I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly (Destiny’s Child)

Autumn is now upon us, and part of me is very glad. As we make the switch from tropical to Tundra I can legitimately hide my mum-gunt back under a series of extremely baggy sweaters.  Over the past six months I have been suffering with a bout of body loathing.  Well loathing is quite a strong word. It’s more like the way you might feel about a pair of saggy old jeans. They are comfy, they get the job done, but you wouldn’t wear them on a night out where you saw actual PEOPLE.  My shape completely changed after having Bella.  Specifically the saggy, recently vacated basement flat that is my belly, the flaccid spaniels ears that are my desiccated boobs, and my now ACTUAL child bearing hips.  And let’s dwell on the bosom area for one moment. Before I got pregnant my general maxim was “if it’s a handful it’s a waste”.  At school I was a late developer, in fact I wore a VEST til I was fifteen, only succumbing to a bra due to heavy locker room disdain.  And then it was basically pouring two fried eggs into a lacy crop top from Tammy Girl.  But when I was pregnant and then breastfeeding I suddenly developed enormous veiny barrage balloons for boobs.  The muffin bra became a thing, as they bulged uncontrollably out of the side of my normal A Cup. Then I stopped breastfeeding and BOOM. All gone.  And not only that, they are smaller than before.  HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? There was nothing there anyway.

 

But for the first year post partum, I didn’t really mind how much my body had altered.  Partly that’s because I was still in awe of its ability to grow a whole human inside it and then push her out.  And when you are the proud owner of a newborn no one expects you to look all abs and sinew, like a hungry Madonna. They are just impressed that you are a) upright, and b) not openly weeping.   Also, adjusting to life with said tiny creature took up all my attention for the first year.  I didn’t have any energy to care about what I looked like.  If I made it out of my milk-encrusted sweatpants and brushed my hair then that was a GOOD DAY.   But 20 months later my body has changed irrevocably and I have just realised that it’s never going to SNAP back to what it once was.  It seems to be carrying a permanent muscle memory of being pregnant, like a fat ghost. And I am struggling a bit with that.

 

So I am now party to a somewhat unforgiving internal monologue.  Things I now believe people are thinking when I walk past:

Is she pregnant again? (That’s a new one, thanks.)

What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster?

Why are those girls (my mates) out with their mum (me)?

Wow, it looks like Lindsey ATE Lindsey (don’t tell me you haven’t thought this about Christina Aguilera on a number of occasions).

She’s big boned, or (worse) statuesque.

 

I do recognise that I am not obese, and my BMI is in a healthy range. I think it’s more the change than the absolute that’s sending me into a spiral of self-doubt.  I feel like a Russian doll version of myself. The old me is in there somewhere, desperate to get out but not desperate enough to stop stuffing croissants in her mouth like some kind of rabid pastry hamster.  And this is worse in summer. In the depths of the British winter, as I push the pram round the tundra that is Tooting Common, the baggy sweat shirt can hide a multitude of gunt-based sins.  I can wrestle my stomach into a pair of skinny jeans and vacuum pack it down.  I could be ANY size under there.  But SUMMER, season of tanned nubile flesh, floaty dresses, tiny shorts and (shudder) CROP TOPS, brings me out in chills (ironically).  I now hate fabric too ephemeral to hold my mum-pouch in check.   The one sartorial saving grace this summer has been the ascendance of the BUFFET DRESS. This is the fashion equivalent of a marquee and comes in a variety of patterns and lengths, but all reassuringly tent-like.

 

So until I a) put down the pastries, b) get some masochistic PT to get me to do more exercise by shaming me with their rock hard abs, or c) accept my changed body for what it is, I will instead do d) wear every buffet dress going and fake it before I make it.

You see me I be work, work, work (Rihanna)

I am bereft. And spent. So this was my first five-day week at work since coming back from mat leave in December.  LORDY. I am the human equivalent of a deflated balloon; prone on the party floor, covered in fag ash, a little bit of vomit and specks of glitter. Now all I want to do is flop onto the sofa and have my mind numbed by bad TV.  Possibly whilst drooling on my own chin and necking wine like it’s juice. How do people do this every week?

 

It also feels so weird to not spend Friday with my little toddler buddy.  Fridays were like all the best bits of mat leave condensed into one day per week.  A shot of maternity leave or maternity leave lite.  On the weekends every play area is teeming with 50 different versions of Conan the Rampaging Toddler.  You take your life into your own hands if you venture into the ball pit. Who knows what is lurking in the depths? Definitely e-Coli.  And lets not get started on watching 50 toddler-divas try and share one plastic rocking horse (because of course they all want the same one). Formal hostage negotiation skills are needed.  On the weekend it’s Lord of the Flies.  But on Fridays everywhere was empty.  We frolicked round the soft play venues and parks of SW17 with gay abandon. It was nothing short of fabulous.

 

Going back to work five days a week has also prompted a hefty dose of mum guilt.  As mothers we not only get to push our babies out of our vaginas, forever ravaging our bodies, we also get mum guilt, forever ravaging our minds. As you tiptoe the fine line between your needs and your child’s needs it can raise its head at any given moment.  And putting Bella into nursery for five days has unleashed THE GUILT (Caps Lock required). My rational brain tells me that she is really happy there.  In fact she cries when we come to pick her up now (which is dispiriting in a whole new way). My rational brain also knows that as nice as our flat is, we don’t have 20 different baby dolls (THANK GOD, TERRIFYING), a bubble machine, a host of dinosaur toys, or daily singing time (well technically I sing, but it could also be classified as inflicting ear torture).  In the blue corner we have the rational brain, in the red corner we have mum guilt.  And mum guilt wins every time.

 

I also now feel a pressure to make the weekends EXTRA SPECIAL, as we only get those two days with her.  And that means not just sitting in front of the “TV babysitter” watching back-to-back episodes of Hey Duggie and Justin’s House.  (Incidentally, Justin, AKA Mr Tumble, seems very asexual, like an aggressively cheerful Ken doll.  I am positive that if I took his clothes off there would be a plastic mound where his man-bits should be).  However, thinking about it, extra special is all relative these days. Bella is a cheap date at the moment. I am an exceptionally cheap date.  So extra special can be nothing more than going to the playground and letting her go on the slide 500 times in a row.   And then the swings.  500 times in a row.  And then the roundabout.  500 times in a row. Whilst I watch on, taking the millionth video of swing-time, and devouring all her rice cakes (the apple ones are JUST delicious). So that’s where I will be every Saturday and Sunday from now on. It’s a done deal.

 

swing 2
Swinging. That’s where we will be…

Make me wanna scream (MJ and Janet)

 

The other day we were in the local supermarket, doing a routine shop in what passes for a fun day out nowadays.  I gave Bella a carton of soup to hold, because the outstretched arm of demand was reaching for it. I thought to myself “how helpful of her, carrying that when my hands are full”.  Idiot. Then we had to pay, so I had to remove said carton from her grasp. THE. TANTRUM. THE. TEARS.  THE. SCREAMING. This incident is now known as “Soup-Gate”.  With the terrible twos looming on the horizon like a malevolent thunderhead, Bella is warming us up with an array of tantrums.  These come on like tropical storms. They appear from nowhere at a moment’s notice, leave a path of devastation and lobbed toys in their wake, and then are gone as fast as they arrived. Here are six of the classic toddler-diva tantrums:

 

The “exit” tantrum

When you need to leave the playground/softplay/park/shopping centre (insert scene of japes), because they have been on the slide 100,000 times and it’s gone dark and you feel like time has actually stopped.  So you pick up your toddler diva with hope in your eyes, praying that this time, this time, you will get away with it. No. Never. Cue epic tantrum as you wrestle your FURY-FILLED, biting banshee into the pram.

 

The “strapping in the pram” tantrum

Similar to the exit tantrum, but this one can occur whenever the toddler-diva feels like it (which is most of the time).  They generally want to walk by themselves and do not appreciate having their freedom curtailed.  So putting them into the pram becomes quite the feat, akin to an obstacle course.  You frantically BUCKLE, BUCKLE whilst you toddler turns into a rampaging bronco, all arching of the back, bucking and ramrod legs.  A parental double act is recommended here.

 

The “how dare you give me beans again” tantrum

So yesterday beans were fine. Yesterday beans were delicious.  Yesterday there were not enough beans in the world. Today they cause abject hysteria. Today they are thrown back in your face with all the force of jet propulsion. This is one of the messiest of all the tantrums, think one sided food fight.  You end up peeling dried bean-juice off the walls a week later.

 

The “Changing Mat” tantrum

The toddler diva obviously does not tolerate being sat in shit for long (and very sensible too). But if one should have the temerity to try and CHANGE the soiled nappy then this can often cause one of the most ferocious of squalls.  In fact the mere sight of the changing table seems to turn Bella into Baby Jekyll.

 

The “other child has the thing that I wasn’t interested in until they picked it up” tantrum

Bella is generally pretty good at “sharing” (I know this is not really sharing, it’s more she has no longer any interest in the thing she has given away), but the other day we were at soft play and there were two IDENTICAL rubber rocking creatures (it definitely wasn’t a horse) next to each other.  Both her and a boy toddler wanted the same one. Natch. Coordinated tantrums ensued, like an orchestra of angst.

 

The “Who the f**k knows” tantrum

It could be because you put the dolly in the buggy the wrong way (trick question, there is no right way), it could be because you put the toy cow next to the toy sheep (WTF), or it could be because you TOOK A SOCK OFF (call yourself a mother).  There is no point trying to guess the cause, just get into the storm shelter and wait this one out.

 

tantrums 2
Tantrum stopping bribery

I Love My Momma (Snoop Dogg)

 

It’s Mother’s Day.  I am a MOTHER.  Sometimes I still double take at that, like I am playing in the dress up box and someone is going to tell me to take the costume off soon.  The last seventeen months have sped by so fast.  I can barely remember those early days of bleeding nips and brushing my teeth with Sudocrem by mistake (and WHAT. A. MISTAKE).  Looking back now on my motherhood journey, here are ten things I would tell my newly mummed self:

 

  1. The emotional rollercoaster of oxytocin driven euphoria immediately followed by sleep-deprived despair is totally normal, especially when you first get home from hospital. It’s normal to feel a tad emosh. You are at the mercy of a powerful cocktail of progesterone, oestrogen and anything else your body can throw in there (the hormonal equivalent of a Long Island Ice Tea). You aren’t going mad.  You will even out.

 

  • It’s OK to feel trapped, like the walls are closing in on you and your squalling newborn. Having a baby in the darkest, dankest depths of the British autumn, when you can’t go outside or you’ll end up with a gangrenous trench foot, is hard. Expect cabin fever and don’t fight it, instead RELISH the time you have to lie prone on the sofa watching every Netflix boxset going. This won’t last forever and you’ll wake up one day and realise you haven’t watched Say Yes to the Dress in months.  (PS I love the US version of this because it’s always clinically obese brides trying to squeeze into ill-advised, strapless fishtail dresses, whilst their skeletal and “angry because they are hungry” bridesmaids tell them they look great whilst secretly smirking behind their skeletal hands. Car crash TV.)

 

  • Don’t turn to Dr Google for everything. It is a false friend, where all roads end in cancer or a rabbit hole of barely disguised parental despair.

 

  • Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks ALL the time. On one hand it’s great that we live in a world where we can access information at the tap of a finger and where we can see how everyone else does it, all laid out on a rose-tinted grid. But on the other, it means we constantly judge ourselves against yardsticks that really don’t matter.  All that does matter is that you do what’s right for you, and you get through it all with your sanity intact and your little one intact.

 

  • Hug Bella all the time. Hold her close and breathe in that lovely baby-biscuit smell (that somehow heady combo of pee, milk and sweat). For she will soon be a rampaging toddler, aka “Conan the wrecker of living rooms and chaser of cats”, and will only want cuddles when ill.

 

  • Physically, birth is like getting hit by a truck (slowly). Expect to feel like your vagina has run a marathon, and don’t try to do too much too soon. Enjoy. The. Sofa.  (I realise a lot of these centre on the joy of a nice sit down).

 

  • Take care of your relationship as well as your baby. You will be cross with your partner at the beginning, for sleeping more than you, for not having leaky tits full of milk, for not having to wear an adult nappy, for not smelling of milk and sick…the list goes on. (And let’s face it you will be cross at EVERYTHING on two-hour sleep increments. You may even find yourself kicking the Hoover just for being, well, a Hoover: guilty.). But don’t let things fester, men are not mind readers (thank god) and you need to keep talking.

 

  • Travel anywhere and everywhere whilst she is small. When they are tiny you can strap them to you and off you go. And you can sit in cafes for hours, knocking back flat white after flat white until your eyes bleed and your hands start to tremble, with them slumbering on you.  When they get to rampant toddler age, and the PRAM RAGE kicks in, suddenly you are confined to the vicinity of your immediate postcode.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to other mums (AKA don’t be so British). Maternity leave will be lonely, so you need other mothers around you. Don’t be scared to say hi, no one will tell you to piss off (let’s face it, we are too British for that too).

 

  • Eat more cake. You need it. You deserve it.  Eat it all.

 

me 2

Here Comes the Hotstepper (Ini Kamoze)

Yesterday I was walking Bella to nursery and this guy staggered up to me, at least three sheets to the wind if not more, and slurred in what he thought was an alluring manner “woooah you still got it, sexy mamma”.  Being eminently British I of course thanked him whilst simultaneously speeding away trying desperately not to make eye contact.  Now impaired judgement aside (it was circa 8am, I had not a stich of make up on and was sporting basically my outdoor PJs), I was actually a bit offended by the “STILL”.  Why is it when you become a mum that people think you lose “it”, whatever “it” is. To be honest I am not ever sure I had it.  When I was younger I had precisely NO game. I was always the cannon fodder on the night out; the meat in the room.  I towered awkwardly over any given dance floor at a statuesque 6ft whilst my fitter and more confident mates pulled hotties left right and centre.  But say I did have the elusive “it”, why would I lose it by virtue of pushing a baby out of my vagina?

 

I have never been super confident in how I look, I have always had a bit of a gunt (“the pouch”) and because I was so tall when I was younger my posture is appalling, I basically walk around at half mast.  But I actually feel more assured in myself since I had Bella, because if my body can do THAT, if it can birth a 7 lb beauty, and birth her backwards no less, then who cares what it looks like.  And it has also made me more confident with fashion.  Before Bella (BB) I was over-fond of the Cos-style smock, aka the minimal marquee.  But now I am more open to trying different things, as my body changed so much over pregnancy and post birth that I couldn’t stick to what I knew.  So here are my favourite five mum fashion faves, my MUM-SSENTIALS (not a thing?)

 

Dungarees

Ahhh dungarees.  Since being pregnant I have invested in MANY a dungaree.  My wardrobe is basically that of a 90s children’s TV presenter. I look like Pat Sharpe 90% of the time.  And my boyfriend hates them, ‘handyman’ or ‘decorator’ not being a look that lights his fire.  In fact they are total passion killers (if having a 15 month old baby wasn’t enough to dampen ones ardour).  But they are also a breastfeeding mother’s best friend, with the benefit of super easy access.  If only they had a pee flap I would actually never take them off.

 

Leopard print

Now I love me an animal print.   I used to be scared of wearing it, haunted as I was by the ghosts of Pat Butcher and Sporty Spice.  But not only have animal prints become the new neutral over the last year, they also hide a multitude of baby-related sins. Uncontrollable boob leakage? Milky baby vomit? Mucus trails? Calpol-tini accident? Mucky avocado hand prints? Your clothes used as a crayon canvas? No worries, an on-trend leopard print hides everything.

leopard 2
Pat Butcher called – she wants her onesie back…

 

Midi-skirt and jumper combo

I never used to be a fan of the midi-skirt as I never knew where to do them up – under the waist and I looked like a beer-bellied drag queen and above the waist I looked like Simon Cowell.  However stick a jumper over the top and no one can spot this waistline CONUNDRUM.  And you can pick from Nordic fisherman knit or 90’s slogan sweater depending on your mood (“girl about fjord” or “girl about Lino”). Sorted.

Sequins and/or glitter

It’s not about showing tits or leg any more, it’s about accessorising the bejesus out of everything with sequins and/or glitter.  It has the added benefit that Bella LOVES the sparkly stuff, and it can distract her for at least a minute (worth every second). So if it looks like Unicorn Jizz, I am in.

 

My fashion hiking boots: aka my “fiking” boots

I have literally worn these every day since I bought them last year.  Not only do they work with any outfit, they are also essential for avoiding catching trench foot whilst trudging the pram round Tooting Common in the pissing rain.

 

 

I’m lost in the world (Kanye)

So when I was on mat leave I became good friends with the guy behind the till in Aldi. Well, as good a friend as you can be without knowing someone’s name. And that was for two reasons. Firstly, we were in there pretty much every day. It had all the heady excitement of Supermarket Sweep for the new mum (how many value treasures can you find before your baby gets bored and starts throwing her toys out of the pram? Literally.)  And secondly, whilst on maternity leave I became a chit-chatter; a small talker; a purveyor of “isn’t it hotter than the surface of the sun/colder than the Tundra” (delete as appropriate) bants. I would sidle, nay, scuttle up to other mums in the park, like a hopeful crab, prepared to coo at length at their little ones. I did this in supermarkets, coffee shops, on the train, everywhere (except on the tube, I drew the line there, I didn’t want to get shanked).

 

Before Bella I wouldn’t talk to a stranger, I wouldn’t even make eye contact, this is LONDON and I am BRITISH after all. But that all changed on mat leave because as well as being one of the best years of my life it was simultaneously one of the most lonely. Suddenly I would talk to anyone, ANYONE, just to hear my own voice. I was used to spending twelve hours a day with other adults, dashing all over London like some kind of human pinball. Then overnight all that stopped and a tiny baby whose only words were “dada” (traitor) and occasionally “mama” (punches air) became my constant companion. There were days when my voice went all Mariella-Frostrup-on-40-fags-a-day because I hadn’t spoken actual sentences in hours.  When I started engaging in out-loud debate with ITV’s Loose Women I knew I was in real trouble.

 

This isn’t apparent at first though. At the beginning you are besieged by visitors, visitors with cake and/or booze (FYI the BEST kind). Not only that, when babies are vagina fresh they are super transportable, so you can travel far and wide to see your mates and fam.  Then this furore tails off; everyone goes back to his or her normal life and you are left in the confines of your immediate postcode with the days stretching out in front of you, tumbleweed heavy. And it’s worse in London, where your friends are scattered all over the place by the time you get to your mid-late 30s (OK, late). Gone are the flat share days when your besties all lived but a room away; the days of five bottles of pink wine on the Ikea sofa before you even leave the house, of guessing if someone has got lucky because there are MEN’S SHOES by the door, of picking the vestiges of last nights kebab off said Ikea sofa in the morning. Now my best mates all live over an hour away, in every far-flung corner of London that’s not SW17.

 

So mat leave life was solitary at times. Many a moment was spent trudging solo round Tooting Common staring at groups of people frolicking with gay abandon and wishing I was one of them. And it was difficult without my normal support group front and centre, especially when you think about the monumental changes your body and your mind go through having a new baby, and how you need mates there to help orientate your sense of self as everything else shifts. Then add into that heady emotional cocktail a regular dose of confidence crisis. Some days I worried whether I was doing ANYTHING right (the days of brushing my own teeth with Sudacrem as Bella cluster-fed like a rabid terrier) which meant I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone for fear of being judged heartily incompetent.

 

However I was saved from becoming a full time street-mutterer by the gorgeous ladies I met through NCT. We joke that we are the best mates we have ever bought. The course itself served to scare the bejesus out of both Phil and I, specifically with the graphic vertical diagram of the baby coming out of the uterus stage by stage (both of us felt faint), and allowed us to establish that we were the only ones who hadn’t even agreed what hospital I was going to give birth in. Great. But more than that it gave me amazing friends who have been there day and night for fifteen months. Having mates who are going through EXACTLY the same things at EXACTLY the same time and who live within ten minutes of me was invaluable. Who else could you text at 1am, 2am, 4am, 6am with the WHY IS HER POO GREEN questions, sometimes complete with pictures (sorry for that in retrospect)? In fact we probably sent at least 700 WhatsApp messages a day. We have also all met up pretty much every week since our babies popped out. This has taken us from inhaling vats of caffeine with our sleeping, drooling newborns strapped to our chests, to chasing our rampant snot-ridden toddlers round the fetid soft play venues of SW17.

 

So now, as I re-integrate into work, a big part of me still misses mat leave, despite the loneliness. And I must say a massive thank you to my NCT friends for saving me, or as they have now become, just friends. And of course the guy behind the till in Aldi. Maybe tomorrow I might even ask his name.

 

NCT
Wine Wednesdays. What a great mum-concept.

 

 

Work, work, you better work – Ciara feat. Missy Elliott

So I have been back at work just over a month and am really enjoying speaking to adult humans all day.  I was vastly out of practice at first. Turns out shouting at TV’s “Loose Women” doesn’t count as actual human interaction.   For the first couple weeks I crawled home exhausted, nay spent, at the end of each day. I would lie in a foetal position on the sofa, drooling, staring at the wall, unable to cope with any stimulation at all.  But now I am acclimatising and I am glad to be back using my brain on a daily basis. I am also getting used to compartmentalising my two lives, work me and mum me.  (I sound like a really dull, domesticated double agent, who goes from the thrilling world of Powerpoint to the equally thrilling world of changing nappies.) And actually having both lives makes me appreciate the other one more.  HOWEVER, saying all that, there are four things I have not enjoyed about leaving mat leave life behind, four thorns in my side, four constant niggles.

 

Mum guilt

The mum guilt is the hardest thing.  It’s always with me, like Quasimodo’s hump, bowing me low by the weight of my own expectations. After a year spending every day with Bella we have effectively achieved an emotional symbiosis, where we are like two halves of one person.  So when I left her for whole days at a time it felt like I had torn off my right arm and left it in the sand pit.  I can’t think about her when I am at work or I would just break down and slowly weep, like a leaky tap.  And mum guilt is such a strange beast.  I feel bad for leaving her, even though she is having the BEST time.  Let’s face it we don’t do singing time, story time, bubble machine time and light display time at home…we put the tele on and hope for the best. I also feel bad that I actually enjoy myself when we are apart.  So it’s a tenacious double hitter that keeps on giving.

 

It’s Relentless

So when we were little we had a hamster, called Hammy (yep, see what we did there).  Most of the time Hammy was trying to gnaw our fingers off with his razor sharp needle teeth, but when he wasn’t doing that, he was on his tiny hamster wheel.  And on that wheel he raced, his little feet moving so fast we could barely see them, his eyes bulging, his expression one of delight and stress in equal measures.  And he thought it would never end. This is me.  I am Hammy on his wheel.  Being a working mum can feel absolutely relentless.  Although I love both parts of my life, I feel like I can never get off the wheel to just have a little rest.  And maybe a Jaffa Cake.

 

The Commute

The thing I loathe most about being back at work is the commute.  The northern line between 7.30-9am is like the start of an Armageddon movie.  “London was saturated, BURSTING at the seams, when one day an evil corporation tried to get numbers down by turning them all into zombies. The end.”  I did not miss being squished into several armpits like human Tetris.  I did not miss folk standing so close that I could feel their breath on my skin.  And I did not miss getting buffeted by the dirty breeze, which surely carries the dead skin cells from all Londoners since Victorian times.  And don’t even get me started on the commuters who have what must be Tuberculosis and cough into their hands and then PUT THEIR HANDS ON THE POLES. Patient Zero, keep your mucus-covered mitts to yourself. (And I can say this as someone who has had a non-stop cold since September thanks to living with the human petri dish that is Bella.)  Last gripe. Since when did trains start stopping three times between every station so your ten stop journey becomes thirty, inching forward at a jerking yet glacial pace.

 

Nursery drop off and pick up

So yea, commuting is NOT fun.   Nursery drop is also not fun.  Not because Bella cries, on the contrary she now leaps from my arms into the waiting bosom of her favourite carer, Odeffe, with gay abandon.  But they keep the nursery at sub-tropical temperatures at all times.  So you arrive all freshly coiffured and with your face plastered on, and leave sweaty and dishevelled and smelling slightly of the dish of the day.   And the pram room.  The pram room.  Which is basically a “how many buggies can you fit in a cupboard” challenge, where if you snooze you lose.  Last in ends up having to construct some kind of winch out of their scarf and the rain cover and hoist their prams onto the ceiling for safekeeping.   Nursery drop off also has its challenges.  Bella is apparently fine there all day, doesn’t sleep too much as she is TOO EXCITED to close her eyes and miss anything, (ahhh I have a FOMO baby). But she eats everything, plays with everything and generally romps around after the other kids trying to gum their heads. But the moment I get there….BOOM….floods of tears, prompting a fresh bout of mum guilt for leaving her. So racked with sweat in the morning, racked with guilt in the evening. Great.

A diva is a female version of a hustler, v 2.0 (Beyonce)

One of my first blog posts was about how my three-month-old baby had more diva requests than Mariah Carey.  Celebrity demands to ban vacuuming (Jay Z), have only cylindrical vases (Kanye), be lowered onto a sofa (Mariah), have 20 white kittens (again, Mariah) or 28 bottles of water at room temperature (Lady Gaga), were nothing compared to my tiny new-born diva.  As Bella has grown up she has maintained her J-Lo ‘tude, it’s just the demands have changed and woe-betide any mother (read rider) that doesn’t keep up.

So here are her current top 12 demands:

1. Do not leave my sight, even for a second. With the advent of separation anxiety Bella wants me within arms reach at ALL times. I can’t even leave her side to go to the bathroom. Ahhh to pee alone without a miniature voyeur. One sweet day.

2. I will allow no one but mother to pick me up. Bella of course has a wider entourage of lackeys to attend to her every whim, but she has assigned me the job of chief-picker-upper. If anyone else tries to get in on this act she will swiftly make her displeasure very clear and they will be fired immediately.

3. My food must be yellow. Bella was a very enthusiastic advocate of baby led weaning at the start, but she hit ten months and suddenly would only put yellow food in her mouth. Mangos, cheese, bananas, bread and porridge are top of Bella’s list of demands.  And she KNOWS when I try and trick her. I can’t coat a courgette in cheese so it looks yellow.  She knows that there is GREEN food hiding under there.

yellow food
Bella’s yellow (and orange) approved menu

4. I will not sit in the high chair for more than fifteen minutes. The high chair rage starts for seemingly no reason, other than she has finished eating and therefore must be taken somewhere more fun immediately. It is usually prefaced by a series of epic ‘mic drops’, where left over food, spoons, wet wipes and socks are all dumped onto the floor with increasing force.

5. I will under no circumstances wear a bib. Bib rage also occurs on a regular basis. She will not be constrained by such a mundane piece of clothing.

6. And ditto for socks. No sock lasts on her foot for more than five seconds. I am seriously considering making some with ties attached, “Socks on a String TM”.

7. I need a separate room, nay wing, for all my toys. Currently Bella’s toys have turned our once calm, dare I say chic, lounge into a budget version of the Fun House. There are Day-Glo instruments of fun lurking under every cushion and I am using the Jumperoo as a coffee table.

8. I will NOT SIT IN THE CAR SEAT. This one gets full caps lock. We don’t have a car so we don’t have to put her in said seat very often, but when we do she unleashes full throttle squalling banshee diva, which no amount of distraction can placate. It’s like we have Naomi Campbell strapped in the back seat.

9. I must never be allowed to become bored. This one just gets worse as they get older. Bella needs to be constantly rotated round our weapons of mass distraction.  It’s basically a parent powered merry-go-round, where you are the horse.

10. How dare you keep me out of cupboards and bins.  Now she can only zombie shuffle at the moment, but it’s enough to get her to ALL the places she really shouldn’t go: the bin, the cupboard where wires and batteries go to die, the cat litter, the cat food dish, the laundry basket…the list is endless. Try and dissuade her from attacking said hazard and the result is not pretty.

11. I will not sit in my own filth. This one hasn’t changed, and is still fair enough. Neither would I. But at the same time…

12. How dare you expect me to stay STILL whilst you change my nappy. Bella does not want to be restrained by the the changing table so it’s like trying to wrestle a nappy onto a wriggling piece of angry custard.

 

 

 

 

I’m the quiet storm (Mobb Deep)

Last week we went to see my parents back up t’north.  It was just lovely to be welcomed back into the warmth of the familial bosom, and I am not going to lie, it was even better to have someone else clean the high chair (the high chair is officially my nemesis, constantly crusted in the concrete that is dried Weetabix).  But what wasn’t so good about being with the ‘rentals was that they couldn’t pick Bella up and cuddle her any more.  In the six weeks since they last saw her she’s developed full on stranger danger and separation anxiety.  My parents aren’t complete strangers, but they live so far away that they are definitely on the “stranger spectrum.” So every time they tried to lift her she would look back at me with confusion brimming in her eyes and then switch to full on red-browed squall within moments.  This is sad for them, as they just want to shower her with affection, especially my Dad, who turns from gruff northern gent into PUDDLE OF GOO whenever Bella smiles.

 

I have found separation anxiety really hard to deal with over the last couple of months even though I know it is JUST A PHASE and I know it won’t last forever.  Part of this is frustration that it’s so traumatic to hand her over to other people, when she used to be so happy to be passed like a parcel around a group of big cooing adult faces.  People don’t seem to be very understanding of this behaviour in a baby. Some take it as a challenge.  It’s like when you go out with a playa and you think you will be THE one to change him. “He just hasn’t met the right girl,” you say as he tries it on with every Lycra clad vagina in the immediate vicinity. People also think they will be THE one to change Bella, THE one she won’t cry on, so they keep on trying to pick her up. And trying.  It turns into the oh-so-fun game of who can make my baby cry the most.  Or they back off so fast they trip over their own feet, with a look of horror in their eyes, like she is a wild mustang to be feared, and ask me if she’s always been this difficult and clingy.

 

The separation anxiety has also made me start to ask what kind of person Bella will become, and wonder if she will be introverted or shy.  Now, there is NOTHING wrong with this, nothing at all, but I am nervous because I used to be introverted and found it very difficult.  “WHAT?” I hear those who know me cry. “Introverted!  YOU? You could talk wallpaper off the wall.” And that is true now, but this wasn’t always the case.

 

When I was at school I was a figure of fun. Why?  Well, because kids can be mean and I gave them plenty of fodder, a) I was aggressively tall and skinny, all elbows and knees, with snooker player spectacles (prompting the nickname “stick insect”), b) I had a MULLET and I only washed it once a week if it was lucky (prompting the nickname “chip pan head” and c) I was introverted…and introverted was always said as if it was a VERY BAD THING.  At one point my teachers even had a quiet word with my parents about this.  So it always seemed to me that my self-contained way of dealing with the world was just wrong, and that I should be trying harder to pass myself off as an extrovert.  All this pressure was dumped on a poor adolescent riddled in hormones who looked like a cross between Billy Ray Cyrus and Timmy Mallet.

 

mullet
Chip Pan head in action

 

Over time I learned to adapt and change how I interacted with the world (and lost the mullet), but the idea that being quiet is a stigma has stayed with me.  Even now I find it hard to leave my entire personality spread eagled on the table at first meet.  So with this pedigree I worry about Bella.  I keep descending down my own private ‘what if’ rabbit hole.  What if she can’t talk to anyone at school, has no mates, and spends her time locked in her room listening to mournful EMO music, with too much eyeliner on, wearing waistcoats with small mirrors sewn onto them (flashback alert)? What if she LIKES REM??  What if she ends up getting called Big Bella?  I mean she’s going to be tall with us as parents.  You can’t fight genes.  What if she never leaves her own bed,not even for custard creams, having to be winched out aged 30 as I look on wringing my hands, clutching my pearls and wailing “if only…”

 

Before I reach for the gin (read as I reach for the gin), I need to have a strong talk with myself.  Why does it matter, so what if she is quiet?  Apparently over a third of the population are introverts.  Not only that, we need introverts.  They are some of the most creative and powerful people driving society forwards, and that’s a whole different blog post in itself.  Whatever Bella ends up becoming, all I can do is support her and love her.  I will save her from strangers until she is cool with them again.  And I pledge now to never make her feel wanting or guilty for how she is.  Unless she is listening to REM, then judgement will be passed and words will be had.

 

(PS. Try reading Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑