Things I have learned in my baby’s first year

mooTwelve months is a strangely flexible amount of time. It’s one fifth the amount of time I once accidentally paid for mobile phone insurance for a phone I no longer had. It’s around 24 times longer than a packet of hairgrips lasts before somehow evaporating forever. The twelve months my baby has been alive seem to have simultaneously passed in the amount of time it takes to say ‘didn’t I just buy hairgrips?’ and the amount of time it appeared to take your mum to have a conversation with a friend she met in the street when you were a small child.

Sometimes I miss the floppy, squidgy, dependent newborn stage. Always, I’m delighted by M doing something new. In the past week alone she had stood unaided, said ‘ball’ for the first time, started making kissy noises and learned to imitate monkey sounds. All extremely valuable skills which will serve her well as an adult.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. Some I’ve retained. Most will terrify me with a fresh and vigorous terror whenever we have a second child.

Here, in a list sure to be essential reading for all new parents, are some of the things I’ve discovered since my husband and I first looked down at our freshly minted child and wondered how the fuck we were supposed to buckle it into its car seat.

*You can clean pretty much anything with baby wipes. The baby, the floor, the highchair, yourself, the packet the baby wipes come in that is somehow permanently sticky
*Someone needs to invent a range of baby toys that look like channel changers, small rocks, things that fell off the dog, carpet fluff, coal and bank statements. Because fuck the brightly coloured wooden shit you bought; this is the stuff your kid really wants to play with
*You’ll waste a lot of time worrying. But your kid will probably be fine. It was only a small rock it just swallowed after all. Really though, if you break your own ‘no sugar before two’ rule, nobody will die
*You won’t get everything right. But that’s fine. And how were you supposed to know your kid would choose the precise moment you took your eyes off it to get your iPhone to learn how to roll twice in a row and tip itself off the sofa?
*No matter how stupid you think the thing you’re googling is, enough people will have previously googled it for it to autocomplete
* Someone will always think you’re doing it wrong. That’s alright though. Because there are lots of ways to do a good job of being a parent but your way is the best way and everyone else is going to break their kid
*You might not always meet your own expectations, but your baby probably won’t explode because one time, when you were so tired you stood in front of the dishwasher for ten minutes looking for the ‘defrost’ function, you decided to give it an Ella’s Kitchen pouch and a handful of Cheerios for dinner and let it watch Peppa Pig
*Just when you think you can’t possibly love your child more, it will wrap its arms round your neck , tilt its face up for a kiss, say a new word, drift off to sleep in your arms or do something else so overwhelmingly adorable that you realise the amount you loved it up to this moment was woefully inadequate.


A guide to nappy changing, as told by a seven-month-old

changecryFor reasons nobody knows, parents really like changing nappies. They do it at least six times a day regardless of how much you protest (sidenote: actually more if you attempt a dirty protest).

These people will drop everything for the chance to take off all your nice warm clothes and leave you freezing cold and exposed on the changing mat. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing: eating, talking, playing with those weird little light-up boxes that I REALLY want, getting ready to leave the house – they will drop everything if they decide you need a clean nappy. So far, I’ve been unable to determine what set of circumstances lead to them deciding a new nappy is needed, but it seems like the more urgently they need to be somewhere, the more likely they are to want to change you. Berks.

So, anyway, I’m not saying I’m a nappy-changing expert, but in my seven months I’ve already been changed about 9,765,043,654,209,810 times. Along the way, I’ve learnt a few things which I think other babies will find pretty helpful.

Firstly, the second they put you on the changing mat, start screaming. This alerts the parent to the fact you do not wish to be changed. Mine don’t listen, but I scream anyway. Surely they will one day get the point. Ideally, the screaming should be maintained throughout the changing process. It gets a little tiring though, so make sure you save some energy for nap-time screams.

Once you’re on the mat, they will start to undress you. This is when you want to start getting in a little exercise. you’ve probably discovered your limbs by now. Maybe you’re rolling, you might even be crawling; whatever you can do, do it. Do loads of it. Thrash your tiny arms, flip yourself over, arch your back, kick them in the face. Whatever. You know you’re doing it right when they end up pinning you down with one hand, trying to wrestle off your tiny little weird-necked vests with the other, and muttering things like ‘for fucks sake’ and ‘Jesus christ, you’re like an octopus’.

The next step is grabbing. The one good thing about changing time is that it requires a shitload of stuff. All of this stuff is stuff that you cannot have but really really want. Ideally in your mouth. While your parents are distracted by trying to remove your 9,000 layers of clothing, grab whatever you can. Talc is great. Nappy cream is awesome. The nappy they just took off you is the holy grail. Try to fit whatever it is that you’ve got in your mouth.

Now, you won’t be able to keep whatever it is you grab. Your parent will notice, say something like ‘shitting fuck’ and snatch it away. However, this affords you a valuable opportunity to get your feet inside the nappy they just took off. You’ll probably have done a poo, so get some of that on your heels and just kick them about madly like someone is trying to set you on fire. The aim is to make contact with as many soft furnishings as possible.

While they try to clean up, make the most of not having a nappy on. All that padding is pretty restrictive, so it’s an ideal time to have a big giant wee all out in the open. Although be careful: if your parents are not feeling lazy, urinating all over yourself will result in a full bath. Don’t even get me started on those bizarre torture devices. Although I will quickly mention that bubbles may look delicious, but are not.

By this point, you’ll pretty much be changed (hopefully you remembered to scream uncontrollably throughout the entire process). Your parent will be sighing with relief and thinking about cramming you into your car seat so that they can go somewhere silly like ‘work’ or ‘a doctor’s appointment’ or ‘baby group’. Show them that you’re in charge by either vomiting a load of milk down your clean outfit or doing a poo. Sure, it means they have to change you again, but it’s worth it.


The crying game


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.


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?



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. 





Learning curve


When you have a baby, there are lots of things you need to learn very quickly. Like how to safely hold your brand-new floppy infant, a clean nappy and a change of clothes, while also stopping milky sick running down your arm and onto the carpet. Or how quickly you get over the fact that the dog licking up milky sick is ‘gross’ and just appreciate having one less thing to clean up. 

I found I had lots of knowledge gaps, particularly at first. I didn’t know about cluster feeding; I didn’t know infants don’t really interact with you at first; I didn’t know you were supposed to sterilise baby toys before using them, or that while you might think a baby can’t literally cry all night long, it probably can.

Yesterday however, my husband revealed my favourite knowledge gap yet. Our daughter had decided to enthusiastically decorate the side of her Moses basket with a particularly big mouthful of milky sick. Busy feeding her, I suggested he pop it in the washer. He dutifully got hold of the basket and said confidently: “the whole thing? Wooden bit too?”. I paused for a second and looked at him, waiting for him to crack a smile and reveal he was winding me up. He was not.

And that was the day he learned that no, you cannot put wicker in a washing machine.