A Mean Mummy’s Guide to Christmas

 

Baby’s first Christmas? Ho ho ho. That has just given me the perfect excuse to hardly bother with the festivities at all.

1) Christmas cards- remember those days when you sent Christmas cards to pretty much your whole year group at school and received 140 cards in return to display on your bedroom wall? Now that we’re adults and have to fork out for stamps, we’re not quite so generous with our Season’s Greetings.

Like doing the ironing, I truly believe that life is too short to write Xmas cards. If any of my acquaintances are offended that I won’t be sending them a bit of overpriced card that they barely glance at before leaving it to gather dust on a bookshelf until the 6th of January, I can only offer my back-up excuse which is that I’m suffering from so much middle-class-eco-mummy angst about the impact  my recent use of disposable nappies rather than washables is having on the environment that I don’t want to be the cause of the needless death of yet more trees this Yuletide.

2) Family- that’s (allegedly) what Xmas is all about after all (unless you’re religious, in which case I’m led to believe that it’s about something else baby-related); spending quality time with your nearest and dearest no matter how much they irritate you for the rest of the year. I feel that I should make it clear that the fact that we live in a bloody draughty house which costs a fortune to heat has had absolutely no influence whatsoever on my decision to spend the entirety of the festive season at my parent’s house. Obviously I have told them that I don’t want them to miss a single moment of this wonderful, nay, ‘magical’ celebration which is Christmas with their first-born grandchild.

3) Decorations- given that we’ll be spending all of the festive period away from home then it seems …erm… a needless waste of time to go all out on decorating our home for Christmas (or even to bother getting the box of tatty tinsel down from the loft). No tree, no lights. If anyone questions this rather joyless lack of Christmas tat, I have chosen to declare my allegiance to the true origins of Christmas: while the days continue to get darker and shorter so to will my home remain dark and unadorned. Such a shame that the Winter Solstice falls when we’re away otherwise my home would have become alive (and quite possibly ablaze) with many-stranded garlands of fairy lights and innumerable candles.

4) Dressing the baby up- since when did it become part of the Christmas tradition to stick your baby in some fancy dress costume and put their photo on Facebook for your ‘friends’ to coo over (or snigger at your appalling taste)? If dressing your baby up as Father Christmas/an elf/a snowman/Mithras etc., makes you come over all warm and gooey inside that’s fine, but if, in his teenage years, the boy accuses me of failing him as a mother because there are no photos of him dressed up as a  Christmas Pudding I shall claim that I chose to abstain from dressing him in comedy synthetic fibres as a way to preserve his dignity and as a mark of respect for his infant self (not that his mother is a bit of a cheapskate killjoy).

5) Food- I’m an atheist vegetarian (need I say more?). I have also yet to discover the appeal of farty-smelling sprouts and have had a pathological dislike of dried fruits since early childhood and thus fail to see that there is any joy to be had from mince pies, Christmas cake, the abomination which is Christmas pudding or indeed any element of the traditional Christmas lunch. My one concession to festive fayre will be the over-consumption of Stilton. I believe that my mother has already purchased some in anticipation of my arrival.

6) Drink- This time last year I was pregnant and weepy (not because of the hormones but because I was stuck in my draughty cold house and couldn’t even get pissed to cheer me up a bit). And this year? Breastfeeding.

Though I will have the occasional glass of wine, the desire to guzzle a whole bottle of Prosecco (oh, and a G&T haven’t had one of those in ages ) while strong isn’t quite as strong as my desire not to cause any potential harm to my boob-monkey (though if I were to follow the advice of Hale (2012)  “mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal,” I’d never breastfeed again).

7) Presents- of course I’ll be handing out gifts to those people I really can’t avoid getting gifts for but unlike those excited new mothers who have been posting on baby forums since August asking what everyone is planning to get their little darlings for Christmas and have not only purchased, but also wrapped and piled up under their carefully decorated tree multiple gifts for baby (photographic evidence of which has been available on Facebook for some weeks now) I am planning on getting my 10 month old absolutely nothing for Christmas.

Yep, you read that right. Nothing. He already has lots of books and brightly coloured bits of plastic which he chooses to ignore in favour of playing with plug sockets, the kitchen drawers, the stairs and the dusty bottom bit of our kitchen radiator so why would I spend money on buying him yet more toys that he shows an interest in for approximately 2 minutes? He’ll no doubt be given yet more soft toys and plastic things by the rest of the family and I’m pretty sure that he a) has no concept of what Christmas is; b) will not have any memory of this (or next Christmas) in later life and c) really won’t care that his parents haven’t bought him anything because he’ll be far too busy trying to eat wrapping paper.

Why waste money on dressing up clothes when you can humiliate your child for free with no artistic ability whatsoever

Why waste money on dressing up clothes when you can humiliate your child online for free and with no artistic ability whatsoever?

Happy Solstice, everyone.

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Sleep (for the love of god, sleep)- Part 1

One of our first attempts at breastfeeding

One of our first attempts at breastfeeding in NICU

Yes, random person on the street, I do indeed have a baby. Yes, he does look very comfy snuggled up against me in his soft baby carrier (and because I’m a determined.to-get-every-single-aspect-of-this-parenting-lark-nailed-even-if-it-kills-me type of mother he is of course in an nice ergonomically-designed, organic cotton carrier not one of those awful ones that the majority of people use with the baby facing out, good lord, don’t you know that those things will cause devastating hip damage as soon as your child’s crotch gets up close to that nasty bit of synthetic fibre). ‘Oh,’ random person exclaims as they reel back in horror as they realise that nice snuggled up baby is not sleeping, or in some zoned out baby state of zen but is actually slurping on my nipple like a famished suckling pig. ‘Ah…’ their horrified brain scrambles quickly for default question which must be asked of all parents of small children, ‘…does he sleep?’

I’d love to reply ‘Of course, he sleeps, you knob. Everybody sleeps. People die if they don’t sleep.’ But, sadly, I don’t. Instead I make a tight, little wincing face or do a pantomime grimace because of course what they are referring to has become the Holy Grail of parenting an infant. The ….oh…and let’s assume a wonderfully reverential tone here ..as we place inverted commas around …the one…the only “sleeping through the night”.

No, the little fucker does not sleep through the night.

On a good night he’ll wake up just two or three times over a twelve hour period on a not so good (read, an absolutely fuck bollocking awful) night when I start to understand those poor women who get so desperate that they abandon their child or do (much, much) worse, he’ll wake up every half an hour or so, particularly if  I try to put him down in his cot. And when I say put him down in his cot, what I mean is shift him a couple of inches over to the left because his cot is basically just an extension of the parental bed (cheap Ikea cot, with the side taken off- I got the idea from here- http://fromheretomaternityeventually.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/how-we-converted-out-cot-into-a-co-sleeper/ ) .

So, this is now where random person on the street (oh and my husband, and all of my husband’s family and my mother in a slightly more roundabout way) gets to tell me exactly where I’m going wrong. Apparently, these are things I’m fucking up big time:

1) I’m breastfeeding.

2) I’m breastfeeding him to sleep

3) I’m not giving him a bottle of formula before bed

Now, can anyone see a pattern here? Anyone?

Breastfeeding T is one of the few things that I actually feel pretty damn proud of. T arrived 10 weeks early by emergency c-section, weighing just 1.4kg and spent 7 weeks in NICU and I hooked myself up to the breast pump every three hours, all through the day and night, because the only thing that I could do for him which his doctors and nurses couldn’t was to provide him with breastmilk. At first he was fed through a tube, then bottle fed my milk and when he came home he was on 7 bottles and one breastfeed a day. I was told that I could only make the transition to 100% breastfeeding when he weighed 4.5kg. And we managed to make the transition pretty seamlessly (though it is only seamless in retrospect, at the time I was crippled with self doubt) – T spent hours at a time doing nothing but sucking and I spent hours at a time doing nothing but watching T feed and reading forums and blogs about breastfeeding. I read up on cluster feeding and given that T was gaining weight well, I saw no reason to supplement his feeds with formula. Let’s just say that when someone suggests the idea of introducing a bottle feed because there’s the chance that,  because formula takes longer to digest, it might make him sleep longer, I look at them like they’ve suggested I purée up a McDonald’s Happy Meal with coke and give it to him as a first food. I don’t mean to upset or offend anyone who doesn’t breastfeed, particularly other preemie/NICU mums, but having had the chance to try both bottlefeeding and breastfeeding then I can, hand on heart, say that the two are very, very different and I feel genuinely blessed (if that’s not too awfully gushing a word) to have been able to create such a bond with T.

So I’m not going to give him a sodding bottle, alright?

I’m a Mummy….Get Me Out of Here

Okay, perhaps I should clarify the title just a teensy bit:

1) I love my son, who shall hereafter be known simply as T.

2) I genuinely can’t remember what life was like without him (though that is most likely due to extreme sleep deprivation wiping 98% of my memory- I can barely remember my name these days).

3) I wouldn’t change him for the world

BUT, how the effing heck does everybody else in the world (not to mention every parent in history) manage to do this parenting lark and retain at least the semblance of sanity? I have started to wonder if it’s just me. Am I manifesting some new psychological disorder which turns what should essentially be one of the most straightforward, instinctive things in life into an all-consuming (physically, mentally and emotionally) Herculean task. I mean there are days when I almost pee myself, not because of a combination of a sneeze and my horribly pregnancy-weakened pelvic floor, but because I never get round to actually going to the bathroom. Oh and yes, I often end up taking T with me because I can’t stand the sound of his crying (and I’m also scared that the dog might eat him). Is it really just me? Reading posts from other mums on parenting forums (and I rarely read much else these days) it seems that there is an ever-increasing number of us afflicted with an extreme case of what a fabulous Mumsnet thread terms ‘Precious Firstborn Syndrome’ http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/parenting/346540-your-top-pfb-precious-first-born-moments/AllOnOnePage

Of course every first time mum is at risk of becoming a bit obsessed and no doubt we’re genetically programmed to do just that – prehistoric babies wouldn’t have survived for very long if their mothers left them to their own devices while they popped next door to check out their neighbours new cave paintings or buggered off to hunt down some bunnies to turn into new sandals- but with the advent of what feels like 16 billion different parenting experts, guides and constantly conflicting advice (wonderfully summarized here: http://cogitoergomum.me/2014/11/02/how-to-be-a-parent-20-sure-fire-ways-to-guarantee-happy-well-adjusted-children/) about how best to bring up baby, then new mothers (by which I specifically mean me) find themselves in a relentless cycle of feeling like they are probably not doing things quite right and that everyone else is almost certainly doing a better job than them.

Glance at any parenting forum aimed at parents of parents of babies under 6 months and it’s the same questions and fears, over and over again, regarding sleeping, eating and getting your child to hit developmental milestones. Mums posts links to other websites and blogs and articles and posts for the benefit of other mums all repeating exactly the same mantra ‘you’re normal, your baby’s normal, you’re doing a good job’ yet still we question our own judgement and ability to parent.

From my own perspective,  I think my fear of fucking up as a parent leaves very little room for doing anything other than being a mummy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m comfortable with my decision to become an attachment parenting, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, no TV and good lord, I’m never going to let my child eat anything containing sugar (and that includes evil fruit juice) type of mother but it does also make me slightly envious of women who have the courage to say ‘fuck-it, I’m off out for a drunken night out with the girls, see you in the morning’.