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When to call a mum

Sometimes I look at my phone and I wonder when the last time I spoke to some of my friends. We text each other and bemoan how long it’s been since we’ve had a good old chat. Then they ask me when’s a good time to call me. The trouble is, I’m not sure I actually know the answer. When is the best time to call mums?

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Before 8am: Do not call because the day you do will be the day baby sleeps in and it will have been ruined. For everyone!

Before 10am: We can’t answer because we are trying so hard to leave the house. See that door that you can just walk through with your handbag after a quick shower and a leisurely breakfast? For us it’s like a magical portal that we are fighting to reach alive each day. We’re lucky if we make it clean, fed, without being dragged down by bags of everything we may or may not need (just in case). And we’re probably running as that extra nappy change or tantrum has waylaid us yet again.

Between 10am-12pm: You could call but we will literally have our hands full of babies, prams, food and other paraphernalia as well as running after our toddlers who want to poke, jab, grab, suck, kick at something new every three seconds. This is the perfect time to actually come and meet us. However if you expect us to be able to hold a conversation or even offer you eye contact, think again. Just bring tea and cake. But keep both out of reach so it isn’t thrown and smashed across the room. We won’t forget about it – we know it’s there watching and taunting us with its heat and deliciousness. We will down it when it’s lukewarm and practically inhale the cake as soon as physically possible.

12pm-1pm: It’s feeding time at the zoo. If you call, expect the phone to be grasped by the baby who will otherwise scream for it. Not only will you not get any sense but the phone will probably get covered in yogurt and smashed on the floor.

1pm-3pm: It’s nap time. For everyone if we’re lucky. That’s after we’ve scrubbed porridge ingrained on the kitchen floor tiles, picked up a thousand toys, washed up for the umpteenth time, run around with a vacuum. And if we’re really really lucky, maybe eating a sandwich.

3pm-4pm: Prime meeting up time. Phone calls? Not so much. We’re at the park or on the top of a rope bridge at the play centre surrounded by screaming kids. Are you sure don’t want to meet us?

4pm-5pm: Feeding time again. See above.

5pm-7pm: Time for baths, torture time (hair washing), wet babies, dressing, milk, more torture (teeth brushing) stories and bedtime. Military operation required.

7pm-9pm: We’re usually still trying to get the baby to sleep. Of course if we have plans like eating a nice dinner, catching up with friends or leaving the house, baby will have their own plans for us.

9pm: We’ve just sat down for the first time today. Tired and starving.

10pm: We’re in bed. At the latest.

11pm-5am: If we are awake at this time, it’s not out of choice. For the times when sleepless nights are a frequent occurrence, this may be the time we need you the most. Unfortunately, we may only be capable of a rant, a cry or maybe even a scream of frustration at being up all night. There’s nothing like these early hours of darkness where you feel you and your baby are the only people on the planet awake and every fibre of your being longs to be asleep.

Hmmm, I wonder why no one calls anymore!? But please don’t stop calling. All of this doesn’t mean that we don’t want to speak to you – just the opposite. And seeing that you call makes us feel that you care. Just please understand when we can’t answer….

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Childbirth – secret or over share?

Shouting about childbirth

In my PB (pre-baby) life, I heard my fair share of birth stories. Some from friends and family who had recently become mums but most of the tales were from near perfect strangers who were eager to share some of the most personal details of their body and birth to my naive and unsuspecting ears.

I’m particularly squeamish and listening to the beautiful natural process (aka horror) of childbirth made me very uncomfortable. My friends knew this and would give me a PG-rated version of their experience. But it was those who I didn’t know well that spared no detail. And it’s not exactly easy to tell strangers to shut the hell up.

I recall being at a work event where a female member of the group talked to us all about her blood loss over a glass of Champagne – painting a vivid picture of what the delivery room looked like. There had seemed to be no stimulus to start this story; nobody had asked to hear it, nobody was pregnant and it wasn’t even something she had just gone through – her daughter was two years old. I nervously smiled and nodded, being too British to be rude enough to walk away from the conversation. On another occasion, this time I was at least pregnant, another acquaintance spent an entire lunch graphically describing their birth – no holds barred. By the end, I was nauseous and visibly shaking. I’d tried to laugh it off, explain that I was squeamish and that maybe it was best to leave me in ignorant bliss. But they just laughed at what a big shock I was in for…and continued.

Now I’m a mum too, my eyes have been opened. Birth is such a life changing, often long and traumatic experience – physically, emotionally and mentally – that you are compelled to talk about it. You are never prepared for it. You will never be able to predict what happens. It’s like watching the most intense, 24-hour movie that you can’t switch off with no precursor as to whether it’s a rom-com, drama or horror. Oh and you’re not actually watching it, you’ve got the lead role. Afterwards, you have to purge yourself. There is a need to expel the trauma from you body and sharing the story is the only way you can make sense of it. You’re also pretty amazed that you’ve achieved something so incredible. I certainly didn’t think I was capable.

However, while there is this need to purge, I do think that it should be accompanied with an element of restraint. One thing I learned from being the recipient of birth stories in my PB life, is the danger of over sharing and respecting your audience. When family and friends visited, I only spoke about the birth if I was asked. I didn’t volunteer anything. Or at least I hope I didn’t. Just because we go through such a physically life-changing experience, doesn’t mean that the social boundaries of communication are gone; do strangers want to hear about tears, stitches, blood loss and how long we had to push?

The best purging opportunity comes when you meet other new mums. This is where the rules change; anything goes. You’ve all given birth, you’ve all had a baby thrust in your arms and been sent home expecting to know how to look after it. And you’ve all suddenly been deprived of what should be one of your basic human rights; sleep. My NCT friends know more intimate things about me than nearly everyone I know. And this was within about eight weeks of meeting them. There were even times when I went to new mums meet ups which quickly descended into a run down of everyone’s birth – something that would have sounded dreadful pre baby. But this time I didn’t feel queasy because I’d already achieved the thing I was so terrified about going through and I needed to purge too.

While you’re pregnant, you’re told that birth will be a positive, natural experience and it’s easy in the early days to feel that you’ve let your baby down if it wasn’t because you needed intervention or drugs. However, almost every one of us around the room had some form of complication and had come out the other side with happy and thriving babies. It’s reassuring to share these tales, realise that your experience was totally normally and even to find humour in the midst of a delivery room horror movie. But spare a thought for those that don’t have a baby as a common denominator with you; do they want to hear the gory details?  Maybe save it for someone who does…

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The Calpol Controversy

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When you’ve got a little baby at home, you start to think like a mad scientist. Each day I reinvent normal household items to have magical powers; a nappy that can actually contain THOSE explosions, a dummy that jumps into baby’s mouth when they wake at night, bed sheets that auto wash when covered with more than one bodily fluid, a pause button that allows you to drink just one hot cup of tea a day.
Maybe I have too many waking hours to think sensibly anymore.

But there’s one thing that already has magical baby powers which I think is getting too much stick at the moment; Calpol. Doctors say that Calpol is too sweet and looks like milkshake – it appears that babies actually like it. Here’s the original story in the Mail on Sunday but it’s also going widespread at the moment.

When I think of Calpol, I picture my screaming, tiny, ill baby, beside herself in pain from a nasty ear infection. And me trying to calm her enough to offer her a dose of Calpol. We quickly discovered the also magical medicine dummies in place of the syringes which I can never actually control without squirting it everywhere. After the initial taste, my baby would cautiously take the rest of the dose. The sucking motion calmed her and soon after, the Calpol worked its magic touch and she took a deep breath and quietly cuddle up to me as the pain subsided.

To me, that’s magic. Could you imagine baby Calpol NOT existing? It would be our number one want on the mad baby inventor programme.

The argument is that Calpol tastes so good that there’s a risk of overdose. There are reports of kids clambering into cupboards, busting open the caps and glugging their way through the bottle. Sounds like me and gin at baby bedtime.

In the reports I’ve read, Calpol makers are taking a hammering. So much so that I was compelled to write this post. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making light of the serious issue of potential overdosing. Yes, action does need to be taken to reduce the risks. But part of me thinks that there is an education process with parents about the very real danger that overdosing on paracetamol can cause with advice on storage – even if it involves hiding it in a locked medicine cupboard. I know that terrible accidents can happen when you’re a parent. But if your baby rolls off a changing station, do you blame the manufacturer or do you start changing the baby at ground level?

Calpol, here’s my message to you: Thank you for not only making a magic potion that takes excruciating pain away from my baby but also making it appealing enough that even in the deep dark depths of despair, my baby will take it.
Let’s not forget that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Even Mary Poppins agrees.

What do you think?

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Do mums moan too much?

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Everyone knows that having a baby is wonderful. Fact. However, as parents cross into this unknown baby territory, we unfortunately find quite a lot to moan about. This doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our lot or that we’re not experiencing an unfathomable amount of joy, pride and happiness at the same time – we just didn’t realise how hard some of the new moments were going to be.

Before becoming a parent, you expect to be tired. You expect to have to clean up a lot of dirty nappies. You expect babies to cry. You expect things to change. But you have no idea of how much sleep deprivation can turn you into a crazy lady. You have no idea how much poop can explode out of one nappy to the devastation of everything around it (no doubt just as you’re getting in the car). You have no idea that babies can cry inconsolably for three hours. And you have no idea of the scale of how much your life changes.

As I said, it’s not that we’re not happy, just caught out and overwhelmed by some of the harder things that such a tiny seemingly helpless baby can throw at us. Sometimes literally.

What got me starting to think about all of this was when my husband came home from work a couple of weeks ago and my friend and her baby were visiting for a play date. We were laughing over the usual high brow intellectual topics of conversation – how often our babies had pooped in the bath that week, tallying up our night-time wake ups, debating whether to get a steam mop to tackle the porridge that had been formed a rock-hard immovable mass in between the kitchen tiles and eyeing up the last hob nob. Later that evening, my husband teased me about how much we’d been moaning and how it must make me a right hoot to hang out with.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have won an award for the most sparkling conversationalist of the year but it’s conversations like these that have kept me sane for the past year. Who would want to listen to me continually gloating how my baby is THE most beautiful and THE most genius baby on the entire planet?

There are moments as a parent when you feel you almost can’t cope anymore – when the number of hours sleep you’ve had in a week doesn’t even reach double figures or when you wonder what silence sounds like after bouncing/feeding/rocking/singing to a screaming baby for what seems like forever. Or you catch a look at yourself in the mirror covered in baby sick and sweet potato mush with scraggly hair and no make-up and you wonder what you’ve become. The only thing that gets me through some of these moments is knowing that there is a country full of other new parents who are going through the very same dilemmas and being able to share our mishaps together with laughter.

I used to see one particular mum friend weekly on what we described as ‘Moaning Mondays’. We did put ourselves through the mill by attempting to go to TWO half-hour classes in the space of three hours. It doesn’t seem like much but the desperate panic to get babies napped, fed, changed and traveled for two whole activities was exhausting and highly stressful. Afterwards, we’d laugh at how much we’d managed to moan that day but it genuinely made us feel better – happier people and therefore happier mums.

So yes, maybe we do moan quite a lot. But we’re not sorry about it. We need it. Although I do appreciate that I’ve responded to a comment that I moan a lot by moaning…but I’d rather be a normal (and honest) mum who laughs with her friends about her mishaps than one that needs a slap in the face for only gloating about how wonderful and perfect my life is.