Thursday, 30 November 2006

Full-throated ease

Oh lord: inexplicable screaming for the last half an hour - the kind where the baby consists only of a gaping red maw issuing uninhibited yells with the dial set at 11. We've just eaten - in the bath, which worked well - and been winded, and put on dry clothes, so what can it be? Adoring Grandma has gone home and Daddy is back at work, so is it that poor old Mum is already deemed insufficiently entertaining? The sound of unfettered screams is amazingly distressing, and I've already (bad mother) resorted to shouting - "What the hell is wrong, and WHERE'S MY OTHER BLOODY SHOE?" Oh *god*.

And then, as always, it's all over. Turns out darling creature was hungry again although we only ate - oh well, I suppose by now it is actually an hour ago. I've been footling around on eBay, wondering what the heck size I am now. In charity shops - where I buy most of my clothes - I can hold something up and tell if it's my size, and I'm not that fussy about a perfect fit, but buying online is trickier. I'm back to wearing the larger of my pre-pregnancy clothes, but I've also got these BREASTS, and where that leaves me on the size 10 to 12 to 14 thing I don't really know. I've always tended to buy things I like if they fit approximately anyway, and ignore the size labels. Other women seem to be terribly specific about it.

Time to start my retrospective, if I'm ever to catch up with myself. Or something - watch out for temporal paradoxes...

FOUR WEEKS AGO TODAY
We'd had a scan at 20 weeks that showed a low-lying placenta (mine), and another at 32 weeks ditto, so they'd told us to come back at 36 weeks. Everyone had trouble seeing much, as the - foetus? baby? - had its head stuffed right down into my pelvis and wasn't budging for anyone. This time (Thursday 2 November) the radiographer said she could see the child's hair waving in the amniotic fluid - which A and I found a little freaky - but she still couldn't really see much around the cervix: she thought there was about 3cm clear. This was an improvement on the previous scan, when the placenta had been 'abutting' the cervix, but wasn't enough to let us off a possible Caesarean or at best a hospital birth. The more we'd found out about even our very nice local maternity unit, the more we'd thought home sounded a really good idea. Hospitals are, after all, for sick people. Anyway, after the scan we waited to see the consultant. And waited. And waited. A deeply patronising nurse eventually ushered us into a tiny cell and took my blood pressure. Then she asked for a urine sample, at which point I said I'd wee on a stick if it would get us to the consultant, but did she realise we hadn't actually come for a check-up? We'd come to see the consultant... We waited some more. I propped the door open, in case they forgot we were there and all went home.

The consultant when she came was, inevitably, harassed, apologetic, friendly and extremely competent. The verdict was still that a home birth might mean dying in a pool of a blood and was therefore not to be recommended. But why not come in again on Tuesday and see Mr L, who was very senior? I didn't see how even a very senior radiographer would be able to see through a baby's head if nobody else could, but hey ho. We wended our weary way homeward, pausing only to eat in a pub, bid and win a baby sling on eBay (hurrah for other people's WiFi), and take in our first NHS ante-natal class. We'd already done the NCT course, but were hoping to meet a few more people nearer our area and not quite so precisely the same social demographic at this one. The first class covered what to pack in your hospital bag, which was a useful reminder that we hadn't done this yet. Or written our birth plan. Bother. Didn't seem much point when we didn't know the location for the birth or the exit point for the infant.

We spent the weekend, daringly (I was 37 weeks pregnant by now) in Leeds, where the revamped Grand Theatre was opening with a new production of Peter Grimes. A is a Britten nut and I once played Second Tart, so we were keen to try it. Unfortunately, it was one of those productions where someone is keen to Make Their Mark rather than let the music speak for itself. Enjoyed the gratuitous nudity though - you don't often get to see Peter's bum. Sadly, though, this Peter wasn't the usual rangy type with wayward hair (and fairly pert buttocks, one generally assumes), but a fairly portly tenor who didn't look his best in the bright yellow oilskin dungarees supplied. Oh well: a joke's a joke (and fun is fun).

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

If tickets cost a pound apiece...

Our first breastfeed on a bus today. All the jiggling around was quite useful, as the child does tend to latch on with verve, suck with great enthusiasm for five minutes, and then drop contentedly off to sleep - which isn't quite the point. Minor disturbance - gambolling toddlers, text messages sent behind its head, Beethoven symphonies, water scooped around in the bath - helps to keep its attention focused on the matter in hand.

I've almost perfected the art of the discreet feed, as well. Not so much from any desire not to offend (if you know me, you'll know that this would be uncharacteristic) as from the wish not to give any perves out there an unwarranted thrill. Which is assuming a lot from one little flash of nipple, I suppose. The only problem is that I've got so many layers of clothes on in this weather, and every cunningly designed nursing garment has a different system, so - especially if I'm wearing two at once, say - there's a lot of tugging and swearing to get inside, made all the more stressful if the spookily patient baby has finally decided it really is HUNGRY.

Caught up this morning with several back issues (if one can use an offline term) of the Money-Saving Expert emails. Good stuff. Red-hot tip this month is that Computer Shopper magazine has a cover CD or DVD with a free copy of Quark XPress 5 on it - this is for PC not Mac, but still well worth having. I didn't even know that there was a PC version, but then my job (building large dull websites for large dull companies) had been steadily turning me into a Luddite. (Even apart from that, though, I'd challenge anyone to tell me of a Word feature they use that wasn't in version 5.1. Most people I know don't even use the styles properly. Oh, don't get me started...)

It seems odd that the fields for all my favourite stuff in the Biog section don't include one for websites. Written by someone wearing an old media hat, perhaps. Anyway, I've only ever read two other blogs. One was by someone called truepenny, who wrote some fabulous stuff on Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books. I read all these in one huge binge earlier this year and loved them to bits. If you're fond of the subtle quotation, they are a joy. And the last of them, in particular (Busman's Honeymoon), has some *very* interesting things to say about relationships. The other is by Andrew Brown, who writes for the Guardian, and is excellent on religion and politics but also good on life. His is called Helmintholog (I still don't know why). One tiny comment of his has stuck in my mind: he once said that he'd spent an evening at home in front of the fire, with a good book and a glass of very nice red wine, and it had struck him (I'm paraphrasing and possibly re-writing, of course) that two hundred years ago, such an activity would only be possible for the very privileged, whereas now there couldn't be many people who wouldn't be able to do the same if they wanted to. It really made me think about the small pleasures of life and how lovely they are - and how much, in every age, and at every age, we take them for granted. Oh, and he can also be very funny. And of course he's an excellent writer.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

The time is out of joint

The child woke and fed at six-thirty this morning, then slept until half-past noon. Bugger! We've got an infant not yet three weeks old that *would* sleep through the night *if* we could get its internal clock in sync with real time.

The midwife had a theory (well, it may in fact have been scientifically proven) that babies don't like to sleep at night-time because it's too quiet - they're used to all the mother's internal gurglings, you see. And it's true that ours went to sleep just as the traffic noise started this morning. Heck. Ah well. We had a very nice bath that was curtailed only by the production of an explosive poo that reached every corner (yes, I know baths don't have corners - at the round bath's imagin'd corners, then) in five seconds flat.

We still haven't worked out the cause of night-time screaming - the child does genuinely seem less happy at night than during the day. Or maybe it's really us, and we don't get so bothered by day-time screaming, or don't even notice it so much? Anyway, A's catch-all diagnosis is wind, or colic: I'm increasingly thinking that any shriek is a demand for food. Especially as having fed at one-thirty after the bath, we did it again at a quarter-past two. The nice thing about demand feeding is that I don't feel obliged to keep track of the timetable - but it's certainly an erratic one.

A book in this morning's post - not yet opened. One of the best things about internet shoppping is that you finally get some interesting post after years of marketing circulars and loan offers. Btw, my favourite tip for revenge on the offerers of unsolicited loans: tear all the forms and the envelope it came in into tiny pieces (this in itself is therapeutic), then pack them into the reply-paid envelope. And post them back. Nothing to throw away, and whoever wasted your time pays the postage. Neat, huh? Anyone know any other urban revenges of this type? (If anyone's reading this - I'm not sure that even A is...)

Monday, 27 November 2006

Is this just fantasy?

A weird day yesterday. One of those days when you have a lingering sense of sadness. And then you keep remembering it's because of something you've seen on television. In my case, Buffy, five episodes from the end, took a nasty turn and it looks as though (a SPOILER coming up for anyone who's watching Buffy but hasn't finished season seven yet) poor old Xander has had his eye poked out. Yuck and double yuck. There is something particularly horrid about eyes - hence the yuckiness of "Out, vile jelly" and similar. Feeling queasy just typing it. Hmm, maybe that's why my contact lenses are mildly painful today. It's empathy, man.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

That season of all natures

Bleargh. So we went to bed about midnight after watching another stonking episode of Buffy. [Pause for digression: this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it's what's described as a 'cult show' in the US. I'd heard it was good, and bought the vidoes of the first series when I found them in a charity shop. It wasn't good; it was BLOODY BRILLIANT. Really well written, fantastic characterisation, and a fully fleshed out universe. We bought all seven seasons on eBay (hurrah for DVDs, and people selling off their video collections - we find videos less irritating anyway, as you can carry on where you left off without having to stumble through some over-graphical interface) and have been watching them in strict chronological order (cos we're like that). We're now only six episodes from the final one, but it's just getting better and better - the writers have pulled out every stop. Whereas earlier on we'd binge (and that's the joy of videos over live television (which we don't have anyway)), watching six episodes in a row and going to bed at 4am, now we're just watching one episode at a time to give its fabulousness a chance to sink in. The writing is just fabulous. Last night's episode was Lies my parents told me (btw the BBC site for Buffy has great reviews and trivia). The discussion about Spike's chip, soul and trigger was just priceless. Could any other show be this classy? We're going to call our baby after a character on the show...] Oh my god! We've got a baby!

Yes, that's still how I feel, just about - surprised and delighted, but perfectly capable of leaving the thing on the bus, actually, because it just hasn't all sunk in yet.

Just realised I've been saying 'we' without introducing the other inhabitant of the pronoun. That would be the chap I'm going to call A, my partner of nearly two years. He's 38 years old, no, hang on, 39, and the father of the infant. Lives here with me in the county of Cambridgeshire. Wonderful, wonderful man. Ahem - did I say I'd try not to be smug?

Anyway, better get back to the baby bit (this blog was originally going to be called babycrap...). I fed the infant (we are of course breastfeeding - and using cloth nappies - being in that particular social demographic (and more on all that later, of course)), then remembered - oh bugger - that we'd agreed we'd try to change the child's nappy a bit more often. Apparently they don't actually mind sitting in warm wee, but eventually their bottoms get a bit sore and then you feel guilty. I bought a lovely book secondhand called Stop Your Baby's Crying, apparently by the TV guru of its day (published 1996), one Nanny Smith, who says:
One reason a new baby won't be crying
"I have met people who, when their brand new baby cried, said 'Oh dear, I expect he wants his nappy changing'. Babies really and truly wouldn't care if
their nappy was changed or not. Of course they would care if they got a sore botty, but a dirty nappy doesn't worry babies - both urine and faeces are warm and comforting. People do change babies' nappies far more than they used to. No doubt it keeps the nappy manufacturers happy."

I applaud her cynicism! I also read somewhere-or-other about a study in which they (the omnipotent they) took a hundred babies (I picture it all happening in a large hall, but I'm sure the reality was much duller), waited until they cried (must have been fun), and then changed them. BUT half they changed into clean nappies, and half just put the old ones back on. And lo, the proportion of babies who stopped crying was the same in both groups.

However, we've really been leaving it too long, we think, so decided we'd try to do three changes a day, which if we change in the morning gives us roughly 8am, 4pm and midnight. This I remembered at 1am this morning. Oh, as I said, bugger. A had just gone to sleep and wasn't to be roused. So I did it, and it wasn't too bad - cloth nappies are actually a cinch, and I'll explain all about them another time - in the meantime, the nappy lady can tell you everything - fantastic site.

Anyway, the baby then slept till 0330, then woke up and fed for 20 minutes (this is good as previous feeds were more like five to ten minutes, and we got a bit panicky), til I plucked my nipple from its boneless gums. [Digression: The Scottish play is horribly apposite for breastfeeders, as you keep thinking of "I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis/To love the babe that milks me..." and then you remember what comes next, and try not to. Also all the bits about murdered sleep, and how sleep would (if you could get enough) knit up the ravell'd sleeve of care, seem all too true.] I'm definitely lacking that season of all natures right now. Because after that feed the baby just didn't seem happy. It wasn't full-throated screams: just whimpering, but all the more pathetic for that. A said colic, and wind, and after *he'd* tried everything too, and it was 5am, we caved in and gave the infant a dose of Infacol. Which seemed to work. [I love thinking about those branding meetings, with all the callow young men in suits brain-storming to come up with names, and being *really pleased* that they thought of Infacol. Ho ho.]

After all that drama, I got to sleep until 0800 or so, when A's children started to wake up. They're from his previous relationship, so their privacy is pretty important: I'm going to call them B (aged six) and C (aged four), but may not say much about them. We have them every Wednesday night, and every other weekend, so we've got them today, and we also had them the weekend I gave birth, which was interesting. Again, I'll write about that another time. And now it's time to stop typing and eat some porridge, I think. TTFN.

Friday, 24 November 2006

A very good place to start

Good evening! My name is Beck, I'm 41 years old, and I live in the south of England, in the county of Cambridgeshire.

I'm an information designer by trade, and two weeks ago I had a baby. I had a really straightforward conception, pregnancy, and birth - despite my advanced age - and the whole experience has left me high as a kite. So given the amount of trepidation I felt beforehand, not to mention all the scary stuff about that kind of thing on the net, I thought it might be good to write about my positive experience. Trying not to sound too smug, naturally...

I also want to write about all the stuff I could't find out beforehand, such as what really happens to your Private Parts when you give birth and whether sex really is the same afterwards (news from Smugsville: it's *better*, woo woo, but more on all that later), and suchlike. My aim is to be frank but not explicit (don't really want to give any of the many, many pervs out there too much of a thrill), but we'll find out whether that's possible or not...

So. I'm starting this on Friday 24 November, exactly two weeks after the baby was born, writing in real time; then I'll go back and fill in the previous stuff from my notes.

Oh, I forgot: the other reason for doing this is that I love writing, but for the last seven years, almost the only writing I've done (for the company I shall refer to as CompanyIworkfor) is corporate crap for Big Nasty Companies. Not nice, and not fun. I can't write novels or poems or stuff because I don't have anything to say - no stories to tell. But I once worked on a keyboard magazine you won't have heard of (almost nobody had, and even fewer people bought it), and the editor who gave me the job offered me the chance to write features and interviews, and I found that if I had something to write about, I could do it. Keeping a diary seems to work in the same way.

Not a very exciting beginning, but hey: I'm new to this, and besides, the Infant is now shrieking, so it's feeding time at the zoo. More tomorrow.