Sunday, 24 August 2014

7 Unexpected Side Effects of Motherhood

Obviously motherhood has changed me. For one thing, I'm a lot poorer and I have a lot more loose skin than before, but it has also brought with it some surprise changes that I wasn't entirely prepared for.

Let me take you on  little journey through my bizarre new personality quirks...

7. I cry a lot

Ok, maybe this is a bit of an obvious one, but motherhood has thus far turned me into an emotional wreck. I cry all the time. Occasionally I cry just because I love my baby boy so darn much, but more often than not it's triggered by some god awful story in the news that involves children. Anything to do with babies or little people being hurt or, gulp, dying and I'm inconsolable. Sometimes, though, it can be triggered by someone making it through the first round of auditions on Britain's Got Talent.

6. I have Asbestos Hands

All mums do. It's only now that I've discovered why this phenomenon occurs: it's all to do with sterilising. Because who has time to allow those things to cool down? I truly believe that, rather than asbestos hands, mums just have no functioning nerve endings in their fingertips; they've all been burnt out by nuclear bottle teats.

5. I burst into song

I've never really been one for singing in public, largely because my voice is more night-terror than nightingale. However, I will now suddenly launch into a few verses of Five Little Speckled Frogs without warning. Or, more often, I will begin wailing the theme tune from Mr Tumble, which is constantly playing on loop in my noggin. I don't care where I am, or who might be listening, if I get the urge to sing to the (poor) baby, I'm acting on it.

4. I can't drink

I had a glass and a half of wine on Friday night and, I shit you not, I woke up on Saturday morning with a raging hangover. The full works - headaches, nausea, excessive yawning to the extent that you think the top of your head might slide off, everything. This is not a one off. On the (very few) occasions that I have made it out on the lash these days, I always make it to just the other side of tipsy before having to switch to soft drinks. I think its part guilt, part intolerance, but actually it's no bad thing. As a rather emotional drunk - and an impossibly emotional mother - it does mean that I can wake up with some semblance of dignity the next morning.

3. I have a superiority complex

I once watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which new parent, Lily and Marshall, tell their friends that they could no longer counsel them about any problem that wasn't an 'eight or higher'. At the time I had no idea what that really meant, but now I get it. When I hear people complaining about trivial things, I always end up internally shouting, "For goodness sake, I have to keep a small human alive!". I know that, rationally, this reaction is unfair - other people's issues are every bit as relevant as mine - yet I can't help feeling that I've somehow become some sort of superwoman as a direct result of becoming a parent.

2. I'm weird about dairy

Not weird enough to stop consuming it - I love my tea too much to change it - but I have suddenly become very aware of the fact that we're using a food product that is not even vaguely designed for us. This is obviously a side effect of breastfeeding; it has clearly made me very aware that a mother's milk is designed specifically for her baby. Well, the same goes for cows. Cow's milk is designed for cows. Baby cows. Yet we're guzzling it like it's an essential part of our diet. Does that not seem strange to anyone else?

1. I can do a fairly solid Scottish accent

For the first time in my life, I can do accents. Ok, I can do an accent. I can do some Scottish. A pretty large portion of the shows on CBeebies are apparently filmed in Scotland, which means that Blake and I spend a lot of our day surrounded by soft, Highland tones. It was only a matter of time before it started rubbing off, I suppose. If Blake's first proper word turns out to be 'och', we'll know it's reached full saturation.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Great Milestone Race

Being a mum is a competitive business. With the first child at the very least. It's not an intentional phenomenon, we just can't help but want our child to be just that little bit further ahead in terms of development than their gummy little friends. Often, it's not even a conscious thing: I remember being so keen to tell my mummy friends when I first spied a little tooth under the surface of Blake's gum. I put it down to excitement, but the truth is that I was thrilled that he was teething before any of the others. Similarly, I had barely had time to wipe the sleep from my eyes on the morning of Blake's first uninterrupted night's sleep before I had announced it on social media. I was proud of him sure, but also I think that part of me just wanted to claim that little triumph before anyone else had a chance to. 

You see, I can be retrospective about this 'oneupmumship' now, because I've dropped out of the race. Sleeping through has thus far been the only thing that Blake has done before his gorgeous little counterparts. Remember that super keen tooth? Yep, that has only just broken through the gums, months after I spotted it and bragged, for want of a better word, to my friends; she's a weird one that karma. So now I'm on the outside looking in, and watching my friends compete with each other without even realising what they're doing. I mean, it's not cut throat or anything; there's no bitterness, resentment or, like I've said before, any actual intention behind any of this. Us mothers just seem to be hardwired to want to prove to the world what we already know: that our child is the best bloody child to ever grace the face of this planet. 

I don't think of it in terms of Blake 'catching up'. See, I've cottoned onto an advantage that my boy's reluctance to move gives me: I can put him down in the lounge and go and make a cup of tea, and when I walk back into the room he is exactly where I left him. While I'm all for him learning to get around, why would I be pushing for him to be climbing the DVD rack before he's ready? And that's the thing: I'm a really big believer in allowing children to do things when they're ready. It's why I eschewed the consistently preferred baby led weaning in favour of the purees to lumps route; Blake struggled with finger foods, he wasn't ready. We're now slowly moving onto him feeding himself and it's going beautifully, far from the disaster I was led to believe it would be.

Against every instinct in my body, I have been going to baby and toddler groups recently. It's nothing personal to anyone that loves them, they're just really not my thing. However, I think it's important for the boy to see other babies clambering about and, if nothing else, it's a good excuse for us mums to complain lovingly about our other halves a little. So I've been going. To be fair, the mums that I know at these groups know not to question me about whether or not Blake is crawling yet or whether he has managed to memorise the periodic table and complete works of Shakespeare. They know that I will laugh about the fact that he knows he can sit in the middle of the floor and complain until I eventually bring him whatever he wants. There is the odd mum that will insist on quizzing me about his development, but I honestly believe that's their own competitive edge; they're not really interested in whether my son has done something, they just want to be able to tell me that theirs has. 

What I do object to is the insinuation by the people that run these groups that I'm somehow not trying hard enough to force Blake to do the things that an advanced few others might be at his age. I'm sorry, but not crawling at seven months is not exactly unusual. According to my mum, I was ten months before I began to crawl and sixteen before I walked, and Blake is a lot like me as a baby (lazy - he's lazy). At one of the groups I was in last week, the lady running it told me that I needed to push Tummy Time. I explained that my baby hates Tummy Time and will tolerate it for short bursts before collapsing into a sobbing, angry heap. As such, he prefers to sit (which he does very well), and for that reason I suspect that we may actually end up with a bum shuffler on our hands. She frowned and said that I should put him on his tummy anyway, even if it makes him unhappy.

Sorry?!

Why on Earth would I force my child to do something that he quite clearly detests and that ends with him visibly distressed? Blake will crawl, bum shuffle, dance the Charleston, whatever, when he is ready and not a second before. Sure, if he gets to a year old and has shown absolutely no ability to get from point A to point B somehow, then maybe then I will begin to worry that something might be amiss. But right now, we're talking about one baby being a matter of weeks behind another. By time they all go to school, they will more or less all be caught up; I don't expect a single one of them to bum shuffle through the gates on their first day. 

We need to relax and enjoy our babies for what they are, not where they are in comparison to each other. We need to stop listening to the 'experts', or reading milestone predictions online (they should be waving good bye by eight months, apparently, and not a day later), and just let them work their way through these challenges at their own pace. They're their own little people, with varying levels of energy, ability and intention and it's time we started treating them as such, rather than a statistic on some bullshit chart that means exactly zilch in the grand scheme of things.

Babies of the World: don't worry, you're all doing just fine.