You know you’re watching too much pre-school TV when…

  • You’re humming the theme to the Furchester Hotel in the shower
  • A creaking in the supermarket reminds you of the sound the Pontipines’ window makes when it opens
  • You recognise Daddy Pig’s voice in an insurance ad. Oh dear.

“Peppa Pig taught my little girl the F-word scandal” here!

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Post-partum joint pain is gone

You know when you’ve had pain or discomfort for a long time and you suddenly realise it’s not there any more? A bit like constant noise in the background that disappears without you noticing. That’s what has happened in the last few weeks. My fingers are often a bit sore after I wake up and my feet a bit creaky but, by and large, it’s slowly dawned that my body feels more or less back to normal.

I mentioned the last time that post-partum arthralgia might be caused by the hormone relaxin. It occurred to me recently that my sister had symphysis pubis dysfunction, also caused by relaxin, with her first pregnancy and ended up in terrible pain and on crutches as a result. I wonder if there’s a connection.

Whatever the cause, thank the universe it’s almost gone. My boy is 10.5 months old, so it’s taken bleedin’ long enough. How lucky we are not to live with pain, most of us.

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Happy 2017

Seems a long time ago now but Christmas was a special one for me this year. My boy was oblivious despite the Christmas jumpers he was forced to wear (the only present he got from me) but I loved it. Last year, I couldn’t have imagined how much this boy’s personality would already be intact at this stage and what good company he is. Despite not knowing anything unusual was going on, apart from the excitement of having a tree in the sitting room (with lights!), he enjoyed having family staying and didn’t find it odd or disturbing to have random people at the breakfast table or taking him out for walks.

It’s fascinating watching him develop. He spontaneously waved goodbye to his grandparents for the first time this weekend, which was very cute. He’s making great sounds, including a hilarious “Ra-RA-ra-RA!” when he’s angry. He has a powerful set of lungs and better voice projection than me, is a great mimic and loves to sing. He sang along today to the “la la la” bit of the Furchester Hotel theme tune and enjoys the singing bits best. I had been wondering what he takes in at all when watching TV. A few weeks ago, Peppa and her friend Suzy Sheep (I know….) blew raspberries at each other, and he took the bottle out of his mouth and did the same. So, it seems he comprehends some of what he sees on the box. He definitely also understands some words, such as curtain, bath, window, birdies, Granny and Grandad.

His bottom two teeth were looking pretty lonesome for a few months but the top two are nearly down and have a large Brigitte Bardotesque gap between them. I don’t think this is from my side, as none of us have gaps, so am guessing it’s from the donor, as with his height and blonde hair and his pointy chin. He’s gone from looking like baby photos of the donor to becoming very like me as a baby. My mother finds the similarity very striking and even I can see the strong resemblance from my early photos.

He crawls around very quickly and pulls himself easily in and out of standing position, which is perfect for opening kitchen cupboards and swinging off their handles. For a while, he wasn’t interested in what was inside them but this has changed in the last week, and he’s starting to poke around at the enticing cleaning agents, food processor parts and bags of flour within. He can sidle along a sofa using his hands, which gives him a lot more freedom. He’s been a very sturdy boy since day one, despite having that heart condition from birth, and I won’t be surprised if he starts walking quite early. I feel so grateful that they were able to fix his little heart. He may need the valve replaced some day but for now he’s a healthy and happy little boy and I thank the universe for our good luck.

At his seven-month checkup, he wasn’t great at doing a pincer movement between finger and thumb and he’s not much better at this now, still tending to pick up food and smash it into his mouth or bury it in his hand and forget about it. This is because I spoon-feed him most of the time and I’ve been trying to give him more little bits to feed himself with, but I find it super-stressful when he jams too much in and starts to choke. He is brilliant though at eating every single thing I give him, regardless of texture, colour and taste, and long may this last. I really want to have a baby who eats pretty much what I’m having to the extent this is possible and, so far, it’s looking good, though I know things change as they get older.

Branching out
I think I’ve mentioned before that my donor described his elder son as being very sociable and interested in people and so is my boy, in spades. As a result, I had a major Guilty Mammy moment last week at his nine-month developmental check. We were waiting for our turn with two other babies and their parents and my boy made a beeline straight for the other crawler, started singing and touching his face and basically making friends. He was delighted with the company and basking in the attention of all the adults, who commented on how friendly he was. The penny dropped loud and clear that it was time to start taking him to some baby groups, which I haven’t been doing at all.

I have various reasons for this. First, I have a lot of family and friends around and he (as a small baby) got plenty of interaction from them, plus they kept me sane enough not to need the company of other mothers. I think a lot of baby groups in the early days are to get the mother out of the house and surround her with adult company and people going through the same traumas things and I just didn’t feel the need.

Second, I’ve been working, at a lot less than full steam but enough to make juggling all the parts of the day a little stressful. I’m working a lot at night, which is the only chance I get to enjoy a stretch of quality time, but also trying to squeeze the odd job in during the day. I have frequent moments of stress where I realise I’m being the opposite of mindful and not devoting my time and complete head space to my boy but you do what you have to do and I don’t feel guilty for earning a little money. I’d love to be on year-long maternity leave like most of my friends but being self-employed has had many other benefits, including giving me a much easier ride when going through fertility treatment. And the plan is that it will give me the flexibility to not have to spend half of what I earn on childcare.

Third, I live in a relatively middle-class area and (unfairly) had a picture in my mind of Ugg boot-wearing, fake-tanned, privileged mothers complaining about rich husbands not doing their fair share (I’m exaggerating but you know where I’m coming from). I find it hard enough to keep up with my genuine friends without adding Yummy Mummies to the mix.

We don’t have the Single Mothers by Choice organisation here but there is a Facebook-led group of solo mothers who meet up once a month. I’m not on Facebook and so not a part of it but hear about it from one of the two solo mamas I’ve met up with through the SMC page of a parenting website. Their numbers are small enough and the children of such varying ages that the benefit for my boy at this stage would be limited, though I do plan to meet with them when he is older so he can see more families like ours.

Anyway, seeing him at the nine-month check spurred me into action, so this week we went to a parent (= solely mothers, poor men) and toddler group in the local library on Monday and to a nursery rhymes singalong at the local Methodist Church hall on Tuesday. We had today off but will probably be back with the Methodists tomorrow (tea and biccies for the mothers, win win) and then see what Friday has to offer.

He LOVED the toddler group. We were late, as his nap is at the same time, but the awed look on his face when we launched ourselves into the melee was priceless. I steered him towards two boys of around the same age and one of them sweetly handed him a little book. I’m surprised at the interaction of kids of that age and it was lovely to see. I explained to some of the mothers what had brought me there and they were very friendly. Most of them were from other countries, I noticed, I’m guessing because they don’t have as much family here as those who were born in the country. And not an Ugg boot in sight.

The nursery rhymes were more for kids of toddler age, who are able to actually sing and do the actions, but he enjoyed this too, particularly the end, when he was able to crawl around the big space with the few kids who were left.

So, this is how many of my mornings will look for the next while. I have to get childcare sorted but am procrastinating and procrastinating. In an ideal world, I would do things with him in the mornings and have him cared for in the afternoons while I work. We’ll see if I can swing that one. For now, I will try to be mindful during the day and just enjoy spending time with my little man.


That grater looks like fun

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Me, myselfie and I

I don’t know about you other solo mamas but I’ve found that one of the unexpected annoying, if completely trivial, things about having a child alone is photos. I know we live in the age of the selfie, and they are very handy for lone parents, but I sometimes wish someone would take a proper photo of me and my baby that doesn’t involve me holding a camera high above our heads and getting just half my body in shot. A candid, none-posed photo would be a miracle too.

In the early days, when family gathered round to view the new arrival, it was remarkable how they all took photos of themselves with the baby but no one thought to take one of me with him. I tried to put it out there but it sounded really whingy to bring it up and I didn’t make a big thing of it. Now, the novelty has sort of worn off for people but when the phones do get whipped out the odd time it’s still almost always for other people and the baby. Maybe I should just ask them directly more often but it feels awkward, plus you can’t get less natural than a photo that’s been requested.

Speaking of the baby being a novelty, my boy has learned his first harsh life lesson. As I’ve said before, he’s very friendly and engaging with people. In the early days, he enjoyed the (sometimes slightly intense and needy) attention very small babies get from complete strangers when out and about, always smiling back and charming people. Then, like an aging starlet, he became a bit perplexed to find that strangers were not as interested in him as before. I noticed this on a tram a couple of months ago, when he was expectantly looking at people and getting nothing back. (It’s actually a bit depressing how people just tap away on their phones now on public transport without looking at each other.) He was very excited one day when a man across the tram aisle started coughing, which my boy still does for attention, but his hopes were sadly dashed when he realised the coughs weren’t for him. Now, he doesn’t really bother seeking people out at all. The first of many knockbacks in life.

In happier news, he finally worked out how to crawl forwards shortly before turning eight months a week ago and this has been a big breakthrough. Crawlers are remarkably fast! I go into the kitchen to make bottles, turn around and meet him casually hanging in the hall. He is loving this new freedom, even if my heart is in my mouth a lot of the time. I see danger everywhere – patio doors, sharp-edged fireplaces, glass cabinets hiding intriguing cables, lamps waiting to be smashed down. It is lovely, though, watching him explore and find interest in ordinary things. He adores tearing (and eating) paper and goes absolutely berserk with a newspaper.

It will be a fab Christmas with him this year and the bonus is that I don’t even have to worry about getting him presents. Maybe a broadsheet paper if he’s really good.


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Life in the old womb yet

My period arrived this week, 12 weeks after I stopped expressing and 16 months after my last one started. I’ve used tampons since I was a teenager but for some reason I couldn’t bear the thought of inserting one this time.  I didn’t have a vaginal birth, so it was nothing to do with that. Maybe it was about all the poking and prodding I underwent in the four years of trying to get pregnant.

I had a handful of Always towels left over, I think from the start of my pregnancy when I was bleeding a little. Towels have come on since I was a lass but I still didn’t love having a bloody rag between my legs. I bit the bullet (ha) later in the week and bought a pack of tampons as I was passing through Lidl. I can’t say if it was the new type of tampon but it was not the most comfortable experience, a bit chafey to say the least. Whether it’s me or the Lidl tampons (I generally use Lil-Lets and these new ones were a mere 99 cents) I do not know. I’ll reserve judgement until the next time. Perhaps my body has changed.

A quick non-fertility-related word on Lidl and Aldi. Readers in the US mightn’t know how these two German discounters have come to dominate the grocery market here in the last 15 years. I would never have seen this coming, having shopped at these supermarkets as an exchange student in Germany back in 1992-93. Most students frequented Lidl and Aldi in those days, as they were super-cheap and for good reason: they were horrible, fluorescent-lit, Communist-style places with no fridges as I recall (nasty UHT milk, bleurgh) and goods stacked high in drab boxes. They’ve changed a lot since then and now even carry fancy deluxe ranges while still giving the established supermarkets a run for their money with amazing prices, which I think they achieve with scale and also fierce negotiation with suppliers.

Anyway, I imagine I am alone in this, but I often wander around these two shops with a smile on my face because of their own-brand packaging and names. As the Daily Mail outlines here, the packaging often looks very, very similar to that of equivalent big-name brands, so there is clearly some psychological trickery at play. And the product names are excellent and often reminiscent of big brands too.

The other funny thing about Lidl and Aldi (I don’t get out much) is their range of weekly offers. These are launched on a particular day each week and have different themes eg gardening, cycling, music, DIY. It’s not unknown for people to drop into Lidl or Aldi for minced lamb and come out with a set of drums or an electric steamer because they just couldn’t pass up an amazing bargain. When I was pregnant last year, I popped into Lidl for some batteries and left with a Swiss ball for my labour and a manual breast pump. And no batteries.

Anyway, I smirked a bit this week when I noticed the Lidl tampons and sanitary towels are called Siempre, which as you know is the Spanish for Always. (While, confusingly, their own-brand range of nappies, which I am road-testing because my boy is waking up wet at night, is called Toujours, the French for – Always.)

Just found this – very catchy:

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The breasts that keep on giving

I had a mammogram today (all fine), as a follow-up to my mastitis bouts earlier in the year. The technician warned me that I might leak some milk, even though I finished expressing on 1 August, and so I did, from both breasts. I was a tiny bit melancholy, as I never expected to see that again. The technician told me it happens to some women years and years after they’ve last nursed, which must be extremely weird. Breasts are mysterious things.

On other medical news, I still haven’t done anything about my blood pressure. I want to have another 24-hour test done but haven’t organised myself enough yet and haven’t gotten my bloods done either. All on the list, along with getting a bit more exercise. I’m back spinning, though. As my local gym changed the timetable, my friend and I accidentally ended up one evening in a HIIT class, doing weights, which I’ve never done before. The old elbows were in bits the next day. I still have the post-pregnancy joint pain, especially in my wrists and elbows, so I suspect there are still a lot of pregnancy hormones floating around my little body.

And I haven’t had a period yet, not sure if this is normal or not 10 weeks after stopping expressing. I’m sad I won’t have another baby, for both my son and me, but I know I’m very lucky with what I have. So, part of me wouldn’t care if my AWOL period means I’m going into menopause, as this old womb has done its job.

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Six months tomorrow

My boy is six months tomorrow. And I still don’t believe I’m a mother a lot of the time. Is this normal for women who have struggled to get pregnant? Part of it is also because I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been I think, especially considering his little heart problem. On which note, we had a second check-up in the children’s hospital this month and, once again, the consultant was astounded at how well the procedure in April had gone. There’s hardly any narrowing of the valve now and we’re not back until March. I can’t imagine what my boy will be like then at nearly a year old. We’ve been so lucky.

It’s been amazing watching how babies develop over these months. How many connections must be fizzing around in their brains for them to realise, without the benefit of a mirror, that the tongue sticking out of their mother’s mouth is the same as the unseen thing they are waggling in response. And the hands! My boy’s move from grasping things clumsily with his fingers to discovering the brilliance of opposable thumbs has definitely improved his quality of life. Newspapers can be ripped! Glasses swiped! Rattles placed delicately in his mouth rather than simply hurled at his face!

Gone his is “Aye!” shout. He now often coughs for people’s attention, including to wake me in the morning, which is very sweet. He is super-aware and can spend long bouts just staring out of the window, watching the birds or the wind rustling in the trees. We watch Teletubbies, In The freaky Night Garden and a little bit of Peppa Pig here and there and he loves them, except for the boring bit in Teletubbies when they show the film of the children (twice – so much repetition in that show).

He’s making some great sounds and seems to surprise himself sometimes with the noises he produces. He’s not a great crier. Since his rare bouts of colic finished, any tears are mainly of frustration, for example when he’s put down for a nap or back in his carrycot where he can’t see what’s going on. We’ve had several shopping trips when I end up letting him sit on the handlebar of his pram, where he rides like a lord through the shop, surveying his people, while I steer with his legs (don’t call Social Services). A future bobsleigh champ, if we had any snow sports here (or snow). I took the forward-facing part of the pram out of the garage tonight and plan to try it out tomorrow, as he’s way too hemmed in in the carrycot these days and getting too big for it anyway. At our last public health nurse visit in July, he was apparently in the 95th percentile for height (and the 50th for weight, so that’s all back on track after a rocky start). He doesn’t get the loftiness from me but the donor is moderately tall, at 5’10”.

Some of the tears have also been caused by teething. I noticed a little white nub on his lower right jaw at around 3.5 months and two teeth came up fully this month, the bottom pair. They are sharp! No more allowing him to stuff my fingers in his mouth – the boy knows how to chomp.

Overall, my baby is thankfully still very chilled, with a great sense of humour. He laughs his head off at his granny and thinks his grandad is hilarious too. I looked up the donor’s profile again and his older boy sounds exactly like mine: charming and wanting to engage with people and leaving lots of smiles behind. Four and five months seems to be a great age, when they are more aware and so pleased to see you and just smile and smile and smile. Remind me of this when he is a sullen teenager who doesn’t want to walk on the same side of the street as me.

Apart from teeth, there’s been a lot of change in the last month, including loads of rolling over. You put him under the baby gym these days and, when you come back, he’s waggling his limbs in front of the sofa like a stranded turtle. Babies must have incredibly strong cores, certainly stronger than those of their mangled, c-sectioned mothers.

I also made a move to solids at 23 weeks, which has gone fine so far. We started with baby rice (horrible, disgusting wallpaper paste) and he immediately grabbed the spoon and knew exactly what was going on. I had worried slightly about how you know when to start on solids but he had begun to show a lot of interest in other people’s food and was wolfing down his bottles, pretty textbook and hard to miss.

To date, we’ve branched out to pureed cauliflower, broccoli, peas and sweet potato. I’ve avoided giving him any fruit so far to get him accustomed to more savoury tastes first but wonder will this backfire, as his mind will surely be blown by his first taste of sweet stuff. Why on earth would you go back to cauliflower after tasting stewed apple, I wonder?

The most important change has been sleep-training and this has improved everyone’s quality of life no end. We had zero routine and he had stopped sleeping much during the day, just a couple of 40-minute naps, if at all, turning him into an antichrist and making it very hard to get anything done. I was feeding him on demand with no schedule whatsoever, including a couple of bottles at night, and not getting more than a couple of hours’ sleep at a time. My friend had lent me one of the Baby Whisperer books, which I hadn’t had the energy or time to read, but I decided to give her approach a go.

I started at the five-month mark and was definitely delivering hate rays to her (Whisperer, not my friend) for a couple of days, as it was very hard, but it worked and we have a routine now, even if I don’t follow her advice completely. We’re more or less in four-hour cycles from 7am, with naps at 9ish, 1ish and 5ish. I will admit to helping him go asleep at his daytime naps (by rocking him in the pram for five or 10 minutes), which is a big no-no (acting as a sleep aid), but napping at all, and at regular times, is a huge improvement on no naps at all. Previously, you could spend an hour singing to him/taking him for a walk/rocking him, and he might sleep for 20 minutes, which was so frustrating for both parties, not to mention very time-consuming.

This may seem totally obvious to those of you with babies who napped properly and fed at regular intervals but it makes such a difference knowing what to expect and when you’ll have time for yourself during the day.

Most importantly, he miraculously falls asleep on his own at night now, which was amazing when it clicked with him a couple of days into the training. He goes down at 7.30pm-ish, with a ‘dream feed’ while he’s asleep at 11pm (I find that part really strange but if it helps him to stay asleep longer I’m up for it). We’ve had some glorious nights where he’s slept through until 7am, though there have been others when, for whatever reason, he’s awake at 5.30am (though who can complain when you’re woken by a polite and cute “Cough-cough”?). It’s all so much better than before.

And we’ve been using the co-sleeper, at long last, so the €220 I forked out on that is not lost after all. He seems to like sleeping on his side facing the wall of it, which means he has his back to me, which just looks hilariously adult. (Though no one told me that active five-month-old babies tend to hurl themselves around and out of their co-sleepers and sleep half-in and half-out of them, or scrunched up in the corner, or on their tummies at a right angle across them, and occasionally (I’ve no idea how many right angles this took) surprise you by ending up parallel to you on your own bed.)

And yes, our photos were sent back by the Passport Office, so we now have a passport with a horrible but regulation-fulfilling pic. We’re good to travel at least.

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