Monday 27 February 2012

Week 25- badly fitting swimsuits, motorway sandwiches and swearing at relatives

I've been into town without Nancy. I fed her to bursting and left her with Ben while I strode forth solo. Before even getting on the bus I found myself doing the baby rock, which sans baby just makes you look mental. I sat on the top deck at the front, just because I could. And went swimming. And it was amazing.

The size 12 Asda swimsuit was a tad ambitious and I couldn't push off from the side as my boobs fell out every time, and a bikini wax wouldn't have been out the question, but all in all I felt pretty chuffed that I was there at all. The 20 minutes of peaceful mum swimming, where you do breast stroke while keeping your head firmly above water so not to get your hair wet, was only partially disrupted by the man in the baby pool who was trying to be calmed by his carer as he happily jumped up and down, belly flopping, while yelling 'COCK' at the top of his voice, but it somehow felt like a fitting soundtrack. And with a quick detour to Boots to pick up some pictures of Nancy, and Card Factory for a peruse, I was home before Nancy even really realised I was gone. So now I can go into town. Ace. 

And we took Nancy on tour for the third time in her life. Armed with a folder full of pictures of her, we distributed them round relatives in Loughborough, Newcastle and the grand finale, the Lake  District, for Nancy's Great Great Auntie's 90th birthday. 

A life on the road isn't something I aspire to, but if I did, nine hours in a car is enough to change one's mind. Nancy was brilliant, mind, and slept whenever we were moving. But god it's boring going up and down the motorway. Especially if you forget to bring any CDs apart from The Dubliners, and I like them as much as the next person, but on forth consecutive listen, the fancy fiddle work is a bit like nails down a black board. We used to punctuate long journeys with smoking fags, it gave it a bit of a structure, and the passenger a purpose with having to roll one every few miles. But that's a thing of the past now obviously.

And any idea of giving up bread and chocolate for Lent was out the question, as every stop at a service station involved panic eating about three packet sandwiches, a grab bag of crisps, an extra large mars bar and a bottle of pop, cos we weren't sure when we'd stop again. Only to pull over 30 minutes later when one of us needed/ had done a wee, and repeating the whole feast again. I kept thinking of the swim though, and how that must have cancelled out at least three king size snickers and a couple of packets of Mcoys. At least.

But Nancy saw one grandma, two granddads, one nana, one great nana, two aunties and uncles, two cousins, one great auntie and one great great auntie, as well as loads of distant relatives who I'm not sure how we're related to them, but apparently we are, so I think we've done quite well. And she smiled, and laughed, and half blew raspberries. And everyone fell in love with her.

It's strange seeing relatives, or old friends, who you haven't seen for some time, when you have a baby. Especially if the last time they saw you, you were either a) a child yourself in the case of the relatives, or b) social, in the case of old mates.  It's like your role has changed massively and they don't know how to categorise you anymore, and you don't always know how to act in front of them. Cos you want people to know that you're still you, that you're still a laugh/ clever/ interested in music/ up with current affairs or whatever, and that having a child has just added another dimension to that.

'I'm not going to let having a baby change me,' I must have said that about a million times while pregnant with Nancy. Making mental lists of festivals I'd take her to (I hear the Big Chill is fantastic for children, and Latitude positively encourages families, although I'd think twice about Glastonbury as it's so commercial these days.) Whereas now, the thought of four days in a field full of gurning, tanned girls who can get away with wearing cut off jeans and having their arms out unselfconsciously, paying six quid for a pint of watered down lager, while desperately trying to find somewhere to role out a changing mat where Nancy's not going to reach out and grab a hand full of rolly butts, and at the same time, attempting to appear totally mother earth about the whole experience, frankly makes me want to shed a lady tear. 

So I've started to experiment with swearing a bit more to exemplify how, although I'm a mum now, I still have a young fucking outlook on stuff. (It didn't really work well in that context, but you get the idea.) It seemed an easy route to a before/ after child balance. And Nancy is far too young to pick up on how hip/ risqué I'm being. And I'll obviously nip it in the bud long before there's any danger of Nancy's first word being twat, or wanker or something like that.

And of course it has to be well timed swearing. It doesn't go down well in the library, the swimming pool or any of the child friendly cafes.  But does work OK when bumping into the friend you haven't seen for ages.

Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'How's being a mum?' 
Me: 'I fucking love it!' 
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'What about sleeping, do you get much?'
Me: 'No. That side of things is a bit shit.'
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'Well, when you're up for going out for a drink, give me a shout.'
Me: 'Yep I will do. Sorry for being such a twat and not getting in touch sooner.'
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'Totally understand. See you soon.' (Seemingly impressed with how little I've changed.)
Me: 'Ace. Hope so.' (Concerned I might have overdone it a bit with the self deprecating twat bit, but, other than that, good swearage.)

A different tac needs to be adopted with the older relatives, mind. 'I fucking love being mum, it's shit hot Uncle Ashley,' wouldn't go down too well. But then, a little person is such a focal point at family dos that I might just get away with it. Maybe I'll hold off till Great Auntie Margaret's 95th to give it a bash.

Monday 20 February 2012

Week 24- going to London, charity shop shoes and falling out with the man in the shop

We've been to London. I don't mean to sound like the boy at school who'd never set foot outside Lincolnshire, and then went mental on the French class day trip to Paris,  but, WE'VE BEEN TO LONDON! And now it feels like the world has suddenly opened up. We'd chosen a bit of a duff day to go, when half the train track between Brighton and Victoria was broken, so it took the best part of three hours to do a fifty minute journey, but still. We changed trains/ platforms/ seats about a hundred times. Breastfed opposite strangers on Southern Rail. Went on a London bus. Walked round an exhibition. And made it home again with minimal fuss. 

We did go with a friend who is a veteran at taking her daughter to the big smoke, (I never used to call it the big smoke before becoming a mum/ when I used to go there/ anywhere regularly,) and two buggies is definitely better than one. Not if you're behind us, mind, like when the station master changed the platform for the London train for the second time and about three hundred people crammed in the underpass, desperately trying to run but headed up by us, meandering and chatting. 

We all still made the train, but not before there was a bottle neck to get on at each of the doors, and I found myself shouting, 'for Gods sake, we've got kids here!' a bit too dramatically, like we were in some start of the second world war film and I was trying to get my children onto the evacuee carriage, instead of going up to the Grayson Perry exhibition at The British Museum at our leisure. So I shoved my way to the front, nervously dragging Nancy and the pram vertically up the steep train steps, before realising I'd have to spend the next two hours sat opposite the people I'd just shouted at. 

And wearing a pair of high heeled boots I'd bought from a charity shop which are a size too big wasn't the best idea, even with three pairs of socks on for speed/ balance, but in the words of the teenage girl who I shared a bus stop with the other day, 'fuck it, I don't care what they say, I think I looked fucking brilliant.'

But not that brilliant. The jogging has gone to pot a bit. Following a not very bad cold I thought it would be irresponsible to encourage it into a proper cold so haven't been for three weeks. And what with yoga being cancelled for half term, I need to start doing something, because even if you lose weight, everything is so much softer after child birth. I was reminded of this fact this morning while holding Nancy up, as she kneaded her feet into my tummy like an over-sized stress ball.  

It wouldn't hurt to start exercising the old brain muscle either to be honest. But even the pictures seems like a bit of a challenge at the mo. The films the cinema are screening for the mums and babies slot have all gone a bit arty again, which is a crying shame for a theatre full of sleep deprived women. I thought they'd got the message when last week they showed a film starring George Clooney, as the queue for tickets went round the block, but this week they showed a disturbing film about a girl who joined a cult, was so badly brainwashed that when she finally escaped she had trouble distinguishing reality from obscure memory. Again, a bad choice for people who have on average 4 hours sleep a night.

And so, feeling a bit anxious and nervy of strangers on leaving, Ulrika and I took Nancy and Ebba to one of our top three haunts- Boots on London road, to hang around the baby aisle  and get photos of our children developed. The other two fav spots are Card Factory (4 cards for a pound? How do they make any money??) and big Sainsbury's for a cruise around when we have at least 20 minutes to spare. 

Although it's not fashionable to say I'm going to start using big multi-national supermarkets as a matter of choice , I think I am - for the anonymity if nothing else. I'm trying now to avoid the shop at the top of the hill all together, as the man has taken customer chat to a new level of annoying. This morning he asked, as I popped in without Nancy to buy milk and bread for breakfast, 'you going to work?' 'no,' I reply, a bit more mardy than I'd intended as I'd been up three times during the night, 'I look after my baby,' and as he looked over the counter I explained, 'she's at home with her dad while I came here.' 'Oh, you still doing that then?' I'm not sure at what point I'd give up 'doing that' to start 'doing' something else. 'Yep. Yes I am,' resisting the temptation to beat him with the Kingsmill. 'Bit boring yeah?' Only wish I could have thought of something really quick witted and cutting to say. As it was I couldn't even remember what I'd come in for and  he had to shout after me that I'd left the milk and my house keys on the counter. Wait till I have an undisturbed night of sleep. Then he's going to get it.

Monday 13 February 2012

Week 23- Chat magazine, placentas and crying at Corrie

I feel completely nervous about the idea of weaning. We've  only just cracked the routine of breast feeding and now it's like, 'here you go love, here's a banana, what do you reckon to that?' I know I can't breast feed her until she's 5, (although lots of women in Chat magazine do,) but I feel so conflicted by it all. There's something so precious about knowing you can provide something for your baby that no one else can. That you can calm her and comfort her. That you're a walking fridge for whenever she's hungry. Not only am I anticipating a whole load of tears from both of us, but part of me doesn't want to stop feeding her at all.  As if it's the first step to her becoming independent. That she's not going to need just me anymore.

This feeling comes as no surprise to be honest. One of the biggest changes since Nancy, is how hugely emotional I've become. Now I'd be the first to admit that I liked a good blub pre Nancy, but it usually followed several large glasses of vin rouge, a bicker about I'm not sure what, the realisation half way through that I'd  lost my train of thought and had probably made a massive fuss over nothing, and then the predictable big teared cry to try and salvage the situation somehow.

But now it's genuine upset, and anything related to children, or relationships, or the bond between people can be the trigger. And it doesn't have to be bad stuff, they can be celebratory tears for how ace people can be to each other. Like when Becky, a long standing member of Coronation Street left a couple of weeks ago, and she had to say goodbye to Roy and Haley, the odd couple from the cafe who she adored- that brought on a surprise shoulder shaking cry. Or David Attenborough talking on Desert Island Discs of how London Zoo had asked him to look after a shy gibbon who had loved his wife so much he wouldn't let her put him down. Steve  Wright's  Love Hour is a rollercoaster of one tear jerking dedication after another. Or when someone is voted off Masterchef, their dreams scuppered as all they've ever wanted to do was work in a professional kitchen.  Even Free Willy 3, which has to be up there as one of the all time rubbishest films after 'Snakes on a Plane', especially as the cute boy has hit uncomfortable puberty, but still, worthy of a few tears at the end. And anything baby related is an absolute guarantee. I cry at the opening credits of One Born Every Minute. And Ben says I literally ran back into the front room when a placenta was mentioned on 'The Midwife.'

But anything where children are harmed is enough to make me want to barricade the front door and never let Nancy out into the real world. Take a Break magazine has lost one of their most loyal customers, as I can't read any of the features now as most stories are about a poor child who has been mistreated. I wonder if this just what happens when you have children. You 'go soft', as Ben says. That you are responsible for another person, their welfare and happiness, and suddenly other people's vulnerabilities seem so much more raw, you want to look after them as well. Or maybe it just means I'm going to spend the rest of my life bealing my face off every time I see a puppy who looks like it needs a cuddle, and all this completely unaided by wine. Sheesh.

Monday 6 February 2012

Week 22- singing in community centres and men in baby gros

I seem to be very much out the loop of what's fashionable these days, (not that I was ever a regular attendee of the inner circle of said loop,) but yesterday I saw a man in Sainsburys  wearing an adult tiger baby gro. It wasn't fancy dress, he was just out buying a few bits for tea in the express aisle. Now, I know they must be comfortable. I often look at Nancy all snug, drunk on milk and in a cosy outfit before bed and think how comfy she must be. But I dont actually think I'll run one off on the sewing machine and hang around Dorothy Perkins in it. What made it look stranger was that Nancy was wearing  exactly the same 'Tigger' baby gro, but about a hundred times smaller.  I should have got a picture of them together with him holding Nancy up like Mufasa does with Simba at the beginning of The Lion King.

But who am I  to judge. I've started to dress like a kids TV presenter. The half decent clothes I've sold on eBay have been slowly replaced with primary colours. Last week I dyed a pair of perfectly good jeans bright yellow. Well I say perfectly good jeans, they were slaggy white jeans which I'm ashamed to say I bought a couple of years ago, and not an overhang from the era when they were actually fashionable circa Bros. But still?

And to complete the z list celebrity CBeeBies image, I've started replacing words from a wide selection of songs with a variation on Nancy P, or Nancy Pster (for raps and stuff.)

 A few quick examples:

Oh Nancy P, the pipes the pipes are calling- Danny Boy
Nancy Pster, Nancy P, Nancy P- Summertime by Fresh Prince
Nancy are you OK, say Nancy are you OK, are you OK, Nancy? You've been hit by... you've been struck by... a - Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson.

I think the dressing and the songs might be the influence of the singing group we've started  going to. It's definitely more for me than Nancy as I could sing in her face anywhere, and often do, but collective singing, now that's something else, even if it is just row, row, row your boat.

I imagine we're on stage instead of a community hall. An audience of thousands. Big lights. Pow. The audience are getting restless. And then over the tannoy they announce, 'ladies and gentlemen, can you make some noise for the fantastic, the infamous, the legendary, Nancy Pster and her band.' And me, Nancy, and the rest of baby jam walk/ cool jog onto the stage, waving bashfully and blowing air kisses as we go, and start harmonising to 'if you're happy and you know it.'.

The past/ fantasy/ present clean living life collide at the end of the session when the lady who runs the group puts YMCA on her beat box for the children to dance to, and I realise the last time I properly had a good dance to The Village People was in Revenge nightclub about a hundred years ago while grinding  with a dance floor full of hot, half naked, gay men. Oh how times have changed.