A Touch of Frost

I write to you from the nipple-shrivelling cold again.

Our office and its PC has been rendered largely useless since the arrival of the laptop, so we have been happily throwing heaped armfuls of detritus through the doorway and pulling the door shut on the resulting piles of rubble. Hubby fights his way over to the corner once a day in order to proffer food (T-REX [Ha-haaa!] Dry Formula, Complete and Balanced Nutrition for All Tortoises) to Marina, but apart from that the room has been unoccupied. And then the laptop callously karked it, obliging me to clamber past the junk and fire up the noisiest PC in Great Britain, merely in order to have a quick nose through my blog feeds.  This has displeased me. Bah.

There are other things that have displeased me recently, and they have contributed to the paucity of my blogging. (I’m talking quantity here, people; we all already know the quality is suspect…) However, I am now a happyish bunny again, and I’m playing catch-up. Warning: long post ahead. Comfy cushion required. 

Firstly, John and I have been at each other’s throats for… well, weeks. Months. Since Harry was born, in fact. It’s ironic that we sailed through years of infertility and pregnancy loss in a remarkably easy-going manner, yet as soon as a tiny third person was introduced into the marital equation – the tensions first arrived, then mounted. Ironic, yet not inexplicable. Some of the squabbles are simply because it’s 4am and the teeth-clenched parent whose turn it is to be closeted unhappily with the screaming red tomato is not getting the precise and exact practical support or vocabulary that they want from the other. Exhaustion is, put simply, a bastard. And a parent is biologically programmed to become stressed upon hearing their child cry.

Other squabbles have related to money. John keeps telling me we have none of it, so please can I not spend any; then promptly buys several hundred quid’s worth of utterly extraneous camera. Moaning over Christmas expenditure, before seguing rapidly to how cheap huge flat-screen TVs have become, and ‘hadn’t we better have one?’ is a Hubby conversational speciality. Upon being taxed with this mixed-message-theme, he does have the grace to look sheepish.

But most of the dischord lies purely and simply in the fact that we have foolishly let parenting overshadow our marriage. My Counsellor has repeatedly hammered forth the point that we need to Get Out More, and bless her, she’s ever so right, as usual. Because Harry is not a placid child. Dear me, no. He is a needy little bugger, who is pretty well all-absorbing in terms of time, energy and attention, and he is consequently not an easy child to parent. His demands have all been met in full, and we have paid the price as a couple. We spend no (zero) time together alone in daylight. We went out together in the evening only twice that I can think of in 2008, and Harry was feverish and poorly both times, resulting in my tears and stress.

So, although John and I have not been precisely strangers to one another – we’ve sailed along placidly enough between the eruptions – the tensions have not been nice. We went out for our Young Farmers Old Gits Christmas meal – our single annual big night out with friends – not speaking to one another, which made for a miserable evening, and New Year was spent in a speaking-but-not-very-friendly fashion. Frequently, over the last few weeks in particular, he was being a rotten git to me, and I was behaving coldly to him. Sound familiar to anyone?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to spot where we’re going wrong. Neither of us wants to have these snarling exchanges protracted; they make us both very sad, not least because Harry shouldn’t be hearing them – despite the fact that he laughs when I get upset and shouty. So, we have agreed to try and do rather better. I will not stay in bed greedily catching up on sleep, leaving John to give Harry his breakfast, making him late for work. He will not behave like the world’s sulkiest arsehole when we have to make a family trip to the shops.


We have made vague noises about Getting Out More for months, and I have been looking for a babysitter with no success – all our local late teens are hopelessly over-committed already. My parents can babysit in the evening, with the added mental bonus for me that I know Mum can cope with anything His Lordship can throw at her; but they’re in their 60s, it’s a faff for them to drive 6 miles over here at night in winter, so we wouldn’t like to keep them out much past 10pm. John’s parents only live over the road, but the problems are much the same. One does not necessarily want one’s babysitters discovering one’s dirty laundry, or one’s cupboarded skeletons. I am now picturing a skeleton wearing my dirty laundry. Nice.

Anyhoo, we urgently need to address this evening vacancy. I have also asked Mum if she will have Harry for a whole day now and again (continuing boob and general night-rage-iness preclude an overnight stay) and she has cheerfully agreed.

On the subject of boob, I’ve been feeling increasingly self-conscious about the fact that Harry’s turned 17 months today (hooray),

My Daddy dressed me

 and I’m still feeding him first and last thing. I no longer advertise the fact that I am, and get a bit flustered now when I am asked. I know it’s still the right thing to do, yadda yadda yadda, but I only know one other girl that is still feeding at this age. And not to put too fine a point on it (pun alert)… the dude has teeth now. 12 of them. He hasn’t bitten me in ages, but there’s no getting away from the fact that his latch is a lot more uncomfortable with gnashers. But…  Harry is just such an enthusiastic little boobs man (to elucidate: he’s little, the boobs are gigantic) that I’d feel rotten about taking them away. They are also quite invaluable as non-toxic instant tranquilisers when he’s poorly. Plus, it’s funny yelling ‘Boobies!’ at him in the morning, and seeing him smartly about-turn and bustle towards me with a purposeful expression. Anyway, I dropped Harry’s night feed one night last week, with a view to getting him down to one feed a day, and although he submitted without a murmur, I felt so hugely sad about not having that silent 10 minute cuddle alone in the dark with him at the end (supposedly!) of his day, that I didn’t repeat the experiment. I will try curtailing the morning feed instead, as I’m always 90% asleep for that one, so I won’t miss much. It’s all about me, you understand.

Long post: comfort break. Do go and pee.

Back with me? Brave, loyal soul! On we go.

When I took Harry to the doctor the week before Christmas, he struggled off my lap at the end of the appointment and plunged determinedly towards the door, rather like a dog leaving the vets (‘They prod me in the sodding ear when I come here. Every bloody time!’) He did so in his usual wobbly fashion. The GP smiled benevolently at him. “They look so adorable when they are just starting to walk” she said. I stopped with my hand on the door handle, and told her that Harry started to walk in mid-September. She was taken aback. “He looks very unsteady still, considering he’s been walking that long.” Umm. Yes. I’d noticed that, love. I keep telling people about it, in fact.

The fact that Harry’s mobility had officially raised an eyebrow ate away at me all over Christmas and I was in tears about it a few times; and when on Christmas Day Harry’s mobility took a marked downswing, John and I mithered hugely. (In retrospect, it was probably related to the monstrous bruise he picked up on his knee, as he is better the last few days.) So last week I decided there was no harm in being laughed at again, and returned to the GP, a different one as it happened. I told him about the suspected brain damage at birth, the pronounced wobbliness, the head-lag, the speech delay, the falls, the fact that every fucker I met over Christmas had something funny to say. (‘Look! A drunken toddler! He can’t walk straight! Ooops, he’s down again!’ Yes, by all means, do make fun of my child. That’s fine. It doesn’t hurt.)

He began, unpromisingly, by telling me that toddlers often are very wobbly at first before saying (and I’m hazy on his exact phraseology because: 5.15pm, Harry in noisy thrashy meltdown, refusing to even sit, let alone walk) that if Harry does have a problem, perhaps a one-sided weakness from my description of him, (I will post a video of his curious clapping  and arm-waving manner when I have time to actually record one) it was simply too early to diagnose. Much before 2, he reckons they can do nothing. And no, there wasn’t anything I could do in terms of early intervention or referrals to help. Just wait and see, and try not to worry.

I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it, apart from the relief of unburdening myself. Useful, as nothing did. But at least he didn’t make me feel like I was imagining things. Which was… good… because I know damn well I’m not. I don’t care how many people tell me about their friend’s child who didn’t walk until he was 3, or talk until he was fucking 15. If Harry turns out to have no diagnosable clinical issues by the time he starts school, I will run naked down Stratford High Street. (I will advertise the date and everything, so you can all make sure to keep well away, and your eyes tight shut just in case I should appear on your local TV news.) There is something not right with him. Time will tell.

In the meantime, he continues to be absolutely the best and most gigglesome little man in the world, and is becoming so much fun. In between the alarmingly grown-up tantrums, that is. He fervently adores the dogs, and they… well, they tolerate his bed-invasions calmly… with the occasional deep sigh.


He is eating well, despite the odd persistent tongue ulcer, is coming on beautifully with battering all his new toys, and I’m chuffed to report that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with A) his memory or B) his problem-solving skills – and, as of mid-December, he has morphed seamlessly into that most desirable type of child – one that naps. Reliably. Something just seemed to switch in his brain one day after months of struggle: John took him into his darkened nursery one lunchtime and sat down in the rocking chair – whereupon Harry heaved a huge sigh, and collapsed on his shoulder like a ship hitting dock. Snores followed almost immediately. He transferred into his cot without a murmur, and slept for 90 lovely minutes. And the same the next day. And the next day, when the boob-lady tentatively tried it. And the next. He even dozed off obediently on my shoulder in front of CBeebies. 

And what’s more, once the worst of the pre-Christmas viral fever was out of the way, he proceeded to sleep  through the night –  for 5 or so nights on the trot! Hubby and I were ready to partay. Except… it’s a good job we were too frosty with one another at the time to actually celebrate, because the little bugger screamed lustily into the small hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day night, and Boxing Day night. He then slept through again for a night or so. Success? No.

For the last 3 nights, the little rotter has screamed at the top of his lungs. Wednesday night, he started at 8pm and finally fell asleep (in bed with me, exhausted, John having retreated to the spare room) at 5.05am – before waking at 7am, fresh as a bloody daisy. Thursday night, Hubby totally took one for the team, and took him downstairs at 1am for over 2 hours, succeeding in rocking him into slumber until 6am. But last night nearly broke us. He yelled (in proper anguish this time, as we had decided after 2 nights of pandering that he was not actually poorly, and left him in his cot) – until 5.50am – waking chirpily for his morning boob at 6.30am. He threw himself about his cot for hours, in such a passion that he managed to wallop his head horribly against the solid oak several times, drawing winces and intakes of breath from the listening, silent, suffering parents. Even when the inhuman screeches (I had a number of ‘exorcist required?’ musings) eventually drew to a stuttery close, he had upset himself so much that his hiccupy intakes of post-crying breath (been there, anyone?!) continued long after he had actually fallen asleep. Hubby eventually patted him gently into a quieter rest. It worked wonders, because when he woke with the dawn – 15 minutes later – he was in a lovely little sunny mood. 

If he pulls the same trick tonight… tomorrow, I go out looking for a group of gypsies who are stupid enough to want to kidnap him.

Dear God, this is a long post. I’m nearly done, I promise.

I have had 3 notable conversations about unexplained pain in my life, which initially involved me being made to feel like a hybrid hypochondriac/Munchausen’s sufferer, but later enabled me to dance about, Rik Mayall-style, waving two derisive fingers at my doubters.

The first was circa 1988, with a GP who could not explain to me why my periods were so debilitatingly heavy, appallingly painful, and why tampons were, peculiarly, not really working at all. I left the surgery feeling small and stupid, and it was another 10 years before the whole two-uteri thing was diagnosed. A bit late, admittedly, to go back and blow violent raspberries, but Oh! I wanted to.

The second was with the OB working the maternity ward on the evening of Friday 3rd August 2007, who thought, because her omnipotent computer sensors were not picking up contractions from my maverick gravid right uteri, that I wasn’t having any. “We cannot find a reason for your pain, Mrs HFF!”  Cue: very doubtful muttering regarding possible appendicitis behind curtain, interspersed frequently with my groans and increasingly piercing moans. Harry arrived shortly afterwards.   

The third was with my Dentist, who, after numerous proddings and x-rays of a painful molar, announced that I was in possession of a ‘perfectly healthy tooth, Mrs HFF’. Yeah. The bloody thing fell out shortly afterwards.

So, when I tell you that I felt a cracking sensation from a molar tooth before Christmas… that it kept me awake with sizzling toothache for 3 hours (after Harry had stopped creating) one night last week… that the Dentist has prodded it and pronounced it flawless (apart from the huge chunk of metal it contains, naturally)… who believes my prediction that I’ll be holding it in my hand before March?!

ETA: Bugger me, I’ve not even finished proof-reading, and ANOTHER bloody tooth is suddenly feeling weird and wobbly. I lost 2 half-molars during pregnancy, and another shortly afterwards. I brush as religiously as ever. I drink gallons of milk. What is happening in there?! What did the child do?

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