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Tipping the balance…

Balancing books and a baby is HARD.

Like, really, really hard.

Today, I have been trying to –

  • Finish a script
  • Start learning said script
  • Edit together a video when I don’t have half the materials I need for it
  • Somehow turn a 5-page script into a 25 minute performance
  • Put together a powerpoint presentation that won’t bore people to tears
  • Think about how this performance won’t just be me talking at people (I still haven’t figured it out).

I have been contending with –

  • A teething baby
  • An undeniable feeling of cabin fever
  • A poorly boyfriend
  • A baby who doesn’t want to eat anything but flavoured rice cakes (weirdo).
  • The same baby, who then decided to have a screaming fit so bad she nearly threw up and we thought she was really hurt, until it turned out she was having a tantrum because we wouldn’t let her tip her bottle upside down.

Yep, today we’ve encountered our first full-on screaming tantrum. For a baby everyone describes as ‘the happiest they’ve met’, this girl has a set of lungs on her. We couldn’t touch her, move the bottle away from her, sit her down, lie her down, anything, without her screeching at the top of her voice like we’d ripped her favourite toy in half.

As I said in earlier posts, we’ve been told we’re making it look easy. Anyone who believes that would’ve eaten their words if they’d seen us earlier, trying to wrestle a dripping bottle of milk off a screaming toddler-in-a-baby’s-body who bites (oh yeah, did we mention she bites now? Fucking OUCH), driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out what was wrong with her (the Calpol may have had an effect on her, considering how quickly she KO’d once she was in her sleeping bag and in the cot – now lowered, after she started threatening to climb over the rails). We were not making that shit look easy.

I sat down tonight and compiled a list of everything I have to do in the next week and a half to prepare for my dissertation. I even deactivated my Facebook to try and focus (it didn’t work very well, and I felt lonely and re-activated it so now I’ll get even less done). Every time I think about the work, my brain goes into a kind of panic mode and switches off. I haven’t even left it late!! Life has conspired against me over the last few weeks with a faulty whatever-the-hell-in-my-body-is-faulty, a baby who has suddenly discovered the ability to a) grow teeth and b) tantrum when things don’t go her way, and some kind of horrible virus currently working its way around the house.

For the first time (in foreverrrrr…. sorry), I really doubt I’ll finish uni on time with my friends – and if I do, I highly doubt it’ll be with the sort of classification I need (2:1,  for reference).

Meep.

On the bright side… look how beautiful my girl is. And she LOVES bubbles! (Ignore my tired, stressed face…)

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Poorly Baby

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked to help run campus tours for the new people auditioning for my course. It’s a great experience, if a little surreal knowing that these people will be starting in September, by which point I’ll already be gone, but it’s fun.

During one of these tours yesterday, I got a phone call that every parent must dread.

‘Hi, Maddy. Can you come and pick her up? She’s running a fever and the Calpol hasn’t worked to bring it down’.

It’s one of those moments where your heart stops, and your head sees its opportunity to burst into life, running through every worst-case scenario it can muster up. Meningitis? What if she has a febrile convulsion? You’d better get her to the doctors. No, wait, A&E. No, wait, call an ambulance. Call in the army! Your baby is poorly, do something or you may never see her again!

Or is that just me? Regardless, my mind was running through all the different possibilities as I tried to hold myself together to have some semblance of a conversation with them.

‘Oh… is she… is she okay?’.

I was literally holding my breath, waiting for them to answer.

‘Oh yeah, she’s still herself, still smiling and chatting away as usual’.

This was supposed to make me feel better, but I’ve heard enough comments about my daughter’s nature to know that it didn’t say a hell of a lot. This girl grins and giggles every time she sneezes when she has a cold, and even when she topples backwards while trying to walk; within seconds she’s back to chattering away (while I hyperventilate and try to resist the urge to call in the troops).

Still, once I’d dropped the auditionees off where they needed to go, I managed to calmly make my way over to the nursery (never have I been so relieved that it’s a minute walk from the studios where we have our classes). I felt like I put on a pretty good cool-as-a-cucumber act, and sure enough, when I walked into the baby room, she was crawling about in the ball pit in just her nappy, and gave me a huge beam when I walked in. Her poor little body felt on fire, but she was so happy, and nothing wrong with her but for a sniffle – I was still more than happy to bring her back with me.

Her fever dropped for a while, and then built back up to 38.4C, and she started refusing to eat, and of course my head started up again, telling me everything that could possibly be wrong with her (when did my head become a medical encyclopaedia, by the way? Is that a parenting thing?). Still, even though it was just me and D so I didn’t really need to pretend, I managed to keep calm, and just worked through all the things we could give her that she might eat. Fish and a couple of chips (bad mother alert) didn’t work, but a Strawberry Petit Filous went down a treat, and then I think we found SB’s new favourite fruit – I ended up sitting there holding pieces of strawberry while she sucked them to death (and bit my fingers a few times, these teeth are deadly!). I was frankly just relieved she was eating something. 

She’s in nursery again this morning, feeling much better, and even now I have no idea what caused her fever. D suggested yesterday that she’d faked it, to get out of nursery (after seeing the way she grinned and waved at everyone as she was leaving, I’m inclined to agree). Either way, fevers are my least favourite part of parenting so far.

Back to Basics

I know lately I’ve been going into a sort of social-commentary-slash-philosopher-slash-lovey-dovey-hippie-blogger the past few weeks or months, and I think it shows in the quality of my posts. I think it’s time to get back to basics – the down and dirty, all too honest truth of being a young parent.

I also want to head back in time at some point, and write a post that I found too difficult to write when I started my blog – I wrote a little bit about it, but not in the sort of detail and honesty that the rest of this blog gets, and the honest reason is that I would cringe and get quite upset whenever I thought about it – it’s the subject of how I told my parents I was pregnant at 19.

In all honesty, it still makes me a little uncomfortable to think back to that time; to how badly I handled it and how small I felt afterwards, but I promised honesty, and that’s what I’m going to do. No more musing on how other parents and other bloggers live and write – just the honest truth; everything Emma’s Diary didn’t tell you, and everything the parenting books don’t tell you now.

So that’s in the pipeline, and I’m a little nervous at the thought of writing it, so it’ll probably wait until my dissertation is done (only a few weeks left now). I’m also going to try and get back into some of my old Emma’s Diary-style posts that I did during pregnancy – I’ve got a few parenting books in my arsenal now (call it research), and boy, is there a lot they conveniently ‘forget’ to tell you about baby’s first year.

More than anything, I want to reclaim the humour that people told me they loved – I lost it for a while back there, because I hid it under the guise of posting ‘thinky’ blog entries. Hopefully before long, we’ll be back to The Speed Bump people knew and loved – far too much honesty, far too little shame and a LOT of information you need to, but really didn’t want to, know about parenting.

So if you’ve just read through the last few posts on my blog, and are thinking ‘Nah, this isn’t for me’, stick around – there’s good stuff to come, I swear.

New Look, New Name… But The Speed Bump’s Still The Same!

Yes! We used to live at http://www.maddysmaybiebaby.wordpress.com – but we’ve got a shiny new domain with the actual name of the blog on it! We now live at

http://www.thespeedbump.co.uk

We also have a new look, as I decided it was time to freshen up the blog a little.

We may have a new look and a new name, but everything else is staying the same – the whining, the ranting and the sometimes-too-much-honesty you all know and hate love but really hate.

Why do we let Pinterest teach us how to parent?

Just typing ‘Parenting’ into the search bar on Pinterest brings up result after result of parenting advice. “How to be a better parent”, “How to deal with an emotional child”, “How to be the parent your child deserves”, “How not to royally fuck up your child’s life forever in the first six weeks” (Okay, maybe I made that last one up, but it’s not even that much of an exaggeration).

From a quick glance, there seems to be one common theme running through them all – whatever you’re doing now, it’s WRONG. Do you go out to work? That’s wrong. Do you stay at home with them? Nope, wrong. Let them watch TV? That’s a big fat negative. Ban all screen time and force them to play only with toys they’ve made from weaved organic wheatgrass (I don’t even know if that’s a thing, sorry)? You are just a terrible, terrible parent. Someone should take your child away before you scar them for life.

Who exactly are these Pinterest Parenting Gurus, and how did they get so damn good at child-rearing in the days before Pinterest existed? Also, why do they assume we need to be told these things?

The lists seem to fall into two categories. The first category is “Do everything the way I did, or you’re doing it wrong”, followed by a list that assumes all babies are the same and all parents have the luxury of time and money. The second is “Do all these common sense things, but because I’m telling you to do them, it makes me an excellent parent”.

My ‘beta-parent’ post was probably a fair bit of ‘just common sense’ advice, but I didn’t call myself a better parent for following it – heck, I even acknowledged that I myself find it hard to follow it sometimes! Some of these lists I’ve read make me think that if that makes you a ‘better’ parent, I must be a bloody fantastic parent, because it’s the basics.

“Accept that nothing is perfect”. Well, duh. Ten months with a baby is enough of a lesson in that, without having it preached from Pinterest and parenting blogs. My sink will probably never be empty and the washing machine will probably always be running, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less of a parent for being a little bit irritated by it.

“Listen to music”. If I want to listen to music, I’ll listen to music. Not sure how that makes me a better parent than one who doesn’t listen to music?

“Do your best”. Ah bollocks! That’s where I’ve been going wrong; I’ve just been half-arsing this whole parenting shiz for the last ten months. Thank you, faceless Pinterest person, I’ll try harder from now on.

I just don’t understand it! Maybe I’m missing something; maybe there are people who read these posts on Pinterest and they have a little lightbulb moment where it all makes sense and suddenly you waft around with a chorus of angels singing to every parenting decision you make, and the world now makes sense… but I still don’t get it.

Then again, maybe there’s a lot of things I don’t get about parenting. My dreams of being a wonderful, healthy-eating, ‘naice middle class’ mum were dashed today, when I spent fifteen minutes trying to find couscous for SB (I don’t know what it is but it sounded healthy), and when I finally found it, it looked like too much hard work, so we said bugger it and made her a fish finger sandwich for dinner instead.

Maybe I need those Pinterest guides after all…

Poorly Parenting

As if there weren’t enough things that parents end up feeling guilty about; I’ve just discovered a new one.

The overwhelming guilt of being a poorly parent.

I’m having tests at the minute because the doctors have no idea what’s wrong with me, but I’m in a lot of pain and unable to eat or do much of anything productive, really. I’ve lost 5kg in less than 4 weeks and just don’t feel like myself anymore, and I can see how it’s impacting on my ability to be a good mum.

D reassures me constantly that I’m doing great and she loves me, and I know when I see that little face light up that it’s true but it’s so hard to lie on the sofa, spaced out on tramadol and crying with pain, watching D changing SB’s nappies and feeding her and doing everything and I know in my head that I should be doing them too – but it’s too painful to get down on the floor to change her, and I don’t have the energy to feed her. I seem to spend most of my time these days either running myself ragged over this dissertation, or flat out asleep on the sofa.

I had a scan today which showed nothing, so I guess the tests continue, because I can’t carry on like this. I think the next step pain-relief wise is morphine, according to the doctor, and it seems to be coming to that point now. I do feel a little bit like I’m drowning at the minute; under dissertation work and appointments and pain and this guilt, niggling away at me and telling me that I’m not being the mum that SB deserves. Parents are supposed to be totally selfless and, no matter what pain they’re in, they have to just carry on and sort their children out, and right now, I don’t seem able to do that.

I guess it just shows the pressure we’re put under as parents to be perfect – and it’s not easy to accept that perfection isn’t always possible. D is being so supportive, he hasn’t complained once, and is constantly there, holding my hand when I’m in pain, taking me to appointments, making sure I take my tablets and, most importantly, taking care of SB pretty much all by himself, save for the rare occasions I’m human enough to help out. He deserves to take some time out; to go and have a drink with some friends, but I know he’s too worried to even do that right now. Parenting really is a team effort, and I feel so lucky to have a partner who will not only pick me up when I’m down, but will take on the work I can’t do too, without complaint, even though I know he really wants to.

Through everything we’ve faced this last ten months; starting nursery, SB coming down with her first MegaCold™, organising the naming ceremony and coming to terms with the inability to breastfeed, I feel like this is my biggest challenge so far – overcoming this crushing guilt over something I can’t help and I can’t change, and yet it’s affecting not just me, but my baby, my partner, my friends and my family too.

I know the blog today isn’t very funny, or lighthearted, but as I keep saying – I promised from the start that I’d be honest. I’m not going to put on a brave face and lie and say today’s been great and everything’s been fine – I’m going to tell you that, as a parent, when you get ill, you may well feel this guilt too. If you’re already a parent, you may recognise the feeling all too well. To lie and pretend that it doesn’t happen would be going against everything this blog is about – hopefully by tomorrow or the day after I’ll be feeling brighter, and ready to regale you with a story about something daft SB has done, or a parenting mishap I’ve had, but I promised you the ups and downs of unexpectedly expecting (and unexpectedly parenting), and that’s what you’re getting.

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10 Months Old…

Oh my goodness. In two months’ time my tiny human will be a year old. It will be one whole year since I became a mum, and my itsy bitsy teeny weeny innocent baby will become an EVIL toddler on the rampage (she’s started practising for this already).

How crazy to think SB’s gone from this –

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To this –

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In terms of development, I can’t believe the difference. She’s cruising around the furniture like a pro and looks about ready to stand by herself (although she’s more interested in walking, so I think she’ll be faceplanting the floor a lot over the next few months). She’s finally PROPER crawling, rather than shuffling around on her belly like a little slug, nope – she crawls, and boy, when she gets going, there’s no stopping her.

She’s developed an interesting skill that goes hand in hand with her new-found crawling abilities; and that’s the ability to ABSOLUTELY IGNORE ANYTHING WE SAY. So if she’s crawling towards off-limits areas like the radiator, the kitchen, or anywhere that isn’t her play-space, we’ll call her back.

In one ear and out the other.

So we call her again, and nope, she’s just zooming off.

At this point we get up and start to follow her, because it’s kind of obvious that this girl turns around for no man (or woman). We call her name again.

She finally turns around. And I swear to god, the most EVIL grin you have ever seen appears on this angelic little face. She knows exactly why we’re calling her. She knows she’s not allowed to crawl that way. She understands what her name means, and she definitely understands ‘No’. She just chooses to ignore it. And of course, when she flashes us that grin, we can’t stay angry at her. So she’s getting a more in-depth exploration of the house. And the house is getting a VERY deep clean as a result.

Something weird has happened. To begin with, I was a total wreck, as some of my earlier posts on the blog will show. I freaked out at the slightest cough, sniffle or puke. The first time SB hurt herself, I sobbed. It wasn’t even my fault and yet the guilt I felt at not being able to help was massive. The guilt when  I actually did hurt her – catching the tip of her thumb in the nail clippers and causing a nasty pinch – was on another level entirely.

These days, it’s just so commonplace for her to do something daft that I can deal with it like a pro. When she’s cruising, she sometimes gets a little too cocky and just lets go and topples backwards. There’s a little routine of checking her ears to make sure there’s no clear fluid coming out, then giving her a big kiss, calling her a silly pickle and dancing with her until she stops crying. It seems to work pretty well – if we panic, she panics too and it makes it worse, so keeping calm really is the best method.

Her personality is so vibrant and obvious in everything she does – just now, she was having cuddles with D and accidentally smacked him in the face with Sophie the Giraffe. She then looked from D, to Sophie, and smacked him three more times for good measure, beaming this mischievous grin the whole time. I’ve never seen her smile so much as when she’s walking along holding onto our hands; she gets so excited about being on the move. She’ll sit and chat and babble to her toys, and sometimes seems to get angry at them – there’s so much grown up emotion in her little expressions!

She went to a little toddler playground for the very first time the other day, all wrapped up warm – it had started out as a beautiful day, but by the time we got to the park, the fog had rolled in.

It’s still really hard to associate myself as the mum of a 10-month-old. It’s like, just as soon as I’d gotten used to the idea of being a mum to a newborn, suddenly she was six months old, and every time I adjust to a new stage, she moves up to the next one!

In terms of food, she’s doing great with finger foods. Biscotti, rice cakes and rusks disappear in seconds. She loves toast, and we’re going to start her with little sandwiches soon too. She quite often has yoghurt as a snack, but the biggest jump is at nursery – she has proper food there now, sitting in a bumbo chair with the other older babies. A couple of weeks ago she was being given a muffin, and the nursery worker left it on the tray to get a knife to cut it. She got back to find that our dainty, delicate little girl had SMUSHED THE ENTIRE MUFFIN INTO HER FACE and was trying to eat it whole – so the nursery worker left her to it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so proud of her as I was of that!

I’ve been a lot more reflective today than I have been in recent months. I think now that we’re in double figures of months, it’s getting closer and closer to being able to say I have a toddler, and the pregnancy and those hazy newborn days are a distant memory. People have started asking about first birthday parties and how we feel about the fact that she’ll be toddling about soon, and although I’m excited for it (and a little nervous about all the challenges it will bring), there’s a part of me that feels a little pang of sadness that we’re leaving the newborn days behind.

Still, the last couple of months have been my favourite stage so far. I feel like we’re actually raising a tiny human now. She takes in everything we do and say, and we can see that what we teach her is actually sinking in. I love my little girl for bits, and I’m not sure when the change happened, but these days, when I look in the mirror I see a tired, not-so-glamorous but totally confident mum.

Making It Look Easy

A comment I get quite a lot from people is that we’re making parenthood look easy. From a quick glance at my social media feeds, it’s not difficult to see why. My Twitter and Instagram are full of blissful, beaming baby selfies, adorable moments I’ve managed to capture, and ‘baby style’ posts, on days when I’m genuinely chuffed with what SB is wearing. My Facebook isn’t much different – I whinge about my own life (health is the subject du jour right now), but when it comes to parenting, it’s very rare you’ll see a complaint. Even when you do, it’s usually an observation on the less glamorous side of parenting – baby poo in my hair, being late for uni because of last minute baby sick disasters, sloppy drooly ‘kisses’ all over every inch of bare skin she can find – that sort of thing.

So I suppose, in a way, we make it look easy to the outside world. But is it really easy? My immediate instinct was to say yes.

SB is a dream baby. There’s no two ways about that; everyone says it, we aren’t going to deny it – we’re incredibly lucky with her. She’s got such a perfect temperament; very laid back and happy. She fits with our routine, doesn’t go crazy if we mess it up a little, giggles at everything. She’s slept through the night since about two months old, is very rarely ill, loves her food and is taking to finger foods like a dream, socialises happily, has very little separation anxiety, beams and waves at everyone she sees and is just, in general, a delight to be around. So if we’re making it look easy, a lot of it is because we have an incredibly easy baby – I’m not sure it gets much easier than this!

But also, I think our attitudes account for a lot of it. While D can be very anxious, he’s also incredibly organised, and loves everything to be in its place. This has rubbed off on me a little, and so we’ve both been quite successful at babyproofing. In the same vein, I’m quite laid back and happy to go with the flow – I don’t like making solid plans unless I absolutely have to. That flexibility has really come in handy with the unpredictable events having a baby can throw at you, and I think some of it has rubbed off on D, to make him a little more laid back too. We’re accepting of the fact that plans change, we don’t let it get us down. Equally, we know the importance of good time management, and being prepared well in advance.

A lot of people are very surprised when they hear that we are living two hours away from family, and so for the most part, we’re coping with parenthood as a couple. We can’t take all the credit for that, though – SB goes into nursery five days a week, while we go to uni and get our work done. We definitely wouldn’t be able to carry on with university without the nursery, and so that’s a major part of us ‘making it look easy’.

To some extent, it’s selective posting too. Of course there are times, in the grip of teething or during illness, when SB is massively unsettled, and screams constantly, and nothing can calm her. There are times when she is clingy and can’t be put down, and times when she needs constant entertainment. Most of the time, I use that flexibility again and just go with it – there’s no point fighting against it, so may as well drop what I’m doing and go with what SB needs. However, there are some times we just can’t do that. Times where we’re working against the clock to get university work done, or just trying to grab something to eat because we’ve not eaten all day, and it does get tough. Tears have been shed, and not just the baby’s. The thing is, I don’t post about that on Facebook or Twitter. The majority of my Facebook friends don’t want to read about all that stuff – if they’re the sort that don’t mind, I’ll send them a private message about it to vent instead. I post about it on the blog, because it’s not clogging up anyone’s timeline, it’s not right there where you can’t ignore it – you can choose to read, or you can choose not to.

I’d be inclined to think that after reading my blog, people might not be so sure that I make it look easy. In fact, I probably make it sound harder than it really is. A lot of what I read about parenthood when I was pregnant REALLY didn’t get it right for us, and we’ve found some of the biggest challenges to be smooth sailing. In the same vein, there are other areas – finger foods, for one – that others can just sail through, that we really struggled with. We ended up not doing baby-led weaning with SB because we were both so paranoid about her choking – it’s only in the last month that we’ve really started to introduce the finger foods, to the point where now, I feel confident giving her some fruit, or a rice cake. And again, the anxiety and fear isn’t something I’ll post about on Facebook – you’d simply see a picture of SB munching on a biscotti, and think “God, that’s another parenting obstacle they’ve just soared through”.

There’s a huge difference between making something look easy, and actually finding it easy. I do worry sometimes that, if I do only post about the good times and the easy bits, I could be seen as promoting teenage pregnancy – and, although I don’t regret anything, and it has worked out fairly easily in comparison to most for us, I wouldn’t advocate for starting a family until you are ready and actually want to have children.

It’s hard to strike that balance between making something an entertaining read, being brutally honest, and hiding the truth – I feel like a good blog needs to be painfully honest, but funny too, and the balance is not an easy one to reach without coming across like you’re either playing for laughs, or suggesting that being a young parent is smooth sailing with no obstacles at all.

If I could go back and find all the drafts of statuses I never posted, and the tired potential Instagram selfies I deleted, I think it would tell quite a different story – still a perfectly happy, healthy baby with all the positive traits I described above, but with a mother who is maybe a little more honest and a little less desperate to prove she’s coping. I wish it hadn’t taken me this long to realise that we don’t need smiling pictures or jubilant statuses to show people we’re coping – the proof is in our daughter, and it doesn’t get more definitive than that.