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.