We’ve got to a pleasing stage in Mary’s development in which she can’t stay awake for more than two hours at a time. Our little clockwork mouse kips around 10am, 1pm and 4pm, and in that time I get to READ. An hour or maybe even more of blissful bookage, punctuated, at the moment, only by some local middle-class menace wielding a hammer/chisel/drill/hedge-trimmer/trident of Neptune/staff of Gandalf, trying to make his penis larger by doing DIY ALL DAY LONG. Not a moment of sunshine is to be left unsullied, according to this neighbourhood Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor.
Poorly concealed rage aside, I’ve recently been devouring Agatha Christie facsimile editions while Mary snoozes. I’m currently on The Murder On the Links, a cracking Poirot murder mystery set in the North coast of France during the 1920s, and I’m loving it. I often reach a real juicy plot twist just as I hear my baby meowing for me, and I’m only a teensy bit ashamed to say I keep reading until the meows become angry squeaks.
A Bookworm Mum has to take her thrills while she may.
When Kinder Egg started making pink ‘girls’ and blue ‘boys’ eggs I, like so many people, thought: “Enough, already”. What a massive buzzkill for kids to be told that unicorns and cupcakes are for girls and spaceships and dinosaurs are for boys. Why should this be? “Scrap all gendered toys!” I thought. “And scrap the clothes, too, while you’re at it.” After all, babies have no concept of ‘male’ and ‘female’. That’s on us.
Ah, but little baby girl clothes… Pink mittens and socks with bows! Floral headbands and love-heart patterned sleepsuits! Ngngngngngngng. I admit it. I’m a complete sucker for them.
That’s not to say I think that boys shouldn’t be allowed to wear a sugar pink onesie embroidered with daisies, or that girls can’t rock a pair of dungarees with a forklift truck stamped boldly on the front pocket. Who cares? Gender is fluid. We live in woke times. (I should also add that many of my baby’s most beloved outfits are yellow or white or some other neutral colour, printed with animals and stars and other items that have, for whatever reason, escaped the tyranny of gender.)
But the sight of Mary in a chintzy dress and bluebell shaped hat, looking like the love child of Legolas and Thumbelina, makes my girlish heart sing!
(I must add, however, that anything with “Daddy’s Little Princess” or similar written on it deserves to be vomited upon from a great height.)
I never made a birth plan, figuring that you can’t plan such things as getting a baby from womb to room in the way that you can plan, say, a picnic or a visit to the dentist. On the one hand, I was right. Even if I HAD planned to give birth at home or in a pool or whatever else, I wouldn’t have got my wish. On the other hand, I was pretty ignorant about certain aspects of childbirth and if I have another baby I will be armed with a watertight plan in case I’m put on The Drip – aka Satan’s Nectar – again.
The Drip is used to induce birth. When my waters started trickling out a day after Mary was due, they were a funky colour. Think of moss mixed with rust and a dash of Nutella and you’re pretty much there. It turns out that Mary had charmingly done a nice big poop in my womb, and so she had to come out asap. No dilly-dallying for Mary and I. No slow and steady journey from first contraction to last. The Drip fast-forwards things at an insane speed and made me think that I might die.
I didn’t scream. I prefer to internalise anxiety and pain. But I did make noises, towards the end, that wouldn’t have been out of place in a barn. My contractions went from “oh, these are fine!” to “I. Need. An. Epidural” at breakneck speed. There was no time for an epidural. At 8pm I was sitting in the hospital waiting-room watching Eastenders. At 9.04am I was holding my 8lb 7.5oz slippery bundle of love in my arms. Given that much of those initial hours was spent waiting for a pessary to work (it didn’t), having a bath and eating Wine Gums, that’s a fast turnaround.
So if we have another baby, I will be armed with a plan. If I’m put on The Drip again I will immediately ask for an epidural. I ended up numb from the waist down anyway, since I needed my second-degree tears stitched up in theatre, so I may as well have used that delicious numbness to push our jumbo baby out.
I will also make sure that my cannula is put in correctly, on the front of my hand. One of the midwives put it in the front of my wrist, exactly where my hand bends, and, four and a half months on, it’s still bruised. My vaginal stitches hurt less.
I will also remember to remove my specs, put on a nice flowery nightie, and tie my hair back as soon as labour starts. So fast did things move that in a photo taken immediately after Mary was born I’m still wearing my specs (lopsided) and the XXL man’s black t-shirt from Asda that I entered the hospital wearing. I look deranged.
A plan might just prevent this, and while I probably won’t go full ‘essential-oils-and-Enya’, I will do my utmost to avoid the barnyard madness from reoccurring.
On the subject of sleep, I’m writing this from our living-room while baby Mary sleeps in her pram in the kitchen, large muslin cloth shrouding her from sight, cooker hood fan on, Leonard Cohen singing softly of tea and oranges nearby. These are the ludicrous measures I go to in order to be able to type during her morning nap, because my baby has THE EARS OF A BAT.
My husband and I spend our evenings, after Mary’s conked out, tip-toeing about the cottage, wincing at creaky floorboards and cracking bones, whispering entire conversations to each other, laughing with our hands covering our mouths, and watching TV with the subtitles on. It’s exactly like the John Krasinski film A Quiet Place, in which terrible monsters are drawn to people if they make the tiniest noise, except that our terrible monster weighs in at just over 15lbs.
It’s odd, because, like I mentioned in my last post, Mary can snooze in the noisiest surroundings. I’ve seen her sleep through a waitress dropping a tray of crockery in a packed coffee shop, or while boisterous toddlers throw themselves around like WWF fighters on a mat beside her. But the sound of Andrew and I kissing each other goodnight beside her cot? GOOD MORNING WORLD! Where’s the party at?
When we get our new house with an actual UPSTAIRS things will be different. But for now, it’s goodbye listening to dialogue and hello sneezing into cushions while The Boss slumbers in her tiny blankety throne.