Down with the sickness

MceraI’ve experienced worry plenty of times. I’ve worried over whether I’d pass my driving test (no, no, no, no, yes); whether my car has enough petrol to make it to the next garage (always except once); whether the dentist would need to extract all my teeth following an eight-year absence (not even a filling).

Last night, I experienced a new level of worry, wrapped up in panic and swaddled in guilt. The past few days I’ve had an unpleasant head cold and, somewhat inevitably, I passed it on to M baby.

She was sleeping in her Moses basket and had seemed fine, but unbeknown to all of us my germs were clearly rampaging through her little immune system like 28 Days Later’s Rage virus, because at around 10pm it suddenly became clear she had hit another baby milestone and developed her first ever cold.

There are plenty of sounds you don’t want to hear coming from your child’s bed: creepy horror film singing; the flap of blankets when she has finally finally gone to sleep, the spraying of sick over clean onesies, sheets and sleep sacks. You definitely don’t want to hear a panicky, wheezy, breathless gulp as your child chokes on its own mucus and briefly convinces all three of you that things are Extremely Serious and you should probably go ahead and phone an ambualnce.

But, once we realised it was actually just a cold and ruled out A&E, Beta Daddy and I spent our first night (probably first of many) tending to our poorly child. It wasn’t fun, and was punctuated by swapping rooms, retrieving the nasal aspirator (if you don’t already know, you don’t want to); snuggling; shushing, sobbing (the baby, although we did both consider joining her) and bed sharing.

By the morning, she was much better. It may take her parents longer to recover.


Coffee and tv

IMG_1927Everyone who has a baby (and indeed, people who haven’t) has a tip for expectant parents about the one infant-calming baby product you can’t be without. We were advised to get everything from bouncers to swings, playmats, Bumbos and baby-gyms, white noise machines and mobiles. We enthusiastically bought pretty much all of them and sure, some of those products have been the welcome source of quiet time and naps. Well, except the bouncy seat. The bouncy seat is viewed with suspicion and contempt and will be tolerated for around five minutes before instigating a screaming fit loud enough to make the neighbours consider calling social services.

If I had to pick a personal favourite, I’d have to say the white noise app. Partly because it was free and is very effective, and there isn’t really another baby item with those qualities. Apart from boobs.

But there was one thing nobody suggested we buy which has been indispensable. It has got us through the toughest days of having a newborn, we use it every day without fail and it brightens up afternoons when I feel like I will start screaming and never stop if I have to make a stuffed octopus dance to ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ one more time.

It’s a Tassimo machine. A sweet, wonderful caramel latte dispensing Tassimo machine. If parents-to-be ever ask me what they should buy, I’d suggest this every time. Sure, a swing might help your baby to sleep, but nothing works all the time. You know what’s there for you when the baby has decided it is the end of the world and there will never be joy or light again?



In defence of breastfeeding in public

Obviously breastfeeding in public isn’t something that should ever need defending, but unfortunately, it is. Because people still think and say really stupid shit like this and things like this still keep happening.

I won’t use this blog to share other people’s content very often, but this really deserves it. A piece by Hollie McNish about why we should never be embarrassed to breastfeed in public:


While you were sleeping


Everything I read about babies before mine actually arrived warned me that basically, I would never sleep again. Everyone I spoke to said something along the lines of: ‘yeah, you’ll be so tired that your brain will fall right out of your nostril and you won’t even care’. I read up on all the ways to get a baby to sleep – swings, shushing, swaddling, praying, piercing your own eardrums so at least you wouldn’t hear the cries any more. I was prepared.

However, it turns out M likes to sleep. Since she was about five weeks old, she’s slept right  through the night. Great, right? Well, yes, I’m certainly not about to start complaining. But a sleeping-through-the-night baby creates its own unique set of problems.

The first question everyone asks – and I mean everyone, from your dentist to that weird lady at the Co-op who touches your child uninvited – is: ‘how does she sleep?’. And those people don’t want to hear that your kid sleeps like you dosed her up on Calpol and Piriton and took her out for a drive. They want to relish in 4am sobbing that cannot be silenced and you and your partner having a screaming argument about whether it’s feasible to just shove the baby back inside. I have nothing for these people. When I say, feeling bizarrely guilty, that we get 12 hours (with me waking her up to feed, obviously. I like sleep, but I also like my baby not starving), they give me a suspicious and disappointed look and say ominously ‘well wait til she’s teething’ or ‘I had a friend with a baby like that. It exploded’.

At the baby clinic – which, if you’ve never been to one, is where you go to be judged on whether or not your baby has gained the correct amount of weight in a large room full of other people who are also being judged – the health visitors also feel inclined to check the sleep situation. Probably to look for signs that the baby is not sleeping and you are harboring thoughts of ‘accidentally’ leaving it at the clinic and going home to lie on the sofa and have cup of tea uninterrupted. Last time I confessed that we get eight consecutive hours, the health visitor at my station looked wildly alarmed and hissed ‘dear god, don’t let the other parents hear you’, as though I’d just told her I had a small yet potent nuclear bomb in the changing bag.

The other downside is The Fear. The all pervasive fear that this night will be the last night and tomorrow, round-the-clock cluster feeding/ the four month sleep regression/ possession by a teeny tiny demon will happen and sleep will be no more. I’m almost scared to say out loud that I have to wake her up in the morning in case it stops it being true. A bit like I still can’t say Candyman in the mirror three times. Y’know. Just in case.

For now, I’m going to keep being grateful to the itty bitty baby gods for every sweet beautiful night of sleep we get. That, and start answering questions about the subject with the vague yet honest ‘she sleeps like a baby’.


Child benefit


I realised the other day, that there are loads of surprise benefits to having a baby. Which since they make you poor, tired, and a user of words like ‘blankie’ and ‘sleepies’ is only fair. This is my list of my favourite post-spawning surprises; a baby version of Google easter eggs if you will:

1) Welcome to the gun show

Everyone witters on about how your body will change after pregnancy (which, actually, it might not and anyway, who cares?) but amidst all the cautionary tales of boobs tucked into socks, a tummy so stretched it could be used to gather apples and feet increasing a size (I mean really), nobody ever mentioned what a baby would do to my arms. I have used arm weights and run for years and, although it probably keeps the jiggle away, sculpted I was not. Over the last 17 weeks, I have developed the arms of a shotputter. Between holding up my lazy, can’t-sit-unassisted infant for feeds, carrying her around everywhere, lifting buggy wheels in and out of cars, pushing said buggy plus infant up hills, hefting a Moses basket up and down stairs, and generally always using my limbs for something taxing, a baby has achieved what Davina McCall and her workout DVDs couldn’t. Honestly. If Jennifer Anniston saw me in a vest, she’d be all: nice arms! And then we’d high five and possibly cause a small earthquake.

2) Precious time

If I had a free hour before having M, I’d procrastinate a bit, make a cup of tea, then lounge about watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Now, if I have a free hour, I can clean the house, make a meal, do at least one load of laundry, shower, do my make up, sterilise All The Things, write a blog, then make a cup of tea and lounge about watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Because apparently nothing increases your productivity like not knowing when, or if, you will get another free hour that day. Or ever.

3) Work it out

OK, so having a baby probably means you won’t have the time, money or inclination to go to the gym. The good news, is that it won’t matter; your day essentially becomes one long workout, as you run up and down stairs approximately once every three minutes, lift your baby (arms!), walk about seven miles to try and persuade it to nap, and generally never sit down. Unless you’re breastfeeding, in which case you’re burning even more calories just sitting there. Bottle feeding? Fear not; you’re still essentially doing half an hour of bicep curls.

4) Purely cosmetic

Man, there are a *lot* of toiletries for babies. Bath stuff, moisturisers, oils, shampoos… All of them smell glorious. It’s pretty likely you’ll accumulate a tonne, through pre-baby shopping, baby shower gifts and now-the-baby-is-here gifts. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance all the lovely products will make your baby’s skin all dry and flaky, and nobody wants an unattractive baby. So you end up using them yourself, which makes you smell great and means you don’t need to go to Boots for, like, ever. Also, you’ll never run out of cotton wool again, which anyone who wears eye make up couldn’t help but appreciate.

5) Career change

If I decide to give up PR and steal for a living, I will be awesome at it. Because nobody can move silently through a house like a person who just got a baby to sleep. I’m also great at ducking out of sight super quickly, because if a half-awake baby catches you backing slowly away from its Moses basket, it immediately becomes a fully awake baby, all coos and big, bright busy-baby eyes, even though what it actually needs, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, is a nap.

6) Germ warfare

I didn’t think this would be much of a benefit, but I’ve become that person who always has hand gel. I thought it was pretty dorky until I was at the doctors the other day and a teenager came in pale, sweating and clutching a bowl. As the Circle of Safety around him grew, I took out my gel and squeezed a barrier around M and I, a bit like you put salt down to keep slugs away. Well, I put it on our hands. Either way, we didn’t catch Norovirus, so I’m calling it a win.

That’s about it for now, although I’m looking forward to when she moves onto solids so that I can buy rusks. Not for her. Those things are basically just starch and sugar and I don’t want to fill her cute little body with all that rubbish. My body on the other hand, wants the rusks.


Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’


So, something exciting yet frightening happened today. M Baby rolled over for the first time. I was giving her a bit of nappy-free time (always risky, given our house is carpeted entirely in cream and she is incredibly skilled at projecting bodily functions right off any kind of protective surface and onto surrounding soft fabrics), and a favourite toy was just out of her reach. Instead of screaming at it in a bid to will it closer/urge me to pick it up and stop the wailing, she shuffled a bit – leading me to think, for one horrifying second, that she was going to get up and crawl – before abruptly flipping from front to back.

We were both pretty surprised, and I did little to alleviate M’s shock by squealing loudly and scooping her up for a hug – not even pausing to consider that she was still nappy-less and I was wearing my second-favourite jeans (the first-favourites already being in the wash due to a lavish spattering of baby vomit).

It’s probably pretty clear why today’s development was exciting – everyone loves a milestone – but why the fear? The fear is because this is the start of mobility and child-proofing and no more plonking M on her playmat for 20 minutes so that she can coo happily at her toys and I can make the house not look like a pack of rabid velociraptors just rampaged through it, throwing tiny, sicky clothes everywhere before exploding into a million rainbow-coloured crinkle-noise-making toys.

From rolling, it’s only a matter of time before we get to crawling, at which point I will have to start spending every waking minute preventing M from snacking on bleach I thought was out of reach, flinging herself head-first down the stairs and somehow magicking the Really Big Knives off the worktop and into her tiny clumsy baby hands. 





Daddy issues


Today’s post is inspired by this blog, which I read yesterday. It really resonated with me, because a number of times since our baby arrived, I’ve been told I am ‘so lucky’ that Mr Betaparent and I share parenting equally. Or, worse, that I’m lucky he ‘gives me so much help’. As though looking after our child were some personal project of mine that nobody would expect him to be involved in. Like my inexplicable and embarrassing Candy Crush Saga obsession.

I mean, it’s 2013. My husband isn’t a Victorian gentlemen who spends all day overseeing a mill before coming home to discipline Baby M, pay the household staff and remind me I’m not allowed a mortgage without his permission.

We both wanted a child. Both teared up the first time we saw that little potatoey lump on a sonogram. Were both equally excited (and equally terrified) about having our own little family.

The assumption that the parenting automatically falls to me does a disservice to both of us – actually, all three of us. Why would he care so little about his own daughter that he would opt not to hold her, feed her, change her, delight in every tiny milestone, every coo, every smile, every time her little face lights up just because she sees him? And why would I accept the entire, exhausting, 24-7 care of a newborn being left solely to me? When we got a dog nobody was surprised that she was a shared responsibility, but we create a baby who holds half his DNA and it’s presumed that unless he’s feeling really generous, he’ll pass on being involved. Presumably because his head should be too full of man thoughts about things like saws and hammers or accurate directions to be able to contemplate whether our baby is hungry, wet, or just being noisy because she senses the Newsroom is on and we want to watch it.

Do I appreciate my husband? Absolutely. Does it melt my heart seeing him and M Baby together? Of course. Do I feel lucky that we found each other? Always. Am I glad he still respects me after I watched both series of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and enjoyed every second? yup.

But I’m not grateful that he wants to take care of his own daughter, and I never will be. Because I think more of him than that.