Category Archives: embarrassing motherhood stories

The sh!t jeans

These days, accidents are a fairly rare occurrence. And, when they aren’t, most of the time it’s a simple case of a little bit of wee on the carpet we’re planning to get rid of eventually, or a pair of pjs shoved in the washing machine a few days earlier than they would have been… Compared to this time last year, we’re out of the woods and frolicking in our dry, big girl knickers. However, sometimes there will come a day with an Accident. Think the park on a semi-busy weekday, toddler weeping in shame, your face radiating the heat of a thousand suns as you desperately try to mop the large puddle off the slide with three wet wipes, your own sleeve and the hopes and dreams of the several small children forming a queue. Frustrating but manageable. Brushed off with a rant. Forgiven with a strong gin. Laughable in approximately two to three days.

And then there are ACCIDENTS.

And that means several things. Firstly, the setting will be as public as public can be. Think supermarket at rush hour, the park on a warm weekend, the preschool playground at drop off time, a coffee shop chain at 10 past 1… Secondly, it will probably involve poo. Or vomit. Possibly a really huge, stinky-like-they’ve-eaten-nothing-but-asparagus-then-fermented-it-for-a-week wee. But most likely poo. And not the solid, manageable kind (if such a thing exists once nappies are a thing of the past). Thirdly, your child will be wearing a particularly nice and complicated-to-wash outfit, like a lacy dress or a suit or, in one memorable case, ballet tutu complete with extortionate ballet tights and even-more-extortionate, properly-fitted ballet shoes.

Turns out, you’re not supposed to put ballet shoes in the washing machine.

ballet shoes.jpg

Nope, you’re really, really not…

“How do you wash them, then?” I politely enquired of the Dance Ma’am upon buying the inevitable replacement pair.

“Wet wipes,” she replied.

Right. So the next time a ballet ACCIDENT occurs, I am expected to take the not-supposed-to-get-wet items, use an already-wet receptacle to mop up [smear around] the excess fluids, then air them out as best I can while hoping that, for the remainder of the time it takes for my child’s feet to grow another size, none of her tutu-clad chums notice the squelchy noise and the slightly pissy aroma emanating from her twinkling toes? Right.

Then there are the sh!t jeans – a strange, pungent phenomenon that I hope is not exclusive to my own household. Lara owns a pair of jeggings – fairly innocuous-looking, suitable for both park and pre-school, hard-wearing and of a denim shade that, wonderfully, goes with pretty much every top she owns.

the-jeans

To top off their sheer excellence, they’re blimmin’ designer and I did not even have to pay for them as they were inherited from her older cousin. A truly winning item of sartorial achievement, no? No. For some unknown reason, nine times out of ten, when an accident, Accident or, indeed, even ACCIDENT occurs, she will be wearing these jeans. They get more rounds in the washing machine than any other item of clothing any of us owns, or have ever owned.

Why do I continue to dress her in them? Well, partly because they’re so damn convenient (and before you judge me, you try pairing a fluorescent, multi-coloured, polka-bespotted cardy with a suitable item of leg-wear). But also because they are the only item of Ted Baker apparel in the entire household and therefore must be worn in an irrational, get-your-money’s-worth vein of logic (made all the more irrational, of course, by the fact that I did not even buy them). Every time I dress her in them, I think: “Surely not. She’s just been to the toilet. This time, we’ll be fine.”

Then, invariably, we find ourselves on the park swing, urine dripping, no spare pants to be had, not a shred of a wet wipe to our names.

Some tricks I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Always pack spare pants. Even if your child has literally just done a poo bigger than his head and peed for Britain before leaving the house, bring spare pants.
  2. Pack spare spare pants. And spare everything else. Even socks. Especially socks. Otherwise you will end up having to either give up your own socks or try and make a temporary pair out of toilet roll and napkins because even if it’s July and she’ll become allergic to them as soon as she steps through the front door, your toddler definitely, definitely needs sockies now, Mummy.
  3. Wet wipes leak. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but that is the only explanation I can give to my entire spare cache of clothes ending up wadded up into a sad, cursed little ball of saturated hopes and dreams in the bottom of my mummy bag. Best thing to do is wrap the spare clothes in a plastic bag. An extra plastic bag is NEVER A BAD THING to have. Or don’t pack wet wipes. You know, if you’re that sort of dance-with-the-devil, pee-into-the-wind type of serial lunatic.
  4. Always pack wet wipes. Because who, seriously, chooses to pee into the wind?
  5. Even if your child has been toilet trained for three years, widdles on demand to the theme-tune of Peppa Pig and has been wiping her own arse since birth – never forget ANY of the above. Ever. Only at the stage where your mummy bag has long been relegated to the back of the cupboard and the word ‘accident’ is more likely to invoke images of broken condoms and impending grandparent-hood than pungent puddles can you probably rest assured that they are at least responsible for their own spare drawers. Until then, the day you take your child’s continence for granted is the day you end up in a Sainsbury’s toilet with despair in your heart and a plastic bag wrapped around your child’s bottom.

Take it from me. Or, better yet, take it from the sh!t jeans.

beach-with-jakey

Little did they suspect the giant, rogue wave about to make a crashing appearance…


The Laments of Baby 1, aged two and three quarters…

The carrots I asked for were too crunchy to eat,

There was a single, dastardly crumb on my seat.

I did not grant permission for my hair to be brushed,

Nor for the contents of my potty to be flushed.

I think it’s you, not me, who’s the loon,

for not wanting to wear a bobble hat in June.

And of course a tutu is suitable attire

For splashing in puddles and swinging on tyres.

 

We’re finally at the park, but my face is still grim

There’s a child on my slide, and you won’t remove him!

That girl has an ice cream, you must get me one now

No I won’t be distrac- oh, look a moo cow!

What do you mean it’s now time to go home?

We just got here, I have every right to moan.

But if your suggestion really won’t be parried,

Well then I must insist I am carried.

I don’t care if your arms hurt, I’m quite happy here,

Rubbing my muddy boots on your rear.

 

We’re home and it’s high time my dinner was made

But I’ll scramble my eggs, and I won’t accept aid.

What? Why would I eat them? No, this sort of spread

Is only acceptable when spread on one’s head.

Oh look, there’s some honey, let’s add that in too,

And some milk and ooh, sugar! Well, what’s wrong with you?

Don’t make such a fuss, it’s just honey, eggs and sugar

See, I’ll pull it out, oh no, oh wait – Aaaaaagh!

Get it off, get it off, get it off, get it off!

Oh God, you’re not moving FAST enough!

What’s this stuff on my plate – green isn’t a food!

No cake till I eat it? Well now that’s just rude.

I don’t remember agreeing to such a decree.

Oh was there ever a life of such misery?

 

I can’t just be rational – I’m not yet even three,

And there’s so much that doesn’t make sense to me.

Some days I don’t think I’ll ever reach the prize

At the end of all the why, why, why, why, whys.

But one day you’ll look back with a nostalgic smile

When you recall my hair in this great, eggy style.

And the memory of my frowns will make you laugh,

but in the meantime I absolutely will not have a bath.

But if you insist on my undressing, you really can’t blame me

For running away… Oh look! A wee wee!

Yes it has been a while since my last random wetting

But sometimes I just can’t help forgetting.

 

It’s bedtime, so you must read me ten books, let’s go

And don’t scrimp on any of the words or I’ll know.

Daddy must read to me too now you’re done,

With all the voices and actions I like, every one.

I need water, I want doggy, I’m hungry, I must poo…

What will it take to bring me downstairs with you?

Ok, fine. I’ll stay here… but I want one last kiss,

And we can all agree, I’m not happy about this.

Because it’s really not easy to be quite so small,

No, I wont say night night… I’m not tired… at… a-….

 

PS – your earrings are in the toilet.

 


The Art of Peeing in a Pot in my Living Room

It has begun. There’s no putting it off any longer, no excuses, no way back. Some mothers hate nappies. They long for the day when their child can piddle on demand in a toilet, the early morning cries for help wiping their fragrant bottom, the end of rank nappy bins, rash-inducing, knuckle-peeling wet wipes, the daily hoist of the legs to encounter the wonders beneath… I’m not one of those mothers. I like nappies. I don’t mind changing them. It’s 2 minutes of my time as opposed to, oh, 20 minutes chasing a wet-legginged two-year-old around the house while she insists that she does not want to get changed and she is perfectly happy being soggy-bottomed because “it smell nice, Mummy,” and as far as she’s concerned there’s absolutely no problem at all with climbing onto and rolling around your freshly-made bed. Not to mention the five hour stretches of bargaining, bribes, tears, tantrums and hard-won, foul-smelling triumphs circling the union of bare buttocks and plastic pot in the middle of the living room.

But this is it now. We are officially potty training. Or, at least, we’ve made a sizably conscious effort to start. Mainly because Baby 1 had begun to scream whenever I told her I was going to the toilet and insist she needed to come with me to use the potty. (She didn’t, but I figured that if she was old enough to use the potty as a manipulation tool, she was old enough to be taught, you know, how to actually use it.)

We’re not yet doing the hardcore staying-in-all-day-every-day-until-she-gets-it approach, mainly because I just can’t watch Finding Nemo that many times. But we are wearing big girl pants as soon as we get up in the morning and after nap time, and we are sitting on the potty in exchange for stickers and ‘chocolate butts’ (buttons, incidentally, but I’m too delighted with the pun to correct her) and we are seeing results in the potty occasionally and on the floor often. It’s going ok. I mean, she only actually goes in the potty when she’s been plonked on it (usually only under the condition she is allowed to play with Mummy’s ‘i-dad’) and happens to need to go. And when I gleefully turned her round this morning and joyously asked her what she had done – so cleverly, so miraculously! – in the potty, she replied, in a very bored voice, “S’ juice, Mummy.” So I’m fairly sure we’ve got a way to go before she really fully understands what we’re getting at with this crazy new game, but when you consider she’s had two and a bit years of letting rip whenever and wherever, it’s not hard to see why it takes time to change such an ingrained behaviour. In fact, if I think about it in those terms the whole task tends to take on disproportionately large and looming qualities and I find myself fighting the urge to bury myself under a duvet of wipes and Pampers, so what keeps us going is the mantra of taking it all one day at a time.

In a way, it’s oddly similar to the gargantuan task of planning a wedding: one day at a time, try not to think about how much money I’m spending and hope that when the big day comes, no one is peeing on the church floor.


This Ragu is Not Pregnant

**POSSIBLE TMI ALERT. You’ve been warned, Mum**

 

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day...

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day…

Shocking as it may seem coming from a couple who have one unconditionally cherished but nonetheless unplanned daughter under their belts, my fiance and I have not always been the best at contraception. Most of the time we are pretty responsible – whether it’s remembering to take a pill, buy condoms, or doing a quick calculation of cycle days. (Don’t knock it – the standard days method is actually 95% effective when used properly. That’s at least as good as the smelly rubber things you always forget to buy, isn’t it?) In any case, our one unplanned pregnancy isn’t even an example of our inability to use contraception, more one of ignorance about the expiry date on condoms. Well, that and entirely too many glasses of Faustino V.

When we got engaged earlier this year we decided to shelf our original plans to crack on with baby number 2 in favour of planning the wedding for next year and – more importantly – a kick-ass, adults-only, one-last-chance-of-freedom honeymoon. You know, before the soggy camping trips, portable wee pots and sand-in-every-crevice joys of family holidays truly kick in. So I went on the mini pill. Shortly afterwards, I went on a different mini pill. My body does not like the mini pill. Let’s just say the pennies we saved in the family planning aisle only went about as far as feminine hygiene. So, rather than risking anaemia, off the mini pill I came.

A few weeks ago we booked our wedding. Unfortunately, during the ensuing celebration period, we both completely forgot about the pill. Or, I should say, the lack thereof. But, according to a hasty standard day calculation, we were technically in the clear, so we didn’t worry too much. Then I started feeling a bit tummy-ish. A bit nauseous around the edges. A bit sensitive in the old mammary region… My bra sprang open spontaneously once or twice. But it was when I went off wine that the alarm bells really started a-clanging. Nervous jokes aside, we put in an order for some bulk-buy pregnancy tests, just to be on the safe side.

This, of course, all occurred within the two weeks between booking the wedding venue and having to put down a couple of thousand pounds as a holding deposit for a date which, if we were having a baby, would likely be spent jiggly-shuffling my birth-ravaged tummy pouch around the living room, barely able to hear the planes on the overhead flightpath bound for what would have been my honeymoon over the screams of my discontent second-born.

The tests arrived. Thanks to an irregular cycle and a fairly well-developed sense of paranoia I’m no stranger to Clearblue or First Response or even trusty old Boots two-for-£4.99. But these ones were different. These were the dippy kind. This resulted in an interesting morning hunting out an appropriate receptacle whilst desperately clutching in my most-accurately-testable first wee of the day. The successful candidate – comfortingly wide-rimmed, but not practical enough to tempt us into any sort of culinary reuse – turned out to be an empty Ragu jar. Partner’s idea. I’d suggested one of Baby 1’s plastic cups but apparently that was a poor parenting choice. In any case, the Ragu vessel quickly declared its secondary contents unburdened by tomatoes and child.

Honeymoon back on. Deposit paid. Doctors appointment for new pill prescription booked. Life lesson learned.

We may never dabble with fire intentionally, but the stress of thinking, “Oh god, I’m probably not but I COULD be… Should I part with £2,000 for an uncertain wedding date? Should I buy those skinny jeans? SHOULD I EVEN BE DRINKING THIS GIN?” for two, three weeks just isn’t worth it. The internet doesn’t help. According to Google everything – apart, perhaps, from testicle cramp – can be considered a potential pregnancy symptom. Parenting forums are even worse – there are plenty of women who claim to have symptoms days or even hours after conception. There are some who go into surprisingly graphic detail when describing how they came to possibly be accidentally pregnant (no pun intended). And their early pregnancy ‘symptoms’. I don’t think I will ever un-see what I read when I looked up ‘ewcm’. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t use Google images.

Still, I may keep the washed-out Ragu jar. After all, it’s only a short few years before we’ll be firmly in the throes of those aforementioned family holiday times. And a good, be-lidded, portable wee-pot can be so hard to come by…

 

I hope I’m not the only one with a ridiculous pregnancy scare story… If you have one please do share – there is a teeny, tiny ‘Leave a comment’ button under all the social media buttons below.

 


My little pensioner

Do you ever get the needling suspicion that your toddler is hiding a dark well of wisdom behind those big, shiningly innocent eyes? I do. Frequently. For example, here is my 22-month-old eating hummus. Hummus, which I didn’t get my head around until at least my mid-twenties.

That’s not all. As well as a surprising taste for chickpeas, my elderly little offspring also has a real thing for benches. If we come across one on a walk, she has to sit on it, and woe betide any accompanying adult who tries to persuade her otherwise. Most parents may allow extra time for things like petting dogs, feeding ducks, jumping in puddles, right? I have to allow extra time for bench sitting. But maybe I’m over-reacting. I mean, when your legs are only so big and you’ve only been using them for so long, maybe sitting on a bench offers a justifiable repose every once in a while. Ok. But, see, the thing is, it isn’t just benches on walks. It’s every bench. Everywhere. Even at the playground when we’ve just spent 45 minutes in the car and her friends are all running around sliding, swinging, exploring… Not my austere little pensioner.

It’s not just about the benches though. If you’ve ever had or been around a child approaching their 2nd birthday, you’ll know about the whole language boom thing. Lara’s no exception – every day it seems she surprises me with new words and sentences. Like last Tuesday, when, during the aforementioned 45 minute road trip, I told her there were no more snacks to be had just now. “Shit!” she replied. “Erm… what did you say?” “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” I can’t imagine where she learnt it. Especially in the car.

 

It’s not all glares and profanities, though. The other day we went to visit a friend’s new baby and, as we peered over the edge of the crib, Lara smiled, looked at me and said, “Baby!” and then, sternly: “Mummy SHUSH!”

Despite all this, I haven’t resigned myself to shopping for orthopedic shoes and miniature tartan shopping carts just yet (though how much would she love the latter? Hello, 2nd birthday present!) That is because for every mature act which grounds me in my tracks, there are 40 still very much stapled to the age of 22 and-a-bit months. Like her penchant for putting silly things on her head. And her love of uncooked baked goods. Come to think about it, I can’t imagine where she learnt those, either…


Paradise… once you get there.

Entering the spacious British Airways 777 and locating our seats at the front, with ample legroom and a pulldown table on which to place a bassinet for our 19-month-old, my fiancé and I may, perhaps, be forgiven for feeling just the tiniest sproutings of optimism. Here we are, about to embark on a two week holiday in the Caribbean on a nice, mid-morning flight, and said 19-month-old has been deprived of a suitable amount of sleep so as to, surely, guarantee an imminent and long nap. We’ve equipped ourselves with an immigration-busting amount of toddler snacks and an assortment of new and old favourite plane-friendly toys, as well as a laptop full of Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden. And, if that wasn’t enough, we have the assurance of six additional members of my other half’s family sitting behind us and dotted about the plane. As we sit down we notice another, similarly aged small child sitting in the row opposite. Looking back, I’m not altogether sure why this was a reassuring sight… Perhaps I had illusory expectations of empathy, or the conspiring whisper of a failsafe tip to amuse a bored toddler shared across the aisle? Perhaps my innocent, pre-11-hour-flight-mind entertained deluded visions of the two toddlers amusing one another as we parents sat back and watched The Imitation Game with a nice beaker of white wine?

Needless to say, within 40 minutes of take-off all expectations, illusory or otherwise, deluded visions and certainly any remaining straggling, apocalypse-defying roaches of optimism have pelleted, bird-poop-like, back down to the Gatwick runway. Gone, too, are 80% of Baby 1’s carefully selected and rather expensive plane snack selection. Toys old and new lie in ruins a toddler’s throw span from our feet. It’s around this point our dour-faced air host duly hands us our ‘bassinet’ – read slightly larger-than-average baby bouncy chair harnessed to the pull down table in front of us, rendering our pull-up entertainment systems un-pull-up-able (not that we’ll even be able to contemplate any entertainment during the next 10.5 hours). A foul smell drifts into my nostrils and I look, innocently, towards the toilets at the front of the plane. Across the aisle, the sweet-faced toddler settles at once into his bassinet, cuddled in a blanket and gently suckling on his dummy.

Baby 1 has never liked a bouncy chair. She was never one of those small babies you could strap in and then allow to gently undulate themselves to sleep. As I recall, she only really started to appreciate her bouncy chair when she discovered she could bend double and access delicacies on the floor from it. So one can perhaps understand her rage when her hapless parents attempt to strap her into one on a plane full of un-asleep people. Never mind my subsequent discovery that the terrible smell lurking like a guilty, gassy dog about my nose is not, in fact, coming from the toilets up ahead but from the chair itself, or, more precisely, the still-ominously-damp strap that goes between the legs. Call me paranoid but I know what baby diarrhoea smells like. And now my baby, her clothes and my lap, despite none of us having committed any such defecatory offence, smell that way.

Two hours later and I find myself keenly resisting the urge to throw hateful looks at the couple opposite, tucking neatly into their in-flight meal as their toddler continued to slumber without a peep. I, meanwhile, am busy spooning actually-quite-tasty pasta into mine and OH’s mouths due to his heroic (well, it would have been if he’d had a choice) relinquishment of his chicken tikka to our still-very-much-awake, curry-loving offspring… all the while trying to avoid breathing through my nose owing to the still-present ‘bassinet’, mocking us odorously from its entertainment-restricting perch. 

Time seems to coagulate into pools of scorched-eye misery as Baby 1 rages, literally, against us, the bassinet, the machine (being us, again, wrestling her into her gro-bag to encourage a sleep-like environment) pausing only to gratefully accept some desperate (and ultimately useless) Calpol. We manage, at some point, to corner our sour-faced host and tell him he might as well take the bassinet away. I tell him it smells. He protests that he “got it from its packet, it will have been cleaned”. Me: “Well it smelled like baby poo and it was still wet.” Him, very uninterestedly: “Oh. Well, maybe it wasn’t cleaned very well.” And that was that.  

Grateful respite comes as members of the family take turns attempting to entertain Baby 1, who is by now at the mood-swinging, unpredictable stage of toddler tiredness, roaring with laughter even as the tears of rage continue to track down her cheeks. I attempt to watch several inflight films, from Cake (too depressing) to Little Miss Sunshine (a trusty favourite but had forgotten the ear-splitting scream at the beginning. Too reminiscent of real life) to The Imitation Game which I can tell is good, but I’m not quite getting enough of to actually retain chunks of the plot, due to a squint-inducing screen and a strange audio quirk which renders Benedict Cumberbatch all mumbly but Keira Knightley almost unbearably shrill. 

Toddler across aisle eventually wakes up and begins to play happily with Play Doh. Baby 1 steals his book and my hopes of their playing happily with one another are dashed in twenty seconds of baleful stares. They spend the rest of the flight ignoring one another. He sweetly watches Peppa Pig on his mother’s laptop with some cute child-friendly headphones. Baby 1, probably wisely given aforementioned audio quirk, refuses the inflight headphones so we have to play our episodes of Peppa and Night Garden on very low volume. Having been awake for more hours than she usually sleeps at night, we attempt sleep-lulling Baby 1 with the jigglyshuffle, which, probably because she hasn’t gone to sleep this way for at least six months, renders her perplexed, rather cross and still very awake. Toddler across the aisle settles down for his second nap, bottle in mouth, and his father throws us a judgey sort of look as Baby 1 continues to whine miserably. I wonder, briefly, if this is karma for ever having felt a scrap of smugness at Baby 1’s never having needed a dummy or a bottle to sleep. 

Plane lands in Antigua and perfectly-nice-but-now-unfortunately-enemies-for-life family disembark along with 80% of plane’s passengers. Baby 1 has now gone from tired and irritable to riding her 38th wind and is quite happily playing peekaboo with her grandparents, who’re sitting behind us. We complete the last stretch of the journey to touch down in Tobago an older, wiser and decidedly smellier family than before. Upon the retrieval of Baby 1’s buggy at baggage claim and the insertion of her into it, she promptly falls fast asleep and stays that way until we reach our holiday home about 45 minutes later. Despite it being gone midnight UK time, Baby 1 uses the tantalising new reality of finding herself in a whole new place to fuel her 39th wind, running up and down the veranda and then gifting me with such a huge nappy-full of defecation I do not realise that it has stained the only-really-useful-holiday-vest I’ve just changed into until the next morning. 

Things, I’m happy to report, have become decidedly better since then. Despite a fairly sleepless first night (during which I spent at least two hours being beaten about the face by my suddenly-desperate-to-co-sleep child) the second night went like a dream and we’ve all caught up on sleep and settled quite happily into island life. Our party has enjoyed incredible views, paradisiacal beaches, rainforests, waterfall swims, varying degrees of burns, many pina coladas, awesome food and some excellent snorkelling – leading to an equally excellent ‘shark scare’ for one of us – and, of course, the obligatory contribution of our blood and flesh to a variety of oddly silent insects. All chronicled in much better detail by the blog of my future brother-in-law and his OH here

As I write, the breeze is gently lapping at my face as the Caribbean sun beats its unforgiving steel drum upon the dancing palm trees, potted asphalt, obscenely lush flowers and flattened creatures surrounding our villa. In a short while Baby 1 will wake up from her nap and we will wander the quarter mile or so down to Stonehaven Bay, our local stretch of idyll. There, I shall have a suitably calorific cocktail, either a pina colada or an island-style margarita, and then take a dip in the bath-temperature sea as Partner dances Baby 1 back and forth from the lapping waves. 

On tomorrow, that barb on the horizon, that bitter little cinnamon twinge at the back of my tongue, we will dwell not. Tomorrow our little scoop of tranquility reaches its crescent of conclusion. Tomorrow is the bastard flight home. 


10 times I utterly unimpressed my daughter this month…

My child is known as something of a tough crowd. She takes a good ten to twenty minutes to warm up to people, and eliciting a smile has always been a bit of a challenge. After 17 months of comedic dancing, exaggerated sneezing and barking not so much like a dog as an unwell guinea pig, I have come to accept that my child is just a bit stern. There’s nothing wrong with that. Her laughs are all the more precious for the toil they demand. And, what’s more, the girl throws a damn good shade.


Daylight Saving Time f*cked up my life

Since my last moan about the difficulty of reasoning the necessity of naptime with an infant, I’m happy to say that things have been looking up. We are down to just one breastfeed a day – which I know may not seem like much of an achievement, but remember this is the child who would happily refuse all fried, crispy and chocolate-dipped solids in favour of a little boob action – which we do just before she goes to bed. I’ve figured out a new way of getting her to nap without breastfeeding or resorting to her screaming in her cot for hours – I just have to hold her and jiggly-shuffle from one foot to the other while I count to 300 in my head. She’ll usually complain when I put her down, but then she will settle and snooze for, sometimes, up to 2.5 hours at a time. She’s been going down at around 7pm at night and usually wakes around 7.15-7.30am for the day. The last few weeks she’s even made it to the territory of 8-8.30am a couple of times, blessing me with the sweet, almost-forgotten decadence of a lie-in – the likes of which I haven’t experienced since the happy weekday mornings of early maternity leave, kissing Partner off to work before snuggling back down under a floral-smelling sheet with a pillow wedged between my obese pregnant knees.

I should have known it was all too good to last.

On Sunday the clocks went back and the precious hammock cradling our lives in this delicate nirvana of sleep-fruitfulness was abruptly floored by the morbidly obese arse of that cruel concoction called Daylight Saving Time. The same morbidly obese derriere, ironically, which once granted me an extra hour in bed on many a chilly October Monday morning. Who could have known that an hour would change so much? I was expecting the 6am wake up call on Sunday. It wasn’t pleasant but I got on with it, and the flipside was that Baby 1 went down happily for a long morning nap around 9am. That afternoon she refused a second nap. As she had slept for two hours that morning, I wasn’t too surprised – she’s never been a huge fan of the afternoon nap. That night we were all exhausted and, though I did try and keep her up till her normal bedtime, I ended up giving in at around 5.30pm and preparing her dinner half an hour early. I thought I would then draw out her dinner, bath and bedtime routine to try and get as near to 7pm as possible. The minutes ticked on, and before I knew it it was 6.07pm and I was creeping out of her bedroom, nerves shot, mind smooshed by tiredness and hand firmly extended towards the glass of rosé left over from the weekend, fully committed to trying again tomorrow.

On Monday morning (yesterday) we made it to about 6.30am before the screams to get up now, please, Mummy became un-ignorable. After only sleeping an hour in the morning, I was sure she would keel over in grateful oblivion the second I jiggly-shuffled her into her afternoon nap. Nope. I spent no less than three hours in and out of her room trying to weedle her into sleep as she resolutely screamed in my face/ clawed at my chin/ beat up every toy in her cot and then performed bear-acide over the side of the bars. Around 3pm I put her in her pushchair and walked her round the garden. She responded by trying to grab the leaves off the trees, squawking like a banshee every time I tried to rock the buggy in the soothing, repetitive motion that, six months ago, would have rendered her unconscious in seconds, and periodically twisted herself around to peer at me incredulously. In the end I gave up. To her credit, Baby 1 managed to stay up until her 7pm bedtime without too many breakdowns, and I felt sure, by the time I went to bed myself, that Tuesday, at least, would bring a portion of normalcy back to our waking up time. These hopes were duly dashed at approximately 5.35am this morning.

I suppose, when you think in terms of babies’ sleep cycles only being 90 minutes long, you can appreciate how much an extra hour – suddenly given, unasked for and with no warning – might mess with their sleeping pattern. And, I suppose, though there are always bound to be those babies whose parents will smugly admit that the extra hour didn’t bother young Rufus in the slightest, he’s actually sleeping more since the clocks went back, I should have always known that Baby 1 would not be one of those babies. Who wants to nap, after all, when there are stuffed animals to be murdered, kitchen cupboards to disassemble and unattended appliances to mount?

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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.

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.


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 Baby 1 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 Baby 1 with ‘he’) randomly approaches.

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

BABY 1: “…”

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

[LONG PAUSE. BABY 1 STARES BLANKLY AT P.R.A.T. AS A LOOK OF SLOW COMPREHENSION DAWNS ON MY FACE]

ME: “Oh. Er, Baby 1*.”

P.R.A.T.: “What a lovely name you’ve got, Baby 1! Are you going to give me a smile?”

[BABY 1 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, Baby 1?”

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 BABY 1]: “Well I better get off – bye bye now! Can you say bye bye?”

ME: “Say bye bye Baby 1!”

[BABY 1 STARES AT ME. I BEGIN WAVING MANIACALLY IN HER FACE]

ME: “Wave bye bye, Baby 1!”

[P.R.A.T. ALSO BEGINS WAVING IN BABY 1’S FACE. BABY 1 BARES HER TEETH AGAIN]

BABY 1: “DUH! Duh Duh Duh, DUH!”

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

[BABY 1 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 Baby 1.

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!”

BABY 1: “…Who the bloody hell are you?…”

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

BABY 1: Snookums?

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

BABY 1: Snookums?

[PAUSE]

BABY 1: 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 Baby 1.”

P.R.A.T.: “What a lovely name you’ve got, Baby 1! Are you going to give me a smile?”

BABY 1: 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, Baby 1?”

BABY 1: 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?”

BABY 1: 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 BABY 1]: “Well I better get off – bye bye now! Can you say bye bye?”

ME: “Say bye bye Baby 1!”

BABY 1: Are you insane, mother? You know I can only say five syllables and ‘bye’ is not one of them!

ME: “Wave bye bye, Baby 1!”

BABY 1: 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?”

BABY 1: Actually, madam, I’m trying to defecate.

Me: “Right! Off we go!”

 


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