Testing the Bladder of the Lone Parent Traveller

As an original Devonian now living in Berkshire, I am well-versed in the twists, turns, incongruous chevrons and traffic blackspots *COUGHBristolCOUGH* of the M4 and M5. My daughter, now one, has also become familiar with the route to and from Nana’s house – as well as its menagerie of service stations. As my partner rarely has holiday allowance to spare, my daughter and I often make the four to five hour drive alone. I don’t mind the journey. I don’t even particularly mind the screaming fits from the overly bored child around hour 2.5 when both socks have been sucked dry of any flavour and all wriggling has rendered her STILL in the bloody car seat. What I do mind is not being able to empty my bladder without fear of child abduction. What I do mind is the prospect of changing a tampon with the toilet cubicle door wedged open.

 

Many of the services available on this particular route boast beautiful baby changing facilities. Leigh Delamere even has the very latest, safest straps on their changing tables so your baby is as safe as can be while you change their nappy – and for this I am certainly not ungrateful, as many mothers of wriggly rollers will agree. The baby change room is spacious, airy, nicely decorated, and there’s even a separate room for breastfeeders and a little toilet cubicle for older siblings. This type of facility is one I’ve come across many times, I believe Gordano has a similar one. However, what bothers me is that there is no room in the toilet cubicle for a pushchair. If the lone parent traveller wants to use the toilet, they must either leave their child locked outside the cubicle, leave the cubicle door open, leave the buggy outside and bring the child in (and sit them on the floor. Of the public toilet. Next to the sanitary bin which they will inevitably then attempt to upend) or try and hold the child out of germs’ way whilst they perform some sort of impossible circus act of toiletry.

Lovely changing facilities at Leigh Delamere Eastbound  services... unless you happen to possess a bladder, that is...

Lovely changing facilities at Leigh Delamere Eastbound services… unless you happen to possess a bladder, that is…

 

Why? Why spend so many hundreds of pounds on these wonderful, state of the art facilities with state of the art straps and harnesses and change tables and fail to provide the most basic thing – the thing all bladder-sloshing mothers and fathers’ eyes will desperately comb the surroundings for the minute they enter the room – a toilet cubicle big enough to fit a pushchair inside?

 

On the way down to Devon a few weeks ago I stopped off at Sedgemoor. There weren’t quite the baby changing facilities of Leigh Delamere, but there was a change table in a private room which did us nicely. No toilet for me though. I traipsed through the rest of the Ladies’, finding a whole new wing of toilet cubicles all clean and gleaming, but not a single larger cubicle fit for the accommodation of Mama + Pram. Incredibly frustrated, I ended up ignoring the sign on the disabled toilet expressly forbidding use by ANYONE able-bodied, with particular emphasis on baby change facilities being elsewhere. I’m just glad, for their sake, no one told me off because they would have received an earful in response. What else could I do? Wedge the buggy in the door of a cubicle at the end of the row and get down to business only to hear, on the point of no return, the inevitable doom-filled sound of a coach-load of teenagers flooding into the room?

Although I am more familiar with the services along this particular route, I know this problem is by no means limited to the South – when my partner and I took our baby up to Cumbria in March, I faced the same problem. My partner was most bemused to see me almost limping as I emerged from changing the baby, practically throwing her at him as I ducked back into the Ladies’ without a word.

I think one of the reasons it bothers me so much is because other businesses have managed to get it right, seamlessly. John Lewis in Reading, for example, has changing mats out and a ‘family toilet’ room. People don’t stop at John Lewis to go to the toilet, and yet they’ve made these facilities everything a lone parent shopper would want. Service stations are places people stop, often for the SPECIFIC PURPOSE of using the toilets and yet they are failing to provide this basic service for a huge proportion of their customers. Do they think lone parent travellers do not possess bladders and bowels? Do they think we are so dedicated to our children that we will simply hold it in until we reach our destination? Or maybe they just assume that people travelling with children never do so without another person who can watch the child while the parent uses the toilet.

Whatever the reason, it just staggers me that it remains an issue. Somehow these people have thought of straps that are 100% impossible for babies to wriggle out of while having their nappy changed, hand dryers that kill 99.9% of germs, wall-mounted toys to keep older siblings amused, even bloody bottle warmers in some places – and yet the simple extra square feet so desperately sought after by the fidgeting, bladder-heavy mummy travelling alone with her child is just too much to ask.


I’ve seen the future and it’s throwing a tantrum

It’s been a busy few weeks chez the Bris-cott household. Lara has notched up the litres of foreign pool water swallowed and added Spanish and Italian to her palate, we’ve seen a hell of a lot of our families and I’m still scratching after being bitten to buggery by a variety of Mediterranean critters. The holidays have been lovely. Lara was, on the whole, very well-behaved – she did not scream too much on the flights, she performed nicely for several babysitters and generally didn’t wake up in the night too much after the initial few days. Having come home in a haze of sun-balmed tranquillity, ready to get back to the old routine and even begin taking on some freelance journalism work, I was therefore wholly unprepared for the sudden emergence of Monster Child.

I don’t know if she somehow knows that I’m planning to wean her off the boob during these, the weeks surrounding her first birthday, but all of a sudden my previously manageable – if not quite angelic – little girl seems to have regressed into a very very angry, inconsolable infant. First there’s the new scream she’s perfected – an ultrasonic rip of pure outrage, mauling your eardrums like a sonorous blade. Here’s a little taster:

Secondly, there’s a new wariness bordering on loathing for her formerly well-respected (if not quite beloved) cot. As soon as she catches sight of it, she begins to cry. I breastfeed her, she usually falls asleep, but as soon as I lower her in, as soon as one square millimetre of her paralytic, gro-bag clad form hits the mattress, she’s awake and re-mustering her assault on all ears within a mile radius. This all whilst standing and rocking against the bars, her face, showing up on the monitor, a paroxysm of rage.

photo tantrum

She can keep this up for between 5 and 20 minutes before falling asleep with her head hooked over the bar and then, eventually, sitting back down and plunging headfirst onto the mattress and thankful oblivion. By this point I can either breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy that second glass of wine I’ve just poured (or coffee if it’s a nap rather than bedtime) or in about ten minutes or so she will start crying again, haul herself up to a standing position once more (why? When have you ever awoken from an unhappy slumber with the innate compulsion that standing upright will make everything better?!) and the whole sorry cycle will repeat itself. At night I am reminded of those first few weeks of sleep training around month five or six where I would watch the clock and pray. Now it’s just ridiculous. On Monday night she woke up at 3.30am. I left her, painstakingly, till 3.55am by which point she had put herself back to sleep and woken up again about four times, before giving in and going to get her. At 4.55am she was still feeding. Surely this isn’t normal for a healthy eleven-and-a-half-month old?!

 

Then there’s the eating. I’ve moaned about this before, I know, but since then things have developed – not the least of which her ability to work out my tricks. She seems to go through cycles of eating almost everything I give her for about a week or so, then barely anything at all. At the moment, she’s so knackered after not napping or sleeping well she’s at her most fussy and I’m lucky if I can make her something she will deign to taste, let alone swallow. Tired of cooking and wasting food, I’ve resorted to mini sandwiches, Babybel, cucumber, toast fingers, banana, nectarine and yoghurt. Anything vaguely resembling a pudding is, of course, inhaled without question.

 

Nappy changing is also a constant battle these days – gone are the moments of peaceful smiles and winsome chirping when placed upon the change mat. Long gone. As soon as we are laid down upon the mat, we scream, we writhe and we kick. As soon as we are bare-bottomed, we must escape by ANY MEANS NECESSARY. As soon as a new nappy is produced, we must fight all attempts to have it fastened to one’s rear and instead grab it and hang on with the grip of a very small Titan, using teeth if needs be. If the opportunity to get a foot or indeed any other appendage inside the dirty nappy before it is discarded and then smear the contents onto any part of the nappy-changer arises, we must seize it.

 

I wouldn’t mind the fussy eating, nappy battles or even the lack of sleep if it had come at a better time. As it happens I’ve just taken on my first freelance gig and am trying to scrape as much work into my Lara-free moments as possible. Which, at the moment, is proving an almighty challenge as my Lara-free moments mainly consist of watching her wage war on her cot bars through the monitor, trying to wedge the phone under my chin while scribbling undecipherable shorthand into a notebook and desperately trying to ignore the echoes of her screams as they gnaw round my lower intestines. Will it get any easier? According to my far-too-cheerful plumber, father of two grown up sons, no.

No Mummy, you can't end a sentence with a preposition!

No Mummy, you can’t end a sentence with a preposition!

 

I can only hope that this horrible phase is just that – a phase – caused by a combination of post-holiday unsettledness, unusual noises in the house (we’re having a new shower and dishwasher installed, a mere 10 months after moving in) and that old, reliable tune – teeth. As it is, weaning off breastfeeding is sliding ever lower on my list of priorities right now as it is one of the only sure ways of calming her down. Plus, she doesn’t bite anymore. Which is nice of her. Hopefully, in a few days or weeks I will report back with happier news. For now, however, I see those Terrible Twos and I raise them Onerous Ones.


Probably Entirely Too Much Information…

The Mummy Tag –  a little Q&A perfectly tailored to the non-working and usually rather bored/full-of-endless-information-about-their-child’s-loves-hates-and-bowel-functions mother. I first discovered it on this rather brilliant blog, to which I’m somewhat loathe to post a link as it is far funnier than mine.

  1. Are you a stay at home mother or a working mother?

Stay at home, with the hopeful aspiration of becoming self-employed in the near future. This will probably mean that I spend my hard-won free moments desperately cold calling people who’re at work and barking down the phone “Hi-I’m-a-journalist-please-talk-to-me-about-the-collapse-of-your-business-no-that’s-not-a-baby-you-can-hear-it’s-my-cat-she’s-very-ill”… Meanwhile my garden succumbs to wilderness (for the dirty-minded, this also works as a euphemism) nobody gets birthday cards and I have so little time to write this blog I start posting self-indulgent Q&As whereupon, upon answering question one, I instantly ramble off on a totally innocuous tangent as my reader’s will to live slowly begins to leak out of their ears.

  1. Would you have it any other way?

I feel like this question is worded to coerce a gush of ‘No, I adore every second with my precious little munchkin, she shits diamonds.’ Honestly, though, I wouldn’t really. I have time to write and I’m bringing up my daughter myself, which is all I’ve ever really wanted. I kind of wish she did shit diamonds, though.

  1. Do you co-sleep?

No. I bring Lara into bed with us for her breastfeed first thing in the morning, but she gets put back in her cot as soon as she starts trying to claw at my face. I’ve only spent one entire night with her in our bed, when we all had colds. I don’t recommend it – snuffling baby on one side and feverish other half, burning with the heat of a thousand menopausal women, on the other did not make for a restful night.

  1. What is your one must-have item for your baby?

Probably the video monitor. It’s excellent for letting you know whether your child is just having a moan, or whether she has propped all her toys into a pyramid in the corner of the cot, pulled herself up onto them and is teetering over the railings in imminent danger of knocking herself out.

IMG_3498

  1. How many kids do you plan on having?

I’ve always wanted four, Gary wants two, so we’ve decided to compromise on four.

  1. Date night – how many nights a month?

We’ve only gone out once together without the baby since she was born, but since this did not incur any apocalyptic happenings, we have resolved to go out together at least twice a month or so in the future.

  1. Your child’s favourite show?

Dance Moms. Seriously, she can’t get enough of it. It’s not for me at all.

  1. Name one thing you bought before your baby and never ended up using?

A BabaSling. I could never get her in the damn thing, she’d always end up looking like an unhappy caterpillar, so we ended up selling our souls to the devil and buying a BabyBjorn.

  1. What is your child’s favourite food?

Toast, and anything remotely sweet. Give her jam on toast and she practically vibrates.

10. How many cars does your family have?

Two

11. Weight gain during pregnancy, before, after and now?

I put on about 2 stone during pregnancy (I stopped weighing when I had to start bending backwards to see the scales). I lost all but about 10lbs in the first 3 months or so, then the rest came off after Christmas. Now I’m about half a stone lighter than I was pre-pregnancy thanks to my unfortunate proclivity for e-coli.

12. Dream holiday with your kids?

A fun activity holiday – Center Parcs, Club Med, Disney Land, etc. Of course we may have to win the lottery first.

13. Dream holiday without your kids?

New York (probably would have to be without Gary too as cities make his brain cry) Melbourne, New Zealand, The Maldives, Las Vegas, Cape Town…

14. How has your life changed since your baby was born?

Let’s see – instead of driving to work everyday and writing about the home improvement industry, I chase an incontinent 10-month-old around the house, feed her, wash her , change her and generally maintain responsibility for her survival. Bit of a silly question really.

15. Finish the sentence: “It makes my heart melt to see…”

Lara, on the video monitor, turn and cuddle her giraffe in her sleep. Partly because it is cute but mainly because she is asleep.

16. Where do you shop for your kids?

Sainsburys, Next, Tesco, H&M, M&S, Mothercare, Amazon and of course the Bank of Doting Grandmothers

17. Favourite make-up and skincare products?

Not quite sure what this has to do with parenting, but I like MAC and Benefit eye shadow and mascara, BB foundation and under-eye concealer. Ah, there it is.

18. Huggies or Pampers?

Ooh, yes please. We usually just get supermarket own-brands. I do like the wetness indicators on Pampers.

19. Have you always wanted kids?

Yes, more than anything. My mum’s even got a photograph of me, aged two, ‘breastfeeding’ one of my dollies.

20. Best part about being a mum?

The days when I’m just so freaking awesome I steal breath.

IMG_1781


When Bad Things Happen to Good* Drivers

*Good, here, meaning stays on the road more often than not, inoffensive unless provoked (or singing) and certainly never ever guilty of taking funny photos at inappropriate and unsafe moments.

Some of the things which befall me (and, it is my eternal hope, others too) when I take my bimblings to the highways of Britain:

  1. Every Spring, without fail, you celebrate the first warm day of the year by rolling your window down – which you then promptly forget about around the time you roll to a stop at the traffic lights in a crowded town centre and wile away the time singing loudly along to the radio/ commenting on how badly dressed/ fat the pedestrians are.
  2. You’re driving along, a car approaches in the opposite direction, but between you there is a vehicle parked half-on, half-off the pavement. No matter how much you try to brake or accelerate you both end up reaching the parked vehicle at exactly the same moment and have to do an awkward, three car squeeze-by while driving to avoid one another’s gaze.
  3. When driving with a small child/baby in the car it is unacceptable for any other drivers to beep at you for any hesitations or accidental gear changes/sudden brakings. However, if they do, it is perfectly reasonable for you to reply “I’VE GOT A GODDAMN BABY IN THE CAR, SHOW SOME F*CKING RESPECT!” with the appropriate accompanying hand gestures.
  4. When in Devon, motorists must leave extra early due to the increased risk that at some stage of the journey the road will be rendered impassable due to livestock/ geese/ pillocks from the city.
  5. There are days when you simply forget that green means go.
  6. No driving scenario is more awkward than a three-way mini roundabout. Who goes first? Is he going to go? Shall I go? Oh god now we’ve all started forward and braked sharply. F*ck it, I’m just going to go – maybe if I go REALLY FAST it will be like I was never here and this never happened.
  7. On that note, when did it become ok for drivers to stop F*CKING INDICATING at roundabouts?
  8. If you make a mistake, ie, misjudge the exit someone is going for at a roundabout (probably because they didn’t F*CKING INDICATE) and cut them up, it becomes absolutely necessary to speed as fast away from the scene of the misdemeanour as possible.
  9. If, when driving alone, you think of a brilliantly witty comeback/joke/saying, it is perfectly acceptable to then say whatever it is out loud, just in case someone has hidden a microphone somewhere in your car and is listening to everything you say.
  10. The rear-view baby mirror probably makes me a worse driver, but it’s worth it to watch some of the appalled faces she pulls when I sing.driving 2
  11. I have it on good authority that until your child is old enough to ask what a Rude Boy is, it’s perfectly acceptable to sing along to Rihanna while they’re in the car.
  12. You try to be nice and let the person at the junction turn into the road in front of you, but they JUST AREN’T GETTING IT so you end up speeding away in frustration, while they just gaze at you in bewilderment.
  13. Alternatively, that nice person who has right of way flashes at you to go in front of them, but you find yourself in the wrong gear/ surging forward too eagerly and rolling to an embarrassing stall halfway across the carriageway.
  14. Set your Sat Nav voice to American and then approach a roundabout.
  15. Woe betide the London driver who hesitates for a nanosecond after the traffic lights go green.

 

 

 


The kindness of strangers?

Setting: Generic supermarket. Harrassed-looking me navigates shopping trolley (always filled with just enough items to make it slightly unwieldy) replete with Lara in the front seat. Strange person (usually a middle-aged woman but very occasionally a man – in which case just replace all ‘she’ pronouns referring to Lara with ‘he’) randomly approaches.

Person Randomly Approaching Trolley: “Oooh, hello sweetheart! Aren’t you gorgeous? Hello! Helloooo!”

LARA: “…”

P.R.A.T.: “What’s your name then, Snookums?”

[LONG PAUSE. LARA STARES BLANKLY AT P.R.A.T. AS A LOOK OF SLOW COMPREHENSION DAWNS ON MY FACE]

ME: “Oh. Er, Lara.”

P.R.A.T.: “What a lovely name you’ve got, Lara! Are you going to give me a smile?”

[LARA BARES HER TEETH IN A SOMEWHAT MENACING FASHION]

P.R.A.T.: “What a beautiful smile! Look at all those teethy pegs! How old are you, Lara?”

ME: “Nearly ten months…”

P.R.A.T.: “Ten months! She’s a big girl, isn’t she?”

ME: “Um… Not really?”

[LONG PAUSE, DURING WHICH P.R.A.T. STARES INTENSELY AT MY FACE, WHICH BEGINS TO TAKE ON A LOOK OF INCREASING ALARM]

P.R.A.T.: “Just seeing if she looks like you. She doesn’t at all, does she.”

ME: “Oh. Er… maybe a little? But no, she does look more like her dad I guess…”

P.R.A.T. [SWIFTLY TURNS ATTENTION BACK TO LARA]: “Well I better get off – bye bye now! Can you say bye bye?”

ME: “Say bye bye Lara!”

[LARA STARES AT ME. I BEGIN WAVING MANIACALLY IN HER FACE]

ME: “Wave bye bye, Lara!”

[P.R.A.T. ALSO BEGINS WAVING IN LARA’S FACE. LARA BARES HER TEETH AGAIN]

LARA: “DUH! Duh Duh Duh, DUH!”

P.R.A.T.: “Ahhh! I think she likes me, don’t you sweetheart?”

[LARA BEGINS TO GROWL AND TURN RED]

ME: “Right! Off we go!”

 

And here’s that scene once again, with added thought voices for me and Lara.

ME: Come on then, let’s get this done before it gets too close to naptime and you start getting grouchy. Just dodge this OAP, and this other one and oh Christ here she comes…

Person Randomly Approaching Trolley: “Oooh, hello sweetheart! Aren’t you gorgeous? Hello! Helloooo!”

LARA: “…Who the bloody hell are you?…”

P.R.A.T.: “What’s your name then, Snookums?”

LARA: Snookums?

ME: Well obviously she’s not going to answer you, can’t you see she’s like ten months old?

LARA: Snookums?

[PAUSE]

LARA: FOR GOD’S SAKE MOTHER WILL YOU WAKE UP AND TELL HER MY NAME’S NOT SNOOKUMS!

ME: Oh, you’re looking at me now. OH, I’m supposed to answer. Gotcha. “Oh. Er, she’s Lara.”

P.R.A.T.: “What a lovely name you’ve got, Lara! Are you going to give me a smile?”

LARA: Really. After Snookums? REALLY?

ME: Come on, smile. Just smile at the old dear and maybe she’ll leave us alone

P.R.A.T.: “What a beautiful smile! Look at all those teethy pegs! How old are you, Lara?”

LARA: Actually, I was doing Hannibal Lecter. I’ll eat your liver with a nice Chianti

ME: “Nearly ten months…” Getting used to this talking-to-someone-who-is-talking-to-someone-else-but-expecting-me-to-answer now. Feel a bit like a horse whisperer or Dr Dolittle.

P.R.A.T.: “Ten months! She’s a big girl, isn’t she?”

LARA: I BEG YOUR PARDON?

ME: “Um… Not really?”

[PAUSE]

ME: Ok this is getting a bit weird. She’s gone from not looking at me at all to staring with the intensity of very unBritish owl. She’s actually squinting a bit. I really hope she’s not having a stroke.

P.R.A.T.: “Just seeing if she looks like you. She doesn’t at all, does she.”

ME: “Oh. Er… maybe a little? But no, she does look more like her dad I guess…”

Sigh. I know it is perfectly true that my child does not look a whole lot like me but it still annoys me a tiny bit when a stranger points this out because it feels, just a tiny bit, as if they are negating, just a tiny bit, the fact of my spending 41 weeks carrying her around in my body and then 40 odd hours of expelling her thusly.

P.R.A.T. [SWIFTLY TURNS ATTENTION BACK TO LARA]: “Well I better get off – bye bye now! Can you say bye bye?”

ME: “Say bye bye Lara!”

LARA: Are you insane, mother? You know I can only say five syllables and ‘bye’ is not one of them!

ME: “Wave bye bye, Lara!”

LARA: Shan’t. First she calls me Snookums and then she calls me fat. “DUH! Duh Duh Duh, DUH!” This is not babble. This is what I think of you all.

P.R.A.T.: “Ahhh! I think you like me, don’t you sweetheart?”

LARA: Actually, madam, I’m trying to defecate.

Me: “Right! Off we go!”

 


Mastering the Jigglyshuffle: Tips for Mums who Move (but don’t necessarily have any)

Exercising. It ain’t for every mother, but for those who’re game, there opens a new and unchartered territory of mammory-related injury, ever-craftier ways of keeping offspring from hurling themselves head-first onto a gym floor and – no way of dressing it up really – our old friend, occasional incontinence. I’m not an expert, but I would count myself as a fairly regular exerciser – I attend an excellent buggy spin class a couple of times a week, held by a friend from antenatal class, I walk with the buggy whenever I can (ie, whenever she needs a nap) and I recently completed the 5k Race for Life. Note the choice of word ‘completed’ rather than anything implying speed, prowess or grace. All I can say is that it was the first time I had attempted running with a buggy and though I take great pride in saying we were the first pushchair over the finish line, I must also admit that there were only about 5 or 6 buggies involved in the race… Anyway, more on that later, for now here are some tips/ pitfalls I have encountered along the bumpy, lumpy and leaky road of exercise for the postnatal and past caring:

  • Always use the toilet before embarking on any form of physical exertion otherwise your bladder will Rise Up and Sabotage You in a Manner Most Foul and Yellow. As mentioned in a previous post, the postpartum exerciser runs the risk of overly straining [what remains of] their pelvic floor. Although this does improve with time, that nagging, creeping squeam of bladder-fulldom (I could describe needing the toilet forever if I could; I even wrote a poem about it once) will indubitably make itself known approximately two minutes into any cardio activity in which said exerciser is partaking. At this point you are faced with a choice of three possible courses of action:
  1. Excuse yourself and find the nearest facility/suitable receptacle – be it a gym toilet, a sturdy looking bush or a nearby member of the UKIP party.
  2. Ride out the discomfort until it gradually disappears altogether, thus exposing your bladder as the treacherous, fat-loving fiend it is.
  3. In true, hardcore-mother style, complete your work out with the added onus of a sloshingly full bladder*… The downside of this option is, of course, the inevitable jigglyshuffle awkward-itch-around-your-lady-parts side effect which may befall your stride. But, on the plus side, you can pretend to be a horse when you finally get to deliver that wee of champions at the end of it.
    *Truly committed followers of this discipline may want to incorporate an aspect of the jigglyshuffle into their everyday walk, so that if someone you know happens to see you out jogging, they won’t immediately assume you’ve been caught short or have an unfortunately timed lady garden itch, they’ll merely clock it up to your fantastically individual gait.
  • Disaster bears mammory glands. Blokes, unless you are of a jolly size, will not be able to relate to the phenomena that is the shift in boob size during and after pregnancy. Especially if you’ve gone from a modest B/C cup to a bouncing pair of DDs and beyond. And in case those words conjure too happy a place for you, let me throw in a few more. Chafing. Sloshing. Leaking. Free movement with the momentum of two wrestling bowling balls. Never, ever can it be expressed more empathically than now to Get Them In A Sports Bra. Even if you are breastfeeding, like me, and have stupidly sensitive boobs, like me, which are prone to throwing painful blocked ducts if they find themselves ensconced in anything but the most loose, unsupportive nursing bra for more than three hours at a time. Wearing a sports bra for an hour or two is not going to do any harm. The alternative? Best case scenario, the jiggling will distract you from completing a good workout. Worst case scenario: double black eyes and facing the hereafter searching for your boobs under each arm.

Which brings us on to…

  • Injuries, both real and fantasy. By real, I mean broken ankle, ruptured stitches, and extreme exhaustion/nausea/pain which overcomes all gung ho attempts to convince yourself this is all good fun really. If this is you, chill the hell out for at least a few weeks and let yourself recover. Motherhood is hard enough.
    Then there are the fantasy injuries – a strange development I encountered around 400 metres after I decided to start running during last week’s RfL. Incongruously, I found myself inner monologuing along the lines of “Is my heart supposed to sound like this? Uh oh, I’m getting chest pains… Ooh, that ice cream looks good… Oof, this is really starting to hurt in the middle now… yeah, just around my c-section scar… or maybe it’s just a stitch… I’d forgotten how much stitches hurt… maybe not hurt so much as jiggle uncomfortably… and maybe not so much c-section as the loose ‘mummy apron’ of wobbles…” and so forth. Incidentally, I had stopped running around the time of the c-section scar revelation. Not that I ever actually had a c-section.
  • The Importance of Being Yelled At. This revelation came during the aforementioned incidents of (fake)injury, which, combined with hotness and just plain whybother-itis, meant that at momentary intervals along the 5k track I would just stop running. God knows how I used to run 10k and more. In buggy spin, I am routinely yelled at, 9 times out of 10 because of my habitually slow legs. They can’t help it – they are slightly shorter than average and therefore make up lack of height with an excess of girth which means they a) never look good in shorts, b) resemble boiled hams* and c) find physical exertion a torment. But being routinely yelled at does at least help spur them on, marginally. Anything to further their progress away from ham-dom.
    *Other Half: ‘Why hams?’ Me: ‘Because they are big and pink.’ OH: ‘Don’t be silly. They’re not pink, they’re white’
  • 30 Days of Toning Exercises From Hell with the One Saving Grace of Making Your Child Think You’ve Gone Totally Mental. I’ve never been able to do a sit up. From being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style as a member of the 200 Squadron Air Cadets at age 14, to being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style, during mummy circuit class at age 27, I just can’t do it. My tummy ain’t got the muscle. But I attempt them, risking toenails, flatulence and dignity. And, though I’ve never been able to see an abdominal muscle on my body (I secretly don’t think I have any) I did discover a unexpected perk the other day.

And yes, that’s Chalet Girl paused on the TV in the background. I partially blame Felicity Jones’ stupid hot tub scene where she flashes in all her bony glory, for this particular misdemeanour.

So there you are – the evolution of my former self’s take on Running in the Park and Goodness or whatever the hell it was. Perhaps it is a bit more cynical, and perhaps the narrative is a bit more scattered (I’ve been drafting this post over several days due to Lara’s newfound disinclination to sleep in in the mornings and the dropping of one of her daytime naps) but hopefully it gives some small, discordant nuggets of advice for mums who exercise… Even if we have become the very creatures once bemoaned on this very blog vessel. What did I know anyway? Stupid size 8 bitch.


Tips for Feeding a Fussy Eater who is Having None of it

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Some babies are great eaters. I thought Lara would be one of them. After all, following a rocky first few days, she took to breastfeeding like a hobnob to a cup of tea. Maybe that’s the problem – if it were up to her, she would have nothing but milk, milk and more milk night and day. She’s not a total spoon-phobe, she will eat food – the sweeter the better – she’s just a bit fussy. As in, she rarely likes anything I’ve made her unless it is made up of at least 70% fruit and is pureed beyond the capabilities of my poor old blender, and even then I invariably end up having to rely on shop bought fruit purees or yoghurts to get a balanced meal into her. Sometimes, even that doesn’t work. Therefore, my sleeves have had to loosen beyond recognition to accommodate all the tricks I keep shoving up them. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Alternate bites with yoghurt/fruit puree/something you know she likes. Typical meal goes: spoonful of veggie puree, spoonful of meaty puree, [Lara pulls face and buttons up her mouth] spoonful of yoghurt, spoonful of veg, yoghurt, meat, yoghurt, yoghurt, veg, yoghurt, etc. Vary the order so she doesn’t work out what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s also helpful, while she’s got her beady eye on you, to pretend to dip the veg or meat-loaded spoon into the yoghurt pot. Sneaky, no?
  2. Get a small dab of yoghurt on the end of a spoonful of whatever you’re trying to feed her so she thinks that’s what she’s getting. But really she’s only getting a tiny taste of that and a whole lot more of the good stuff, mwah ha ha ha. [There are slight Machiavellian side effects to the more sneaky of these techniques, so feel free to insert an evil laugh if the need takes you. If only to add a welcome touch of the ridiculous. And make the baby smile.]
  3. Use finger food. Even if your baby just likes to gum these and then throw them on the floor, they can provide welcome distractions while you go about the business of inserting whichever nutritious item is offending your young madam/sir tonight.
  4. If she opens her mouth for any reason other than to cry, insert spoon. DO NOT, however, do so if she is mid-howl as she will inevitably inhale food along with wail-mustering breath and you will end up sprayed with regurgitated baby porridge. That’s why I can no longer wear several of my shirts.
  5. Give up the spoon. If all else is failing, the time may have come to give up trying to keep any part of her, you, the
    high chair, the floor, the entire kitchen, etc, clean and let the baby take control. For example, one evening last week Lara refused point blank to eat ANYTHING I offered her, from her favourite Ella’s Kitchen pouch to the corn puff snacks she likes and even a fromage frais. She also made it quite clear that the highchair just wouldn’t do. So I took her out, stripped her to her vest and sat her on the table with a bowl of Weetabix. No, not as much of it made it into her mouth as I would have liked, but squishing her fingers into it certainly cheered her up.

Ok, so maybe these methods don’t exactly abide by the weaning guidelines of introducing her to different tastes and textures. And maybe resorting to the happy chaos of number 4 does not exactly ensure your baby is getting a healthy, balanced meal inside them. At the end of the day, when you have a fussy eater who is otherwise refusing to comply with the basic principle of meal time, you have a choice – do you let them go empty-tummyed or do you grit your teeth, loosen your sleeves and make it your mission to get that food into that tummy by any means necessary?


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