What a difference two months makes!
Since the birth of our baby Evan, life has been tumbled upside down for me and my husband Alex in the very best way.
The day before Evan was ready to make his debut, a Friday, I woke feeling almost human again after pregnancy nausea had left me feeling rotten for the past week. I set off on a day of frenzied activity and darted about the house like a domestic goddess; organising, sorting and cleaning anything that dared stand in my way. I believe this is called NESTING. I posted a blog about talented artist Albert Man. I ventured out to hell-on-earth-Oxford Street to buy maternity jeans. Later that night, we saw friend and local artist Harry Pane perform an outstanding gig in the luminous surroundings of Gods Own Junkyard. I felt a bit like my old self again.
I highly recommend Harry and his work. Not only a brilliant musician but, unwittingly, also highly skilled in inducing early labour. We got home at midnight and settled in but at 1.30 am all hell broke loose and so did my waters. Pregnancy had seemed like an eternity but this was the real deal; off to Whipps Cross Hospital we dashed, nine days earlier than expected. Gulp.
After 29 hours of labour with Alex and my Mum as excellent birthing partners (plus a gratifying assortment of pain management drugs that transformed my voice into that of Frank Butcher’s) little Evan, ahem, tumbled out at 6.20 am on the Sunday AND THAT IS ALL I WILL SAY ABOUT THE BIRTH.
Evan and I stayed in hospital for one night (terrifying) and then came home to a lovely welcome party. Since then, my husband and I have been sucked into a frightening, exhausting, beautiful whirlwind where time has no concept. None at all. Forget the Twilight Zone. This is the Baby Zone - which is much more frightening.
Family and friends often ask me how it’s all going. In summary; it’s by far the most amazing, challenging, exhausting, rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. Like competing in a Tough Mudder Challenge on a daily basis, with added poo.
I’m fortunate to receive a ton of messages and emails. I hope this blog goes some way to explain why I haven’t got back to you yet…
I Can’t. Get. No. Sleep.
You knew it was coming and I apologise for the annoying parenting cliché - but lack of sleep is a total git. A fellow New Mum reminded me the other day that sleep deprivation is a form of torture in some parts of the world. I relate. Being constantly sleep deprived does strange things to you.
It can make you REALLY F*CKING IRRITABLE (sorry Alex). It can render simple, every day things completely overwhelming. This is unfortunate since being a New Parent involves learning lots of new things, a bit like studying a masters degree in Having a Baby. When exhausted, sterilising bottles with a microwave steriliser, expressing milk with an electric pump ( I hear this noise in my nightmares) and using other gadgets that we are lucky to have in this day and age become as complicated as quantum physics. Instruction manuals may as well be written in Mandarin. My big sister kindly tried to explain to me the simple process of washing, rinsing and sterilising bottles at 9.00 pm one night after a long day and I flopped on the kitchen table and weeped “I CAN’T DO THIS, I DON’T UNDERSTAND. SOMEONE PLEASE HELP” while Alex gently took my phone from my hands, manoeuvred me toward the stairs and informed Jo I would call her back tomorrow.
It can make you forgetful. All around the house are remnants of tasks started but forgotten. The other day it took me an hour to get Evan and me ready to collect a parcel I’d missed from the Post Office. Before leaving I tried to locate the red ‘Something for You’ card I’d had in my hands a mere 10 minutes before. I turned the house upside down for a further hour, checking under piles of washing, peeking under Evan but it did not turn up. I found it that later that night in the tumble dryer. I may have sworn.
I have a propensity to want to get stuff done and rinse the life out of each day. However, since Evan came along, daily goals have been dramatically and realistically modified. Have shower. *Tick*. Get dressed before 2.00 pm. *Fist pump*. Post card. *Done*. I tell myself “today I will get out before 12.00 pm”. I get out at 5.00 pm, relieved to see daylight and gulp down fresh air.
Who would have thought looking after such a tiny, precious being would be so colossal? It is a military-style operation that requires superpowers of foresight and organisation just to get to appointments on time and keep the Evan cycle (feeding, changing and cuddling) spinning. The house is littered with the detritus of washing, paperwork and breakfast stuff I haven’t had time to put away as the little man has stirred. Messages and emails are stacked up and I’m averaging a one-handed WhatsApp reply every 4 hours. Ideally, my morning would be like that scene in Mary Poppins when, with the snap of her fingers and a spoonful of sugar, folded clothes leap into drawers and beds make themselves. It is not. I am not Mary.
I’ve never done so much washing in my life. I remember someone telling me that when you have a baby, the washing machine is always on. “Ha ha”, I chuckled. “How can that be? It’s a little baby, surely they don’t wear much!”.
THE WASHING MACHINE IS ALWAYS ON. I am a one-woman launderette, where hand washing, machine washing and tumble drying is done simultaneously and tri-daily. I am literally Dot Cotton in the East End.
Fashion Faux Pas
I would describe my New-Mum look as Deranged Chic. It’s not so much selecting an outfit to wear, but grabbing the nearest clean, dry, and feeding-functional thing I can fling on. Hair is spritzed with dry shampoo and styled with a skunk-like white streak when I forget to rub it in, or if I’m lucky, washed but left to dry au naturel, i.e. in a shit, flat way.
Makeup is roughly painted on with one hand, the other bobbing Evan up and down in his bouncer. (A bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy simultaneously which I was never any good at).
I’m lucky if I can get my top back on some days as I dash from one room to the next and answer the front door. I leave the house for an appointment, get halfway down the road convinced my dress is tucked into my knickers and duck into the nearest bush to check all is in order. The other day I may possibly have flashed the MOT garage opposite, unaware the shutters were open in our bedroom as I ran in to get the Infacol. (Surely that qualifies me for a discount on my next service?).
Evan is sick on me at least twice a day. To me, he is my world. To him, I am a tissue.
Mum Faux Pas
I have become one of those Mums. I say hackneyed Mum-things like ‘I NEVER FINISH A CUP OF TEA!’ and mock raise my eyes to heaven. I drench my Facebook page with images of Evan smiling (pooing). If away from him, like recently watching the legendary Stevie Wonder at Hyde Park an experience to be savoured if ever there was one, I WhatsApped my parents on the hour to ask if he was OK and request a photo to coo over.
Some days I think I’m doing OK. I’m dressed and, crucially, have a top on. I have eaten something. “I’M WINNING” I think to myself “I am OUT”. The other day I was brave and executed a public breastfeed in a local deli. I finished, feeling rather smug for not flashing my fellow diners and put Evan back down so I could finish my tea in peace (see above point). As I bent ungainly over the pram, a very nice gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said I had, erm, mislaid something. A breast pad, it turned out. Stuck to my left bum cheek. I peeled it off, paid the bill and left a tip and my dignity behind.
The other day after a walk, I arrived home and popped off Evan’s hat, only to discover a pair of baby socks had been stashed inside the top of it for the past hour. (Sssh, don’t tell the midwife).
At our daytime NCT classes, we learnt out how to change a nappy on a pretend baby. Oh, how we had all laughed! “How easy was that” we had sniggered and congratulated ourselves on being natural parents.
Apply what you’ve learnt to a real, wriggly baby at 3.30 am, chuck in backache, sleep deprivation and a wee in the face for good measure and and it’s not such a hoot. Baby grow poppers are the work of the devil, there to punish Mums who dream of drinking wine and not wearing a nursing bra, as you finally pop everything closed and realised you’ve missed one.
Nappy changes have made Alex and I slightly nuts. After being told olive oil can prevent dry skin, poor Evan is doused in it on a regular basis at morning nappy changes and smells like a greek salad. We have adopted phrases such as “Make sure his dinky is down” to prevent a messy nappy. We sing deranged songs that don’t rhyme in an attempt to stop him crying like “EVAN, I’M IN HEAVEN, I’M IN HEAVEN WITH MY LITTLE BABY EVAN” to the tune of “Cheek to Cheek” that you would die with embarrassment if anyone heard you (and that the word dinky now featured in your lexicon).
Don’t You Worry 'Bout A Thing
Being a new parent is confusing and terrifying and means learning on the job with help from remote tutors (grandmothers), a bit like distance learning. There is no manual, no algorithm to follow. My Google history is a blazing trail of anxiety. *Baby red face* *Newborn baby red face*. *Normal colour baby face*. At 2am, I’m scanning the BabyCentre, NHS and NCT websites and self-diagnosing imaginary symptoms. On average I check Evan’s breathing every two minutes. I’m not ashamed to say sometimes I walk past his pram and touch his head just to check he is in fact still breathing (which causes him to jump and wake up) and then run off. This makes me feel a little bit mean.
Oh and did I mention that sleep deprivation can make you really irrational? I am obsessed with Evan’s temperature. If he looks a little clammy, the digital temperature is out and under his arm in seconds. “Oh God, he hasn’t pooed in an hour”. “Ah, he’s pooing too much!”. “Ah, he has a rash all over his face.” “One of eyes is only half open!” *Googles poo, rash and squinty eye*.
Food, Glorious Food
Food is no longer savoured, it is shovelled in and gobbled down at any available window. Breakfast is taken at 12.00 pm, lunch at 4.00 pm, dinner at 11.00 pm. I am the unhinged person wandering around Walthamstow at 4.30 pm, hunting down an establishment still serving lunch at such a time, and nearly crying with relief when indeed they are, ordering “a strong coffee and your finest chocolate-based product please” in an unsteady voice. I often have food in my hair. I am effectively one of Roald Dahl’s The Twits.
SO, in answer to your kind questions - in a deranged, sleep-deprived and giddy-with-love kind of way, I think we’re doing OK.
We could never have done it without the support of family and friends with their staying the night, their visits, their kind words, generous gifts, daily calls and WhatsApps. Oh and flapjacks. I couldn’t have done it without flapjacks.
But, of course, I’m messing about. Absolutely none of this matters a jot. It is all about Evan now and I'll take the poo, the lack of sleep and the absence of dignity any day.
The other day Evan grabbed my finger, looked into my eyes and smiled. Every single stupid, unimportant concern disappeared and I felt a pang of the most overwhelming love it actually made my stomach hurt that was nothing to do with labour pain recovery or the fact I hadn’t had the time to go for a wee in six hours.
Evan is two months old today! He celebrated at 5.00 am this morning by doing an EPIC projectile poo on him, me, our still-quite-new beige carpet and on the baby wipes and nappies I’d laid out. Then he wee'd in my face and hair and gave me a smile. Cooly executed Evan.
Happy Birthday Evan from Heaven. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I love you so much. You break my heart every time I look at you.
Here’s to the next month...