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:


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