Friday, 30 October 2009

Baring Breasts

I have noted the blogging community's penchant for lists, and inspired by Muddling Along Mummy and her highly entertaining table of things achieved whilst breast-feeding, I have compiled a list of 10 places I have publicly breast-fed in the last 10 days in what I feel, upon reflection, to have been an increasing order of daring.

10. The Local Family and Child Centre
This one was easy-peasy as no-one batted an eyelid during the half-term activities programme.

9. The Library
This did cause a single stare of consternation from an elderly bespectacled gentleman, despite the prominent display of posters in support of breast-feeding.

8. Starbucks
The young, childless couple opposite me regretted their choice of seat and worked hard to pretend not to notice what was happening uncomfortably close to them.

7. The Swimming Pool Spectator Area
This provided a fascinating insight into the way people's faces change from a casual smile and nod of recognition to a gasp of horror...

6. In the bar of the Golf Club
Had to be really discrete with muslin placement; not really the done thing here.

5. Two cricket matches in Gibraltar
Here I encountered lots of red-faced men actually shielding their eyes.

4. Baggage reclaim at Gatwick Airport

3. Passport control at Gatwick Airport

2. On the move through Gatwick Airport and out through 'Arrivals' into the waiting crowds.
These last three should really count as one, but they did seem to become increasingly carefree.

And in the top spot:
1. On a packed communter train coming out of London
There was nothing I could do about this. Would the sardined carriage have preferred a screaming baby for the duration of the ride? The poor lad sitting right next to me was absolutely beside himself with discomfort.

But the most bizarre one of all didn't happen in the last 10 days so it doesn't really count. It happened when my baby was just a few days old: on top of a grave a few metres away (and shielded by plenty of trees) at a funeral. Whilst this felt really weird, I somehow hoped that the unwitting host might well have appreciated the juxtaposition of new life and death.

And the final result of compiling this list has been the realisation that first time around, with Gertie, I would only have done the deed publicly in 10. and 9. Maybe 8. at a push, depending on the time of day and how many people were around.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Absence Makes Mummy Much More Tolerant

Gertie went to stay with the grandparents last night. This was supposed to give me a bit of a break, since she was collected at 5pm. See The Hardest Part is the Evening.

In fact, what happened was that Gilby was just more demanding than ever, and I pined after my daughter ridiculously. I worked out that we have spent a total of fourteen nights apart in her short little life: a week's holiday last year, a few days around the time that Gilbert was due (in case anything happened in the night), and then the odd day here and there with grandparents for babysitting when it was easier for her to be there than for them to come here.

But last night there was no reason for her to be away: we were just home and not doing anything. (We had planned a night away, but the other grandparent, who was supposed to take Gilby, was ill, so the eagerly-awaited first full night of sleep in three and a half months has had to be postponed.) And the house seemed strangely empty without her. It seemed odd walking past her open and empty bedroom, and lonely in the morning without her joining us for cuddles in bed before breakfast.

She came home mid-morning today, so was only gone for 16 hours: 12 of which she would have been asleep for anyway; but I surprised myself completely with how much I missed her. And I was much more tolerant today of any poor behaviour this afternoon, cherishing every minute. I didn't even mind when she had a small tantrum because I had forgotten to roll her sleeves up before washing her hands.

I must be getting soppy in my old age.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Seize the Day!

This is one of Gertie's favourite sayings and although I'm not sure she entirely appreciates the implications, it sounds brilliant coming from a two-year-old. Particularly if you have to be dragged from your slumber; in the early morning it is far more bearable to feel a little hand pulling yours accompanied by a little voice urging you to "Seize the day, mummy!"

It is basically a phrase which in our household means that something good is about to happen. A few weeks ago we had spent a lovely day out visiting a local farm and then on the way home I revealed that we weren't going straight home, but were heading off for a quick visit to the grandparents, affectionately known as Grumps and Mumps.

Gertie's response? "Hooray! 'Seize the day' not finished yet!" So whilst she hasn't totally grasped the grammatical construction it always makes me smile.

I tried teaching her to say, 'Carpe Diem' but it doesn't sound nearly as cute.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Never Take an Evening Flight

And then there was the journey home.

I probably shouldn't begin a post with 'and', but really the whole sorry saga is not out of my system yet, and I feel that I must just carry on talking about it. The flight out to Gibraltar last week was mostly about Daddy getting wet. But the flight home was just, well, chaos, with nothing serene about it.

We had the classic 'check-out of the hotel a mere seven hours prior to needing to be at the airport' situation. This is a fundamental error, and one which I intend to never knowingly repeat.

We should have made a plan, but we didn't actually do anything with this supposed extra day, apart from finding a nice spot in the marina for lunch. It was a nice spot, until almost-but-not-quite-potty-trained-Gertie decided to wee on my lap, soaking both of us. Of course I had a change of clothes for the culprit, but not one for me, which prompted a friend who we had met for lunch to look sympathetically at my newborn and then nod sagely at me, muttering about reduced pelvic floor capacity.

Daddy, noticing my gritted teeth and the fact that I was barely able to control my rage, offered to jog back to the hotel, locate the luggage and find an alternative pair of jeans for me to wear. Meanwhile a further axe-dident occurred at the restuarant. It seems that it doesn't rain but it pours. I was not amused.

The flight home was delayed by nearly three hours, and I didn't have that many activities stashed in my hand luggage to entertain a toddler - whilst Daddy decided that the best thing to do would be to take a leap into cider-space. I would have joined him, but as I am still breast-feeding Gilby it didn't seem like a good idea.

Gertie decided not to sleep on the flight until about forty minutes before we were due to land. By this time it was getting on for midnight. When we woke her up, she screamed, fairly consistently, until we got off the plane. Concerned (and obviously childless) passengers around us enquired as to what was what was wrong. "She's just knackered, as am I!" I wanted to scream back, but refrained from doing so. I charged through the airport with Gilby now screaming his head off, having also woken up and due a feed. I started feeding him while Daddy calmed Gertie and collected the luggage. I continued, on the move, through customs, not caring that my breast was on display for all to see. Dignity had been lost from the morning wee wee and never quite regained.

Oh - and the trip itself? Dominated by the fact that a barbary ape jumped on Gertie's head.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Airports and liquids

My husband and I agree that serenity, or at least the appearance of it, is the key to parenting. And an invaluable tool for just getting through an airport with two small children.

We left for Gibraltar last Thursday. Our planned departure time was 10am. Our actual departure time was 10.05am. Brilliant. (I had factored in an extra hour since my husband is famous for his lateness, a trait that stems way back to pre-fatherhood days and hasn't improved with age.) We had to turn around only once: for a forgotten 'Bunny My Honey', a current favoured soft toy, and played the What Else Do You Think We Have Forgotten? game all the way to the airport. Even with the false start, we still arrived at the airport TOO EARLY TO CHECK IN.

Gilby slept through a leisurely lunch; Gertie was immaculately behaved in the restaurant. Security was quick, and although we had to dismantle the pram into its component parts to satisfy the guards and the pot of bubbles I had bought to amuse Gertie was not deemed particularly appropriate, we progressed in a timely fashion, almost sauntering to the departure gate with Daddy and I shrugging at each other and smiling smugly at how easy everything seemed to be. Ha ha.

We took advantage of the airline's policy for priority boarding for those with children under 5, although this did involve minor fracas with barging passengers who thought it would be helpful to surge forward and block any potential gangways to the plane, snorting indignantly as we tried to get past them.

Once aboard, we settled into our seats with a puzzle and some books to amuse Gertie, and Gilby didn't seem to mind his seatbelt too much. All was well. Until it became apparent about four seconds before take-off that Gilbert had done something in his nappy that needed to be dealt with immediately. It would not wait until 15 minutes after take-off. You know the sort of nappy I mean. Daddy leapt out of his seat to scowls from the stewards and grabbed the necessary accoutrements from the overhead locker. He leaned over and we attempted the 'in-situ two-man-nappy-change' perfected in pitch-black darkness over many nights. However all that training evidently didn't pay off and a below-par nappy change began a chain of events that mostly involved Daddy being covered in various unsavoury liquids of one description or another.

Gilby filled his nappy again almost immediately, but this time the tell-tale yellow came straight through his clothes. Happily for me Daddy was now holding baby and therefore in possession of yellow-stained jeans (his only pair). This was a good thing as I would have been far crosser and less serene than he.

Gertie asked for her juice cup and Daddy was already up trying to clean his trousers so in charge of getting it for her. The pressure from the plane meant that removing the lid resulted in a powerful upwards gush of liquid to rival an eruption of Vesuvius. Once again this somehow went in the direction of Daddy's jeans.

Gertie found the lure of an aeroplane toilet strong and went at least ten times on the two-hour flight. Since I was back feeding Gilby for a lot of the flight, the responsibility fell to Daddy and whilst there were no real 'axe-didents', several pairs of knickers and tights were required due to inadequate bottom placement, and, you've guessed it, Daddy's jeans found themselves in the firing line again.

I found all this predictably hilarious, which didn't do much for Daddy's serenity levels but did a power of good to mine.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Hardest Part is the Evening

Bon Jovi got it wrong when they said that the Hardest Part is the Night; no, the hardest part is most definitely the evening.

At three o'clock in the afternoon I could get a mother of the year award. Gilby is taking his nap whilst I do finger-painting with Gertie. The house is clean, the washing hung out to dry, the evening meal prepared.

Jump cut to two hours later. Potty-training Gertie and her little brother do synchronised poos. Hers in her knickers so that she enters the room John Wayne-style from the kitchen where she has left her uneaten supper. Both start screaming for my attention. Because Gilby is still at the breast it is a few seconds before I can reach Gertie. Suddenly the poo is no longer just in the knickers. Then she hits Gilby because she doesn't yet have my full and undivided attention. Toys are everywhere; now poo is too. The noise level in the household means that the neighbours are on the verge of phoning social services.

Daddy is not home for another hour and a half. Gilby has begun his evening feeding frenzy and will have me pinned in a chair for most of that time. Somehow I have to get both cleaned up and fed before CBeebies' Bedtime Hour begins, and restore some sense of order to the house. (Otherwise Daddy walks in and starts picking up discarded toys with a look on his face that asks what exactly I have been doing all day long.) This scenario is played out with various permutations every day; multiply stress factor by two if it happens to be a bath night.

He walks in just as we are finding out whether our entrance to the night garden will be by Ninky-Nonk or Pinky-Ponk. All is calm and clean; pyjamas are on and teeth brushed. He has no idea what the last ninety minutes have been like. I have no idea how I have survived them.

Monday, 12 October 2009

A holiday from my 'little holiday'.

I'm far to busy to be sitting here doing this. That is because we are going on 'holiday' on Thursday. I use the inverted commas because I do not see how travelling abroad with two small children can legitimately be described in such terms: particularly as one definition of holiday is given as 'days exempt from labour'. Oh the irony.

The sheer level of preparation is frightening. I won't even begin to discuss the problems associated with trying to organise a passport photograph for a newborn baby. (Suffice to say it took just the four trips to the post office using their check and send service.) And speaking of irony, I am ironing things that would never make it to the ironing basket under normal circumstances, but in order to fit the required quantity of clothes, nappies, muslins, towels and general baby accoutrements into the ridiculously small luggage allowance provided by a well known budget airline, must be pressed into a small a space as possible. And we must take twice as many clothes for Gertie as she is potty-training but still having a number of 'axe-didents' as she likes to call them. Once I would have moaned about not having enough allowance to transport all my shoes (I took nine pairs for my hen-weekend); now I will be lucky if I remember to put my own on before leaving the house.

We should look like the best-dressed family in the world in comparison to our usually dishevelled state, but unfortunately by the time we arrive at our destination all the careful hours of laundry will be rendered useless and we will all be just as creased as usual.

When we get there we are staying in a hotel. 'What luxury!' a pre-motherhood me might have been heard to cry. But now that simply means that there will be two large people and two small people inhabiting a single room for the duration of the trip. Not a recipe for happiness. It means lights out at 7.30pm. (I am praying for a balcony and an outdoor mini-bar - unlikely.) It means Gertie waking up every time Gilbert needs to feed through the night. And it means trying to entertain a toddler and a baby without all the usual tools of the trade that can be found at home: no swingy chair, no play-gym, no bulging toy-box...

My husband describes maternity leave as my 'little holiday'. So now I am having a holiday from my holiday - oh the joy! The list of things that needs to be done before we go away is not getting any shorter. Perhaps I sound a little ungrateful. It is because the spectre of a three hour flight and airport security looms large in my consciousness.

So I don't have time to be doing this blog. But I feel a little better for getting it all out of my system. I need a holiday.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

When is the morning not the morning?

Sleep deprivation rather comes with the territory of having a baby. It's one of the things that you sign up for, and consequently shouldn't really be complained about.

And things are much better than they were: in the first few weeks we thought that two hours of continuous sleep was a luxury, and 5.30am was a lovely long lie-in. What was interesting was the way that big-sister, who has slept for Britain for nearly two and a half years, suddenly started to be woken up by 'monsters' during the night. Unhappily this managed to coincide quite spectacularly with the few precious hours that her baby brother was asleep so the nights were even more broken than they might have been.

But things got better quite quickly: the monsters were banished to the shed at night-times and by about seven weeks the young man stopped waking up on the hour every hour and began to go for three hours at a time between feeds.

Now we get a whole evening of grown-up time as Gilbert sleeps from 7pm, waking up for that first feed at around midnight. He has created his own routine, with no thanks whatsoever to Ms G Ford. The problem, however, comes with the small altercation about what actually constitutes the morning. Usually somewhere between 6am and 7am.

For Gilbert, this morning, 3.45am was play-time. He was up and smiling and 'chatting' (an absurd word to describe the noises that a baby makes, but one beloved by my health visitor). No amount of shushing could persuade him that it was not the start of a wonderful new day.

It must be remembered, however, that sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I can happily report that the only major side effects this morning seem to be that my husband dropped his perfectly cooked fried-egg onto his slipper and then swore. A lot.

Friday, 9 October 2009

I can't get out of the door

I have a thing about leaving the house tidy when I am going out. My nearly-two-and-a-half-year old daughter does not share this trait. Before yesterday's swimming lesson I was frantically running round making beds and tidying away clothes whilst simultaneously congratulating myself on having got 10-week-old Gilbert fed and changed and ready to go. I came downstairs to find the entire contents of the toy-box emptied out on to the living room floor and a 'tea-party' in full swing.

"Oh darling, I'm trying to get out of the door and look at what you've done!" I cried, exasperated.

"What's the matter mummy? Why can't you get out of the door? Are you stuck?" came Gertie's bewildered response.

Not only can I not get out of the door, I am now more wary than ever of the literal nature of language to a two-year-old.