Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth...yeah right!!!

My daughter is teething at the moment...these are the times I will have to forget in order to even consider having more children.

It is a hellish experience for all of us. Not one of us has slept properly in the last two weeks and my lovely smiley little girl has been replaced by a sad, miserable little lady.

As a parent you spend most of your time trying desperately to protect your little ones from anything that may harm or hurt them, so it is heartbreaking to watch your child go through this horrific experience, knowing there is little that you can do to help!

Her little cheeks are blazing red, her nose running, her bum sore and her temperature is sky high. She is so sleepy but she can't get comfortable enough to sleep. 'Calpol' is the only assistance we have in this seemly endless battle.

Who would have thought that teeth could cause all these problems! All we can hope for is the speedy appearance of the teeth that are causing her so much grief and then maybe we will have a small rest-bite period before it starts all over again.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Never count your chickens...

I am here to talk about that elusive subject of sleep, once again!

Having this week experienced some of the most disruptive snooze time since the newborn days, I can say with all certainty that where babies are concerned you should never 'count your chickens'.

Just when you think that finally, after nine months of sleep deprivation, your little one has started to sleep through, something will come along to disrupt the whole thing and you feel like you are right back at the beginning.

Emily has been suffering with a terrible cold and it has wreaked havoc on our new established routine. There have been nights where she was falling asleep at 5pm and we would finally put her to bed at 6pm only for her to be awake again an hour and a half later. There were the nights when we couldn't get her down until 10pm and my all time favourite, the nights where she would wake at 1am and I would struggle to get her back to sleep before 5am. Needless to say I was a wreck by yesterday! Having had something of a small breakdown at 3am Thursday morning my wonderful partner decided to take it upon himself to get up this morning and look after our little one so I could get some extra snooze time. Bless him, he didn't realise that would mean rising at 6am. By the time I came down at 9.30am he looked like he was ready for bed again.

She seems to be over the worse of the cold now, although I fear another tooth may be emerging so we could be in for another bumpy ride tonight. For now though she is asleep and I am hoping that it last just long enough for me to watch the live episode of Eastenders tonight. It's the small pleasures you know!

Monday, 15 February 2010

A baby is an angel whose wings decrease as his legs increase...

Gavin and I spent months willing Emily to crawl, waiting with baited breath for the moment she would reach that next milestone of development. What were we thinking?!!!

Within the space of six weeks my daughter has learnt to crawl, pull herself to standing, sit down and cruise the furniture. Nothing is safe or sacred anymore!

Babies have the innate ability to hone in on the most dangerous or expensive items available to them. Toys do not hold their interest anymore. They want to put their fingers in plug sockets, pull DVD's off the shelves, smash their little hands into picture frames, chuck mobile phones and TV remote controls across the room after they have bashed them a few dozen times into the coffee table first, of course. I spend all my days running around after her, continually repeating 'no Emily, do not touch that'. These pleas fall on deaf ears, she just throws me a cheeky grin and proceeds in her attempt to stuff the aerial cable in her mouth. She won't sit still for any longer than about 2 seconds and her daddy jokes that she has only two settings, on and off!

From the moment that she wakes until it is time to go back to bed she is constantly crawling and climbing. Her little eyes scanning the room, looking for treasures that she can explore. You have to be quick, you have to think on your feet, be forever anticipating her next move. You build towering fortresses around your precious items in a lame attempt to protect them. Everything of any value is piled high on the only available surface that is out of her reach. Ikea living just wouldn't work with a baby, you don't do 'low down'.

All in all I am totally exhausted, nothing new there though. All I can say is thank goodness we no longer have a VCR player. Although I can't say the same for all the inviting buttons on the sky box, oh well when was I going to get time to watch last nights episode of 'Glee' anyway!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Emily and her daddy...

What can I say about Gavin, my partner? He is a man of few words when the football's on and many when it's not!

We go way back, about 14 years to be exact. For one summer, the summer of '96, we moved in the same social circles. These chance encounters would be how and why we ended up together 14 years later. When I moved to London I felt a little out on a limb. A girl lost in a big city. And a very kind mutual friend invited me out to dinner and Gavin was there. After that night we got talking and arranged a second meeting but with just the two of us. It was never meant to be a date but that was just how it worked out. That night I made the decision to stay in London, I had been considering the option of packing up and leaving but that night, because of Gavin, I fell in love with the city. Not long after that night I fell in love with Gavin too.

His kindness and his courage are some of the things I love. He rarely complains when I am at my most difficult and he loves me inspite of all my neuroses! I know that friends and family see my strength and my courage but Gavin see my vulnerability and my insecurities and he understands that these are all a part of who I am. You take the good with the bad in any relationship and it works both ways. I never claimed to be perfect but neither did he.

I know that he thinks that I wonder whether he stayed with me out of responsibility and I would be lying if I said that the thought hadn't crossed my mind on occasion. However our own insecurities will always plague us and threaten to destroy what we have! The truth is that he loves me and Emily and he stays because he wants to be here.

He is a wonderful father, encouraging and engaging. He adores Emily and she him. In fact you only have to reflect on what her first and favourite word is to know this fact. Da da!!! All day every day, Da, da, da, da!

Friday, 12 February 2010

The value of a man resides in what he gives...

Traveling when pregnant can sometimes be a chore. In fact any movement in the later stages of pregnancy is a huge accomplishment. You can waddle back and forth (and trust me you will waddle) but you get tired just climbing the stairs. So imagine having to travel across London every day when you are 7/8 months pregnant! Will the silly lady in the corner please stand up!

As I previously mentioned I was living in London when I fell pregnant and that meant an horrendous daily jaunt across London to get from my flat in the the NE to my job in the SW. 3 hours a day spent moving from bus to train to tube to train will ensure that you end up with ankles four times their normal size!

So what did I learn from my experiences, apart from the fact that you should never drink a large de-caff latte just before you board a train with no toilet, I learnt that there are four types of fellow travelers.

Type 1: The gracious traveler
These lovely types (mostly woman in my experience) will immediately move or offer their seat to you. They will do this without the need for a great show or making you feel like it is an inconvenience to them. They will simply smile and point to the now empty seat. You are extremely grateful to them.

Type 2: The reluctant traveler
These people will begrudgingly give up there seat, but only after about 5 minutes of watching you stand, gripping on for dear life as the train hurtles from stop to stop. These types will huff and puff as they make a grand gesture of moving to allow the pregnant woman to sit down. 'Look at me fellow commuters, look at how gracious I am giving up my seat for this woman. You should all be ashamed making her stand' Never mind the fact that you yourself just made me stand for the last 5 minutes!

Type 3: The distracted traveler
This is the traveler that avoids eye contact at all cost, they are not giving up their seat without a fight and even though they clocked you getting on at Waterloo they will feign interest in anything but you, just to avoid having to move. My boyfriend delighted in telling these types to move, especially when they happened to be in the priority seat. They would look all shocked and surprised as if to say 'my goodness I was so caught up in this article about the increasing price of fish that I didn't even notice the lady stood right in front of me, her bump practically touching my nose'. Personal space goes out the window when you are traveling in London, I have been closer to some people on the tube then I would consider decent in the first few months of a new relationship!

Type 4: The selfish traveler...that is surely going to the bad place when they leave this mortal coil!
These last types are the worst of the worst, they are the people that will push past you to get the last available seat. 'Never mind that her need is obviously greater than mine, I am getting that seat. If I have to move heaven and earth and flatten a pregnant woman in the process'. And yes these types, although rare, really do exist.

Please don't get me wrong, I never assumed for a moment that I should be entitled to a seat just because I was with child. However common decency should suggest that you sacrifice your own comfort for the comfort of those that are less able then you. I know I always have done and besides what is the point in living if we don't raise our heads every now and then to take a look around. Let the world in and for goodness sake just give up your bl**dy seat, don't be so obtuse!!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

With a little help from my friends...

I remember reading an article about how motherhood will change the dynamics of your closest relationships, in particular your friendships. It categorised your friends into different types but there were three that stood out to me, because I could put names to those types.

The friend that has already got children, been through it all before you and knows the score! This would be my friend Debbie, we have been friends since we were 15 and she has a beautiful 10 year old daughter Michelle. Debbie has experienced the highs and lows of motherhood and is more than willing to share her experiences and advice. She is the type of friend that provides the re-assurance that you need, the assurance that you are doing a great job and she has the understanding that only comes from personal experience. She delights in spending time with my daughter knowing that she can hand her back and go home! That she no longer has to struggle through those endless sleepless nights that seem to fill the first few years of your child's life. But remember Debs, Michelle is on the verge of adolescence, her teenage years are looming and new challenges await you. And I will want to know, in great detail, how you dealt with it all in 'ohhh' about 13 years time!

The friend that is experiencing what you are experiencing, sleepless night for sleepless night, nappy for nappy, dirty bib for dirty bib. The new mum.
That would be my new friend, Theresa. We met at Ante-natal classes, brought together by our impending motherhood and our visibly huge bumps. Although there were many mums at that group she stood out as one that I would like to be-friend. And so when I bumped into her a few weeks after her son was born I took the opportunity to arrange a 'new mothers' meeting. We have since formed (what I would like to think is) a strong friendship based on our mutual inexperience. We share all the latest new mum gossip and never bore each other with the minute details of what each others child has discovered or learnt. I am so grateful for her friendship, as I don't know how I would have survived the last 9 months without it. I know that she will always understand when I yawn, that she will never roll her eyes when Emily cries and that she will completely and without hesitation sympathise with every single insecurity I have no matter how small or insignificant it might seem to others.

The friend that has not yet had children herself but falls as instantly in love with your child as you. Last but by no means least is my lovely friend Sarah. Sarah and I met 5 years ago in my child free days when we both worked at Nottingham University. We were united in our mutual love of shoes, shopping and Frankie and Bennys. Our friendship grew into something special and has remained through her leaving the University, me leaving Nottingham and now the birth of my first child. We have shared many secrets and tears, wine fueled nights of fun and the invariable hangovers that follow, various relationship break ups (mine and hers) and whenever possible the odd shopping trip, well okay quite a few shopping trips! Sarah will openly admit that she has never been the biggest admirer of either animals or children but a change has come over her lately, not only does she now have a cat!!! She has also fallen head over heels in love with my beautiful daughter and has even broached the subject of children of her own! And if you knew Sarah like I do, you would realise just how monumental this is, especially the pet cat!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

These quiet moments make my day, we must never let them slip away...

My days are so full that I rarely have time to stop and think. Quiet moments are few and far between and with the ever increasing activities of my daughter they are becoming rarer and rarer.

However there is a time of day that I cherish, it is my favourite time. Bedtime. And not for the reasons that you may think.

For a few minutes every evening, once my daughter is changed and ready for bed and her bottle is cooling. I sit with her on my knee, her head snuggled into my chest and rest. Planting little kisses on the top of her beautiful head I take in her wonderful baby smell and enjoy the time we have together. She is so active now, that during the day cuddles have become a thing of the past. She doesn't want to sit on mummy's knee, she wants to crawl and climb and explore. But just for these few minutes every evening she will indulge me, too tired to fight or frantically struggle for freedom.

She contently sits, grasping for my hand, her little fingers entwined with mine and we are at peace with each other.
These are the moments that I live for, among all the excitement of new discoveries and watching her grow and change, tied into all the tears and tiredness are these wonderfully quiet moments and they are perfect in their simplicity.

The belly rules the mind...

Feeding a baby will take up the majority of your day, whether they are newborn or weaned!

Emily currently consumes three meals and three bottle a day. That makes for a whole lot of shopping, preparing, cooking, washing and sterilising. Plus you have all the pressure of trying to create a varied and healthy array of culinary delights for your little one.

There are two schools of thought on weaning, parent lead and baby lead. Parent lead means that you prepare meals and will spoon feed them to your little one. Baby led means you
allow the baby to feed themselves and they decide how much they do or don't eat. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. I have opted for a nice combination of both. Some of Emily's meals are spoon fed to her and some I allow her to wade into fingers at the ready.

Baby lead is by far the messier of the two options, but it's great for the baby because they get to experience lots of different textures with their fingers. Apparently it can also make for less fussy eaters later in life. Although I don't know if this theory has been proved sufficiently. I love to watch Emily feeding herself, so try as much as possible to prepare meals where this is possible, crumpets, toast, fruit, cheese, baby rice cakes, pasta shapes, roast potatoes and chunks of meat (chicken, turkey, lamb etc...) and other such finger foods. However there are times when I am making something for myself that I know she will enjoy so I mash it all up and spoon feed it to her, potato with cheese and beans, Sweet potato with some cream cheese, wetabix or porridge with banana, noodles with cheese or veggies, mashed up carrots, parsnips and broccoli. And I am yet to find a baby that could eat yoghurt without the need for a spoon but if you know of any please send pictures or videos that would be hilarious!

I think you have to find your own way and your baby will let you know when they don't like something, normally by refusing to eat it or throwing it around the room! Best advice is try it, if you like it they might. Just avoid too much sugar and salt, as they are not baby friendly.

I am extremely lucky because there isn't much that Emily won't eat, she is definitely a big foodie like her daddy :)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Better to remain silent...

...and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

There are certain things that you should never say to a pregnant woman, here are a few of the worst. Learn them, know them, never say them or fear the wrath of the one with child!

Wow you are massive: No pregnant woman ever wants to hear this, no matter how true it may be. Of course we are massively, enormously huge...we are carrying a our belly!! 

Was it planned? Firstly mind your own business and secondly what does it matter, it is wanted and loved and that's the most important thing. 

Will you be getting married (only applies if you are not already married, obviously). We may, we may not but what does that have to do with having a baby? We are not living in the 1950's you know.

Are you sure you should be eating that second bacon sandwich, you will only regret it later when you are trying to lose your baby weight? Do you have any idea what I have given up for this baby already? No drinking, no smoking, no caffine, no soft cheese, smoked salmon or smoke meat, in fact pretty much all my of my favourite foods. Pi*s off and stop raining on the only pleasure I have left, beside haven't you heard the phrase eating for two?!

It could be twins you know, it happened on 'Friends', the scans might be wrong the other one might have been hiding. Hey maybe it's triplets, ha, ha, ha. 
 Are you serious?! Why are saying this to me? What is wrong with you, do you hate me or something? Listen the thought of pushing out one baby is scary enough, why are talking about the possibility of more than one?!
(Turns to phone and makes a quick call to her midwife) "Do you think I could get another scan, just as a precaution, no, but you are absolutely sure that there is only one baby in there, right?"

Just some of the little beauties that I had to endure.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

To sleep perchance to dream...

According to my mother I was born tired!

Sleep has always been one of my favourite pastimes and I think people that state, 'I'll sleep when I'm dead', obviously have no appreciation for sleep and the pleasure that lies therein, they also, clearly do not have children! Having Emily did not bode well for me in the sleep stakes.

I may have experienced minor bouts of sleep deprivation when I was younger, partying all night and then going straight to College or work the next day but trust me they were short lived. So nothing and I mean nothing could have prepared me for the tiredness and exhaustion I encountered after Emily was born. Sleeping would never be the same again.

A baby is not born with the ability to distinguish between night and day, this is something that is learnt. And once it is learnt it can very easily, on a whim, be unlearnt. Or at least temporarily forgotten. There is an art involved in getting a baby off to sleep and one that most will learn the hard way.

You will feed them and rock them, you will sing to them, you will pace back and forth while you cradle them in your arms willing them to sleep, you will cry, they will cry, you will wind them and change them and by this time they are hungry again and so you must go back to the beginning and start the whole process all over.

When you are pregnant you spend so much of your time, naively talking about what you will never do after they are born. 'we won't let her sleep in our bed', 'we will never give her a dummy', 'we will only ever allow her to sleep in her moses basket' but at 3am when you haven't slept for days and you have rocked the moses basket until your arm has gone numb and finally dropped off, you'd do just about anything for some sleep, you'd sell your soul and everything that you own just for some sleep. So you cave, you put them in your bed, forcing your partner into the spare room again. Stick a dummy in their mouth and listen to them contently sucking away snuggled into you as you drift off to sleep. And if you are lucky, if the gods are smiling down on you, you could get 'ohh' at least a whole 30 minutes of beautiful, wonderful, blissful sleep before they wake again!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Please don't shoot the messenger

When you first find out that you are pregnant there are any number of people wanting to impart their knowledge and experiences on you, from your mother to the lady who sits next to you on the jubilee line to Waterloo. Some advice will be helpful, some confusing and some just damn right strange! There are a few things that seem to slip between the cracks though, truths that are never told. So here are a few things that I have learnt so far...

  • You will probably not sleep for the last few months of your pregnancy, this could be due to any number of factors. Heartburn, jumping legs, an overexcited baby bouncing around in your belly or just the fact that you are so big and uncomfortable and fed up!

  • A hot bath will not help with your contractions, they are excruciating. The only thing that will help is drugs and lots of them. I have a lot of admiration for mothers that choose a natural childbirth and even more admiration for mothers that have no choice.

  • Yes there is a very high possibility that you will poo whist giving birth but trust me by the time you get to the pushing part you will no longer mind nor care. In fact by the time I got to that stage the hospital could have marched a brass band through my delivery suite and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid, I just wanted her out!!!

  • That once you have gone through 25 hours of labour everyone will leave you holding the baby to go home and sleep. Maternity wards are the noisy places on earth where resting is impossible. Even if you are luckily enough to have a sleepy baby, there will always be the woman in the next bed who is not so lucky. Book a private room if you can, it would be worth every single penny!

  • Explosive poo, nobody told me about this and yet it is a common occurrence! Take plenty of nappies, wipes, and spare clothes with you wherever you go because when it happens and trust me it will happen, it will be everywhere. Down their legs, up their back, across their stomach, you name it and it will have poo on it...yuck!

  • There isn't a stain removal product on earth that can get out the stains that are produced as a result of babies food going in or coming out, trust me I have tried pretty much all of them.

  • That a baby will be born with the ability to vomit, wee and poo simultaneously and all over you and that BT will choose that exact moment to call trying to sell you some long distance call plan or wanting your comments on their customer service. Another phone bites the dust!

  • That your baby will vomit directly into your mouth at least once in the first few months. That is an experience that will never leave you, no matter how hard you try to block it out!

There are many more that I could mention but my aim is not to frighten, merely prepare any potential mothers, pass on my useful knowledge and experiences! It's like a rite of passage, once you have had the life altering experience of pushing a person out of you nothing is sacred anymore and everything is up for discussion.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.

When my daughter was born I fell instantly in love with her. I remember my partner and I gazing at her for hours as she slept, so peaceful and content. Beautiful!

After 25 hours of labour and a further 12 hours of sleeplessness lying in a hospital bed we were allowed to bring her home. My partner and I drove back to a house full of family all as amazed and as instantly in love with her as we were.

You can't believe that they are finally here after all those months and blurry images on the ultra sound. You always knew they were a real person but you never really believed it until they were in front of you. I didn't sleep for the first 3 nights after she was born. I just dozed, waking about every 20 minutes to check that she was still breathing.

You feel this overwhelming need to protect your new baby and you can't quite believe that someone has allowed you to take them home and has entrusted you with the responsibility, because honestly we didn't have a clue.

We stumbled our way through the first few days, weeks, months. Lost in a sea of dirty nappies, sleepless nights and dawn choruses. My life consisted of 2 hour intervals between feeds, night and day ceased to exist.

I struggled with my raging hormones as did my partner, who regularly got the full force of my emotions. I could go from laughing and smiling to sobbing in a matter of minutes! The house was upside down, piles of dirty dishes, mountains of washing, nothing in the fridge except a big 6 pinter of milk for all the cups of coffee that were sustaining us. We lived on take-away food and meals that were cooked and delivered to us by fantastically supportive family.

There were times, in the early days, when we felt that we would never get the hang of this new routine, that we would be forever late for every occasion that we managed to make it to and that it would always take us at least three hours to get ready before even attempting to leave the house. However nine months on and we have got it down to a fine art. We are only late half the time now!

In truth the house is still as messy at times and I am forever wading through a sea of dirty and clean washing, an endless cycle of laundry but somethings are easier now. We are not so clueless anymore, at least about the stuff we now understand which is enough for now. Life is about learning and that was never truer than with your children. What we don't know we will figure out because when you don't think it is possible to love your child any more than you already do, they do something new and amazing and you fall in love all over again! Which makes all the sweat, tears and sleepless nights worth it.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

And in the beginning...

Less than two years ago I was single, living in London looking forward to celebrating my 27th birthday. And now I am engaged, have a 9 month old baby daughter and will be moving into my first mortgaged property in a months time. How did it happen?

Well the usually way, girl meets boy, they go out on a few dates, fall in love, go on a romantic break to Ibiza and accidental, in the heat of passion, conceive their first child...right?! Oh no... just me then!!

My daughter Emily was born on the 22nd April 2009, only 12 months and 20 days after my first official date with her father.

To say I was shocked when I found out I was pregnant would be an understatement, the test was only ever meant to be taken as a reassurance, a reassurance that my late period was just that, a late period. Four months is an incredibly small amount of time to spend with someone before deciding to raise a child together. However I am a firm believer in taking responsibility for my actions and luckily so was Emily's father.

However don't think for a second that everything was or has since been plain sailing. There have been quite a few hairy moments, arguments in the wee small hours that could have made us or broke us. That's what they say, or at least it's what my mother has always told me, a baby (or children) will find the cracks in a relationship and split them open into such gapingly, wide holes that you would struggle to see the other side with a telescope. I now, finally, understand what she means.

A baby will take you to the very edge of your sanity and just a little bit beyond. They will test your strength, courage and endurance. They will try to break you in any number of obvious and not so obvious ways and they will do it all because they know no other way. This reality will send you spiraling into the self doubting, forever forgetting, completely disorganised phase that is the next ... years of your life. Where your social life or spontaneously passionate sex is a thing of the past. You will remember with fondness the days when you could shower in peace, get a good 8 hours of undisturbed sleep and sit down to enjoy a lovely meal that doesn't result in indigestion because you had to eat it so quickly.

So is it worth it? In the words of Mr BIG 'Abso fu*king lutely'. My daughter is my saving grace, she is the person that I was always missing but never knew. She is the most amazing gift and I am the luckiest person in the world.

However it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do! So if I can share my experiences with the world then it might help to make others feel like they are not so alone or at the very least it will help me to let it all out once in a while. Must go now, the baby monitor is starting to light up which can only mean one thing...