Bomb-bomb-ba-bomb-ba-bomb-bomb (Chris Brown & Wiz Khalifa)

Today we got ‘baby-bombed’. Again. This is when a total stranger approaches at great speed, usually cooing loudly, and GRABS, or in more extreme cases, KISSES your baby without asking.  On this particular occasion it was an older lady, hunched over double, so she advanced unseen below my eye line.  Her gnarled hand, long nails painted a venomous red, reached out for Bella’s (let’s face it) generous thighs and she gave them a vigorous squeeze. Then she went for the classic one-two manoeuvre.  Her rouged face came closer and closer to Bella as if in slow motion; I could see the saliva frothing at one side of her mouth, a thicket of wiry hairs on her sagging chin and a light dusting of dandruff on her shoulders. Then came the moment of truth. She KISSED Bella on the cheek.  KISSED HER.  How is that OK?  Would you go up to another consenting adult on the street, jiggle their legs then plant a smacker on them, whilst making unintelligible noises only dogs can hear? No. You’d get punched or possibly shanked. Definitely told to f**k off.  So why is this OK with a baby?

 

Baby bombing is an all new hate for me, and since having Bella I have found a host of new things that either annoy me or please me that never did before.  Things that never even got onto my radar pre baby.  Admittedly this is probably exacerbated by my emotions being somewhat closer to the surface than ever before, “mum-motions” if you will.

 

So, my new HATES:

Baby-bombing

TOP of my list, especially since Bella has developed stranger danger and separation anxiety.  The typical M.O. of a baby-bomber is to swoop in all loud and high pitched, grabby fingers outstretched.  On one hand I am pleased that complete strangers find Bella so cute they can’t help but touch her.  But on the other (and this one wins) I also hate it because you don’t know WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN.  And she regularly loses her shit during the thigh jiggling.  Who wouldn’t – if someone came up to me and started pinching my (also generous) thighs I would weep for a week.

 

Doorbells

There was a period when Bella would not nap in the house.  We would put her in her lovingly prepared, warm cot in her painfully expensive sleeping bag and she would shriek like she was lying on a bed of nails wrapped in a cat o’ nine tails.  During this period she would JUST get off to sleep when inevitably the postman would ring the doorbell.  ARGHHHH. Cue rabid squalling from the nursery. Eventually I disconnected it.

 

The tube

Now the Underground has never been a favourite, it’s not like if asked what I was doing today I would answer “oh just ride the Bakerloo line for a few hours, maybe jump off for some quality time on the Jubilee, feel the dirty breeze in my hair – BOOM”…but with a baby the tube is beyond tedious.  There are a handful of accessible stations (stations that are entirely useless for any normal journey), no one stands up for you even with a passive aggressive British DEATH STARE directed at them, you develop guns of steel carrying the pram up 1000s of stairs and it is always hotter than an actual circle of hell.

 

The pavements of SW17

So I have spent many a day pounding the pavements of Tooting and surrounds, and have come to the conclusion that they are not in the least bit pram friendly.  They may even inspire me to write a STRONGLY WORDED EMAIL.  For a sleeping baby they are the equivalent of a new fairground ride: The Baby Boneshaker.  It is effectively like going off-road, I need me a Land Rover not a buggy.

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The BONE SHAKER

My new LOVES:

 

Smell of Baby Poo

This will sound weird, and it’s not at fetish level, but I love the smell of baby poo. Why?  Because it means she has BEEN.  This is what six weeks of constipation did to me, six weeks of watching Bella strain and strain, her face puce, her eyes watering, her little hands shaking, all simply to produce a series of dry dusty rabbit pellets.

 

Costa

Before Bella I was well on my way to becoming a coffee snob.  I didn’t feel safe unless my coffee came from an independent establishment where Barista was a PROPER job, where there were ironic captions from lesser known beat poets on the walls and where everything was made from burnished wood, even the cups (yes I would put up with lip splinters to feel confident in my cortado).  I even once trialled a bean that had passed through a weasel first (yes pooed out and turned into a latte, yum).  But now I am all about a simple Costa.  It has baby changing as standard, it has room for a battalion of prams and you can stay for hours without being evicted.  What more could any mum want?

 

Leopard print

Actually any animal print.  I always have been a fan, but was never entirely convinced I could pull it off.  But now I am obsessed with it, for both Bella and me because it is the best pattern for covering up a multitude of food based sins.  Those grubby little avocado hand marks don’t even show up on a leopard print blouse, and the sweet-potato vom just blends in to the tiger print onesie.

leopard print
Channeling Mel B…

 

 

 

Question…(Destiny’s Child)

Last week I got asked by another woman, a mum no less, “why are you still doing THAT?” A perfectly innocuous question I hear you cry. But the THAT in question was breastfeeding. And THAT was said with such disgust that what she could have been asking was “why are you still mutilating small dogs and locking them in disused refrigerators?” Well everyone knows I am a cat person. Why indeed.

This question really got under my skin. As a first time mum you are always on the cusp of a guilt trip. You are convinced that you aren’t doing it right MOST of the time, so you don’t need any help feeling bad about your choices. But of course I said nothing. Of course. So, warning up front, this may get a bit ranty. How you feed your baby is such a personal decision and there is no one right way to do it. I am still breastfeeding Bella at eight months, and I have got to say I have not felt wholeheartedly supported in that decision. I did not expect to feel bad for breastfeeding. A few weeks ago the Royal College of Midwives announced they were putting new emphasis on supporting mums who bottle feed as much as those who breastfeed, which is great because I think that support is THE most important thing. Whichever way you choose to go, whichever way you can go, as you can’t always choose, will ultimately work for you and your baby and should be supported.

So when I was asked why I was still breastfeeding, despite myself I felt guilty. Maybe she IS too old; maybe if I don’t stop now she will still be supping on my boobs into adolescence. I will have to turn up at her university Fresher’s Ball to make her a White Russian (only classy cocktails for my gal). I will have to live under her dorm bed. I will be a 50 year-old husk of a woman, dedicated only to feeding my daughter, with two spaniel’s ears for breasts. I will be like one of those really sad dairy cows you see on the news, tied to a fence with pumps on their udders for 23 hours a day. The spectre of “Bitty” looms menacingly on the horizon. I need to constantly remind myself that she is eight months not eighteen. I also feel guilty that I am depriving Phil of father-daughter feeding bonding time (although nowadays there is more meaningful time spent over a piece of avocado than milk). And I feel guilty for not getting away from her more often as breastfeeding does tie you to four hour increments of freedom at most. Listen to that, I feel GUILTY that I can’t take time to myself more often…I am actually ridiculous.

fri night
One thing I will not miss about breastfeeding….the classic Friday night spent in with the breast pump, a Magnum and Love Island (well the last two can stay)

So why am I still doing THAT eight months in? Well it’s not because I just love how my veiny, baggy, puppies-in-a-sack boobs look (FYI, so sexy). Firstly it was so ridiculously hard in the beginning that I resent giving it up when it is now easy. My nipples bled for almost four weeks. Bella was constantly sicking up a hideous pink mixture of old milk and my blood. I had to sleep with nipple balm under my pillow so it was warmed up and therefore soft enough to apply at any given moment, before, during and after every feed. And Bella fed a LOT. A LOT. At the beginning she was a classic cluster feeder. At one dark point she chowed down every 45 minutes between the hours of 5pm and whatever time we all crawled into bed. At the end of every night (I say end, ha) I wanted to scream into a pillow whilst simultaneously hitting myself in the face. So because breastfeeding was so hard won, part of me doesn’t want to give up on it now it’s simple.

And breastfeeding is great now, both practically and emotionally. In pure practical terms Bella is a lean, mean, breast-emptying machine. She is done in five minutes flat. And it’s convenient; I don’t have to carry bottles with me, I can just flop out said saggy boobs whenever, wherever (a lesser known Shakira song). It’s also cheaper, nay free. Phil made this very pertinent point, as he and his excel sheet are masterfully keeping us afloat during these perilous statutory pay times. And lastly, someone told me that breastfeeding burns between 200-500 calories a day. With my continued addiction to Nutella and my ball-bag stomach I need all the help I can get. As well as practical plus points, emotionally there is also no doubt I feel close to Bella when breastfeeding, especially when she stops, looks up and beams at me halfway through. Heart. Melts.

Saying all this my breastfeeding days may soon be coming to an end. Why? Because Bella has just developed both two teeth and a penchant for clamping down on my nip like a rabid terrier with a bone. Those teeth might be small but they are like two tiny razor sharp knives when applied to what was once an erogenous zone. This is NOT a fun game. THE PAIN. THE PAIN. So the finish line is in sight, but until then, yes, I am still doing THAT.

Slow down baby, slow down baby (Snoop Dogg)

As a fully-grown adult, knocking on the door of the big 4-0 no less, sometimes it can feel like I have seen it all before. And even if something new does come along, I am far too BUSY and IMPORTANT to stop and care about it. I have EMAILS to send. EMAILS.  So what is amazing about raising Bella is that it has forced me to cast aside my frenetic, commute-hardened fuck-off attitude and slow down to experience those first times with her.  Because babies have seen nothing before and everything is brand new.

Bella’s young life is a series of firsts, from first sip of water (deeply underwhelmed), to first taste of avocado (deeply overwhelmed, in fact she can’t get enough, that’s my nice middle class baby; I didn’t have avocado til my mid-30s. Growing up in Blackpool in the nineties I didn’t even have pasta til I got to university, unless you count Alphabetti Spaghetti), to first roll over (incandescent because she couldn’t get back the other way), to first adult poo (easy to clean up but by god the straining, the straining).   And now we have another first. We took Bella to the playground and she had her first go on the swings.   After trying to gum the chain (natch), the look of amazement and sheer joy on her face as she took that virgin swing was just lovely to behold. Babies really do remind you to stop and relish those fleeting moments that make up life. They are simultaneously feverishly exhausting and an exercise in mindfulness. For someone who used to sprint across London from meeting to meeting whilst bashing emails out on my iPhone and somehow also doing Skype calls, this is a much-needed different perspective on life.

 

So seeing all these freshly minted moments with Bella got me thinking about MY most memorable firsts. And warning, not all of these are baby related.

 

First Memory Ever: My first memory is of my little brother. He must have been under one year old as he was in the pram bassinet, and I must have been about three. We were in the park and I was putting grass in his mouth. Grass. From the ground. My mum also remembers this, less fondly than I do. My second memory is of building a castle out of old cigarettes that I found in the garden. I was clearly a rank and offensive child.

 

First Kiss: Sorry if this is a bit Mizz magazine, but this HAD to go in the list. My first snog was fuelled by a gallon of Diamond White, that infamous destroyer of 90s livers. It was at a young farmers ball (that’s how we rolled in Blackpool). This sounds faintly glam but was actually just a big room with sticky carpet, sodden with the secrets of events past, more sick, alco-pop detritus and fag butts than shag-pile. I vaguely remember kissing some boy with slicked forward hair who smelt of Cool Waters and had a Kappa shirt on, before I proceeded to vomit in EVERY corner of the ballroom. I think my friends just moved me round to avoid detection but I left a trail of vom behind me like a cider-powered slug. Classy. Very classy.

out out
Oh yes, I was just FLY….

First time away from home: We had an 18-30 (does that even still exist anymore?) holiday to Magaluf in the late 1990s. We were three teen girls released from the parental shackles, free to down Archers and Malibu til we could no longer see. This sunny jaunt was EVERY stereotype you could imagine and more. Lineker’s bars, miming sex positions to win shots of rancid liquor, fry up breakfasts where the hash browns were 90% oil, and Union Jack towels on beach loungers at 8am. On day two I fell off a banana boat, got kicked by a fat man and ended up in hospital with a broken arm. So a raging success then.

 

First Moment with Bella: I will never forget the moment the midwife put her on my chest for the first time, as I lay there covered in ALL of the bodily fluids, so tired I was seeing double. As mentioned in my birth story I did not expect her to come out with full 1980s, eastern-bloc mullet, and the sight of a mini Bjorn Borg (let’s keep going with the old school tennis player references) nestling into me is one that will be imprinted on my memory forever.

 

First Nappy Change: This was in the maternity ward in the middle of the night and I had NO idea what I was doing, convinced that nappy changing was THE most fiendish task in existence. Bella screamed as I took her freshly christened bodysuit off, screamed as I took her nappy off, screamed as I cleaned her, screamed as I put a new nappy on (which obviously took ten minutes) and screamed as I re-dressed her. I was traumatised. Then all the other babies in the ward started wailing and I could hear their mums tutting in disgust at the squalling banshee who started it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin (House of Pain)

It has been over five months since Bella was born. I am not going to be a birth-bore and go on and on about the labour, but it is the beginning of our story. It was all in all a very positive experience and compared to some other stories I have heard I consider myself lucky. But the memories of THAT pain still linger, a fading residue round the edges of my consciousness. They say at some point you forget it all; nature’s way of ensuring we continue to procreate. I haven’t yet.

Nothing you read or get told can prepare you for the birth. The only way to describe it is feral. Bella was a surprise breech and we only found out she was the wrong way round when I was 8cm dilated and swearing like a ship-wrecked sailor. The more dilated I got was in direct relationship to the number of c-bombs dropped. I was not composed or graceful in labour, I basically turned into Ray Winstone.

My waters broke at home and it was less movie scene gush, more long leak. For the first five minutes I thought I might just be peeing myself, this being an all too common pregnancy occurrence. But ten minutes later it was clear something was amiss. So we went into hospital, only to be sent home after being told it might take a day or so to kick in. No. One episode of Made in Chelsea later (guilty) I was rollicking round the flat biting on the furniture and dropping class-A swear words like they were HOT. So back to the hospital we went, contracting in the back of an Uber whilst shocking the driver with my unladylike language.

birth belinski
Bella in frog mode

I didn’t know whether or not I would want drugs before I went into labour, but by the time we got back to hospital I was clear – yes please, all of them, now please. Gas and air, although I am sure fun for a night out, did not touch the sides. I was planning to stay in the birthing suite, which sounded like somewhere you might go for a nice week away, with a double bed, spa music and a pool. But the need for immediate relief and the fact that there was an arse where a head should be meant I waddled like a writhing John Wayne downstairs to the labour ward. There we waited for the man with the drugs. His aggressively long epidural needle gave Phil what my mum would call a “turn”. He went green. The midwives then hastily constructed “Phil’s corner” next to my bed, with a crash mat in case he fainted, a blanket, glass of icy water and a cold compress to mop his brow. I said nothing.

Because she was bum-down, we had to decide whether to go for a C-section or vaginal delivery. I started to get fearful. Labour is such an all-encompassing experience and I was so IN it that I wasn’t really feeling any emotions beyond “get it out” and this was the first time I felt properly scared. If we opted for a C-section Phil would not be allowed in because there was no room in the theatre for him to faint. At this point we both started to cry.

Luckily I then hit 10cm and the decision was made for us. Breech vaginal deliveries are apparently a bit unusual, so as I got ready to push, a gaggle of junior doctors filed into my room to have a butchers at the specimen in action. Despite being barely clothed and on all fours, being British I of course attempted polite conversation whilst ten complete strangers stared at my vagina. “This is Lindsey”…”Hi guys, how are you? Going anywhere nice on your holidays?” Phil stayed at the top of the bed at all times, for which I am grateful. Some things cannot be unseen. My friend’s husband described being at the business end as akin to watching his favourite pub burn down.

The pushing bit only took about twenty minutes and then Bella arrived into this world, bum first whilst simultaneously pooing and pissing (that’s my gal.) We deliberately didn’t know what flavour we were having so the first order of business was “it’s a girl!” Then she was deposited in my arms and immediately mewled her way towards my breast, fully confident in what she was doing even if I wasn’t. She was born with a full on mullet, looking every inch the late 1980s tennis player. I didn’t expect to look down and see a (very) young Andre Agassi sucking at my nip.

That first skin to skin was the most amazing moment of my life so far…beyond knackered, covered in every bodily fluid imaginable, high on ALL of the drugs and just staring, staring at this tiny creature that we had made. And so at 10.15am on the 7th of November, our story began….

birth phil
Phil does skin to skin

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