And when we were up we were very high up

CUDDLE

Last Mother’s Day weekend I cried. I cried with exhaustion because Zee was only about six weeks old. I cried because H had a stag do in London that evening, so we drove from Chichester to Oxford to drop him off and I (still exhausted) then had to drive onwards to the sanctuary of my parents’. I cried because it was my first ever Mother’s Day as a mum, and it was amazing to be with my mum with my very own baby, even though I was half-mad with tiredness and probably spent a lot of time glassy-eyed and unable to finish sentences. Such sparkling form in those days. Such value I brought to the party! I was so FUN!

This Mother’s Day was a combination of sunshine and literal highs and then crashing lows. H had been very smiley and proud of himself all week, proclaiming that he had arranged a surprise I would love and think he is even more amazing than I already do . . . I am his number one fan after all. I was intrigued and excited; we had brunch with an old friend planned in the morning followed by H’s surprise in the afternoon. Until, that is, Zee awoke howling at 5.30 on the Saturday morning. He had been sick. We were half asleep and puzzled. We brought him into our bed, he was sick everywhere. He was crying his eyes out and bewildered and we were now very much awake and stripping off his clothes and bed clothes and not knowing what was going on. By 9am poor little Zee had been changed into five different sleep suits and I had been puked on several times. It got to the point that if he was feeling sick but was sitting with his daddy, he would somehow make it over to me, chubby little arms outstretched and proceed to be sick in and on my arms. I was the chosen one, it seemed. Ahh, the joys.

And when he became listless really quickly, I dialled 111 (the new NHS Direct), and they were so helpful and thorough and didn’t even snigger when at one point I described Zee as ‘just lying in his dad’s arms, frowning’, cue laughter from H. But it’s true, he was frowning and I was trying to give as much detail as I could. Frowning doesn’t appear to be a very serious symptom of illness though, because a doctor called back and said it sounded like a gastro bug, to keep sipping him water and it should pass quickly. But not quickly enough to be in time for H’s surprise . . .

Which is where our good friends Audrey and Nev stepped in (up) – it turned out H’s surprise was indeed amazing; afternoon tea on the London Eye. It was a blue-sky-and-sunshine day, so Audrey and I went off leaving the men to look after Zee for a couple of hours whilst we got to enjoy the stunning views across London with a glass of champagne in one hand and canapés and cakes galore in the other. I raised a glass to my own lovely mum from high in the sky in the general direction of the Isle of Man where they were away for a few days. Actually that’s a total lie. I have no idea where the Isle of Man is. I just raised a glass in a general direction, towards Big Ben. But the thought was there.

Weirdly, and happily, Zee was completely fine by bedtime, as if we’d totally imagined the hours of vomiting and frowning that had gone before – except we had the duvet at the dry cleaners and rows of drying sleep suits and bedding to prove it. The next day, Mother’s Day itself, we had a trip to Brighton planned to see some friends. We left early, arrived in good time, but as we searched for a car parking space I started to feel . . . sick. I told myself it was travel sickness.

Wishful thinking. To cut a lovely afternoon picnic on Brighton beach short, we had to make a very hasty departure as I realised I could no longer deny this bug that was taking me over. I was sick into a plastic bag down an empty Brighton side street, oh the shame. ‘Low point, low point!’ H exclaimed. It was about to get lower. A two and a half hour car journey and two very useful plastic bags later, I crawled into bed, shivering from head to toe, feeling woeful and sick and very, very feeble. Happy Mother’s Day to me! I cried.

Looking back on it now and feeling absolutely fine, I just feel sorry that Zee was poorly, happy about the gorgeous afternoon on the Eye, sad that H missed it and horrified re the bags. One day H is going to plan a London surprise for us all and it won’t be scuppered by sickness. Third time lucky and all.

The Tired guilts

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????To misquote my hero and the very handsome Ron Burgundy. I look tired. I mean really tired. HEY EVERYBODY, COME SEE HOW TIRED I LOOK.

There, I’ve done it, I’ve broken my own rule about broadcasting to anyone who’s looking how tired I am. I never talk about it on Facebook and wouldn’t dream of writing about it on Twitter (I struggle with Twitter because my inner English geek shudders constantly at all those hash tags, but at the same time I read lots of interesting (and inane) stuff on there so I just have to get over myself).

Anyway, it is my choice to not talk about this stuff on social media, because I personally feel that (a) being a parent = being tired. End of and (b) NOBODY CARES. Nobody on there really wants to hear about how I was up with Zee three times last night, and have been every night since Saturday, and H went to Belfast at the weekend for work and is there till Thursday and I have no other help and I’m working full-time on interrupted sleep and god it’s so dull I’m boring myself.

And THEN I get the tired guilts because I think about my amazing friends H&D, who have four children under three – four gorgeous and lovely children – but four under three nevertheless. And as I can’t possibly begin to imagine how tired they must be, because the idea of three more Zee’s right now makes my mind boggle, I try and talk myself out of how tired I really feel. The same happens when I think about my brother and sister-in-law, both working full-time with two wonderful (yes I am biased) kids or H’s sister and brother-in-law up in Suffolk with three lovely boys from 7 down to 16 months – basically any of my friends or family with more than one baby who work or look after the children full time, which is of course work in itself.

But why is this? Why do I feel so bad when I want to put my Davina 15 minute fitness DVD on, so I can feel good about myself for doing a bit of exercise, but I can’t bear the thought of picking up the remote and pressing play, let alone getting all energetic to Davina’s smiling, cheeky, encouraging face? It’s 8pm and I’m in my onesie in bed writing this and there’s no place I’d rather be. Genuinely. I’ve been worrying recently about how we live in central London but we just don’t make the most of it at night. We don’t because by the time we’ve had that incredibly precious hour after nursery with Zee and he’s in bed and the flat sort of no longer resembles a tip, the very idea of getting dolled up and waltzing back out the door and into a bar makes me want to lie down.

So because I try very hard not to talk too much about this stuff, apart from to H, the poor person who does get to hear all about it in minute detail is my mum. Though sometimes she can’t even hear it because I’m yawning so much down the phone I can’t make any sense. I get annoyed with myself when I’m like this – clearly being tired makes a person cranky – but I’m wondering if maybe I should just be a little kinder to myself about it. Being tired isn’t a crime. It can be a really upsetting thing; when you’re so tired you can’t think straight, and your bones ache and your eyes hurt. And maybe sometimes, when you’re tired, you feel the need to share how you feel, and hope for a little kindness and sympathy from your friends. Some of whom should have a bit more empathy and understanding, because they too know what it’s like to be wrenched from your bed at 4am by a wailing baby who needs you to love and soothe them back to sleep, no matter how bleary-eyed and wild of hair you may be. And by ‘some of whom’ I mean me.

Just because being a parent = tired shouldn’t mean that is the end of the conversation. I may not like to talk about it on Facebook but that’s just a personal thing. I talk about it endlessly with H and my mum and without them I’d go mad. But the one thing I always remember during spells like these is It Too Soon Shall Pass. My baby is now a little toddling person, but he’ll always be my baby. He grows ever more lovely by the day, and I adore him more than I knew I could. He is the reason I am tired, but he makes me happier than I can describe, and that’s worth a billion lie-ins or full night’s sleep. We’ll still be gratefully seizing all offers of help when we go home for Easter though – roll on that blessed bank holiday, roll on . . .

Entertaining a baby in the capital? London, we don’t have a problem . . .

69.jpgI have been trying to write this post for weeks but returning to the land of books, a certain little man turning one and a jaunty trip to Brighton last week somewhat scuppered me. During my maternity leave, Zee and I ventured far and wide in this great capital of ours, and so, because my memory is shot to pieces these days, I want to record some of our adventures by buggy, tube and foot, for posterity and in case it’s helpful to other London mums and visitors. My goodness that’s a long sentence. I can’t be bothered to break it down.

So in no particular order:

Water Babies

It’s expensive but such a lovely and fun thing to do with your baby. Getting ready for lessons in changing rooms not designed for mums and babies is stressful, being in the water takes the stress away as long as you don’t think too much about the getting dressed again part. Tip – take a bottle, toy, biscuit, anything you can to distract him/her when changing afterwards. See http://www.waterbabies.co.uk for more info.

Sing and Sign

A real highlight. Before Zee’s arrival, some friends told us about sign language for babies and how some of their friends had given it a go with great success. So I signed up and from Sept-Dec, every Wednesday morning we enjoyed an hour of Singing and Signing, made some new friends and loved it. The songs are ridiculously catchy (I hear them in my dreams) and when Zee mastered the ‘No’ sign it was just brilliant. Because he does the No sign at me with the biggest grin on his face and then carries on doing exactly as he shouldn’t. But we’ll get there. http://www.singandsign.com

Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

There is a Game Boy in the Museum of Childhood. A Game Boy! In a museum! It’s unnerving that a toy my brother and I spent hours glued to in our childhood is now deemed a relic, but anyway, I digress. This is a great place to come and while away a Friday afternoon; wandering around the exhibits and then at 2pm there is an excellent Sing and Story time. Exuberant staff act out Rod Campbell’s classic Dear Zoo with the aid of props and puppets. Afterwards Zee was fascinated by the mirrors and lights display, spending ages grinning at His Friend In The Mirror before I whisked him off to the spacious café for snacks and coffee. My maternity leave could also be renamed ‘The Quest for the Perfect Cup of Coffee’. I’m still looking. http://www.museumofchildhood.org.uk

Baby Interactive Play, Greenwich

This is a great class in gorgeous Greenwich, so it’s annoying we only managed to make it to one class in the last four months. And not even because it’s at 10am on a Monday morning, and I am not a morning person, but because of holidays, long weekends and one attempt to get there where I managed to get to Borough tube, before realising I’d left the nappy bag at home, cue turning around and going home. The teacher, Sue, is very welcoming and has loads of ideas for baby’s playtime, plus a very fun bubble-blowing machine and a giant parachute. See http://www.babyinteractiveplay.co.uk for more info. There is also a very baby-friendly Jamie’s Italian nearby for that all important coffee afterwards, and of course the Maritime museum, which is still on our To Do list. I chose cappuccino over culture on our one and only Greenwich trip, oh yes.

Wiggly Jigglers, Shoreditch

Yes, yes, I chose this class because I liked the name but it’s a good class too. A bit far for us to go regularly but the one class we went to was full of friendly people and good ideas. This is where I learnt about using general household items for baby play; corkscrews, plugs, dishwasher tablets no – no, wait. Those are the things he wants to play with and can’t, but jam jar lids, plastic containers, wooden corks,foil trays etc are MUCH more fun than regular toys, it seems, and good distractions at High Chair in the Kitchen when I’m busy with the blender. See http://www.richmix.org.uk for more info.

48.jpgThe Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

I cannot say the name of this place out loud without sniggering, I just can’t. Which I know at the age of 28/33 is pretty shameful, but come on. Anyway, this is an excellent spot to while away a few hours. It has a large cafe, impressive gardens with urban wildlife (their term not mine. There’s a llama! A llama in Forest Hill!) an aquarium and of course exhibits, which we didn’t even manage to get round on our first visit. Lovely views over London, hence missing the exhibit. I sound like a cultural hand grenade. Must rectify this. http://www.horniman.ac.uk/

47.jpgThe Shard

Speaking of views over London, wow wow wow WOW, as Kylie once sang. Ooooooh it’s simply brilliant, I could have stayed up there for DAYS. Zee was not bothered in the slightest but that’s fine because it just means we’ll have to go up there again when he’s older. And of course it’s right next to Borough Market, which is fantastic for browsing around and I imagine even more fantastic if you wander around it with a glass of prosecco in hand. Which I didn’t when I went with Zee, because it was just the two of us and one glass these days and I’m positively tiddly. More’s the pity.

St Paul’s

If you grew up on Mary Poppins*, as I did, it is impossible to see St Paul’s, the positively majestic St Paul’s, without the refrain of Feeeeeeeeeeeeeed the birds, TUPPENCE a baaaag, going round and round like an earworm. I liked to bundle Zee up in the buggy and go walking around there, to gaze at the cathedral and wander around the shops, and who knew there was such a large Topshop and H&M very nearby? Which I discovered during my last week of maternity leave and this is A Good Thing for my bank balance.
*Of course Mary Poppins’ sister, Mary Poppouts was less popular as a nanny due to constantly leaving the kids by themselves. (Thank you @TiernanDouieb via Twitter.)

Big Scream – cinema sessions for mums and babies aka GENIUS!

One particularly rainy day I took it upon myself to venture up to Notting Hill and wander down Portobello Road (now I have another earworm, do you know which song I mean Bedknobs & Broomsticks fans? Can anyone else hear David Tomlinson – aka Mr Banks! – singing Portobellllo Road, Portobellllllo Road, lalalala can’t remember the rest . . .?). Anyway, off we went to the Big Scream showing of the veritable cheese-fest About Time at the Electric Cinema, which was such a nice way to spend a few hours, as I wrote about here. A friend took her baby to Django Unchained, and even though he was asleep she still felt compelled to cover his eyes and ears. http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/

Tate Britain

We spent a few very happy afternoons here; once or twice, after his swimming lesson, Zee was fast asleep and I was able to leisurely stroll around the exhibitions. I would admire the Turner paintings and Monet and tilt my head to one side and nod appreciatively at these magnificent canvasses as if I really appreciate Art, when in fact I don’t have a clue about it but know when something looks pretty. There I go, cultural hand grenade-ing again. One time we went and Zee was in his element crawling around the wide open floors, shrieking in delight as his godmother went after him and I pretended not to have a clue who they were.

Royal Festival Hall

The cafe here is another great place for babies who are crawling and want to roam about a bit whilst you have a coffee and take in the views. Zee enjoyed standing in front of the giant glass windows and beaming at passers-by as I beamed proudly at him. As he gets older we’ll take him to some of the brilliant events they have here, unfortunately this year he was too little for the Imagine Festival but their schedule is always packed and there’s lots of child-friendly fun.

Eat Play Love

A lovely cafe in Battersea, it’s ‘Open to all, but with a focus on being a welcoming place for families with young children.’ This is so nice because I lost count of the numbers of cafes or restaurants I’ve wandered past, simply because I couldn’t face trying to negotiate them with the buggy. Another place to while away a few hours, obviously drinking coffee with friends whilst Zee maximised the soft play. http://www.eatplaylove.org.uk

Soft Play at The (excellently named) Salmon Centre, Bermondsey

This is a free session of soft play and the range of toys and activities on offer blew Zee’s mind. At least, I think they did from the way he crawled about happily, making himself practically giddy as he tried to work out where to roam to or what to play with next. There’s a singing session for all the children at the end and if I remember rightly, he slept pretty well that night too. Result!

64.jpgSo I realise this post is very London centric, but they do say to write about what you know. And we know London, and now know it even better. But no longer just for its wonderful night life and bars and restaurants and theatres etc etc, but for where you can go to find a toy cat with its own theme song that will have your baby beside themselves with glee. Ah, how things have changed. And how we love it.

Little baby steps

So Clarks well and truly did a number on us today – in a really good way, that is. Since Zee took his first eight wobbly steps in a row last week, his confidence has grown as he totters around like a little drunkard, wobbling and tumbling over and even occasionally hiccuping. It is an adorable sight to behold and yes I had a little cry when he first properly walked towards me. Today seemed like the right time to go and get his first proper shoes, and it turns out Clarks make this into a real experience for besotted parents like us. Because for us, it is a big moment, a milestone; he can walk. Thinking back to this time last year, when he was 15 days old and I can’t remember precisely, but I guess he’d spent the day feeding, sleeping, whizzpopping and sleeping, to today, when he not only got his first pair of shoes but tried garlic dough balls for the first time too; it feels like the difference a year makes is actually quite astonishing.

I have several very good friends who are due to have their babies within the next few months, and I know how they are feeling around about now. Everything is unknown. If you stop to ponder it for too long; labour, all the stuff you need, how will the baby sleep, how will I cope with no sleep, what will the baby be like, how do I change a nappy or sterilise a bottle or pretty much how will I KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THIS TINY DEFENCELESS CREATURE etc, it becomes overwhelming. But gradually, as the fog lifts and you get to know your baby and vice versa, things do start to fall into place, and the idea of simply getting dressed no longer leaves you a wailing mess.

So in fact today was about more than just a pair of shoes. It was about feeling proud, of Zee as his little foot was measured for the first time, and he beamed away as we chose his shoes and he had his Polaroid taken for his souvenir card (nice work Clarks marketing team, very nice). And of ourselves, for having come through our very best, but also our most difficult year so far. And then later on Zee and I had a special moment at High Chair in the Kitchen. A live version of Pompeii by Bastille came on the radio, and I turned it up really loud (sorry neighbours) and sang and jumped around and danced and positively shouted each and every word as Zee looked on bemusedly. Because for me, that song will always be the song I sang loud and proud on my first drive to the beach with Zee when he was about three weeks old. I was so proud of myself for getting us out of the house and into the car and all the way to the beach in the early afternoon sunshine. The following day was a total disaster because I’d completely exhausted myself with the beach expedition, Zee wouldn’t feed and cried all day and so did I, pretty much. But I learnt from that, and kept learning, and now we are at a place where Zee is wearing shoes and every day with him Just Gets Better and Better. So thank you, Clarks, for making today’s milestone something we (I say we, I’ll always remember this date, H shall forget it by next week) will forever treasure.

One

1stbdaycards.jpg. . . of the most hilarious things about giving birth was how the epidural left me legless. Numb from the waist down and high as a kite from the gas and air (what LARKS!), I vividly remember H and my lovely midwife hauling me about on the bed as I giggled; my right leg just kept flopping over the side and there was nothing I could do about it. This was a distraction from the fact Zee was now officially 17 days late and WHY WASN’T THE BABY HERE YET etc etc. Well he finally did arrive and was the best thing we have ever seen with our own eyes ever, and on Sunday just gone, it was exactly one year to the day that Zee was born late, screaming and perfect.

Over the course of this birthday weekend, I was struck with a vivid case of the ‘This Time Last Year’s . . .’ TTLY the second attempt at induction had finally worked, and realising he was going to be in for the long haul, H announced he was getting us takeaway Pizza Express. He was horrified by the hospital food and I had to keep my strength up. Yes, that actually happened. TTLY I was getting a real taste for the gas and air having been stone cold sober for nine months, ooooh it was nice. And the higher I got the higher I bounced up and down on the ball, trying to remain in conversation with H and the midwife but everything’s starting to feel funny . . Hang on. HANG ON. They are looking at me with big grins. I no longer really know what they’re saying. Are they TEASING ME?! I’m in labour and they’re teasing me?! Yes, that actually happened. TTLY the pain was now pretty bad (it was bound to happen), Zee had gone back to back and an epidural was necessary. I was Not Going To Say No To That. The midwife promised just one more contraction and then the heavenly epidural . . . at which point a very apologetic-looking nurse stuck her head around the door and announced the anaesthetist was delayed by two hours . . . doom etc etc!

Anyway. To cut a very long night and morning short, finally a doctor arrived brandishing a pair of . . . no I can’t write it, I can’t say the F-word on here . . . and lo and behold there was our baby. I will honestly and genuinely say that giving birth was okay. Obviously it is a totally individual experience, no two births or babies are ever the same. But I kept thinking, even during the most painful times, that it was manageable, I could absolutely do it, and it was fine. And I don’t mean a woman’s version of IT’S FINE *grits teeth and means the opposite* – but actually fine.

DSCF6565Back to this weekend and my dose of the TTLY’s; it was such a life-changing experience that I guess you can’t help but relive all the memories. And on Sunday, Zee’s first ever birthday, I kept thinking how much easier this day was than TTLY. I veritably LEAPT out of bed upon hearing his early morning babbling, I was so excited to see my birthday boy. And we sung to him and had cards and presents and balloons, before preparing for his first ever birthday party and Naming Day for approximately 80 family and friends, in a big hall down the road. There was bunting and cake and flowers and prosecco, and speeches and chiddlers running around everywhere. And in amongst it all, a little boy beaming away and surrounded by everyone who loves him, with no idea what any of it was for. You my little man. It’s all for you.

So. One.

One year of interrupted sleep, days and days of not knowing what day it was. Endless tears, panic, is this right? Is he alright? Too hot? Too cold? What will I feed him, what will he wear? How will I know WHAT TO DO? You don’t. But it all works out anyway. Because when he smiles, or holds your finger, or gazes up at you with enormous wide eyes, or falls asleep in your arms or laughs or crawls for the first time, or says ‘Dada’ or ‘Mama’ (once!), or feeds himself or splashes you with bathwater or swims underwater or wipes away your tears; well. That’s what it’s all for, isn’t it?

Happy first birthday Zee. And here’s to many more.

Inside looking out

I like leaving the house unencumbered with the nappy bag.
I hate leaving him behind, crying and sobbing as he watches me go.
He can’t see that I’m crying too.

I like walking along Albert Embankment freely, listening to the radio, marvelling at the view.
I hate being without him at the same time.

I like seeing the kind, familiar faces at work; the books; the rows and rows of books; just being there feels like home.
I hate imagining what we would be doing right now, if we were at home.

I like dashing out for a coffee, going to lunch with my friends, without wondering if there will be room for the pushchair, will we be in anyone’s way?
I hate knowing he’s been bitten by another exuberant child, trying to get him out of their way.

I like thinking about words and wonderful stories, conjuring up ideas and bringing them to life.
I love the walk home; the views and at the end of my day, the best view of all.
Zee, waiting for me.
Crying again (though he’s been happy all day), reaching out with his chubby arms – remembering me now I’m back.
Nobody said this was going to be easy.
But striking a balance will make it less hard.

Bravery crumbles

I so didn’t want to be the mum that cried.
It wasn’t even his first day at nursery.
It was his first settling-in session.
For an hour.
For goodness’ sake.

It was the coat peg that tipped me over the edge.
The little coat peg and his name label.
Waiting for him in the small corridor that leads to The Babies Playroom.
And as I attempted to take off his coat and hang it on his little coat peg, the tears started streaming, followed by sobs, which I tried to control, but couldn’t.
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ I said to the deputy manager as we walked down the corridor.
‘Don’t worry sweetheart,’ she replied, so kindly.
Her kindness made me cry even more.
And when I handed him over, my baby, when I handed my baby over to another smiling and lovely lady, who reassured me he would be just fine, the tears kept on coming.
They brought me hot sweet tea.
A passing dad reassured me I would be okay.
Everyone was so kind.
Why am I such a cry baby?
Zee didn’t cry, not once. That is something to be truly grateful for.

Yesterday I was braver.
Until I went to watch him at play.
He was having his bottle, all I could see were his little feet.
I decided it was best to walk away, and leave him to play, safe in their care.

FreddieToday the tears came back.
But only at home, I don’t want to cry there again.
Not when I know he is in such safe hands.
But here in the warmth of our cosy home, where we spend hours playing and cuddling and laughing, the tears rolled freely.
Normal service is suspended this week.
We spend ages watching his learning songs on YouTube.
It’s an opportunity to maximise the cuddles, you see.
I watch his face as he beams and grins at The Solar System song, or the shapes dancing across the screen.
I smile too, until I remember; this is the week of lasts.
I hold him tighter.
I give myself a stern talking to.
Get a grip!
I pick up Freddie and the Fairy, his most favourite book, with its chewed corners and Scotch-taped spine.
He grins.
I get a grip.
I read.

‘Freddie stamped his foot and said,
“This carrot has no beak.”
“Forgive me,” said the fairy
And a tear rolled down her cheek.’

I lose my grip again.
I whisper to Zee that I’m keeping in character.
He beams.
More tears roll down my cheek.

If you can’t say something nice . . .

Tedious This picture, which I spotted on Twitter yesterday, has thrown me into something of a spin. I can’t decide if it’s just a simple mickey take or in fact just something downright mean. Am I having a sense of humour failure/being too over sensitive?

Probably, but these kinds of sweeping generalisations make you, as a parent *she says self-righteously*, feel self-conscious and start questioning your own behaviour in relation to your baby, family and friends.

No one wants to be a bore and I have certainly been very conscious, since Zee’s birth, to try and not be a baby bore. Like worrying about not being a bridezilla, it’s a few people in a very big group, whether overbearing brides-to-be or OTT besotted mums and dads, who give us all a bad name.

So, breaking down these charming headlines. I’m sorry, but the last time I checked, it’s not only loving parents who post Facebook tales, which they hope will amuse or entertain a few of their nearest and dearest. What’s the difference between that and all those posts about champagne cocktails at sunset, wild nights on the town, hangovers from hell and jetting off somewhere exotic? It’s a SITE BASED ON SHARING – sharing excerpts and anecdotes from our lives; our life choices and funnily enough, now I am a parent, quite a lot of my daily life is taken up with my baby. Of course, some people can go completely the wrong way and make their Facebook page a shrine to their darling kids, but if you don’t like it, hide them.

As for smiling wistfully like some sort of martyr, no, I think you’ll find that when we hear stories of long lie-ins, weekends away, partying till 3am and only having to get up to make breakfast before going back to bed, we are smiling at fond memories of when this was us. That’s all. There’s nothing martyr-like about it; it is our choice to have a baby, if someone feels superior and like they’ve done anyone but themselves a favour by having a baby (surrogates aside), then they have a problem.

Other people’s babies – hang on, what’s the issue here? Do they mean the babies of your family and friends? Whom presumably, you actually do give a shit about because you care about your family and friends and take an interest in their lives and their choices, because you are a decent human being? Or the babies of acquaintances, whom you may occasionally hear about, in which case what’s the issue with smiling politely before the conversation moves on?

I think I’ve made my point, as whoever edited this picture has made theirs. Who knows, maybe they are a parent themselves, trying to prove they’re not going to fall into the baby bore trap. But I doubt it. Anyway, enough of all that. I have to go and play Zee this fantastic ‘Spelling Mistakes song’; never mind my toddler being wittier than Oscar Wilde, my baby already is *throws head back and laughs smugly, whilst googling RightMove and contemplating Hortensia and Basil as names for future babies*.

I get so emotional, baby – Part II

The last time I blogged using these Whitney lyrics as a title, I barely knew what day of the week it was; I’d come through the baby blues and was just about starting to adjust to life with a newborn baby, in a town I wasn’t used to with bags under my eyes big enough to do a weekly shop in.

Fast forward ten months and the bags are the same but the town, the baby and I are very different. The joy of being back in London doesn’t (and never will) wear off, but poor Zee is confronted with his mother once again crying on a daily basis; not because I am trying to adjust to him being here, but because I am very much struggling with how I will adjust when he isn’t. In fact, when we both isn’t. Aren’t.

In three weeks I go back to work and Zee starts nursery. After almost a whole year with him, it is difficult to accept that soon I won’t be with him all day, every day. Thousands of women must face this scenario week in, week out, but obviously I never understood before how heart wrenching it is; the idea of not seeing your baby every day for an extended period of time. Some evenings, okay most evenings when Zee is in bed, I scroll through photos of our day. Sometimes I whisper to H ‘Do you think Zee would really mind if I just went and gave him a cuddle . . .’ Of course, I never would, but . . . I miss him when he’s asleep. How is it going to feel really having to be away from him?

The problem isn’t work; I like my job, I have great friends there, it’s an amazing location and we spend our days surrounded by and thinking, talking, brainstorming and enthusing about books. The problem is that when my baby cries, or holds his arms up for a hug, or needs a bottle or his nappy changed, or beams his enormous mischievous grin, or crawls or *oh god* starts walking and talking, I Will Not Be There. Somebody else, a stranger to me and to Zee, will be there for him when these things happen. That is the problem. Zee is going to a good nursery; we are 100% happy with it, the staff, the other children, the place. He will have a whale of a time once he gets used to it. But I cannot be the one to drop him off there on his first morning; I cannot arrive at my first day at work since I left there in floods of tears in November 2012, still in floods of tears, they might ask me to turn around and go away again.

Hands.jpgToday at the swings I taught Zee to hold on tight. In three weeks, from 8am – 5.45pm, we have to learn to let go.

In the meantime, I am enjoying every single last precious moment we spend together before it all changes. Whilst secretly wondering if I can get away with sitting him in my desk drawer and occasionally asking him to help me write blurbs and decide on the word of the day.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Baby’s First Christmas . . .

IMG_5794Had a SATC moment yesterday, but in reverse. The episode where Carrie is lonely and wandering the streets of Paris, and glimpses into a restaurant and sees a group of girlfriends and misses hers. Yesterday I couldn’t help but beam as Zee and I arrived in the pouring rain at the Riverfront bar on the Southbank. Through the glass, I glimpsed my oldest friend from infant school and my oldest friend from school, and meeting them here in London, away from where we grew up, always feels a bit like coming home. They admired Zee’s reindeer outfit (he’s practically lived in it since 1st December) whilst I ordered the wine, and over drinks we made festive plans before it was time to take Zee home through the Christmas market in the rain, under the blue and silver twinkling lights draped through the trees below the London Eye and overlooking Big Ben.

This month is zooming by and Christmas this year has an extra special feel to it. Somehow the Oxford Street lights and Covent Garden tree and baubles feel bigger and brighter, hanging decorations and and writing cards, wrapping presents and sipping mulled wine; it all feels more special because Zee is here. Of course, he has absolutely no idea what’s going on but likes eating envelopes and shiny paper; the cliché is true – cardboard and bits of string over toys and plastic every single time.

I forgot what a busy time of year this always is. In the last few weeks we have been in West Sussex (thrice), the Midlands (twice), we are off to Wales at the weekend, Cambridge and Southwold next week, it’s a blur of family and friends and organising baby logistics at every turn, but worth every packed then repacked bag, every motorway station stop, every unfolded then refolded travel cot.

Today we had our NCT babies Christmas party; four Miss Christmas’s, two elves, one Santa, one reindeer and one snowman, the full festive ensemble and by jingle bells they looked CUTE! We briefed them on what a very busy week they have in store and they dribbled and gurgled inattentively, as ten-month-old babies are wont to do. As they sat in a circle opening their Secret Santa gifts (with a little help), I had a little moment. I felt really lucky. I don’t ever, and will never, take for granted how lucky we are to have a gorgeous, funny, sweet, healthy baby boy to love. Tomorrow is my departmental and company Christmas party and my kind parents are coming to take charge of Zee for the day. It will be so much fun to go out and party like the old days, but I must keep in check that after a few wines, I don’t start brandishing pics of my baby reindeer at anyone who’ll look.

Oh who am I trying to kid? I will, proudly, and they’ll just have to humour me – it is Christmas and the season of goodwill to all men and proud (and probably tipsy) new mums, after all . . .