Sunday, 22 September 2013

Good Babies?

So I've been a bit lax about keeping this updated, but then again the last six weeks or so have pretty much been me working out how to juggle an insatiably hungry baby with keeping the house in a not-too-shambolic state while remembering to eat and bathe in between it all.

I've also found a mother-and-baby group to attend which isn't nearly as terrifying as initially predicted. Astoundingly, there's at least one other woman there who I can chat to about stuff beyond the realm of infant-related matters and the walk to the venue is a rather pleasant mile and a half. Still, it's not without the occasional aggravation, the one that stuck with me the most being the notion of a “Good Baby.”

My first day there one of the organizers wandered in, gave us all a big cheesy smile and asked if our babies were “good.” I responded with “they're all good” and then checked myself as I felt the inevitable stares begin to fix on me, silently demanding to know what the fuck I was on about. Alright, yes, I'm luckier than most in that my son lets me get lots of sleep, eats well, screams only when there's something badly wrong. Still, the concept of labelling an infant as “Not Good” because they scream a lot or don't sleep well irritates me.

If a baby screams it's because there's something wrong. It might be something small, or it might be something large. To someone that small and helpless and utterly dependent on its parent(s) this is the only way they can communicate. Yes, it is immensely frustrating when you think you've tried every trick in the book to no avail and you haven't slept in far too long. That, however, does not make the baby in question bad. It just means the poor little mite is suffering from something that you've not yet identified, and that is gut-wrenching and heart rending.

The handful of times AJ was in distress resulted in me having to walk away and leave him with the Impending Husband for a bit because I was crying at being unable to soothe away his misery. In one instance it turned out to be nappy rash causing him to pull an all nighter of doing what we've taken to calling his seagull impersonation. I felt awful for not picking up on it sooner, but the main thing was that I did eventually realise that the red patch on his backside was the source of his misery. I smeared on some miracle-cure in the form of Sudocrem and within minutes he was silent and fast asleep, probably even more worn out than I was from his ordeal.

So we can add that particular question to my ever-growing list of things other people say that aggravate me no end. I'm probably reading too much into it, but still. It annoys me. It just strikes me as another one of those mindless things people ask to have something to ask rather than having any actual interest. It's much the same with “is he a good sleeper?” and a multitude of other mundane baby-related questions that are about as insightful as conversations pertaining to the weather of late. A good portion of the time the person inquiring about this tends to go rather glassy-eyed when you actually start to talk in depth about the sleeping or eating patterns of your offspring.

I should be used to mundane dialogue like this. It's not just babies that elicit it. Still. I've always been content remaining silent in company. There's enough mindless chatter as it is without tacitly insinuating that bad babies exist. They don't. They're just unhappy and distressed.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Me, My Body, & My Wardrobe

If you are one of those women who has popped out a baby and within five days have reverted to the exact svelte shape you were before you conceived, you are abnormal, unnatural, and I hate you. Kindly go stick a bag over your head and lock yourself away in a dark room so the rest of us accursedly “normal” women don't have to look at you.

Admittedly, I'm not doing too badly as far as the whole body shape thing is concerned. The lack of stomach muscles is unsettling, particularly how gelatinous it all looks when I'm in the bath. However, a mere two and a half weeks after having given birth to a pretty large baby and after lugging around a bloody huge bump I can wear a handful of my tighter fitting black t-shirts, although none of the out-and-out girly ones yet which include my two favourite Darkthrone ones. Well. If ever there was incentive...

I still need a few extra bullets in my bullet belt, though. And none of my jeans or trousers fit yet due to what I shall call the “abundance” of flesh on my rump. In some circles this is a good thing. Personally? I like my jeans. I spent many months wearing them to a level of almost velvety comfort and would like to get back into them thank you so very much, not to mention my leather trousers. I'm confident that I can manage this, but first I'm just waiting for this sodding episiotomy to heal up. As it is a brisk half-hour walk with AJ causes unspeakable chafing and what the general public will probably consider some kind of initiation rite in order to become a fully fledged member of the Ministry of Silly Walks. So. A few more weeks and I should be back in kickboxing class and maybe if I'm lucky I'll be back in my leather trousers this December in time for Carpathian Forest.

The one upshot is that suddenly I've got the right kind of cleavage to wear things with plunging necklines, having gone up two to three cup sizes (depending on whose brand of underwear I'm purchasing) in the last nine months. Not so great on my wallet, but immensely satisfying in other ways. Plus the Impending Husband seems happy enough, as does AJ though for decidedly different reasons.

As someone who's had, shall we say, “issues” about food and body shape growing up this is probably a pretty healthy outlook on things. Or at least it is until I start looking for clothes.

Type in a search for breastfeeding clothes and you'll see why. Suddenly you're bombarded by images of smiling vapidity in the form of models who've probably never even held a baby, never mind had one. Yes, I'm sure the purveyors of these goods would whine and gripe about how they need to show their products off in the best possible light or they'd never sell. Bollocks. You don't buy a nursing bra because it's chic. You buy one because you need something that gives your suddenly bountiful mammaries much needed support while at the same time easy access to whip them out as and when meal time is dictated by your adorable little human.

A quick gander at images on Google for the search term “nursing bra” reveals hundreds of pictures. Out of a selection of forty, there are about four women who are pregnant. Any stretch marks appear to be conveniently airbrushed away and never mind the fact that you really don't need to breastfeed anything when you're pregnant, aside from other children. So those shouldn't even be in the bloody search. The rest of the images include a serious lack of stretch marks, and bodies that are disgustingly in proportion, evenly tanned, no linea negra or other pigment issues, a distinct lack of baby spit on their persons and worst of all – they ALL look well-rested.


Looking at nursing clothes is even more depressing. You have the same miserable issue of glammed up models gurning like vacant mannequins at you. The positive is that they're not flaunting their chiselled physiques. The negative is that THIS is what they're expecting you as a breastfeeding mother to wear – bland, mundane pastel tops which are the least offensive all the way down through to things with FRILLS. Seriously. Fucking frills. And smocked tops. Things I've despised since I was five or six and decided that what I really wanted was to wear big leather combat boots and boys clothes so I wouldn't get screamed at when I came home covered in mud. I am not a “girly” girl, though I can scrub up with the best of them when the occasion requires it or I bloody well feel like it.

At least there's some effort to make maternity clothes that cater to the likes of me. That, however, ends once the baby's here. I could probably customize a few outfits with some artful cuts, some carefully applied safety pins, and maybe a few band patches here and there but be realistic. I've got a newborn who needs feeding at odd hours of the day and night, as well as keeping on top of the laundry that builds up, fending off nappy rash, making sure the Impending Husband gets a few good nights of sleep in between the ones where he's gallantly helping me deal with everything, and trying to catch up with sleep myself. Time to customize clothes? Sod that!

My solution is probably going to be a jaunt down to the nearest military surplus shop to pick up a few army shirts from different countries that button up the front. Aside from the comfort and the fact that maybe the camouflage pattern will also help camouflage the baby vomit, they're a hell of a lot cheaper than most nursing tops and I'll probably be happy to wear them when AJ gets a bit older and is no longer dependent on the nourishment by mammary. The nursing bras... well. Some things are kind of essential. The outer layers, though – I'll just make it up as I go along. I'm good at doing that. So to hell with you overpriced breastfeeding products and your legion of vacant-skulled models. Go scam hard-earned cash off someone else. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Safety Paranoia

I hate Ann Widdecombe. Which means that when she actually does go off on one on a topic I agree with I wind up transferring that hate to the aforementioned topic and then compound it based on the level of stupidity that she's pointing out.

In this case it's an article that I first had my attention drawn to by Murdoch Propaganda Incorporated – UK Edition. Or, as you're probably more familiar with on this side of the Atlantic, Sky News. This is what happens when my parents visit. I get my news junkie tendencies from them, but while I prefer Al Jazeera or BBC World News (and Russia Today for comedy purposes) they're inexplicably happy to watch Sky. Well. At least they didn't try bringing a physical copy of the Daily Mail into my home. However, I digress.

Having flicked the TV on for the first time in seemingly days I came across a piece about how the August 7th is National Play Day (traditionally held on the first Wednesday in August) and that there's an alarming number of parents who pretty much bubble-wrap their offspring, hover over them like a Cold War era U2 spy plane and start having palpitations as soon as their precious darlings show any sign of risk taking. After scowling in disbelief at the screen I poked around online and found that one of the only recent news articles confirming the statistics was courtesy of Ann Widdecombe in the the Express, voicing as much outrage as I was feeling.

Now I do have some sympathy for the fear of harm befalling one's child. Christ, just read my last post if you haven't. (By the way – I'm leaking far less at the eyeballs and the terror is far more manageable now, although there remain a few lingering fears and niggles scuttling around the back of my brain like vermin trying to chew their way into the rest of my mind.) However in my not especially humble opinion, depriving your children of the chance to clamber up trees, frolic in dirt, and generally take risks is another form of child abuse. Something like 25% of parents are guilty of this. So. That's a swathe of one in every four kids (give or take) whose childhood will consist of sedentary blandness.

So well done there. In addition to your behaviour making you agree with Ann Widdecombe (almost as bad as Mitt Romney's idiocy making me side with Boris Johnson over the London Olympics), you and your paranoia are also probably going to make the obesity epidemic that much worse, not to mention just outright denying your children the chance to have a “normal” childhood.

I think about some of the stuff I got up to as a child and aside from a few incidents (jumping off a 15 foot diving platform to capsize my brother's rubber dinghy when I was six springs to mind.) there isn't much I wouldn't want my kid doing. Well. Not now, obviously, but the fact he can only hold his head up for about five seconds a a time sort of limits the mayhem he can wreak.

I grew up in the developing world so I was lucky enough to spend most of my spare time in the outdoors since television was mostly propaganda and nowhere near as interesting as the wildlife in my garden. I was forever climbing up trees, or gates, or walls, or just about anything that could serve as a climbing frame. At least one knee or elbow would be skinned at any given point. Sure, I'd scream my head off at the time when I initially fell off my bike or took a spill on my skates, but it wouldn't stop me from getting right back out there as soon as I was disinfected and patched up.

Now as an adult I've taken up kickboxing, I enjoy paintball, and tend to spend more time in the pit at gigs than I do at the bar (unless the queue is really bad or the sound is so dire I need a veil provided by alcoholic haze to be able to hear what it is the band is allegedly playing). I've had crowd surfers dropped on me, combat boots to the back of my head, and been winded and sent flying by overly enthusiastic fans.

I'm not saying that this sort of thing is going to be everyone's cup of tea. But what I am saying is that the knocks and scrapes I got as a kid have taught me a few things; how to handle pain, how to keep my senses about me when I'm in a situation likely to result in pain or injury, and how to take risks within reason. I want my boy to be able to do the same.

I'm sure there'll be some parents who'll think of me as a dreadful parent myself for allowing my child to risk injury and harm to himself by climbing up trees or riding his bike with friends on his own or taking him with me to a festival. That's fine. They're entitled to their opinion just as I'm entitled to mine. What I am fairly certain about, though, is that I'll be having a whole lot more fun than they will with my little hellraiser. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Post Birth Hormonal Reboot

Do NOT call it the “Baby Blues.” I've swiftly come to hate that wretched phrase, particularly as someone who's been battling clinical depression for over a decade now. That phrase just makes it sound like someone's getting a bit mopy and teary the way you might after watching some hideous Hollywood film cynically designed to tug at your heartstrings as a way to get you to empty out the contents of your wallet.

The closest thing I can liken this emotional turmoil to is a change of heavy duty medication. Imagine, if you will, the feeling of having all your mental circuits torn down and rebuilt from the scratch. Suddenly everything is overwhelming. The logic filters that are in place to help you sift through each experience and then determine a suitable emotional reaction are gone, possibly to be refurbished although I suspect it's more like the old ones have just been tossed onto the scrap heap while new ones are tailor made to fit into the void they've left behind.

In the meantime your default reaction is to cry over every damned thing. I ordered new lampshades for my revamped hallway and promptly burst into tears having discovered that The Impending Husband had installed them while AJ and I were napping. I go downstairs and find that my mother has cooked dinner for us and burst into tears. I look at my son and realise he's never going to be this small again and guess what? Yep. More tears.

Worse still is the fear. Or should I say, The Fear. Those same filters do a fine job stopping your mind from wandering down the darker avenues of your brain and conjuring up horrific and oh-so-vivid images of the worst things happening. Stumbling and dropping your baby on his head. Something falling and crushing him. A bomb going off while you're out in town and shrapnel tearing him to ribbons. Cot death. Traffic accident. Aggressive dog off the leash. Choking. It would be bad enough if it was some fleeting notion, but it's not. It's horrifically vivid, and it goes far beyond your child to your other loved ones.

Suddenly I'm seeing The Impending Husband falling off a ladder or getting into a car accident and never coming home again. Attacked by a gang of thugs while walking back from the shops. Stabbed by a mugger. Getting knocked off a train platform onto the rails at a crowded station. I want to curl up into a ball and hold him and AJ close and never let them out of my sight again. I see every mundane thing as a potential threat, enemies on all sides and I know I'm helpless to stop any of these things from happening; war, disease, sudden gruesome accidents. The universe is a cold and harsh place with no reason to it. I'm no stranger to facing up to my fears and standing my ground and fighting tooth and nail if it comes to it. Yet this... I wouldn't know where to even begin to try and land the first punch.

Bad things happen all the time to deserving and undeserving alike and nobody is more undeserving to my mind than my two boys and the others in this crazy international network of people who make up my family – both the ones I have a genetic link to and love and the ones I love for who they are and being the friends that they are.

So don't fucking call it the “Baby Blues.” It cuts far deeper and reaches into a far darker place than that trite little name lets on.

And yet... it's not all bad. With the tears comes this feeling of some kind of purge taking place. Old hormones shifting to make way for the new. The understanding that this is just part of the process towards becoming more who I was before I got pregnant. As my Impending Mother-in-Law says, “tears cleanse the soul.” Could be. Could also be the endorphins surging when they stop. Either way, you do feel lighter and less weighed down by all the mental turmoil for a little while at least.

It is the same with The Fear. You pass through it and then you're on the other side, no longer crippled and wiser for the experience. You reconstruct a little bit more of those rational filters. You might not be able to protect your baby from everything, but you also know that a few preventative steps can go a long way. The perceived threats around you become a little more manageable and the protective maternal urges start to take hold and surge through you. You would meet any threat to your child head on and kill or be killed to ensure their survival. It is savage, it is primal, and it's so very right.

This is my brain rewiring itself to deal with parenthood. It's a vicious and crude process, but I've survived worse, and billions of other women have managed to work through it as well. However, I reserve the right to affix any patronizing twunt who writes it off as “merely the baby blues” to a pair of meathooks, dangle them from my living room ceiling and use them as a punching bag to hone that savage protective maternal instinct.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Frantic Arrival

I miss my nipple rings.

The piercings still seem to be there but I've taken the jewellery out for now because it makes breast feeding that much easier and more convenient, and AJ is a demanding little boob-man so it doesn't do well to keep him waiting.

In a little less than two hours from now as I write this it will be one week since I gave birth. It did not go according to plan.

This was my first pregnancy. I'm not some kind of hokey earth mother type. Alright, I'm probably not far off in the eyes of many people either (I avoid excessive chemicals, I don't bother with cosmetics, I wear my hair long and tied back and think the last time I used a blow drier was about three years ago give or take and only because I had to attend a wedding), but home a home delivery never appealed. I wanted the security of being in a hospital or birthing centre so that if things went awry I could get whisked off to an emergency room and get what medical intervention was deemed necessary.

Better still, I'd be alone with my partner and sister-in-law (a former midwife herself) and possibly my brother so his sick sense of humour could distract me from what was going on. There would be a selection of music in the background, preferably Behemoth and Darkthrone with maybe some Ozric Tentacles if the pain relief medication made things trippy.

Turns out my body wasn't willing to cooperate with the plans I'd laid out.

I woke up at around 3:00AM with a bloody show on July 26th with some cramping and a general feeling that things were, at last, underway. Overall, it was a relief. Or so I thought at the time. Being a first timer I was pretty much set for the whole thing taking about a day from start to finish, if not much much longer.

I went to the hospital at around 12:00pm only to be told that 1cm dilation was not enough to be admitted into the labour ward despite my contractions being about 2 minutes apart and so damned bad I could barely stand. I get told to go back home until my waters broke which, being a first timer, could probably be another twelve hours, but could equally be between four and twenty-four. I wasn't best pleased about this, particularly at the suggestion that I should just go home and take some paracetamol. After pointing out that this was far beyond the threshold of pain where paracetamol would do anything for me I was given some co-codamol. That didn't exactly do much either beyond sending me into something of a daze.

About three and a half hours later my waters broke as I screamed my freaking head off, complete with a few choice words of profanity. This was after spending the interim in almost as much discomfort and perhaps uttering the words "FUCK THIS NATURAL BIRTH BUSINESS I WANT A FUCKING EPIDURAL!" Turns out I was just dilating a lot faster than expected and it hurt. So as my waters break The Impending Husband called the hospital to make sure that we WOULD be admitted this time as I try to get dressed. By the time I got dressed I felt something very, very, very uncomfortable trying to work its way free from my insides. Turned out it was the amniotic sac protruding. The Impending Husband had no idea what this was but decided it wasn't good so called the paramedics.

An ambulance turned up and the crew was brought upstairs to my bedroom by my mother. The crew took one look at me and decided that I was going to have a home birth and to call another ambulance crew who'd done one before. So they plied me with gas and air which resulted in me screaming a little less while I sucked it down and occasionally trying to smack The Impending Husband for trying to help me drink in between and more or less drowning me in the process.

The second crew turned up and one of them walked in he smiled at me and went “Hello there, I'm James!” in the most lovely, reassuring way possible. My reply was to scream “Fuck!” as violently and loudly as I could, only to have my mother scold me for swearing at the nice man. Neither the time nor the place to worry about little courtesies I feel, though in my defense when that contraction had passed I did make a point of greeting James in return.

Introductions over, James examined me and decided it was prudent that a midwife be called. So they did. She turned up at about 17:00. By that point I was exhausted, weak, dehydrated from having vomited, and the baby was crowning. I had to have the midwife and one of the EMTs contorting my legs while I pushed back against them, The Impending Husband was behind me, all shouting encouragement while my mother hovered in the background, occasionally offering me her hand to squeeze. I'm amazed I didn't break it, quite frankly.

So an hour of gas, panting, swearing, nearly sobbing and exhaustion on my part with encouragement from The Impending Husband and orders to push like in some movie I'd managed to get AJ into the birth canal but couldn't quite manage to push him all the way out. The midwife had to slice me open a little to try and avoid any tearing and that finally did the trick. All of a sudden the little man slid right out followed by the words " . . . Fucking hell. I just had a baby.... OH MY GOD HE'S SO BEAUTIFUL"

He didn't cry. He just kind of whimpered, then got passed to me and then started to snuffle a bit and then unleashed his bladder on me that made me laugh. Got a shot to speed things up for the placenta which I nearly shot across the room. After that, I was sewn up and cleaned up by the midwife and the wee man checked out. Neither of us needed any follow ups at the hospital so we were allowed to stay at home and didn't have to get subjected to further prodding and examinations.

This was definitely not the plan. I wanted a hospital birth in case of any hiccups, music playing in the background, and my mother nowhere in sight for the day. As it turns out, the only drugs I got were just enough to take the edge off things, the only soundtrack was me screaming loud enough to disturb the neighbors and my mother discovered yesterday that I have nipple piercings and a tattoo. Although she's been gracious enough not to say anything. Or perhaps that's too smitten with her grandson.

And now those piercings are out. For some reason the thought of that makes me tear up a little, but I suppose they've been part of me for as long as The Impending Husband and I have been a couple. Slightly longer, in fact, but only just. The tattoo isn't going anywhere, though. Odin is still watching my back for me.