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Eight Months On…

Every 10th of the month, I sit there and look back and think “What was I doing, x months ago?”. The answer’s always the same – trying to sleep between contractions in a pain-and-G&A-induced stupor, wondering how much longer this labour business is going to take.

This month is a really strange one. I can’t quite explain why, but I’ll give it a shot.

Eight months seems like such a long time. As I didn’t actually make it to nine months, I think it’s strange that by next month, SB will have been alive for longer than I was pregnant with her, and my pregnancy seemed to last so long (although in hindsight, it passed in the blink of an eye), and eight months seems so close to a year that I’m starting to see my tiny little baby as more of a toddler-in-the-making, rather than a tiny, helpless newborn.

It helps that she’s growing up so fast, I can barely keep up with her. We have not one, but two teeth, and all the fussing and whining and desperate chewing that comes with it. She looks so sweet with her bright red cheeks, and these two little pegs poking out of her gums. She’s commando-crawling at such a rate that I think she’ll be full-on crawling by the end of the week – we can’t turn our backs for a second now before she’s getting up to mischief – she sits on her own like a pro, she’s babbling away (we’ve had ‘dada’ and ‘baba’, but we’re still chasing that elusive ‘mama’ – so far it seems that I’ve been christened ‘Yaya’, as it’s what she always babbles when she sees me). I look at her now and I see a little person, full of life and spark and personality, rather than a little baby who relied on us for everything. She’s so fiercely independent that it saddens me at times – of course I want her to be my tiny infant forever! – but I’m proud of her, and I know that independence will serve her well if it continues into the future.

Weaning is going well; she has three meals a day (still not home-made purees, but I’m working on it). Finger foods are a bit trickier – not for SB, who’ll chew on them all day, but for us as parents. Every time she manages to gnaw a little bit off, we’re panicking to get it out of her mouth before she chokes. I think it’s confirmed that baby-led weaning definitely wouldn’t have been for us.

Something scary happened yesterday; she rolled over and onto a little star-shaped ‘cookie’ toy. It pressed into her face quite hard and sharp, and immediately she was crying – not sniffly baby snuffling, like she usually does, but a full-on “Help me, I’m hurt!” cry. It was like a call to action; almost immediately D and I were trying to comfort her. With some snuggles and kisses, she quietened down very quickly – it lifted my heart a little to see that she really does get so much comfort from being around us.

Her first Christmas is looming, and I’m very excited. She’s been absolutely spoilt rotten by us, and will definitely be more interested in the paper and the labels than the toys themselves, but that’s all part of the fun. It’ll be our first Christmas as a family – before, I’ve always gone to my parents, and D has always gone to his – and while I know it’ll be strange to be “alone”, with SB around there won’t be time to feel lonely – no sooner do you start drifting into some kind of melancholy daze than she’s chewing a laptop cable or trying to pull a scarf over her face, or crawling for the closest contraband food or bottle of alcohol (what can I say; the girl’s inherited my radar for anything unhealthy or immoral!), and you’re jerked out of it to go and plonk her back on the mat, only for the same to happen again minutes later. There’s definitely no time or cause for loneliness with SB around.

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If colic was hell, teething is purgatory…

We’re currently dealing with a baby who, as well as having the tail end of this six-week-long cough and cold, is now teething. We’re yet to see any cute little tooth buds erupting from those sore, swollen gums of hers, but it can’t be too far away now. We’ve got constant dribble, red cheeks and EVERYTHING has to go in her mouth – and I mean everything.

She has a few water-filled teethers, which help for a few minutes at a time, and Sophie The Giraffe is good until she gets bored of chewing on her and throws her away, but the one thing we’ve found that has really helped her so far is blocks of cucumber. We weren’t planning on giving her too many finger foods – more because of my own selfish nervousness than anything! – but lately, everything we’ve had on our plates, she’s wanted a taste of. So, as well as having various purees and porridges, so far she’s also tasted cocktail sausage, pineapple, melon sticks (she loves melon sticks!), cucumber, toast, baby biscotti (not a massive hit), ice cream, chocolate gateux and milky bar buttons. Now see, I’ve been trying to feed her healthy things, but when other people get involved, the junk food comes out (although I can’t see the harm in a little bit of chocolate at her age!)

Some nights have been terrible, and she’s really screamed with her teeth. Other nights, she’s been fine, perfectly happy and giggling and like her usual self. It’s impossible to predict how she’ll be on any given day, and I do worry that it’s all going to escalate when that first tooth cuts through, so I can’t really say that we’re finding teething a breeze… but it’s a million times better than those heady early days of a screaming, colicky, constipated baby.

I do find I’m enjoying this stage a lot more. SB is sitting up on her own, looks like she wants to crawl, she’s constantly reaching for our faces, babbling to us, blowing raspberries. It feels like having a little companion, rather than someone who relies on me for everything (even though, of course, she still does). I miss having my teeny tiny little newborn who was sooo small, but I love the companionship and even if the conversation is still a little one-sided, I can still pretend I know what she’s talking about when she’s babbling away to me. She rocks in her little car, and loves cuddling up to her teddies, and she really does snuggle into us now when we hold her. She likes being close to us and being around us, so I think I’m definitely enjoying the 6-months-plus stage more than I did the newborn months.

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Tales from the front line of weaning…

A few thoughts about weaning this week.

Oh my god. It is so messy. I had visions of my baby, clad in a pretty pink bib, daintily taking puree from her lovely Winnie the Pooh weaning spoons, in her immaculate high chair. Oh, how naive I was. Instead, every time we’ve tried to feed her, we’ve ended up with pictures like these -

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As you can see, porridge and carrot are both big favourites here. In fact, she loves them so much, she wants to share them with her clothes, my clothes, my hair, her hair, the sofa, the carpet and every other stainable surface in the flat.

Another weaning revelation: I do not have time to make home-made weaning foods. I keep going into the baby food aisle in the supermarket, thinking I’ll get a couple of pouches of Ella’s Kitchen or a couple of boxes of porridge, just to keep us going until I get time to make our purees. We have a blender. We have the ingredients. Do you think I’ve managed to make a single set of purees? Of course not!

I had visions of myself as this ‘supermum’ figure who can go to uni, write a dissertation, keep a tidy home, feed her daughter only the best organic homemade purees and never looks tired. As it is, I’m going to uni and writing a dissertation… and that’s where it stops. The flat is anything but tidy, SB eats only Ella’s Kitchen (it’s organic, if that wins me any brownie points?) and ‘tired’ is my permanent state these days. We barely have time to make anything for ourselves other than fish fingers and pasta, so how we’re supposed to make these purees is beyond me.

So if you came here looking for weaning tips, you’ll be disappointed. If you came here at your wit’s end, with porridge and carrot puree in your hair and a healthy sprinkling of guilt for the fact that you’re feeding your child all these ‘nasty’ processed purees rather than letting them discover the exciting world with their own hands in Baby Led Weaning (finger foods to you and I), you’ll find an ally.

If I was to write a parenting book, the chapter titled ‘Weaning’ would simply read like this.

AAAAAARGH shit shit shit it’s on the carpet it’s going to stain oh god that’s a new outfit HOW DID IT GET UNDER THE BIB? crap crap crap it’s all in my hair, how the fuck do you get carrot in your eyebrows? fuck off annabel karmel no no no don’t grab the spoon nooooo don’t grab the bowl oh my god it’s food not face paint AAAAARGH

Can I get an ‘amen’?

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The Naming Ceremony

On Saturday we held SB’s naming ceremony. When I call it a ‘ceremony’, it was really more of a naming day – there was no officiant or celebrant (we looked into it, but it’s horrendously expensive), but we booked a village hall, provided a buffet and made a couple of toasts and said a few words, but mainly it was a day for families on both sides, and a few friends, to get together. Some people were meeting her for the first time, but mainly it was just a celebration, a day to welcome her into our family.

The planning has been stressful to the point that I’ve decided D and I are going to elope, because if I have this much stress over how many bastarding cheese sandwiches to make (for future reference, ham is the most popular choice), how the hell am I going to plan a sit-down meal and a disco with a buffet and whatever else you’re supposed to have at weddings. A Spotify playlist, more than two hundred sausage rolls and cheese, pineapple and hula hoop cocktail sticks are about as far as my skills stretch. So either we elope or we hire a wedding planner who does everything for us.

I’m also not great at off-the-cuff speeches. We’d thought about doing a reading, something out of Dr Seuss, but in the end we knew we wouldn’t enjoy the day with the thought of that looming over us, so we decided to simply thank everyone for coming, thank her godparents, and raise a toast. It was simple, but I think it worked well. Of course there were stresses on the day, but let’s face it – would it really be a party if there wasn’t any stress? Between us D and I managed to have a full meal – he had a plate of the savoury stuff and I had a plate of dessert – and we’ll be eating cake for the forseeable future, but as it is, I think the day went well. Everyone seemed to enjoy, everyone survived, and SB looked absolutely beautiful.

Although my “dreams” of one day being an event planner have gone out of the window. Forget air traffic control and the police; now that is a high-stress job. All those freaking sausage rolls.

I do have a lot of pictures of SB with various people throughout the day yesterday, but just because I don’t want people to shout at me for putting pictures of them on my blog, instead, enjoy one of the morning after the night before – for a girl who seems to dislike hats, she seems pretty happy with this one…

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Six Months On – A Recap

Approximately six months ago, I posted this picture on this blog -

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It’s fair to say that a lot has changed since then. That was posted as a bleary-eyed, discombobulated new mom, with no idea what I was doing or where I was going, living in pyjamas and wondering where this tiny, screaming, constantly-feeding, never-sleeping little human had come from, and who on earth decided we were responsible enough to look after her.

Six months on, this is SB -

10670179_703301429759401_5320500511243924977_nAnd I post this as someone who feels she is coping pretty well, actually. Right at the beginning, everything was stressing me out. How would I manage uni? Having babies can destroy relationships; would D and I still be together in six months time? How would we manage financially? Will I be able to cope with this responsibility? And now, I feel like we can cope with whatever is thrown our way.

This evening, I cooked tea and made some purees for SB (we’re trying to start weaning…. note the ‘trying’ part, I’m nervous!), while D watched her. Then D watched her while I ate my tea, and I fed her while D went for a shower, and now he is getting her off to sleep while I write my dissertation proposal and do some research for university. This system we’ve fallen into is surreal and crazy, but it works.

I can’t get used to leaving the classroom after a lecture, and rather than heading straight home or going to the student bar for a drink, I head to the nursery and pick her up. Being away from her is so difficult, but coming back to that smile makes it all worthwhile.

I feel like she has such a personality now. She’s chatty and mischeivous, and LOVES watching fish in the fish tank at nursery, to the point where we’re taking her to an aquarium in a couple of weeks, and we’re going to add to our family with a couple of goldfish for her to admire at home. Everyone who sees her remarks on how she’s the smiliest baby they’ve ever seen – nothing fazes her. At the moment she’s poorly with a cough and cold and conjunctivitis, and she’s had awful gastroenteritis. We’ve been terrified, phoning out of hours doctors and panicking constantly. She’s taken it all in her stride, with a smile on her face to boot.

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This girl just doesn't 'do' sad!!

This girl just doesn’t ‘do’ sad!!

I couldn’t do it without the physical support of D – we’ve had moments where we’ve struggled, but never once have we thought ‘Nah, I’d be happier doing this alone’, which I think is the most important thing – and the emotional support of our family and friends. Although our family live far away and can’t offer practical support often, they always offer, and the emotional support is invaluable. As for our friends, they haven’t dropped us the moment the baby arrived – they constantly astound me with how wonderful they are with her, and how kind, supportive and generous they have been to us.

One thing from my blog all those months ago has remained the same. I said it then, and I’ll say it again now. The greatest honour in my life has been spending the last six months – and knowing we get to spend many, many, many more months – with our strong, beautiful, precious daughter.

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Student + Mum = actually going pretty well so far.

So we’re in the middle of Week 2 of trying to combine parenting with studying ‘fo realz’, and after a disasterous week one – including an ambulance trip because she was projectile vomiting everywhere and I thought she was dying, a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, all three of us coming down with coughs and SB only managing two days of nursery and spending the rest of the week with D – week two is going pretty smoothly so far (touch wood).

It’s difficult, but I knew it would be. I hate leaving her in nursery every morning, but it’s bittersweet. The nursery workers are so welcoming and friendly, she beams for them and always seems quite happy, whether we’re dropping her off, picking her up, or popping in during the day to make sure everything’s alright. So far her activities have included watching the fish (which is why we’ll be getting a fishbowl and fish soon, as she seems to love these fish they have at nursery) and ‘singing’ with all her ‘new friends’ (seriously, this baby diary is freaking ADORABLE. They write it from her perspective!).

As for lectures, it’s going really well. I’m starting to have a few more ideas for my dissertation, so I’ve got a nice bank of possible topics now. The Christmas show this year is Grease; the long rehersals are going to be tough being away from SB, but that’s what I signed up for with this course, and having my friends around me makes it so much easier. We’re kept so busy that really, I don’t have time to be lonely or think about it too much.

As for people’s reactions, I haven’t encountered any negativity, thankfully. Most people ask about SB but don’t really mention her being in daycare, which is fine by me, and those who do mention it have all been positive, although some have mentioned that they don’t know how I do it, when really there’s hundreds and thousands of people doing it every day, because we have to. As much as I’d love to take the full amount of maternity leave, or be a stay-at-home mum, it’s not right for my family, it’s not right for me, and I can’t imagine myself doing it right now. That’s not saying I don’t feel maternal, or I wouldn’t love to spend all day with her – of course I would! – but I started my degree and I’m going to finish it. I love being busy, having work to do and tasks to get on with.

Plus, that first cuddle and smile when we pick her up from nursery makes every second of the separation worthwhile.

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Returning to student life…

It’s tough. It really, really is.

I expected it. I knew it’d be hard – we both did. We left uni last April as full-time students. We return as student parents. Who would’ve thought that one word could make such a difference? Sitting in lectures today listening to all the work we’ll have to do, and of course I’m excited – I love the sound of the assignments we have to complete, and it’s my last year! It’s an exciting time! – but I’m also well aware that it’s going to be a challenge. It won’t be easy to complete a dissertation, two big performances and a load of practical and written assignments over the next year, as well as trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, but I’m determined.

I realised something when I got back to uni yesterday and saw my friends. When I go into class, I want to be the student me. Of course I don’t want to forget about my little girl (and I couldn’t possibly; I wear a necklace with her initial on it and her picture is all over my phone), but I want to be able to focus on my work. It’s a little tough at the moment, because not being with her all day is so new to me, but I think I’ll be kept so busy, it’ll become second nature. I also don’t want to be treated differently because of being a mum. I’m still just as capable of everything as I was before, and I don’t want people to feel they have to pick up the slack, which is why I’ll use the time she’s in childcare wisely.

Ah, childcare. The most controversial part of returning to uni so soon after having a baby. Here’s a tip; if you meet someone who is putting their baby in childcare at a young age (or at any age), the only polite and correct answer is ‘You have to do what works for you’. Some examples of wrong answers include ‘I could never do that’, ‘Aren’t you going to miss all her milestones?’ and ‘I think that’s very selfish’. Putting my baby into nursery at a young age has taught me one thing; people can be very mean.

On the other hand, people can be very supportive. My uni lecturers are very supportive, and I don’t know what I’d do without my friends. They’re keeping me going during lectures when I’m struggling, distracting me and keeping me so busy I don’t have time to be sad. And I can’t forget D, who’s going through all this too, but with the added pressure of trying to stay strong in order to support me.

It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to try and face it like a ‘normal’ student. And I make this vow right here, right now – this time next year, I’ll be looking forwards to graduating with the rest of my class; the class I started university with. I’m going to make my daughter proud of me.