Going out, out

5 Nov

When I had my baby I wasn’t sure when or how it would be even possible to leave him for a night. I couldn’t imagine him not being with me all the time, nor did I want to.

That’s not to say I didn’t think about it. A lot. This was usually at 3am when I sat day dreaming (or night dreaming) of dropping him off at my mum’s for a night so hubby and I could drive back home, get into bed and sleep until we could sleep no more.

However I was breastfeeding and this certainly does make it much more difficult. It’s not like someone else could whip out the old breast and satisfy his hunger or soothe him back to sleep. It wasn’t just this though. What I struggled with the most was the guilt I felt at the thought of ever not being with him. All I could imagine was his little face looking around and wondering where I was and if I was ever coming back. I could almost feel him developing abandonment issues. It was too much to bear.

For the first few months he wasn’t out of my sight. It was, looking back, one of the most precious times of my life and I didn’t want to waste a second of it. It was the time when my boy and I got to know each other. It was the time when he taught me how to be a mummy.

When I got out of the ‘newborn haze’, which was for me about 10 weeks in, I started to think about going out on my own. I thought about having a bit of ‘me time’ again. Maybe popping out to lunch with a friend. Maybe going to get my hair done on my own. Maybe sitting in a café, drinking a coffee and actually reading that elusive thing made of paper that I used to devour. What was it? Oh yes, a book.

Honestly? I felt guilty when I thought about doing this. There was a part of me that felt I shouldn’t want to leave him for a few hours. I made the decision to have a child and I shouldn’t for a second need space to be on my own. When I relayed this to hubby he had a stern word, told me not to be ridiculous, got the breast milk out the fridge (for the boy, not him) and packed me off for lunch with a friend. It was liberating. 

I met my best friend at a bar for lunch and I had the first cocktail I’d had since finding out I was pregnant. Most people crave food when they’re pregnant, some crave coal, I craved Mojitos. It was amazing and well worth the wait – the cocktail and the time alone. I realised soon afterwards that it was exactly what I needed. I felt a little bit like the old me again and it felt good. I missed my boy a lot, spent most of the train journey looking at pictures of him and didn’t put him down once I got home, but I felt good.

Hubby had had a great time with him. They’d had their very own little boys afternoon and I realised then how important that is too. They also needed their time together.

So, I’d done it. I’d ripped the plaster off, I’d braved a few hours without my boy and the world didn’t end. The next step was seeing if we could manage an evening away from him. Not overnight, but at least a night where we leave the house at 7 and don’t get home until midnight. It would be the latest night I’d had in months.

When he was 4 months old it was my birthday so we got my mum down to stay and tested our 7 to midnight evening. It felt like such a novelty to be out together, minus the boy, with our friends. However, as much as I enjoyed being out and celebrating my birthday, I also found the whole experience quite nerve racking. My life for the last 4 months had been totally and utterly consumed with a baby. I had spent every waking moment in a baby bubble that I was worried I wouldn’t know what to talk about. 4 months had felt like a lifetime. I found wine helped me get over this. A lot of wine. What I hadn’t thought about however, was how low my alcohol tolerance now was. The next day was not pleasant.

After this we have had the odd night out together and at a year old, being able to relax on a night out has gotten a lot easier. We’re pretty much guaranteed these days that he will sleep from 7pm until at least 5.30am so we know anyone looking after him will have a pretty easy job. We never go that far anyway.

Hubby and I say to each other time and time again that we need to do it more often. We need to make the most of his aunt and uncle living around the corner and treat ourselves to a meal or a drink out on our own. The only issue with this is that we’re so bloody knackered we can’t really be arsed. If we’re not in bed by 10pm we both start panicking about being exhausted the next day. Sleep is so precious that we’d rather give up a night out to ensure we get at least 6 hours.

My biggest test and the one I found the most difficult was spending a whole day and night away from him. The first time I did this he was 10 months old and I went on a friends’ hen do. I knew he was with hubby and he would be absolutely fine, but I really did miss him and because of this I don’t think I allowed myself to relax fully. I had also made the fatal error of doing my last ever breastfeed that morning, so not only was I leaving my boy overnight for the first time, I was also going through a huge range of emotions and guilt about no longer breastfeeding. Not great timing on my part. I still had a great time and when I woke up the next day and knew he was ok, I was quite annoyed with myself for not relaxing more and making the most of a bit of freedom. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The last time hubby and I were together, alone, minus the boy, was the first time we had left him over night without one of us being there. It was for two nights at a wedding. It was a brilliant do and a fab weekend and felt much easier than the last time I was away, but I still don’t think I could do more than a couple of nights. Not at this age.

It’s funny what you think your life will be like before the baby comes and what the actual reality is. Hubby and I had talked about having 5 nights in New York whilst the boy stayed at his grandparents, as well as various other weekend breaks here and abroad. Given that I miss him when he’s asleep I find this highly unlikely.

I know it will change as he gets older and I’m fully aware that he is fine without us for a night or two. I’m know that the issue is not his separation anxiety, but mine. I have it bad. I’m also fully aware that when I have another child I’ll probably have no issue with bundling them both off pretty early on to my mum’s for the night. Forget going out, out. We’ll be doing it so we can sleep.  

Happy Birthday

25 Oct

On the 23rd October 2013 my precious baby boy turned one. You can probably tell from my last post how reflective and emotional I have been about it. On his birthday I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I thought about him as a newborn in the first few hours. I thought about the first few weeks and the huge adjustment hubby and I went through. I thought about each month after that and how much he changed. I thought about every ‘first’ I have recorded and then those that I probably missed. I thought about the future. I thought about the gifts we had bought him for his birthday. Well I have one more – this letter. I hope one day he will read it.

To my precious boy on your first birthday,

I cannot believe you are one already, baby boy. Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun. And what fun I have had with you over this past year. The most fun I have ever had. You make me laugh like no one else can. When I laugh with you, proper big belly-laughs, I am positive you look at me with a knowing smile. You are a very funny young man, but I think you know this already.

A year ago today you arrived into my life full of character. The word I used to describe you was spirited and you certainly are that. You were kicking and screaming and clearly very unamused. But the minute you were placed in my arms you were calm – the connection between us immediate. Whenever you are upset this is the only way to calm you – in my arms. I love being able to make it ok for you. I hope I always can.

You most certainly had a personality from the moment you were born and I see it develop every single day as you change from a baby to a toddler. It scares me how quickly you are growing, but the future and what we have to look forward to is so exciting. When you make babbling sounds, I hear your voice. When you get excited and push a ball around I see you looking at daddy as you score your first goal. When you get frustrated I see you being misunderstood and when you cry and need a cuddle, I see forever.

Your amazing ability to eat anything put in front of you has become your trademark. I have so many photos and videos of you eating – I promise to keep taking them. You will probably wonder why your mad mummy is constantly taking pictures of you with your mouth full of food. When you are a dad yourself, you will understand. Daddy and I are convinced you are going to be a chef. Not only do you love food, but you are obsessed with touching the Michelle Roux Jr cook book in the kitchen. You clearly have good taste already.

Nothing fazes you, my gorgeous boy. You are incredibly sociable and are more than happy to be passed from person to person charming them with your big grin and your happy chatter. You have lots of friends – Evie, Freya, Grace, Joshua, Leela, Myah & Stella – who you love playing and with whom you’re very good at sharing your toys. Your favourite programme is In the Night Garden and your favourite character is Iggle Piggle. One of my favourite memories of you is you squealing with delight and shaking the first time you saw him on the TV.

Baby boy I feel so lucky to be your mummy. When I look into your big, beautiful blue eyes, it makes every day feel like a summer’s day. If I ever feel blue I try to see the world through your eyes. I think about how it is for you to see the sun, the rain, the park, new people, flowers and animals. To see everything so fresh must be wonderful.

I want to give you some advice. It is the same advice that I will give you every year until I die. Here goes – always dance, always laugh and always jump in puddles. Look at the sun, run naked in the rain, eat chocolate and drink beer. Pull your mattress off of your bed with your brothers, sisters and cousins and bump down the stairs on it really fast. Make dens. Go to the theatre and travel as far and wide as you can. Never judge too harshly. Be confident in your abilities and don’t let anyone tell you you aren’t good enough – because you are baby, you are more than good enough. Love your friends, love your family and love yourself. Most importantly be kind. Always be kind to those around you. It’s the advice nanny gave me and daddy on our wedding day and now I’m passing it to you. It’s a good one to remember.

My sweet boy, you have changed my life. I look at you every day in total amazement that daddy and I made you. That you are him and that you are me, but more than anything – you are you. And you certainly are that. I will always be your mummy. When you are ten, when you are a teenager, a twenty-something and when you are a man, I will always be your mum. But you need to know that I am not perfect. I will make mistakes, I will misjudge, I will frustrate you and you may think I have let you down. But I promise you this, with my hand on my heart, I will always keep you safe and never let any harm come to you. I would die a thousand times over for you baby boy.

You are my first born child and because of that you have taught me something that no other adult, child or book ever could. You have taught me how to be a mother and for that I am ever grateful to you.

Thank you for making every day of my life so wonderful. From when I wake in the morning to your happy chatter, to seeing you standing in your cot excitedly bouncing up and down waiting for me to pick you up, to breakfast, to playtime, to nap time, to bath time, to bed time. You constantly amaze me.

Thank you for being the most funny, kind, passionate, spirited little boy that I know.

Thank you for being you.

Happy first birthday, my beautiful boy. I hope your day is full of sunshine and sparkle.

I love you so much.

Mummy xxx

Time Flies

22 Oct

I cannot believe it. My little baby boy is about to be a year old. I have absolutely no idea where the last year has gone. I feel like I was pregnant, I had him, I blinked, and now he’s one. A friend said to me the other day that when you have a child the days are long, but the years fly by. She was not wrong.

To say I’m feeling emotional and reflective about it is an understatement. I can’t stop thinking about the past year and how my life has changed. How a year ago hubby and I had absolutely no idea what it would be like to have a child and yet now it’s like he has been with us forever. Our world has turned upside down and I think I speak for both of us when I say it has been the most amazing, crazy, wonderful, sleep-deprived, fulfilling year of our lives.

I feel like I have spent the past year on a roller coaster. It has been at the same time thrilling, nerve wracking, exhausting, funny and brilliant. It’s been the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced. I thought I knew what it would be like to be a mummy and I thought I knew what it was like to love someone unconditionally, but I had no idea. I never knew it was possible to love every inch of flesh, every strand of hair, every noise, every gurgle, every touch, every smile, every cry and every breath that one small person can take. Now I do.

Not only does having a child change your life, it also changes the life of those around you and the relationships you have with them. My mum, my wonderful mum, is not just my mum anymore – she is nanny to my boy. Her baby now has a baby and he has become the centre of our world. She told me once that she is very proud of what a great mum I am. It is the greatest compliment I have ever received.

My husband’s parents are grandparents for the first time and they are wonderful with him. You can see the love they have for him radiating out of them whenever they’re near him. My husband loves seeing this side of them.

Our siblings are fantastic aunts and uncles and our friends who now count us as a three, have been really supportive as hubby and I ventured into the total unknown.

The past year of being a new mum has also brought a whole new group of people into our lives – my ‘mummy’ friends. An antenatal class is a rather unique situation to be thrown into with strangers. I never anticipated how close I would become to them or how much I would rely on them in my first year as a mummy. They are an amazing group of women with beautiful children who I feel privileged to know and to see grow up. Ladies, thank you.

When he was teeny tiny I started writing a list of his ‘firsts’. When he first giggled (3.5 months), when he first rolled over (4 months – he then couldn’t be bothered to do it again until 6 months), when he got his first tooth (4 months), when he first crawled (7 months), what he ate first (strawberry), and the order in which he tried different foods (a lot, very quickly). I cannot believe how much happens in the first year. It is astounding the rate at which they develop.

Due to this I am determined to enjoy every moment with him. To relish every stage and every step with him. To laugh with him, cry with him, walk with him, and talk with him and to make the most of every cuddle with him.

I sobbed to hubby last night in a very dramatic fashion about our boy growing up far too quickly and how before we know it we’ll be celebrating his 18th birthday and that I can’t cope with him not being my baby anymore. I said I think that having lots more babies is the way to deal with this. Hubby being more of the ‘two children is enough’ persuasion looked like he was about to start sobbing too.

The Hunt For Super Nanny

9 Oct

I am sitting in a café doing my very best to concentrate on writing this post and yet all I can think about is my precious baby boy alone with his nanny for the first time.

I should make it clear that I haven’t hired a nanny simply so I can sit in a café drinking tea. This is the ‘settling in period’. Her first day looking after my boy alone before I go back to the office in a week’s time. I am currently wiping tears from my face.

My childcare search had started in June ahead of my return to work in September. It seemed quite early, but after a friend pointed out that September is a particularly busy time for child minders as their ‘charges’ start school and places free up, I went into panic mode.

Cue a very stressful few weeks as childcare suddenly moved from an abstract concept of ‘what I think is the best childcare for an 11 month old’, to ‘I am really about to return to work. This isn’t a joke. This isn’t a drill. I have to find a person who I trust enough to look after the most precious thing in my life’.  No pressure then.

At this stage I was still undecided about the best option for my baby and me. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to put him in a nursery, but I didn’t want to rule it out so booked appointments to visit a few nearby. Hubby and I decided pretty quickly that they weren’t for us though. In a few years perhaps, but not now. It felt good to make a decision. Even if we were ruling it out.

So having decided that I was going to go with a child minder, I printed off a list from the local government website and set about contacting those nearby.

It was a long and rather daunting list so hubby and I created a filter system. Firstly we sent the same ‘we’re looking for childcare’ email to all those nearby. Out of those who replied we created a yes and no folder. Yes to those who had availability and were literate, no to those who could not even string a sentence together. I could not leave my baby with someone who wrote things like ‘coz’ instead of ‘because’. ‘LOL’ was also in the no pile.

The next step was Googling them and Facebook stalking. Obvs.  Then the list got even smaller. You would be surprised by the amount of time some of them appeared to spend playing Candy Crush.

When my childcare search first began I thought we’d need someone between 8.45-6.30 on account of my office hours being 10-6. The first person I spoke to (who I really wanted to like as she lived about 2 minutes from my house) started to choke when I told her it would be a 6.30 pick up. She told me that she had never heard of such a late pick up time and that it would be an incredibly long and hard day for my baby. “Surely I wouldn’t want to leave him for that long?”

I was in shock. What I wanted to say to her was “leaving my boy is not something that fills me with joy. In fact I am dreading it. However, I don’t know what part-time world you live in love, but these are my hours. In fact these are the hours most people I know work.”  Instead I said, “not to worry”, put the phone down and cried.

One of the things I promised myself when I started looking (once I’d got rid of those who didn’t write in full words or spent their days playing games) is that I would be open-minded and flexible. I vowed I wouldn’t, for example, judge someone on their accent or what their house looked like. I didn’t want to rule out a potential Mary Poppins simply because they lived in an area I didn’t like. So, having spoken to hubby and agreed that perhaps he could change his hours to finish earlier, I called her back with a 5.45 pickup time. “Oh yes,” she said, “I remember you, half-six woman”. Oh piss off. 

This was the start of a very long and very emotional journey during which I had to admit something I was in denial of – I WAS going back to work and HAD to find childcare. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everyone tells you to trust your instinct, that you’ll know when it’s right. But how do you do this when your default start position is, “I hate having to do this, I hate you for not being me and you might seem lovely, but all I can think about when I look at you is that you might be a serial killer.”

Midway through my search (I met about 12 people in the end) I turned up with my bubba to meet a potential child minder in her flat. When I walked in it was very clear from the stench that she had not long ago had a joint. In her pathetic attempt at hiding it she has sprayed a bit of air freshener. Febreeze and skunk – lovely. She had a dry mouth, her flat was filthy and she was clearly off her head. It was 10.30 in the morning.

Had I met her at the beginning I would have resigned from my job there and then. In fact meeting her made me realise how lovely some of the others had been.  I walked out as quickly as I could, rang hubby in total and utter bewilderment at what I just witnessed, and then officially complained about her.

At this point my neighbour, who I seemed to bump into every time I came back from an appointment and so was fully versed in my childcare dramas, began recommending nannies to me. Now it was my turn to choke. A nanny? Out of the question. Only posh, rich people have nannies and I am far from that.

But then I spoke to one, discussed what we could afford and amazingly, with childcare vouchers (which I’d completely forgotten about) and with me only going back for four days, it seemed doable. I was beyond excited. We invited her round to meet us and the minute she walked through the door I liked her. She was smiley, friendly, polite, and there wasn’t a spliff in sight. My boy also liked her. He crawled straight up to her and started grinning wildly.

She seemed quite nervous and I guess I hadn’t really thought about the fact that she was basically in a job interview. I was far more concerned with us impressing her and so began acting like a schoolgirl with a crush, so desperate was I for her to like me. 

Whatever we did, it worked and she agreed to come and be out nanny. I couldn’t believe it. I feel very, very lucky. It’s certainly made going back to work a lot easier and I’m more than happy to sacrifice new clothes, going out, and even a holiday to pay for her. Being able to hand him over in the morning still in his pj’s and covered in Weetabix makes it well worth it. I still have working class guilt about having ‘staff’, but I’m so overly nice to her in case she ever wants to leave, that she feels more like my boss.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still totally paranoid and often wake up at 3am convinced that she is a serial killer who is going to steal my child. I’ve been tempted to get a nanny cam and I even asked my neighbour to listen through the walls (I wasn’t joking). I’ve also hidden the Febreeze. Just in case. 

Weaning the Baby Led Way

6 Sep

So it felt like I had only just got my head around breastfeeding before it it was time to start weaning. This is a totally and utterly daunting process for me. Before I had a child I would often wonder how you even begin to introduce food to a baby that has thus far only ever had liquid. What did you give them? How much did you give them?  If they have no idea what hunger means and therefore no idea what it means to be full, when will they know how to stop? Will they just keep eating? What if you don’t give them enough and they are hungry? It was like the first few weeks of breastfeeding all over again!

The other big question: when should you start? Current NHS guidelines are to begin at 6 months and being terrified that something horrendous would happen to my baby’s digestive system if I started before that, I decided to wait until then. Actually I waited until about 5.5 months. I think he was ready. He certainly seemed to be watching with fascination every time I ate something. I was also ready. As nervous as I was to start, I was also very excited about this new phase in my baby’s life.

Before properly starting I had given him some baby porridge just to see what happened. He loved it. It was so much fun watching him as I passed him the food on a spoon and saw his little face light up at this new texture and taste that was tickling his taste buds. It certainly counted as ‘messy play’ as he grabbed the spoon and proceeded to paint the walls, the floor and himself with it. We were both hooked.

I was then faced with the biggest question of all – how do I do this? Would it be the puree way, introducing each food group mushed up and fed bit-by-bit, or would I let my baby lead the way and eat solid food from the very start. It felt like a big decision and one I didn’t want to make lightly.

Still slightly terrified and wanting to cover all bases, I went on a health and safety course with one of my mummy friends. Basically I wanted to know what to do if he choked. It was a disaster. Rather than feel equipped with new first aid skills, we both came out of it absolutely terrified that our children were going to die from choking and both vowed that we were going to feed them puree until they were teenagers.

But then I read the baby led weaning (BLW) book.

The book was a revelation. I read it in a weekend and I knew from that moment on I would ‘let my son lead the way’. It made total sense to me. Like the book, I firmly believe that a child dictates every other stage of their development – when they cry, sleep, talk, walk, and crawl – so why should eating be any different? It felt totally unnatural for me to mush up food, for me to determine the portion size and then for me to put a spoon in his mouth. How was I to know how hungry he was? I definitely wouldn’t want someone to feed me that way.

I wanted mealtimes to feel inclusive. I didn’t want to eat my meal and then spoon-feed my son something else separately. I wanted to eat with him, for him to have (where possible) the same food as hubby and I. It also seemed so much easier to just give him what we have. Life is busy enough without having to spend hours chopping up and pureeing food. Also, the thought of anything pureed other than fruit makes me feel sick. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy drinking my Sunday roast so why should he?

So, I was brave. Hubby and I sat down one Sunday and I gave him a strawberry. He grabbed it from me and started sucking it ferociously. Hubby then asked me if it’s ok that he has the whole thing in his mouth. My honest answer? I have no idea. Bubba seems to be loving it – but then who wouldn’t? Strawberries are lush!

After about 30 seconds hubby looks to me for advice, as it seems to be getting further and further into his mouth. Not wanting to be the one who cause my son to choke to death I slowly pull it out of his mouth. He’s not happy and starts crying, looking around for something else to put on his mouth. I give him my mobile phone. The perfect distraction.

From nowhere I then have a panic that perhaps strawberries are not the best first food. Somewhere deep in my memory I have a sudden flash that strawberries might provoke allergies. So I Google it. And apparently yes, strawberries can be allergenic and can cause quite a bad rash around the mouth within 2 hours of consumption. For the next 2 hours hubby and I are sat staring at the boy waiting for red marks to appear. They don’t. He’s fine. Bloody Google.

Despite my attempts at bravado, I was incredibly nervous every time he ate food for the first 4 weeks. Each time he tried something new I was perched on the edge of my seat with a manic smile on my face as I tried to appear relaxed to my son, all the while ready to pounce, turn him upside down and whack his back until whatever he was choking on came out. Thankfully I’ve never had to do this and I can honestly say, I do not worry that he will choke. The BLW book goes into detail about the gag reflex and choking and after reading it you realise how adept babies are at getting food out. I kept that page folded though. Just in case.

So, after fruit and veg, I quickly moved onto bread and hummus. I am a big fan of hummus and I was determined that my boy would like it. I needn’t have worried. I accidently left the pot on his high chair as I turned around to find his beaker. As I turned back round he had his whole fist in it and took a massive handful, which he then proceeded to shove into his mouth. He loved it. All choking worries out of the window, I then made him spaghetti bolognaise. He wolfed it down. He was 6 and a half months old.

Watching my son eat is one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed. I have photo after photo and video after video of him tucking into his grub. It has become a big part of our daily routine and I love it. He eats anything I give him and each mealtime can last up to 45 minutes as he slowly works his way through the smorgasbord of food.

His eating has become a talking point amongst our friends and family. We were recently in the park having a picnic and having fed him for a few moths now, I thought nothing as I handed him a corn on the cob to munch on. I only realised quite how impressive he was after a few strangers had come over to pat my son on the back for his eating efforts.

At a recent barbeque our friends sat in silence, completely mesmerised by him as he sat, at the head of the table in his high chair gnawing on a whole chicken drumstick. It was like a scene from Game of Thrones as my son, the King, sat elevated above his subjects, eating various bits of animal and discarding the bones on the floor.

I’m pretty sure feeding him this way has also helped his physical development too. At 6.5 months he had no problem handing a very large slice of melon. In fact, he loved melon so much that for about 4 weeks we referred to him as ‘melon boy’. Every time I brought it out of the fridge, he would start clucking his tongue, smacking his lips together and waving his hands up and down in anticipation.

I appreciate that is considered by some, a very modern and quite scary way of feeding a child and I realise that it isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly something I’ve noticed the older generation seem to struggle with. My mum and mother in law are terrified every time he eats. My mum often declares she can’t watch as I hand my boy a piece of baguette. If he so much a coughs to clear his throat she grabs the food from his mouth and replaces it with something mushy as the boy looks on bewildered at Nanny who has not only taken his yummy food away, but who also looks like she’s about to have a heart attack.

Most of my mummy friends have done BLW and our babies are amazing eaters who will try anything. It’s commonplace for us to be sitting together having a picnic with all of us eating the same food and it feels completely natural. It means we can share recipes and give each other ideas about new foods to try. It also means if one baby has tried something and got on with it, we’re all less afraid to introduce it to our little ones.

However, there is one down side. It is totally, without a doubt, the MESSIEST way to feed your child. The floor, the walls, the high chair, and the baby – nothing is left untouched by food. But it is also the most fun me and my son have and as I’m cleaning the bloody high chair for the 1000th bloody time I try to remember it won’t last forever. At least I hope it won’t. Fingers crossed he’ll learn to use a knife and fork at some point.

Say Cheese, Chicken

17 Jul

My husband hates having his picture taken. He dislikes the way he looks in every photo and it takes much cajoling on my part to get him to strike a pose. Any bickering while on holiday tends to revolve around me moaning that he takes no photographs. If it wasn’t for me lugging the camera around and posing in front of various tourist attractions or beaches, we would have absolutely no photographic evidence of any trips we have taken during our relationship. In fact, if a stranger looked at our albums it would appear that I have spent the last seven years travelling the world alone.

Choosing our wedding photographer became a nightmare as hubby was insistent that, “nothing was posed” and that she simply captured the moment, which obviously translated as, “I don’t want to pose for anything and if it was up to me I wouldn’t be in any”. Unlike our holiday photos I didn’t really fancy looking like I had married myself.

The problem with hubby in photos is not that he doesn’t look good, (he does) it’s that he doesn’t know how to look. In every day life he is relaxed and smiley, but put a camera in front of him and he does what we call his ‘photo-face’ – a sort of weird, frozen, half-smile that makes him look a little bit like a serial killer. Action had to be taken.

A few days before our wedding I suggested he practice in front of the mirror. An even more unnatural situation than posing in front of the camera, we both ended up in fits of laughter as he became more and more demented and appeared to lose control of his face.

So you can imagine hubby’s dismay when I announced that I had arranged for a photographer friend of mine to come and take snaps of the baby and that it probably (definitely) would also involve a few ‘family’ pictures. He looked genuinely scared.

In all honestly it isn’t my idea of a fun time to pose for pictures either. Granted I’m better at it than hubby, but it’s only because a) I was a child who ‘performed’ and b) I have a massive mouth which means I can grin easily. We are parents now though and I knew that if I didn’t get some pics of all of us together then I would regret it.

The day arrives and I can see hubby is anxious. He’s rambling something about how he should have got his hair cut and asking me over and over again what shirt he should wear. Given that he has about ten shirts all of which are a different shade of black, I grab one from the rail and say ‘this one’ through gritted teeth. As I’m already trying to tidy up, get the baby ready and at least attempt to run a brush through my hair, my patience is wearing thin.

In amongst the chaos I have the bright idea that hubby should pick Charlotte (the photographer) up from the station. I pretend I need to see to the baby, but I think if he meets her before she arrives at her house then he will chill out a bit and realise she is not the devil with a Canon. When they arrive back my plan seems to have worked as they’re chatting and hubby doesn’t look so anxious.

Pleasantries out of the way, we begin the ‘session’. For this we move to the bedroom. Which, when you think about it, is pretty intimate. I’m doing my best to not think about that. Thank goodness I’d had time to clean. I even ironed the bedsheets. I’ve never done this in my life. My mum would be proud. In fact, I think I may have called her and told her. It’s not something I’ll be doing again.

So Charlotte, who is clearly very good at making everyone feel relaxed, takes charge and tells us where to sit. Hubby at this point is hovering uncomfortably behind me with a tight grip on the baby, who he is using as some sort of shield. Bless Charlotte, she comments on how sweet it is to see hubby doting on our son and how lovely it is that he wants to hold him in the pictures. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I know he is in fact strategically working out how to position baby in front of his face so he doesn’t have to be in any of the shots.

Charlotte suggests doing the ‘family shots’ first as it’ll be better for the baby to have mummy and daddy with him before his ‘solo’. She clearly know’s what she’s talking about. I wouldn’t have even thought of that. Hubby visibly dies a little inside.

And then it begins. Charlotte is directing as we move here, there and everywhere around the bed and the weirdest thing is that it feels completely natural. All of the focus is on the baby as it becomes clear that we are merely supporting actors in his one man show. I’m amazed as I look over to see hubby smiling and laughing at our boy as Charlotte snaps away – the camera completely forgotten.

When we move to shots of just the baby things prove slightly trickier. He was okay with mummy and daddy, but trying to get him to look directly into the camera without us holding him is a different matter. We begin by repeatedly calling his name. This doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because I never call him by his name. I call him Chicken. We all begin manically repeating the word Chicken in high-pitched voices to get him to look at us. He does. Briefly. It is then I realise my child actually thinks his name is Chicken.

Next, Charlotte suggests we use props. On her instruction hubby and I gather as many toys as we can find that make a noise and stand behind the camera ferociously squeezing them. All the while hubby is calling Chicken and I am whistling at him like a dog (something else he also responds well too).

The best toy by far at garnering his Lordship’s attention is Sophie the Giraffe. She may look and sound like a dog toy, but she really came into her own that day. In fact, thinking about it, I’m starting to worry my baby thinks he’s a dog called Chicken.

After what feels like only five minutes it’s over. We’re done. It was quick, it was painless and dare I say it, rather enjoyable. My boy is a natural. I was worried for a while that he may take after his father and hate the camera, but I’m happy to report that he isn’t and that my stage-mother alter ego is now in full bloom. I might not mention to hubby just yet that I’m considering putting his name down for Sylvia Young. The boy that is, not hubby.

When I see the pictures a few days later, I’m so happy with the results that I’m tempted to ask Charlotte to come on holiday with us. Our baby boy has been captured in the beautiful and cheeky way that we see him and I’m amazed at how non-serial killer hubby looks.

P.S. This is Charlotte’s web site if you fancy a peek www.charlottesteeples.com (we’re the ones with the ironed bedsheets).

The Wet Patch

10 Apr

Lying in bed having just fed my son, I rolled over and found myself lying in something wet. I started giggling. This giggling soon turned into proper belly laughing, which then turned into a rather manic guffaw interspersed with crying. Hubby, who had looked mildly amused at first and giggled with me asking, “what’s funny,” suddenly looked rather unsure as his laughter tailed off and he looked at me with the look you give a crazy person in a street before you cross the road to avoid them.

I was laughing because it was the umpteenth time since my son had been born that I had found myself lying in an unidentifiable wet patch. For some reason I found this hysterically funny. Hubby did too once he processed what I was saying. I could see his mind quickly working through the amount of times he too had woken up with his hand in something wet and acknowledging that yes, at 6.30am when we would normally be blissfully asleep, we were in fact both trying to find a dry muslin in the pitch black to soak it up, all the while trying to decipher whether it was sick, wee, poo or breast milk. It was either laugh or cry. And neither of us could face anymore wet stuff.

For what I have come to realise five months into being a mummy is that much of motherhood can be defined by things that are wet and are mostly pretty foul.

Think about one of the first things that happen – your waters break. For some women this happens before labour starts. You can be standing in your kitchen enjoying a cuppa and a bit of cake and out of nowhere you start gushing water out of your vagina. For others, like me, it happens once your labour has started. In my case it was in triage, just after they had checked how much my cervix had dilated. They broke all over me. In the leggings I had intended to wear home. They also had merconium in them which basically means my son had done a poo inside me. Not pleasant. For some, they don’t break naturally and therefore need to be broken by a midwife. Really not pleasant.

But it’s once the baby is here that the ‘fluid’ fun really starts.

If you’re breastfeeding, body parts that have thus far just sat on the front of your body and not really done a lot, are suddenly food. And it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Particularly the first time you look down to see milk squirting out of them. I found this very odd and very amusing. The first time it happened I called hubby into the lounge to show him how far I could make it ‘squirt’. Hubby usually has cereal with milk in the morning. I noticed he had toast for about a week after that.

Most women who breastfeed will, at some point, express milk. This is a completely and utterly undignified process using a machine that looks like a mixture between a Victorian torture device and a sex toy. Neither my mum or I had any idea what to expect when I initially plugged this contraption in and were in fits of laughter as my nipple began to take on a life of its’ own, intermittently being sucked in and out of the torture device by a vacuum.

I do express, but I really dislike doing so. My least favourite experience was one night over Christmas. I was sitting on my sofa watching Downton Abbey, pumping away, when I looked down to see what look liked strawberry milkshake. The milk in the bottle was pink. Bright pink. I literally had a panic attack. Hubby, who is usually very calm in these situations also looked worried. He even googled it. It turns out that this happens occasionally because a small bit of blood gets in to the milk from your nipple. Oh, is that all? My nipple is bleeding and I’m squirting out strawberry Frijj. The glamour is too much.

Another of the perils of breastfeeding is forgetting to put your breast pads in resulting in leaking milk. I was recently in the pub chatting to a male friend who looked horrified when I announced I was putting on my cardi to, “cover up my leaking boob wet patches”. To make matters worse I was wearing a grey t-shirt and anyone who sweats a lot knows this is not a good colour to get wet.

Pee. Another liquid that you end up dealing with a lot. Especially if you have a little boy because when they wee without a nappy on it goes everywhere. The distances my son can reach are actually rather impressive. Not so impressive is that is usually ends up on me. If this had happened before I had a child I would have been horrified. Now it’s like water off a ducks’ back. A few weeks ago I had forgotten I was wearing a vest top which my son had urinated on. I continued to wear it unwashed for three days. Motherhood has turned me into a pissy tramp.

Poo. Until babies start solids you can most definitely regard this as a ‘liquid’. If you’re breastfeeding then it is yellow, runny and looks a bit like it has mustard seeds in it. It is also amazing how much can come out of something so small. And it gets everywhere. Hubby was changing baby’s nappy a few weeks ago and I suddenly heard, “shit, shit, shit, help”. I ran in to discover hubby had taken said nappy off, but our son hadn’t quite finished doing his business. Hubby was frantically looking for the baby wipes whilst trying to catch the offending poo that was gushing out of our boy like molten lava from Vesuvius. So disturbed by it was he, that I’ve seen the fear in his eyes every time he’s changed a nappy since.

But for me, the liquid of liquids, the ‘wet’ that has so far come to dominate most of the last five months of my life, is vomit. My son has reflux which means I am constantly covered in sick. It’s in my hair. it’s on my clothes. It’s all over my bed, sofa and floor and on one very unfortunate day, it was in my mouth. Forget the wheel and the internet, my eternal gratitude goes to whoever invented the baby wipe.

Bless him, my little dude leaves his calling card wherever we go. Thankfully he doesn’t seem seem bothered by it at all. In fact, he usually just smiles and giggles through it. It’s a good thing he’s so cute – it makes it easier when he pukes over our friends and family and you see their faces as they realise he has just regurgitated milk from my boobs all over them. As my friend once put it, “I’m not sure what’s worse, being covered in sick or knowing that it’s from your boobies”. She should try sleeping in my bed.