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Nursery Nitpicking

cartoon_classroom_smallI had thought that since having the baby my spreadsheet days would be over but here I was tabbing and colour co-ordinating away over Ofsted ratings and prices. The hunt for a nursery had finally begun.

With Mishty being a few months old I was already late in my search. I berated myself over my lack of efficiency at not doing this from the moment of conception. Now there were no places available for when I went back to work and I was potentially facing a lengthy childcare problem. I doubted whether anyone would notice if I turned up to work three months late but this seemed like a slightly risky solution.

Determined to get into a good nursery, I booked us in for some tours. The first one was an immediate hit with me – it was nearby with parking, security was tight, cleanliness was militant, the staff were nice and knew how to speak grammatically, there was a lot of structure and a behaviour chart which I liked the sound of. Above all, it had a vegetable garden and offered halal sausages for lunch which made me happy. Hubby managed to overlook all this and dismiss it because the toys looked worn.

The next one we saw was set on a cricket ground and we had some difficulty finding the place. We went to the wrong car park, then we drove to the right one but mistook the toilets for the venue and then trekked across the pitch before Hubby’s arms fell off from carrying the car seat. Once inside all I could see was organised chaos. We went to the baby room and to try to avoid tripping over crawling babies. One was sprawled over some cool looking padded blocks and another had snot dripping all over his face. This was quite distracting because all I could think was why is the staff lady not wiping it? The girl who was showing us around was very nice but seemed a little dim. Neither of us were impressed.

Another nursery we looked at had a very modern reception, lots of children’s pictures on the wall and the same thoroughness as the first one we saw so basically it was amazeballs. But then they lost me when I enquired about disciplining and they said there was no such thing as bad behaviour, just maybe a bit of biting. This was probably one of those hippy PC places that bans competitions because they don’t want anyone to be a loser (if you agree with this then it’s probably because you used to be the loser).

As we approached the toddlers room we were warned about a child who was having difficulty settling in. This was an understatement. The warning should have been, “get ready to bawl your eyes out and be forever traumatised about leaving your child at a nursery”. The child wouldn’t budge from the glass panelled door because he thought his mother wouldn’t be able to see him if he did and therefore wouldn’t come to get him. The lady proceeded to explain what went on in the room but I was barely listening. I was desperately trying not to dissolve into pieces as the kid kept crying forlornly for his mummy. He was so distressed I felt heartbroken and he wasn’t even my child! Hubby made some effort at listening to make up for my distractedness and even made a new friend as one of the toddlers gave him a dinosaur. His attempts to interact further resulted in a blank face and the child wandering off in search of something more interesting like picking his nose.

This whole nursery business was harder than I thought. Firstly there’s the dilemma of choosing the right one because not giving them the best start will inevitably ruin your child’s future and set them on course to a life of crime, drugs and herpes. Then comes the guilt at leaving them with strangers while you go back to work and the worry over whether they will be ok or left crying in a corner with snot dripping down their face (although this is more likely to be me). Finally, there’s the stress over how much it’s all costing which will leave you contemplating selling a kidney as a good investment.

Hopefully it’ll all be worth it as they make friends, build their confidence, enjoy fun activities and have a safe environment to play in. At least this is what I’ll be telling myself on the first day when I’ll most likely be crying hysterically like a bereaving woman in a Bollywood film at the gates screaming “MAMA LOVES YOU!” while Hubby tries to drag me away, muttering to me about stiff upper lips and not making a scene. And with that, the transition from Cool Young Woman into Embarrassing Mother Who Cries All The Time will be complete…

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Baby fat? It’s just fat, baby…

yoga-cartoonI took a deep breath and stepped forward. I didn’t want to look down, it was too scary but I knew I had to face it. Hardly daring to breathe I caught a glimpse. My heart sank. I shuffled about a bit more but there was no escaping the awful truth – I really was that heavy and the bastard scales were not lying.

Something clearly had to be done but the only time I had ever successfully lost any weight was when I went to India and lost half a stone in two weeks from food poisoning and avoiding anything oily which basically left me eating plain naan. Parking that idea as a last resort, I wondered about dieting for all of two seconds before binning that idea too. I love carbs and pastry and butter and cheese and chocolate and cake and pie and cream and… I could go on but you get the gist. That left exercise.

I decided to ease myself back into the gym with some low intensity exercise that would be easy on my aching back, arms and knees (motherhood suddenly torpedoes you into being middle-aged) so first up was aqua aerobics.

The water was deliciously warm and as I looked around I realised I was one of the few people under 60 there. I uneasily wondered whether the water was warm because of incontinence. I turned my attention back to the class and enthusiastically tried to follow the kicking/jumping moves which were basically all variations of the Running Man. As for toning, my puny arms struggled to push down floats and I ended up flailing around wildly chasing the floats and cackling hysterically at my own ineptitude. I figured that no one could hear me without their hearing aids anyway. With girl power ballads like “I need a hero” in the background and an old man perving on the old ladies from the café, this was more like karaoke splash time and not a class I could take seriously.

I tried pilates next. Ok so this would probably not result in any weight loss but at least it might ease my aches and pains. As we began by laying on the floor I had a horrible realisation that I couldn’t get up again. My body had gone into shut down mode as it was clearly not used to the luxury of an unexpected lie down and was making the most of it. I think I may have even fallen asleep at some point. Every move thereafter was accompanied with a groan or a joint clicking loudly, which although embarrassing was still better than the sound of gentle snoring. By the end, I felt almost supple again. It was just a shame that “supple” didn’t translate into a stone lighter.

I couldn’t make the next session so I tried yoga instead as I figured it was similar enough. Five minutes in and I remembered why I switched to pilates. I am as flexible as a plank of wood so doing sun salutation and downward dog poses six times in a row was enough to put me off for good. Plus sticking my bottom in the air gave me an overwhelming urge to fart. The highlight of the session was managing to contort myself into a horizontal comma by lifting and lowering my legs over my head to touch the floor and promptly getting stuck in that graceful position. With great difficulty I untangled myself and decided to stay lying down for the remainder of the session for my own safety.

Getting back to the cardio, I decided to scrap the aqua aerobics and go back to old fashioned swimming. It all seemed to be going well until I realised that my foray into breastfeeding had created a slight problem. The favoured boob was now marginally bigger than the other and consequently, kept popping out of my swimming costume in a kinky form of peekaboo. Luckily the swimming pool was fairly empty and the lifeguard hadn’t spotted me. My already bad technique now had to incorporate rearranging myself under water more times than a builder has to pull up his trousers. This was hard work and I was paranoid every time I passed anyone with goggles.

As the gym wasn’t really working for me, I decided to give the fitness channel a go- after all, it was free and I didn’t even need to go anywhere. I waited for Mishty to go to sleep and started with a “fun” carnival workout, dutifully copying the moves of the TV Glamazon in my tiny living room. She gracefully shimmied and danced away while I blundered around like an epileptic bull, wishing I had some net curtains and hoping none of the neighbours could see me. Plus I had forgotten the heating was on and ended up stripping down to my underwear. Twenty minutes in and I’d been interrupted four times by my mother calling, the baby waking up twice, and a call from someone in India who was adamant I’d had a car accident recently. My carnival feelings were no longer on pause and instead fast forwarding straight to craving a Kit Kat.

Surprisingly I am no closer to losing my baby bulge and fitting into my old dresses but fear not, I shall persevere… just after I finish this cheesecake.

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Making A Splash

Making a splashI have come to the conclusion that people who gush about how fun and relaxing bath time is for babies are compulsive liars with an inferno of flames spewing from their underwear. It has to be one of the most stressful things you can do with a baby and requires enough prepping to put a military operation to shame. Suffice it to say, we put off giving a bath to Mishty for as long as possible, choosing to “top and tail” once we discovered that simply putting deodorant on a baby wasn’t allowed.

We finally succumbed after getting a lot of grief from both sets of grandparents who were concerned about dirt, neglect and a worrying lack of hygiene… and that was just about me. Mishty’s first few baths were done by the capable hands of our parents who took it upon themselves to bath the baby every time they visited while we looked on in helpless awe. However, after a sizeable gap in visits we decided to take on the challenge to do it by ourselves. How hard could it be? We were about to find out…

The first part of the process was to fill the mini bath tub. A seemingly easy task until you realise you have no idea how high the water needs to be (babies can drown in 2 inches) and that your elbow tells you diddlysquat when it comes to checking the temperature. After seeing the mother in law and Hubby squabble over the temperature previously, I ordered a rubber duck thermometer (practical AND fun!!). I plopped it into the water only for the screen to remain blank. Much wrestling with the battery opening thing and several failed attempts to make it work, I realised that buying cheap tat from China off Amazon may not have been as great an idea as initially thought.  We resorted to trusting our undeveloped instincts and hoping for the best.

The next step was getting Mishty undressed. Once he was naked I wrapped him in a towel to keep him warm and went to check on the bathroom. I came back to see his face suspiciously moist. It took a few seconds before it dawned on me that he’d weed in his face. The towel was soaked so I had to pick him up without it but I forgot that my hands were a wee bit cold until Mishty reminded me by screaming hysterically as soon as I touched him. I tried to hold him close so he felt my body warmth but this had no effect. Just as I thought the crying couldn’t get any worse, I dunked him in the water and the screaming went up from “Aaaaargh, I’m naked, cold and pissed off” to “Help, I think my mum is trying to kill me”. I started to freak out, wondering if I had scalded him because he sounded like he was in serious pain. I probably should have tried to ease him in a bit more slowly too. Shit, shit, shit was all my brain was saying, while my mouth was saying, “ooohhh isn’t this lovely, splish splash, la la la” to a baby who was going red in the face and clearly telling me to fuck off in baby language. I tried singing loudly to drown out the screams but this only escalated the problem.

I wondered about the positioning. Even though the bath came with a support for the baby to lean on, I hadn’t figured out how to hold him and he was wobbling perilously and not looking happy. This was getting distressing so we decided to take him out but the whole rigmarole of finding another clean towel was taking time. Hubby finally found a spare one and I handed Mishty awkwardly to be wrapped up. Not knowing how to swaddle in mid-transfer was clearly putting us at a disadvantage. We somehow bundled him up and then wondered how to wash his hair. Being the skivers that we are, we would have skipped this part except he had a LOT of hair that badly needed washing. It was baffling - were we supposed to do this before or after the bath? Jug or sponge? Where was the jug? Where was the sponge? Was shampoo getting into his eyes and ears? WHY WAS HE STILL SCREAMING?

We were all completely traumatised by now and it had only been five minutes. We lay him on the changing mat, half wrapped in his towel hoping he would calm down soon. As I began putting the nappy on, I had to suddenly leap to the side to narrowly dodge the projectile wee which was now going all over him and the new unworn nappy. I screamed which startled him enough to stop the pee mid-flow before he started crying even more and weeing all over his face again. I resorted to using wipes which were of course cold and so more crying ensued. In a new tactic, we moved to the bedroom which was warmer and tried to put his clothes on there as quickly as possible. In my hasty attempt to make the clothes warm I had put them on the halogen heater instead of the radiator. A burning smell told me this was not a good idea and I had to rush around for another outfit that was not burnt. Moisturising him with oil also meant that the clothes were not gliding over him as easily as it should and was taking ages. An eternity later and he was finally bathed, oiled and dressed, but still crying. We dealt with it the only way we knew how – milk. He soon conked out from the exertion of crying hysterically coupled with a milk induced coma.

We learnt a lot from that experience and have since found a much easier way to give him a bath – letting the grandparents do it!

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Baby Massage

Baby MassageThe baby industry is a lucrative one. Not only are there an array of things designed to guilt you into buying, there are tons of services on offer too. You can sign up to weekly classes on anything from sensory groups to buggy fitness sessions to baby ukulele classes (yes that really is a class).

These highly pointless classes that nearly always involve singing nursery rhymes are in fact a great way to meet other bored and lonely mums in your area, go somewhere other than the supermarket and gives the baby a chance to develop new skills if they manage to not cry/sleep/puke the whole time.

I succumbed and signed up to baby massage. It’s supposed to be quite beneficial and claims to relax babies, aid constipation, help with colic and improve the quality of sleep. I was highly sceptical but as I had nothing better to do on a Wednesday afternoon other than watch daytime TV and sterilise bottles, I thought I’d give it a go (plus everyone else in my NCT group was doing it and I didn’t want to be left out.)

I coughed up the not-so-exorbitant-but-still-a-waste of money for five weeks of hour and a half sessions, justified by the fact that at least I wasn’t spending it on myself. It was all in the name of becoming a better mother and doing something useful for my child, I reasoned righteously.

I pulled up to the teacher’s house and realised that this was a seriously good money maker. Her house was massive – one reception room for buggies and another for us to practice on. We sat on yoga mats and had the babies in front of us as the instructor explained the history of baby massage and demonstrated techniques on a doll called Lola. I was now distracted by Barry Manilow singing about a showgirl in my head as well as being preoccupied with keeping Mishty from crying to actually listen to anything she was saying. The class had coincided with his nap time so he did not appreciate being woken up and stripped down to his nappy. [It turns out that Mishty is quite a shy lad and hates taking his clothes off in public which meant finding creative ways of massaging with as many layers on as possible each week.] Some of the babies were already crying in unison and it was a tense waiting game to see who would start bawling next. Others were happily conked out on the mat in a state of blissful sleep.

The class format consisted of 20 minutes to get the babies undressed and settled, followed by around 20 minutes of massage before moving onto drinks and biscuits for the rest of it. As much as I enjoy biscuits, this didn’t really seem like much value for money. Also you’re not supposed massage them if they are crying or asleep so some of the mums couldn’t even take part. So that’s paying to sit in someone’s house for an hour and a half to eat cookies and chat. I think I need a career change…

Each week we learnt how to massage a different body part, culminating in a full body massage in the last lesson. It was really lovely because baby skin is so soft, and I diligently practiced at home. Most of the time he seemed to enjoy it, although the amount of squirmg involved did make it tricky to do some of the moves. The hardest was massaging his back as I had failed to do any ‘tummy time’ with him so his neck muscles were not as developed. Instead of raising his head up, he would lie face down on his blanket, helplessly wriggling in an effort to get up before getting distressed and crying- epic fail. It reminded me a lot of cow tipping (the prank of pushing over cows who then can’t get back up again) which is cruel, but incredibly funny at the same time. So did I see any results? Haven’t a clue, I was having far too much fun laughing at my baby’s poor neck control and playing with his silky soft feet to notice!

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Sleepless in South London

crying-baby-cartoonWouldn’t it be great if Google Translate could translate the ancient language of baby talk? The babbling ‘oohs and aahs’ often make me wonder what is going on in little Mishty’s head. Is it all just yummy thoughts of milk? Or perhaps just sheer wonderment that those are actually his own hands that he is stuffing into his mouth? It’s lovely hearing him gurgle and chuckle away to himself. What’s not so pleasant is hearing him wail, whine and scream. But it’s not his fault, it’s just his way of communicating.

The hard bit comes from trying to decipher what he is trying to tell you and then addressing it. Is it hunger? Everyone always jumps to this conclusion first, particularly grandparents who will accuse you of starving them even if you know you’ve only fed them an hour ago. Trapped wind, soiled nappies and tiredness are the other main reasons for crying. Most of these are easy to address but getting a baby to sleep takes effort. My arms ache from all the rocking but then again I’ve never had much upper body strength. To give my legs a break from pacing miles across the floor, I’ve taken to bouncing on the exercise ball that I hardly used during pregnancy but now use almost daily since Mishty was born. I try to sing too, albeit badly. It’s hard for me to remember lyrics so most of the time he’ll fall asleep to a made up song about poo.

Sometimes he won’t settle in his Moses basket as he’ll just want to be held. This usually results in me lying immobile, trapped under something that weighs less than a stone. A good tip is to roll up blankets and put them around the edges, and put a hot water bottle inside to make it warm so they feel snug and as if they are still being held. Moral of the story, deception starts early.

Everyone goes on about giving a bath every night as part of a relaxing bedtime routine. However, I can assure you that there is nothing relaxing about it. Mishty now associates the bathroom with a place of torture and will start screaming as soon as he enters the room. Prepping is also like a military operation as you get towels, bath tub, nappies, toys etc ready only for him to wee all over them the minute you undress him. Bath time has been renamed to trauma time in our house.

Baby massage is meant to improve the quality of sleep but you are not supposed to do it when they are crying so it’s a bit pointless. However, I don’t really care because I am having too much fun playing with his legs and massaging his soft, tiny feet.

I know some people who put the baby in the car and go for a drive as the vibrations soothe them. This isn’t really practical at 3am in the middle of winter. Some others push their pram around their flat to soothe them but this also isn’t an option as there’s no way I’d push my muddy pram on my cream carpet. I know it might seem like I’m putting my carpet over my child but I’m actually trying to teach them a valuable lesson about cleanliness.

Tanking up is a good option for sleep as stuffing a bottle in their mouths will physically stop them from screaming and sends them into a milky coma. However, the downside is that you’ll end up with a fat baby or an even more distressed one if they get trapped wind. Do you risk it? In the words of Dirty Harry, do you feel lucky, punk?

My favourite way to soothe an overtired Mishty is to shove a dummy in his mouth. The day I discovered the magic powers of the dummy was a eureka moment for me. Not only does it shut him up but it miraculously sends him to sleep within a minute. Yes there may be a risk of overreliance but I’ll deal with the consequences later. For now, it’s an amazing invention. I’m just hoping the next amazing invention I discover is the phrase book for baby talk!

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I’m A Mother, Get Me Out of Here…!

leaving-the-houseQuick getaways seem to be solely reserved for bank robbers and those without children. Gone are the days where I could just walk out the door with only my keys, phone and wallet. Now I have to start planning half an hour in advance just to get out. Sometimes I don’t even make it to the front door- I just crumple in a heap in the hallway, staring at the door that is so near and yet so impossible to get past while the light in my eyes dies along with the dream of fresh air and a world of possibilities… or at least groceries.

The other day I managed to go out to meet some friends for coffee but the amount of effort and patience required was enough to make Frodo’s journey to Mordor look like a walk in the park. Firstly I had to get the changing bag ready with enough clothes, food and nappies to safely see me through any poo explosions and projectile vomit emergencies. By the time I was done my hefty Mary Poppins style bag was practically bursting at the seams.

Then I had to figure out the right timing to ensure the baby wouldn’t need feeding or changing the minute I stepped out. As he was sleeping, I was terrified I’d have to wake him up and then incur the wrath of a baby whose milky dreams have been rudely interrupted. First would be the accusatory screams, as if to say I’m a rubbish mother and then the plotting of revenge to be undertaken later that night.

Luckily he woke up in time so I fed, winded, and changed him. The next hurdle was getting him into his pram suit. For this occasion I chose a non-animal style one to make him look like a normal boy and then cursed whoever designed it as clearly their goal was to make it as difficult as possible to bundle them in. Predictably from all the prodding and shoving he started crying so I gave up, got him out of it and zipped him in the better designed spotty cow outfit. He’d just have to look normal another time. Just as I was about to go, I felt something wet. Great, the nappy had leaked. Arggghhhh!!! Another outfit and nappy change later and we were finally good to go.

As I needed to drive there, I realised I had a slight dilemma. The car was around the back but the car seat was inside the flat. The right thing to do would be to put the kid in the car seat and carry it to the car. However given the fact that my arms were puny, the weight of the seat with baby in it along with the distance to the car was enough to cripple me. So I guiltily decided to leave the kid in the seat inside the flat, sprint off to the car to bring it around the front and then load him in. [STOP JUDGING ME! He was fine and nothing untoward happened].

After a short drive, I parked up in a car park near the café and decided to attach the car seat to the pram to make life easier. This would have been a simple task had the buggy not become jammed halfway open – so much for the easy open mechanism. And thus began the battle of me against the machine. The machine was winning until I finally yanked the wheel out from behind the other and it opened. I looked around hoping no one had witnessed my struggles as I looked like an incompetent loon thrashing about with the buggy.

Once it was open, I managed to slot the car seat in but something wasn’t right, it felt too exposed. Only later did I realise there was a hood that came out to offer protection. But as I didn’t know that at the time, I decided to take it off and put him in the pram the old fashioned way. Except now the car seat was jammed in the hood of the pram. The tug of war that followed was resulting in Mishty looking dangerously like he would tip over. An old man passing by heard my grunting and cursing and chivalrously came to help. “It’s stuck in the canopy” he said helpfully. No shit Sherlock. Biting my tongue I politely said “oh yes, so it is” along with some defensive lying about it being my first time out using it. He thought I was putting it back into the car to leave, so I had to thank him, pretend to get into my car and then wait until he had left before getting out again to take Mishty out of the car seat and back into the pram. I looked deranged.

As I walked off I realised I had forgotten the changing bag in my haste so back I went. I then discovered my bag wouldn’t fit in the supposedly large basket of the pram despite lots of shoving and grunting. I dearly wanted to give the thing a good kicking and have a screaming fit in the car park but somehow I managed to keep it together. I hung the bag on the back of the pram but given its bulk, it was now thwacking against my legs uncomfortably with every step, so to counter that I had to lean forwards and push as if I was the ethnic offspring of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

By the time I got to the café I was over half an hour late and in desperate need of coffee. I sank into the sofa and nearly wept with relief - I had finally made it.

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“Wizzy Wizzy Woo”

wizzy wizzy wooI’m not a baby person. I don’t do baby talk. I laugh when they fall over and cry. I get bored at baby showers and kid’s birthdays. I have no idea how to play with them and would rather run away than run after them. I would never offer to babysit. I don’t think all babies are cute. I hate it when people bring their kids to parties as it kills adult conversation. I shove them out of photos that I’m in. I would rather listen to nails down a blackboard than someone on the phone to her child doing the whole “mummy loves you” routine.  When people tell me they are pregnant I politely say congratulations while mentally culling them out of my social life.

And then Mishty happened.

Suddenly I became the recipient of a personality transplant. I have become proficient in baby language, cooing and singing made up songs as well as calling him things like my little man/mouse/cat/poopoo/booboo, even going as far as calling him a wizzy wizzy woo. I put on that stupid high pitched sing-song voice, repeating his noises and sounding like an adult teletubby. I hate myself for it but it’s actually rather enjoyable.

When I’m not babbling unintelligibly to a baby, I’m talking about them constantly. I can talk for half an hour straight on nappies alone. I am intellectually stimulated by topics like reflux and colic and nod sagely instead of staring blankly into space. When I meet other new mums I ask how their birth went rather than their weekend. I actually want all the gory details as it’s the only drama I get to hear about these days.

Currently my cute clutch has been swapped for a giant changing bag so that the baby can tag along with me to house parties and I can get out of the flat for something sociable. Yes I am a hypocrite given how much I always hated it when other people did the same. All I can say is that my friends are a lot nicer than I am.

Speaking of friends, being of a certain age now means they are constantly uploading photos of their kids instead of drunken nights out on Facebook. This usually makes me think, BORRRRRIIINNNGGG, why have I not deleted you off my friends list already? Now I hang my head in shame as I’m the one bombarding them with photos and videos. Again, I’m banking on my friends to be nicer than me and keep me on their FB.

When it comes to other babies I’m a lot kinder than I used to be. I have stopped mocking the ugly ones and make an effort to see the cuteness in all babies. I actually mean it when I say “aahhh, cute” now and have stopped offending people by commenting that their baby bears a striking resemblance to an alien. I can even hold a baby for longer than two minutes without looking for an escape route. I still laugh when they cry but that’s because sometimes babies are funny – like the time when Mishty was happily flailing his arms about until he poked himself in the eye and started crying. Ok, you had to be there to get it.

So yes it’s true, I have changed. My friends are still incredulous that someone as un-baby friendly as me is a mother. But I give them hope, because you can tell they are thinking, ‘well if she can do it, I guess anyone can…’