Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Grace - one month old

So, Grace is one month old! On one hand it's flown by but on the other it hasn't. This is mostly because I have been awake more or less constantly for a month now.. which sort of makes it feel a bit like two months really, but anyway, my aches and pains have abated, and I am finally starting to feel a bit like my old self again.

Grace and I have had a busy week. We've been out power walking (me not Grace), trying (and often failing) to avoid dog poo en route. I never realised until I had a buggy how much dog poo there is in Brighton, it's almost impossible to go on a walk without bringing some back with me in the tread of my tyres, and it's not just that I am truly awful at steering, I really should use an L sign though. (This news will come as no surprise to anyone who knew me during the 5 years it took me to pass my driving test, you should see me trying to push the buggy round shops - any display stands are doomed).
Grace seems to love being bounced and bumped around Brighton however, and I love going walking and showing her off. I never thought I would feel like this, I am so ridiculously pleased with myself. I walk along with the buggy like I am the only woman who has ever had a child. I can't keep the grin off my face. When I am out I seem to think Grace and I are royalty and am genuinely perplexed when people don't leap into the road to give us space to pass, or rush to open doors. I also get a bit annoyed if people don't stop to look at her and tell me how pretty she is. I used to hate women like this, and now I am one. What has happened to me? I have even started to nod at other people with buggies, I am like one of those saddo mini drivers who toot at any other mini drivers they see.

Grace is awake for more hours of the day now, and can focus both her eyes at the same time. Isn't that the cleverest thing you ever heard? (humour me, I don't have much of a life at present). She is also managing to hold her head up on her own for a few seconds - this mostly happens when she wants feeding. She is starting to get very indignant if she does not get fed the second she wants. (The problem is she can smell my milk, so whenever I am around her, which is all the time, she wants to be latched on and is grumpy when she can't be. I have tried telling her I can't spend every second of the day breast-feeding, but she just screws her little face up and howls at me, normally ensuring she gets her own way). Luckily people are always on hand with some pearls of wisdom to dispense, my favourite pearl this week is to 'let her cry, or her lungs won't develop'. I bought that 'Contented Baby Book' and soon chucked it across the floor in disgust. The woman who wrote it is a miserable baby-hater. James looked her up on line and it seems I am not alone in my opinion.

We have also been checking out nurseries. As I am going back to work in the summer I need to get her place sorted now as there is a waiting list. Looking for somewhere good enough to leave our precious six month old princess at is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Everywhere I looked at was too small, or too dirty, or "felt wrong", or the woman showing me round had a black front tooth (I KNOW! and she smelt of BO and cigarettes, it would be like leaving Grace with the wicked witch). I became convinced all of them actually hated children and drugged them to sleep all day. I kept looking for cellar doors or cupboards under the stairs.
In the end, however, I found a wonderful place with loads of outdoor space, excellent security, and a great reputation. I have been taking Grace to the mum and baby groups they hold to get her used to the people and the atmosphere. It's a waste of time really as all she ever wants to do when we get there is feed, so effectively, I walk for twenty minutes to sit in a room full of women and children I have never met and show them all my nipples twice a week. Grace can't even see what's going on. It is good to have other mums to chat to though, until they comment on something you are doing/don't do, or say things like "I let my child play with the sharp knifes, then they know how dangerous they can be" or "My 3 year old brings me cups of tea in bed" (These were both said by the same women who soon ended up at a table on her own. Sadly it was the playdo table so me and my friend were gutted as we like doing that activity the best).

Walking into the playgroup was like stepping back in time, the smell of apples and playdo, the tiny chairs and finger paintings hung everywhere. I can't wait till Grace is old enough to do these things, and bring home indistinguishable drawings for me to pin on the fridge. I especially loved the singing (I am sure no one else did, I am very tuneless and I was really going for it at one point. I can't help it, 'If you're happy and you know it' always gets me up dancing).
Being a toddler looks great, you get to run round screaming and knocking things over that you never have to pick up, AND people smile at you as you do it, you can squidge a bit of old playdo together and get told how clever you are, every half an hour you get a beaker of juice. (The snacks are not as good though, no pink wafers or waggon wheels these days. It's all cucumber and figs and cherry tomatoes.) If you do anything wrong, like punch the person next to you, steal their bread-stick, have a tantrum on the floor and wee on in the sandpit it's never your fault, you are either A: Teething or B: Tired. (NB: I am still talking being a toddler at this point, not sure I would get away with being tired or teething if I attempted it)

We went to get Grace weighed again. She peed all over the health care visitor weighing her, the scales they weighed her in and was STILL almost 10lb. Half the clothes she got bought don't fit now and the other half don't suit her and she is too big for girly frills. James likes her in singlet vests best as he thinks her "dinner lady arms" are hilarious. I on the other hand have become a clucky mother hen and keep covering her up with blankets and hats which she hates and James takes off her anyway.

So all in all it's been another busy but rewarding few days. Next week I am attempting to express milk and leave Grace for the first time to visit the swimming pool (and swim in it). I'll keep you posted on the dramas and hilarity that I am sure will occur.


Lots of love

Ericka and Grace

Grace - 3 weeks old

So Grace is 3 weeks old... I can't believe she has only been in our lives for 21 days. What on earth did we do before she arrived? Oh yes, I used to have time to wash my hair and could leave the house whenever I wanted. All I needed was my handbag, now I need a changing bag, dummies, spare baby-gros, hats, buggies, rain covers, my wits about me.

Today we went to get weighed (Grace that is, not me. I don't want to know how much I weigh ever again) at the Salvation Army. We powered through pouring rain - Grace loves being out in her buggy. When I say loves, I mean slept, which of course I love.
The Salvation Army is an extraordinary place, the only way to the weigh-in room is beyond the cafe full of homeless tramps, who all watch and snigger in (drunken) amusement as you try and get yourself and the buggy through the too-small door.
You then have to negotiate about another 4 too-small doors, unaided (whilst remembering you have given up swearing these days) before you arrive at some sort of mini hell on earth. Millions of snotty-grotty babies and loud, shouty mothers who scream things like "Liam, stop snatching" or "Dave come here and blow your nose, it's going all over your sister" and "Stop swinging off the curtains" at random.
You have to sit on very hard and uncomfortable chairs and wait your turn to have your baby weighed, whilst other people's horrid children run toy cars up your leg or try and get in your buggy or steal things out your changing bag. I tried to be nice to everyone and make friends... alright, I did nothing of the sort, I clutched Grace to my heaving bosom (oh yes, breast-feeding has it's "perks") and tried not to meet anyones eye or be seen kicking children over. FINALLY my name got called, saving me from a conversation with a girl who had about 7 children and I think might have been due her 8th, or maybe just went MAD over Christmas, who knows, or cares? I just wanted to get Gracie weighed and get us both out of there alive, with my wallet intact if possible.
So, after wrestling with the millions of vests and baby-gros and dungarees and socks and hats I had over-dressed Grace in I finally got her squirmy gorgeous little pink body onto the scales... she weighs 9lb 3oz! She is putting on weight, my breast-feeding is working! I felt euphoric, I wanted to punch the air in delight, but the scary mums may have thought I wanted a fight so I thought better of it, and Grace and I did a discreet (floppy) high five instead. The health-care visitor was amazed I had never handled a newborn before. She said I was very good at dressing Grace - now when all you do all day is breast-feed and change nappies and worry that you are rubbish at being a mum, a compliment like that (in fact, ANY compliment at all) makes you feel fantastic and Grace and I walked home singing in the rain, pleased as punch with our chubby little selves.

I felt so in control I even attempted the post office en-route, silly me. I had to employ the help of a hoodie to get the buggy in, who promptly got in a slanging match with an old person (the hoodie, not my buggy), annoyed the door was being left open and was letting a draft in. The queue was so slow Grace woke up with one thing on her mind, and made loud kissing noises at me, which the old woman queueing for her pension told me meant she was hungry (Which was really helpful of her, I'd never have guessed) and then tutted when I gave her a dummy. She chose that moment to make a very loud noise in her nappy however, which soon made her back off.
I had to post 30 thank-you cards and they sold me the longest stamps in the world ever (I HATE novelty stamps, what is wrong with the normal ones?!). I ran out of saliva after about the 3rd one so they were not sticking to the envelopes properly and had to be licked all over again. I actually had to have a break in between each one. People behind me were tapping their feet in impatience, the buggy was right in the way, Grace had worked out her sucking was all in vain as she was not getting any milk, and started screwing her face up and mewing a bit like a cat, which actually pains me to hear. Anyway, we managed it in the end, I am still drinking water to rehydrate myself and the post office hate me, but I managed.

I stopped at my friend's house on the way home for a re-fuel. As I was feeding Grace (and gazing longingly at my tea) my friend Caitlyn asked me how long she normally stays on the boob for. I told her about 20 minutes to half an hour each time. Caitlyn then told me her daughter Matilda used to be on for ages, well - it seems Grace has inherited her father's competitive streak... As soon as she heard that she suddenly started to suck with a vengeance... for two flipping hours! Yes, TWO HOURS I was stuck there on my friend's sofa, feeling more and more light-headed by the second as Grace slowly drained me of all my energy. I had to have my friend pass AND unzip me a banana at one point. I can't believe it! What if Grace overhears people telling me how big their children's poos are (and believe me, that is exactly the kind of thing I talk about now).

I am trying to get her into a routine, more for my own sake than hers, so it's bath-time at 6pm. The (stupid) parenting book told me that she would not like the bath at all, so I prepared myself for the screwed-up Grace face, but she seems to like her bathtime. She looks slightly unsure at times (normally when clumsy-clot me gets water in her eyes) but on the whole she is unbothered. She has a little baby bath with giraffes up the side of it and a little yellow giraffe towel to match. The hardest bit about bathing her is getting her nappy off and getting her in the water before she wees on you (or maybe something else too!), as James found out last night.

So all in all, things are still going well. I would love a nights uninterrupted sleep, but other than that I am embracing my days not working. I drink lots of tea and moan about housework with my mummy friends, it's a bit like being in a secret club (albeit a very boring one at times).
Anyway, I think Grace must have had her fill as she is still asleep hours later, and I am sure she will stay that way till about 11pm when I start yawning. She will then decide it's time to start her day (which is actually night-time for the rest of us). Babies are very clever, (they don't look it I know, but they are) then can tell when you want to be rid of them for a while. She HATES her moses basket. About 10 seconds after I put her in it she starts to make noises, which get louder and louder until I am forced to go and pick her up. (I say I, it's normally James who does this, but he is back at work now so needs to get some proper sleep).

In the day she only really wakes up for a feed, the milk seems to send her back off to sleep, but in the evening it has the opposite effect, it gives her the energy to stay awake for longer. James and I sleep in shifts, taking it in turns to sit up with her, rattling toys and telling her how pretty she is while she stares up at us looking slightly puzzled. The amazing thing is, even though one part of me is screaming for sleep, there is another part of me who loves the late-night cuddles. I still can't get over the fact that I made Grace, my beautiful healthy baby. When she looks at me I can honestly feel my heart contract with love, and even though breast-feeding can be annoying and time-consuming (and painful), I sort of feel honoured that I am the only person who can feed Grace. Having her need me in such an essential way makes me feel so special, and important, and lucky. I am sure this will all change and soon I will gazing at Tommy Tippee bottles in adoration, but for now my heart - and my boobs still belong to my little girl.

Photos here


Much love

Ericka and Grace

Grace - 2 weeks old


I can't believe I have turned into such a baby bore, but I seem to think everyone enjoys looking at photos of Grace-face as much as I do! If so then please see the latest collection... mainly of her sleeping - which I have to say she does very well indeed and for very long periods.

So, Grace is almost two weeks old. We have ventured out and about with buggies and slings and car seats.. a couple of hairy moments and slightly panicked breast-feeds in disabled loos but all in all I think I am getting the hang of things, and have become a whizz at working out very complicated poppers and zips and straps and quick release buttons. All the walking is good exercise as well, I am sort of back in my jeans.. (if you don't count being able to do up the top button anyway). Had a fit of "the baby blues" in Debenams the other day when the size 8 clothes I took to try on (in the overly-brightly lit changing rooms - NOT good for stretch marks!) did not fit... very embarrassing for James, having to lead a very hysterical sweating me out the shop as I sobbed "all the other girls are much skinnier than me, I am a wh-wha-WHALE, I will never be the same again" at the top of my voice.

I have managed to "get into" darts and all night test cricket matches on the TV, when you are up at 4am feeding a child who thinks being glued to your breast is the best place EVER and makes the most heartbreaking whimper when you try and detach her - you need something to entertain yourself..... I am also doing all the crosswords in both the Sun and the Mirror each day, sometimes the word search too, and even that one where you have to guess the letters.

I have managed to not talk nonsense in a high pitched voice, I chat to Grace all the time but try and keep the conversation sensible and informative. I've had a horrible chest infection since I got out of hospital however, so she probably thinks she is being bought up by Marge Simpson. She certainly looks at me strangely at times (normally out of one eye as she is just learning to focus on things, the other eye is normally looking in the other direction). She also has the odd uncontrollable neck spasm, so she sometimes behaves a bit like a dinosaur, a VERY pretty one though. It pains me to admit she looks just like her father, she does have my nose though, and my feet (thank god).

She has caught my cold, she sneezes and I cry because I feel so sorry for her. The doctor assures me she is fine and that it's nothing to worry about. It still pains me to hear her wheezing away in her moses basket so I have taken to curling up on the sofa with her, sniffing her head for hours, not sure this helps her, but it makes me feel better. I lose hours each day just gazing at her, I become fixated on how perfect her fingernails are, or how soft her cheeks are when I stroke them. It's funny, I helped make her, I lugged her round for months, I gave birth to her but I never ever really thought about what she would be like, or what it would feel like to hold her in my arms. I did not realise I would fall in love so completely and so helplessly. I tell myself I am in control and that she is not the boss of me - but deep down I know it's not true. She is enchanting and I am utterly under her spell.

So all in all things are going well. The midwife is very happy with us, she said I am good example of motherhood! Fancy that!!!! Apparently I am like a duck in water. I must admit I thought this parenting lark was going to be much harder ("Just you wait!" I hear you all cry) well, I will, and if she stays as delicious as this then I'll enjoy every second of it.

photos here


Much love