Feeling the heat…

The UK is in the grip of a ‘heatwave’ at the moment (I use the inverted commas, because the rest of the world would scoff at us calling it a heatwave – the temperatures are just about pushing 30C – but for a country where anything above 10C is t-shirt weather, and when it reaches 20C it gives all men the right to take their t-shirts off and walk around flaunting their – usually unattractive – bodies, this really is a heatwave), and something I never really appreciated is just how much difficulty the weather can add to the already-difficult task of parenting. 

 

Things they don’t warn you about parenting in hot weather

  1. There is so much conflicting advice about the right temperature and what to dress your babies in. The general advice is one more layer than you’d be comfortable in, but when I’d gladly peel my own skin off if it’d make the heat go away, that’d mean having SB in just her nappy, and I’m not sure that’d go down too well in the supermarket. 
  2. You constantly compare what your baby is wearing to what other babies are wearing. When SB was quite happy in her vest, t-shirt and shorts, I felt like I’d cracked it – she was an alright temperature and seemed happy enough. And then we walked past a baby of about the same age as SB, all wrapped up in a fluffy pramsuit and blanket. That sows the seeds of doubt, making you wonder if everyone walking past is gasping at your poor, freezing baby. 
  3. Night times only get more stressful. All the parenting books go on and on about how the ideal temperature for baby’s room is 18-20C, and you should do your best to get it to that temperature. That’s fine and dandy if you have air conditioning, but when having the windows open and a fan blowing all day still only gets it to 30C, you can’t help but feel a little nervous. And then there’s the issue of what you dress them in at night. 
  4. Hot times are never a good time to implement a change for your baby. We picked this week to try her in her cot. Because it’s too hot for her to wear her 1-tog GroBag sleeping bag, and far too hot to tuck her in with blankets, we’ve found her in a number of ‘interesting’ sleeping positions, including at a 90 degree angle to where she began, and with her legs hanging out through the bars. Needless to say she’s back in the Moses basket.
  5. Normal parenting tasks are so much harder in the heat. This heatwave has coincided with D getting extra hours at work, so a lot of the feeding, changing and general baby tasks fall to me – which is fine, I love doing them. But in the heat, sitting there and feeding when all you want to do is move about to cool down is so bloody uncomfortable. Plus you sweat everywhere, so public feeding becomes all in all a very embarrassing situation. 
  6. If it’s too hot to focus in general, it’s too hot to focus on tasks like making bottles. The potential for mistakes opens up, so you need to be careful that you’re not putting more powder in than you should, or putting the nappy on backwards. 

Will going back to uni make me a part-time mum?

Something that exists solely in this little ‘parenting bubble world’ is the ‘battle’ between stay-at-home parents (SAHPs) and working-out-of-the-home parents (WOHPs). In the interests of the ‘battle’, I’m currently a stay-at-home mum (as it’s the uni holidays, which I’m counting as my maternity leave), but come October, I’ll be a WOHM, and SB will be going into nursery – she’s now all registered, and at the minute she’s registered for a full-time spot – all day, every week day. This may change according to our uni timetables when they’re released, but we have no idea, so it was best to register her for full time. 

The problem is, there’s another phrase that some SAHPs use to describe themselves – ‘full time parent’. This is often seen in the ‘career’ field on Facebook as some variation on ‘Full-time yummy mummy and loving it!’. Which is fine, it’s up to you what you put on Facebook, but please – can we stop with the full-time mum bullshit? 

When I go back to university,  I won’t stop being a full-time mum. I won’t just be a mum to her part-time, and no-one else is going to become her mum. I won’t be staying at home to exclusively look after her, that’s all. I won’t be a stay-at-home mum, but I will still be a full-time mum to her. I don’t stop being the one who gave birth to her when I go into my lectures. 

There’ll be some of you who read this and say ‘It’s a turn of phrase, it’s just a term, get over it’. To that I say…. no. Stop using the term. It’s designed to make parents who work feel bad. I don’t judge you for your choice to do what is right for your family; don’t judge me for doing what is best for mine. It seems like some people would rather I drop out of uni and do nothing, rather than staying on, qualifying and (hopefully!) getting a job some day. 

Why is this? Is it something to do with the stereotype about young mums, or unplanned pregnancies? You may be surprised, considering how liberal a lot of people are these days, to learn that some people still need people like young mums, the unemployed, those without a university education etc, to be the detritus of society. They desperately need for someone in society to be below them, because otherwise, where does that leave them? So when someone from these groups does something out of the ordinary; something that goes against the stereotype, these people can’t cope. If you have a place in society, you should stick to it – apparently. 

I have admiration for stay-at-home parents – for me, as much as I love being a parent, it’s lonely and the days seem very long, but they also seem to melt into one big day that’s lasted since April. I’m dreading leaving SB in nursery, but I’m looking forward to the routine that uni brings to my life, and the socialisation. There’s nothing wrong with describing someone as a stay-at-home parent, or a working-out-of-home parent – the trouble starts when we get into this part-time/full-time mum bollocks. There’s no such thing as a full-time mum. It doesn’t make you superior, nor does it make you a better/more devoted/more bonded parent. You are a parent, the same as any other parent – you’ve just made a different parenting choice than others. 

 

Poorly Babies (or, ‘When even the sling won’t do’)

I may have been very disparaging about the sling to begin with, but over the past few weeks, I’ve gone through begrudging acceptance, and into holding it up as the pinnacle of modern parenting methods. Step aside, Gina Ford! Go away, Ferber! I have a sling – I am a babywearer, and my baby shall never be upset for as long as it is held against my body by a strip of fabric. 

Until last night. About half an hour after D left for work, she woke from peaceful sleep with a scream of epic proportions. I can sort-of laugh about it now, but at the time, I was on the verge of calling out the ambulance, the police, the fire brigade and the army. My tiny little human was making a sound like an animal being hurt, and nothing I did could soothe her. I fed her, I changed her (twice!), I checked every little bit of her body for any sign of a rash or cut – I even checked her babygro to make sure there was no hair or skin caught in the poppers of the sleepsuit. I cuddled her, I shushed her, I read to her, I offered a dummy, I offered Emily doll, I offered Sophie the giraffe, I put the mobile on, I put socks on, I took socks off, I tried to let her sleep, I tried to let her sit up, I did bicycle legs – if you can name it, I tried it. Half an hour later, she was still squealing unconsolably. 

Arrogantly, I grabbed the sling (after calling D in a hysterical mess to demand he told me where it was), thinking this would solve everything. Did it work? 

Of course it didn’t. Because you can set as much store by slings as you like, but at the end of the day, they’re still just a piece of fabric and some safety clips. They’re great for fussiness, great for when your baby is just feeling a bit fragile and clingy, but when your baby is full-on poorly (as we discovered she was, one poonami-to-end-all-poonamis and several hours waiting to hear from the doctor later), very little will do. 

I think the worst thing about knowing your baby is ill – I used to scoff at the idea of mother’s intuition, but you just know when something isn’t right – is the fact that you know it, but others don’t seem to. It’s an unreasonable thing to be annoyed about, because they don’t have that same intuition or knowledge of the baby, but when you know this is out of character for your baby – even at their absolute, raging colic, hungry and tired and dirty nappy and overstimulated, just-being-a-little-mard-arse worst – someone suggesting ‘colic’ or ‘just a bit tired’ can be enough to push you over the edge. 

The only thing you can do in that situation is a deep breath, and understand that people just want to help. Most of the time, they know that you have the intuition, and to listen if you know something is wrong. Most of the time, it’s a good-natured intention to make you relax, rather than jumping to the conclusion that you’re going to lose your perfect baby. So although you know that you know your baby better than anyone else, act on your instincts first – and then listen to the people who suggest alternatives. Even though your instincts may be right, they’ll do a great job of keeping you calm. 

After the epic poonami and a little bit of grizzling, she seems right as rain again today – and I know that next time, not only can I keep calm until I’ve explored all the possibilities I’ve thought of, but that there are people I can ask who may offer other possibilities I haven’t thought of. 

The moral of the post – if you’re looking for a miracle cure, the sling ain’t it. If you’re looking for something to stop baby grizzling, to keep him or her close by and to let you get on with housework/uni work/Facebooking, it’s great. 

Out and about with a baby: top tips!

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  1. As soon as they’re old enough to find a toy they like, never ever lose that toy. SB is obsessive about her Lamaze ‘Emily’ doll - £6 on Amazon -, it is guaranteed to calm her down if she’s crying, and if she’s calm it will always bring out a smile. She goes everywhere with us now, and can clip onto the pram for ease. I dread the day we lose the little bugger. There will be tears – mostly mine. 
  2. If you’re using dummies (we are), make sure you’ve got enough clean ones with you (or get ones with dummy clips – remember to never tie it around your child’s neck). I tend to have a little plastic case with clean dummies in the changing bag, and another one in my handbag just in case. I still manage to lose them, somehow. 
  3. NO walk, shopping trip or car journey is short enough to negate the need for a changing bag. The one time you go out without it, the baby will experience a Poonami. This can work to your advantage if baby is ever constipated – go out without a changing bag, dressing the baby in their best clothes, and wearing your favourite dress. Within half an hour the blockage will be cleared and your dress will be ruined. 
  4. If your baby screams, bastards people may will glare, tut and sigh at you, for having the audacity to have a baby with feelings and needs (Didn’t you know your baby is supposed to be an automaton? My little Wilburforce didn’t show an ounce of human emotion until he was in university, you know). There’s no real ‘tip’ for shutting them up, but just ignore them. It annoys them even more and leaves you stress-free. Dummies and dolls are great for averting crying situations, but sometimes nothing will work. 
  5. If you’re going swimming, take two towels – one to get baby out of the pool with, and the other to dry them with. Keeps them warm because even though baby pools are 32 celcius, babies get cold quickly.
  6. A pool membership, if you can, will be a great investment – rather than paying £4 a time for a 10 minute swim a few times a week, paying £15 a month for unlimited swims is great – at first, all you’ll get is 10 minutes in the pool at most before baby gets too cold. Be prepared for shivers, looks of ‘What the fuck are you doing to me, mum?’ and people walking past your shivering baby, tutting. (What is with all these tutters? Do they follow new mums around, waiting to see a mistake?)
  7. Bibs. Bibs bibs bibs. Whether you use bibs or muslins or cloths or whatever, just MAKE SURE YOU BRING A SPARE. Have one in the puschair, one in your handbag, one in the changing bag, one wherever you can fit one. Stuff them in your pockets (just don’t go into any shops, because they’ll think you’re shoplifting if your pockets are overflowing with dribble bibs). Because when your baby is having a sick-a-thon, or just dribbling everywhere (it will happen, when you discover the joy of teething), you’ll realise that solitary bib you packed is nowhere to be seen. It’s also great when your baby decides that your finger tastes nice. You can laugh now. I don’t know what tastes so great about my thumb, but slobbering all over it is one of SB’s favourite hobbies. 

For every moment…

For every pouty face…

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Every dubious accessory choice…

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Every time you’ve been cheeky…

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Every poorly snuggle after those jabs….

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Every sleepless night…

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And every night where you slept (but we didn’t!)…

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Every conversation with furry friends…

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Every adventure in baby-wearing…

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Every new experience…

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Every costume…

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Every time knights have stopped what they were doing to cheer you up…

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Every time your hand has fitted perfectly into mine…

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Every cuddle with me…

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And every cuddle with your dad…10245432_10152394709179414_7722291947615455656_n

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For the moment you made us a family…

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And the family moments I cherish every day…

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From the very first picture on April 10th…

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To the most recent, on July 10th…

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For three months of smiles and screams, laughs and love, of being parents, of getting it all right (and getting it very wrong!), for nights of worry and carefree days. For going from being my lodger to my daughter. For sharing the very first three months of your beautiful, perfect life with us, and blessing us with the honour of being your parents, thank you. 

 

PFB Syndrome: What it is and why I’ve got it…

PFB syndrome is a term coined on Mumsnet (as far as I know), to describe when parents go above and beyond the call of normal parental duty, to protect their child – and when no other child can really compare to your own special little snowflake. This child is usually, if not always, the parent’s first child – hence the term PFB, Precious FirstBorn. 

My tone is quite dismissive but I have no right to comment – I’m every bit as guilty of showing PFB traits as the next proud first time mum. For example, in the twelve weeks since SB was born, we have - 

  • Given up half of the only sofa we have for her Moses basket to rest on during the day. D and I then alternate between the other half of the sofa, and the sunken beanbag on the floor. Neither of us have complained about this yet. 
  • Taken her out of the bath in one towel, before transferring her onto the softer, warmer towel on her changing mat to prevent discomfort for her. 
  • I’m yet to let her have her teether, because even though it’s been meticulously washed and sterilised and has been in the fridge for days, I’m not sure the fridge is sterile enough for something that will be in her precious mouth. 
  • There is a private Flickr account that only myself, and anyone registered on Flickr as a family member or friend (currently all of two people) can access. It has over 4,000 photos of her, taken in the three months of her life so far. They are arranged into albums by month. 
  • We have a tumble dryer which is used solely for towels and SB’s clothes. Her clothes are washed on a separate cycle to ours, even though we use the exact same (non-bio) powder, and the same (Comfort Pure) softener. 
  • All water for washing – even if she’s just puked and needs wiping – has to be boiled, then cooled, and I try to make sure I’m using the softest bit of cotton wool. 
  • From birth, I insisted that we both had to be present for every nappy change, just in case she rolled off the changing table. Eventually this paranoia translated to turning the changing table into a storage table for all her bits and bobs, and only changing her on the mat on the floor. She’s 12 weeks and still doesn’t roll. 
  • At the swimming pool, we take over two of the plastic changing tables, because the family changing room isn’t clean enough for her, and if I put all her stuff on one table, it will be too cramped for her. (Even I’m blushing about this one). 
  • The special baby sponge wasn’t quite soft enough for her skin, so now I use a clean muslin, pre-soaked and already covered in bubble bath so that it is soft enough for her. 
  • The first week and a half after bringing her home, D and I didn’t actually realise that you could let them sleep until they woke up to be fed. We took it in turns to sit up on the sofa, propping our eyes open with sticks by the end, doing shifts all through the night. We were exhausted by the end. 
  • The fridge was covered in post-it notes, telling us when her last feed was, how much she took, and detailing every nappy change and whether it was wet or dirty.

 

You can insist all you like when pregnant that you will NEVER succumb to PFB-itis, it happens. Soon you’ll be warming up their cot sheets with a hot water bottle so that it’ll be nice and warm for when they get in – before insisting she’s just too small for a cot, and has to stay in the Moses basket where she looks snug and comfortable. You’ll be warming Wet Wipes in your bra to make them more comfortable, and having enough sudocrem to treat a year’s worth of nappy rash. 

It happens.