I sometimes worry that my blog paints a negative picture of motherhood. I often come here to rant and rave about how shocking I have found the first 12 months as a Mum, and it's true, nothing could have prepared me for just how much having a baby would turn my world upside down. Writing has long been a form of therapy for me, and the comments my readers leave here give me hope that my blog is a form of therapy for you too - making you feel a little less alone on this epic adventure we call parenthood. No new mother can know what it's truly like until it happens to her, and our childless friends may ask us for advice to prepare them for the awesome task ahead, but what can we really tell them? It's terrifying but it's amazing. It's knackering but you find reserves of strength inside you that you had no idea you possessed. It's a gruelling slog of mundane tasks (you're basically an unpaid carer, meeting every need for a person who is helpless to do anything at all for themselves for a long long time) but the nappy changes, night feeds and merry-go-round of washing clothes and washing dishes are interspersed with moments of such sheer shining brilliance that somehow you make it through. Just when you think you can't take anymore, your baby will flash you its first smile, it's first giggle will erupt past its first pearly white tooth or its valiant attempts to crawl will suddenly result in a daring dash across the living room and the clock is somehow reset. The resentment builds as you give all of yourself over to this mini-Hitler that's more demanding and less forgiving than the worst boss you ever had...then in a second a wave of pure love can wash over you and knock you to your knees, praying to God that you'll give your last breath to keep your baby safe. In the middle of many a long night, I've looked into Iris' face and thought 'I'm terrified by how much I love you, and how much I want you to go away.' Such is motherhood, for me anyway.
I've noticed that over the Easter weekend (and a happy Easter to you all) my blog has had a noticeable rise in readership. Two bank holidays and a weekend, with your partner hopefully at home to share some precious family time...you'd think we were all blissfully happy, pottering round some play barn or petting farm, relishing a break from daily life. Let's face it though, the weather's been crap, and having your significant other at home for four days straight often creates more problems that it solves. Daddy trails baby all round the house having endless messy fun - Mummy tuts and resentfully cleans it up. Daddy thinks nothing of picking baby up at the first whimper, or jumping into the back of the car for an impromptu puppetry session when the screams start to rattle the windows, but Mummy can't replicate such instant devotion when she has 100,000 things to do every day that don't involve being instantly available. Daddy thinks cooking a Sunday Dinner and watching baby smear gravy into her hair before staying up late to watch Homeland on More4 is excellent fun - Mummy pays the price in the middle of the night when overexcited baby points wildly at the remains of the chocolate egg and screams 'Duck. Duck Duck Duck Duck Duck (did I mention she said her first word?) Daddy snores loudly, and in the morning goes for an Easter grope. Mummy pulls her pyjamas ever more tightly around a midrift bloated by some holiday comfort eating and curses Jesus for not, quite frankly, staying good and dead after the crucifixion.
On Good Friday, we sat down as a loving family and googled things to do in Leeds over the Easter break. There were some lovely activities available for families to get together, but in reality, a 1 year old can't decorate eggs or bake hot cross buns, especially not a 1 year old whose developed hand, foot and mouth virus and is covered in crusty hives, screaming the house down for hours on end and refusing to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. Our Easter holiday rapidly became a test of our patience, our endurance and quite frankly our relationship as we struggled to care for our poor, poorly and very cross baby. I love her, I really do, but I need an all inclusive break in the Seychelles without her to repair my tattered sanity and salvage my relationship with her Daddy, who I used to love very much too, but who has now become my relay partner as we grope for the poo-smeared baton in the dead of night. Granny and Grandad have fucked off to the Isle of Wight for the Easter Holidays, and I've tried not to resent their much needed break...but when they payed a fleeting visit yesterday to dish out Chocolate Eggs, they'd barely knocked on the door before I threw Iris at them and retreated to rock slowly in a corner.
We've pretty much been cooped up like an Easter Chicken for the duration, dragging out the same old tired toys to amuse our very bright daughter (well, we think she is) while she's contageous and seriously too spotty to take out in public. She's not bought any of it though, and even the 'Do-Re-Me Dolphin Splash Set' has been rudely thrown over the side of the bath in her rage - usually such a winner. We appear to have been playing a game of opposites this Easter. It goes a little something like this...
I want you to sit down in your high chair please, as I lovingly prepare you some nutricious food.
You want to lurch to your feet and wave your spoon arrogantly like a conductors batton as you totter dangerously from one side to the other like a drunken football hooligan, chanting 'Duck Duck Duck.'
Do you want me to be the sort of Mother that microwaves a Rustlers Burger and pushes it through the bars of your cot?
I want you to eat some of the lovely Turkey Casserole with Broccoli and Carrot that's been defrosted for your delight
You want to splatter it into the greedy mouth of the dog whilst laughing like a drain and did you mention that you ONLY EAT PEAS. You know when the Peas have touched the Turkey, and you only want CLEAN Peas, UNADULTERATED Peas thank you very much. You inspect each and every pea to make sure it's not contaminated by wholesome organic Turkey Casserole. If it is, it gets short shrift, over the side of the chair it goes.
Oh Master, I have no greater wish than to wash each and every pea that comes into contact with your screaming mouth. Nothing would give me greater pleasure, just let me get this wash of your soiled clothing on and I'm at your beck and call.
I want to change the bulgeing nappy that contains a poorly baby cow pat, shit oozing out of the sides and staining your thrashing little legs, bits of digested onion and carrot flying onto the ill chosen beige carpet.
You want to pull the books off the nursery bookshelf and I'm attempting to distract you from your task -which is nothing short of distracting Lancelot on his quest for the Holy Grail. You break free from my evil, controlling grip and crawl madly down the corridoor away from your tormentor, little bits of sweetcorn skin clinging bravely to your pale bottom as it bobs off around the corner in search of Daddy, who would never do such a cruel thing as clean your soiled lady parts for you.
Much as I would love to be a Crack Addict/Junkie/just-a-bit negligent Mother and leave you sitting in your own toxic waste, I have a rampant need to make sure your bottom is free from debris. Forgive me oh great one, for I have sinned. It's fetish of mine to scrape poo out of your every cleft.
Today, we ventured out to the Hebden Bridge annual Duck Race - slipping and sliding about on the muddy river bank in the pissing rain as we attempted to get enthusiastic about the possibility of our plastic duck beating of stiff competition from 999 other ducks involved in the epic and exciting event. As the starting gun sounded, Iris threw herself into an all out swoon, fists clenched in anger as she chucked herself backwards out of the Baby Bjorn, inconsolable and attracting attention from families whose children weren't covered in oozing sores. 'I think that Baby needs to go home' said a 5 year old boy, wise and judgemental beyond his years. Given her obsession with the word 'Duck' we thought Iris would enjoy the sight of so many, racing through the rapids as the drenched and demented crowds cheered them on. As the first once crossed the finish line however, she was sound asleep - it's not easy to wrestle ones boob out of a zipped up pac-a-mac and brandish it to an insistent infant, but when Iris wants booby, the whole of Hebden Bridge can watch in dismay as I meet her requirements, rain pissing down on my naked breast as I shove it into her roaring mouth. I'm an all out advocator for breast feeding your infant as long as you, and they, wish. It's days like this when I wish I'd weaned her at 6 months like the bloody books tell you to.
Easter has been pretty dire, and it's not over yet (Daddy has been tasked with putting Iris to bed and the screaming has been going on for well over an hour as she senses and scents that booby is in the building.) If Jesus rose to Heaven on Easter Sunday, you'd think that Easter Monday would be a day when he, and we, could chill the fuck out and have a good old rest - but being a parent is unrelenting, you barely get to draw breath each evening before the morning comes and you're back on the rollercoaster. Yes it's funny being a Mummy, but sometimes it pushes you to your limits. Like the half hour we waited in a more than crowded cafe today with a restless, hungry and very vocal baby, only to be told, when we reached the front of the queue, that they had 'just this minute stopped serving food, sorry about that' (giggle from the camp waiter at the till.) You can't explain to an infant that there's going to be a bit of a trudge through the rain to another cafe that's serving food...they want what they want when they want it...and you can't blame them for that attitude, they don't know any better and why should they? They trust you to feed them three times a day and meet their ever changing needs in between - something that's pretty stressful and we parents should give ourselves credit for trying to do. After 3 days stuck in the house with an ever more frustrated baby wanting to get out there and give the world some shit however, I woke up this morning with a sense of doom. 'Do I really have to face another day of this?' I thought, then immediately felt guilty for resenting the child that has brought me such pleasure in the year that she's been in my life. It can sometimes feel like Groundhog day with a baby. They can't yet vocalise their many frustrations and aggressions, and you, the main carer, have to take it like a punch bag - despite remembering the dim and distant days when you once had needs of your own (and frustrations and agressions come to think of it.)
I will finish this pretty randon and directionless post, with a bit of a chart. My top reasons for loving being a parent and my top reasons for hating it. If this Easter has taught me anything it's that having a baby is a mixed bag. You did it, and it's permanent, and that's scarey as shit. You have to wake up each day, for the rest of your life, in the knowledge that happy or sad, hung over or fresh as a daisy, in sickness and in health, skint or flush...you have a child, and you're responsible for that child come what may. In my mind, it's a much bigger deal that marriage, and the reason why I'm not in any rush to tie the knot with John. It's not something you can get tired of and hand over to someone else. It's not like a job where you can resign and make it someone elses problem. Being a parent is 100% permanent - if you're a good one. I console myself with the fact that that's what I'm trying to be - a good parent.
Reasons why I love being a parent:
1) I've learnt how to be patient and play the long game - because she's mine forever.
2) I've learnt that there might be someone in the world that's more important than me, and will hopefully live longer, so I need to recycle and give a shit about our environment.
3) The mirror has become something I hold my baby up to for fun, rather than something I gaze agonizingly into, wondering if I'm hideous or gorgeous.
4) Shopping's more fun because babies don't look fat in clothes like I do.
5) The friends you make with your baby are fantastic because they get it and they help you get it, and they babysit so you and your boyfriend can get it. .
6) Babies make you laugh every day, and I never laughed every day before, but I cried a lot of days because I was lonely, which I never am now.
7) Having a baby with your man makes you love him in a different, deeper way - because you share DNA and he's a great Dad, which is sexy.
8) Having a baby makes vanity seem silly, their health is number one.
9) Having a baby makes you go to places you never went before, and who knew that Chester Zoo would be so much fun. Alcohol used to be your ticket, now it's a family fun slide and a cup of tea.
10) You see the world again through your babies eyes, and all the new things they see are amazing again for you - my baby's face when she saw a Giraffe was worth more than its weight in gold!
11) You have a valid excuse to play again - swinging from bars or poking pigs with sticks - it's allowed
Reasons why I hate being a parent:
1) I treated myself to a gorgeous new coat from Zara, and it's now sporting sick on both lapels.
2) I used to have a handbag, I now have a Mum Bag that I have to restock like shop every day.
3) My weekly shop used to include condoms, chorizo and white wine. It now includes bananas, full fat milk and bread bread bread
4) I often reach into my pockets for my keys and find dummies, rusks, used baby wipes, oat cakes and dried apricots but no keys, because my child has thrown them somewhere odd.
5) I used to love going to new places with my partner, but now he strides ahead with our daughter in the baby sling and shows her all the boring things he used to show me (oh look a rare goose, a mediaeveal gate, a beautiful flower - latin name is 'oagnoinaoiaodngo' root.) I lag behind, wanting a fag.
6) When I had sex it used to seem like a big adventure if I got pregnant, now it seems like a massive nightmare of child tax credits and already busted guts.
7) I'd like to wake up one morning and not feel a massive sense of responsibility (I used to feel a massive sense of wanting a bacon/sausage sandwich and a diet coke and another few hours sleep followed by a sexy fumble....then more sleep.
8) My breasts used to be sensitive and sexy - now they're slabs of baby feeding meat - much as I love breast feeding.
9) I didn't have to balance a full time job with a full time job as PA to a baby - handling her clothing choices as if she as JLO styled by grandparents with a vendetta against each other...'yes Denise, she wore the leopard print thong combo for the nursery Xmas party and it was well recieved.'
10) I wouldn't be sat up writing this bloody blog if I hadn't have had her would I?
So Easter...sleepless...stressful...stupid bloody egg decorating events...fun....fucking stressful...fantastic because it's the first one we've been togher as a family. X
What do I do? Nothing special. I'm just another Muther.
This is my blog about modern motherhood. I have a 1 year old daughter who, though planned, was the biggest surprise of my life. I would compare being a new mother to riding a Vaseline smeared unicycle naked and blindfold through a field of landmines whilst every enemy you'd ever made jeered from the sidelines, pelting you with tomatoes full of wasps. A bit nervewracking then. If you tried to take my daugther off me however, I'd stab you in the head without hesitation...and with a corkscrew. It would be nice to use my corkscrew for something again. Love, hate, be indifferent but whatever you do, share with others to raise my ratings.