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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Elegy for blackberries

The blackberries are almost finished in the garden.  This makes me disproportionately sad.  This is especially ridiculous because until this year, I didn't even realise we had blackberries in the garden, let alone mourn their passing.  But this summer, at home with the baby, picking blackberries has been one of our daily activities.  And it's coming to an end.  As is my lovely year at home.

I remember feeling a similar thing when I left school.  An A-level paper re-mark meant I took an unplanned year out between school and university.  I took a job at a local firm to waste time, kill a year, before I could join my friends at uni and my adventure could start.  That May, I remember having lunch with my colleagues in the beer garden of the local pub, and laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted that the horse chestnuts were already green and prickly.  A whole school year had almost passed.  And I suddenly realised that this was my adventure.  When I did finally head off to uni in October, it was my new friends I missed, my colleagues, my adventure.

Anyway, I thought I'd continue with my Big List of Useful Baby Shit.  Not literally shit.  You will have enough of that anyway.  And I haven't found a use for it yet.

So - today - Things to do with your baby

First off, don't worry.  This isn't some Godawful Pinterest board where I will be recommending you make organic rainbow spaghetti in sensory tubs.  If you have enough time to do that, you've probably forgotten to feed the child or change your own underpants.  Double check, just in case.

This is just some stuff that got me through those first few months.

I had an emergency C-section, after full labour.  The technical medical term for how you feel after that is "fucking shit".  Now add to that a newborn that you know absolutely nothing about, plus the fact that the little screamy thing won't feed properly and won't gain weight.  Oh, and you're not allowed to drive, and walking really fucking hurts.  You're bleeding like a stuck pig and buses are out of the question because you can't lift the weight of the buggy up steps.

Honestly, I'd like to recommend stuff to do in this first 6-week period before you're allowed to drive again.  From memory, I sang a lot of Carpenters songs to the baby (seemed to stop her crying) and counted the minutes until TheBloke (TM) came home.  I also watched a lot of ER repeats (with subtitles as the crying tended to drown out the dialogue).  I told myself it was good for the baby as she might become a doctor.  As an extra bonus, I can now diagnose a sub-cranial haematoma at 30 paces.  The rest of my day was spent spunking tit juice into a milking machine.  If it was a good day, only one of us would be crying when TheBloke (TM) arrived home.

The good news is, nature is kind/spiteful, so you will actually block out all of the horrific memories of the first few weeks.

Once you can drive / walk a reasonable distance, here are my tips:

1.  Go to your local children's centre and register.  They will hand you a badly-laid out leaflet of all the classes they run for free!  FREE!  Yes, most of them will have a waiting list longer than your local orthopaedic surgeon, plus anyone referred by Social Services will automatically skip the queue ahead of you (apparently families with a history of child abuse need to learn nursery rhymes more than the rest of us do) but some of them are worth doing.

2.  Don't bother with baby massage.  All you will do is make your baby slimy with olive oil, nearly drop them on the floor, and then look at the half-bottle of oil you have left, and nine months down the line wonder if it's OK to put it in a salad.

3.  Find a baby music class.  We actually did this through the children's centre, and later paid for private sessions.  It was brilliant.  Not such much for the "there and then" (babies get a bit overwhelmed), but to give you a lot of new rhymes and songs to do at home.  Sometimes even you will have had enough of the Carpenters' version of "Ticket To Ride".  Unthinkable, I know.

4.  If you did NCT, try and meet up with people fairly regularly.  If you're lucky (I was) they will be generally nice, normal people.  If you're unlucky and they're all freaks, at least you get to look at other babies the same age, and think about how much cleverer/taller/fatter/uglier your own baby is.  On a serious note, it was through the NCT friends I made that I realised our baby wasn't gaining weight like she should have been in the first few weeks.

5.  The Breastfeeding Cafe.  I resisted this for ages.  Despite really (and I mean really) struggling with breastfeeding, I could not fathom wanting to go to talk to other people about it.  I had done my research online.  I had read pretty much everything La Leche League had published.  I could be told nothing new.  The last thing I wanted to do was to go and sit in a hippy cafe where someone would hold a knitted tit and tell me what I was doing wrong.

Well, more so I could say "I tried everything" before giving up breastfeeding, I did go along to the Breastfeeding Cafe, and it was nothing like I thought it would be.  (Well, apart from the fact they did have a knitted tit, but what can you do?).  There were free cakes, nice people (all terribly middle-class, because let's face it, the Jeremy Kyle ones are straight on the SMA), and yes, whilst I genuinely had done my research and wasn't told anything new in terms of facts, what I did get (and honestly, what I didn't know that I needed) was a big bucketload of emotional support.  But not in a drippy "let's hold hands and feel each other's energy" way.  In a, "Here, let me hold your baby.  Get yourself a cup of tea and some cake and actually go to the toilet for the first time today" way.  It was amazing.  I finally stopped breastfeeding about two weeks ago.

6. Until the baby is at least 3 months old, it doesn't really know which way is up, let alone whether or not you're stimulating it appropriately with Lamaze toys.  It could not give the tiniest fuck if you are lying it on the floor of your living room, or treating it to an African safari.  Believe me, I did both, and she's never mentioned either.  Feed it, clean it, don't let it cry for too long, and you're probably doing OK.

As I finish writing this, on what is - statistically - likely to be one of the very last hot drowsy days of summer, the baby is with the childminder for her first "settling in" period.  Again, the baby couldn't give the tiniest fuck.  So long as she gets fed.  Of course it's important she settles in.

But a part of me wishes she were here, with me, and that we were together in the garden, picking fat blackberries.

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