Monday, 21 November 2016

In which travelling with a sling is a lesson in spatial awareness

On first thoughts, a four-hour train journey didn’t seem a big deal.  After all, I’m a fully-fledged adult with much experience of negotiating the British transport system and indeed many foreign ones too, all without drama and with a 100% success rate of getting to where I need to be without hitch.  But there’s something about doing such a journey with a small person in tow that renders you feeling completely incompetent, and results in you spending hours planning the logistics and dreaming up all sorts of potential pitfalls, disasters and worst-case scenarios, rather like you’re embarking on a mission to the moon.  The worried exchange with my parents as I announced that I was coming back on the train to see them only served to further boost my sense of incompetence at getting from A to B without disaster.  It takes you back to the first time you ventured out of home on your own as a child (like, to your friend’s house two doors down), the relief palpable when you arrive back home from a solo trip into the outside world without incident.

And so it was that the Big Train Journey was meticulously planned; the trending topic in our house for weeks on end.  I opted for the sling, packed exceptionally light (I mean like no spare shoes, a move so drastic and unprecedented that pre-baby I would have laughed in the face of such a ludicrous suggestion), and then proceeded to fill the rest of the suitcase to bulging with the usual baby paraphernalia plus some to cover all said eventualities.  A separate day rucksack avoided the potential for an eruption of pants, nursing pads and nappies over unsuspecting passengers as I opened the pressurised container of an overfull suitcase one-handed to retrieve a clean babygrow after the inevitable poo explosion. 

We set off optimistically to take on the might of the London Underground, the general public at large and negotiate two changes of train.  I was pretty happy to be pushchair free on the underground and able to hop on an escalator rather than stare around blankly for hidden lifts in the middle of a busy concourse, watching everyone else course with ease towards daylight.  All was going swimmingly (apart from the revelation that even the ‘quietest’ baby toys sound hideously loud in a relatively quiet pendolino carriage.  Huge apologies to the lady in front who was escaping from her baby for her first adult weekend away). 

However, it turns out so-called baby-wearing isn’t without its flaws:  rather like when you drive a car twice the size of your usual one, having a baby strapped to your front leads to some significant misjudgements of space.  I appreciated my extra width, for example, a little too late for the man I squeezed in next to on the (stupidly narrow) tube seats, who thought he was being pickpocketed by the incessantly wriggling baby legs kicking him in the thigh.  Similarly, an adjusted centre of gravity and baby legs protruding at right angles make a journey down a train isle to the toilet a full-blown obstacle course, and in my case resulted in a rather too close encounter with a suit trying to do some work on his laptop.  But the biggest challenge comes on arrival at the toilet.  I’m not talking about the big toilets where the door open/closed/locked buttons are at a nerve-inducing distance from where you sit in your most compromised position, but the standard size toilets.  You inevitably end up in far closer quarters with the toilet than ever desired as you squeeze down next to it to enable yourself to shut the concertina door, risk bashing the baby’s head on the sink as you bend to sit down/stand up, and simultaneously bang your elbows on either wall as you attempt to get your trousers back up under the sling and 20lb of sagging baby.  Given these logistics and the inability to see your feet, the pool of water in front of the toilet which would usually be avoided at all costs, just in case it’s the wrong kind of leak, is sadly inescapable.  Lesson learned: coffee consumption can only be on a needs must basis.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Saturday, 5 November 2016

In which Halloween half happens

Growing up, Halloween was a miserable affair.  The front door was locked and the doorbell unanswered.  Halloween was banned: witchcraft was not to be celebrated.  So while friends got hyperactive on the spoils of trick or treating, we sat at home sulking. 

And so you might imagine in my own home I would have a supply of sweets ready for the stream of children pursuing an autumn sugar rush.  Not so.  I confess I have never bought sweets for trick or treaters.  I am whole-heartedly the Boring Adult:  I turn the lights off and pretend not to be in.  I tut at parents who let their children out on the streets to terrorise neighbours and demand sweets from strangers.  (Have they all forgotten the stranger danger campaign?)  

But this year I have sensed change as I transition to the parenting era.  My hard line is softening.  For the first time I got Boring Adult guilt:  with no hiding options available, I resorted to my Emergency Biscuit Supply to avoid facing up to the harsh reality of having nothing for the little witch boy who trick or treated me on my drive.  In reality, I wouldn’t yet go so far as to say this softening is for the sake of the fun of the nation’s children (transition clearly not yet complete), but more in pursuit of my own sugar needs.  As cake currently has the standing of dietary requirement in my life, a maternity leave addiction, there is little I won’t do in the name of cake.  (I am a firm believer that if the day comes that I no longer feel the need for a daily dose, then it’s time to go back to work).  And so for the sake of not missing out on a cake opportunity, I readily abandoned my anti-witchcraft principles for a Halloween afternoon tea party. 

For the very first time I joined in the Halloween fun.  I abused my position of trust and wrestled the Little One into an amusing £6 pumpkin babygrow from Sainsbury’s before duly attending various Halloween-themed baby groups and afternoon tea parties.  In case you’re wondering the cake was great.  And with the precedent for the next 10 years set, you have my word that in the name of not being totally hypocritical I will stock up the cupboards full of sweets for next year’s tribe of trick or treaters.    

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Friday, 28 October 2016

In which Weaning Day arrives and the Little One has other ideas

We carefully sit the Little One in her brand new high chair as the momentous day finally arrives. 
NHS weaning session attended. 
Annabel Cartmel book well-thumbed. 
Baby-led weaning researched. 
Carrot pureed. 
Munchkin spoons washed. 
Vegetable sticks steamed. 
Highchair constructed.
Bib on. 
Baby wipes at the ready.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

In which the little moments count

“How old is she?” (If I had a £1 for every time I’ve been asked that…)

“Seven months now!” (Said with usual tone of exclamation, as if the passing of time is normally an impossibility).

It was a fairly standard opener to any conversation these days. And then dad to one-year-old Millie simply replied “I don’t remember Millie being that age. I suppose I won’t remember her being at this stage soon either.” Nothing like a bit of matter-of-factness. I was reminded of this conversation on

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

In which the London Marathon ballot occurred

I won’t lie.  When the London “Marathon News: You’re in” magazine arrived on my doormat on Wednesday, my first reaction was not one of excitement. 

Back in April, the recent post-birth me was desperate to go for a run again, in that flawed human psychology way which makes you want something so much more when you know you can’t have it.  And so my crazy, sleep-deprived brain enthusiastically entered my details into the ballot for the 2017 marathon.  After all, it was fate that the iconic marathon should come along just as I reached the

Friday, 7 October 2016

In which the first level four poo occurred

Never be lulled into a false sense of security that your baby doesn’t do poo explosions.  Babies do poo explosions.  All of them. 

In the first weeks of the Little One's life I laughed along with the other NCT mums on our What’sApp group about middle of the day baths, poo up to the shoulder blades, multiple changes of clothes etc (amazing how much there is to say on the topic).  But these events just didn’t happen in our house.  Nappy changes were civil and contents well contained. I felt very secure (and maybe a little smug) that I did not have a pooey baby. 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

In which I sign up to the childbirth secrecy club

“It’s simply your journey to meet your baby”, trilled my tiny pink-haired yoga teacher as we sat in a circle practising our breathing exercises.  For a short time I was swept along by the euphemisms and the number of second time mums who nodded enthusiastically when describing how helpful various yoga poses had been in their first labour.  The evidence was there in a full-to-bursting class: labour was gentle enough that deep breathing and rocking from one foot to the other would keep me calm, cool and relaxed when giving birth. 

But my cynical side fought back.  Much as I had resisted thinking too much about the whole giving

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

In which I became “Little G’s mum”

“What’s Izzy’s mum called again?” I whispered loudly to my friend, as Izzy’s mum exited after a changing mat chat on weaning several weeks into term two of baby swimming.  “Err… I’ve no idea” came the hesitant answer.  Long pauses, raised shoulders and blank, embarrassed faces provided no clues from others.  Nobody, it turned out, knew Izzy’s mum’s name. 

Why is it so much easier to remember the baby’s name than the mum’s, I pondered.  Because this is, without a doubt, the reality of attending baby groups.  It dawned on me in this moment that I had