Dear Santa, 6 things I’d really like for Christmas

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Dear Santa,

I’ve been a really good girl this year – honest. Well, it depends on your definition of ‘good’, but I have squeezed a small person out of my nunu (polite word for vagina) and kept her alive for the past 10 months (‘her’ being my baby and not my nunu, obviously). Please may I have the following:

1. Sleep

If you’ve read my latest blog post, ‘Why everything my husband does it wrong’ you will know that number one on my Christmas list this year is sleep. So, please Santa let me get some sleep over the festive break. A few early nights and perhaps a 7am wake up, rather than 5 or 6am. Please let the J sleep through the night, every night. Maybe even give me the odd afternoon nap? Perhaps after I’ve had a few glasses of wine with my Christmas dinner? Thanks in advance.

2. Some ‘me’ time

I would really like a bit of time to myself. Not time to do chores or time to find freelance work (fairly high on my agenda, seeing as I am currently not earning any money) or even time to write my blog. Actual me time where I can paint my toenails, dye my hair, pluck my eyebrows or just sit on the sofa in peace with a cup of tea (or wine) and a trashy magazine. That would be wonderful.

3. A date night with Grump

We ask both each set of parents to babysit quite often, but it is always for events with family and friends. I would really like some quality time with my husband. It feels like we are two ships passing in the wind at the moment and we could do with a nice meal out together (something we used to do all the time pre-baby). If you could throw in some Prosecco that would be fab. There’s nothing better than good food, good wine and a bit of flirty banter.

4. No more sicky babies (or mummies)

I’m asking for this one for my mummy friends as well as myself. All of our babies have been through the mill with coughs, colds, sickness bugs and chest infections. We could do with a break. I know it comes with the time of year, but could you please give us a couple of week’s respite. It would be lovely to have a non-sicky Christmas. Plus, we are all fed up of quarantining our babies and having to stay at home feeling miserable. We want to socialise and feel human again. Dealing with a sick baby breaks your heart and is also knackering. The winter vomiting bug was like the worst hangover you’ve ever had times 100. Without being too graphic, things came out of both ends pretty violently. Not fun!

5. Less poo-scapes

I am fairly adept at changing nappies now. I’ve got to grips with the smell and the fact that my child wriggles like an eel in oil whenever I try to change her. I can cope with her crawling away mid change and I can even cope with the leaky poos that go all over her clothes. What I’m struggling with is when she’s done a solid poo that escapes and I have to pick it up off the floor or from my leg. It’s like a miniature (sometimes not so miniature) adult poo and I have to touch it. Seriously?!? Even with a tissue or plastic bag it makes me retch. Please Santa, can you keep her poos inside her nappy? Use some of that special Christmas magic. On the other hand I could just stop buying those cheapo nappies from a certain superstore and shell out the extra for Pampers. **Long sigh….**

6. Macbook Pro

Santa, I don’t know if you are aware, but all Apple products are a zillion times more expensive than other brands. Now that I’ve started a blog and I am trying to launch a freelance journalism career, I feel like I do NEED one of these. The trouble is they cost about £1,000 (sooooooo expensive when you are not yet in gainful employment). I know what you are thinking. I could just buy a normal laptop for half the price, but I want to use Adobe software on it, plus I have been using Macs at work for the past 10 years and I just don’t get on with PCs anymore. If you could just send a shiny new Macbook Pro 15in down the chimney, I’d be most obliged (we don’t have an actual chimney, but you know that already, you crafty old man).

Seeing as I imagine Santa won’t be bringing me anything off this list, I’m hoping that my family/Grump will read this blog post and take a few hints about my Christmas wishes (mostly just the Macbook and sleep). Saying that, I spent most of my childhood asking for a pet rat for Christmas and that never happened. Thanks a lot Mum!

Picture credit: Caleb Woods/Unsplash.com

Competitive tiredness: why no one’s a winner

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As all new parents will tell you, having a baby changes your life in many ways. It is certainly the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered. You go through some amazing experiences and also some pretty shitty ones (sometimes literally shitty, everywhere, on your baby and you. In your hair…).

I think it is fair to say that parents are allowed to long for a few things from our pre-baby life. For me the biggest thing I miss is the S word. No, it’s not sex (ha ha you wish Grump) or snuggling or getting sozzled on Sangria, the one thing I truly miss is SLEEP. Grump and I used to be big sleepers. We liked afternoon naps, early nights and long lie ins. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than snuggled up in bed with a good book and a cup of tea?

Unfortunately, this way of life is not conducive to having a baby. I’m not allowed to moan really. I have a pretty good little girl who has slept through the night on and off from about 4 months old. She still has the odd few nights where she wakes up (especially if she’s under the weather), but I know I’ve got it relatively easy compared to some people. One of my NCT friends says that her baby has never slept through the night. And he only sleeps for a couple of hours in a row. I genuinely have no idea how she is still functioning. Even with a decent night’s sleep from 10.30pm to 6.30am, I still feel shattered most of the time (I think she hates me).

When I think back to the J as a newborn, I was hardly getting any sleep at all and I managed pretty well. So how can I possibly be tired now? I suppose back then I would have a couple of naps in the daytime when she was sleeping. Now when she’s asleep I shower, get dressed, do chores, watch Homes Under the Hammer [insert crap day-time TV programme here] and catch up on social media. Plus she doesn’t sleep for long enough to give me a decent nap anyway.

I’ve totally gone off piste from the main point of this blog, which is competitive tiredness. This is when your partner has gone back to work after paternity leave and you argue about who is more tired. You’ve both been up in the night, but usually the ‘non-worker’ takes the brunt of the night feeds (in this scenario I am the non-worker, although raising a child sure seems like hard work). The husband has been busy at work all day and thinks that you have been at home relaxing (I wish), while you’ve actually been dealing with a demanding baby all day. You are both knackered and both want to relax. You start to have a moan and it gets competitive over who has had the hardest day and thus is most tired.

Grump and I have had this discussion a few times since the birth of the J and recently we realised that it was simply ridiculous and pointless. It’s an argument that nobody wins. We are both tired in our own ways and both of our ‘jobs’ are tough. Since spending a week as a stay-at-home Dad, he appreciates all that I do at home with the baby and I appreciate that a full working week is tiring.

Even so, when you are shattered after a day with a crying/screaming/grumpy/tantrum-y baby, sometimes you just want your other half to say: “Well done, you’ve done a great job and I’m sorry you are so tired. Sit down, put your feet up and drink this large glass of wine and I will put the baby to bed.” Some nights Grump does this for me and other nights I do this for him, because we both need a break.

Having gone from regularly having 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night to somewhere between 4 and 7 hours with wake-ups in between, I’ve discovered that you can function on much less sleep than you think you need and for the next few years that’s how life is going to be. I do hold out a bit of hope that once the J becomes an older child/teenager I might actually get a bit more sleep. On the plus side, I seem to get much more done now that I am an early riser. I know those Sunday lie ins are probably a thing of the past, but a girl can dream. Oh wait, you have to be asleep for that.

P.S. I hope you enjoyed the gratuitous photograph of my parents’ Golden Retriever Toby having a well-earned snooze. Being a parent is hard, but obviously being a dog is harder!

Why everything my husband does is wrong

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Picture credit: Daniel Cheung/unsplash.com

I realise that the title of this blog seems harsh, but there is method in my madness. So please read on before you write this off as a negative husband-bashing post.

When you are in a long-term relationship (ours is 16 years and still going strong), there are bound to be times that your partner irritates you or makes, what you consider to be, mistakes. This is particularly heightened when you first have a baby and you are both trying to find your feet and roles in parenthood. The whole relationship dynamic changes and you go from being a carefree couple to being parents. It’s a tough time for even the strongest relationships. I’ve never understood why people have a baby to “save their relationship”. Yes, it does help you to bond in the most amazing way and I do love my husband more so now that I see how much he loves our daughter, but I also find, at times, that I want to repeatedly punch him in the face.

So this is the story of why everything my husband does (or did) is wrong and how we overcame it:

My lovely husband Grump has a couple of bad habits. One is losing everything he owns all the time and the other is not listening to me, which leads him to ‘get things wrong’. He claims I nag him too much, but seeing as he never listens, I have to repeat things over and over again. It’s a vicious circle and something I’m sure happens with many other couples.

An example of this is when we got takeaway at a friend’s house. The boys went out to order and collect the food, while the girls stayed in and gossiped. I asked for a chicken balti. This is exactly the same dish I order every time we have a curry (remember, we’ve been together for a LONG time. That’s a lot of curries). When Grump got back with the food, he handed me a chicken korma. Those of you who know me well will understand that this made me very cross. I am in to my food in a big way; curry is my favourite food and I always look forward it. I also get the hanger, but that’s a whole separate blog post.

The main problem was that I wanted a balti. I was looking forward to a balti. And second, korma isn’t a real curry. It is a sweet, soppy mess. It was gross and I was angry and hungry. When asked why he had ordered me a korma, Grump admitted that he hadn’t been listening and tried to guess what I wanted. My friend’s girlfriend wanted a korma, so they presumed I wanted the same. How could he not know which curry I like after 16 years?

Another example was when I sent Grump food shopping. Normally I give him a list, but as this was for a couple of things, I didn’t think he needed one. How wrong I was. Sometimes he tries too hard to get the right thing and it causes him to question his judgement, which means he ends up getting the wrong thing. I can tell that you think I am an unreasonable, horrible wife right now, but food is very important to me. Anyway, I asked him for a chicken pie, but with the puff-pasty top and not the shortcrust, because I don’t like it. He told me he spent ages deliberating over which pie to buy. Guess what he bought me? Yes, a shortcrust chicken pie. To make things worse, his steak-and-ale pie was puff pastry, so I made him swap with me as a punishment (he’s not a fan of chicken pie).

The point of this blog post is not actually to slate my husband, although I’ve done a pretty good job so far (love you really Grump). But these sort of niggly issues certainly came to a head in the first three months of our baby’s life. When Grump was on paternity leave in the first two weeks, we shared most of the parental duties, but because I was breastfeeding, much of the primary care fell to me. Once Grump had gone back to work, I was fully in charge. Eventually the J and I got into some kind of routine and I started the learn all her little quirks. This meant I was the one to comfort her, with Grump taking a bit of a back seat at times.

Grump was and still is a very hands-on dad. Unfortunately, he tends to do things differently to me. I think our brains are wired in polar opposite ways. Whenever he helped out with the baby, I would tell him he was doing it wrong. I spent a good few weeks criticising everything he did and trying to tell him how to do it ‘properly’. This culminated in both of us getting frustrated, snapping at each other and generally being miserable. I should’ve been grateful for his help, but I suppose as a new mum I wanted everything with the baby to be perfect and that meant doing it my way.

As time has gone on and I’ve grown in confidence as a mother, I have let go of some control. It also helped that Grump sat me down and told me that he felt that he couldn’t do anything right and it was upsetting him. I made him feel like a bad father. When he said those words to me, it hit me like a lightning bolt and I had a deep, dark sinking feeling in my stomach. How could I make someone I love so much feel that way? I felt terrible that I had put him down so much and I vowed to change my ways.

I do still have the odd moment of panic when he starts throwing the J up into the air far too close to the ceiling or gets her all excited just before nap time, but I have learned to be a bit more diplomatic with him. I will suggest rather than criticise. We are more of a team now and it feels good.

These days, the ways we feed, bathe, soothe and settle our baby are different, but neither are right or wrong. We do what works for us. Plus babies change so quickly, something that worked one day can change the next. I can see how having a baby could tear a couple apart, but I feel that we are stronger for it. We are a family unit.

He still loses the majority of his possessions on a daily basis and blames it on me, but Grump is an amazing husband and father, and I am thankful every day that I’m going through this journey with him by my side. Oh and next time darling, I’ll have a chicken balti.

Am I seriously a mother?

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When is it that you actually become a mum? Is it when you see those two pink lines on a pregnancy test, when you feel your baby kick for the first time, or when you hold your newborn in your arms? I certainly didn’t feel like a mum during any of these life-changing events. I freaked out when I got pregnant (it happened much sooner than planned – not that I’m complaining, as I know I should be grateful for being mega fertile). I found it weird when the baby, affectionately known as Peanut or the alien, kicked and moved around. And when I had just given birth I was exhausted, a bit in shock and it turned out that Peanut did look like an actual alien! That’s not to say I wasn’t awed by these moments, I just didn’t feel that they made me a mother.

Seeing as my daughter is just over nine months old, you’d think I would feel like a proper mum by now, but I’m still not sure I’m old or responsible enough to look after a small person. My life has changed so much since she was born and I’ve been doing lots of ‘mummy things’, aside from the usual parental duties. One example of what I consider to be a ‘mummy thing’ is seriously putting effort into singing nursery rhymes at baby classes in front of strangers. Although I do still find this mortifying.

However, it was only recently that I truly had that feeling of being a parent, a proper grown up lady, a mother. I felt like the kind of mother that my mum was to me. You know, the person I saw my mum as when I was a child. This only came about because my nine-month-old is acting like a terrible-twos toddler combined with a stroppy teenager. She has little temper tantrums when I want to wipe her face or change her nappy or take my mobile phone off her because she has locked me out of it, again. She also hates getting dressed. She screams and wriggles about the whole time. At times I’m worried the neighbours must think about calling social services.

Tonight after her bath I was fighting to get her sleepsuit on. In the end, I wrapped my leg around her and trapped her in a vice-like grip. I wasn’t hurting her, but she couldn’t get away. I know she can’t really understand me at her age, but I told her I was putting her in ‘mummy prison’ and the only way to get out was to cooperate with me. It felt like such a mum thing to say and just the sort of reasoning my own mum used try with me.

That was my moment. Fighting with a small wriggly person and trying to reason with her. As soon as I said it I felt like a proper grown-up mother. I wish I could say I had a powerful story about discovering motherhood when I breastfed my baby for the first time or when she finally slept through the night, but no, it was when she was being an awkward little bugger. I shouldn’t expect anything else really, as apparently I was the same as a baby. Stubborn, inquisitive and hard work. Like mother like daughter eh…

Sick, poo, sleep, repeat

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The long weekend from hell

Apologies that things have been a bit quiet on the blogging front for me lately. This is mainly because a plague has fallen on our house. OK, not a real plague, but it certainly feels like it. All three of us have had sickness and diarrhoea – so maybe don’t read this while eating. I promise not to be too graphic!

Friday night

It all started when I was planning to go out for dinner for my Mum’s birthday (don’t worry Mum, I won’t reveal your true age). Grump was away for the whole weekend (when is my weekend away dear?) and so my MIL was coming over to babysit. I swear children sense when you want to go out and so play up at bed time. Most nights the J has her milk and drifts off into a deep sleep with minimal fuss. But every time we want to go out, she screams blue murder.

Friday night was one of those nights. She wouldn’t settle and, in the end, I had to leave her awake and crying with my MIL, feeling terribly guilty. I asked my MIL to text me once the J was asleep, so I wouldn’t spend the whole evening worrying that she was having an awful time with a crying baby. It took her two attempts at getting the J off to sleep, with quite a bit of TV watching in between. Poor MIL, poor J. Lots of mum guilt coming my way.

In the end, I had a lovely evening with my family. This was partly due to the two glasses of wine consumed (actually three if you count prosecco, but it’s basically air). I came home at about 10pm to a happy MIL and a sleeping baby. I went off to bed and was fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

At midnight I woke to a screaming baby. Usually I wake up as soon as the J starts lightly crying, but obviously the wine had something to do with my deeper slumber (cue more mum guilt for irresponsible parenting). I went into the J’s room and picked her up in the dark. She felt a bit wet and I thought she may have sicked up a little milk, but I gave her a big cuddle anyway. What’s a bit of milk sick between friends? She snuggled into me and went back to sleep fairly quickly. It was then that I realised her head was wet and she smelled a bit gross. As she was fast asleep, I laid her down on my bed in a fortress of pillows and went to check out her cot.

When I turned on the lights it was carnage. There were piles of orange sick all over her cot (she’d had butternut squash for dinner). To make things worse I had put the cover of her Sleepyhead in the wash and so had the innard bit loose in her cot. That was also covered in sick. I spent the next 10 minutes stripping the cot and feeling even more guilty that I had gone out when she was feeling unwell and had presumed she was just being fussy. I then realised there was sick all over my pyjama top and went to inspect the J. She had lumps of sick in her hair and had obviously been writhing around in it. It was horrible. In the end I had to wake her up to strip and clean her. She was not impressed. She then started to make gagging sounds and, luckily, I managed to catch her sick in my hand. Then I had to hold her in the other non-sicky arm over the bin so she could be sick again. There was so much sick!

After all the sick was cleaned up and the J was calm, I tried to get her back off to sleep. Of course, she wasn’t having any of it. After numerous attempts to get her off – this involved rocking her and then putting her in her cot once she was asleep, which meant she woke up as soon as she was put down – I’d had enough. I thought about bringing her into my bed, but I was worried she would wake in the night and crawl/roll off the bed.

Thankfully, we have a day bed in the spare room that has two single mattresses on it. I decided to make a bed on the floor and the two of us could sleep on it together. Unfortunately the J’s room is not that big, so first I had to move the feeding chair and Jumperoo out of her room (this meant dismantling the Jumperoo – I hate it now) and then dragging the mattresses across the landing. Our makeshift bed stayed put for the whole weekend. Her room looked a bit like a crack den, but it actually worked really well. We snuggled up together for a bit and then she drifted off and slept on her own mattress. She was in her sleeping bag and I had a single duvet. The only downside was that the J rolled around all over the place and kept waking me up. But I was worried about her puking again, so I think I would have had a disturbed night anyway.

Thankfully after that there was no more sick (from her anyway) and only a few leaky nappies over the next few days. Although I did have to throw away a vest and baby grow that just had too much poo in them to even bother trying to wash.

Saturday/Sunday

The next morning, I phoned Grump to tell him what had happened and then he felt terribly guilty for not being there. Later on in the day, he told me he had the beginnings of a migraine and then I felt guilty for making him feel guilty for being away and causing him stress, which can lead to migranes. Why is there so much guilt as a parent? It wasn’t his fault, but I was cross that I had to deal with it on my own.

Monday

Well he and I certainly got our punishment. In the early hours of the Monday morning I woke up with painful stomach cramps and feeling really sick. Worse than morning sickness (yes THAT bad). For the next 24 hours I spent most of my time groaning in bed or being sick/pooing and laying on the bathroom floor crying. It was shit – literally.

Oh and my brother and his girlfriend bought dinner over for me on Saturday night, as I had been cooped up at home all day with the J. It was such a lovely thing to do – and how did I repay them? By giving them the sickness bug. They both got it on Monday morning and had to take time off work. More guilt for me.

Grump had to take the day off work on Monday to look after the J, as I was incapable of doing anything, let alone looking after a baby. I finally got to spend a whole day in bed – it’s just a shame I felt so awful and couldn’t appreciate it. So Grump was amazing, although he didn’t really nurse me or ‘there there’ me much like my Mum used to do, but he did look after the J all day so I could rest.

Tuesday

Grump went back to work as I was feeling much better and could look after the J. We had another quiet day at home. At lunchtime Grump came home looking white as a sheet and says that he had got the bug. He went through the exact same thing as me. I honestly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. So now I have to nurse him and look after the J – it is like I have two children.

Wednesday

Myself and the J are better today, but Grump is still ill. He always has to go one up on me and be ill for longer. For once, this is not a competition I want to win.

So that’s my long weekend in a nutshell. Sick, poo, sleep, repeat.

Let’s hope next weekend is a bit better!