Thursday, 21 June 2012

Week 42- Jeremy Vine, burning bras and formula milk

Nancy drinks from a bottle. I have never been more relieved or happier. And she decided to debut this new skill the night before I went back to work. When I was panicking my face off that she'd spend the whole day half starved while I was out.

And now she downs two massive bottles of formula milk a day.

My health visitor had told me to not give her follow on milk as it was just a filler upper. Mind you I find she changes her mind on a minute by minute basis depending on her mood. And we are talking about a woman who writes stuff all over her hand and arm cos she can't remember which house she left her pad at.

But I thought I'd take her advice on this one and get the normal formula milk. And at over nine quid a tin, we're talking some serious Boots points here.

Until I saw a sign that Boots don't award parenting points for under 6 months formula milk.

And I suddenly felt absolutely furious with a shop I've dedicated many hours lurking in over the last 9 months. Who's staff I've developed uncomfortably familiar relationships with, where they ask where my baby is when I go in solo.

I know pretty much what's on each aisle by memory. And now I feel massively let down by a bit of a British institution.

How dare they? What right do they have to make a moral judgement on whether or not you give your baby formula?

It's one thing boycotting Nestlé for their aggressive marketing of formula over breast milk to women in third world countries. But Boots?

Turns out it's government legislation to not promote formula through offers and incentives, so none of the big stores give loyalty points.

Now, I'm not intending to stand outside burning my bra carrying Nancy wearing a 'down with the state' baby gro. And I know Boots don't owe me anything, so that's not the point really either.

In fact I probably owe them some rent for the amount of time I hang out in there without actually buying anything.

But it strikes me that you get judged for the decisions you make as a mum all the time.

Jeremy Vine was going on about how long you should breast feed for and whether its appropriate to do it in public, on the radio the other day. He said one listener was disgusted by the idea of breast feeding in public, however old the baby. And compared it to checking his prostate in a shopping centre.

Jezzer V said, is it the same thing? Is it?

Well no. Of course it's not. Feeding your baby when it's hungry, and sticking your finger up your bum to check for lumps in public is DEFINITELY not the same thing.

At the end of the day I just want to do what's best for Nancy. I want her to grow up strong and healthy.

And if she's going to be judged by anyone, let it be her mum and dad.

Not Unilever or Walmart...

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Week 41- pouring rain, vertical escalators and misogynists

Standing at the top of a flight of stairs at a deserted Preston Park station in the pouring rain, I think, some places were designed by couples. Or misogynists.

There's literally no way to get out of the station with a pram on your own.

So I went back onto the platform to ring the buzzer on the information stand.

After about five minutes...


'Hi. I'm at Preston Park station and there doesn't seem to be anyway to get out with a buggy.'


'Preston park.'


'It's near Brighton.'

'Right. I don't know that station. We're based in London.'

'What should I do?'

'Is there a member of staff there?'

'No it's an unmanned station. Otherwise I would have asked them what to do.'

'Right. I'd ask a member of the public then.'

'There's no-one here. And I've got a pram. And it's pissing it down. ' (Wish I'd just said raining.)

'Well I don't know what to suggest then.'


'Have a good day.'

Under my breath. 'Piss taker.' (I didn't mind swearing so much that time.)

So I'm stuck.

I've already had to deal with commuters holding onto the handle of Nancy's pram to steady themselves on the moving train. Which felt a bit weird when she's in it.

And when I did take her out, no-one sitting down would make eye contact for fear of having to give up their place.

Luckily, having Nancy has given me a new found resilience to embarrassment, and I absolutely don't mind asking the suited man reading the Daily Mail if he'd move so I could sit down with my baby.

Even if I have to ask three times as he pretends I'm talking to someone else.

But this is different. There is no one to bother.

After about 15 minutes of continuous rain, when the fake fur coat I'm wearing has started to resemble a teddy bear thats tied to the front grill of a lorry, and my fringe is caked to my forehead like Mary Bryne's from X Factor, I eventually hear people walking through the underpass.

'Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!'

'Fuck you!'

Bit uncalled for, but karma, I guess, for muttering 'piss taker' to the train man.

Then a lad of about 15 pops his head round the bottom of the stairs.

'Oh sorry, I thought you were someone else.'

He puts down his can of Special Brew and leaps up the stairs two at a time, and helps me lift the pram to the bottom.

'Sorry about that, you sounded like one of my teachers.'

And he picks up his can and jogs on to catch up with his mates.

And I think, I don't want to spend Nancy's early years relying on the kindness of pissed teenagers. I want to be independent with her. I want to feel confident that we can leave the house and get to where we're going without feeling vulnerable.

Going across London has to be planned with the precision of a military operation, unless you want to balance a pram on vertical escalators.

Everyday little challenges like this crop up. And I wonder why I haven't seen them before. Probably because it wasn't relevant. But as Nancy gets older and we become completely mobile, I'm going to make myself remember them. And remember to ask other mums with little kids if they're ok, or need a hand.

Cos it turns out its better to be a nosy busy body, that leave someone stuck at the top of an impossible flight of stairs.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Week 40- free mascara, rocking in Millets and manning up

I've gone back to work. A day a week mind, I'm no Alan Sugar. But still.

I don't know why I'd got myself in such a flap about it. But at 3am the night before I woke bolt upright. Everyone else was fast asleep so it wasn't a murmur from Nancy that had woken me.

It was the doom.

The middle of the night frets that you can't shake or do anything about.

Worrying about money, or lack of it is always a good starting point for insomnia. Followed closely by health of family, (specifically Nancy.) Electrical or gas appliances which might not have been turned off before bed.

And finally, and most overwhelmingly this time, am I going to be any good at my job having taken 9 months out?

By 5am, I was completely doing my own head in.

I'd done the washing up from tea. Looked at everyone's Jubilee party pictures on Facebook. Skimmed through a self righteous article in a magazine I'd only bought for the free mascara. And at the moment I thought I might be able to attempt sleep again, Nancy woke up.

So. With a grand total of 4 hours sleep under my belt, I put on a dress I didn't have to get my boobs out in, chose a pair of earrings that were thick with dust, it had been such a long time since I'd worn them, and swapped my Converse for a pair of heels.

And I felt like a fraud. Someone pretending to have a career. Or know anything about anything that didn't involve sniffing someone's bum or knowing how ripe an avocado should be to cut into strips.

But the worst was to come as I went to say goodbye to Nancy. Now I know realistically it's only a day. We've also done this before. but somehow this felt different. I'm going to work. All be it very part time at the mo. But that's not the point. It's taking the next step.

So I squeezed Nancy too hard, and breathed her milky, weetabixy smell in with the intensity of a glue sniffer. Then handed her back to Ben, whose looking after her for the first few days of work whilst we adjust.

I hopped on the bus, sitting at the front of the top deck. Just because I could.

Now. I'd forgotten how knackering it is to think. I mean long term thinking, which is a completely different muscle from working in a reactionary way. Using you peripheral vision to check someone's not putting their tiny fingers in a hinge of a door. Or eating a rogue pea that's fallen off a plate and under the table a few days previously. The most long term things get is checking you have emergency rice cakes with you incase the bus from town's late.

But to think about how something you're doing today will have an impact on a project in several months time is like reprogramming your brain. It's almost like breathing out. Taking stock. And it's really refreshing.

That. And being able to nip out. Buy Father's Day cards, a posh sandwich and a pair of wellies for Ben's birthday in less than 15 minutes as its possible to speed walk, cross roads when the man's on red and go into shops with steps when you don't have a pram, made the day feel like a double win.

I just had a job getting over that niggly feeling that I'd left something important at home. I realised after I'd checked my bag twice for mobile, purse and my new diary, that I was, of course, looking for Nancy.

And I think it will take a few days away from her to stop rocking when standing up. It's fine to do it when you're holding a baby. But makes you look a bit mental when you're just queuing in Millets.

As I walked into the flat, Nancy's head popped round the kitchen door as she crawled to meet me. Giving me a massive toothy grin and unfurling her neck to reveal what she'd eaten for breakfast, lunch and tea.

And I thought, this wasn't the end of the world. I just need to man up. She's happy. If not a tad grubby.

And I'm a working mum.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Week 39- Childhood bedrooms, green top milk and Judy Blume

I'm back at my mums's house. Just Nancy, mum and me. Three generations of women under the same roof.

The travel cot's made up in my old bedroom.

And it feels really weird.

I've breast fed Nancy while sitting on the bed I'd cried myself to sleep on when I discovered my first love had cheated on me.

The bookshelves are full of GCSE Oxford School Shakespeare books, Judy Blume's from the early years, (including a well leafed copy of 'Forever' with that sex scene that turned the air blue at primary school,) and Irvine Welsh, from when I was older and considered myself cutting edge and very modern.

And it feels weird cos it's like being someone's daughter and someone's mum at the same time.

Like , when I'm at my flat, I make tea for me and Ben after a day with Nancy. But on the first night here, I bathed and fed Nancy, before my mum cooked for me.

The fridge is full of thoughtfully bought food for us all.

Ripe avocados for Nancy.

Eight pints of green top milk for me, as mum knows I can down a pint in less than a minute. Instead of at my flat where it's a battle of the wills as to how long you can eek out the last drop before someone cracks and goes to the shop round the corner.

It feels weird, cos it isn't Christmas, when the house is full of people and totally buzzy. Where everyone is excited that there's a baby in the house.

This is being back at my family home. Where I'd normally drop off my bag, have a cup of tea with my mum, and then head off to meet my best mate from home to smoke a pouch of tobacco, drink a bottle of wine or several, dance to Michael Jackson in her front room, and then stumble in at about 5amish.

But I'm just getting up at that hour with Nancy this time.

And there's a hierachy of telling off now that I haven't quite sussed out. Who can legitimately tell who off without crossing a line/ totally doing someone else's head in?

Stupid, I know as she is nearly 9 months old, but the realisation hit me that I'm going to be a mum for the rest of my life.

That tomorrow morning, it won't be my mum waking me with a cup of tea and a comment about the room smelling like a brewery.

It will probably be me whose put the kettle on first, and be playing with Nancy in the front room. Showing her the view I've known all my life.

Everywhere I look there's memories of pre-Nancy.

The piano that I was made to play from age 4. That I hated. Then loved. When I was allowed to bring my own sheet music to lessons aged 13. And learnt how to play Man Child by Neneh Cherry. Which doesn't translate very well to the piano in case you were wondering.

The little bushes scattered round the garden, marking the grave of yet another treasured guinea pig, as I tried and failed to tell the difference between a girl and a boy, and as a consequence they interbred like mad until I had 27 of them.

And all the time Nancy is growing into a little girl herself. My little girl. And soon she'll start making her own memories. Fragments at first. And then proper memories.

And that's the weirdest bit of all I guess.

I'm coming back to a house full of my memories, and Nancy is only just starting to gather hers.

Just as long as they don't date back as far as the regular two hours of frantic bouncing on my knee whilst I watch a film at the pictures, we'll be laughing.