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?

23 Responses

  1. Don’t mention the d word (dentist that is), I’m still recovering from the multiple (we’re talking 6 over the year) to get my root canal filling right. I was all for pulling it out but no the dentist knew best. If I still have this tooth in 5 years time it will be a miracle!

  2. Jesus woman you need a break! I know the parents thing isn’t ideal but seriously? You and John need to remember each other without your not-so-new, not-so-little (although adorable) growth attached. The parents I know that manage best are the ones that get out, just the 2 of them, at least once a month.

    Wishing you a much easier (and healthier) 2009!

  3. Let me know the date for the running-naked thing and I’ll make a special trip to my mother’s (as you may know, she’s local to you).

    I have to say, one of the things about infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss is that you do book an awful lot of restorative weekends away, special dinners, spend a lot of couple time, and get a lot of wine in. I can’t imagine this is the same when you have a child in the house.

  4. Oh noooo not the dentist! Buggers. I had three–THREE!–root canals done on the same tooth this past Fall and then when it STILL hurt INSISTED they pull it. It was cracked in half and had they put a crown on wouldn’t have lasted a month.

    My sympathies on the sleep, etc. Harry sounds like quite the handful. I have some especially needy children here and feel your pain…I don’t know what I’d do if it weren’t for the fact that having finally left their father (the bugger–he was just a rotten human being, not the childrens’ fault at all, demanding though they are) I now get one evening per week and every other weekend OFF! I keep saying if I’d known I’d get a BREAK I would’ve thrown him out sooner…however if the Hairy Hubby was not a useless, malevolent bastards BEFORE the arrival of Harry then there’s probably no reason to dissolve your marriage, especially with parents who can help out 🙂

  5. You have my sympathy on the marital issues. My husband and I never went anywhere – until my daughter started going to daycare (meaning we now go out to lunch once in a great while). Work it out with the grandparents…and if your mother-in-law wants to look around, tell her she has to clean/fix anything she doesn’t find satisfactory!

    If you really think Harry has problems that he will need help with, don’t stop harassing doctors until you find someone to help you.

    Congratulations on nap time, though. That’s the best part of my day!

  6. I have no tooth advice I am afraid. But the hubby stuff I know well. It does seem odd that having weathered the infertility stuff together and all the horrors therein that once beloved and much hoped for babe makes appearance all hell seeps forth. Certainly it was this way with C and I and even to this day I find him much more grumpy than pre-IF shenanigans and so he does me. And what i put it down to is that damn sleep deprivation. It is so hidious and so destructive and you end us using all your energy just to function and shower love on babe that there is precious little left for partner. babysitting organising is a very good thing, can Harry have sleepovers at Mum’s now and then? Try and hang in there, keep talking, keep acknowledging that it’s the parenting and demands therein that are difficult and that your relationship is fabulous just currently severely tested. You are a team. Team must have regular (ahem) bonding exercises to keep team morale up. Book them in.

    Re Harry health. Good on you for getting 2nd opinion and do not feel that you aren’t entitled to a 3rd or even 4th if that’s what you think the situation demands. Mothers know.

  7. Or…re sleepovers…can your Mum and Dad come over to your house and have sleepover and then you and hubby piss off to dinner and motel somewhere?

  8. OvaGirl is right–the sleep deprivation is HUGE. At around 18 months we were able, with help, to sleep-train my son (he was not so much fussy as we were misguided) and that was just about the point where we were both about to snap if something didn’t change and soon. And we have an easy-going child and no IF problems. Sadly, I don’t have any great ideas beyond what’s already been suggested (you’re still treating the acid reflux, right?) but I hope there’s a way to get some sleep, and some more time for yourself, soon. Maybe he’s teething and thus the spate of bad nights?

    (I had luck finding good sitters two ways, and I’m not sure if either would work in your location, but just in case: an online sitter-finding service, sittercity.com, maybe there’s a UK version? And also students studying child development at the local university–they have a book of job listings always open there.)

    Harry is one very adorable child. He looks a lot like my son, too, and is close in age, which makes all your photos tug at my heart-strings extra specially.

  9. Parenting has thrown gigantic monkeywrenches into my marriage, and we didn’t even have the burden of dealing with the infertility/NICU nightmare. That you’re still at least occasionally speaking to/snuggling with Senor Hairy speaks volumes about the strength of your relationship. I wish you luck in finding the ideal sitter, something like Mary Poppins with a facility for Caterpillar tractor repair.

    And Harry? Amongst the dogs? Could eat that with a spoon.

  10. If I were you I would keep looking for someone to help with Harry’s walking issues. Maybe try and find a good physio who specialises in child development in your area. My daughter had a syndrome and very low muscle tone so we started taking her to the physio from early on. She gave us daily exercises to do at home. I cannot truly say if it helped as it was hard to tell how she would have been without it. As Ovagirl says, Mom knows best and if you think there is a problem, don’t let them fob you off as an overprotective mom.

    Re the relationship thing, it is definitely something you have to work on. We have been through many ups and downs since the birth of my son 10 years ago and time alone together is a must.

  11. I think you are right to keep pushing with the Doctors, but saying that very much hope to see your Lady Godiva on the 6 o’clock news.

  12. Isn’t it wierd how you get through some really rough times with aplomb and then when things get better you suddenly want to kill your spouse? I didn’t blog about it because it got better but Sarge and I had a HUGE fight very soon after Sam got home that made me wonder if we were going to get divorced. I went to a friend’s house in tears the next day asking why he was being such a GIRL about it all? She said she did the same thing with her husband after the birth of both her kids. They were at each other’s throats. So, as far as I can tell, you’re in good company here. I hope you’re able to get out soon. If nothing else, bring Harry to someone’s house and then come home and take a nap. We did that once and it was HEAVEN. We felt so cheerful!

    As for Harry’s growth and development, keep tooting that horn, sister. You know him the best of anyone and if you say it’s so, it IS. I, for one, would love to see you run naked down whatever street but I live too far away to ever see the news report. In the absence of that, I hope that your justification comes swiftly and with lots of help and attention for Harry. You are a great advocate for him! Keep up the good work.

  13. And also, I love that blonde hair! Such a sweet little man. I just want to pick him up and give him a cuddle (which I’m sure he would hate).

  14. I could have written so much of this post about how half the time I want to rip long suffering’s head off and shove the damp end up his stupid arse 🙂

    Especially when he’s suicidal enough with his wee-wee to attempt sex on a background of four hours sleep and a barney two hours ago. 🙂


  15. […] and he still thinks the blasted thing is repairable. Personally, I doubt it. As I said to the dear HFF-ess herself today there are times I would like to rip LS’s silly head off and shove the damp end […]

  16. *Gets cup of coffee. Settles in for a good old read*

    Harry is one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen, but dear God, he needs to work out the going to BLOODY SLEEP ALREADY thing. And then you can sleep. And then you and Hairy Farmer can have a civilised conversation with all brain-cells firing. I am a life-long insomniac, and I can tell you, H can be sweet as anything, but if I’m tired after a night of staring at the ceiling and listening to him snore happily to himself, I am prepared to commit husbandcide for anything and everything. The idea of coping when we’re BOTH tired and a vitally important tiny screamy person is absorbing 97% of our attention and energy – well, frankly I think it a miracle most new parents can sit in the same room as each other by the time the creature is two.

    For God’s sake, throw Harry to his grandparents and spend time being a Proper Grown-Up, both on your own and with Hairy. No, I don’t mean THAT. I mean wearing nice clothes and eating uninterrupted dinners and reading a book and talking about something non-Harry-related. If you then feel you wish to proceed to THAT, well, bonus for both of you, but it ain’t the point, whatever one’s husband may try to convince you of.

    Here I am giving advice like I know anything about it. Ahh, the joys of back-seat parenting-by-proxy. Would it help if I told you something you DON’T know already?

    As for Harry’s wobbling, and the medical profession’s refusal to take it seriously, oh, I get so ANGRY on your behalf. Nothing would please me more than seeing you streak down the high street (I’d bring a picnic, binoculars, and one of they foil blankets for you), but really, the effing docs could at least CHECK that his wobbling is nothing to worry about instead of being such SMUG DISMISSIVE ARGH words fail me ARGH ARGH.

    (But then I too have issues with doctors ignoring my complaints of being in pain/ bleeding too much/ insert symptom here and then me being rushed to hospital or being diagnosed with something spectacular. Doctors not taking things seriously pushes my buttons big time).

    Hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

    One of the jokes that made me unpopular with the TTC baby-dust twinkie boards was my gleeful comment to a newly pregnant woman talking about implantation symptoms and hopes of ‘go, tiny leech! Suck all the calcium out of your mother’s teeth!’ (she laughed. The other twinkies? Not so much. Oops).

  17. So, so sorry about the cold and the special torture that is non functioning technology. And that you have so much difficult crap on your overloaded and under-refreshed plate. I’m a long way from being woken up by screaming baby but not a single second of that trying time has been erased from my mental database. We declared a moratorium on anything we said to each other between the hours of 11pm and 8am it got so personal and revolting.

    And the already suggested grandparental sleep-over with dinner and a motel for some …ahem..quality time alone is an excellent one. Even though we only managed it perhaps half a dozen times in ten years.

    And I’ve been down to the travel agent and booked tickets for late July 2012. I’ll be the one with the long lens camera.

  18. I hear you on the marital issues. Been there (still there, actually). Sleep is one of THE major arguments in our house – hubby slept in past eight every morning for the last two weeks as he was “on vacation.” Do I ever get vacation? Or even to sleep past 6? No!

    Re: getting out – just do it. Give the wee one to your parents for a night. They’ll be able to put up with his screaming for one night, even if they need to sleep all day the next day. I still nurse my 2yo son once a day (in the very early morning, when I am too tired to parent), but even when I was nursing more frequently going away for a night or two made no difference in the nursing schedule when I came home. We have our longest trip yet – four nights away! – in February, and I’m alternating between pure glee at the thought of four nights of sleep, and absolute dread about being away from my son for so long….

  19. I think I am too exhausted from reading your post to comment in a lengthy fashion. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture & changes so much about you … no wonder you & HF are stressed out. I hope you can manage some dates out soon. What about having parents sleep over at your place so you can stay out late?

    I hope there are other avenues you can explore, if you feel there is something wrong w/ Harry, *someone* should be paying attention to you. It makes me want to scream when you just keep getting the brush-off.

    I hope 2009 brings you some sleep, peace, joy and all the good stuff.

  20. Delurking (came via Barren Albion) to say I feel that I am reading a reflection of my own marital”bliss”. Take advantage of your parents and his parents or maybe swap babysitting with a friend in similar hole – I wish we had started to do that earlier. I might not have got so bloody depressed about everything.

    On a referral for your son – any chance you can speak to his neonatal consultant? My son had one who still follows him up every 6 months and has pulled strings in relation to a number of things which have nothing to do with the reason she got involved in the first place for us along the way to get him seen by the right people quickly.

    Hope you get some time for you in 2009.

  21. […] of ear-splitting and increasingly hoarse ululations, interspersed with the shocking thuds of his previously mentioned headbangs. I wouldn’t actually mind if all he wanted was to sleep in our bed – […]

  22. Whew. Am only just getting around to reading this, but girlfriend, I feel your pain on the sleep/boob front. If it’s any consolation, I have been feeling like I am the last woman in Scotland still nursing at 17 months. I’d really like to drop the early morning feed in particular but I just can’t face the torment of dealing with the fall out on my own. But yip yip yip, the teeth! The bitey bitey teeth! I’m pretty sure we could drop the before bed feed without too much bother but I do like the closeness and it generally achieves the desired aim of getting her to go to sleep as soon as possible. Basically, I’ve decided to take my cues from her for now, and will look to stop when she’s more ready- if that ever happens. Please God let it be before she is six.

    On the relationship thing- I urge you to leave Harry with your folks and go somewhere for a dirty weekend- or even just the night. It won’t kill him to not have boob for a short time – and it might even help progress matters as far as kicking the habit. But you need romance and bubble baths and lots of booze and a chance to reconnect as a couple.

  23. […] that today’s outcome justifiably excuses me from being obliged to take my clothes off and run naked down Stratford-upon-Avon High Street. You can all put your cameras […]

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