All Hallows Eve

Dear me! It’s all so very American! The costumes! The pumpkins! The economy-size tubs of sweets! The legalised thuggery! When I was a kid Mum occasionally used to make toffee apples that’d take your fillings out, and I’d mess about with a bucket of water and an apple. One year I had a witches hat, and I was quite pathetically excited about it. Sigh. Tempus Fugit, and all that. 

Having said all that, I did toy with the idea of dressing Harry all in red, providing him with a small toy trident and standing him appealingly on next-door’s doorstep, whilst I ring the bell and hide.  But I reasoned that since we live in the arse-end of beyond, the Delightful Doctors are our only possible target for the annual demanding-of-money-and-chocolate-with-menaces – so in a couple of years, Harry will most likely be hitting them several times in an evening, with a quick costume change between-times. Ergo, we’d best leave them in peace while we still can.

I eventually managed to acquire a second pumpkin – half the size and twice the price of mine – at 4.50pm this afternoon. Town was Out Of Pumpkins. Hubby was distinctly unenthusiastic about taking up the challenge – oddly, he seemed to think that you were all biased in favour of mine already – but duly stabbed away with a kitchen knife for 20 minutes. I think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t actually expecting to win… but fate has unexpectedly come to his aid, because WordPress are sheepishly admitting that their PollDaddy gadget thingy isn’t currently working. Lucky man.

Hubby’s scary ghost chappy.

Ann’s scary face with rather singed stitches.

This will mean absolutely bugger-all to non-UKers, but I’m grouchily pissed off tonight, as I was rather looking forward to seeing David Attenborough (who is something of a personal deity of mine) on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. I am left with 100 channels of rubbish and a snoring hubby instead.

Dear Aunty Beeb,

I like Wossy. Dock his wages if you must – because, oh my, that was indeed a very brainless set of remarks – but don’t suspend the chap from coming to work! Who will I listen to tomorrow morning? 

Greatly Miffed of Warwickshire.

P.S. Wogan must not be allowed to retire. Or die.

P.P.S My period is trying to start again, a mere 5 days after finishing. I realise that you can do absolutely nothing about this, but I have paid my licence fee, and therefore I expect you to listen.

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Channeling Something

Last night, I sat down with a big drink, a pumpkin, a picture of a scary pumpkin face, and a sharp knife. Hubby came and sneered at my picture, as Hubbies unfortunately sometimes do, implying that my attempts would fall well short of the awesome pumpkin-scary I was using as inspiration. I offered to chuck the photo and use him instead, but he demurred. Irritated with his incessant one-upmanship (Yes, it’s all tongue in cheek… but only just. The man is a twin, and pathologically competitive.) I have invited him to do better. He has accepted. His Halloween lantern will be ‘traditional’, apparently, and look ‘like they are supposed to’.

So, this is mine.

It looks proper cacky-drawers when it’s lit up, but I will need to rootle out a camera tripod to take proper glowing night-time shots.

Hubby’s will appear here later in the week and they will be submitted to your votes, courtesy of the annoying PollDaddy facility that has recently popped onto my menu bar. Voting is strictly anonymous, so you needn’t worry about individually hurting his feelings.

Collectively is fine.

Yampy

I saw my counsellor on Friday morning. I can’t quite recall if I began seeing her before or after my second miscarriage – my memory of those long months is unreliable – but I can remember that I only rang her for an appointment after I had spent an entire weekend sat in our bedroom, crying, utterly unable to function. Times were difficult. The Centre for Reproductive Medicine when I had my fertility treatment provided a counselling service free of charge for all patients, because the HFEA, bless their cotton socks, had made it compulsory. I had been reluctant to avail myself of the service throughout my previous rounds of treatment, because… well, you know. Therapy. A bit… self-indulgent, yes? Surely: if you can’t sort your problems out just by talking to your mates, or just bloody dealing with it, you’ve gotta be either a bit damn yampy, or disappearing up your own arse?

Yep. I was a prat. I know.

I talked for over 3 hours on my first session. And it was wonderful! I clicked with her immediately. She understood. In fact, her insightfulness amazed me. She helped me pick apart my tangle of rage, blame and guilt. She was there for me during the treatment cycles, and the miscarriages. She was there for me during the Fear that was my pregnancy, when I was scuttling into the unit to see her, swathed under ridiculously voluminous clothing to conceal my bump from the waiting room. She was there for me – and Harry – in NICU, when she brought Harry a teddy bear. (Because she is a staggeringly nice and lovely person, as well as a thorough professional, she even came to his Christening.) And she helped me come to terms with actually being a parent. The HFEA, not unreasonably, stopped shelling out for her to listen to me around then, so I happily migrated to her private practice. It’s some of the very best money I spend, and I always walk away from my time with her ready to take on the world.

In short, I cannot recommend professional help highly enough. It’s not the same as thrashing things out with your spouse or friends. You travel further.

So, I have felt much more upbeat over the weekend, despite the little chap having awful bronchiolitis – and generously handing it over to the mater and pater. We are all over-endowed with green mucus at present. Harry has been eating a little better, so I intend to be brave enough to actually get him weighed tomorrow, and see what the last month of short commons has done to his tiny 20lb frame.

I am also cheered up by my proud possession of a working laptop, wireless router problems all resolved; I can now sit in the nice warm lounge as opposed to the freezing cold office. The idea is that bringing Hubby and I into the same room of an evening will actually facilitate us, you know, talking to each other. So far, it hasn’t seemed to work out that way, as Hubby – who is thermally self-sufficient in anything short of polar conditions – is now sat in the office, surfing, whilst I am in the lounge.

Doh.

Moans & Groans

My period took pity on me yesterday morning, and finally arrived. I think one more day of the searing Pre-Menstrual Torment would have spelled Doom for some poor unlucky soul. Dear God, I’ve been soggy. I’ve had the hormone weepies, the new-baby weepies, the OMG-our-child-will-be-a-DWARF! weepies, the OMG-our-child-will-STARVE-TO-DEATH-SOON weepies, the why-won’t-he-talk weepies, the unsalvageable-and-expensive-washing-machine-colour-run-incident weepies, the why-am-I-soaked-in-vomit-AGAIN weepies, the broken-wisdom-tooth weepies, the child’s-chest-infection-is-just-miserable weepies and the oh-fuck-I-just-cried-in-front-of-someone-I-don’t-like weepies.

On the subject of dwarfism and starvation, I may be guilty of giving the subject too much brain space. However, Harry is now flirting with the 2nd centile – above and below – for both height (72cm at 13 months corrected) and weight (too worried to weigh him). He has two really quite short grandparents and Hubby’s twin brother wrote this to me about his full-term, normal birthweight daughter yesterday: T was 29” (about 72cm) at 13 months old and was 30” at 18 months. She is currently off the chart for her age (6yrs) but is developing perfectly fine. The doctor predicts she might get to 4’ 11”. 

Argh! Harry was also IUGR, for no discernable reason, and a third of those children experience permanent growth restriction. So, what with general family-stuntedness AND a possible growth-limiting factor to boot, we’re not looking at a tall chap here. I’m so fed up of hearing ‘Oh! What an absolute little DOT!’ wherever we go. If he ate, it might improve matters. But he is barely nibbling enough to keep a bird alive, and I feel the ulcers on his tongue are a longer-standing problem than we realised – they look ugly, and the GP is mystified. We are surviving on an eclectic mixture of finger-foods, boob-milk, lignocaine and benzydamine hydrochloride.

Despite a raging chest infection and Yukky Banana Bleurrgh Antibiotics, he is walking so very much better this week; watching him has really cheered me up – in between mopping up the chunky tides of cough-induced vomit. But he still persistently walks on his toes, still won’t imitate a single gesture, still looks permanently pissed with all the wobbles, and still hasn’t said a single word – at approaching 15 months old. So, what with the seizures and the suspected brain-damage at birth, I’m half-expecting a cerebral-palsy diagnosis at some point. I have been for months. I can clearly see he’s not cognitively impaired at present, so I’m not actually dreading it. But I do wish he’d bloody well A) grow 4 inches overnight B) eat like a hungry piggy and C) say Mummy. Or even Daddy, at a push.

Anyhoo. Our Health Visitor visited yesterday, at my invitation. Our GP felt that a feeding assessment would be helpful in getting a complete picture regarding Harry’s food refusals. I had stopped taking Harry to be weighed months ago, and I was well aware that she would not see his current size or weight as a problem – and indeed she did not. His growth chart was, I quote, ‘perfect’.

Despite my irritation with her attitude towards my infant’s plummeting weight, I have to admit that the woman sized me up pretty accurately, and she was increasingly sympathetic (and decreasingly ‘don’t-worry-your-head-about-baby’ formulaic) in her remarks – as the conversation wore on and she dug away at the surface a bit. Various probing questions elicited a number of facts – yes, I was still enormously hung-up from the knife-edge pregnancy. Yes, I was still hugely traumatised by the NICU. Yes, I felt personally undermined and tormented as a parent by SCBU staff. Yes, I worry constantly about my child. Yes, I’m often very weepy. Yes, I’m wound up ever so easily. No, I never used to be like this.

I don’t deal with face-to-face kindly sympathy in a very practised fashion (I’m not complaining, but I don’t exactly get much psychotherapy around here) so naturally, as soon as she told me that I had Been Through Such An Awful Lot That No Wonder I Was Worried About Baby, and That I Was Doing Such A Wonderful Job As A Mother, I sat in a little tubby heap on the floor and cried. So really, she wouldn’t actually have been doing her job right if she hadn’t asked me to consider that I might be depressed. Despite her immediate qualifying assurances that she hadn’t labelled me as depressed, and was merely asking me to think about the possibility, I struggled hard not to take internal umbrage. I don’t do depressed, thank you! I’m far too clever to let that happen without noticing. Oh, certainly not. I would head ANY signs of depression off at the pass, no problemo.

It suddenly struck me that I could hear the inner lady protesting far too much.

As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’m depressed. I look forward to each tomorrow because it has to be better than the exhausting heap of shit that was yesterday I do love being a full-time parent – on the rare, rare days when Harry isn’t running a temperature, miserable with raging snots or ulcered tongue, eats 3 decent meals, takes his naps without screaming like a violated banshee, and lets me change his nappy without a full-on wrestling match. I will hold my hand up to some sort of anxiety disorder, mind you – it’s just whether I can take myself seriously enough to go and get diagnosed. I’ve no intention of taking medication, and I already see a counsellor, so it hardly seems worth the effort.

Health Visitor was implicitly unimpressed by my denials, as she is coming to see me again soon – me, not the child. 

So. It’s a good thing she didn’t know about the walloping great family history of depression, or she might have been really worried about me.

First night of your life, curled up on your own

Hubby’s cousin had a little boy on Wednesday. I have been eagerly awaiting the birth, as the fate of several hundred tons of Harry’s clothes depended upon this new family member having a willy. Score! We waved the incipient parents off gleefully a couple of weeks ago, having cheerfully – and mercilessly – shoehorned a baby gym, baby bouncer, baby bath, baby play arch, baby playring, baby toys and baby books into their boot. Presented with the glad news on Wednesday, I started washing and ironing like a woman demented. (I actually passed waaaaay beyond demented last night when, despite a major, fundamental house search ransack, I could not find a bag of tiny-baby size outfits. New baby boy would fit them beautifully for 2 or 3 weeks; they were expensive and deserved another airing. They are still, bewilderingly, missing. Demented is now a dot to me, and I am thinking of ripping up floorboards to look underneath, just in case. If YOU have hidden them, it’s not fucking funny anymore. Tell me where to find them and no-one else needs to get hurt.)

I also had pots of girly fun making a nappy cake. I have made pink ones before

but never a blue one. Squeee!

I really get my creative rocks off messing about with netting and ribbon. I was a happy bunny.

So it’s odd that I’ve spent the last two days crying. I did when another friend had her little girl, too. It’s not that I’m jealous of their actual baby. Dear me, no. I’m already up half the night shoving a boob into a wailing child as it is.

Births are generally intensely joyful things for families, but before Harry’s arrival, I couldn’t participate in anyone’s Happy Family vibes at all – the pain of not having my own was so dreadful. But now Harry is here, I have swung violently in the other emotional direction, and a new baby sends me into paroxyms of excitement. Stupidly so. The memories of my own labour come rushing back, and I feel a heady, wonderful exhilaration in recalling the profoundly awesome experience that is giving birth to a child. All my emotions start running close to the surface.

But of course, it’s at that point that my reminiscences all go a bit Pete Tong. I hear about episiotomy stitches and I wince in sympathy, before I start brooding on the fact that my own second degree tear was completely neglected, as I had no spare capacity to think about it. I hear about the first painful attempts to breastfeed, and I’m all ‘OMG, Yes!’ until I remember that I pumped, agonisingly, blisteringly, for days before Harry even got near a nipple. I am sent the first photo of a tiny, blissfully sleeping face, and I coo, before I remember the horror of ventilator-violation that was my first picture – now waterstained –  of my son.

I have texts from the proud new Mum and Dad who are sat holding their new son, the staff having quietly melted away, and I’m aching with happiness for them – and aching with sadness for myself, and the hell that awaited us when we left the delivery suite to see our child.  I’ll never have the joy they’ve just had. Never. I’ll never carry a baby to term.

I should be over this. My son helped me – in his very own, unhelpful fashion – load the dishwasher today. Life has moved on so astoundingly far from where we were. And what’s more, our hell was a tiny one. It could have been so very, very much worse.

But I’m obviously the easily-traumatised type. Because I’m still damaged. I’m still so totally fucking damaged and crying and all I can remember is the plastic box they put you in and the needles they stuck in you and the noise of the alarms when your oxygen sats and BP dropped to nothing and the machine that breathed for you when you stopped and the doctor’s face when he said he was concerned you might be brain damaged and the hole in your heart showing on the ultrasound screen and the horror when the baby next to you died, and the guilt of letting you down, and the bowel-shattering fear when I wondered whether you would live or not.

If I want another child, I have to face the nightmare that is premature life, or death. Don’t know if I can.

BFN

I appear not to be pregnant. I have never seen a whiter window on a peestick, in fact.

Primary emotion? Relief.

Secondary emotion? Vaguely peeved, really.

Tertiary emotion? A little wistful. But only a little. I simply couldn’t cope with (what would be my 5th) pregnancy currently.

The child I already have, thank you, God is once again refusing his nosebag, losing weight – and does not appear to be refluxing on this occasion. He has another ugly-looking tongue ulcer. The GP is mystified, and would have referred him to the paediatrician – were we not already seeing him mid-November. I suppose Harry may – just about, if he paces himself – not die of starvation before then. In the meantime, he is on vivid orange (and quite astonishingly tangy) multi-vitamins (Phhhlewwhh! Spit!) and mouth-numbing spray (clamps his lips tightly shut on sight of bottle) to tide him over.

So, that’ll be a fun conversation tomorrow morning. Annnnnnd then the Piddle are coming again in the afternoon, so I need to go and make cakes. And I should really go and talk to the Hubby as well, seeing as we had unpleasant words at lunchtime, but I shall probably end up being too cross to effectively communicate, and he most likely won’t listen anyway. I also need to clean the downstairs toilet, and evict the tarantula (eeek!) in the corner. I also need to vacuum the living room carpet so visiting babies can pee on it again in comfort, without being put off by the crumbs. And I should also clean the kitchen floor, as every time Harry drops to his knees, he acts as a small yet effective broom among the filth. And clean the kitchen surfaces, so visiting mothers can eat cake without worrying about food poisoning.

And… and… and… I’m just so tiredBleat bleat bleat. Harry is hungry and miserable and keeps yelling in the night for boob and cuddles. And I’m worrying myself silly about his weight (Shrinking. Below 9th centile again.) and his height (*Tiny. Like, below-the-2nd-centile tiny.) and his walking (comically slow to improve) and his propensity to wallop himself (*by falling over every 5 minutes, hard) and… and… and…

I didn’t realise the worry would be such a full-time thing, you know?

And before I know it he’ll be keeping me awake at nights worrying that he’s upturned his car into a ditch, or that he’s blind drunk on cider (just like his father, Godammit) and passed out in some club somewhere. Or that he has, God bless him, got a girl up the gumtree.

It’s dawning on me that the tight knot in the stomach never really goes away.

Huh. Who knew?

* Your grammar is doubtless rather more polished than mine, so please do remind me how on earth to capitalise and punctuate mid-sentence parentheses. I use them far too much, and treat them differently every bloody time. Both habits must be deeply annoying.

PS. Sorry, Katie, I was not seeing Hamlet. Tickets Cannot Be Had without sleeping overnight in the queue at the box office. Although, the way our nights have been going lately, I might have a better night there than here. You’d think I’d have bumped into old David around town by now, but no!

I can has skankburger?

The Mop has descended upon Warwickshire. It’s been turning up yearly since, umm, about Edward III’s time, so you’d think it wouldn’t take me by surprise any longer. But every year I tootle happily around the street corner – oblivious to the signs – and run right up against a carousel with those macabre and wild-eyed wooden horses on it. This is, of course, the yearly signal for the town’s youngsters to don their shortest mini skirts or finest knee-level-crotch jeans, and parade around our small town, checking out the visiting talent and braving the vomit-provoking rides – whilst the closure of the town centre and the plethora of spinning metal is a huge source of bemusement to the visiting tourists.

Whilst I do not wish to impugn the safety record of the Showman’s Guild, I am always struck by the fact that the guys operating the really terrifying rides generally resemble Cro-Magnon man. They do not inspire confidence in me. But I am a lily-livered coward regarding all fairground rides in any case, and am struck dumb with terror by even the smallest swingboat. I even dislike children’s swings. So, actually purchasing any vertigo this evening was never an issue, but we did have a stroll into town at 7.30pm with a small child – out on his first ever past-his-bedtime jolly. In fact, I can’t remember taking him out in the dark before. He was duly fascinated by the flashy illuminations, and gazed, slack-jawed, at the strobe lights. Happily, he appears not to be epileptic.

Although there was zero hope of anyone persuading me onto the smallest carousel, I was burning to spend some money, all the same. Even before we were within 100 yards of the fair, I could smell them. Ahhh! Skankburgers! Those delectable pancakes of dubious mince with a SUSPICIOUSLY ORANGE square of melting plastic cheese perched jauntily atop. And the onions, frying, sizzling, wafting… wafting, goddammit. I know from bitter times past just how the skankburger lust can take hold of me. I’d made preparations. I’d deliberately cooked an enormous meal of meatballs and spaghetti, and piggied the lot before setting foot near the fair. I told myself that I always feel ill after eating one. I told myself proudly that the scales had turned a round 14 stone this morning – nearly 13 something! Wahey! And yet… every burger van I passed belted out its nasal siren song of sizzling onions and frying grease. WAAAAAAAHHHHH! Want one! Want one NOW!

Hubby, bless him, hustled me unceremoniously past the lot, and back to the car before I could fall into skank-sin. And then, because he wanted one himself, proceeded to buy me a blasted Bounty bar when we stopped for milk. Which I ate. Bah! Still, I saved my cash. And good thing too, because I finally succumbed to a different type of lust today and ordered myself a proper (antipodean!) nappy changing bag, at hubby-horrifying cost. I have been toting a free black plastic pampers-job, and its dull (and now egg-mayo stained. Thank you, Harry.) tones do not add lustre to my day. So I have purchased this, and am rabidly awaiting delivery, whilst musing fretfully if I should have got it in mimosa or ochre.

Harry has had a busy couple of days. He was put to bed for the first time ever by Daddy, and only Daddy, last night. Mummy went out to the theatre at 6pm, having offered boob before departure, leaving the boys to cope with 7pm bedtime – sans boob. Harry had his bath and story-books as usual, before having a quick slurp of cow’s milk out of his sippy-cup in the boob-chair. Upon being placed in his cot and having his mobile twirled, he immediately turned over and went straight to sleep. My God! SCORE! I am no longer a prisoner to his boob-habit! I am free of him!! FRRREEEEEEEEE!!!1!! Ah… ahem. Let me think of something to tell you – quickly! – that shows you just how much I LOVE MY CHILD! Cough. Free. Yes. Wahey.

Harry had yet another first-ever this morning – we took a rowing boat out for an hour to have a closer look at the RSC building work and enjoy the glorious sunshine. I managed to endanger a local rowing crew, as it appears that I was supposed to be providing propulsion AND steering. John was too busy holding an utterly torpid child to pull on a steering rope, apparently. As you can see, Harry is regarding my oar (shipped! shipped oar! I’m not that nautically incompetent! Although, why rowlocks don’t have tops to ’em is beyond me. And the fact that I’m using ‘nautically’ in the context of rowing the River Avon probably tells its own story.) with sleepy suspicion

before it all became too much for him.

A sleeping child. My very favourite kind.

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