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Design for life? Not really

1395985_10152002343192674_1628056030_nIt’s become clear that the people charged with making shit for babies have a big problem. This problem, is that they’ve never seen a baby. Or if they have, they’ve seen them exclusively in those creepy renaissance paintings where babies are just ugly, quite small adults. There’s no other explanation for the number of items which actually hinder the already fraught process of keeping a baby alive.

I like lists, so here are a few of the most egregious examples:

1) The Lamaze Octotunes Octopus and other baby toys.

Now, I love the Octopus. I do. He is impregnated with the scent of vanilla, you can play chopsticks on him, and his rainbow colours delight M. Also, his tentacles are delightfully phallic. So much so that we call them ‘cocktacles’ and have named him ‘cocktopus’. The only problem is that what M really wants to do is honk his cocktacles for herself. But she can’t, because they are formed from some kind of steel/plastic composite. Seriously. You need the strength of ten creepy renaissance babies just to illicit the tiniest squeak. It’s cool, because M is happy enough just squeezing and biting him, but still. If you’re creating a noise-making toy for babies, consider creating one babies would not need to triple their bodyweight to have a hope of making noise with.

2) Bath seats

I’m pretty sure the bath seat was actually designed by a baby which wanted to make it easier to consume its fill of bathwater and bubbles. Sure, the bathseat frees your hands to clean your child without having to hold it with one hand and shampoo it with the other (a process much like I imagine applying body butter to an eel would be). But it also gives the baby added freedom, which doesn’t seem such a good thing when it is vomiting soapy water down its clean onesie and you have to put it right back in the bathseat and start the whole cycle again.

3) High chairs

Have you ever looked at a chair designed to hold a child with the hand-eye coordination of a drunk chimp and thought ‘wow. It would be so great if this thing had loads of creases and folds in the seat so that little morsels of food could get trapped and even when you’ve cleaned them out 9,000 times, somehow food remains. Also, add webbing straps, because they are fun to clean’? You probably haven’t. Well the people who make highchairs have.

4) Snow suits

If you ever wanted to experience handling limbs which are simultaneously alarmingly fragile and overwhelmingly strong, try cramming a writing six-month-old into a snowsuit. For added fun, do it in front of an audience of strangers in somewhere like a coffee shop. They will enjoy discussing how you are probably going to accidentally kill your child for a long time after you leave.

5) The grocery basket on prams

Or my pram anyway. Seriously, what is this, a grocery basket for ants? Unless you are Victoria Beckham, this basket is not large enough to carry your groceries. I tried to fit a sandwich and a can of coke in it one time and it basically exploded.

6) Anything with buttons

Initially, your child will be too floppy for buttons. They will be on the back of all its adorable little clothes and your child will scream when you lie it face down so you can do them up. Eventually, it will become strong enough to support itself while its buttons are fastened. At which point it will begin wildly rolling, squirming and thrashing around as though you were trying to light it on fire the second you try to clothe it in anything at all.

7) Mittens

Mittens perform one function: getting lost. Hypothetically, they are capable of keeping your infant’s hands warm, but nobody has ever kept a pair long enough to confirm this.

8) Hairbands

‘Oh wow, this is so useful for keeping my newborn’s really long hair off its face’, said nobody ever. The one advantage to these things is that they are slightly more tasteful than drawing a vagina on your baby to remind everyone its a girl.

3

The crying game

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This post is inspired by another blog, which is very funny.

Everyone knows babies cry. Even if you know nothing about babies (and I knew terrifyingly little the day I incorrectly jammed ours into her carseat and drove her home the first time), you know they cry. What’s amusing about babies, in the same way the government’s decision to introduce the bedroom tax is amusing, is the enormous range of reasons they cry. It’s as though there was a conference to which all babies were invited, where they decided it was important that at least once per day they cry for long enough to convince you they might be about to die.

I’m lucky, as M isn’t really too bad when it comes to crying. She’s actually pretty upbeat. However, when she does cry it still feels a bit like a teeny tiny siren screaming ‘you’re the worst parent EVER’ over and over again.

To try and make it feel slightly less like a form of loud, slow torture, I sometimes commit to memory some of M’s sillier reasons for having a meltdown. And so, here is a list of things which have made my baby cry in the past week or so:

*I changed her nappy
*I would not let her put a used nappy in her mouth
*I dressed her in a snowsuit (because it was around two degrees outside)
*I put her in the Jumperoo
*I took her out of the Jumperoo
*I would not let her put her hands in poo
*I put her in her carseat (correctly)
*the dog barked
*She latched onto my upper arm and it did not dispense any milk
*I dressed her
*I undressed her
*I wouldn’t let her pinch her own thighs
*She needed a nap
*She did not want a nap
*She apparently just felt like a cry
*I stopped singing ‘Wind the Bobbin up’
*She finished her banana
*I wouldn’t let her tear the paper animals out of ‘Dear Zoo’
*I left her with the dog while I went to have a quiet cup of tea and watch Homes Under the Hammer
*Just kidding.

9

Know your enemies

IMG_2899I previously blogged about the unexpected benefits of having a baby. This post is sort of the antithesis of this. It’s about some of the things you come to hate or dread as a result of having a child.

1) Ask not from whom the bell tolls

Call me narcissistic, but I’m fairly sure I’m secretly the star of my own version of the Truman Show. Somewhere, a group of producers are sitting in a room watching everything I do and setting me challenges. I imagine them sitting round during my daily ‘get baby to nap’ task, shouting stuff like ‘can we ramp up the volume on the baby?’ and ‘we need to increase the nap-resistance level’. Then, when the baby is finally sleeping, they send in their big gun; the post lady. No matter what time I elicit a nap from my child
, the post lady immediately turns up and starts shoving stuff I don’t want anyway through the door. Naturally, the dog assumes this is how she is going to die and begins hysterically barking. Thus, I have come to hate the post lady. See also: window cleaners (judging by noise levels, it appears ours washes the windows with rocks and a banshee), Jehovas Witnesses (there’s actually never a good time for them to call), charity collectors (who have apparently realised it’s harder to avoid them on your doorstep than in the street), and just about anyone else who knocks on doors uninvited.

2) Packet in

When you change your baby (something which happens on average 7,000 times per day and definitely every time you want to leave the house) you usually end up using baby wipes. I’d never realised changing a baby was particularly hard until I tried to hold down a squirming infant, take off a dirty nappy, replace it with a clean one, tie up a nappy bag, remove anything within reach (like the used nappy) lest the baby shove it greedily into its mouth, shoo the dog away and minimise the amount of poo transferred to soft furnishings, all within about a seven second window of time. Often to a soundtrack of indignant screaming. What would make all this fractionally easier would be if packets of wipes would dispense just one of their moist little rectangles. But no. Apparently the people who make the wipes feel a suitable number to release at once is approximately 64. Sixty-four being the total number of wipes within most packages. They emerge as one giant clump, leaving you furiously trying to shake one free, while shouting things like ‘you little moisty bastards’ and not realising that your child has now got poo on its feet and is kicking everything within reach, including the rug, the dog and your shins.

3) The Doors

Doors always seemed pretty innocuous before I had a baby and a buggy. Now, any time I go to places like shops, leisure centres, or any other type of public building with protection from the elements, I have to choose between me or the baby getting lightly smacked by a tonne of wood and glass, because without the use of witchcraft, it is not possible to hold one of those things open while also manoeuvring through it a car-sized travel system, nappy bag filled to cover any eventuality including space travel, collection of Bags for Life and the toy the baby chooses this moment to fling enthusiastically to the ground. I definitely have a newfound appreciation for anyone who holds a door for a stranger. And automatic doors.

4) Onesie Direction

I don’t know who decided the best item of clothing for a tiny little person who needs changing 164,000 times a day was an all in one suit covered in miniature sized press-studs. But that person can eat a jar of fucks. I’m sure anyone who has sat in bed at 3am on the verge of tears because they just realised they’re trying to button their wailing baby’s legs into the arm holes will agree.

5) Dog eat dog

I actually love my dog. I do. But a dog and a baby aren’t always a fantastic combination if you enjoy things like ‘staying sane’ and ‘not having animal homicide on your criminal record’.

This is how I’m fairly sure my dog’s thought process goes:

We are out for a walk with the pram…
OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THOSE WHEELS! THEY LOOK SO MUCH FUN, ALL SPINNY AND SHIT. I’M JUST GONNA PUT MY FACE CLOSE TO THEM. AND MY PAWS.

I am changing the baby…
OH MY GOD, EVERYTHING INVOLVED IN THIS PROCESS SMELLS SO GOOD. I NEED TO BE AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE. WILL MY HEAD FIT ON THE CHANGING MAT? CAN I LICK THE BABY?

The baby has fallen asleep…
FUCK! THE BABY IS ASLEEP! THIS IS AWESOME! LET’S CELEBRATE WITH A CACOPHONY OF BARKING!

I am breastfeeding the baby…
THIS LOOKS SO. MUCH. FUN. CAN I GET ON YOUR LAP TOO? CAN I HAVE MILK? OHMYGOD, THE BABY JUST THREW UP ON THE CARPET! MINE! I WANT IT!

The baby’s toys are out on her playmat on the floor…
HEY! HEY! LOOK HOW MANY TOYS I CAN LIE ON AT ONCE! THIS IS AWESOME, RIGHT? LOOK, I CAN ROLL ON THIS RUG THING TOO! WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING?

6) And the rest

This has got rather long, so I shall summarise by saying there are a number of other things I have grown to hate, including but not limited to: kerbs; the Calpol syringe, which was apparently designed as some kind of Krypton factor washing up test; clothing which does not stretch/unbutton for feeding; people who take parent-and-child spaces yet do not have a child; regular-sized parking spaces; the clunking noise the car seat makes when it unclips, making it impossible to transfer a sleeping child from car to house; the lullaby the Jumperoo plays; the lullaby the cot mobile plays; the lullaby the bouncy seat plays; writing blog posts that ramble on when I should probably be doing something more productive.

2

Feminist quandry

602072_10151966454087674_246089574_nSo, I’m a feminist. Emphatically, vocally feminist, albeit not quite to Germaine Greer’s standards, having never fancied tasting my own menstrual blood. Really Big G? Really?

But while according to G I’ll never be truly emancipated, it doesn’t stop me disliking the gender division which starts happening before a baby is even born. We chose not to find out M’s sex at the 20 week scan, partly because I like surprises, partly to avoid a well-intended deluge of pink/blue trucks/princesses according to the results.

Quite a lot of people – many of them strangers who struck up a conversation in the queue at Boots as I bought my 17th bottle of Gaviscon that week – were surprised by our decision. Apparently you cannot plan for a baby’s arrival if you don’t know whether to buy it clothes with trucks on or clothes with princesses on. Obviously you could not just buy clothes with trucks on anyway, because if a girl baby wore something like that, its vagina would just fall right off.

Pretty much as soon as I discovered I was pregnant, I knew I was having a boy anyway. I was totally confident that when the nine months were eventually up, the midwife would inform me: ‘it’s a boy!’, at which I would smile smugly and say: ‘well of course’. We actually ended up discovering Beta Baby was a Martha not a Noah a few minutes after she was placed on my chest. It was the moment I realised that any intuition you may think you have as a parent is almost certainly wrong.

Throughout pregnancy, despite my conviction I was growing a boy, I insisted that if I did have a girl, I wasn’t going to force her into conforming to tired old gender stereotypes. ‘She will wear dungarees’, I said. ‘I am not dressing her exclusively in pink’, I added. ‘And especially no fucking tutus’, I claimed.

But then I actually did have a girl. And I started looking at all the little girl clothes. The weeny little dresses. Mini leggings. Tiny cardigans with fricken glittery thread. Tights, lace, bows, ribbons, floral prints and oh-my-god-the-cutest-fucking-tutus. And my baby needed a tutu. She did! Her vagina would totally fall off without one.

So M has the girliest of girly wardrobes. Pinks, corals, ruffles, weird ballerina mice which are inexplicably everywhere, pinafores, sparkly stuff and yes, a tutu. A pink, layered, flouncy, sugar pink tutu. But she also has dungarees, pirates, blue, a batman outfit, bear suits, and dinosaurs.

But I’m ok with all the over-the-top froth. Because ultimately, feminism is about choice and freedom. As long as M grows up knowing her options never have to be limited or defined by her sex, then a tutu isn’t going to do her any damage.

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Not-so expensive taste

1442_10151957348152674_628671788_nThe fact that babies require constant entertainment and new parents will pretty much buy anything if you throw the words ‘aids development’ into the product description has led to an apparently bottomless market for expensive toys which manufacturers claim will help make your baby better than all the other babies its age.

These toys are approximately the size of a family car but, unlike a hatchback, they have to be inside your house. If you’re thinking ‘oh no, that means I wont have room for my tv any more’, don’t worry. They make so much noise that you wont be able to hear your tv anyway. The person who creates the noises for baby toys apparently made a pact with the devil which enabled him or her to fabricate a sound so grating it will make you think wistfully about forks scraping on plates or that time Katie Price and Peter Andre had a song.

One of the most popular of these plastic, light-up, electronic-sound-making monstrosities is the Fisher-Price Jumperoo, which starts at around £75.

We recently bought one for M, hoping that she’d enjoy it, but moreso that it would buy us ten minutes here and there to do things like eat or check Google for stories about Jumperoo-related baby deaths.

Fortunately, it’s more of a success than the baby bouncer. Last time I tried the bouncer she immediately tore down the visually stimulating toys, tried to fit the toy arch in her mouth, then, upon realising this would not be possible, screamed until I removed her.

However, while she does love the fact the Jumperoo lets her jump up and down without our help, she has so far entirely rejected all of its toys, regardless of how much they spin, bleep, flash, and generally behave like a teeny-weeny Vegas strip.

No, M has three things she likes to do in the Jumperoo: 1) bash anything within reach with a £2 wooden worm I bought at a garden centre 2) sit transfixed by an old Coke bottle filled with water and glitter 3) crinkle and suck on pieces of greaseproof paper.

If we have a second baby, I think I’ll just save the contents of the cardboard recycling bin, tip it on the floor and chuck the kid in the middle of it.

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The Great Baby Paradox

mbigsmileI’ll be honest; I’m one of those people who loves my job. Not in a pretend-you-like-it-to-your-boss-but-actually-it-makes-you-die-inside way. No, I genuinely love it.

I work here, doing PR-related stuff. I’ve previously worked here, writing about local news, and here, mostly writing about motorbikes and diggers. But I like what I do now best by far.

I get to go back in the new year and I’m definitely looking forward to it. But as much as I want (and need) that part of my life back, I’m also dreading missing a single second of M. Dreading only getting a few hours a day with her. What if she says her first word or takes her first step for someone else? Or forgets who I am? Or develops abandonment issues and ends up dealing drugs or running away or voting Tory?

That’s the funny thing about having a baby though. It seems to create endless paradoxes.

Getting M to nap is one of my primary concerns. I’ve become one of those sinfully boring people who sticks to (and talks about) a routine. But at the same time, as soon as she’s down, part of me wants to wake her up so I can cuddle her and sniff her and kiss her fuzzy hair, and try and get her down for her next nap.

Then there’s the length of the nap itself: there is a very fine line between ‘oh dear god, how are you awake? I JUST put you down, do you have coffee in there? Redbull? What?’ and ‘Oh god. You’ve been asleep so long and are so quiet you have almost certainly died. Clearly you and a burning eagle are locked in a swirling deathgrip and I just didn’t hear anything over the baby monitor’.

Or there’s the milestone paradox, whereby I simultaneously am desperate for M to be doing all the stuff my weekly email from babycentre says she should be, yet I also look wistfully through her boxes of outgrown clothes every time I have to add something to them, and wish that she’d be a teeny little newborn again.

There are many, many more which I could list (‘Really? Poo again?’ vs ‘Why haven’t you pooed?’ or ‘Let’s have time for us as a couple’ vs Now we’re alone, let’s talk about baby poo’). However, the baby is sleeping, which means I have to go obsess over whether her sleepsack might have magically unzipped itself and migrated over her face and smothered her.

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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.