December 30, 2014
We have three children, who we love etc etc, blah blah, blah. But one thing’s for sure is that none of them were planned. They were in a theoretical “One day we’ll have children” kind of way, but in fact that was meant to be four; two close together then a big gap and two more. That was as near to a plan as we had and even that didn’t work out.
I was still technically married to someone else (TTT although he’d left months before) when I collapsed and had to be rushed to hospital for an emergency operation the outcome of which was the surgeon telling me I would have great difficult conceiving. In fact he thought it highly unlikely given the state of my insides after he’d finished with them (TMI, sorry). Bit of a shocker. That wasn’t part of the plan.
So pregnancy was not anywhere on my differential diagnosis for the overwhelming fatigue I felt on our first long weekend away together – a romantic break in Paris – a few weeks later. But started to figure when I missed my period, but thought more likely to be a post operative issue. So we bought the pregnancy test and I did it before going to work. The appearance of the Thin Blue Line stunned me. I couldn’t take it in. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. We weren’t ready for this. I was still married FFS! I drove to work in a daze and had a final cigarette. Well, half of one. And felt guilty about it. Having not felt guilty for the 20 a day I’d been having up till that point. So for Number one child, the overwhelming feeling was shock. Shock and awe.
For Number two the circumstances were completely different. We were married with one small child and we’d thought it amazing that I’d managed to conceive at all, and knew we definitely wanted more than one but thought that may be highly unlikely. With the fatigue and relentlessness of newborn life, we didn’t really think about when we’d like another. I seemed to lose the baby weight from Number one and I hadn’t had a period at all since the first baby, but that was rectified once the breastfeeding reduced around Christmas and as I reduced it further, I started putting on a bit of weight . It wasn’t until I was unable to do up my jeans and felt the baby move that I realised I was pregnant with Number two. Turns out the ‘period’ was an implantation bleed so I was 19 weeks when I first went to the doctor to have it confirmed!. That feeling was pleasure at being able to have another baby and relief at having so much less of pregnancy to be aware of. Number two was born 14 months after Number one.
Number three on the other hand was another kettle of fish. When I discovered I was pregnant I was gutted. Again, couldn’t believe it. Didn’t want to believe it. But a drunken girls night with an excess of rum and coke had meant me attacking my sleeping husband when I returned home and this was the outcome (no pun intended). But this was such bad timing. We had our first holiday booked (a friend’s house in Provence) and now I wasn’t going to be able to drink. Alcohol had got me in to this predicament, but it certainly wasn’t going to help me though it. That would have to wait another nine months.
March 30, 2014
- Despite incredibly busy hospital dotcoring jobs working over 100 hour weeks, I didn’t know what tired was until I’d had continuous months of broken nights with babies
- I didn’t know what responsibility was until I had to care for someone helpless 24/7
- I didn’t know the sheer force and volume that breast fed baby shit can be generated at until I was cleaning up the back of his head after a particularly explosive episode.
- I didn’t realise how little I knew about parenting and how easy it had been to criticise others until I had to do it for myself.
- I didn’t know how to appreciate a night out properly until I couldn’t have them
- I didn’t appreciate what I put my parents through until someone did the same to me
- I didn’t realise toddlers really would pick up dog shit and try to eat it
- I didn’t realise that when the milk ‘came in’ it would feel like someone had pushed hot boulders down my bra.
- I didn’t know what peer pressure was until I worried whether our toddler should be writing and drawing like everyone else’s three year olds seemed to be
- I didn’t know what sheer joy having children could be.
January 18, 2014
I have never set myself up as a parenting guru. I have opinions which I readily share, but I have never professed to have all the answers. Or to having been a great parent myself. My mantra has only ever been to be good enough. I wish I were better, but I am not going to beat myself up over my maternal shortcomings. Life itself is too short for that and as long as things are good enough, that’s good enough for me. I learnt my parenting skills as we went along. And in terms of the baby era, it really didn’t come naturally at all. I’d had no experience of babies in terms of cousins, friends or family.Only what I’d seen on paediatric wards. Which isn’t the same at all.
So Ten Reasons I know I wasn’t a natural baby mother
- When I found out I was pregnant with our eldest I still couldn’t stop myself having half a cigarette in disbelief and shock
- We didn’t buy any clothing or equipment prior to the baby’s arrival apart from a cot. No hours in baby shops for me….
- When I gave birth to our eldest I had no rush of maternal instinct only a clinical overdrive to get the baby resuscitated and an overwhelming desire for a Diet Coke and some toast.
- I realised I had no idea what our baby looked like and feared I wouldn’t recognise him when when he was put in a ward with other newborns. Thank God for the unique forceps scar on his face and the name tags is all I can say. They could have given me any newborn boy and I’d’ve believed he was ours.
- I didn’t like the first weeks s at home with our new baby. It was waaayyyyy too stressful.Even though we were both fit and healthy. it was the whole motherhood thing I couldn’t do.
- I always resented getting up at night to any of them. I resented them crying when I was eating. Or watching TV. Or talking to friends. Or basically trying to do anything. I never felt a rush of “Aw, how lovely, I must tend to my baby, aren’t I a lucky Mum?” I was pissed off I had to put my drink down.
- I didn’t bond with our firstborn until he was about eight months old. I didn’t know what people were on about when they talked of their bliss at being a mother. I wanted more me time.
- I have previously listed what accidental physical damage I did to them over the years . That surely shows a lack of something? Attention to detail if nothing else.
- I was always SO happy when hubby, sister, parents or friends offered to have the children. Never missed them a jot. Just loved being free.
- Probably the most awful admission of selfishness and self preservation and lack of maternal instinct is when I took all three to Thorpe Park and we went on a big swinging pirate boat thing. Admittedly this isn’t a babyhood story, but it is representative. Foolishly (and with no forethought of the simple physics that means the further away from the centre you go, the wider the swing) we sat on the back row. We were not strapped in but had a bar lowered in front of us to hold on to. As it swung higher and higher I clung tighter and tighter. The children (probably about 4,6 and 7) were loving it and let go of the bar and bounced around. I realised at that moment that if one of them started falling out I would not be able to let go of the bar to save them. They were on their own. I was glued rigid and terrified. When it eventually stopped the smallest was on the floor and the other two slewn sideways and virtually lying on the seat. They’d had a ball whilst I had been crapping myself. Which is actually how the whole ‘new parenthood’ thing had been for me.
October 8, 2013
Oh the agony of choosing the first school. The angst. The middle class class stress of already thinking will it get them to Oxbridge. The leftists stress of is it abandoning principles if we go private? The liberal stresses of is it being racist if we don’t want to go to a school where they’ll be a minority? The right wing stress of wondering if all the council-estate children will be doing drugs.
Ah yes, we do well to be reminded of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot for daring to go to school. We West London middle class parents get het up about minor fluff, – the possible differences between two or three reasonable schools – whilst others have no education at all.
But of course that counts for nowt when you actually come to put your darling first born’s name down for a school. Which one does one choose? I had been to two primary schools; one in Scotland, one in Wales. No more than 100 pupils in either school. No dark skinned faces. Everything was pristine in 1960s rural primaries. And so it was that I walked in to the local school that was apparently where lots of nice people sent their children. Being able to walk to school was one of the key requirements of a primary school for me so that once they got to 8 they could walk home on their own and start getting some independence.
The first school i went to see was easy walking distance but a bit further than the not-so-nice-a-bit rough-round-the edges-one that was just round the corner. I felt at home straight away. It felt like where I had been to school. And I had forgotten how small the desks and chairs are. It was like walking in to Gulliver’s Travels.
I had got no further than the hallway as I tried to find the school office when a teacher came bustling towards me. “You can’t come in here with them,” she told me, “You’ll have to leave them outside.” You might be thinking I had brought a couple of Alsatians with me. Or some exploding fireworks or other health hazard, but you’d be wrong. She was referring to my two children who were with me. One aged two (as we were looking for him to start Nursery at 3) and his baby sister who was one. “We’ve come to look round the Nursery,” I explained. “I did call ahead and was told to come now.” “Yes, but you can’t bring the children. Have you not got someone you can leave them with?”she asked,
I didn’t really feel there was much point in going any further. I couldn’t believe it and took against the school in that instant. It seemed children were not the number one priority and she would have been happy for me to leave our children unattended outside whilst I was allowed to come and see the Nursery. No thanks. Hubby did go to the Parents Q and A evening which only confirmed our decision not to apply there as he said there was far too much emphasis on private tuition and homework for these tiny bubs. He didn’t think we would find it reflected our vision of school being about having a good time in those first few years.
In contrast, I went to try to visit the rough school round the corner and walked in to a building. Two children came up and asked me if i needed help and directed me to the Headteacher’s office. Another child held the door open for me on the way out. There was noise and laughter and a lot of brown faces. It seemed like this would be good enough and it’s where they went.
Yes, it wasn’t the best school ever but it did have its strengths in some great teachers a a celebration of diversity.
They all learnt to read and write and did songs and poems and plays. And we met lifelong friends there. All of us, not just the children.
I still think home is the most important factor during those early school years. The advantage of having parents who read with you, or talk to you can’t be underestimated. The early years at school are as much about socialising and conforming as they are about reading and writing. And I think if you get a good feel for the place when you walk in; that the endeavour is right and it has a heart, then that’s half the battle. Where it is in the league table may be more a reflection of its intake than the ability of the teachers.
And anything they don’t learn at primary can easily be caught up in the first few years of high school if you are above average intelligence. Which, you may remember one of ours was not thought to be. ,
October 5, 2013
In the last couple of posts I have related how I traumatised the girls at various points by my less than perfect parenting. But of course the eldest didn’t get off scott-free by any means. In fact he bore the brunt of it as I learnt, slowly and painfully, what it meant to be a parent.
I went through the Top Ten Physical Traumas I put the children through here , and my tipping him out of the pram and dropping him so he knocked a tooth out are already listed. But one that isn’t in the previous post probably shows me in an even worse light, but unfortunately it shines a ray of truth on what it can be like with two under two. There is just over a year between the first two and so once the newborn could sit up by herself, bathtime was much easier as I plonked them in together. They both enjoyed the water so it was not a tearful or difficult time usually.
The airing cupboard was in the hallway outside the bathroom and one evening I had got eldest out of the bath and wrapped in towel and realised I didn’t have a towel for darling daughter. So I popped out of the bathroom for one second your Honour. The airing cupboard was literally opposite the bathroom door. But as soon as my second foot had left the lino the son slammed the door and locked it. It was one of those locks that has a thumb dent in it that you just slide across. I didn’t know he knew how to do it. And sure enough he couldn’t undo it.
Trying not to panic, I asked him if his sister was alright. He could barely talk, was only just walking and his sister is six months old sitting in a bath of water. This was a nightmare. He just couldn’t open the lock. My biggest fear was his sister drowning. All it would take would be an overbalancing and that could be it. So I asked him to pull the plug out of the bath. I could hear his sister gurgling and splashing so all was well as far as I could tell. And good lad that he was he pulled out the plug. I heard the water going down the plughole and hoped to God he hadn’t put the plug back in before it had drained completely.
But he couldn’t unlock the door. I couldn’t break in from outside as partly I was terrified of knocking the lad out on the other side and i could hear they were both OK so didn’t feel the need for ultimate heroics. But I couldn’t leave the hallway to go and get help as that would have meant leaving the children. And of course there were no mobile phones back in the day.
The baby was probably cold but at least she wouldn’t drown in an empty bath. Luckily it was not long before Superhero Dad came home and he did force the door open (relatively easily as I remember) and all was well with the world. Hubby disarmed that lock and put one up high out of reach of small fingers so that it couldn’t happen again. Not that I would have been stupid enough to make the same mistake twice.
But really that wasn’t just me traumatising him. He had a part to play in it by locking the door. And to be honest it was more my angst than his as he was seemingly oblivious.
But there was another bathtime that left him scarred for life. Again with his baby sister and they are happily playing when suddenly a huge turd emerges from the deep and floats on to the surface next to him. He jumped up yelling and pointing “Georgina! Poo!” as it moved towards him like a monster. She was smiling with that satisfaction a good dump brings.
It took him a long time to trust her in the bath again.
October 3, 2013
Every Friday our kids would go round to their best friends’ house after school and their Mum would childmind them. It was ideal for me knowing they were in safe, capable and loving hands whilst I went to work. And every evening I would knock on the door and be greeted with a swift rum and coke and likely have to be entertained by some dance or show or whatever that they had been rehearsing for hours beforehand. It was usually just the girls but occasionally the boys would join in too.
It was a lovely era where the kids were all at primary school, all being fed around the kitchen table and I just waltzed in and would have a chat with my mate and a drink until it was time to take them home. As it was every time I did it, i would pile them all in the old Merc estate and drive off. The car was great. It had been our next door neighbours’ and hubby bought it for me as a birthday present. It had about 200K on the clock and went like a dream. And it had little seats in the boot you could put up to make it a seven-seater. Perfect when each of your kids wants to bring along a mate. But of course not needed when it was just me and the three. But they loved them as they sat staring out at the traffic behind.
Anyway, one Friday I called round to Coldershaw road as usual and after another blistering showstopper, hurried the kids out to get home. I think I may have been going out later or have people coming round so was in a bit of a hurry. The kids were probably aged about 5. 7 and 9 and well able to get themselves in the car. The doors slammed and I drove off. Only to hear the two eldest shouting “Mum, Mum, stop! Natalie’s not in!”. I couldn’t compute. I’d heard the doors shut. How could she not be in? But sure enough, I looked in my rear view mirror and there was my baby, thrown out on to the road as I had driven off. She’d been climbing in through the boot and was about to sit down and pull the boot down on herself when I’d accelerated away. Whereupon she’d gone flying out backwards.
Luckily she wasn’t hurt, Only shocked and completely incredulous at my negligence. They still remind me of it to this day.
August 3, 2013
I have blogged before about the shock of becoming a parent, but the Royal Birth brings it all flooding back. especially as she looked so calm and beautiful standing outside the Lindo wing a mere 24 hours later. In contrast I still hadn’t managed to get dressed for the first three days, let alone have the confidence to hand small baby over to hubby in the glare of public spotlight. We never did that without ensuring there was a soft landing underneath for the inevitable slippage that we envisaged during the first weeks.
For the first one, I came home on Day Four feeling physically OK. Shellshocked. But OK. And brand new babies (really really new) still sleep lots so I was in what I would later realise was the initial week to ten days of a honeymoon period.
The next day I woke up and thought “Who the fuck put these boiling hot boulders in my bra?”. I looked down to see what the text books say is the milk coming in. What they don’t tell you is how bloody painful it is. Until then baby had been feeding on the protein-rich colostrum that we produce before milk starts up. But now the milk was well and truly in. I was lucky with being able to feed relatively easily, but the downside was that it seemed constant. I would let him feed until he fell off, bloated like a tick. Whereupon he would be so overstuffed he would throw up and want to start again an hour later. It was a nightmare circle that I seemed unable to get out of without my husband helpfully taking him off me and walking about with him.
I was delusional about what ‘demand feeding’ means and was gripped by the fear of him crying, my not feeding him enough and basically being an all round shit mother.
It is an exhausting and crazy time after you have your first. Especially if you are used to being in control. Suddenly this 8 pound monster is dictating your every move. So I give new mothers my
Top Ten Tips for “Feeding on Demand”
- Get comfortable. The best way to increase milk production and all round satisfaction is to relax. Hahaha. Easier said than done when one is as tense and stressed as its possible to be. Use pillows to prop yourself up, lay the baby on them on your lap. Whatever it takes to try to be comfortable.
- Stick your nipple in till you think you’ll choke them. They work the milk in to the nipple by squeezing the ducts around it rather than the nipple itself so they need to get a good gobful. You won’t smother them with the rest of your boob as they’ll roll their head back and let go if they can’t breathe. They’d have to be trapped for their to be any problem.
- Keep them chomping at one boob for at least 10 minutes so they get the benefit of the ‘hindmilk’ which is fattier and more satisfying than the initial milk produced which is a thirstquencher.
- Every squeak doesn’t mean they need feeding. Despite what all the baby books say, every time they cry doesn’t automatically mean they need feeding. It’s the only real noise they can make after all, so it’s used for everything. For hunger yes, but also for cold, heat, damp, need a poo, poked my own eye, just feeling grumpy, feeling tired, didn’t want to wake up yet, what’s happenin, and fancy a cuddle.
- Demand feeding allows you to make demands on the baby too – it’s not all about them having total control. So you can decide that you won’t feed more often than two hourly. Or three hourly. Or four. And that way when you do feed them they will be hungrier, suck harder, get more hindmilk and be more satisfied so sleep for longer between feeds.
- Some babies will always suck when given the chance. It doesn’t always mean they are hungry. they might be ‘comfort sucking’ – the equivalent of thumbsucking. they’re not interested in the milk as food, just the nipple, the warmth and the cuddle as a rather enjoyable experience. And who could blame them?
- Watching pap TV with your feet up and a cup of tea is actually working when you are breastfeeding as it increases milk production. The more you run around the less milk you make hence why babies are often most satisfied by their first feed of the day as it’s had great hindmilk production overnight. Come late afternoon and mum is ragged from running about the milk is less gold top and more UHT. So don’t give yourself a hard time for watching daytime TV or reading crappy magazines – it helps.
- Don’t just pull baby off the breast – they have created a vacuum by sucking so hard and it will hurt like fuck if you do. So stick your finger in their mouth to ‘break the seal’ and then pull baby off.
- It does get easier. Sometimes my boobs would feel like they were literally going to burst and the relief of feeding was indescribable. These wild ups and downs of production do calm down with time.
- Getting up in the night is hard hard soul destroying stuff. Especially if, like me, you seem unable to put him back down in the cot without him bawling. I had to learn point 4 the hard way – that every time he cried didn’t mean I had to pick him up and start again. It meant he’d rather liked where he was and didn’t fancy being on his own in the cot. Give him a few minutes with a hand on him and he would go off. Or hand him to hubby who would somehow make it miraculously happen.
- Don’t beat yourself up about your inadequacies. You’re tired and emotional. It’s bloody hard work. It’s relentless. But in a few weeks it will seem less poleaxing and things will start falling in to place and feeding will get easier and you will realise not having to sterilise bottles and all that crap is actually a blessing. Obviously if you have decided not to breast feed don’t beat yourself up over that either.