Monday 17 December 2007

Christmas cheer

Becoming a mum has brought out the earthy, wholesome person in me, which I didn’t know existed until now. I never cared much for roasting chestnuts; or making nativity scenes and wreaths with materials only found in the wood; or making my own mince pies and mulled wine; or making homemade soft toys and Nigella’s ‘euphoric’ chutney as presents for everyone; or buying a traditional chocolate-less advent calendar from Oxfam; or learning the grown-up version of We Three Kings; or making fairy-light chandeliers out of two circular knicker driers.

This year, however, I have become the ultimate, obsessive, and slightly manic earth-mother extraordinaire, or so I would like to think. As well as doing all of the above, and more, I plan to march Betty and Tom off to church on Christmas morning, with Betty donning her little elf outfit, which I made for her to wear for the front of our Christmas card this year.

Perhaps I am over-compensating, as last Christmas went by in such a blur because Betty was only five weeks old, hence I was knackered and busy coming to terms with all the emotional and physical challenges that a new baby throws at you. And Betty was busy still feeling annoyed about being born, and having no qualms in telling us so. On top of this, I was also trying to reconcile myself with the fact that it was Christmas and I couldn’t even get pissed on rancid drinks such as Baileys and Sherry and smoke my uncle’s cigars, make a complete tit of myself, and pass out before I’d even got to watch Eastenders.

In my mind, this is Betty’s first proper Christmas, and now that she is a delightful, non-crying, solid food-eating, gorgeous little girl, I am going all out to make it the best, most homely, and jolliest Christmas ever. It will be such a joy for us to have a Betty sitting at the table with us, providing all the entertainment, and devouring her Christmas lunch whole-heartedly. And sharing in all the Christmas cheer over the festive period – the presents, the long walks up mountains, the much anticipated arrival of all grannies and grandpas, my sherry-induced purple face, the obligatory viewing of Mary Poppins (accompanied by my slurred rendition of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, sung backwards), the Eastenders Christmas special, Trivial Pursuits (which inevitably always ends in my tears), all of which leads to the demise of any earth-motherness. Betty will marvel in it all, and Tom will be nowhere to be found, probably cowering in some dark corner hugging a whisky bottle.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Toilet taunt

Betty has recently been allowed to explore new territory, namely, the bathroom. I would never allow her into the bathroom before (apart from when she was safely contained by the bath) as I didn't want her sniffing around the loo brush, nappy bin, loo, and putting them all in her eager and inquisitive little mouth, or playing with the contents like she inevitably would.

Due to a bad bout of PMT, which quite often turns me into a cleanliness-crazed mentalist (amongst other, less savoury things), I blitzed the upstairs bathroom, through and through, with every cleaning product I could lay my hands on in Sainsbury’s. I removed the loo brush and holder, bought a Betty-proof nappy bin, and scrubbed the loo until it gleamed and smelt of roses. I then instructed Tom to only ever use the downstairs loo, as this one was now out-of-bounds (to him anyway).

Usually, whilst I am getting Betty’s bath ready, Tom plays with her in her bedroom, and gets her undressed and ready for the bath. However, Tom was in London for meetings the other night, and so, whilst the bath was running, I left the bathroom door open to see what Betty would do. She has been champing at the bit for months, trying to get into the bathroom, and spotted her chance immediately. She was off like a whippet to investigate this whole new, pretty horrible, world of lime-coloured, albeit clean, porcelain fixtures.

My goodness me, the wait was certainly worth it. Betty marvelled at her reflection in the full-length mirror, excitedly waving, pointing and chatting at herself. She then started to try to pull her reflection’s hair, which is when I knew it was time to show her other points of interest, before she ended up in a punch-up with herself. She then stood at the side of the bath, and watched in awe as the bath filled up, and delighted in putting her hands under the running tap. It was magical to watch.

Aside from appearing to Betty to be a great (perhaps even greater than her dad for once) mum for letting her into the bathroom, I had an ulterior motive – to start, probably very naively and prematurely, getting her acquainted with Mr Shanks. I have this notion (again, probably naively) that Betty will be an absolute dream to potty train. I base this on the fact that when she does a poo in her nappy, she often crawls off under the table in the sitting room to do it – a bit like a cat – very neat and tidy.

She began her acquaintance with the loo by licking the lid, all the way around, and even though I was 100% sure that it was probably now cleaner than the tray of her highchair, I couldn’t handle it, and my greater-than-daddy-ness rapidly disappeared when I promptly removed her from the bathroom, and shut the door tightly.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Curry fantasy

I was a little perplexed this morning when I went into Betty's room, as it smelt just like our room does the morning after Tom has been on the curry and beer.

When I picked Betty out of her cot, she let out her mandatory, very energetic, morning greeting, and I was almost knocked down by her rather unpleasant, garlic breath. It felt far too grown-up and horrible to be the breath of a one year old, and I just couldn’t think where it might have come from.

We have had our suspicions that Betty is a woodland creature (she closely resembled one when she was a few weeks old) and that at night she sneaks off to the woods behind our house and plays with the squirrels and rabbits. Perhaps last night was ‘curry night’ in the woods?

I felt happy and satisfied with this explanation of magical fantasy - I love the idea of Betty playing and eating with her woodland friends. However, when I mentioned the whole garlic/wood thing to Tom, he ruined it all and told me that it was him that had been feeding her garlic yesterday, not her furry friends.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Necklace charade

Now that I am not breastfeeding, and am now the un-proud owner of a pair of fried eggs, I very rarely get a chance to cuddle Betty anymore - though not for want of trying. When I am carrying her from the car to the house, or from the highchair to the floor, I try to prolong it for as long as possible, but she just gets impatient and starts growling and trying to catapult herself out of my desperate cuddling arms.

I have observed over the last few months that, like most babies, she is obsessed with items of jewellery. If a friend comes round wearing a necklace, it is the first thing Betty notices. She will sit there quietly, like butter wouldn’t melt, observing and eyeing up her prey, and then she will sidle up to whoever it is (it doesn’t matter who, it could be a necklace-wearing monster for all she cares) and pretend that she is being affectionate by appearing to give them a cuddle. That person then goes all gooey and cooey over my devious daughter, at which point, Betty goes in for the kill - the necklace. I have watched her carry out this act time and time again.

So, armed with this knowledge, and so intense was my longing to have a nice long cuddle with my darling daughter, I devised a cunning plan - an act of deception.

I never normally wear necklaces, but I still have quite an impressive collection of dodgy 80’s classics from my former life, and so decided to start wearing a different necklace each day. The first two days were relatively successful and went something like this:

I would put on my necklace of choice first thing in the morning, woo Tom with it, and then march merrily into Betty's room. She wouldn’t immediately spot the necklace and so I would say: ‘Look sweetheart, Mummy is wearing a pretty necklace today, doesn’t she look lovely?’ Betty would eye the necklace suspiciously with a look of distaste on her little face, but eventually would hold up her arms. I would pick her up and she would semi-enthusiastically go for the necklace. I would give her a pretend telling off and say: ‘No Betty, you're not allowed to play with mummy's necklace.’ (The mind games I put the poor girl through…) I would then get a lovely long(ish) cuddle, whilst she played with the necklace, slobbered all over my neck, and tried to strangle me.

By the third morning, Betty had outsmarted me and was not interested in the whole necklace charade whatsoever. I was very disappointed, not only because I wasn't getting the cuddles, but I still had at least five more necklace shockers to unleash on her, and was actually secretly quite enjoying wearing them.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Who ate all the tarts?

Betty thoroughly enjoyed her birthday knees-up on Sunday. She spent most of the time high-speed crawling around the room sneakily swiping jam tarts and fairy cakes from everyone's plates and shoveling them into her mouth like she hadn't eaten for a year. As well as stealing cakes, she also plucked a dummy right out of the mouth of a sleeping baby, which she callously discarded when she realised it wasn't edible.

Betty delighted in the big pink and red balloons, and the wrapping paper, and the candle on top of her birthday cake, and playing pass-the-parcel, and all the attention. She was very graceful and didn't mind the other babies playing with all her toys and trashing her playroom. She even turned a blind eye when a couple of pieces of her building blocks fell out of a toddler's pocket as he was picked up by his mum to leave. The mother looked mortified; the toddler looked gutted.

We had a champagne toast after we sung Happy Birthday, but unfortunately (or fortunately for me and Tom) everyone was either driving, teetotal, or underage, so after everyone had left, we went round knocking back all the untouched glasses of champers scattered around the room. My great aunt, our only remaining guest, watched on and gave me a pitiful look.

Everyone seemed to have a jolly old time though, and several mums were very complimentary. One mum even openly admitted that she was going to copy some of my ideas for her son’s impending first birthday. I looked at her modestly and said: ‘I’ve never had to organise a children’s party before, and had no idea what I was doing, do you really think it was OK?

Monday 12 November 2007

Party preps

How many sleepless nights, panic attacks and hot sweats can a party for a one-year-old cause? Hundreds, if you are ridiculous like me. Tom tells me I need to get a grip. I tell him he is treading on very dangerous territory and if he doesn’t shut up he can organise the bloody party himself. With a baffled look, Tom says: ‘OK, how hard can it be?’

The last time I felt like this was when I was organising our wedding - writing guests lists, designing invites, going on diets, deciding on menus and music, buying pretty dresses, presents, balloons etc. I admit that comparing the organisation of a wedding to that of a first birthday party does seem a little over the top – and as Tom says, maybe I have got things slightly out of perspective.

I have been imagining that Betty and her one year old friends are going to get upset if they don’t like the prizes they are given. Tom gives me a reality check and says they will only be interested in eating the wrapping paper and pulling each other’s hair, and won’t give two hoots about the toys… ‘As lovely as they are,’ he adds.

I bought a pack of modelling balloons, and then phoned Betty’s godfather and asked if he would be the children’s entertainer for the day. He told me that he had never attempted making poodles and dinosaurs out of balloons before and was a little worried about it. I reassured him by saying that there were some instructions on the packet and that if he arrived early he could practice beforehand. Tom pointed out that as Betty and her friends are all fairly young, it wouldn’t really matter if they were given the balloons unmodelled, or even uninflated.

I am using the wedding cake stand that Tom and I made for our wedding, and plan to have different types of cake on each layer – chocolate cornflake cakes, jam tarts, flapjacks, fairy cakes, brownies, butter biscuit hearts, and I have recruited all members of my family and friends to make them, as of course, everything must be homemade. Having said that, I did buy a little Smarties chocolate cake that fits neatly on the top layer. The other night, after a couple of glasses of wine, it looked very tempting perched there on top of the stand, and I threatened to eat it, but Tom put me on a guilt trip and told me that this was the start of a slippery slope. At that point, thankfully unknown to Tom, I had already eaten a giant bag of Dolly Mixtures that were supposed to have gone on top of the fairy cakes.

I am lucky that Tom brings me back down to earth every so often. He keeps reminding me that if I am this worried about Betty’s first birthday party, what am I going to be like in the lead up to subsequent parties when she is old enough to start bossing me around and having tantrums if I don’t get the colour of the icing on her cake quite right, or she doesn’t like the outfit I am wearing, or she demands that I lose weight?

Betty’s party is one week away, and I think that everything is in order. I have made a big banner fashioned out of an old sheet which says ‘Happy Birthday Betty’, and instead of the dreaded party bags, I have made personalized gingerbread hearts, which I will hang from branches. I have also tried to make our house look a little tidier. I asked Tom if he would mind if I started decorating the house with balloons and banners. Tom said that would be weird and he didn’t think he could live in a child’s party for an entire week.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Beached Betty

Betty, Tom and I have recently spent a week in Tenby. On the afternoon that we arrived, I excitedly threw Betty into the pushchair and went charging down to the beach, whilst Tom was finding somewhere to park the car. I practically ran down the concrete slip-way leading to the beach, building up momentum as I went, and went whizzing off across the sand towards the sea, Betty squawking like a baby dinosaur all the way.

We got to the water's edge and watched the waves, and I pointed out Caldey Island, and told Betty how it was a very special place to me, as, coming from a Catholic family, it is where we used to stay as guests of the monks every Easter. I am in no way Catholic, but I did have great aunts/uncles who were nuns and monks. I went into a dreamy daze, and felt myself relaxing, breathing in the sea air, and feeling nostalgic and safe. Betty humoured me for a while, and smiled at the waves, and Caldey Island, but pretty soon she started sighing and giving me that ‘I’m bored with this malarkey’ look. So I turned the pushchair round and started heading back towards the café, which was on the edge of the beach.

Once we had gone across the hard wet sand and reached the dry sand we got stuck, and still had a good 25 metres to go. I frantically pushed, but the wheels just dug into the sand further and further. It wouldn't have been so bad, but there were lots of people watching me, who had also witnessed me thoughtlessly running onto the sand in the first place. I pushed, and struggled, and puffed, and sweated, and all with a false grin on my face so that people might be fooled into thinking that I was enjoying myself, and that I wasn't really stuck at all.

Betty started to fret, so I gave her a breadstick to try and keep her happy until we made it off the sand. Betty wolfed it down in record time, just leaving a tiny crumb that she decided she wanted to play with. Of course, she kept dropping this bloody crumb and each time, unless I found it really quickly in amongst her chewed holey blanket (that I had lovingly knitted for her when I was pregnant), she would have a massive tantrum. She kept this going for a good few minutes, but then unfortunately she decided to eat the crumb, and then got very upset because it was no longer there to play with.

At that moment, a big hairy tattooed bloke approached me and asked me if I needed help getting off the beach. For some weird, stupid reason I refused his help and told him I was fine. He gave me a slightly amused look and then walked away and sat back down next to his family, and they all continued to stare at me. I gave them a big smile and wave, and at the same time I noticed that they had a toddler sitting in the sand, drinking, what looked remarkably like tea from a bottle.

I bent down next to Betty and pretended to point out some seagulls to her, biding my time, and trying to work out a way out of this embarrassing situation, whilst at the same time trying to get over the whole 'toddler drinking tea' thing. I discreetly got my mobile out and tried phoning Tom, with the intention of telling him to get down here right away and rescue us, but his phone was turned off. I started to blame him for the whole situation.

Eventually I figured out that I should pull the pushchair backwards. This was slow work but eventually I got us off the sand, to the applause of the ‘tea’ family, and made it to the café. I was too stressed out to actually go into the café though, and instead I ran back to the holiday cottage, through the streets of Tenby, with an angry Betty, who had still not forgotten about her beloved crumb.

Friday 24 August 2007

Checkout chat-up

I was at the checkout in the supermarket with my weekly shop, throwing stuff into bags, and being a bit grumpy. The checkout boy was trying to chat to me throughout. “So, how are you doing today sweetheart?” he said. Feeling a bit flustered about being called ‘sweetheart’ by a boy less than half my age, I replied: ‘Fine’, while I clumsily tried to open another carrier bag. ‘Here, let me help you out with that darling,’ he said. While he was opening the bag for me, he then said: ‘So what are you up to tonight then sweetheart? Are you going down Night-Owls?’ This is a local nightclub for the under 18s. ‘My god, does this boy think I am the same age as him, or is he taking the piss?’ I thought. I could feel my face burning - I have no idea why, normally I can hold my own with teenagers. I think I was a little taken aback that I was seemingly being chatted up by a spotty faced, gangly boy, something I haven’t experienced for years. It certainly felt very odd, as I now have a Betty, and am a mum, and do mumsy things, and certainly don’t go to bloody Night-Owls.

I ignored his question and carried on packing, although at this point I was hastily throwing it all straight into the trolley. But the boy wasn’t giving up and asked me again: ‘What are you up to tonight?’

And so without taking any pauses whatsoever, I blurted: ‘I am cooking a huge roast chicken with all the trimmings and we are going to eat it at 5pm so that our baby daughter can join us and we can all eat together which will be the first time and so it is a very special occasion and it is a very significant step because she will be eating what we are eating which means she is growing up which is sad but also happy and she is such a wonderful baby and she is nine months old and I am a mum and I am married and I am 33 years old and we are all looking forward to our big roast chicken.’

The boy stared at me for a second, and then held up a pack of two tiny organic chicken breasts that he happened to be scanning at that moment, and said: ‘What? A huge roast chicken with this?’ Hats off, he was still persisting, even after that mental barrage of information I just gave him. ‘No, I have a whole chicken at home, actually,” I said. I could tell he didn’t believe me though, and he just smirked.

It was all true though. I did have a big chicken at home. We invited my mum and my brother round to share in the excitement of this special occasion, and we all ate together with Betty. We had champagne with our meal, to celebrate our little baby growing up, and me seemingly still looking like a 16 year old.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Bingo wing waves

Betty’s uncle was making aeroplane noises and flying her spoon through the air when he was feeding her the other day, and she got very angry and upset about it. In an attempt to cheer her up again, he started waving at her. To the amazement of Tom and me, she waved back at him. This was Betty’s very first wave. She then just waved and waved, and didn’t stop waving all day long. She waved at her daddy, at her toys, at the window, at the floor, at her toast, at the postman, she even managed a little wave at her toy penguin, whilst screaming in teething pain, in the middle of the night. This almost broke my heart - what a trooper.

When I wave at my darling daughter, instead of waving back at me, she becomes transfixed with my ‘bingo wing’ underarm flab wobbling around. She just stares at it, perplexed. Obviously the underside of my arm flapping around must be far more eye-catching than my hand manically moving around in front of her face.

My nine-month old baby has given me a complex. I have now started daily arm exercises using baked bean tins, in an attempt to tone up, and get Betty waving back at me.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Breastpad farce

Tom’s friend popped over yesterday to tell us he is going to France for two weeks and would we keep an eye on his house and feed the cats. I was standing in the garden, happily chatting to him, and pretending I knew where Marseille was, when I happened to look down and there at my feet, lay a large bright white disc-shaped object. OH MY GOD - a breastpad, MY breastpad, which had obviously just fallen from ME. I didn't know what to do. I tried to keep him looking straight at me by talking about whatever came into my head, so that he wouldn't look down.

It worked for a while, although, by the look on his face, you would have thought I was reciting a train timetable backwards to him. His attention then waned and then the inevitable happened... he looked down, and clocked the breastpad. We both stared at it in silence for a while, and then he picked it up and handed it back to me! I took it, scrunched it up and put it into my pocket. At least I didn't try to put it back in my bra I suppose.

Later, still feeling mortified, Tom tried to make me feel better. He said: ‘Don't worry I doubt he even knew what it was... he probably thought it was a circular tissue or something.’ ‘Really?’ I said, hopefully. Then Tom started laughing uncontrollably and said it was the funniest thing he'd heard for a long time. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and so I quickly drank a pint of cider, whilst Tom went off to phone his friend.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Anniversary antics

It was our second wedding anniversary on Monday. I got a little cross with Tom because he couldn't remember whether we had been married for two or three years. I secretly couldn't remember either. To celebrate, we went to our favourite restaurant about 15 miles away, last Saturday night. It is the furthest we had travelled away from home without Betty since she was born.

We arrived at the restaurant and were taken to our table, where I tried to explain to the Polish waitress that my mobile phone didn't have a signal and if the restaurant phone rang it might be my mum wanting to speak to me about my daughter who is teething and might wake up needing me. The waitress smiled and said 'Of course' and walked off. The next thing I knew the waitress had come back with an extra chair for my mum and some toothpicks. I was too hungry to get into it further and so I just thanked her and asked for a large glass of wine. Tom laughed and told me that it would teach me to relax a bit.

We enjoyed our food, although, my scallops on a bed of sweet potato puree was little disturbing, as I have spent the last couple of months up to my ears in sweet potato purée.

During our meal I got a bit excitable and accidentally got really pissed. I was really enjoying myself and behaving in a very juvenile manner to wind Tom up, just like the old days. I was saying things like 'Oh my god, did you really go to school with Prince William?' really loudly. Tom laughed, and then cried at the incredibleness of the pork belly he was eating. Emotions were running high for both of us - it was a very poignant evening, in lots of ways.

I went to the loo and on my way there I saw a group of teenagers through the window having a cigarette outside. On my way back from the loo I made my way outside, walked up to the teenagers and asked if I could join them for a bit. I told them that I had a beautiful baby, and that I was a bit drunk. They didn't reply and just stood there looking awkward and swigging from a cider bottle. Eventually the girl handed me a cigarette, and feeling rebellious I took a drag. We then stood there in silence, me feeling completely sick from the tobacco, and them still swigging cider. To break the silence, I asked them if I could tell them a joke, but they continued to ignore me. I skulked back inside, feeling very silly. I'd forgotten for a moment that I wasn't actually a teenager myself anymore. The poor kids must have been really freaked out by a fat, thirty-something, very uncool, joke-telling woman approaching them on a Saturday night.

When I returned to the table, Tom was being quizzed by the Polish waitress about why my mum hadn’t turned up. Tom said ‘At home with baby’ and did the rocking baby motion with his arms. The woman looked utterly confused.

We finished our meal with a mountain of Welsh cheeses, and chocolate puddings, which we ate next to the big open log fire, holding hands, and talking about the amazingness of Betty Button.

Monday 9 July 2007

Fish chowder trickery

I have been whipping up all sorts of culinary delights for Betty recently. Amongst other things, Betty has dined on chicken casserole, beef stew, and fish with carrot and orange, in the last week. And for these recipes I have been sourcing the best possible ingredients for my precious darling daughter. I have visited the local butcher to purchase one small organic chicken fillet, the fishmonger to purchase one small fillet of cod, and the greengrocer to purchase one small organic apple. I think I have built up quite a reputation in the local town in the last few days. Not only because of my miniature purchases but also my fussiness - each shop assistant has suffered a grilling from me about where exactly their produce has come from and how the chicken/fish/apple tree was treated. A recent cashflow crisis has meant that while Betty has been dining on fresh, seasonal, organic food, Tom and I have been dining on pot noodles.

Yesterday while I was feeding Betty her fish, carrot and orange purée, it was so delicious, I found myself feeding myself every other spoonful – one for me, one for Betty. It started off as a game to encourage Betty to eat it. However, Betty didn’t need any encouragement to eat it. I was just being a mean, selfish mummy and depriving my baby of her daily nutritional requirements, for my own enjoyment. About half way through, poor Betty dared to look away for one moment and I said: ‘Oop have you had enough sweetheart?’ before quickly shovelling the rest into my gob. When Betty realised that there was no more food she burst into tears. She, unsurprisingly, was still hungry. So I had to very quickly whip up something else to fill the hole.

Later on, as there was a little bit of cod left over in the fridge, I decided to make an ‘adult’ version (by adding salt) of this baby purée and serve it up for mine and Tom’s supper. I had to slightly improvise and use marmalade instead of an orange, but I felt very chuffed with myself for my creativity. When it was ready, Tom came to the table and asked what it was. I couldn’t really tell him that it was a baby purée and so I told him it was ‘fish chowder’. He said it looked delicious and started tucking in. He commented that it tasted ‘very fruity’. I proudly told him it was marmalade. He took about two more spoonfuls and then politely told me that he just couldn’t eat it, and that it wasn’t one of my ‘finer kitchen moments’ and would I mind if he made himself a bacon sandwich instead. I defensively told him that Betty had loved it earlier. He then said: ‘Have you just tried to feed me baby purée?’ I proudly said ‘yes’.

Later, when I was talking to my mum on the phone, I mentioned that I had made the fish, carrot and orange purée for me and Tom, because I thought it was delicious and also because there had been a spare bit of cod left in the fridge. She patiently explained to me that Betty should be starting to eat what we eat, and not the other way round.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Mummy Monster

I have only just discovered that there is real competitiveness and judgment amongst mums, about what your baby’s name is, how your baby sleeps, eats, crawls, walks, poos, looks, interacts etc. I have spent the last 6 months in a blissful little bubble of naïveté. Ever since this bubble burst, and I have realised that everything I say about Betty, there are often judgments or comparisons being made, I have become hyper-sensitive to it, and haven’t been able to relax when talking to other parents I have never met before. I have been too scared to engage in any kind of conversation which is even remotely baby-related, for fear of appearing smug, or defensive.

This fear started after a liaison I had with another mother at the village hall playgroup last Wednesday, which almost pushed me over the edge and made me want to runs for the hills…

Betty and I enter the village hall at 9.15am. Betty is wearing her little khaki combat trousers and a red and white striped top. We go and sit next to a lady who introduces herself as Sandra, and her eight-month-old baby Jade. First off, Sandra asks me what my baby is called. I tell her that her name is Betty. ‘BETTY’ she bellows in total shock. She then thinks for a few seconds (she obviously can’t bring herself to lie and say that she likes the name) and says: ‘Well as long as YOU like the name that’s all that matters.’ I feel like telling her that Trevor (worst driver in the world) almost got clobbered by my husband a few weeks ago for handing him an article from the Daily Mail showing the top 20 baby names of 2006 and said: ‘Here is some idea of what you SHOULD have called your daughter’. My husband was extremely offended, not only because he can’t stand the Daily Mail, but also because surely a name in the top 20 baby names of 2006 is a reason NOT to name your baby one of them. Instead I tell Sandra that Jade is now a very ‘popular’ name and that she won’t have any problems finding door plaques, mugs, pens, toothbrushes etc with her name on them. She looks chuffed about this and then gives Betty a sympathetic look, as if to say ‘poor little you’.

Sandra then goes on to ask me if I’d considered the bullying and picking-on that Betty will endure when she starts school because of her ‘unusual’ name, and have I prepared myself for the fact that Betty will end up hating me for giving her this name. To which I just smile, and tell her that I certainly hoped that Betty wouldn’t get picked on at school (by Jade probably), and that if she hates her name that much she could change it. I feel like telling her that we hoped to raise Betty in such a way that she will become a very creative, open-minded, and imaginative little girl who will hopefully love us for giving her an interesting and pretty name. But I keep my mouth shut.

Sandra then starts eyeing Betty’s outfit. She asks me why ‘my baby’ (she can’t even bring herself to say ‘Betty’) isn’t wearing any shoes. I tell her that I don’t see the point as she is only 6 months old and can’t walk yet. I notice that Jade’s little podgy feet have been squeezed into some really uncomfortable-looking shiny red shoes and lacey pink socks. ‘They’re pretty little socks,’ I say to Jade. I am lying. Sandra then asks me why I have dressed Betty like a boy. I tell her that I didn’t realise I had. She says: ‘My advice is: always go for pink, then there is no mistaking that she is a girl’. I tell her that I would bear this in mind. I feel like telling her that if I’d wanted her advice I would have asked for it, and that I wouldn’t take advice off someone who dresses their baby like a bloody doll anyway. The conversation about baby clothes goes on and on. Sandra is appalled that I buy some of Betty’s clothes from supermarkets and car boot sales, and that they don’t all come from Mothercare. For my own amusement I ask her when she is getting Jade’s ears pierced. To which she proudly lifts up the pink furry flaps of Jade’s hat to reveal two little gold studs.

It is now 9.30am. I have just had 15 minutes of torture. In this time Sandra has also managed to fit in remarks about how Betty is not able to sit on her own yet, how Betty doesn’t smile much (Betty smiles all the time, just not at idiotic women), and how it would be better to start giving her formula instead of breastfeeding her now that she is six months. I am desperately trying to work out a polite way to get the hell out of there. Thinking on my feet (which I’m not very good at) I tell her that I am actually feeling quite tired (tired with her), and that I am going to go home. Sandra gives me a sympathetic look and says: ‘Ahh, the little ‘un not sleeping through the night yet?’

At this point I am worried that I am about to have a massive freak-out in the middle of the hall. I feel like saying: ‘Yes, Betty does sleep through the night actually, and has done for months, and no I don’t put holes into my baby’s ears and cause her unnecessary pain, and I would never buy one of those awful cheap plastic personalised door plaques (even if the name ‘Betty’ was on every single god damn one), and pink fluff… yuk yuk yuk, and plonking your 8 month old baby in front of those weird teletubbie characters for hours on end wrong wrong wrong, and yes I do still breastfeed my baby instead of giving her some disgusting artificial animal milk - surely HUMAN milk is best for a HUMAN baby, and Sainsbury do some very cute little baby clothes, without those ridiculous glittery slogans plastered all over them and that in fact most of Betty’s clothes come from Gap and H&M, and no Betty can’t sit up completely on her own yet, but she can feed herself with a spoon, which in my book is pretty advanced... BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH…’

But I just smile, and as calmly as I can, walk out of the hall, with my nervous waddling walk. Later, fuming, I realise that Sandra not only made me snap, but she has turned me into the most evil, judgmental and competitive mother EVER!

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Surgery Pest

I went to see my long-suffering GP again today, who I am sure thinks I am slightly unhinged. I don’t know what pregnancy/birth/baby has done to me, but before any of this, I never ever saw a doctor, about anything. However, since then, I have frequented the surgery more times than I care to remember.

My relationship with the staff at the surgery (which includes GPs, midwives, nurses, receptionists, even other patients) began on the happiest day of my life, 31st March 2006.

I was standing in my classroom, during an open-day, chatting to a heavily pregnant parent about how broody I was feeling, when suddenly I went weak in the legs and felt dizzy. That was the moment, whilst the parent was telling me not to rush into it and enjoy being married, that I knew. I phoned Tom, and said: ‘I think we’ve bloody well done it, I think I’m pregnant!’ To which Tom replied: ‘I think you are too, in fact I knew from the moment of conception when you woke me up in the middle of the night and told me that you could see little animals in our bedroom dancing in the moonlight.’ He said he thought that was unusual behaviour, even for me, and realised something must be happening to me. I decided we would make an appointment with my GP the following morning, so that he could confirm whether we were right or not. I was too scared to pee on a stick in my own bathroom. For a reason I can’t really understand or explain, I needed to see a doctor.

The following morning, we arrived at the surgery half an hour early. Tom and I sat in the waiting room in silence, after I had barked at him and told him to shut up after he asked me why I hadn’t just peed on a stick. Eventually the doctor called me in. I asked Tom to stay in the waiting room because I was still feeling annoyed with him. I sat down opposite the doctor and started crying. ‘I think I might be pregnant,’ I wailed. He gave me a sympathetic look and said something like: ‘Oh dear, what makes you think that?’ ‘I am two days late and I saw dancing animals in my bedroom two weeks ago.’ He looked bemused and told me that I shouldn’t start fretting just yet. I quickly put him right and told him that it would be the most amazing thing in the world if I were pregnant. So he did a test and we sat there in silence for what seemed like hours waiting for the result. He eventually picked up the stick, examined it for a ridiculously long time, looked somewhat surprised, and gave me the best words I had ever heard: ‘ is positive’. I started crying again, ran out into the waiting room, grabbed Tom, unable to speak, and hauled him into doctor’s consultation room. After a brief talk we left the surgery armed with leaflets, not before the doctor shook Tom by the hand and said: ‘Well done son’. This is the day that my beautiful relationship with the surgery started. I was four weeks pregnant.

From then on, I found myself at the surgery, probably fortnightly, bending some medical professional’s ear with all sorts of ridiculous, sometimes imaginary ailments… bump is too small; bump is too big; bump is wrong shape; bump not moving enough; Tom can’t hear baby heartbeat through toilet roll tube; I accidentally ate a prawn etc.

And there I was today, at the surgery, waiting for my appointment. Actually it was Betty’s appointment but I decided she didn’t need to be there so left her at home with Tom. The doctor came out and called for Betty. I jumped up and said ‘I’m not Betty, but I am here to discuss Betty.’ To which he cracked half a smile and ushered me in. He then listened patiently while I talked urgently about Betty’s constipation. He wearily informed me that there was nothing he could do without her actually being there, and kindly suggested that next time I should bring her along too. I agreed, and then asked him if he’d mind quickly looking at a blister on my foot.

When I got home I mentioned to Tom that the doctor was looking very tired and pale. Tom asked me how he had seemed before my appointment. I laughed, but Tom was looking serious.

Friday 4 May 2007

Pear Palaver

I decided to try giving Betty puréed pear for breakfast today, instead of baby rice. The main reason for this decision, apart from wanting to make Betty’s food experience a little more exciting, is that Betty hasn't done a poo for 5 days, and so I thought that pear might help things along a bit. Betty's poos have been the bane of my life ever since she was born and I have probably spent about 50% of my entire wakeful time, thinking and worrying about them, and the other 50% talking about them.

Tom, Betty and I all went down to the kitchen at about 8.30am for a pear breakfast. It was the first time I had ever made a baby fruit purée but didn't think it should take longer than 10 minutes to whip up and feed my hungry and eager girl.

First of all I decided I had to disinfect the chopping board because I had read somewhere that wooden chopping boards have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. Then I had to fill and boil the kettle so that I was able to then immerse the chopping knife in boiling water to try to sterilise it. I then had to fill and boil the kettle again so that I could use the water to wash the vegetable steamer, which lives in a cupboard with some mice. I then filled and boiled the kettle again so that I could pour the water into the food mixer (which also lives in a cupboard with some mice). I then had to wash and peel two pears - I was just going to do one, but Tom said he couldn't bear to see me go to all this trouble just for one pear.

After chopping, steaming and puréeing the pears we were almost there. I spooned out some of the purée into Betty's bowl (which had just been sterilised by boiling water from the kettle) and placed it on the table. Then all three of us, all close to tears at this point, just sat silently and watched the tablespoon of pear in Betty's bowl, for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for it to cool down enough for Betty to eat it. I then had an awful feeling that Betty might reject the pear, but thankfully she didn’t, and in fact she absolutely loved it. The pear also had the desired effect, and Betty did a huge poo at 11am!

Who would have thought that preparing a pear puree (which only consists of pear) could turn into such a palaver? I swear I could have cooked a three-course gourmet restaurant-standard meal in the same time. As for making homemade purées every day (something I vowed to do as I pranced around being pregnant)… I have heard that the Hipp organic baby food from Sainsbury’s is very very good…