Monday, 30 January 2012

Week 21- damson vodka, stretch marks and Kerry Katona

I've  had my first official hangover for more than a year, wow, I haven't missed you old friend. We had mates over for dinner, the wine had run out and I remembered a bottle of damson vodka we'd made a couple of years ago using damsons from the allotment, so that somehow made it OK. I only had a glass of wine and a taste of the damson vodka just to see how it'd turned out as I had made it, after all, and followed it up with about a 17 pints of water chaser, but that is all it seems to take now. Gone are the days of a mid week after work drink turning into three bottles of wine, a packet of crisps and roasted peanuts tea, and still feel reasonably OK the next day.

This was unluckily timed for the exact point that Nancy's sleep pattern changed, not only returning to the waking twice in the night for a massive dehydrating feed, but added to that, the total wide awake club, and wanting to be played with. A throbbing head is one thing when you've got to get dressed and get on the bus in time, but a completely different world when you have a little person smiling up at you.

And the next day was off to a duff start as I mistook the nail varnish remover for Bio Oil as the bottles are the same shape and only realised after the strong smell started to make me feel nauseous moments before I rubbed it into my stretch marks.

But on the plus side, we've got into a bit of a 'routine' if you can call it that. It's funny how you can make what is definitely a leisure activity into a job when you're looking for some structure to your day. 'Yep we've got quite a lot on today as well, we're going to the cinema, then meeting Lucinda and Daisy for a coffee, then I thought I'd walk down to the beach so Nancy can get some sea air.' If you say it with enough conviction you can make it sound a little bit like that's your work agenda when actually you're hanging out with your mates and eating ice cream on the beach for a job.

So, Monday's 'job' now is going to mother and baby yoga with Ulrika and Ebba. We meet them outside the holistic health centre. We're all predictably late as both the girls have gone through an Oscars style number of outfit changes already due to pooing/ weeing everywhere moments before leaving our flats. And in the rush to get down there I'd jiggled Nancy about so much she'd been sick down herself and all down me as I had her strapped to my front.

Ulrika spent the majority of the 50 minutes feeding Ebba while 'omming' with the rest of the group, while I attempted to do the downward dog over Nancy and 'shower her with kisses' while trying not to breath through my nose and inhale the sickly milky smell coming from mine and her tops.

I think it's the first time since having Nancy I'd considered what having a baby does to your body. Not just the worry that your boobs will forever feel like half filled water balloons or you'll continue to wee yourself a bit when laughing too hard (or 'lady tears' as Kerry Katonia calls it) but the other stuff. Higher estrogen levels during pregnancy make you more apt to carry weight on your hips and thighs afterward. You basically carry saddle bags of fat in case you become famished and need back up to feed your baby, which seems a bit unfair as the last thing you feel/look post baby is starving.

Apparently your feet can get fatter as well, possibly because looser ligaments and extra fluid can cause them to permanently expand. During pregnancy, hair grows faster and thicker, but when estrogen levels drop after birth, you lose the excess hair you’ve accumulated as I've experienced, and now spend a bit of time everyday picking balls of it up from corners of the  flat, down the plug hole or clutched in Nancy's hands. The changes are bonkers, and that's before you've even considered the emotional side of it all.

So the 'baby' part of the mother and baby yoga was a bit tenuous. We sang wheels on the bus while wiggling their legs around, mind you it must have got something moving, because as the woman embarked on the best bit of a yoga class, where you lie down with your eyes closed as she takes you through meadows, round lakes, and up beautiful mountains, I was cleaning up the second epic poo of the day.

Phew. That's Monday's jobs out the way now. Just have to prepare for a busy Tuesday of  filling up the Ecover washing up liquid bottle at the health food shop at the bottom of the road, followed by singing nursery rhymes in a community centre run by a woman in primary colours and a madonna headset. What with the pictures on Wednesday, and hanging around the library on Thursday, this is shaping up to be a tremendously busy week.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Week 20 - running in pyjamas, childcare and Carol Vorderman

I've completely stitched myself up with this running business. When Ben decided to run every morning before work I kicked up a stink saying I was also planning to 'run' regularly. So now we're taking it in turns.

 Every other day I wake up, breast feed for up to an hour, put on the pyjamas I'm not wearing in bed and drag myself round the park. The first day of my fitness regime was ok as there was quite a large woman doing the same thing, so I followed her at a reasonable distance trying to keep up, and pretending I was doing my shoe lace up or having a stretch when she turned around.

Following someone else is definitely the way to do sports (unless you're trying to win obviously), just remember to stop following them when you come out the park or it turns into borderline stalking when you follow them home.

So she wasn't there on day two, or is taking a different route to avoid the weird sweating stalker, and getting the motivation to put one foot in front of the other when the sun hasn't come up properly is quite hard. This is the penance for having a mardy and wanting things my way. I should remember this for the future with Nancy when she starts playing up.

When I get back to the flat I find myself just staring at her, willing her to wake up. Its totally unimaginable to recall life pre her. It’s like when you meet someone when you’re a bit leathered who instantly becomes your best friend and you're giddy excited and start showing off to them and trading old boyfriend stories, and the next time you see them you naturally hug them without either of you thinking the other person is being too full on. And then you just start seeing them loads. Even though you feel like you never had time to go swimming or get your hair cut; you always have time for that person.

Or like an item of clothing you buy and wear everyday and you can't remember what you wore before you bought it because it’s become so integral to your identity. That’s kind of what having Nancy feels like to me.

Other times I look at her and I'm totally petrified that I'm in charge of another human being's life. The weight of the responsibility is so immense that I completely shit myself up. Our decisions have a direct impact on her life; she can't tell us that this is how she wants to grow up. Every day we make all the life decisions for her and have no idea if they're the right ones or not. I can't think about this too much or I become completely paralysed with fear.

On the other hand having a baby sometimes feels like an extension of yourself. How you pick at them like a monkey in a way that would not only be unacceptable but totally gross if it was anyone else. It's brilliant when you catch a massive bogey that she's been breathing in and out  ('there's bogies all over you' is a favourite Top Gun quote once you've caught it.) Or getting wax out their ears. Cradle cap is addictive to pick at especially when they're sleeping, but my all time favourite is when Nancy unfurls her neck to reveal all manner of hair and fluff and curdled milk. It's like a battle won when you get the wet wipe in there. I don't know of any other situation where there would be such a sense of satisfaction. Apart from maybe when you’re stripping wallpaper and get a whole sheet off in one go.

We've started looking at nurseries. Which is awful. I can't imagine anyone else being with Nancy during the day, getting to cuddle her, smell her, and in return getting a big toothless smile. It makes me feel a bit sick. We've looked round a few places, they all seem nice.  The women are lovely, although several of them talk to you in high pitched slow voices, but I guess that comes from hanging out with little people all day. We've also been to see a few childminders. Again they all seem perfectly lovely. One had a ball pool in her house, as well as a glitter ball which made her downstairs utility room look like a cross between Ritzy’s nightclub and Pontins. This is called, I’ve learnt, a sensory room, and the children go nuts for it.

Another one kept chicken’s which really appealed to the Felicity Kendal in me. But I don’t really know what it is I’m looking for. I guess a kind of Mary Poppins who Nancy would love, but not so much that she wouldn’t want to come home at the end of the day. And costs less than 30 quid a time...

That’s the other thing. The cost of childcare. I don't want to sound all poor old me, and I know I'm no Carol Vorderman when it comes to maths, but it just doesn't seem to add up. If you’re wealthy, then you’re fine because you don’t have the financial worries in the first place, and if you are on a very low income, then the government rightly offers assistance. But if you are in the middle, and it’s a very broad middle range, then you’re basically fucked.

It’s like the government don’t want women to go back to work. As of April 2012 any family who has a combined income of more than 26 grand, which must be most of the people I know who are working, will no longer receive child tax credits, and assistance towards childcare. It seems that you end up working for free until your child is three. Some of the women I’ve spoken to said that they actually made a loss at the end of each month, but had to do that otherwise they wouldn’t have career. What kind of a message is this sending out? You either have to have the worst paid job ever to get help, or don’t bother going back to work at all, which you don’t want to do as it’s taken up until having a baby to get your career going in the first place.

On another note, the neighbour’s have now moved the fridge. I was putting out the recycling when a man, who was unloading a van full of wood into one of the flats, said to me, ‘I’m moving it later.’ I said ‘moving what?’ trying to act totally cool. ‘The fridge,’ he replied, ‘someone keeps sticking notes to it.’ I leant over and read the note as if it was the first time I’d seen it. ‘Oh right. Well thanks for letting me know.’  He didn’t suspect a thing. Turns out my theatre degree does come in handy occasionally.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Week 19 - spying on the neighbours and yogic breastfeeding

It's strange how quickly your world becomes completely localised. Whereas pre - Nancy I wouldn't think twice about hopping on a train to London, now I'm giving myself a big pat on the back for making it down to the beach for the first time in 6 months. Actually I had her in the sling and hadn't adjusted the straps since Ben, who's a foot taller, had used it so I can't practically give myself a pat on the back as I can't properly turn around now. That combined with the new and inventive methods I've had to find to feed her since she doesn't seem to want to do it the conventional way anymore, which include Nancy lying on the floor and me on all fours kind of menacingly hovering over her, and her on my lap while I hunch over her, have resulted in me losing about 3 inches in height.

Your world does get very small and the number of people you see in the day increasingly fewer than before there was a little person. The man who thinks Nancy's a fine sized boy at the shop at the top of the hill, or the man who thinks I go clubbing at the shop at the bottom may sometimes be the only person I see other than Nancy until Ben gets home, and where the man at the top of the hill is more often than not making international calls on his Madonna headset so will just give me a nod, he obviously doesn't realise that I don't actually need more tea bags as Ben's bought a life times supply at the cash and carry next to his work, I just needed an excuse to get out the house without being marooned in town.

But the localised thing isn't just how far you end up practically walking,  it's the things you start focussing on during the day. So for example, one of the next door neighbours has left an old fridge outside our house. It had been there for about two days before I got really mardy about it. If I wasn't spending so much time at home I'd probably just notice it then ignore it. But because I've passed it about 20 times and banged into it once with the buggy, it'd now become one of the main focuses of my day.

It was day three when I stuck a note to it asking if the owner would move it. To which someone wrote back on the same note that it would be moved by the dustmen. Which it wasn't. Day five I wrote another note and stuck it to it telling them that the bin men won't move it and so could they do something about it, suggesting they contact the council or take it to the landfill. To which they again wrote back (this time in captitals to express how cross they were with my meddling) that it was full of rotten food, like that's the reason to leave it there. I've now written note three, which I'm not sure whether to stick on the fridge in case I'm starting some kind of war you see on Channel 5  documentaries where the only logical conclusion is we end up posting poo through each others letter box, stating that I will call the council if it's not moved which a) I'm not going to do and b) I have no idea who put it there in the first place.

So I've now taken to staring out of the window for long periods of time while bouncing Nancy on my hip which must be totally boring for her, waiting for the culprit to write another message back so I can catch him/ her in the act, then run out and bollock them. Everyone's a suspect, including the lovely lady who lives upstairs.

The other big thing is I've started running. Well I've been once. And it wasn't so much a run as what dad would call a jogette. I was inspired partly because Nancy was weighed on Thursday and she's now 16 pounds 6 which is nearly the exact amount I need to lose to get back to my 'fighting weight'. I was carrying her in the sling at the time and it was weird to have an actual physical representation of how heavy I am. My arms feel like they're going to fall off if I hold her for more than 10 minutes and I'm carrying that much extra round on my bum everyday. So there was that. And also the fact my hairs started to fall out. I knew that it does happen sometimes to breast feeding mums but smugly thought, not me. Until it started coming out in handfuls in the shower. Nancy is rubbing her hair out at night by tossing and turning in her sleep. We can't both be going bald. So with that in mind I decided to start exercising as the thought of going into my  mid thirties as Nancy's fat, balding mum was a bit too much to bear.

Turned out I've thrown away all my gym clothes as part of the make way for Nancy clear out (I have kept hold of a luminous pink crop top though which I imagine will be much more useful in the future.) So I squeezed myself into my old sports bra which pushed my boobs up to just under my chin, fished out a pair of pyjamas that least look like I sleep in them, set the iPod going on shuffle which ironically selected MJ's Speed Demon and I was off.

The boys were setting up the pitch in the park for Saturday league football, which is probably the best motivator, as if I stopped I was just a red faced, sweating woman hanging out in the park in her pyjamas. I only went through the park and round the block, but this could be the start of something big. I'm planning to go every morning before Ben leaves for work. And then maybe do a half marathon, who knows, even build up to a full marathon? But I guess the first thing is to get to the end of our road without walking. And now I can justifiably have a good old neb on eBay to get a fab new running outfit. Now that is a result.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Week 18- breaking resolutions, lying to weight watchers and sperm donors

The resolutions aren't going brilliantly so far. I've started lying to the on line weight watchers website about how much weight I've been losing because I like the congratulatory message it gives you, 'well done you've lost 2 pounds this week, keep it up!' when actually I've put on a pound, even though I only ate a Tracker bar for breakfast, cut my nails and stood naked on the scales. I think it's almost certainly because I'm not recording most of the food I'm eating and the bits I am recording, I'm not weighing, so it's no great suprise that I don't look like Cindy Crawford (yet, although she is in her 40's so maybe I should also update my references for new year instead of aspiring to be 80's icons.)

This week is our first week of attempting a routine, by that I mean meeting the same friends for coffee each week, going to the pictures every Wednesday and Ulrika and I are trying out a mother and baby music group. It would be great to get to the point when I can look to my week ahead and have a rough idea of what I'm doing, instead of panicking, arranging loads of stuff at the last minute, then dragging poor Nancy around town and knackering both of us out.

I had to go for a check up with the nurse this morning.She asked me afterwards where I'd found a man who was committed enough to have a baby with me. She said her daughter, who is in her thirties, is desperate for a child but doesn't have a boyfriend, that she'd tried internet dating and just met weirdos and that all her mates are married off so don't have any eligible friends. She said she'd even started going back through her black book of old boyfriends to see if she could reconsider any of them as potential sperm donors. I left feeling quite positve, I mean at least I'm not having to go back out with the hippy/ older man/ control freak/ doley choice of ex boyfriends to have Nancy. Also I hope my mum doesn't talk that frankly about the stuff I tell her when she's at work.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Week 17 - new years resolutions, not being hungover and making way for Nancy

Happy New Year! It's a bit different celebrating with a four month old that's for sure, but I liked it, not being hungover, not waking surrounded by take away pizza boxes trying to work out if a) I ate them all and b) if the receipt for 60 quid was paid for by me or fingers crossed whoever else came back to the flat which is the start of the impending sense of doom trying to drudge up last nights memories and if I need to make a list of people to apologise to. So all in all I feel fantastic compared to last year.

It's weird looking to the year ahead and what it might hold. Previous resolutions have been lose weight, write more, be nicer blah blah blah, but this year, although they are pretty much the same, I have a little person I want to make proud of me, so the resolutions somehow feel more sincere, so...

1. Be a good mum to Nancy, someone she will look up to, be proud and like
2. Get fit and lose baby weight (and the rest.)
3. Become a 'writer' instead of writing plays and then never reading them again. Write often, enter competitions, be proud to write.
4. Read better more challenging books, not just detective novels (although since I've been given an iPad for Christmas from Ben's folks I can buy them and put them straight onto the computer so it makes that one a bit more challenging)
5. Get rid of all clothes, books, things that are no longer needed or cherished. Make way for Nancy and her things.
6. Don't be so emotional,by that I don't mean don't care, just ease off on the regular crying and hissy fits, this house isn't big enough for two babies.

I'm a bit nervous about this year, since Nancy was born we were all about making it to Christmas and then thinking about routines and the future once we were in the new year. Well we're here now and she will grow and develop into a little girl and I don't know what I'm meant to do for her. She's so happy and smiley all the time, I take it for granted that this is going to be a breeze but actually I haven't got a clue what you're meant to do with a baby whose older than Nancy.

So here's to a year of discovery and adventure, as a mum, a daughter, a girlfriend, a career person and a friend. And see if there's anyway to be good in all those roles.

Week 16 - snow, kids and Christmas and giving duff presents

Having a child at Christmas is the best thing ever, even when they're as young as Nancy everyone seems to enter into the spirit more. We've seen so many relatives and friends, been given so many presents and eaten so much that I wish I hadn't paid 30 quid for the last three months subscription to on line weight watchers as it will be for absolutely nothing.

And it snowed. Only for about 15 seconds and it didn't settle, but still, Nancy's seen her first snow.

People's generosity was astounding this year, so much so that I think that we'll have to have a bit more of a think on next year about what we get people so we don't look so tight. I know it's not about getting like for like, but an iPad, posh shampoo, expensive candles, a ukulele and aftershave in exchange for a calendar of nancy doesn't seem like a fair present swap! (we gave the calendar in case there was any confusion...)

But we did the northern trip again, dad even had t shirts printed for us saying 'nancy on tour part deux' and we didn't end up in hospital, in fact Nancy slept the whole journey home, so we're getting good at this travelling lark. Next trip the lakes for great Auntie Margaret's 90th birthday in February. Cripes.