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Doing time

Mtears

So, a while ago, someone sciencey worked out that putting babies to sleep on their backs considerably reduced the risk of cot death. Great! But as a result of being on their backs so much, babies missed out on developing their little muscles and tended to develop flat patches on their heads. Clearly this made finding hats to fit a nightmare, and reduced the amount you could ask a baby to carry, and so: tummy time was born.

Fucking tummy time. 

Books, websites, midwives, everyone will tell you how vital tummy time is. What to Expect: The First Year (WTETFY) says something like: ‘Tummy time is essential for your baby’s development. Think of it as her first workout! If you skip it, your baby will get a big old Spongebob Squarepants head which she won’t be able to hold up anyway because her shoulder muscles will be so weak she’ll be slumped over like a 15th century sailor with rickets. Also, she will die’. 

The problem, is that nobody told babies how important tummy time is. Babies actually don’t understand tummy time at all, and the one thing they know about it is that it’s seriously fucking awful. Literally the worst thing that has ever happened to them. They’re pretty keen to share their feelings on the subject with you, and obviously the best way to do this is to scream uncontrollably the entire time. Preferably until they vomit, lift their head up to scream even louder about the vomit, faceplant gracelessly back into it and draw on previously untapped reserves in order to scream louder still. 

WTETFY actually has a section on ‘what if your baby doesn’t like tummy time’, but it basically just says ‘do it anyway, or your baby will explode and everyone will think you’re the worst parent ever. Worse than David Cameron that time he left his kid in a pub‘. 

So, every day we do tummy time. M is almost four months now, and we’ve just reached the stage where she will lie peacefully and do things like lift her head and wiggle her arms for up to five minutes before dissolving into the kind of hysteria normally displayed exclusively by people who have just received awful news. Like the fact they have to make their baby do tummy time.

It has got a little better with time, and I’m hoping this will continue. I guess it has to, because otherwise, Martha will one day be a flat-headed 20-year-old incapable of doing yoga or getting an even tan. And nobody wants that.

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Best day of my life. Right?

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So, everyone knows that the day you give birth is the best day you will ever have. It’s the day you bring life into the world. The day your perspective abruptly shifts and the person you have created becomes everything to you. The day you display the inside of your vagina to a room full of strangers while you force a human head out of it and make noises like a sack of angry pigs being smashed against more pigs. Yeah…

The thing is, the day I gave birth wasn’t the best day of my life. It was the most significant and emotional, and I’ve never felt anything like the rush of love when the midwife laid M’s tiny, perfect body on my chest, but it wasn’t the best day. It wasn’t rainbows and kitten wishes coming out of me, it was a person. I was exhausted, in pain, scared and overwhelmed. I was spaced out on pain relief, so sweaty my hair was standing out around my head like a basket of lively snakes, had just shouted at my poor worried husband to ‘stand less close to my face’ and really felt like there was a good chance my whole lower body might just tear in half.

Best days are ones of fun, freedom, excitement, happiness and indulgence. The best day I’ve had would be my beautiful wedding; maybe the time I touched down in New York for the first time; the day my husband and I picked up the keys to our first home; the day M gave me her first smile. All the days we’re yet to have with her. 

I’d go through labour again in a heartbeat. I’d go through much worse if it meant bringing my baby in the world safely. I love M with a scary, bottomless love and becoming a family of three has been the most profoundly wonderful experience. But if anyone asks whether the day she arrived was the best day of my life, I’ll still tell them no.

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Funny business

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So, M Baby has been close to giggling for ages. She’s almost had it, and has given us quite a few joyful squeals – a bit like a very small pterodactyl might sound – but a real laugh has eluded her. My Google searches have gone from ‘when baby laugh?’ to ‘make baby laugh’ and ‘why baby no laugh?’, phrases which I cannot help mentally lending a thick Slavic accent to when I read them. You’re doing it too now, aren’t you? 

Despite repeatedly trying out the suggestions discovered by my searches (peekaboo; raspberries; tickling), the baby remained unmoved. Although I did amuse myself by trying to recreate the accent in my head out loud and sounding like a rubbish (if child-friendly) Bond villain.

Today, however, she finally managed to join the dots and let out a huge, delighted, throaty giggle. It was, without question, the best thing I’ve ever heard. You’re probably wondering what it was that finally tipped her over the edge. Funny faces? Nomming on her nose? Tickles? A rendition of Baby Got Back?

No. I pulled a onesie over her head. I can’t say I get the joke personally, but I laugh at the interrupting cow joke every. single. time, so who am I to judge?

2

To feed or not to feed?

MboobOver the past couple of weeks, you’d have to have been living under a giant boob to have missed the story about Stephanie Wilby, a mother from Manchester who was kicked out of a swimming pool for feeding her baby in the water.

I breastfeed and I’m a feminist (I can make Daily Mail journalists explode in a shower of tiny St George cross flags just by looking at them), so I’m all for public feeding. I find it mildly depressing it’s an area of debate at all and have fed my baby at the doctors, my office, restaurants, shopping centres, parks and assorted other places where I risk offending the kind of people who like to start sentences with ‘I’m not racist but…’ and were outraged by Paedogeddon. I have no boob shame. I was raised by a mother who fed me for an amount of time which would please the WHO. I’ll feed my baby wherever and whenever she is hungry, and honestly? I want someone to challenge me on it. (Although so far, I’ve had exclusively supportive experiences. How dull).

But. Here’s the thing. I don’t think we should breastfeed in swimming pools. Not because my milk or my baby’s sick might get in the water. I mean really. If you go to a public pool and think you can not swim in strangers’ hair, skin flakes, pee, discarded plasters and snot, you’re gonna have a bad time. Certainly not because it’s indecent. Please. And not because lactating is a bodily function, and if we do that in public, then we may as well just shit wherever we please. I’d like to offer the people who think this a shot of milk and a shot of shit and see which they choose. 

No, I don’t like the idea of feeding in a pool because it’s gross for my baby. I don’t want her there sucking chlorine off my nipple, head bumped by passing turds as she suckles, while someone with a verruca does laps next to us and I silently wonder if the water is harbouring Legionnaires Disease. I’m not a paranoid parent, and I don’t genuinely believe feeding my daughter in a pool will make her ill. But it’s just… unpleasant. Breastfeeding mothers have frequently had to argue against suggestions we feed our babies in public toilets. Isn’t a pool a bit like a giant public toilet that you swim in?

I will fight my own breastfeeding battles; I’ll join others in theirs. But this isn’t something I see the point in fighting for. 

 

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About the ultimate top ten horrifyingly gross things nobody told you about pregnancy and birth…

When I was pregnant, I read a lot of articles, blogs and forum posts about all the gross stuff that happens to you when you grow a baby inside you and then have to get it out. I was desperate to know exactly how gross things were going to get. I was obsessed. If I wasn’t reading about the way my body was going to turn against me in a festival of bodily functions – most of them involuntary and in public – then women who had already borne children were telling me about it. 

Most of this information was imparted in a sisterly I’m-telling-you-this-because-nobody-else-will-girlfriend tone. I willingly sought it out, because when my body erupted in a relief map of stretchmarks and I did a poo in front of a room full of midwives, I wanted to be prepared. 

So now that I’m done gestating and have successfully fitted a head out of my vagina, I shall pass on the baton. Here are my own ultimate list of horrifying things you need to know about pregnancy and birth:

1) Firstly, stop scaring yourself by Googling lists of stuff which are going to happen to you. Pregnancy and birth is a different experience for everyone. Sure, Janet-from-the-office’s feet increased two sizes and never went back, and her oesophagus prolapsed out of her anus, but that doesn’t meant it’s going to happen to you. Honest. 

2) Don’t believe everything you hear. I know, right? Like people just go on the internet and lie. I mean, I’m not for one second suggesting that your friend Stacey didn’t entirely lose bladder control the last trimester and develop acid reflux so severe it burned right through her throat. But sometimes, people exaggerate. It’s worth bearing that in mind when you’re frantically Googling ‘will I really poo during delivery’ and ‘anal prolapse childbirth’ and not finding anything you want to read.

3) It might be better than you think. Really. None of the things I worried about actually happened to me; no stretch marks, no pooing in labor, no loss of bladder control. The six weeks of uncontrollable geyser-like bleeding I was promised post-partum? Sorry guys, more like a good old regular period. 

4) No matter how much time you spending reading up on – and worrying about – things that might happen, your body can still surprise you. I didn’t experience one of the things I’d wasted a significant amount of time worrying about, but what I did experience was five days of prodomal labour. I remember lying in the bath at 2am, trying to distract myself by thinking about tearing off my own face, and thinking ‘huh. Well I didn’t worry about this happening’.

5) It actually doesn’t matter how gross it gets. Really. Some of the stuff you’ll hear about will happen to you, most of it probably won’t, but it doesn’t matter either way. Firstly, birth is always at least a little gross. Sure, I didn’t poo, but I vividly recall being on all fours, looking down at my baby’s emerging head, catching sight of the mat underneath me and thinking ‘what in the name of holy fuck is that?’. At least poo is familiar. Seriously though, I spent way too long worrying about embarrassing stuff potentially happening to me. I could have used that time for all kinds of things I don’t get to do now, like eating with two hands or watching tv with both my boobs inside my top.

Secondly, no matter how horrifyingly gross everything does get, you do get a baby at the end. That’s worth trading a little dignity. Even if it might not feel like it when you have to stop on the way to the hospital at 1am and do a wee in the carpark of a church because your contractions make you feel like absolutely everything is going to fall out of your body.

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Two little lines

IMG_1106_2It was almost exactly a year ago that I discovered I was going to have a baby – the ball of cells that was frantically multiplying in my womb 12 months ago is now an actual, tiny, life-altering person. It still blows my mind that I grew her inside me from sex and food. Mainly trifle.

I got married in August 2011, started a new job in July 2012, and knew exactly when I wanted to start trying to get pregnant: December 2013. If you’re astute, you’ll have noticed it is August 2013, and I just said in the last paragraph that I already have a baby. It turns out that you can say ‘but it’s not possible to get pregnant the day after your period’ all you like; it won’t make it true.

It occurred to me one day at work – this would be at work at my new job, the one I’d had a handful of weeks – that my period was late. Two weeks late. Well, obviously, I thought to myself. I mean, starting a new job is a big deal. Clearly the stress has affected my cycle. That’s a thing right? But just to be sure I decided I’d buy a test on the way home. That way, I could relax and do things like drink cocktails and operate heavy machinery with impunity.

I picked up a bargain two pack of tests, along with a bottle of wine for later, went home, and tried to minimise the amount of wee I got on my hand. The box said I’d get a result within three minutes, but there were already two lines in the window by the time I went to put the cap on. Which was weird, because the box said two lines meant pregnant. Hm, I thought, the test is probably faulty. A little while later, I took the second test; equally faulty. So, wine still unopened, the husband and I trailed back to the shop for a proper pregnancy test. A short time later, having urinated on my own hand for the third time in one evening, I was holding a little stick with the word pregnant on it. Well, I thought to myself, either there’s a particularly cruel saboteur working at the pregnancy test factory, or I’m about to get a lot fatter.

Fortunately, our baby was a wonderful surprise. Better than the time my parents got my brother and I a Gameboy for literally no reason. Well, at least as good as that. The baby – Martha Ottilie – is now 14-weeks-old and an actual tiny person with likes (milk, pulling her daddy’s hair, experimenting with how loud she can cry) and dislikes (grown-ups eating a meal with both hands, tummy time, napping at convenient times).

I’ll be using this blog to write about everything from being showered with poo (the baby’s, guys, it’s not that kind of blog), to parenting issues. Stick with me; it might get better.