Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The problem with baby-proofing

So Samuel's not mobile yet, but he's not far off. All of his desperate attempts to propel himself forward have so far proved futile, but there's nothing like the sight of a baby with its arse in the air and its nose on the carpet to make you realise that EVERYTHING in your flat is an accident waiting to happen.

As a result, James took a couple of days off last week so that we could start the baby-proofing. One by one we went through our list of hazards. Is it a safer place for Samuel as a result? We won't know that for a little while yet, but one thing we do know for sure is that baby-proofing creates its own set of problems.

There's nothing that tempts little fingers more than a plug socket. That's why we've fitted all of our unused ones with those plug socket cover things. The day after we did it, I needed to take one out to plug my hairdryer in. I didn't realise that all you need to do to take a cover out is pop a plug in it and then pull, so I very sensibly started chiseling it out with a sharp metal kitchen knife. Safety first!

Babies and fire – it's not really a match made in heaven. That's a sad thing because I really love my scented candles. This is partially because they lend a relaxing, Vogue Living kind of ambiance to our living space, and partially because wild fig and cassis does a cracking job in masking the whiffs emanating from the nappy bin and the cat litter tray. Nonetheless, I acknowledged that I needed to bid a teary farewell to my Jo Malones and my Laura Merciers and accepted that it was time they went to a higher place. No, not heaven. Just to the top of the bookshelf.

Side tables, TV benches, bedside tables, toy boxes. Everywhere we looked we could see a sharp edge threatening to cause cuts, bumps and bruises. Luckily we discovered that Mothercare sells these little self-adhesive rubber things called Corner Cushions, so we got a load of them and stuck them on the corners of pretty much all of our possessions. They've made all of our possessions much safer. But, with their distinct 'Argos warehouse' aesthetic, they've also made all of our possessions look like they're in the process of being packaged up with bubblewrap and returned to the shop.

Throughout our pre-baby years, we have simply piled our box sets high and left them against a wall. No longer. I can't bear the thought of Samuel being injured in an accident involving all eight series of 24 toppling on him (plus the ridiculous and frankly unnecessary film featuring Robert Carlyle). We really should have dealt with this in the manner of Jack Bauer and speeded all of the DVDs to the middle of the Arizona desert by helicopter so that we could destroy them in a spectacular controlled explosion. What we actually did was put them on top of the bookshelf next to the scented candles. It's getting pretty crowded up there. I hope Samuel doesn't turn into a climber.

Other baby-proofing jobs that needed carrying out included attaching chests of draws to the walls and suchlike. They involved tools. And when I went to change Samuel's nappy in the midst of taking all of these safety measures, I discovered that we had left a big hammer on his changing mat.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The llama and the fish pie

Yesterday Samuel learned to spit out food with the power and intensity of a llama. He propelled the purée an impressive distance across the kitchen and the spray achieved an excellent coverage of his Dad's outfit. 

Spitting may not be one of the most desirable of baby milestones, but I still felt a little proud. That's my boy. However, given that we were due to visit Granny Pat's for lunch today, I also felt a little worried. Would he show us up? Would he fire his banana custard all over her pristine rug? Would we be able to show our faces in Horsham ever again?

As it turned out, Samuel behaved impeccably and had a great time at his granny's, playing with his new squeaky penguin and his jazzy little keyboard. I, on the other hand splattered fish pie all over my top, all down my jeans and all over Samuel's foot. I'm not sure how. And while we'd brought everything with us that Samuel could ever need in any eventuality, we hadn't put a change of clothes for mummy in the changing bag. It's a lesson learned.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Special delivery from Granny K

Excitement abounded at Knittenden HQ today when two big brown paper packages arrived from Granny K. She'd been on a baby-book-buying spree in WH Smiths and posted the spoils to Samuel instead of carting them all down with her on her next visit. What a lucky little boy he is.

There's something very nostalgic and uplifting about receiving goodies that have been packaged up with love. It felt like we were in a What Katie Did story. 

Samuel loves his books almost as much as we love his books, so we didn't waste any time. Where's Spot? and Giraffes Can't Dance were top of the bill in tonight's story time and proved extremely popular. Thanks, Mum!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Did I ever tell you my birth story?

For the past couple of months, I've been doing a spot of writing for TalkMum, a really fantastic blog that's aimed at parents and parents-to-be. I've been missing writing regularly since I've been on maternity leave from my copywriting job, so it's great to have a gig like this (alongside Knittenden) that I can get stuck into during Samuel's naptimes. 

Today, TalkMum is featuring my birth story. I read LOADS of birth stories while I was pregnant - knowledge is power and all that - so I've written mine in the hope that it might be useful for other people. I'm sure it'll be super popular. After all, it's not like there's another high-profile baby-related news story out there that people are desperate to read about, is it? Anyway, it seems like the kind of thing I should really be featuring on here too, so I have reproduced it below (see what I did there?).

Should you be interested in reading any of my other ramblings on TalkMum, you can find my piece about morning sickness here and my post on surviving my first six months of motherhood here.
"Ooh," I said as I lay on the sofa like a beached whale. "Something just kind of ... pinged. This might be it!"

I was pretty excited. I looked at my husband James and could tell he wasn't quite so excited. It was Saturday night, Match of the Day had just started and there had been a bumper goal-fest that day.

I waddled to the bathroom to investigate further and discovered that this was indeed it.  My waters had broken. That was good. They were also very yellow. Not so good. 

I called the hospital and they said they were worried that the meconium in my waters meant the baby was in distress. They told us to go straight in because the baby would need careful monitoring. 

We tried not to worry as we drove towards the hospital. We tried to look on the bright side.

"At least my waters aren't gushing," I said. "It's more of a slow trickle."
Then we went over a speed bump. 
All of a sudden it was like someone was emptying a two litre bottle of warm lemonade into my jeans. The upholstery on the passenger seat hasn't been the same since.

We parked and I squelched up to the maternity unit, leaving a trail of gunk in my wake. I felt like a snail. There's nothing dignified about childbirth.

We were put in a room and I was strapped up to lots of machines. The baby seemed to be doing fine, which was a huge relief, but the need for constant monitoring put pay to any plans I had to remain mobile or have a water birth. 

It was around midnight by now and the contractions were starting to get painful. Gas and air was a godsend. So was James. Once we'd worked out that each contraction lasted 45 seconds, he held my hand tightly every time one started and counted down from 45. The counting gave me something to focus on, knowing that the pain would be over by the time we reached the count of one.

As the sun started to rise, the pain grew. I writhed on the bed and screamed for an epidural. The wait for the anaesthetist, who was busy in surgery, was agonising. But once she arrived and administered the happy juice, I was overjoyed. Not able to feel a thing below the waist, I chatted happily to the midwives I'd previously been hissing and howling at and I did some granny dancing with my hands to cheesy tunes on Magic FM. Those hours were unexpectedly relaxing.

By midday it was time to push. So I pushed. And pushed. And pushed some more. Nothing happened. More pushing. By this point a whole team of midwives and doctors were cheering me on and I felt like Crystal Palace in the playoffs. But still no sign of the baby. 

I'd given it everything, but things weren't progressing as they should and it was getting a bit scary, so out came the knife. It's certainly not what any woman in labour wants to see, but at that point I just wanted my baby delivered safely. At least the episiotomy was quick. One big, unceremonious gush later and the doctor held a little bloody bundle aloft, just like that scene in The Lion King.

'Hello, Samuel," we both said, grinning.

He was worth missing Match of the Day for.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From the bookshelf: Pirates Love Underpants

We're a bit worried that Samuel will grow with an obsession with underpants thanks to the literary choices we are making for him. You see, James and I are completely hooked on Claire Freedman and Ben Cort's brilliant series of books about pants. 

It started when James's friend, Diane, bought Aliens Love Underpants as a gift for Samuel. We thought he was way to young for a picture book. But one day we read it to him, just to kill time really, and he sat still (a first!) and was completely engrossed by the beautiful, bright pictures. But, more to the point, WE loved it. It's a hilarious rhyming tale that does what it says on the tin: aliens come to earth to pinch pants because they love them. They use them as whizzy slides, wear them on their feet and heads, and even play games where they see how many aliens can fit inside each leg. 

We read the book so much, it got to the point where we could both recite it from memory. So, under the guise of 'Samuel needing some new books', we bought three more Underpants books: Aliens in Underpants Save The World, Dinosaurs Love Underpants and Pirates Love Underpants. They are all equally excellent and equally funny, but the one that seems to have taken over as favourite in our household is Pirates.

Again, the title pretty much says it all but, in a nutshell, a bunch of pirates sail to a desert island in search of the fabled Pants of Gold. They are confident that they will get their paws on them because, as the Captain says, "Pants pirates never fail!" (This has become a bit of a Chittenden catchphrase now, and every time we say it, it sounds more and more like a euphemism.)

When they reach the island, the pirates have to negotiate all kinds of scary obstacles, such as hungry crocodiles, prickly undergrowth and caves as black as night. 

When they eventually track down the pants they discover, to their horror, that they are in the possession of another pirate crew. So what do they do? I'm not telling. But needless to say, Samuel loves it when it happens (and by that, what I actually mean is that me and James love it when it happens). For story time fun that both kids and grown ups will enjoy, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A duck to water

Another first today: we took Samuel swimming. We've been wanting to do it for a little while, but have held off a bit because we were worried about the effect the water would have on his eczema, the effect the loud noise would have on him, and - in the main - the effect the military operation of getting a squirmy baby into a swimming pool would have on our mental health. But I have to report back that not only was it reasonably stress-free, but that it was also top fun.

It has to be said, though, that the logistics were astonishing. When we left the flat, we had in our possession a baby in a car seat and FOUR bags. A swimming bag for each of us, plus the usual change bag loaded up with a post-swim lunch for Samuel. That's a lot of luggage for a fifteen minute dip in the pool and I felt like a pack mule, but then I guess that's our life now.

Our pool of choice was The Spa at Beckenham. It's modern and clean, and the teaching pool for kids is right next to the changing and locker area, which makes life nice and easy.

First of all we just sat on the side of the pool, dangling our legs in and playing with Zachary Quack, his favourite rubber duck. The little man seemed unfazed by it all and was giving his surroundings a good eyeballing, so we popped him into the water and kind of whooshed him around a bit. He seemed to like that too, floating and kicking and splashing and checking out all of the other babies. Zachary Quack didn't leave his mouth at any point, so taking a familiar toy on a first visit definitely seemed liked like a good call. We loved watching him love it, and he looked incredibly cute in his wetsuit - like a tiny triathlete. We rolled a little floating ball to him and he really went for that. Then we got a bit cocky and sat him up and held him on one of those big flat float things. He wasn't too keen and soon let us know that he'd had enough for today so off we poddled, back to our four bags and the soggy socks that I'd forgotten to take off when we'd first walked into the soggy changing area (schoolgirl error).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gratuitous baby photo of the week

There's no real story here, it's just a photo of Samuel looking cute (and a little bit like he's in The Full Monty, truth be told) with his Thomas The Tank Engine ball. He LOVES that little ball and is always mighty proud of himself when he manages to pick it up or roll it back to me.

Look, it's my blog and I can post gratuitous baby photos if I want to! And posting them on here means I'm less inclined to annoy my Facebook friends with my over sharenting.

Have good weekends all.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The post where I find peace of mind in Euston

If you've read even just a little bit of this blog, you may have gleaned that I'm a bit of a worrier. A neurotic first time mum whose concerns are many and varied. What if Samuel chokes? What if he gets too hot? What if I drop him in the bath? What if I'm watching so many episodes of Homes Under the Hammer that I actually start to think of myself as an property development expert, head to an auction one morning and lose us a fortune?

I'm pretty sure that worrying about all of these things come with the territory when you're a new parent. Apart from, perhaps, the Homes Under The Hammer one. But I figured that rather than stress about all these 'what ifs' and remain in the dark, I'd actually go and suss out what I should do if I ever have to face any of these awful situations. So, bright and early last Saturday I headed up to Euston for a baby and child first aid course run by the British Red Cross. I'm so glad I did.

The full-day course was really informal, really fun, and full of fellow parents, grandparents and parents-to-be who all shared the same concerns as me. It was kind of like a neurotics anonymous, so I felt right at home. It covered pretty much every nightmare scenario you could (and I did) imagine: how to administer CPR, how to tie a sling, how to deal with burns, bleeding, seizures, allergic reactions, choking and so many more. There were loads of opportunities to practice everything that we learned too (there were dummies all over the place), all in an atmosphere that wasn't intimidating in the slightest.

I think that if, like me, you care for a child and your first aid knowledge is patchy at best, then a course like this is 50 quid well spent. I was amazed to realise that first aid is actually really easy and not some form of black magic that only certain people know how to practice. You just need a few pointers in the right direction. I feel pretty confident that I'd know what to do in an emergency now and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't freeze in fear, worrying that I might do more harm than good.

The British Red Cross have also created a free baby and child first aid app which is super handy if you want to brush up on your knowledge. It's well worth downloading. After all, knowledge is power (just not when it comes to buying properties at auction - I must remember that).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Smell me

Actually, please don't smell me. The last thing you want to do on a day like today is smell me. A day where the temperature in our greenhouse of a flat hasn't dropped below 30. A day when I took Samuel on a train ride to central London and pottered around in the blazing sun and it was still cooler than being in our own home, even with fans on and windows open. Don't smell me.

What you might want to do, though, is smell some of the delicious produce at Borough Market, for that's where we went. The lovely L's office is just around the corner from there so I thought it was about time I went to meet her for lunch. I was ready to take on the hustle and bustle of London Bridge with Samuel in tow. 

We ate at Le Pain Quotidian, which was full of high chairs and very baby friendly. Samuel was completely taken with L, grabbing at her hair and trying to steal her jewellery. Once he'd eaten, we took turns letting him bounce around on our knees while we caught up. Well, while we caught up as much as two people can catch up with a crazed, grunting, attention-seeking trampolinist between them.

Afterwards, we strolled back through Borough Market, a bit sad that afternoon work commitments and motherhood meant we couldn't really indulge in the rows and rows of cooling Pimms cocktails and Prosecco spritzers that clever traders were making a killing on. As Samuel and I headed back to the train station, our noses were assaulted by the smells of the best cheeses, chorizo and truffles that London has to offer. They were definitely some of the the nicer smells that we experienced on a scorching day like today.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Treasures from Magpie and Hen

When you have a baby you are constantly buying things. 

There are the things that you need. The essential things that you have budgeted for like bedroom furniture, clothes and food. 

Then there are the things that you think you need, but that it turns out you really don't need. Things like the rocking chair you bought for nursing the baby but that the baby hated, so it now just sits in the corner gathering dust. Or that second sling that you need a degree in astrophysics to work out how to use. Or any toy ever that claims to help a baby get to sleep. THEY DO NOT WORK.

And then there are the things you want. The beautiful little things that you shouldn't really splash out on, but that you just KNOW will look super cute on your little one or keep them merrily entertained, no matter how fleetingly. The things that you feel a small pang of guilt about when your other half says, "Where did THIS come from?"

But only a small one.

I found a heap of these gorgeous things on Magpie and Hen, a local Mum's Etsy shop. We're talking pre-loved kitsch and vintage toys and clothes. We're talking 80s rompers and charming wooden pull-a-long ducks and caterpillars. Things that simply make you happy. I wanted the lot, but after much deliberation I settled on some lovely orange stripy dungarees (they're a tad too big for Samuel right now, but he'll be in them before the end of the summer) and a couple of 70s ABC and numbers books with gloriously random pictures that I adore. A wombat wielding a whip, for example. 

I know I definitely need to reign in my online baby shopping. I'll start next week.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Another day, another park post

Today we dressed Samuel up like an ageing lady golfer, slapped on some Factor 50 and made a beeline for Dulwich Park. It was gorgeous.

We passed the boating lake, wondering how long it would be before the three of us could get out there.

Then we made a dash for the ducks and showed Samuel how to feed them. He was quite keen on the little ducklings but not too big on the Canada Geese.

Then, sweaty and shattered, we headed home, stopping off for a shandy in a beer garden while Samuel slept. Lovely.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The brotherhood of fatherhood

On paper, Crystal Palace shouldn't be a very good place to bring up a baby. It sits at the top of several steep hills that tower above London. It's so high up that in the olden days, ill people were advised to move here to enjoy some of its fresh, clean air. Buggy friendly it is not. Yet, it's packed with oodles of families just like us, negotiating the knackering inclines every day. Head to any pub round here for a Sunday lunch and you feel out of place if you don't have at least one little person at your table. And while the battle for high chairs may sometimes get bloody, the thing that seems to attract families is the very modern sense of community. (The slightly cheaper-than-average London house prices are admittedly a big draw too, but let's ignore that for now.)

James thought that he had tapped into this community on Friday when he had the day off work. He took Samuel to Monkey Music - a very PC baby class that as many dads go along to as mums. Then later we all walked to the park and there were dads with babies all over the place.

"You know," he said as he pushed Samuel towards the play area. "I feel like I've joined a secret club. Every time I've seen a dad with a baby today, we've sort of smiled and nodded at each other in recognition."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's like there's a special brotherhood of fatherhood. Just watch this," he said, subtly pointing at the lone bloke with the buggy walking towards us. "He'll give me the special nod."

James smiled expectantly, but the guy stared determinedly into the middle distance and strode past without so much as a glance.

James looked a bit crushed.

"It must be his second child," he said.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Samuel at 8 months'

Eight months' old today and we have a tooth! Just a millimetre or so of tooth, but a tooth nonetheless.  A tiny little shard of white that you only properly catch a glimpse of when he giggles. And Samuel's been giggling lots today. I was squirting some suncream when the bottle made a funny noise. 'Splodge!' I said. He thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard, so today I have mainly been saying 'splodge' over and over again, just to make him laugh and show off that toothy peg.

He's sleeping better and he can stay awake for longer stretches - two or three naps a day see him through just fine. His love of books shows no sign of abating and he sits enraptured when his dad reads him daring tales of aliens and witches. His favourite thing in the whole wide world is the cat, and he flaps wildly and shrieks with excitement whenever she walks by. He can play on his own and sit up without any help now. The only thing is, he doesn't like sitting very much. Too boring. Too stationary. He wants to stand and walk and bounce. He's much steadier when he's held in a standing position and I don't think it'll be too long before he tries to totter around. I don't think he'll bother with crawling at all, though, since he's about as keen on tummy time as I am on housework. But, my, he loves to roll himself onto his tummy. Generally he does this when we've just put him to bed, and because he can't roll himself back yet, we have to dash in and rescue him. He always gives us a big grin.

He's a bundle of energy. His legs are never still, his eyes are constantly darting around, and he chats away and grunts like an excitable pirate. I have no idea where it comes from because his dad and I are almost sloth-like in our dedication to sitting down in peace and quiet. Once he's mobile there will be no stopping him. It's very exciting. I think eight months is my favourite age yet.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Keeping our cool

The heat wave continues in South London. As the temperature in the city rises, so does the heat, up from the scorching pavement, up, up, up to our top floor flat. Me and Samuel have been closing the curtains like vampires and trying to keep the sunlight out. We've been sitting in dark rooms, ordering fans and super thin sheet sleeping bags that will inevitably arrive once the hot weather dissipates. And once the heat has hit green house levels, we've been heading out in search of shade and breeze.

On Monday we clambered over the rubble and through the brambles down the side of the building to sit in our garden. What it lacks in ease of access, grass, and garden furniture, it makes up for in shade. It was lovely and cool under the trees so we laid out a blanket, watched the butterflies and played with Samuel's ball.

Then we had company on Tuesday as Jim, one of my best mates from Manchester, came to visit us. I absolutely love it when my friends have time off work and we get to hang out with them during the week. It feels like such a luxury - and kind of like you're skiving off school. We braved the heat of Norwood Park where he regaled me with tales of dating in 2013 and I regaled him and Samuel with nursery rhymes. As you can see from the photo, neither of them were particularly impressed.

Today my lovely NCT friend invited us all over to her garden for some paddling pool action. A fantastic idea, and in such glorious weather, nothing could be more fun for a baby, right? Wrong. Samuel doesn't seem too open to new experiences at the moment and the poor thing cried from the moment we got in the garden. The cries ratcheted up to caterwauls by the time he got anywhere near the pool so we abandoned ship and dashed home for some lunch. Still, it's not going to stop me from exposing him to new experiences - hopefully he'll start to get the hang of social events soon. In the meantime we have a good photo to show to him at his 18th birthday party.

Monday, July 8, 2013

This clueless mother's guide to eczema

Summer has arrived Chez Chittenden. It's brought many joys with it like park visits, painted toenails and Pimms. But the infernal heat has caused its problems too. Fur balls. Frizzy hair. A collective celtic pallor that makes us feel like we face the world with the grace and dignity of a family of goths in a sauna. Also the heat can sometimes bring out Samuel's eczema.

Samuel's eczema first appeared when he had just turned three months' old. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, his face and shoulders were covered in dry, itchy red patches. He clawed and clawed at them, which made it worse. If I took my eye off him for a moment, he'd scratch a chunk out of his face. And, as with every issue that arises as a new mum, I panicked. Would he suffer like this forever? How could I stop him scratching? Was it something I'd done or eaten? Was it the cat? If it was the cat would we have to get rid of the cat?

The GP diagnosed eczema straight away. A mild case, she said, and gave us some emollient cream and steroid cream. Sorted, I thought, and off we went and applied the creams as directed on the prescriptions. But while they helped to ease the itching a little, they didn't get rid of the dry red patches all together. Samuel was still suffering and I was still a bit stumped. Neither me or James ever had eczema as children so we didn't really know what to do for the best. 

Luckily, the health visitor referred us to an eczema education programme for parents run by a dermatological nurse from St Thomas'. I went along a few weeks' ago and the tips I picked up were brilliant. We saw results with Samuel pretty much straight away. And, even better, we didn't have to pack the cat off with a little suitcase and a one-way ticket to Grannyville. Here's a little of what I learned:

1. Don't blame the cat - but make sure she remains lonely
There are a bunch of things that trigger eczema. Heat, pollen, swimming, detergents,
clothing labels and seams, dust mites, illness and cosmetics. Pet fur can be a trigger too, but if you had the pet before the baby came along, their skin is probably used to its fur by now. Just don't get another cat, or any other furry critter.

2. Stickybeaks should complain that your child is too cold or too warm
Since heat makes eczema worse, you should always aim to keep your child cool. That means keeping their room between 16 and 18 degrees (which is freezing) and making sure they wear one layer of clothing less than you, as opposed to the general rule of thumb which says babies should wear one layer more than you. If old ladies tell you that your baby is too cold then that means you're on the right track. Confusingly, since pollen also causes eczema, you should also make sure your child is well covered-up on sunny days with high pollen levels. Go for long armed and long legged clothes, but made from light, natural fabrics. That might lead to a few more moans from Aunty Doris.

3. Your family will never, ever smell nice
Scented cosmetics such as soap or perfume can kick eczema off, so that means binning the Chanel Mademoiselle and going for a more 'natural' scent. And while you're busy smelling of, well, you, baby is busy smelling like a Glaxo-Smith-Klein lab. Emollients are great but I'm yet to find a non-medical smelling one on prescription.

4. You can never over-cream your child
Prescription emollients usually come in those industrial-looking 500g pumps. Apparently, in order to keep your baby's skin protected from all those eczema-causing nasties, you should be getting through one of these pumps every fortnight. Really slavering it on and then letting it sink in, several times a day. This came as a shocker to me because without any proper guidelines from the GP I'd just been putting a thin layer on a couple of times a day and getting through a pump every couple of months. We've seen a whopping improvement to his skin since we got more liberal with the emollient. I also discovered that if you are using steroid creams too, these are most effective when applied after the emollient has sunk in - ideally after 20 minutes. Put steroids on before, and they will be diluted by the emollient. Basically, when you have an eczema baby, expect to have creams coming out of your ears and expect a thin oily film over all of your worldly possessions.

5. Cover up those paws
One of the best ways to stop baby scratching when they sleep is investing in a pair of Scratch Sleeves. They go on like a cardigan, cover up any sharp little nails and look like tiny baby oven gloves. But best of all, baby can't get out of them no matter how much they wriggle. They're definitely one of our best buys.

All of these tips helped with Samuel's eczema, but every baby is different so they might not work for everyone. The main message that I took away from the workshop was that unless you put your baby in a plastic bubble, you can never eliminate all the trigger factors for eczema, but so long as you're aware of what they are and you're prepared, you can minimise them. And you can enjoy a hot summer with a baby and a cat.

Friday, July 5, 2013

And he wore: a Ralph Romper

Way back in December, when Samuel was just 8 weeks old, James had to go to America with work. It had all been carefully arranged before Samuel came along.

'I'll be fine!' I'd said, gurning like a clueless, pregnant idiot. 'My mum will be staying with me, and after all, we're bound to have the baby in a routine by then, aren't we?'

Fast forward to his first night away and I'm crying, wild-eyed, into my iPad. My hair is pointing in 23 different directions and I'm howling at him over FaceTime: 

'You will NEVER go away again! If you ever, ever leave me with a baby again I will BOIL YOUR HEAD!' 

I pause momentarily to wipe away some snivelly snot and a thought occurs to me.

'You'd better bring us some bloody good presents back.'

And he did. This posh romper was Samuel's gift. At the time Samuel was as tiny as a doll as it looked so enormous. I couldn't ever imagine him growing big enough to wear it. But here he is, six months on, looking smart and spiffing and stripy. James goes away with work again in a few months' time. I think I'll be able to manage now. I'll try not to boil his head on his return.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cheers, ears!

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I've had some really lovely and encouraging comments and messages about the blog over the last couple of weeks, so I just wanted to say thank you. Thanks ever so much for reading. Thanks for telling me that it makes you laugh. Thanks for letting me know that it often rings true and that I'm not the only parent who frequently goes out wearing jeans that have been peed on. 

When I was pregnant and when I first became a mum, I was desperate to hear other people's experiences of some of the things that I was going through. I wanted to work out how other mums managed to cope and make things work. I wanted to be inspired and to laugh to be told that things really can and do get better. And I found all of this, and loads more, in some really brilliant blogs. I want to try and do a bit of that sort of thing with Knittenden. And hopefully I'll eventually get around to doing some darned knitting and posting about that too. (And in lieu of having any of my own knitting to post, the picture above is of the gorgeous knitted bunny that Laura made for Samuel. He's a big fan).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


The day the community midwife signed me off, she wished me good luck and offered me one piece of advice. 'Never compare your child to anyone else's and never compare yourself to other mums'.

I've been going back to her words a lot over the past couple of weeks, repeating them to myself over and over. Trying to not compare your baby with others is tough. Babies develop rapidly at this sort of age, and they all reach different milestones at different times. I know that. And Samuel is spot on in terms of his development. I know that too. Yet when I see him at play groups and play dates struggling to do some of the things his contemporaries are doing, I can't help but feel it. If he is popped down on his tummy to hang out with the gang, he cries immediately and wants to get up and be held. If he's offered finger food with the others who are happily noshing away, he cries because he doesn't really know what to do with it. If I move more than a metre or two away from him at any point he cries because he hasn't learned to play without me around yet.

And then I start to wonder about my role in all of this. Maybe I should be giving him more tummy time (and stop worrying about how much milk he throws up every time I do it). Maybe I should be working much harder on the finger foods and not focusing so much on the purées. Maybe if I'd have chilled out a little bit more and not been such a hovering mum, he'd be much happier being left to play alone now. Maybe I should have been more prepared and read up on parenting psychological theories and philosophies long before he came along.

It's crazy how, if you give this sort of stuff time to fester, you really can start regretting tiny little decisions you've made over the early months and start to worry that you've indelibly broken your baby. The other night I was really beating myself up about having given him the odd sugary rusk. But it's madness. I know that Samuel's a happy little man if he's with me and we're sticking to his routine. He's kind, he's funny, he's interested in everything, he's extremely dextrous and he loves a good giggle. I know that when all is said and done, he's doing great and he'll get there in his own time. All that I'm trying to do is the best that I can. There's a huge amount of room for improvement, but I'm on the steepest learning curve of my life. I'll get there in my own time too. In the meantime, I'll keep thinking back to the midwife's words.

Monday, July 1, 2013

We went to Westfield and felt like we were on P Diddy's yacht

I didn't expect to find a secret parenting Shangri-la at Westfield Stratford City. I really just expected some kind of poo-related catastrophe that might result in me being blacklisted by every Whistles store in the UK (the poo would be Samuel's, I hasten to add). But, as always seems the case when we get out and about, the experience was far better than I expected.

I went there to meet Laura for lunch. I hadn't been there before and I hadn't taken Samuel on the tube before. Yet again I was nervous, but yet again it was fine. There were lifts all over the place, so getting on and off the tube at Canada Water was a breeze and Samuel took it all in his stride. 

When we arrived at Westfield, a nappy change was required, so I whizzed us over to one of the mall's 'parent rooms'. I just expected a perfunctory flip-down changing table. And that would have been fine. But no! It was like walking into some kind of VIP chill-out area. Bright, tranquil and modern, it had spacious changing pods, private cubicles for breastfeeding, a flat screen TV showing CBeebies, a lovely play area and big comfy sofas for the grown ups. It even had a microwave and bottle warmers. It was so luxurious that I half expected to see P Diddy knocking back some Cristal while watching Mr Tumble. Sadly, I didn't. But, take my word for it, it's impressive enough Diddy or no Diddy.

Laura and I then headed off for a lovely lunch at The Real Greek, and Samuel bounced around on our laps throughout. After that it was time to head home and, amazingly, he snoozed all the way like an angel. Perhaps it's time I raised my expectations.