Yeah, roses really smell like poo-poo-oo (OutKast)

This morning I went into Bella’s room to find that it stank like the inside of a Glasto Portaloo at the end of day three. I half expected to find a festival reveller passed out under her cot having fully soiled themselves. Not only had Bella pooed herself in her sleep, she had also done her first ADULT POO. For those of you not intimately familiar with the topic of baby shit (I have become that person who spends too much time on Dr Google looking at the poo-Pantone), breastfed baby poo looks like chicken korma and smells OK (OK being all relative). However as soon as they start eating purées and solids they start to produce adult-like poo, which bloody stinks. You need a Hazmat suit and tongs to remove the evidence. My only consolation is that one day she will be changing my pensioner nappies. Her first foray into the world of adult turds is a sign that she is growing up fast.

 

In fact now she is six months old she is looking more and more like a little girl each day, and less and less like a capuchin monkey. I had a frightening flash forward to her as terrible teen, which, if she’s anything like me, will be truly horrific. One day she will be going out sporting inappropriately tight velvet outfits from Bay Trading and I will put on my mum voice and tell her that she “forgot to put on a skirt” and to “get back upstairs and put some clothes on”. She will be sneaking off to the park to drink cider (read lighter fluid) and heavy-pet with boys who work at McDonald’s. Phil has already got a list of probing questions and a torch to turn inquisitor on her first boyfriend, or girlfriend, or gender-nonspecific-friend, as the case may be.

 

The biggest change so far has been moving out of the newborn phase, which happened at around three and a bit months. This created a maelstrom of bittersweet emotions inside me. On the one hand I am beyond excited by her development into a proper child. “She ROLLED OVER”, “she PUT HER FEET IN HER MOUTH”, “she SAID HI” (she definitely didn’t) being just a snapshot of text messages to my mum over the past few weeks. But on the other hand I also hark back with rose-tinted nostalgia for those (let’s face it horrific) newborn days. How quickly we forget.

 

So how do you know when your baby is leaving those hallowed fresh-from-the-vagina days behind?

Here are nine sure-fire signs:

1.  They start looking weird in romper suits. At the start rompers are the easiest to put their floppy bodies in as they scream bloody murder at your sheer audacity in dressing them. But from about four months they start to look like Matt Lucas in a onesie.

2. Their bald patch grows over. When they are first born, if they have hair at all, they develop a monk-like bald patch where they rub their heads when sleeping. When this starts to fluff-over you know your newborn days are numbered.

3. They don’t fall asleep on you anymore. At the start they would just pass out on you at any given moment like your dribbling drunk uncle at Xmas. Now they are just TOO EXCITED (imagine eyes bulging) when in company to do any such thing.

4. In fact they don’t fall asleep anywhere anymore. You start to walk that tiredness tightrope – too tired and they won’t nap, not tired enough and they won’t nap. Basically they will only sleep whilst lying in a south facing direction, with you standing on one leg and rocking them to the rhythm of “Stayin’ Alive”.

5. You have to invest in distraction techniques. Weapons of mass distraction (more on this to come) are essential to keep them from getting bored and firing you.

6. They start to get thighs like the Michelin man. They get folds on their folds and you just want to EAT THEM. Their thighs are particularly crease-heavy, and don’t get me started on the “multi-gina” (thanks @ElleHuntingford for that very apt description).

7.The you-facing carrier starts to piss them right off.  Suddenly you are carrying a wriggling piece of snarling custard.

8.They move to the big gal pram. You know it is time when you have to concertina them into the bassinet and being laid flat, unable to see the world around them, creates merry havoc.

9.They start to gum everything. Anything in arms reach goes straight in the mouth for a generous gumming. Anything. Your hand, your hair, cushions, napkins, cutlery, the side of the table, the floor, their feet, the cat.

 

eating her feet
The feet are going straight into the mouth. This is the MOST flexible she will ever be – I cannot even touch my knees.

 

 

 

Who the f*** is this? Pagin’ me at 5.46 in the morning. Crack a dawn now I am yawning (Notorious BIG)

Nothing can prepare you for those early months with a newborn baby. They are nothing short of a siege, a siege where you are fighting blind. After 24 hours in hospital I was parachuted into an uncharted battle zone with only Ewan the Dream Sheep and my ravaged boobs in the armoury. The time passed in an exhausted fug, the kind of exhaustion I have never known before. It felt like I was constantly at the wrong end of a 48-hour bender (without the bender). I sleepwalked through the days (and nights) in a haze of milk encrusted sweat pants, Hob Nob biscuit crumbs and adult nappies. One morning I even brushed my teeth with Sudocrem.

They call this tumultuous period the fourth trimester (or “100 days of hell”) because the baby should really still be inside you. That’s why swaddling, skin to skin and white noise work so well; we are tricking them into thinking they are still in vitro. Human babies are the least prepared to exist in the real world when they pop out. Just think about those iguanas on Planet Earth 2. The minute they hatch they have to run through a gauntlet of hungry snakes and escape to the beach where the parent iguanas are hanging out, chilling with their piña coladas. RUN. THROUGH A GAUNTLET OF HUNGRY SNAKES. Human babies can’t even hold their heads up. We should be more like elephants – pregnant for 22 months. Actually scratch that, I could not have been pregnant for another second more, I was practically beached at 9 months never mind 22.

morning smiles
Morning smiles.  If not for these you would just leave them in a puddle

The good news is that this doesn’t last (let’s not forget that everything is JUST A PHASE) but to get through it you have to live just one day at a time. You also learn to look forward to the little things, the small wins that make sleeping in two-hour chunks bearable.

So here are my top five small rewards:

Nutella with a spoon: I have history with Nutella; we go way, way back. At one dark point our relationship descended into addiction. I would eat a whole jar every week with just a spoon (OK fine, sometimes just my fingers). My flatmates would find me huddled in the kitchen pretending to do the washing up whilst shoving dessertspoon upon dessertspoon into my gob. I would constantly find telltale chocolate residue lingering round the corners of my mouth and smeared in my hair. I had to go cold turkey circa 2012. Let me tell you, the Nutella DT’s are not pretty. Despite warnings from my friends Nutella is now back with a vengeance. It is my breakfast food of choice, my reward for getting through the night before.

nutella dreaming
Yes, it’s under my pillow….easy access

Clean (ish) hair: Labour left me feeling like I had been run over and then backed over by an aggressive freight train.  Added to that my hair was so filthy it looked like a large, flea-riddled rodent with a fringe had died on my head. So that first shower at home was a beauteous moment. It is also a daily joy, five whole minutes to myself (and by myself I obviously mean that Bella is sat outside the shower cubicle, my own tiny voyeur.)

Walking, walking, walking: I was never a fan of walking, being a destination-not-journey kind of gal. But from our second day home we started going on long walks with Bella in the pram. Even though it was mid-November and the weather highlight was ‘mizzle’ it got my battered, saggy body moving again, albeit at a glacial pace. Five months on, as the weather highlight is still mizzle and a trot round Tooting Common comes with risk of trench foot, I am still walking every day. I must confess it has somewhat lost its charm as the British winter persists into May and I feel like I intimately know every paving crack in SW17. I wish I had invested in galoshes.    Here is a soundtrack for an hour long walk:

Having your food cut into tiny bite-sized pieces: Bella had an unerring ability to want feeding the moment my breakfast/lunch/dinner/any snack was ready. Not able to use both a knife and fork and breastfeed, I relied on Phil to cut and dice my food into small chunks so that it could be eaten with one hand. The alternative was writhing away at my meals like some kind of rabid woodland creature.

ALL of the box sets: in the first three months babies sleep a lot. After you are done with the just STARING at them phase, box sets are essential to maintain your sanity. Incapable of any real thought, I enjoyed proper mind-mush series on Netflix, from Pretty Little Liars (definitely aimed at teenaged girls), to Gossip Girl (aimed at teenaged girls in 2007) and all the series of Friends from start to finish. I also spent a disproportionate amount of time selecting my favourite Friends episode. All I will say is “pivot….pivot…pivot.”

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