Friday, August 31, 2007

hodge, meet podge
First off, cross your fingers, toes, arms, legs and anything else you've got - TA has an exciting interview today for a short-term contract doing really cool stuff for a high-profile project. There's money in it too. Obviously, getting this job would be good news.
Second, I owe you a Sprouticus update!
I had a midwife appointment yesterday. "Have you felt the baby kick yet?" she asked. "Yes, emphatically. All day and all night," I replied. She raised an eyebrow at me in disbelief and suggested I hop up on to the gurney so that we could hear the baby's heartbeat. Sprout didn't let me down, as soon as I was horizontal he started doing lengths with his special, patent-pending "kick mum coming and going backflip end change" move. My belly heaved and roiled like a very heavy sea in a force-10 gail. "Oh, that was a kick!" she exclaimed in shock. I nodded, satisfied that I had been vindicated. Sprout kept it up the whole time she was moving the doppler thing across my ever-expanding belly so that she could only get a fix on the heartbeat for a few moments before losing it again.
Next up we had the blood test results. "Didn't the consultant go through these with you?" she asked in disbelief. I bit my tongue about the broom cupboard and wee-spilling ineptitude and simply shook my head. "Hmm," she flicked through the forms. "You don't have Syphalis. HIV... negative. Hepatitis... negative. And your iron levels are great."
"Er, well that's good news. I don't have syphalis." I tried to attempt a joke even though I was shocked by her casual delivery of what could have been really bad news. Then the real oddity occurred to me. I reeled. "But, I got a prescription from the clinic for iron tablets - they rang me and said I was anaemic!" She shook her head, "Don't take them - they give you constipation."
"TOO LATE, three a day for a month - I've finished the prescription! I KNOW they cause constipation!"
There's more to tell - I really should regale you with stories of the thrills and spills of an Iggles holiday, let you know about our adventures at the hospital during the tour of the maternity facilities - but it's lunch time and I'm hungry.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

clotted cream, family tension, small people, dog vomit and much, much more
I’ve been on my annual summer pilgrimage to the Iggly Wiggly. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the events of the last two weeks, which embraced the many and varied delights of tourism on the cheap, a dead badger, family, friends, a naming ceremony, a late-night train journey home with a child who insisted on tormenting our dog and culminated in a mercy dash to the vet’s as the pupster was shitting blood.
I need a holiday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

farenheit 451
This pregnancy and parenthood lark, it’s a puzzler. I’m all for reading what my health visitor friend referred to as evidence-based information. For example, I can’t get enough of the BBC pregnancy calendar (this week Sprout is about 20cm long, and weighs 300g) and I frequently return to the lovely Pregnancy book handed out by the NHS (seemingly every pregnant woman resembles the Greenham Common protesters: all 80s hair, dungarees and a whiff of communism). However, when it comes to instructions on how to do anything other than the basics I just do not want to know. Fine, tell me how to change a nappy - that said, I am still a bit woolly about the folding-and-pinning-the-thing-on process, but I figure I’ll work it out and anyway if I’m taking care of feeding, shouldn’t TA deal with all the downstream business? - but don’t try to tell me about routines I should get into, the Baby Einstein products I should be buying or the best methods of childrearing.
My (childless) aunt brought things to a head with her rather scattergun interrogation over lunch at the weekend. Will I have an amniocentesis, she demanded. Answer: no, I don’t need one since the 12-week scan said that I had the same level of risk of having a Down’s baby as a 15-year-old. Then she wanted to know what books I was reading to prepare. None, I rather rebelliously stated. The health visitor friend, who happens to live next door to Aunt, it’s a long story, and who was in attendance looked pleased. Don’t read “xxx” (I can’t even remember what it was called… “The Contented Baby”, thanks Amazon!) it’ll only make you feel as though you are doing everything wrong. Of course, the next subject was breastfeeding. Horrifyingly, Aunt’s scrofulous partner, the Rat, held forth on some time about how his wife had experienced difficulties and was told by Mother Russia (Aunt and the Rat worked at the World Service) to restrict baby to ten minutes per nipple. Health visitor could be observed biting her tongue, it is possible she drew blood.
This is my thinking on the subject, and feel free to laugh like a drain if you know better and foresee months during which my naiveté comes back to bite me firmly and relentlessly on the arse, women have been having and feeding babies for millennia - surely there has to be some instinct or basic survival mechanism involved? I want to breastfeed Sprout. I think all told it will be easier and cheaper than all the hullabaloo with formula and bottles, not to mention better for my waistband and Sprout’s overall health. I want to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. I’m boycotting Mothercare, for example, having seen that they claim a £130 "kit" is essential for breastfeeding. I’m tempted to boycott as many of the medical appointments as possible - given that "my" obs was clueless and "my" midwife about as warm and alert to the proceedings as a recently buried corpse. In the back of my mind I cherish a hope that a couple of days of backache and twinges will be followed by a delivery so swift and easy that TA and I end up jumping on a bus to take the new arrival to be Apgar’d after the event. I know, I know - I’m going to have my illusions cruelly torn away during hours of pain during which I beg for an epidural of crack cocaine. But it does happen like that sometimes: my colleague has just had her first child and her labour lasted 20 minutes, albeit she was in hospital at the time.
There will be many things, I know, that I will have to go along with: the crib (which we already have), the sling, the pushchair (we have) etc, but I’m going to draw a line and say no to the essential breastfeeding kit, the baby bath (what’s wrong with a washing-up bowl?), the this and the that - all the 21st century consumer nonsense that gets foisted upon us. And no sodding instruction manual books either. Sprout can like or lump our best efforts; I’m pretty sure if we’re doing it wrong Sprout will find a way to let us know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

spam novella
The more I think on it, the more I'm convinced someone's sending me a story in installments. Today:
Published by Bokbooks: a hypnotic bodice ripper.
Serena, "My boyfriend's shaft is too big for my mouth..."
Sophie, "Be confident and stand tall."
Odd plot device: Alaskan marzipan
Serena, "Remember me?"
Justin, Serena's well-endowed boyfriend, "Don't be left out, join millions of men in the revolution."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

imbibed with mother's milk
Having grown up as a resolutely black sheep and ugly duckling, my thoughts continue to travel down the same road. What does it mean to be a good mother and to what degree can I help inoculate* my child with gloriousness? My mind conjures a daughter because that’s what I know best - a Maggie Tulliver, dark-eyed, rosy-cheeked, willful little spark of wild being. But, of course, the children of our imaginations are not real; they are tenacious wisps of wistful wish fulfillment. I’m aware of the pitfalls of this kind of thinking - the danger that Sprout will be second best, always fail to live up to my great expectations and be aware of it. And, as well, there’s the bitter tang of exploitation about the whole endeavour. Why aren’t I a Maggie Tulliver or even, better, a George Eliot-Tori Amos-Jeanette Winterson-Virginia Woolf-Regina Spektor genius of womankind, with better skin and hair, more vibrant, magnetic and dangerous to hold than the rather ordinary woman I grew up to be? Too easy to blame the parents whose passions lie in different fields for starving me of the start in life I needed and ignore my own responsibility for settling for mediocrity and safety in the crowd.
There’s a finer-than-a-hair line between opening doors and correcting the perceived flaws of one’s own upbringing (not enough of the ‘right’ books, not enough guidance about education, literature, music, theatre, too much new-age hocus pocus) and overbearing, burdening. This child is not a mini-me, I can’t hope to produce a better version of myself, nor should I want to.
Who is to say what the twin wonders of genetics and nutrition are creating in utero? In five months we’ll be presented with a little stranger that proximity and, presumably, a passing resemblance have fooled us into thinking we know better than ourselves. I think pregnancy is nature’s way of conning us into a lifelong commitment to cherish and nurture a cuckoo - the idea that something made from our bodies should be a part of us is hard to escape, perhaps particularly given my adoptive background. I’ve signed up to this and I’m not regretting the decision, I’m just trying to remember that the cuckoo has its own needs and desires that may bear no relation to my experience of living, despite our blood tie. To be a good mother is to meet those cuckoo needs, rather than the needs that I (or TA) had when we were confined to the nest.
Perhaps it would be best if Sprout turns out to be a boy, I suspect that TA is less conflicted about being a good father to a son than I am about being a good mother to a daughter.

*Inoculate? I was thinking of "inculate" - christ, I hope my child has a better vocabulary.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

what do you choose to give?
Recognising that everyone self creates, self mutates and chooses for themselves who to be and what to take from the rich world to hold precious in the heart; what would you give to the next generation? TA and I, obviously, bring different gifts to the party. His is the CD of Mozart playing through headphones, his are the plans to take Sprout through all the wealth of empire collected in London's museums. Me, I am ever so slightly more circumspect. I am eyeing parks for walks and planning expeditions to the countryside, thinking that the DNA of Englishness is written in chalk down, dale, copse, sea and flint. I am thinking of bedtimes and poems to be read; but most of all I am trying to laugh often and immoderately, trying to fill my heart with exhilaration so that Sprout is bathed in endorphins and believes that a happy world awaits. But still, I’m looking forward to sharing all the stories, poems and songs - a mother tongue.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

the return of the king
The conquering hero returned! After a last-minute e-mail enquiring as to our availability, ex-housemate C was in the house last night. Oh, it was wonderful. We gave him the tour (this is the airing cupboard, this is our dog, here is the bathroom, here is the porcelain badger plate...) and fed him a roast beef dinner. And we talked and talked and talked - about the fame academy house, about Texas, about everything that has happened to all of us in the last two years. Sitting on the sofa I pointed out TA’s feet to ex-housemate C - "look, he’s wearing the socks you got us for Christmas, the Return of the King socks!" It was as if he’d never been away. And then, after apple pie and ice cream, TA walked ex-housemate C to the bus stop and waved goodbye.
Lying in bed I was all smiles. I hadn’t realised how much I missed ex-housemate C, I explained to TA. Wasn’t that a lovely evening? Wasn’t it brilliant to see him again? This morning, for the first time in weeks, TA, the pup and I walked into work together. We talked of TA’s concerns about a freelance job he might do, the sunshine, the pup, how long his computer is likely to hold up with the new motherboard and, of course, how good it was to see ex-housemate C again.
He’ll have left London by tomorrow morning and perhaps by the time he stops by again we’ll have moved to Australia. Who knows the next time our paths will cross. I miss him.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

six
A bit difficult, contrary even. Full of new-found independence, but still clingy at times. Fully formed, with likes, dislikes, passions and secrets. An age I've never warmed to in girls, too close to the terrible sevens. Boys still lack that social skill that makes them aware that others might be watching them. Relationships seem to be somewhat similar.
If I could turn back time to change the course of events I wouldn't. Happy anniversary of that magic date, my beloved.