Category Archives: Working mum

The Story of a Third Pregnancy (aka Throwback to the days of Gravity and Professional Hairdressing)

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Me, hovering around the 9th month of my first pregnancy. When things still pointed up (mostly) and my bed may have been cheap and untidy, but I was, at least, very unlikely to find Shopkins and singing Moana dolls in it.

It’s not just about that soft gleam of naivety in my eyes. Or the fact that I’ve clearly visited a professional hairdresser sometime in the last few weeks rather than squinted over a sink with a comb and a pair of rusty bathroom scissors, feverishly swearing whilst trying to remember that teenager’s YouTube tutorial. It’s not even the sad reality that gravity has yet to slump my pregnant belly into this strange, over-hanging pouch of a baby-hammock I’m currently sporting… It’s all of it. The fact I have no fucking clue what’s about to hit me. The destruction that tiny little foetus daughter of mine is about to wreak on my body as she makes her slow way out of it. The annihilation of grown-up evenings, solid blocks of sleep, freedom… I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know about the life sentence of worry, obsession, googling every little quirk and symptom, their tiny fingerprints on the corners of my heart even when I’m miles away and they are safe in their beds…

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And today. Same top… could have worn the same jeans, but that would require fitting into them.

But I didn’t come here to get all deep. I came because I’m on the brink of a full-term third pregnancy and I thought I would re-visit a couple of moments from my first and second pregnancies and think about what’s changed. Not just gravity. Though, gravity. Yeah. That’s a thing. Also age. I’m not exactly ancient now, but I don’t half feel old when I look at these photos. My life isn’t even as stressful, in some ways, as it was then. I don’t have to get up at 6am to commute 60 miles to work, I don’t have press days or exhibitions to attend. The dreaded vox-pop is a distant memory. I’m a SAHM attempting to get a novel published. My life at the moment is pretty good. And I can say that without feeling too hateful because I know in a few weeks it’s all going to be turned to shit upside down once again.

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August 2013. My first (and only) baby shower, featuring innocence, gravity and Ewan the Dream Sheep, a popular sleep aid for babies.

Maybe that’s the thing about third pregnancies… There’s no innocence anymore. When I had my second daughter it had been almost four years since my first, which makes a huge difference. I had, for the most part, forgotten the tearing agony of full-on labour. I’d forgotten the darkness of the early nights when the baby is feeding for the millionth hour and has just pooed AGAIN which means in a moment you will have to haul your broken, torn-up body out of bed and change her, waking her up in the process and ensuring at least another half an hour of feeding to re-settle her back to sleep for a paltry 45 minutes before the next cycle begins. When you look at the small mountain of used nappies stacked beside the lovely, grown-up designer handbag you won’t be using again for at least a year and wonder why the hell you have done this to yourself again…

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March 2019. I’m not angry, Ewan. I’m just disappointed.

And it’s not just the third-time-round parent-to-be who has well and truly lost that sparkling gleam of new-baby excitement. First time around we were surrounded by such intensely excited relatives that I was a little scared one of them might make off with the newborn from the post-natal ward. Nowadays I’ve come to quite enjoy the look of abject surprise when I answer the door/ remove my coat/ walk into a room. Even my own mum has told me, more than once, “Ooh, I just looked at you and thought you’d gotten really fat for a moment then!”

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A lazy, idyllic Sunday with bun number 2 in the oven…

 

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…and now. Personal space ain’t what it used to be…

But the biggest difference of all has to be the fact that I know this is probably the last time I will do this. So I am trying to make the most of it… Such as I can. Yes, the novelty of feeling the baby kicking has pretty much worn off at this point. Or at least been counter-balanced by the shitty indigestion, shooting round ligament pains, fanny daggers, occasional incontinence and all the other delightful symptoms one can expect to experience at least once or, in my case, repeatedly over the nine long months. Yes, as I heave my swollen, unrecognisable body out of bed to go and pee for the eighth time that hour, I do look forward to not being pregnant anymore. But I haven’t forgotten the darkness up ahead. I haven’t forgotten that life is about to get really hard for a while. That labour is really fucking painful. That newborns are bloody hard work. That around caring for one I’ve also still got to be up and ready in the mornings to pack a lunchbox, dress the toddler, take all of us to school/activities on time… as well as think about starting potty training one day soonish, losing the masses of winter/fuck-it-all-this-is-the-last-one baby weight I’ve piled on and temporarily pause all plans and processes for novel publication for at least the next six months.

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Back when the baby thing was still a novelty and I had yet to perfect the ‘touch my bump and die’ glare…

So I will go to the toilet again. I will cuddle my daughters around my enormous, protruding belly for as long as I can. I will shift into a comfier position on the sofa in the evenings and enjoy not having to negotiate a cluster-feeding infant whilst also obsessing over the opportune moment to go to bed in order to wrack up the biggest possible number of sleeping minutes… I will smile beatifically at the eleventh person to ask me how I am feeling today, and agree that haven’t I gotten big, and yes, I’m sure I certainly will have my hands full with three of them… But perhaps the strangest thing of all is that despite all the cynicism and impending doom, I am still excited. Definitely not the same way I was five-and-a-half years ago. Or even 20 months ago. But I am still looking ahead, past the labouring and the nights-of-nappies-darkness and the early weeks of trying to adapt to a probably quite horrible ‘new normal’… I’m looking forward to the other bits. The tiny, greyish-purple, brand new body passing into my hands. The relief that I never have to endure another second of childbirth. Sleepy, snuffly snuggles into my neck. Sisters becoming sisters again. And him; our boy. And all the complete wonderfulness he will bring us.

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Why is my bathroom so filthy?

So the blog posts have fallen by the wayside of late, and it’s definitely not because I’ve been cleaning my bathroom. Here is what has been keeping me away from WordPress and the Cif…

  1. The Wedding is officially Less Than A Month away. Somehow we’ve gone from the comfortable safety cushion of  Plenty Of Time to the final countdown, complete with increasingly wild-eyed and short-tempered replies to the simplest of questions (“How’s the wedding planning going?” “Are you all organised?” and “What do you want for lunch?”). Every day has begun to herald new and surprising bills and every intake of breath has a tremulous quiver of panic at the bottom of it. There is just so much to remember, so many lists which have gone missing, so many details that rely on my ability to remember them…

    I even fell a tiny bit out of love with my beloved the other week. No, I’m not talking about Gary. Turns out a lovely, multiple-layer wedding dress, 30C heat and my thighs unfairly resorting to two large legs of ham that’ve been left out in the sun until they take on an unhealthy, perspiring stickiness do not mix well. Let’s just say the dress and I parted ways with a distinct air of resentment between us – I weak-kneed with dehydration, she needing to be “aired out” as the seamstress solicitously put it. But it’s not all been a mad stress; I get to strap on my crafty pants and inflict the (poor) fruits of my AS-Level B-grade art skills on my wedding stationery, and I went on the hen do of my dreams last weekend, complete with laser tag, an Ice Bar, penis straws, games and a LOT of mummy dancing…

    10 points for spotting the penis straw

    10 points for spotting the penis straw

  1. The Move. Let’s move next year, we said. We need more space, we said. But don’t worry, we said, we’ll time it really well so it’s after the wedding. Whatever we do and wherever we go, it MOST CERTAINLY WILL BE AFTER THE WEDDING. So, naturally, our completion date is a slim three weeks before. But, you know, last time we did a House Move it was in the weeks before, during and after the birth of our first child so really if it didn’t happen at a time fraught with ground-breaking life-changes, we probably wouldn’t know how to do it. That’s what I tell people, anyway, when they ask me if we really understand the mountain of stress we’ve put upon ourselves. There’s nothing like a bit of humour to cover up the rising impulse to punch a person in the throat.

    It's happening...

    It’s happening…

  1. I’m officially a full-time WAHM (work at home mum). That’s right, I’m working the most I have done since the days of my waddling commutes back in 2013, and I’ve managed to somehow get an editor’s role behind my name. True, it’s by default due to a close colleague’s illness and I’m not making a big deal of it or presuming for one moment that the position will continue once my contract runs out, but ironically enough my career has never flown higher. And, one of the best things about it is that I get to work from home. I knew writing those novels over my maternity leave would be useful for something – it might not have landed the publishing contract I was looking for, but it’s certainly given me a hard dose of the discipline I need to knuckle down and churn out trade news, features and interviews while everyone else frolics in their paddling pools. And sometimes, on a quiet day, I can take a little break and frolic too. Because perks.

    Perks :)

    Perks 🙂

  1. I’m still a mummy first and foremost. Yes, I’ve had to rely on help with childcare a lot more recently, but that’s ok. Maybe it’s even a good thing. Lara loves spending time with her grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. She loves going to pre-school two mornings a week during term-time. The days when we can go for a walk and feed the ducks or head to the park are all the more precious. But, schmaltz aside, I do feel guilty for not having her as my sole focus anymore. And I do miss those carefree days when my only responsibility was entertaining my little girl. I know one thing for sure – if and when I have another one I certainly won’t take one moment of my maternity leave for granted.

So there you go – we’re currently living in that limbo between exchange and completion on a house move; those uncomfortable few days where the bathroom is steadily becoming more and more filthy but there’s no point cleaning it until the Big Clean of next week. Wedding prep happens in the scrambled moments when work is quiet and Lara is not paying attention (she loves her some lace and craft paper). Somehow I’m managing to edit the entire editorial contents of a fortnightly trades magazine in between all of the above… And Lara is still alive, thriving (albeit on slightly more screen time than she probably should be) and hasn’t yet climbed out of a window or stuck any of my centre-pieces to her head. But, you know, there’s still time…


The Great Wedding Quagmire

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Totally not panicking at all in the slightest at all.

In a little under five months I will be getting married. Which means that I am currently neck-deep in the quirky, sticky, confusing and oh-so-expensive quagmire of Planning A Wedding. Or, in perhaps more accurate terms, Planning A Stupidly Complicated And Perilously Open To All Kinds Of Disasters Including Losing Elderly Relatives Off A Cliff Marriage Of Persons. That didn’t fit on the invitations, however, so for continuity’s sake we shall hereby refer to the former labelling.

You see, our wedding is no ordinary affair. For starters it is to take place a sturdy 200 miles away from where 80% of our guests live (including the bride and groom). A ‘destination wedding’ if you will (which makes it sounds a lot more idyllic and palm tree-sy than the cowpatty, sand-in-all-crevices reality). Actually, it’s more like a destinationS wedding, due to our genius decision to locate our reception a good 25 miles or so away from the ceremony – and by ‘good’ I actually mean winding, one-lane, boggy, proper-country-lane miles which will take our guests at least 45 minutes or so to navigate. That is if they don’t go the route with the honest-to-God ford slap bang in the middle of it. (Unfortunately we learned this the hard way on our first venue visit… “It’s not too deep, look it’s just a like really big puddle… Hmm, getting a little deeper now. Is that an entirely normal sound coming from the engine? Oh my GOD there’s a BOAT MOORED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PUDDLE, TURN THE F*CK AROUND!” Gary’s Passat still hasn’t forgiven us.) Unfortunately this is also the route insisted upon by all satellite navigation systems. But, you know, so few wedding receptions these days lack that air of tense, wrangled, last-nerve-twitching air of harassment among their arriving guests…

My point being, this is not the easiest wedding to plan. But I still think we’re doing ok… I mean, when I sit and plan and make lists and talk myself out of having an attack of the vapours over the mother-fudging cost of every mother-fudging detail, everything does seem to be ticking along ok. There’re a few things left to sort out – the coaches, Gary’s suit, the bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, the reading of the banns, those pesky 5lbs I’d quite like to lose… But the big things are sorted. The invites have gone out. The RSVPs are trickling back. People haven’t yet started turning up on our doorsteps with large mallets shouting about how complicated we’ve made everything with our double-destinations and coach ride options and hard-to-access ceremony location necessitating a one mile walk to the coach pick up point… On the contrary, most seem to be genuinely excited about the whole thing, and those who can’t certainly seem disappointed and not at all relieved…

I don’t have any real cause to feel anxious at the moment. So why, when I have no real reason for it, do I still feel that tremulous, insistent bite of panic when people ask how the wedding plans are coming along? Why do I give that nervy, wild-eyed stare and start barking off my check lists in their faces? Why do I always finish in an incrementing crescendo along the lines of: “I think we’re ok… I THINK so… There’s nothing URGENT I need to be figuring out right now… right? RIGHT? WHAT DO YOU THINK, THOUGH, IS THERE SOMETHING I’VE FORGOTTEN?”

That, I think, is the key point. Planning a wedding is just so undeniably important. It’s fun, it’s stressful, you meet wonderful people, you get frequent bubbles of joy when you plan and book a detail that’s going to be SO AMAZING, you have wine-fuelled late nights with your intended other half and plan details and share brilliance and have those moments when you look at each other and know you’re thinking the exact same thoughts… But it’s all still just so undeniably important and undeniably terrifying. And the most terrifying thing of all isn’t the cost or the potential for things to go wrong on the day or the fact it will be all over far too fast… Those are things I can’t control. I know the day won’t be entirely perfect. I’m not expecting or even hoping for perfection – after all, some of the most memorable parts of a wedding day, the incidents which inspire the funniest stories (shout out to Mrs R-C and the malfunctioning Austin Princess bridesmaid car) are the parts which go a bit haywire…

What I am terrified about is messing something up now. I know how easy it would be for me to forget to do something, overlook some little detail which turns into a glaring, blackly obvious hole on the day itself… So please, please, Gods of all Inadvisably Complicated And Unintentionally Hazardous Events, if something is going to go wrong on my wedding day, please let it not be a big deal. Let it be funny – along the lines of a beautiful vintage car full of bridesmaids drifting to an idle stop in the middle of a busy junction as its elderly driver swears loudly… Please just don’t let it be because I forgot to return a phone call or dress a flower girl or invite a distant aunt at some point during this sticky, expensive navigation of the quagmire in which I, like so many before me, find myself currently residing.


The end of a [cramped, often sweaty but cool, though, right?] era

“Fun to be seen driving” are the words used by TopGear to describe the VW Beetle. Having driven one for the best part of two and a half years, I would add that indeed, it is possibly more fun to be seen driving a Beetle than it is in fact driving a Beetle. Not that I didn’t love every minute of being said driver of my particularly iridescent sapphire specimen.

I bought my Beetle in the summer of 2012 as my ultimate, single girl-about-town classy set of wheels, despite being a) not actually single and b) far too terrified to actually drive it anywhere about my town – being London at the time – except out, via the south circular, to work. But man, did I love being the girl driving the Beetle. Pedestrians would stare enviously (or so I choose to interpret) as they hastily retracted their toes from the zebra crossing, other Beetle owners waved, and car washers would chuckle and mock the little fake flower in the test tube vase next to the steering wheel.

Around six months after I bought my Beetle, I got pregnant. Approximately seven and a half months later, upon receiving ownership of a fairly standard-sized travel system pushchair, I discovered just how incompatible this car is with family life. Even without a seat, the frame simply did not fit in the bloody boot. I had to take the two back wheels off. Every. Single. Time. If that wasn’t enough, I of course had gone for the three door, four seat version in a pique of I’m-only-25-I’m-not-even-thinking-of-having-kids-yet logic. This made getting baby + car seat in and out PARTICULARLY FUN. I’m not even going to talk about the beige interior. Suffice to say it doesn’t meld well with babies, or any of the items said creatures ingest and… yeah.

It was also around this time – being the summer of 2013 – that I realised my most heinous oversight at the time of purchase. The car did not have air conditioning. Yes, it had heated seats and a standard heating system which made it a particularly cosy drive in the winter, and I hadn’t really noticed the lack of AC too much the summer before, when I’d been a svelte size 8-10 with thighs that didn’t rub together and was still in Beetle honeymoon period. But, two stones bigger and with a new, 120mile round commute to and from work, the novelty of my Beetle ownership wore off around the time I heaved myself into the driver’s seat ahead of a two hour jaunt on the m25 and saw the car’s thermometer merrily reading 40 degrees.

The sweat just went everywhere.

Still, I muddled through and continued to enjoy the odd moments of pretending I was still that young, single girl-about-town as I motored down the A322, singing along to Rihanna on the iPod dock as the baby snoozed out of eye-line. Then, this Christmas, I picked my sister and her two kids up from the airport. They had one suitcase and a pushchair. Something most cars, even neat little hatchbacks, can handle without so much as a tailgate dip of protest. Not my bloody car. The suitcase would only go flat in the boot if I sat on it. The pushchair would not go anywhere except wedged in front of my sister in the front, with her passenger seat as far back as it would go (fortunately my second niece is tiny for her age. And I’m fairly sure her hip dysplasia was diagnosed before the subsequent 200 mile journey from airport to Devon.)

It was then I had my Roy Scheider moment. I was going to need a bigger car. Sure, I wasn’t going to get eaten by a shark if I didn’t, but having any more babies invoked images of driving along with the boot duck-taped half open over one buggy while I towed the other along behind me. Besides, I was sick of having to climb into the back seat – even with the time-perfected twist, stoop and pivot – every time I needed to get my increasingly large Lara in and out. The mileage was still decent, paintwork fairly spotless, age not bad and I had six months on the MOT.

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You will be pleased to know that though I am silly enough to sacrifice any serious offers of purchase for cheap Facebook LOLs by posting a light-hearted advert including the word sh!t in the description, I’m not quite so stupid that I would make this blog post live before keys changed hands. Therefore, I am happy to announce that the Beetle has gone *pang* and I am now the proud owner of its much more sensible, much more bigger brother, the VW Tiguan. The drive is noisier, the diesel more expensive and I am now one of those SUV mums, but the other day I managed to get BOTH buggies and a suitcase into the boot without obstructing any vision out the back window. I guess that girl about town grew up. And got really boring.

 


Toddler TV: Bedtime Ally or Root of All Evil?

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To be honest, I never paid much attention to how much TV my baby watched, mainly because she never paid much attention to watching TV. Around the time she started pulling herself up on the TV cabinet and staring wide-eyed at Ant and Dec’s mild innuendos (ok, I’m a Celeb is my one reality TV weakness. That, and Dance Moms. And BGT when it’s on…) I began to wonder if perhaps I should switch off the occasional backdrop of recorded primetime entertainment during playtime. When I read that children under two are recommended not to watch any TV at all because it can impair speech development, I felt downright guilty. (It’s true, though, if you think about it… You’re not doing anything to encourage linguistic prowess when you and your child have both paused, mid block building, to stare slack-jawed at a desperate Z-lister eating kangaroo balls.)

Then we discovered In the Night Garden. Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy, Winky Wanky or whatever his name is, etc, provided a colourful, child-friendly haven of kissing, squeaking, incongruous slow-mo nodding, and a flatulent, inconsistently proportioned zeppelin. Yes, viewed by adult eyes it does make one wonder whether or not one should be on a not-so-natural high for it to make any sense. Or indeed whether its writers have been partaking of such. Yes, like many programmes aimed at young children, it plods along a pace that renders adult viewers quite incapable of watching in its entirety without a sneaky browse of Twitter, Facebook or River Island dot com along the way. But its charming narration by Derek Jacobi provides welcome comfort-food for the ear in a reassuringly old-school, Richard-Attenborough-as-Santa-Claus kind of way. You may, like me, even find yourself chirruping “Isn’t that a pip!” when spotting two aubergines of the exact same size in the aisles of Tesco of a rainy Tuesday morning.

But I think the true brilliance of ITNG and the multi-millions lining the folds of the Tombliboos’ troublesome trousers (no wonder they’re always falling down), is its symbiosis with bedtime routines. We never had a problem with bedtime until fairly recently – even when she was at the three-hourly-feeding stage, I tried to keep up a persistent routine of bath, milk and bed. When she started solids, it was dinner, bath, story, milk and bed – starting at 6pm and rounding up at 7ish. Then we stopped breastfeeding, and suddenly I was finding myself with a surplus half an hour messing up the whole routine. I was putting Lara to bed by 6.30pm, and even earlier on the nights she didn’t have a bath. Not only did the earliness mean she would put up much more of a fuss about going to sleep, she was far more likely to wake up before 6.30am the next morning. Then a friend mentioned her little boy’s fondness for In The Night Garden. Starting at around 6.25pm, it’s perfect for after-dinner viewing when it’s not bath night, and when it is, we come back down afterwards to catch the ending – which always features a song, story and the characters going to bed one by one. This brings us to 6.50pm, Lara is tired enough not to put up a fight as I put her down, and is often fast asleep by the time I’ve come back downstairs.

Sure, it’s irritating. Sure, some evenings I just want to punch Upsy Daisy right in her Daisy Doos. Sure, it may be turning my toddler into a monosyllabic robot whose mind is slowly being warped by weirdly phallic hairstyles, a rock-collecting teletubby with OCD tendencies and flatulent aircraft. But, as I type this at 7.07pm with a glass of Rioja by my side, my knees smarting from another day as my main weight-bearers, the baby sleeping soundly in her cot upstairs, it occurs to me that that is a risk we are just going to have to take.


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 Gary 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 Lara 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, Lara 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 Lara 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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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.

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.

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.


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