins moment.

To say this amount of sleep is unusual for Piglet is an understatement.  Usually he barely sleeps during the day, then spends much of the night whinging and failing to go to sleep, before finally dropping off sometime after midnight.  Dr Richard Ferber of book in picture above fame says that babies need to form positive sleep associations, so I have been bombarding Piglet with images of this lot:

None of these creatures are going to scare a young baby in any way.  And all of their antics are very relaxing and do not in any way involve such hyperactivity-inducing pastimes as singing, dancing, saying their own name over and over again in squeaky baby-language or chasing each other around a garden armed with a sponge.  My personal favourite character is this dude on the right:

What a ledge.  Would not be at all alarming if you were walking through the woods and ran into this chap.  IMAGINE IF IT STARTED CHASING YOU.  I might add that despite appearances, this picture is not a grainy CCTV shot of two people the police want to speak to regarding a series of armed attacks on innocent dog-walkers.

In a further attempt to give Piglet some positive sleep associations-and of course to get him interested in all things literary-I have also been reading him a series of bedtime stories on the theme of bedtime and night time.

Hold on, no not that one.

This one!

I know, it looks like it may not be a whole lot better.  I found this gem yesterday in the library.  It was the first book I picked up, but I had to leave quickly because there was a two year old child trying to attack Piglet.  I kid thee not.  Piglet was-unusually and only because he was in the pram and we had been walking-asleep.  As I wheeled the pram through the library to the children's section, I heard a small voice saying "baby!  Sleepy baby!"  This was followed by the owner of said voice following us-in full view of his mother who did absolutely nothing about the situation-poking Piglet with a soggy biscuit-covered hand, and then blocking the pram from the front whilst clinging onto the underside of it so that I very nearly had to actually ram the little blighter to get rid of him.  Instead, I announced in my sternest teacher voice that the baby was sleeping, thank you very much, and much as we both appreciated the help manoeuvring the pram, he did not wish to be disturbed.  I then made a very quick exit and hence Piglet is now stuck with Good Night Wisconsin as his bedtime story.  Interestingly, the back cover says that there are other, similar books in the series, not just other states of America, but other countries, so I'm not sure why Wembley Library only seems to stock the one about Wisconsin, which is somewhere that I doubt many of the locals have been, not even me, although I did confess to Piglet familiarity with some of the places and items mentioned ("Lake Michigan!  Mummy's been there Piglet!  And look!  They're harvesting cranberries in that picture.  Mummy has a carton of cranberry juice in the fridge!"  Clutching at straws).  My personal highlight of the book, though, is the way that children are encouraged to greet everyone in Wisconsin in the same way that In the Night Garden encourages them to greet and say goodnight to a family of miniscule wooden pegs and a pretend airship. 


Goodness knows what randomness awaits poor Piglet in his dreams.  It really is no wonder he has such trouble sleeping.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Maternal Guilt Starts Here

Well actually it started three months ago, when the wee one was born.  And there is never a moment when you are truly safe.  There's always something waiting round the corner that could be going wrong.  A case in point being the one illustrated below.

On Friday I was happily bleating down the phone to a friend about how being a single mother is "fine, just fine" (except for the fact that I am about to slip into a financial abyss from which I will quite possibly never return).  But finances aside, i.e. if I had all the money in the world, or even just a bit more money, like I'd won the Euromillions or something, then it's all just fine and dandy.  Then, inevitably, something happens almost immediately that shatters that illusion.

On Friday that something was me suddenly acquiring some sort of food poisoning or norovirus type ailment.  I won't go into detail about what it entailed but suffice to say I was in no fit state to be looking after a wee one.  Luckily, by the time it struck (at 9pm) Piglet was asleep (something of a miracle.  He normally goes to sleep around midnight).  Consequently, the last few days have been spent doing the following:
1.) Feeling rough
2.) Not eating
3.) Tentatively sipping water
4.) Watching Loose Women whilst lying on the sofa in a sleeping bag
5.) Lying in bed with Piglet, apologising that I have no energy to do anything else.

There were several points where I actually had to take Piglet off the breast to go and vomit/other end, leading to screaming fits which definitely lasted longer than most child psychologists would recommend.

Speaking of which, I am still confused about the best way to get Piglet to go to sleep as half the Internets I have read say that babies should be in a routine by now and that rocking or feeding a baby to sleep is going to mean he will turn into David Walliams in Little Britain demanding "bitty" from his ageing mother at inappropriate times, and the other half say that imposing a routine is going to mean the child turns into a Romanian orphan circa 1990, silently banging his head against the cot he still sleeps in at the age of twelve, unable to speak, so basically whatever I do, Piglet is doomed.

He's actually lying next to me now, shouting at me that why oh why when the parents were being given out did he have the misfortune to end up with me and not Brad and Angelina.  At least I think that's what he saying.  It actually sounds more like "O-OOOH EH OOH, GOOO," but I'm pretty sure that's baby language for the above.

Motherhood.  The guilt just never ends.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Rock and a Hard Place

Piglet is now three months old and still basically nocturnal.  He is sitting in front of me on his bouncy chair now, sucking his thumb.  His thumb is his latest new discovery and one I have mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, I now feel less bad about denying him the dummy which various people (for "various people" read "my mother") keep suggesting.  To be honest, I can't logically explain why I'm so against the idea of a dummy.  I just think they look bad, like something that's been shoved in the child's mouth to shut them up with no thought for what really might be bothering them, and which stifles their freedom of expression (God, now I sound like one of those dreadful middle class mothers who grow their sons' hair into Harry Styles ringlets and allow little Milo and Harriet to race around gastropubs on scooters, pausing occasionally to doodle on the walls to express their creativity).  In other words, I enjoy listening to little Piglet's gurgles of happiness and shouts of reproach and don't want to plug his mouth with a plastic contraption in case he NEVER EVER SPEAKS, like Maggie from The Simpsons.  

However, the thumb sucking is not without its reservations.  As I try to manoeuvre his thumb into his mouth for the umpteenth time in the hope that he will be able to settle himself to sleep and not need me to rock him for several thousand years or provide him with unlimited nipple until it falls off, I do wonder if I am unintentionally giving him buck teeth and a childish habit that will last until his university days.  At this precise moment though, I will take anything that potentially helps him to settle himself to sleep.  So far he has been completely inept at sleep in general, and right now seems to prefer sitting in his bouncy chair looking at his hands to settling into a nice deep slumber.  At least he amuses himself.  The hands seem to be an endless source of fascination for him.  At the risk of sounding far too earnest for my own liking, it is fascinating to see him discover such essential body parts as hands, and realise that they belong to him and aren't just things that randomly flail about on either side of his eye line.

Another thing that Piglet has recently taken an interest in is his collection of muslins.  This morning he was so enthusiastic in his play with one of these that it ended up covering his eyes and he didn't know how to move it out of the way so that he could see again.  Again, this is something I have mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, I am thrilled that he is happy to play with something so simple, that we already have so many of, and which is more aesthetically pleasing that the reams of multicoloured plastic tat that are usually marketed as toys.  On the other hand, I am terrified that he will now end up like the friend of mine who screamed for the entire duration of the Year 7 French trip in 1992 because she forgot to bring her comfort blanket and couldn't sleep without it.

Motherhood.  It really is a choice between a rock and a hard place.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Facade of the Public Badge of Good Motherhood

Argh.  I have inadvertently trained Piglet to gaze blankly at the television as if in a hypnotic trance.

Unfortunately, this does not only happen during In the Night Garden.  This was not supposed to happen.  I was supposed to be an earth mother, all joss sticks and babywearing, giving birth blissfully  in a bathtub surrounded by candles and incense, then holding the baby aloft as if he was the future leader of a pack of lions in a Disney musical.  I was supposed to fill Piglet's days with classical music and brain-enhancing learning activities; he was supposed to be reading fluently by the time he turned one (there's still time...Not that he paid much attention to tonight's bedtime story, Flitter Flutter Butterfly).  He was not supposed to be wrenched out of me by a team of medical personnel in an operating theatre, following several hours of Mummy taking all the drugs the NHS could offer.  He was not supposed to be wheeled around in a pram for eternity because it has a shopping basket underneath which is just so damn convenient for carrying around all those spare nappies and the groceries.  And he was not supposed to be sat in front of the television like a zombie, silently taking in all that ITV can offer (reader, it wasn't even BBC4).  By the time he's three, he'll doubtless be asking Mummy why we can't track down his father using a DNA test and a lie detector on Jeremy Kyle.  

I have to admit, it is useful to be able to plonk Piglet in front of the television when Mummy needs to complete some pressing task, such as eating dinner, but isn't motherhood supposed to be about self-sacrifice?  If I was any sort of mother I would surely have relinquished all food and be living on a diet of pure maternal love, ready to abandon dinner and jump into action like a coiled spring at the first sign of baby whimpering.  If I was any sort of mother I would have gone to bed long ago, instead of still sitting here at 11.15pm with a glass of wine, desperate for a few extra minutes of self congratulation at getting Piglet to bed, before he wakes up again.

Still, I did manage to tick off one box of the middle class mother questionnaire today.  Piglet and I attended a swimming class.  OH YES.  And Piglet excelled himself by not crying AT ALL.

I should probably not crack open the champagne just yet.  After all, we have another four weeks of swimming classes for him to get hysterical and/or poo in the pool, leading to a mass evacuation (if you'll pardon the pun).  However, I will add that Piglet's angelic calm-baby performance occurred in front of one of the other ladies from my NCT class, who was also swimming with her baby, so at least I was able to enjoy the Public Badge of Good Motherhood for an hour or so.  Those fraught hours spent searching Westfield for a reusable baby swim nappy yesterday were put to good use.

At least I appear to be keeping up a charade of reasonable competence at this job in public, even if in private Piglet is spending (considerably) more than the recommended upper limit of half an hour per day on television watching (as decreed by a poster in Wembley Children's Centre).

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Essential Items for the "Nursery"

I just ate my dinner from start to finish with an angry Piglet sitting in his chair kicking his legs around and shouting at the TV, which I had turned him around to face to try and take his mind off the fact that Mummy was eating and not playing with him.

I am a terrible mother.

OK I may now have redeemed myself by cuddling him all through Downton Abbey (it is now several hours after I started writing this-nearly 11pm-and I have just put Piglet in his cot for the fourth time).  He has been fussing all evening.  His bedtime routine started at 6.20pm as usual and I was hoping he would be in bed in time for Strictly Come Dancing.  O what folly!  Instead he decided to whinge all the way through Strictly, X Factor and Downton.  Clearly one night of uninterrupted television (two.  Or maybe three as there's a new series on Thursday I like the look of) is too much to ask, for the rest of my life, ever.  Oh well, Piglet is worth it I suppose.

I had been reading another baby book that I got from the library the other day in an attempt to pick up some tips, in particular on sleep routines.  The thing about baby books is that the advice proffered is guaranteed to make you feel bad as inevitably there will be something the book suggests you do which you haven't done (or that the book says you should never do, which you do all the time), and as a result you will be made to feel that your child is now destined to grow up and become an axe murderer or general menace to society because you didn't give him a bottle of expressed breast milk for his night feed (please also note the use of the singular here, "night FEED."  Clearly the implication is that if your offspring is having more than one feed during the nocturnal hours then you are a failure and a bad parent who will end up being talked about in hushed tones at the school gates as the mother of "Piglet, who has NO boundaries.  Did you know that yesterday he weed-yes, WEED all over the headteacher's office?"

Another annoying thing about these books is the outrageous assumption they make that you are a) middle class-live in a house rather than a flat, have a car and a selection of Cath Kidston aprons; are not a teenage mother and b) have a husband, which I find somewhat presumptuous.  There are, for example, many mothers who are single, or who are married to other women.  Clearly I myself am in the former category.  In the particular book I borrowed from the library, there was far too long a list of baby-related items that the author deemed "essential" to purchase.  For example, a baby monitor-not necessary when you live in a one bedroom flat.  I know only too well that I can hear Piglet cry wherever I am in my very small flat.  Not everyone lives in some sort of palatial stately home where one may find oneself in a completely different wing of the house to the baby (like in Downton Abbey.  Has Lady Mary actually met her son?  It seems to me that Lady Edith spends more time with her secret daughter who lives in a different house than Lady Mary does with the son and heir whose name I don't even remember.  She could definitely do with a baby monitor).  Also, the book kept banging on about things you need for the "nursery"-not just a baby monitor, apparently, but a night light and a special chair for breastfeeding.  Firstly, my iphone has a perfectly good light on it thanks, so why would I go wasting money on some sort of specialist baby light that is bound to be bright pink, plastic and shaped like a character from In the Night Garden and ruin the feng shui?  Secondly, a chair specifically for breastfeeding?  What's wrong with a normal chair?  What is a breastfeeding chair anyway?  One shaped like a breast?  And lastly, who even has a nursery to put these things in?  Who do they think I am, Tamara bloody Ecclestone?  Clearly this book is a ruse to make me feel bad about being single and impoverished.  Not only this, but the author proudly boasted about how she moved her children into their poncey nurseries when they were only Piglet's age, in clear contradiction of the current guidelines which state that the baby should be in the same room as you for at least the first six months.  The woman is a charlatan.  She is practically Lady Mary, banishing her child like that.

And I did not just say that to make me feel better about the fact that Piglet and I will more than likely still be sharing a room when he is in his teens (I mean due to financial constraints, not because I am weird).  I think I will write a baby book of my own.  After all, I'm sure Britney Spears' mother wrote a parenting manual at some point.  And look how poor Britters turned out.  Admittedly she's done all right for herself, all things considered, but I'm pretty sure she's mentally deranged as a result.  Anyway, I could be a pushy stage mother, easy.  This week I suggested to Piglet that he might want to try ballet when he's older.  That's definitely a start.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Piglet is ten weeks old, and I find myself asking the question, how much TV is too much?

Aha!  I don't want to speak too soon, but I think I may have found the secret of the elusive Bedtime Routine.

It is none other than popular children's television programme In the Night Garden.  So far it has helped Piglet settle down to sleep no less than two days running.

It is as yet still only 9pm so whether his current slumber will continue throughout the night remains to be seen.  Judging by the squeaks I can hear coming from the direction of his cot I doubt it.  Still, it is a marked improvement on the four hours of rocking and swaying I had to do the other night to get him to sleep.

I have to admit, In the Night Garden seems far less irritating than most of the other claptrap on CBeebies, although as I said before it is early days as I've only actually seen two episodes.  The reason for the lack of irritation is that there are no annoying human children's TV presenters in the Night Garden, only odd creatures with names like Iggle Piggle and Macca Pacca (please excuse any spelling errors).  Macca Pacca is my favourite so far, as he seems oddly obsessed with putting pebbles into neat piles for no apparent reason, and tonight actually went to bed clutching one of these pebbles.  Hopefully Piglet will not start collecting random stones and bringing them home once he is old enough to understand what's going on.  Although having said that, I'm not sure I really understand what's going on in the Night Garden so that would make Piglet at least thirty-four by the time it dawns on him.

It's difficult to know how much Piglet really is taking in from these TV programmes.  He does stare at In the Night Garden quite intently, but then he also stared intently at the world gymnastics championships today, and Loose Women, and the news, and he probably would have been pretty interested in Homes Under the Hammer if his bouncy chair hadn't been facing the opposite direction.  I'm fairly sure that at this stage the television is merely an interesting provider of bright colours and sounds, but I have found myself avoiding Jeremy Kyle the last few days just in case his understanding runs any deeper.  I wouldn't want Piglet to think that Jeremy or his contestants are modelling normal behaviour.  That said, I don't really want him thinking it's normal for people to be riding around in tanks shooting AK47s into the air either but we have continued watching the news.  From what I can remember, I didn't start to be really interested in the news until I was about seven or eight years old.  Up until that point although I think I had a vague idea that certain events were going on, I tend to remember individuals rather than events.  I'm pretty sure at one point I believed, somewhat terrifyingly, that Margaret Thatcher and my grandmother were the same person.

Perhaps I shouldn't expose Piglet to the news after all.  Who knows what horrors he could come up with?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Piglet wreaks vengeance upon Mummy for ignoring him in favour of outrageous coat-lust

Knackered.  It has just taken me four hours to get Piglet to sleep.

According to everyone in my NCT class, their babies now sleep from about 8-9pm and wake up an average of once per night.  Piglet goes to bed at variable times, but rarely before 11pm, and wakes up an average of three times.  This didn't bother me-I generally catch up on sleep in the mornings by ignoring Piglet until at least 11am-until I heard that people in my NCT class were having wild times, drinking wine, watching television and painting their nails, AFTER their babies had gone to bed. So I decided I wanted some of this unbridled hedonism for myself, especially since I have read repeatedly on the Internets that one must train babies to go to sleep on their own, otherwise one ends up with an eighteen year old who wants to be rocked to sleep every night and share the parental bed.  

To this end, I decided to start Piglet's bedtime routine at 7.30pm tonight, as there was nothing on TV, so I bathed Piglet, considered reading him a story but vetoed this idea as he doesn't appear to show any interest in books just yet, attempted to get him to watch In the Night Garden as I had heard it has a hypnotic effect on all children and sends them to sleep-only to discover that In the Night Garden finished forty minutes ago, thus proving my point that Piglet is going to bed far too late-put him in his sleepsuit, fed him, cuddled him and then put him in his cot and walked off.

Those exact actions were then repeated an infinite number of times (minus the bath), to no avail.  Eventually I phoned my mother in desperation, explaining that Piglet would not go to sleep and was shouting at me in baby-language from his cot, reproaching me for being a terrible mother and-to my horror and distress-probably learning from experience that his cries were not being heard and that his emotions do not matter.  The latter is something that I have read on the Internet and in many baby books is the result of leaving babies to cry.  And even though Piglet was not at this point crying, merely making random noises, I figured that I was already in a precarious position having spent most of the afternoon ignoring Piglet in favour of perusing various online shopping emporiums for something resembling this beauteous coat, but costing about a thousandth of the price (and I mean that literally.  This coat costs £7000.  Cue lottery-win fantasies about how I would swan around on my yacht/sleigh in this fabulous coat, looking nothing like an extra from Sesame Street).

I mean, is this not the greatest coat you've ever seen?

I think we can now conclude that Piglet has definitely had his retribution for the coat-hunting, ignoring baby scenario.  And hopefully the lesson we have all learnt from this is that Mummy cannot afford the £7000 coat, and already has a considerable collection of fur coats, and not that fur coats stand above Piglet in the pecking order.  He is slightly above even this fabulous creation.

Not by much though.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Why Middle Aged Women Should Rule the World

For the last two days I have managed to get Piglet to bed at *around* the 9pm mark.  This is an immeasurable improvement on midnight, which was his previous bedtime.  It may in fact now be the case that Piglet will grow into a creature of reasonable nocturnal habits, and will not be staying up all night to play on his Playstation (are they still a thing?) all night by the age of two.

To celebrate this irrefutable evidence that I am now an uber-mother, and should definitely be crowned Mother of the Year by Mumsnet, the Pride of Britain Awards and OK! magazine (whichever of those venerable institutions has such an award), I decided to do two things.

1.) Take Piglet to Time for Rhymes at the local children's centre, and
2.) Stand up for mothers everywhere-and the disabled and mobility challenged-by taking both Chiltern Rail and London Underground to task for failing to provide a place to swipe one's oyster card at the step-free entrance at my local station, which for reasons of protecting the guilty, shall remain nameless (Wembley Stadium).

Neither of these were entirely successful.

Time for Rhymes was actually brilliant.  I loved the songs and toys (tambourines! Drums!  Every bit of the percussion section at the back of the hall that we weren't allowed to touch when I was at infants' school!) more than Piglet, who mostly just sat on my lap staring into space while other, bigger babies toddled up and tried to poke him and their parents cooed "ooh, look at that tiny baby!  I'd forgotten how small they were!" I also liked the fact that the staff were so nice and informative.  And then, upon lifting Piglet from my lap as I told a member of staff that I thought he needed changing and asked where the baby change facilities were, I discovered that not only did he need changing, but I did too, as the poo had seeped right through his nappy, covering the stylish dungarees (very Prince George) that I had lovingly dressed him in that morning, thinking that such an occasion merited proper big-boy clothes, rather than the usual daily babygro, and the stylish dress that I had lovingly clothed myself in, thinking that I was going to be a trendy yummy mummy and the envy of all the other mothers at Time for Rhymes, rather than my usual daytime uniform of milk-stained pyjamas.

"This doesn't usually happen!" I squealed at the member of staff, terrified that she was going to think I was an unfit mother and ignoramus who couldn't put a nappy on properly.  I then spent ten minutes running back and forth to the pram, which had been left in the buggy park outside (thankfully hadn't been stolen.  The amount of time I spend worrying that the pram will be stolen is ridiculous. I love that Bugaboo almost as much as the baby) fetching the spare babygro and nappy bags, and dealing with a screaming, poo-covered Piglet.  Sadly, although I had the facilities to clean the baby, my organisation did not stretch to cleaning myself, and I spent the remainder of Time for Rhymes, and the not-inconsiderable journey home, with three huge poo stains on the front of my dress.

Could have been worse I suppose.  At least it wasn't the back.

My second fail of the day came when I ventured into Central London (always a test of endurance) to meet a friend and fellow mother (look at me, drinking coffees in Regent's Park with my fellow mothers and talking about motherhood!).  I had decided to take the train rather than the tube, as the nearest tube station to where I was going (Baker Street) was not step-free, and being a caring, sharing sort, I didn't want to lumber the great British public-who already largely despise me for procreating if the number of people who moved seats to get away from a squawking Piglet and I on the Jubilee Line yesterday is anything to go by-with the headache of feeling obliged to assist me on the stairs with a lumbering pushchair.

This would be fine if it were not for the fact that the train station in question (Wembley Stadium) has no oyster card reader at the step-free entrance which, I might add, is some distance away from the main entrance with the card readers.  This led to a particularly fraught journey with a screaming Piglet last week when I had to walk all the way around from the step-free exit to the main exit just to swipe my oyster card to avoid being charged a million pounds.  Thanks Transport for London.  Thanks a bunch.

I'd just like to take a moment to point out to my fellow Londoners here that if Transport for London do cut the vast numbers of jobs they've been threatening, other stations will go the way of the wretched Wembley Stadium, as being an unmanned station there is a) never anybody there who can help you with anything and b) nobody at any other stations ever understands why you were unable to swipe your oyster card/purchase a ticket as they just assume it's a normal station, with a kiosk and turnstiles and everything, instead of just a random unmanned and un-gated platform which happens to have a few trains stop there occasionally, and have a go at you and imply you are a moron for being unable to see where to swipe oyster card/purchase ticket despite the fact the ticket machine is not working and there is nowhere to swipe oyster card.  Angry point made.  I shall continue.

Anyway, last time I used this station I had to leave Piglet with a random middle aged woman (risk assessed as being of the demographic least likely to kidnap Piglet or allow him to have some terrible accident in my absence) so that I could run up a huge flight of stairs to swipe my oyster card.  Today, however, the only other people at the station were middle aged men, which I considered a less favourable demographic and so decided to press the little button on the platform for information.  This led to a long conversation where it took ten minutes to explain what the exact issue was and then the man on the other end of the line had to go and speak to his supervisor to see if he could find out if anyone knew if there was somewhere to swipe the oyster card that did not involve walking up a flight of stairs.  At that point, the train came.

I then had to explain to someone at Marylebone why I had not swiped said oyster card, which met with the inspired response "you need to swipe your oyster card.  Now you're going to be charged loads when you swipe your card here", although he did at least let me through the barrier, saying I should speak to someone in the tube station about it as oyster card readers were Transport for London's business and not theirs.  I then went to the tube station to explain the situation and to politely request that they install a card reader at the step-free entrance at Wembley Stadium, only to be told again that I should have swiped my oyster card, despite the fact that I'd already explained multiple times why I was unable to do this, and that this was Chiltern Rail's problem and not theirs (why was the rail service ever privatised?  WHY?  Not only this, but the logo was much better in the old days) When I explained that I had already spoken to Chiltern Rail and been told to speak to London Underground as they are the ones with the oyster card readers, I was accused of being, and I quote, "ignorant."

On the way home, I was still so angry that I couldn't face Marylebone or Wembley Stadium or the whole situation, and got on the tube at Baker Street instead-the station I had been trying to avoid due to its many steps.  I was immediately asked by a middle aged woman who reminisced about when she used to have a double buggy and couldn't go anywhere if I needed assistance with the pram.  Moral of the story: middle aged women rule.  Men who work at stations do not.