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: ‘Well...it 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…