Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Tales of the Unexpected

There are things that you are expecting when you are, well, expecting for the first time; things every other parent with children under the age of 20yo secretly delight in telling you. Oh, they look sincere, but you just know that they want to start every sentence with "just you wait til..." The tiny one is not so tiny any more; the world is his oyster, and I'm the clam carrying him around. He is growing in bursts and knocking down milestones like I used to knock down hurdles in high school. And so I find myself awake at 4.30am, listening to him as he practices his comado crawl like it's 12 hours later, and thinking about the things I've been doing recently that I hadn't really anticipated.

  1. These 4 am play dates. I was expecting to have to get up in the wee hours to soothe or nourish my crying infant, my heart swelling with sympathy and unconditional love. I wasn't expecting to be kicked out of bed (quite literally, yesterday morning) because his little brain and body feel like it's a good time to practice what they already do all day long. Looking forward to when I can leave my child, unsupervised  in front of the TV and crawl back into bed. 
  2. I envisioned that when my sweet one woke us at some un-Godly hour, I would say softly to my husband, "Don't worry, honey, go back to sleep, I'll handle it; you have work in the morning", not (in my most "this is obviously sarcasm" tone) "Ooooh, well, you enjoy snuggling back into bed while I go and play with our son. No, no. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. I can do this all week, apparently" (grumble grumble bed hair mad eyes covered in spew grandma undies aged 10 years in 6 months crazy lady).
  3. Having the urge to throttle my dear husband after I try to keep the house in some kind of order (no mean feat with a person who demands all of your attention, sometimes even when asleep), only to walk into the lounge at 4am with a squirming ball of energy into my arms and find the only shred of housework I asked him to do (put away jocks/take coffee cup into kitchen etc) not done. Then resisting the urge to post about it on FB (but, apparently, not in this blog. For the record, it was his wrapper from his ice cream).
  4. I've heard the old "keep your take away menus on hand" spiel a thousand times. What you don't hear is how much you rely on other convenience food, like muesli bars and mini cheeses. Previously, theses were only for road trips. Now we have our own little section of landfill. So what tiny part of the earth I have saved using modern cloth nappies and banning paper towel (I don't recommend the latter), I have destroyed with the little foil wrappers from Laughing Cow cheese.
  5. Missing adult-time that doesn't revolve around conversations about parenting is a given, but busting yourself talking to other people the way you talk to your baby or the verbal diarrhoea you develop when talking to another adult for the first time in 9 hours is a little disconcerting. 
    Sample dialogue 1 :
    Other adult : "I sure like that new fangled car that's on the market"
    Me : "Yes, it's a car! Do you love the car? You love the car! Thhhheeeeeee wheels on the car go round and round..." (even if you don't sing the song aloud, it's definitely in your head).
    Sample dialogue 2 :
    Other adult : "Hi honey, I'm home. How was your day?"
    Me : "Hi. Great. How was your day? Did you get the thing done? We had a good day. I was thinking that we really should paint the kitchen. Probably white. No maybe cream. Jim and Sally just painted their bedroom cream, because you really can just change the accessories to change the look of the room. I guess that doesn't really apply to kitchens. The post came and there was the dumbest piece of junk mail. Bloody Liberals. I was thinking of making meatballs but the baby has been all over me today so I guess it's beans on toast. What should we do three weekends from now? Hey, how's Amber from work? Oh, did I tell you about Karen in our parenting group with the twins? You know, the ones who have that thingy. What's it called? Some kind of car. Anyway, she was telling me about Sharon, who incidentally painted her bedroom violet and regrets it, and how she and her husband were planning a trip to Bali and...." Well, you get the idea. 
  6. How many times have you heard mums (or dads) say how great it is to get out of the house, or to have some time without their baby? I always thought to myself, "Pfft. That's just a thing people say because they feel like they should". NO. NO IT IS NOT. Being "on" 24 hours a day takes it's toll on your nerves, so take some advice: pick a day of the week, hand your child to someone else (try for someone you actually know) and run in the opposite direction until you can no longer hear him (for mums, you need to go a little further than dads; more on this phenomenon in a sec).  Use these precious hours to indulge in whatever vice you have to suppress for the other 165 hours of the week 
  7. The old cliche of mum's waking at the slightest little noise that may indicate the tiny one needs something is not a myth. Somehow my brain can tell the difference between a little "just getting comfy" lip smack and the smallest "Hmm, I could go some milk" lip smack while I'm still asleep. And daddy? Well, he can tell the difference between "Gaaarrrrrgggghhhhwwwaaaaaaaaa" and "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" once he's awake (which happens when either of these sounds occurs). Sorry fellas, but as far as spidey senses go, mum's is far superior to dad's. 
There's a whole bunch of other stuff that I was only partially prepared for before motherhood struck that I wont go into, because mercifully, my gorgeous baby is now fast asleep in his magic chair, which I have been rocking whilst singing songs and writing this post (multi-tasking mamma). So, any grammatical errors, or offense, were not intended, and are solely the responsibility of my darling son (yeah, yeah, I should be gazing at him lovingly because he wont be this version for ever. I do it all day. 5am is "me" time, okay?)

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Today I am Zen Mother because I didn't tell two strangers to stick it. The first for telling me why my baby was crying (FYI she was incorrect) and the other for stating the obvious. It got me to thinking: about all the unhelpful things to people say (mostly strangers), what would I love to say in response, and what would have been a helpful alternative. There are also options for the days when you are so brain dead you can barely string two words together to make a vaguely coherent sentence (just like that one).  Feel free to add to the comments below if you have experienced these, or something similar:

Unhelpful: "Oh, someone (your baby) isn't very happy!"
Response: "Is that what all that screaming and crying means? Gee, thanks, Baby Whisperer, for helping me understand my baby!"
Brain dead response: "Stick it, jerk!"
Helpful: "Hello, nice weather we're having. (packs bag for me) $8.50, thanks."

Unhelpful: "Your baby doesn't sleep 12 hours a night, yet? Both of ours did from day 1; not one night of interrupted sleep"
Response: "'That's abnormal. Weren't you concerned that it would impact on their development? (child runs into wall). Hmm. Guess not."
Brain dead response: "LIAR!"
Helpful: "Not sleeping through, huh? Let me make you a coffee and tell you what hell our first year was."

Unhelpful: "Gee you look tired"
Response: "Really? I think 5 hours of broken sleep a night gives me a certain Marla Singer* appeal that really isn't appreciated in our society"
Brain dead response: "Coffee"
Helpful: "Look at you! You look amazing!" or if you don't feel comfortable lying: "I love your scarf/hat/shoes/pants/nappy bag/whatever"

Unhelpful: Touching my baby's face or stomach when you don't know either of us.
Response: Start touching the person's face. See how long it takes them to object.
Brain dead response: "Get your hands off my baby, you damn dirty ape!**"
Helpful: Serving me, then serving the man waiting behind me, in a professional and timely manner.

Unhelpful: Coming over and razzing my baby up an hour before bedtime.
Response: "'It's a shame we don't see more of you. Oh well. Life, hey?"
Brain dead response:  "Oh thank you very much. It's not like I wanted to sleep tonight or anything."
Helpful: Washing my kitchen floor while I cuddle my baby.

Unhelpful: "Oh, he's fussing! It's reflux, sit him up."
Response: "'Where did you say you studied medicine/midwifery?"
Brain dead response: "Stick it, jerk."
Helpful: Tell me my baby is cute, give me my change and hold the door so I don't have to struggle with a pram and shopping while my baby yells at me.

I'm sure there's a bunch of other scenarios, but I'm too brain dead today.

*If you don't know who this is, put down the baby and go and rent Fight Club (note: take the baby with you to the DVD store). If you don't like this movie, I can't help you.

** Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. Rent it while you're there, even if you have seen it before (unless you own it. Then props, you legend).

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Undermined Times

It's hard to trust your gut when you are a parent. You want to, you try to, but there is a little nagging feeling in the back of your mind, reminding you that you are new to this, and that there is a good chance your child will be asking you to fund their shrink bills when they're 25 years old (retaliate: show them the receipts you haven't got around to throwing out, your pot belly, your grey hair and your mortgage repayments). Until that rather awkward discussion ensures a quarter of a century from now (yikes), here's a list of people you may find yourself listening to at midnight, after a 4 hour battle at bedtime (or feeding, or bathing, or whatever plays to the tune of Merry Hell in your household on a daily basis):

  1. Oprah. Come on. She's Oprah. She's bound to have something on her website, TV show, other TV show and magazine that will help.
  2. Dr Phil. Same, but with a mo and a degree in RE-AL-ITY, people!
  3. Dr Oz. Same again, but with a California tan and an ability to make every topic about your sex life.
  4. Other mums. And not just friends. People in the supermarket line.
  5. Your mum or MIL. If they can manage to get past telling you how gorgeous your child is, and how utterly perfect he is, there is some good advice in there.
  6. Parenting magazines. These things are mine fields, and usually result in you second-guessing everything from how you settle your baby to what brand of wipes you use and how you decorate the nursery.
  7. Books. Same, but with fewer adverts and more pages.
  8. Health professionals. This can be a hit or miss area. If you find a GP who is supportive with current baby knowledge and a gentle approach, court them. Flowers, candy, the whole bit.
  9. Strangers in the cafe who tsk and give you that "aw, you don't really know what you're doing, do you, darling?" look that makes you want to throw the nearest thing at hand in their direction (which you don't because despite the secret urge to piff your kid at them, you don't. And that's what makes you a good mum). Their advice is usually that your baby is either tired or hungry. Not a genius observation, really. I mean, they're hardly arching their back and grizzling because they're frustrated by the stance taken by the Labour Party on gay marriage.
  10. Parenting websites. Kinda like magazines, only with endless amounts of anecdotes, quasi-scientific "facts" or bullshit wives tales from 'ordinary mums, just like you'.
So there you have it. Either one of these will provide the magic bullet, or drive you nuts. Whatever happens, eventually your sweet one will grow out of whatever it is that causes you to consider tracking down Mary Poppins*, or you will move them into the garage when they are too big to rock in your arms and change the locks.

*Fictional character. Try to eat your greens and get more sleep.

Monday, 11 March 2013

More things you will worry about

So you made it through 9 long months of pregnancy, the wild ride that is labour went fine (apart from, you know, the normal, crazy shit that happens) and you have your wee one in your arms, pink and breathing. And then it hits you: compared to what lies ahead, you had nothing to worry about when your baby was nestled safely  in your womb. The easy bit is done. Now comes (gulp) parenting, and with it bigger, better, crazier Mummy Worry. Here's just a few of the things you will worry about in the first 6 months:
  1. Feeding: Is my baby getting enough? Too much? Is my supply drying up? Why is one boob massive? There are a billion questions that run through your mind about feeding. Even if your baby feeds perfectly, like one of those ones in the DVDs, you will never feel as confident as the smiling mum on the pamphlet. What does happen, however, is you feel a smidge more confident every day, and eventually get to the point where, although you probably still think it, you have worked out what is of genuine concern and what is down to Mummy Worry (different from Feel-it-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach Worry, of course. That one you should listen to). And don't think that you're a "bad mum" if you don't find every feed a transcending act of pure love: there will be multiple times when it's a pain in the bum, especially once you little squish starts looking around and finding everything other than your boob or the bottle super interesting.
  2. Poo and wee: Again, you get better with this, although every time it changes ("What the heck is that??"), Mummy Worry kicks in again. I'd like to take a moment to thank the good people of the Patent Helpline(1300 364 300) for talking me through poo on more than one occasion. Being a GI nurse, adult poo I understand, but baby poo is a total mystery to me. As for nappy changing: there is no shame in calling for reinforcements in the face of a poonami if someone else is home. If you're  home alone, you're on your own. Good luck keeping the tiny fingers out of it whilst you clean up. 
  3. Sleep: Ahhhhhh sleep: the endless battle in our house. The more tired they get, the harder it is to get them to sleep. Initially, bubs falls asleep on you more often than not. It's beautiful, serene, absolutely the loveliest thing in the world. And then they start to grow up a little, start looking around, taking an interest in more than just your boob... And then it's on for young and old. As someone who has sought advice from midwives and friends, and has tried all of the "right things", I am now painfully aware that there is no right. I'd love for Jnr to nap in his cot every day and sleep in it all night, but battling with him for an hour and a half, only to get a 30 min nap out of it, is not worth it. So keep using the pram, chair, car rides, cot, your bed, the boob/bottle, the magic Sleep Dance - whatever - and nuts to the advice. Our biggest asset is his bouncer. He's growing out of it, so last week I bought a bigger one online. If he grows out of that and needs a bigger one, well screw it, I'll find one. Sleep = sanity.
  4. Your sleep: If I hear one more "sleep when he sleeps" chant, I'll die. If I sleep when he sleeps, I wont eat meals or see my husband. I don't run around like a crazy woman when he's napping, but I get a few things done, then sit down and have a rest and a coffee (well, chocolate. The coffee just makes me feel better about eating chocolate at 10am). Actually, that's not true: coffee first, then jobs, since I never know how long I've got before I hear "eeeeaaaabllllaaaaaaargh" (that's his yawn-cry-stretchy he thing he does on waking) and have to drop everything.
  5. Your sanity: Trying to use toy keys to start the car; sunnies in the fridge; kettle in the coffee cupboard... Just a few of my greatest hits to date. As long as you don't leave your baby on the roof of your car, don't stress: these little stories are endearing and provide endless amusement for friends and family.
  6. Your relationship: Just kidding. Neither of you have time to worry about this. You can restart date night when your baby turns one. Maybe...
  7. Playtime: Of course you want the best start for your baby. Genius status might be a reach (not in our case *cough*) but you want him to be equipped with the knowledge every child needs: walking, talking, counting, reading, writing, basic accounting skills... So, are your silly songs and bouts of rolling around on the floor enough? Pfft. Sure! The other stuff can come from trained professionals at child care or kindy, right?
  8. Measuring up: Stop comparing yourself to other parents right now. Remember that most of them lie, whether deliberately to make themselves feel better, or accidentally because the last 6 months have been a complete blur and they have forgotten half of it. Surround yourself with people who say things like, "Meh. As long as he sleeps, don't worry where" and "Ooh, he looks healthy and happy and is certainly a genius, etc".

    Then things start to get a little crazy...

  9. Will he have friends? A partner? Kids? A job? Will he find purpose? Will he be good at sports, writing, accounting...? 
  10. Will I be able to juggle work and mummy-stuff? Will by baked goods cut it at school fairs? OMG SCHOOL! Will I send him to the right one? Will he do well? Get into uni or a good job? Make enough money to keep me in my old age?
Take a deep breath, put your feet up and dunk some chocolate in your coffee. You have about as much control over this stuff as you did over your labour: a little bit, but mostly you have to let go and enjoy the ride, even the painful bits... 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Things you will worry about

From the moment you find out you are pregnant, Mummy Worry kicks in (the sister of Mummy Guilt, but that's a whole other post). There is also Daddy Worry and Daddy Guilt, but I wont speak for dads. I'm not usually a worrier, but pregnancy had me hand-wringing on more than one occasion. Here are ten of the things you are likely to worry about during your pregnancy (in no particular order):
  1. That hangover you had? Yeah, that was morning sickness. And did you have to order cocktails with raw egg in them? Because what the alcohol needed was a risk of salmonella on top of it... Seriously, it's done. All you can do now is avoid egg-based cocktails. Well, all cocktails, actually. And all other alcohol. But you know the drill. Babies are pretty resilient, anyway: I had no idea I was pregnant over Christmas and New Year, and unless they were by the book, most of your friends will have similar stories (unless they're Mormon, Muslim...)
  2. The ham you ate last week because you really missed it. But it was freshly sliced from a reputable deli, and you only ate 2 slices, both from the middle...
  3. You limp to the magical 12 weeks, only to suddenly recall every story you have ever read/seen/heard about the zillion other complications that can happen between now and labour... Deep breaths, deep breaths. Apart from following the guidelines and advice from your midwife/GP/OBGY, and reconsidering a third Kit Kat for the day, you have no control over this. Let it go and you will sleep better, I promise.
  4. Labour. Seriously, don't worry about it. Like it or not, that baby is going to come out of you, and it ain't gonna be easy. Stay away from shows like "One Born Every Minute" and don't listen to other people's stories; just because theirs felt like a tickle or like they were having their very own John Hurt moment doesn't mean your experience will be anything like it. Just surround yourself with people who will chant "You can do it!" whenever you give them the look.
  5. Living off Barbecue Shapes and Kit Kats? Meh! If you aren't providing your baby with what he needs from your oral intake, he'll leech it out of your very bones. Try to eat at least one vegetable a day so you don't feel completely shithouse.
  6. So you worry about how much baby weight you are gaining? Don't bother. Unless you are eating Hungry Jacks 6 meals a day, it really is out of your hands. As for losing it later, forget about that until your baby has at least started solids. You think you're hungry now. Breast feeding is a whole other ball game in the snacking stakes. The local supermarket can barely keep up.
  7. Oh God. Will my feet change size? (this was a big one for me, and Imedla Marcos). For the first 6 weeks you rarely don shoes. Then you have Mummy Worry related to carrying your baby whilst wearing heels, so you live in flats anyway. You kid yourself for the first 4 months that you will be going somewhere without your wee one that necessitates frocking up. Then reality sets in and you do a massive Salvos run, then avoid the shoe department in every store you go to. If you need a shoe-buying fix, buy your baby some. Not that he'll need to wear any for ages. They're just so darn cute!
  8. Will my baby be born with a disability? They can't test for everything, and the tests that they can do aren't very accurate anyway. Try not to waste cortisol on it.
  9. Am I a bad person for hoping my baby wont be born with a disability? No. And that doesn't mean if your child does have a disability you will love him any less, or that you take issue with disability. 
  10. Will my baby be cute? The answer to that one is easy: yes, but not as cute as mine.
And this one is for the benefit of my husband, who busted me Googling it on more than one occasion and had to listen to me obsess over it: the effect of vitamin A (obtained predominantly from the buckets of Milo I consumed) on my unborn baby. What a waste of energy that was. Firstly  there is bugger all information out there about it, and no credible research. Secondly, it didn't stop me. Thirdly, he's okay!