Thursday, 17 July 2008

Grace - Almost 7 months

So Grace is almost 7 months old. It's such an amazing age, every single day she learns something new. She can now blow bubbles, hold her own milk bottle and feed herself little rice-cake things. Crawling is imminent. She gets on all fours and then just sort of rocks, not knowing what to do next. She can pull herself up to standing and if you hold her hands she can even take a couple of steps. It sounds stupid but she is so incredible I just can't believe I made her. I have to keep telling myself she was the tiny seed I grew into a baby, she was the little person kicking and punching their way about inside me, and finally out into the world. I don't relate the baby I carried around for 9 months to the smiling, kicking, gurgling little girl I wake up to each day, or each hour as has been the case lately.

It's my fault. I was so adamant to not let her sleep in the bed with us, but when she wakes at 6am for food it's so easily to lay her down next to me, let her latch on, and drift back off to sleep stroking her cheek and sniffing her baby smell.
The problem is 6am has started slipping back to 5am, 4am, 3am. Now she falls asleep with me at 1opm (OK, I admit it, 9.30pm), gets moved to her cot for about an hour or so then wakes up, realises where she is (or rather is not) and makes indignant squawks until she is allowed back into the bed again.
It's very hard this parenting lark. It seems all the "right" things are the hardest to do, like feeding time for example. I want Grace to have the lovely homemade purees I make her, which take hours and are a painstaking concoction lots healthy and nutritious ingredients. Grace wants to spit them back in my face and live off petit filous and breast milk. Perseverance often depends on how long my day has been. Sometimes it's hard to laugh when you have green sludge dripping down your face, all over your clean outfit and are late to work!

We have been spending alot of weekends back in Hertfordshire recently... Grandparents are marvellous. They seem to love having sludge spat in their face, or their carpets weed on. All the things which become tiring after a long week are a source of untold joy to grandparents. It's lovely to watch Grace smiling and having fun with them, even nicer when they offer to bath, feed and change her!

We took her to the local school fete, held at the infant school both James and I once attended. They even had Maypole dancing to the same songs we used to do it to. (First couple separate, go out around the ring, you pass your partner going out, you pass them coming in!!) The Maypole was alot smaller (stupid health and safety) but it was like slipping back in time none the less. The children even got the "plait" wrong first time, and it all had to be undone before they could start again, same as when I did it. I was rubbish at Maypole dancing. I always forgot I was supposed to go the other way to my partner and ended up skipping after them instead, taking out fellow May-polers en route. James was no better, he thought his assigned partner too ugly for May-poling and so hid up the church tower and sniggered at her having to do it alone instead.

I felt very smug as I pushed Grace round my old playground, I wanted to bump into old school teachers and show her off. I could not find any though, so James' ma and I attacked the baby stall instead. I don't know what has happened to me, but since I had monkey I just LOVE second-hand stalls. I am like an addict. Luckily, Polly is as keen as me (and better and pushing others out the way). We were on our knees within seconds, rooking through boxes of clothes and toys looking for bargains, hats, socks and rattles flying madly.

We got the most amazing bargains, a door frame bouncer (see latest photos) for just £3. Daylight robbery! No honestly, we filled a bin bag with baby-loot and took it off to show James and his dad, but had forgotten to pay for it. A very posh and irate stall holder came over and said "My colleague (colleague?!! It was second hand clothes stall for god's sake!!) noticed that you have not paid yet." James was horrified. He was embarrassed enough at his mother and bride-to-be crawling about on the floor shouting "20p?!! Gotta have it!", imagine his shame when we were then accused of shop-lifting!

Work is getting much better. I still get a lump in my throat when my screensaver comes on, and my monkey is there smiling at me - but I am managing to get back into it, and if I am honest I do enjoy the break. It's working out really well in fact. Grace adores spending time with her childminding family and I miss her so much I am keen as mustard to play peek-a-boo and sing 'Old Macdonald' all evening, wheresas before I went back to work I used to get bored of baby-talk by 7pm and start curtain twitching for James to get home.

I even went for a run this evening, the first time since before I got pregnant even. Putting on my old running shoes felt great, driving to the park, picking a power song on my ipod and hitting the pavement also felt great, for about 2 minutes and then it felt hard as hell. I can't believe I used to run 5k as a pre-exercise warm up!!

So anyway, all in all life is good. Mad and busy with ups and downs but I would not have it any other way!

More photos of Grace here:


Thursday, 3 July 2008

Grace 6 months old

So Grace is 6 months old, and I am back at work. I sort of feel like the first era of motherhood has ended. Its so sad. Gone are the days where I could wear my jimmy jams all day and not brush my hair for weeks on end. Long gone are the days of snuggling up with Grace and watching TV, taking long leisurely strolls round Queens Park and having mid morning naps. I have now entered the "working mother" world and it sure is an unfamiliar territory.
My day now goes something along the lines of this:
*Wake up at 6am to Grace blowing bubbles in her cot. Very sweet but guaranteed to turn into sobs if I don't get up and give her a feed. Attempt to get her back to sleep whilst I tidy-up the flat, jump in the bath, wash my hair, drink various effervescent tonics for hectic lifestyles, dry my hair, apply 17 different tummy tightening creams to my crepe paper midriff, straighten my hair (which is still falling out in clumps), pack my bag, do my make-up and try on 23 different variations of the same outfit, getting hotter and frizzier each time.

*Grace always wakes up again at some point during this long winded process and so I down tools to feed her petit filous, pick her outfit for the day, change her bum, marvel at her amazing beauty or the smell of her neck and then sob because I have to leave her all day. James has normally woken by this point too (if the hairdryer does not manage it then me tutting and moaning about my hair/clothes/the weather/that annoying woman who presents breakfast TV or my loud sobs as I beg Grace not to hate me for going back to work normally does the job) and so he takes over monkey-minding whilst I continue to flap, whinge, change outfits, put on a load of washing or randomly start watering plants.

*Finally get Grace to the childminders which gives me just enough time to eat a bowl of cereal (can't eat near Grace, she gets very annoyed if she can't have any and finds a way to make me spill the whole lot down my front) and change my outfit again before James orders me into the car (always telling me he much preferred the first outfit I put on just as it's too late to go back)

*Work - a minefield of pivot tables, acronyms, new and old faces, awkward situations, tears in toilets, giggles over cups of tea, panic at things I've been asked to do which makes no sense at all, clock watching, lip biting, breast pumping and a whole host of emotions that have me "up and down like a bride's nightie". It's so strange to be back. On one hand it feels so familiar, but on the other it feels so strange. Becoming a mother robs you of your confidence, and going back to work really takes some guts. As well as trying to deal with the guilt and heartbreak at leaving Grace, I also have to try and look and sound professional whilst secretly hiding the fact I now have jam for brains and nothing is making much sense. I feel so out of place. Everyone else knows what is going on and what to do and I am desperatly trying to work out who I am again, as well as get up to speed on all the changes/gossip etc. It's not that I don't enjoy it. I get into a piece of work and feel a bolt of triumph as I think "Yes, I can do this, I am good at this" but it can oh so swiftly turn into despair when I think of Grace waking up from her nap without her mummy. I have become unaccustomed to professional situations, lik meetings for example. For the last 6 months I have spent an alarming amount of time sitting in rooms eating cake and getting my breasts out. This now feels like the norm to me!

*Finish work. If James can't pick me up then I power up Elm Grove hill, heart pumping and breasts leaking to get to Grace, who is normally either fast asleep or happily playing and not at all interested to see her mummy. I know it's a good thing that she is so settled with her childminder, but those seconds when I see her for the first time all day and she has no smile for me when all I have wanted to do is be with her, and I've had an appalling day, those seconds break my heart... and then she smells my milk and the sun comes out in my world again. I love breastfeeding now more than ever. I can feel us reconnecting each time we do it. Grace gazes up at me as if to say "There you are mummy, where have you been?" and her hand finds my little finger, clinging on tightly as if she is trying not to lose me again.

*Back home, either tumble into bed with Grace for more food and a nap, or spend an hour or so playing with her (She can sit up unaided now and pull herself up to standing!) before starting the dinner, bath and bed routine, which never ever goes to plan.

Finally get her down to sleep, have dinner, tackle some housework so it does not all pile up, before finally sinking into a blissfully hot bath, which I normally have to swiftly get out of as I keep falling asleep.

*Wake up at 6am to Grace blowing bubbles in her cot....

Being a working mum is a bit like being on a giant treadmill, or in a hamster wheel. That is not to say there is no satisfaction in it, more that you just have to keep going or you will fall off and end up so far behind you will never catch back up again. My mind is constantly turning "Did I make Grace enough food for the week (now she is 6 months old she can eat a whole bunch more stuff, so in an effort to be a marvellous mum and fend off the waves of going-back-to-work-guilt I spent hours putting together many very complex Annabel Karmel baby meals, only for Grace to turn her nose up and refuse to eat anything other than mashed banana), get more nappies, wash that shirt, remember to send that email, phone my mum, pack Grace's swimming bag, take my tablet, book a meeting room, hang out the washing, turn off my straighteners, spell check that document, shave my legs etc etc etc.

James has been amazing, I have been a toe-rag this last week with my work worries, Grace guilt, house-moving stresses and lord know what else. He has made tea, washed up, cooked dinners, bought cards, run baths, been food shopping, spent lunch hours driving through Brighton traffic to console me as I sob hysterically, made packed lunches, tucked me into bed and even done Grace's night feeds. A better man would be hard to find.

A couple of my friends are due to have babies soon. It's so weird when they ask me for advice. A few short months ago I did not know one end of a babygro from the other and now I am all "oh and if your boobs get sore when your milk comes in, pop some cold savoy cabbage in your bra" or "I swear by metanium for nappy rash" and "making baby puree is dead simple ". Once it all seemed so alien to me but somehow I got my head round it and now I do feel like I know what I am doing. It's taken some time but I can more or less work out Grace's various moods and noises, I know how and what to feed her and how to make sure it's not too hot/cold/salty etc. I know how to soothe her when she cries, cool her when she is hot, I've finally learnt the essential act of doing everything one handed as I balance her on my hip. I suppose my point is that motherhood is second nature to me now, and soon work will be as well, just like once work was second nature and motherhood was so strange.
There is something nice about sitting down at a desk and knowing I won't have to sing "Once upon a time there was a little white bull" or shake rattles, clap hands, be dribbled and weed on, have my mobile phone sucked and thrown on the floor etc. Once it stops feeling so strange, it may even start to feel like a break!
New photos here: