The Bedtime Routine Of The Dazed Parent

Yet again, I am posting from a house that is positively swimming in germs and bacteria. In the last few weeks, we have been hit by more viruses that I believe to be truly acceptable.

Although apparently, my opinion is of no consequence in this situation.

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The other day, I finally succumbed to the stomach bug that had successfully overtaken two of my three children. As the waves of nausea swept over me, my first thought was, “Ooh, better get the dishes out of the way if I’m going to be ill!” And it got me thinking how much our reactions to everyday situation change after we have children. Before I procreated, my instant response to impending illness would have been “BED!” But now here I am, prioritising essential housework over much needed rest!

It’s a weird old world.

One of the situations where I’ve seen the most change is the bedtime routine. No, I’m not talking about getting the children into bed. I mean me.

When I only had myself to take care of, my bedtime routine probably looked something like this:

  1. Get into bed.
  2. Read for a while,
  3. Go to sleep.

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Oh, blissful simplicity!

Without a doubt, parenting brings a whole swathe of changes and challenges into your life. Now, my bedtime routine looks a little more like this:

  • Drag myself up from the couch after realising I have dozed off and missed the last twenty minutes of my TV programme.
  • Spend ten minutes searching for the front door keys in increasingly imaginative places before discovering that they are, as always, in my handbag.
  • Lock front door.
  • Get halfway up the stairs before heading back down to switch the heating off.
  • Second try!
  • Reach the top of the stairs before having a crisis of self-doubt about whether I remembered to lock the back door.

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  • Nip back down to check.
  • It’s locked.
  • Finally get as far as the bathroom.
  • Brush teeth and attempt an almost silent wee (Squeak’s bedroom is right next door to the bathroom.)
  • Ponder reason wee needs to sound like a professional grade power washer at the most inconvenient of times.
  • Hold breath and listen for signs of Squeak waking.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Creep to Squeak’s doorway.
  • Check for breathing.
  • Can’t hear her. Listen harder.
  • Gingerly step over safety gate and edge closer.
  • Lean over Squeak, only to jump back as she takes a loud breath and begins to stir.
  • Make a hasty exit, acquiring painful gate-related vulval injury on way out.

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  • Swear under breath and do elaborate ‘ouchy’ dance on landing.
  • Tiptoe up to big girls’ bedroom.
  • Trip over three teddies and land on a Lego block. In bare feet.
  • Engage in silent scream.
  • Give Big Girl a kiss and tuck her in (kid snores like a steam engine, no need for double checking here!)
  • Listen for Little Girl’s breathing.
  • Wonder why she appears to hold her breath the very moment I go to check on her.
  • Bring my face closer to hers and strain ears.
  • Still nothing.
  • Lightly poke her cheek.
  • Get smacked in the face as she violently turns over.
  • She’s still breathing.

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  • Tiredly drag myself into bedroom and collapse into bed.
  • Speedily leap back out.
  • Remove six soft toys and a day-old kids’ sock from the bed. Oh, and something… pointy.
  • Lie down with a sigh and snuggle down.
  • Get out book for some late night reading and relaxation.
  • Check alarms for the next day and put phone on to charge.
  • Turn over and strangle myself with charger wire.
  • Begin making a list in my head of all the things I need to do tomorrow.
  • Recall all the things I forgot to do today.
  • Dammit!
  • Suppress urge to go and see if I remembered to lock front door.
  • Read.
  • What’s that noise?

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  • Read more.
  • Ok, what’s that noise?
  • Roam house hunting for burglars.
  • Admonish myself for being a damn idiot.
  • Sink back under covers.
  • Weep inside as Squeak chooses this moment to wake up.
  • Settle her back down again and sneak away.
  • Get back into bed.
  • Read.
  • Fall asleep still wearing glasses (always).
  • Wake with a start as child climbs into bed.
  • Listen to detailed account of distressing nightmare that brought her there.
  • Forcibly remove glasses from muchly dented face.
  • Rub aching nose.
  • Go back to sleep.
  • Groan as Squeak wakes again.
  • Tuck her into my bed.
  • Unleash breast from top.
  • Fall into haze of unconsciousness.

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  • The end <yawn>

I have to say, I’ve experienced slightly more relaxing bedtime rituals in my life. And I live in hope that one day, one day, I may again!

I’m not feeling massively optimistic, though.

How about you? How does your routine measure up?

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Tools For Maternal Rest Prevention

Being small is not easy.

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Yeah, tell me something I don’t know!

But being really small is even harder. Not matter how much kids stomp, glare or demand, people just don’t take them seriously. Adults don’t realise, when peering down from their lofty heights, that it is vitally important that they do kids’ shit for them. Like, right the fuck now.

I can kind of empathise with them, really. I would be pretty pissed off if all the fun, dangerous shit was constantly out of my reach, and getting on the couch felt like climbing Mount Everest. And I’d be steaming if my (obviously) reasonable demands were met with a pat on the head and an affectionate laugh.

Not funny. Ok?

I can’t say I’m a fan of the skills they have developed to overcome these frustrating limitations, though. Not that this makes them hesitate, even for a moment. In the face of a complete inability to control their own lives or the lives of others, overcompensation is vital. And urgent.

The main target – me. Or, more specifically, my downtime. I can’t say I have much of this at the moment. Time sitting down could be time spent running the hoover around, preparing dinner, or something equally riveting. Now, I’m not saying don’t deserve a bit of rest, because trust me, I fucking know I do. But there’s just not enough time.

So when I do, I really need it. Really, really need it. Maybe it’s ten minutes waiting for dinner to cook, or a little time in the afternoon. I sink into the pillowy depths of my couch… Well ok. Maybe not. My couch just ain’t that comfy. And it’s leather so it’s more of a slithering action, rather than sinking.

But you know, whatever.

My bones are aching, my eyes are heavy. My head is overwhelmed with to do lists and organisation. After double checking that everyone is engaged in wholesome and educational activities…

TV. They’re watching TV.

But anyway, I collapse with a sigh, and luxuriate in a brief few minutes where nothing and nobody requires my attention.

That’s when they pounce. And it’s not random, high-pitched attention seeking. Oh no, sometimes that would be preferable. It’s a coordinated effort, carefully designed to make relaxation an impossibility.

It wouldn’t do to go through life without mixing it up a little bit. To repeat the same action over and over would get a touch boring, no? Any old kid can pretend to trip over in the same place and cry for sympathy the very second her mother’s arse hits the chair. But that kind of casual behaviour doesn’t work for long. That’s why my kids have started to get creative.

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Irritatingly creative.

Here’s a few examples of their frequently used tools for maternal rest prevention.

1. The Bath Toy Attack

Squeak has just adopted this as her preferred mode of attack. Obviously I didn’t get an advance warning of this. Which is a bit shit. I have a the-toddler’s-climbing-the-stairs radar, and a someone’s-pootling-around-upstairs-after-bedtime radar. So why, exactly, can’t I have a this-kid’s-thinking-up-some-mischievous-shit radar?

I have to admit, it’d improve my life massively.

But sadly, I ain’t got it. So Squeak’s new, fun trick came as a delightful surprise.

She has become a little attached to a couple of bath ducks recently. You know, in that slightly creepy, obsessive way small toddlers have. She carries them around with her everywhere, periodically announcing , “Guckie!”

All fairly standard, thus far.

That’s part of the plan. She spent days innocently carrying those ducks around. You can forgive a woman for becoming complacent.

Until…

The other day, I was desperately in need for a rest. Just a little one. So I got myself comfortable on the couch. I can confirm that every child was happily engaged in some sort of activity that makes sense only to them. Or so I thought.

I made one critical error. Just one. But that was all it took.

Ladies and gentlemen, I closed my eyes.

I know. I know, ok? It was stupid. For clarity, I most certainly did not fall asleep. Even I’m not that dumb. It was more of a long blink.

Squeak clocked it, though.

Did she run off to do something ill-thought-out and (probably) dangerous? No. Did she take the opportunity to shove something small as far up her nostril as she could reach? No.

So what’s the problem, then? Well, Squeak is trapped deeply in the joyful phase that is separation anxiety. Yes, still. But it has ramped up most epically in the last few weeks. She didn’t see my briefly closed eyes as a chance to cause some righteous chaos.

To her, it was reckless parental abandonment. Because, horror of all horrors, I couldn’t see her. She might as well have been all alone, for all she cared.

Alone.... or worse.

Alone…. or worse.

And that’s just un-fucking-acceptable.

I really hate bath toys. However much you shake them out, a little pool of water always remains inside.

Did you know that that water is absolutely freezing cold?

Well, it is. Especially when it splats you in the face with approximately zero warning.

Rest time is over.

2. The Sleep Cry

I’ve touched upon this before. I wish I could say that only one of the kids does this. But honestly, it’s all of them.

I can’t say that I do a massive amount of relaxing in the evening any more. There’s too much tidying up to do, and getting all of the uniforms and food ready for the next day. I’m sure I could neglect it all and doss about on the couch, but I’d soon be regretting it once morning came.

I do try, though. In between the ironing and settling Squeak down for the millionth time (ish), I sit down to do something mindless and unproductive. Like listening to music, or Facebooking, or flapping my empty, childfree arms.

Ok, I don’t really do the last one. Yet. I’m going to give it a go tonight.

That is when they strike. Little Girl and Squeak, anyway.

“Waaaaaaah,” I hear through the baby monitor. Or a moan snakes its way down the stairs from Little Girl. I sigh.

Or swear and roll my eyes to the heavens. Whatever.

I trudge upstairs and enter the bedroom, only to find…

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A child in a deep, unbroken state of unconsciousness. Grrrr.

And you can guarantee that as soon as I sit down again, they’re just gonna do it again. It’s like they have a sensor that activates the second they sense me stealing a moment for myself.

Oh, you noticed I didn’t mention Big Girl there? Well, that’s because she plays this an entirely different way. She lies in wait until after I’ve gone to bed. Then, as I read and wind down, as my heavy eyes begin to droop, she takes a deeeeeeeep breath.

Maybe she sits up, maybe she stays where she is. I’ve never caught her in the act, so it’s a mystery to me. But what she does do, is yell, “Fleebly-moo-sleep-grobulaaaaaarrrrrrr!”

Which, as you can imagine, is not the most effective sleep aid I’ve ever tried.

3. The Up-Down Routine

Squeak is an indecisive little creature. It’s an occupational hazard of being a constantly learning whirlwind of a toddler. She has no idea what she wants from one moment to the next.

But she is very, very sure of what she doesn’t want. And she’s not shy about letting me know, either.

As soon as I sit down, Squeak is alerted to the sudden appearance of a baby arse-sized area on my body. So she gallops over, and raises her arms to me in the universally recognised sign for, “Pick me the hell up right now, woman.”

Shit, wait. You said two arms, right?

Shit, wait. You said two arms, right?

So I do. I’m not daft enough to think that a simple refusal would be enough to prolong my rest time. Squeak doesn’t do well with distraction. She’s a single-minded hellcat, and she’s not going to forget what she wants just because I waggle a noisy toy in her face.

Don’t even ask me what happens if I commit the grievous crime of trying to cuddle her while she is still standing on the floor.

That shit’s just not satisfying.

I wouldn’t mind so much if she was happy once I’d picked her up. But that would be far too simple, wouldn’t it? Instead, before I’ve even sat her down she’s thrashing and straining to be put on the floor.

So I do. Where she emits an earsplitting, explosive shriek and throws herself facedown on the floor.

Once she’s made that point, she bounces back up with a stricken expression on her face, and waves her arms at me again.

Then she slides down my leg again.

Then…

You get the fucking message. It’s reeeeaaaally annoying.

4. The Toilet Trip

I think most parents will agree that kids don’t choose the most convenient times to need the toilet. It’s always as soon as you get in the car after a trip out, or three seconds after leaving the bathroom.

Or as soon as their mother has folded her aching body into a chair.

Apparently, that’s the best time to do it.

Big Girl and Little Girl can both use the toilet independently. I made sure of that, because frankly I’m far too lazy to be running up and down the stairs all day.

The only problem is, they keep forgetting.

And so I hear the shout of, “Muuuuuuum!” from upstairs much more frequently than I prefer. I try to just call up to remind them to do it themselves, but then I am reminded of the incident when Little Girl climbed into the toilet, and I find it hard to resist the urge to leg it up the stairs.

Who, me? Nah, I didn't do nuffin'.

Who, me? Nah, I didn’t do nuffin’.

Just to double-check, you understand.

Of course, that kind of scenario is thankfully rare. More regularly, all I find is a small child who has mysteriously forgotten how to wipe her own arse.

5. The Pain Cry

In a busy house full of activity and chaos, there is only one guaranteed way to grab everyone’s attention in a time-efficient manner.

That is, to scream and scream in the manner of someone who has just accidentally amputated, at the very least, a toe.

They’re not daft, kids. They know that it’s possible, in some cases, to tune out annoying noises, minor complaints and a small voice saying, “Mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy.”

Obviously I pay attention to them most of the time, but sometimes I swear they’re just saying it out of habit.

So it is essential to acquire a truly earth-shattering roar, that causes every person in a 3-mile radius to come running.

Sure, it’d suffice to gain the attention of your family.

But what kid ever did something catastophic by halves?

Graaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!

Graaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!

6. The Come And See

Little Girl is an epic crafter. She loves to draw and paint and cut paper into tiny pieces and sprinkle it on the floor.

Which I embrace and encourage. Obviously.

Most of her afternoons after school are spent scribbling on various pieces of paper. Thus far, I have managed to dissuade her from taking a pen to the wallpaper, but I can see the temptation glinting in her eyes.

As an aside, she has inherited Big Girl’s propensity for drawing me with a massive head and a tiny, tiny body. I try not to take it personally.

Naturally, she is very proud of her work, and she loves to share it with me. But there’s only one thing about it that really grinds my gears.

She’s drawing on paper. I would challenge you to find a more portable medium than paper. It’s light and compact, perfectly easy to carry, in other words.

Will she bring it over to show me?

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Oh, no.

What actually happens is that she sits on her crafty throne, intermittently yelling, “Muuuuuuum! Look what I done!” And it doesn’t matter if I’m purposefully engaged or just dossing around, it is preferred (nay, expected) that I will come running immediately.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect that the consequences for not coming to her will be dire.

That’s all for now. I did have more to write, but most of my typing time has been spent with a baby doing number 3 on the list. It was wearing.

I’m sure it can’t just be me with this problem. So tell me, what do your kids do to disturb your five minutes of peace?

The Hazards Of The Fitness DVD

I am rocking a very motivated attitude this week. And I’m pretty happy about that.

I have about 1.5 stones to lose to get down to my ideal weight. It was 2 stones, but apparently the ‘scorned woman’ weight loss plan is really fucking good.

In this burst of motivation, I have decided to do what I can to wave goodbye to this excess weight. I want to feel fit and healthy, and I want to look good in my clothes.

So I have been eating healthily. This is the easy bit, because I just eat what the kids eat. Bar the biscuits I throw to them to silence the incessant nagging.

That doesn’t happen that often. Honest.

It’s going well. But last night, I tried something new.

The fitness DVD.

This is the obvious choice of exercise for a woman stuck at home in the evening with three sleeping children. I mean, I know I’m already running around all day, and speed walking up to school because I left the house late. Again. But I think I need an extra push in the right direction.

I did the 30 Day Shred years ago, and thought it was awesome. So I picked it up, dusted off the cover (which was exercise in itself!) and switched it on.

The point of the 30 Day Shred is that you can fit a whole workout into twenty minutes. So it’s more than a little intense. But you know, I could hack it.

Right?

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Well, I did finish it. But, as I’m sure you can guess, that is not the whole story.

It started off well. It turns out that I’m actually fitter than I thought, and I got through the first bit no problem. I was amazing!

Then, it started to burn.

I pushed on, breath coming in strangled gasps. Grunting like an overexcited pig. I couldn’t see my face (thank God!) but I’m sure it was probably a fetching shade of purple. I was clicking in places I wasn’t even aware were supposed to have rotational capabilities. And there was a considerable amount of sweating.

Basically, it was really fucking gross.

But I wasn’t going to quit there. I am a tough, powerful woman, and I wasn’t going to be beaten by Jillian Michaels.

It started to get near the end of the DVD. Five minutes to go. I could do that.

Then, Squeak woke up.

Pling!

Pling!

For those of you who don’t know, Squeak doesn’t sleep in a cot. Frankly, she doesn’t really sleep anywhere! But for those moments when she engages in an extended blink, she parks herself on my bed. Which is, currently, a mattress on my bedroom floor.

Sounds a lot more bohemian than it actually is. To be honest, it just makes my room look like a squatter’s paradise.

Not all that desirable.

But anyway, this means that when I hear her outraged, needy squawks through the baby monitor, I kind of have to go. Like, now.

Despite my bedroom being a (fairly) safe, secure environment, the idea of a free range baby anywhere where I am not fills me with approximately no amount of joy.

I was rather pissed off. I mean, is twenty minutes of peace really too much to ask for?

Ha, seriously?

Ha, seriously?

Well yes, obviously it is.

I assessed her cry, and decided that it was more of a, “Hellooooo, anyone there?” cry than an, “Oh my God, I have ruptured my femoral artery and I’m bleeding out!” one. So I carried on, hoping and praying that I would get to the end of the workout before her screeches became more urgent.

It would have felt like cheating to stop then.

I can’t say exercise becomes any more enjoyable with a backing track of, “Wuh wuh wuh, waaaaah!” Of course, that opens up the debate of whether it was all that fun in the first place. Right now, as I type with aching, strained arms, I’m on the ‘fuck no’ side.

Creak.

I reached the end, skipped the cool down bit and legged it upstairs to feed Squeak. It was lovely to horizontalise after all that work. Aahhhhhhh.

She took a touch longer than normal to settle than usual, and didn’t slip into unconsciousness until almost half an hour had passed by. I rolled silently away, stood up…

And promptly collapsed back onto the floor.

I guess you could say that muscle fatigue had set in. Unbelievably, Squeak didn’t react to my inelegant vertical fail. She didn’t even stir. I normally can’t even sigh next to this kid, or scratch my nose.

Yes, I am serious.

Cautiously, I navigated the stairs on a pair of epically wibbly legs, and flopped onto the couch.

Holy shit! Still, with an effect like that it’ll work a treat, amirite?

Um....

Um….

It bloody better had, I’m subjecting myself to it again tonight.

Ugh.

The Squeaky That Never Sleeps

If you’re a fan of my Facebook page, then you’ll know that Squeak has opted out of sleep at the moment.

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I’m not entirely certain of the reason, but I do have a few ideas:

1. Teething – She is definitely teething. You can’t miss those pointy lumps in her gums, or the frantic finger mastication. Or the drooling. Or the incessant moaning.

And her digestive system is definitely operating at a level which I would classify as ‘sub par.’

There’s no ignoring it, fangs are on the way. So I’m unsurprised, really, that she can’t manage more than forty-five minutes sleep without howling. Freaking irritated, yeah. But that’s a familiar emotion for me.

I’m just that kinda gal.

2. A Developmental Leap – Squeak’s working on a couple of skills right now. She’s practising climbing a lot, which obviously I am ecstatic about. She spends her day either diving across the couch and filling me with terror, or trying too climb things which are too high for her and yelling her head off.

I struggle to decide which of these options is shittier.

Her second new skill is talking. She’s picking up about two or three words a day, and I’m proud to say that (so far) none of them have been swearwords.

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Go me!

In one day, she managed to learn the words ‘apple’ and ‘iPad.’ The level of amusement this gave me is perhaps testament to how much sleep I’m getting right now.

I laughed a lot.

A word she is using frequently at the moment is ‘down.’ Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that she was trying to say, “Can you help me down from the precarious position I’ve found myself in, please?”

That would actually be really useful.

But that’s not it.

What it means is, “Hey Mum! Did you know I’m really high up right now? Sure, come on over. But you should know that I’m just going to wait until you’re three steps away from me, and step off the edge. Here I go!”

That’s a bit wordy for a thirteen month old to manage though. So she just says, “down,” and faceplants on the carpet.

Now that she’s talking, it’s become even more obvious that she’s a youngest child. As if the unwiped nose and faded third-hand clothes weren’t evidence enough.

I’m talking about toilet humour. There’s an epidemic of this in our house, and Squeak refuses to be left out.

As soon as the big girls realised that she could parrot words back to them, they began their lesson. And so now, when she farts, Squeak says, “Poo poo!”

And laughs.

Heh heh.

Heh heh.

Thanks, kids.

Anyway, the point is that babies don’t sleep when they’re busy picking up skills. I can only assume it’s because their brains are working at double speed, and it’s really hard to switch off at bedtime.

Fair enough.

3. Separation Anxiety – Thirteen months is a prime time for separation anxiety. And Squeak’s not one to miss out on an opportunity to raise hell.

I can sometimes fool her, if I make sure she’s really busy when I slip away. But most of the time it results in an almighty meltdown. It makes cooking, toileting, hell even blog post writing tricky.

Have you tried typing with a child lying on your face?

I can only assume that separation anxiety doesn’t magically float away as she goes to sleep. If this is the case, then I suppose you can’t blame her for getting upset, when she wakes up to find me gone.

If I was feeling positive, I would think that Squeak was saying, “I love you so much and you make me feel safe. This is why I like to be so close to you.”

Aw.

I am not feeling positive.

Obviously.

So I actually think Squeak is saying, “I own you, minion. Don’t even think of relaxing, or watching tv, or in fact doing anything that isn’t related to me. Didn’t you know that I’m the only important thing in the world? Get upstairs and let me lie on you!”

That's better.

That’s better.

Call me cynical, if you will. But you know I’m speaking the truth.

Whatever the reason, this kid just can’t get any rest. And I’d like to be all ‘awesome parent’ and shit, and tell you about how awful I feel for her.

But that’s not what I do.

So mostly, I’m feeling awful for me. I do still feel quite sorry for her. She’s full of misery, with bags under her eyes and she’s clingy as hell. That sucks for her. And me.

I would probably have a lot more sympathy for Squeak if she didn’t spend so much time messing with me. You see, it’s bad enough going up and down the stairs like a jack-in-the-box all evening, and being woken with a start just as I’ve dropped off. But Squeak takes it a step further.

There are three ways in which Squeak disturbs me at night:

1. By waking up – This one’s pretty self-explanatory. I’m sitting watching tv, reading, or obsessively refreshing my WordPress stats (ahem), when a tinny wail echoes through the baby monitor. I go upstairs to find a wide awake baby who is, naturally, desperate for a feed. I settle her down, whether it takes five minutes or an hour, and sneak away. Rinse and repeat.

It’s a little irksome, but at least I know where I stand.

2. By pretending to wake up – This one bugs me a bit more. It’s where Squeak let’s out a screech, usually the kind of sound that makes me think she’s lost a limb, or got trapped somewhere. I gallop up the stairs, only to find her in a deep sleep. As if it never happened.

It becomes even more frustrating if she decides to do it every five minutes. And she does. But it’s nothing compared to the last one.

3. By pretending she’s pretending to wake up – This one is the champion in the annoyingness stakes. The gah of all gahs.

It starts just the same as the last one. I walk into the bedroom, only to find her snoozing away peacefully. I wait a while, sure that she’s about to stir.

She doesn’t

So I turn to sneak away. I even begin to plan what I will do when I get downstairs. Put a movie on, grab a snack, whatever.

Because I’m stupid like that.

And just as I reach the doorway, and my foot lifts to cross the threshold, she cries.

This is worse than her waking up. Because I have to say goodbye to the relief I felt at not having to lie down, again, in the dark as she fusses and feeds.

Grrr. Damn babies, lulling you into a false sense of security and then crushing your dreams.

The sneaking away is pretty problematic in itself. Squeak has acquired a habit I have named ‘the proprietary leg.’ It doesn’t matter how I position her to feed, or if I put the covers between us, or if I lie at a 45 degree angle (yeah, I stretch that far). As she drifts off, she lifts her leg and lies it straight across my body.

If I move it away, she moves it back. And so, when she falls into a deep sleep, I am faced with a problem.

That is, how to extricate myself and make a getaway without waking her up. It’s really freaking hard. Man, that kid’s clever.

"Serves you right for this *humiliating* shot."

“Serves you right for this *humiliating* shot.”

If you’re a fellow sleep-deprived parent and want to share your experiences, please type a comment in the box below. Coherency is not a priority, so if it comes to it just mash the keyboard with your eyes closed.

My Baby Controls Me Through The Power Of Breastfeeding

Today I’m going to talk about breastfeeding. So if you’re breast-averse, now would probably be a good time to look away.

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All gone?

Awesome.

I’m a pretty big fan of breastfeeding. Which is no bad thing, because I’ve been doing it for over 6 years. In that time, it has gone from something I pay attention and obsess about, to something I can do without even thinking. Yes, you read that right. I have been sitting talking to other people, looked down and exclaimed, “How did that get there?!”

Here’s a few things I love about breastfeeding. I’m not going to go into the health benefits, because if you’ve ever been in a procreation situation, you know them all already.

1. I have a bona-fide, reasonable excuse to sit on my arse for large portions of the day.

2. It’s a miracle cure for tiredness, illness and over-stimulation in a small child. Oh, and hunger.

3. I don’t have to get out of bed at night.

Babies love it too. But I have a sneaky suspicion that they have an ulterior motive for this.

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Overall, they’re pretty helpless. All they can do is squawk, gurn and move their scrawny little arms ineffectually. They don’t exactly have a lot of tools at their disposal.

But the one thing that they spend a massive amount of their day doing is eating. In their first few weeks, babies can feed more than hourly. It makes sense that they would catch on quickly to the idea that they can use this to their advantage.

Squeak could tell you all about this. Well, if she could say more than, “Daddy! Mummy! Ball! Poo! I see you!” It’s cool though. Using my impressive psychic mind-powers, I have become aware of her tricks. Here are a few examples for your perusal.

1. Inconvenient Hunger Occurrences

I’m confident that any baby can do this, regardless of feeding method. But breastfeeding’s what I know, so I’m going to go with that.

When I had Big Girl, life was a lot easier than it is now. I wasn’t aware of that then. When she was hungry, I would simply sit down and feed her. If we were due to be somewhere, I’d just be a little late.

Not any more. Now, I have a schedule. And that schedule largely revolves around something I like to call ‘the bastard school run.’ When Squeak was born, I had only Big Girl in school. We had to leave the house at 8.25am. Surprisingly, this wasn’t much of a problem. Tiny baby Squeak wasn’t a big morning feeder, so she’d be happy to be tucked into a sling and snooze while I raced Big Girl up to school.

No, it was the afternoon pick-up that became the problem.

I hate being late for anything. So I would start the ‘get ready to leave the house’ routine with plenty of time to spare for rogue tantrums, sock malfunctions, emergency toilet trips and baby feedings. Or so I thought.

Because Squeak had other ideas. I would get Little Girl ready and sit down to feed the baby. She had ages to have a huge feed, so she would sleep peacefully until we got home.

Only one problem.

She would be completely comatose.

I would tickle, prod and blow on her. I would change her nappy. I would lie her down, a thing which at any other would have her howling.

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Nothing.

I would offer and offer and offer, and eventually give in. OK, I would think. She’s really not hungry. She’ll just have to last until we get back.

Ha.

I would get us all into our coats and tie Squeak into the sling. And almost every day, as we left the house with seconds to spare, the exact same thing would happen.

Squeak would wake up in a wide-eyed, eardrum-bursting state of total starvation.

Why?

2. Nosiness

This is something which has become worse with each child. As very small babies, nothing could tear them away from a good feed. A bomb could go off in the street outside and they’d still be chowing down.

Then, they became aware.

Anything could distract them. A car starting up outside. The kettle boiling. A fairy flapping its wings or some imperceptible shit like that.

Their eyebrows raised and… pop! Off they came to have a good look around. (And it really is a pop. When babies breastfeed, they create a vacuum inside their mouths. And they are rarely considerate enough to break said vacuum in anything approaching comfort.)

This increases 100-fold with each child. Squeak’s got distractions galore! Big Girl leaping off the couch… pop! Little Girl performing a Queen song on a stool… pop! Mum’s often weary sigh… pop!

Get the wrong impression at your peril, though. They’re not done. They’re just taking a break.

3. Reverse Cycling

This one is a consequence of #2. A dire consequence. You see, if a baby gets too distracted during the day, they just start skipping feeds. Squeak was an awful one for this.

You’ve heard me describe my house as chaotic before, yes? It’s come up just occasionally, right? Oh yes. So chaotic, in fact, that Squeak couldn’t hack it. She went from a frequent feeder during the day to only feeding 3 times at 4 months old. And if I worried (I did) and tried to add in some extra feeds, she would fight me, screech and bob on and off until I admitted defeat. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. All she wanted was to watch her sisters.

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Thankfully, babies are clever, you know. If they carried on skipping feeds all over the place, they’d soon see some negative effects, such as weightloss. And babies are hard-wired to grow until they look like they’re wearing elastic bands on their wrists and their thighs have been inflated with a bike pump.

You see, babies have the rather irksome habit of seeing every day as a 24 hour period. Not the 12 hour one which I know I’d prefer. What Squeak missed out on during the day, she more than made up for at night. She fed and fed and fed until I thought her stomach would burst! The lack of day feeds became rather irrelevant, because she had simply flipped her days and nights round. Hence the term: reverse cycling.

The moral of this story is: Never say your baby is a good sleeper if they’re less than 4 months old. You never know what’s around the corner!

4. Not-tired Breastfeeding

There comes a time in every baby’s life when she is not ready to go to sleep at bedtime. It might be because she’s ready to drop a nap, or because she’s working on a super cool developmental thing like walking.

Whatever the reason, she is not going to sleep, not matter what you do.

Squeak usually feeds to sleep. When it works, it is great. A nice, easy, peaceful time together. When it doesn’t work, this is how it goes:

I offer a feed. She accepts.

She says, “Hiya!”

She attempts to detach my lower lip from my face.

She feeds.

She pokes me in the eye.

She feeds.

She pinches the tenderest part of my arm.

She feeds.

And so on. She finally gives in and I retire, licking my wounds.

Until next time.

5. Upside-down Breastfeeding

When you first start breastfeeding, positioning is everything. It’s the difference between a comfortable, successful feed and a fail. There’s a learning curve which you have to go through to master it but once you have it, breastfeeding is smooth sailing.

At a point further down the line, your baby starts becoming more physically coordinated. They in turn master their own skills. They learn to roll over, crawl, walk, jump, and much much more.

Ever seen a baby try to roll over whilst still feeding? I have.

Ever seen a baby scratch his own head with his toes? I have.

Ever seen a baby feed standing up? I have.

The last one is Squeak’s personal favourite. After a few minutes of feeding, she lifts one leg and sliiiides off my lap. She stands in front of me, beautiful big eyes staring up at me, intermittently grinning. Gorgeous!

You know something’s coming next, right?

After a while, she gets a little bored of just standing. I mean, any old baby can stand up. So she steps it up a gear. She bounces.

And I have only one thing to say to that.

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Ow.

Right, I’m done. I’m pretty sure I’ve written the word ‘breast’ enough times to invite a plethora of dodgy spambot comments. Yay.

Seriously though, despite the tongue-in-cheek points that I make further up, I have to say that breastfeeding is full of awesome. Once you get the hang of it, it is a wonderful, close time you can share with your baby. And once they’re bigger and mobile, and too busy for cuddles, it’s a guaranteed thing they will come back for.

Lovely.

I’m An Expert At Sneaking Around Sleeping Babies

Maybe you have babies who sleep. That’s cool. I’m not bitter or anything. Unless you’re going to give me some advice that you just know is going to fix all my problems. DSC_0418You know, like having a good routine? Or always putting the baby down awake? Ooh ooh, or always hoovering round a baby so they get used to noise?

That last one is a personal favourite. If this was true, I would be totally made. No middle-of-the-night wakeups for me! No overtired baby who doesn’t want to sleep, nuh uh! Because Squeak knows noise, ok? She doesn’t even blink when the girls are doing, well whatever the hell it is the girls do. Whatever it is, it’s freaking noisy. Be it arguing, whining, laughing, squealing, talking at top volume or singing, Squeak knows it. And she’s that used to it, she barely even reacts to it any more.

(Disclaimer:unless it’s fireworks or applause in a group setting, those she finds absolutely terrifying.)

So yeah, if you’ve got any advice, leave it at the door. Or I will have to kill you.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, my babies don’t sleep. Well, the big ones do now, but they didn’t when they were younger. And Squeak is right in the middle of a night-time party phase at the moment. I can sympathise with her, to be honest. Babyhood is pretty overwhelming. All those developmental leaps, the talking and the walking and the climbing and suchlike. The different foods that they have to learn to digest. So many new things and changes, it’s no wonder that they find it hard to switch their brains off.

Now, there is a phenomenon I have observed with my non-sleeping babies. I don’t think it applies to all babies, but I’m pretty sure that the mums of the non-sleepers will be nodding in a second.

It doesn’t seem to matter how used they are to noise. Once darkness falls, the sounds they can blank out in the day become insanely amplified. One wrong move, and the peacefully sleeping baby is suddenly wide awake. And after the battle that came before, noone wants that, do they?

I certainly don’t, and that is why I have become an expert on sneaking around a sleeping baby.

I know exactly which floorboards in my bedroom creak. Like, I could point them out on a diagram. I do not simply walk out of the room once Squeak is asleep. No, I engage in a set of Matrix-like leaps and dodges, with the aim of missing the creaky ones. I’m pretty good at it, I have to say. Although I do look like a massive idiot. That goes with the territory.

I can exit the bed without her even sensing I am gone. It involves some awesome slow-motion rolling, which sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. A lot cooler.

I can become invisible in the doorway. That one took a lot of practice. But now I can stand there and actually blend in with my surroundings, watching to see if she will settle herself without my help. I used to fail at this one all the time. I would peer round the door slowly. One second of eye contact later and that was that. Not any more. Now I’ve got pure ninja stealth.

Finally, I can run up the stairs gazelle-like: quiet yet graceful. Actually, strike graceful as that is total bullshit. We’ll just say quiet. Anyway, I can do that.

I bet you’re all thinking I sound pretty smug myself now, am I right? All that stuff at the top about unhelpful advice and here I am, thinking I’ve got all the answers. Don’t worry. I’m going to fix that right now.

Because no matter how good I am at creeping around a sleeping child there are 3 simple things that completely ruin all my best efforts.

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1. Clicky ankles

All of my joints in the leg area click. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of them aren’t supposed to bend, let alone click. But they do.

So I can sneak about, rolling off the bed and jumping over floorboards. But after I take one glance to make sure she’s still asleep, I move off and CRACK! It’s like a freaking gun went off. Now tell me, could you sleep through a gun shot? No, and neither can she.

2. Coughing

This is worst in the winter season. My dearly beloved school-going children are bringing home bug after bug after bug, and of course I catch every single one. So I’m edging out of the bedroom, after God knows how long up there, when I feel it. The tickle. It’s not like an ordinary tickly throat. It knows that you can’t do a single thing to relieve it. So it is intense.

You haven’t got any options. You’re not going to be stupid enough to start coughing right there, are you? There’s only one choice left.

To hold your breath hurtle down the stairs at break-neck speed, burst through the living room door and explode with the most satisfying cough of your life.

Obviously.

3. Notifications

This last one is, most definitely a ‘first world problem.’

You’re shattered. You’ve survived the day with irrational small beings. They’re all asleep. You’ve done your work, and the sofa beckons.

Now, I’m a modern woman. And I also find lying in the dark waiting for a baby to pass out intensely boring. So I’ve usually got a tablet up there, and I’m Facebooking and tweeting and occasionally, reading an actual novel. And 90% of the time, I remember to switch off the sound. The other 10% of the time, it comes back to bite me in the arse.

Off I go, all is quiet. I can watch TV, I can knit, I can blog, I can stare at a wall in complete silence. Then suddenly, as I’m about to leave…

PLING!

The screen lights up with an intensity akin to a nuclear blast. Obviously it’s notifying me of something vitally important, such as a like on Facebook, or a reminder that I haven’t played a crappy game for ages.

I hold my breath. I glance to the side. She sighs. I think maybe I’ve got away with it. Then, up pops her head. No, I didn’t.

So there you go. Not looking so clever now, am I?

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