Co-sleeping? More like no-sleeping

Sleeping baby

My little lady is teething, grumbling and hot as a baked potato. She lies next to me in the double bed, arms behind her head, legs stretched out, whilst I’m perched awkwardly at the edge of the mattress. I haven’t slept since she came up an hour ago and relegated my husband to the other room. She’s only slept in our bed on four occasions, once after a sorry reaction to her second set of jabs, twice for the head cold from hell and, now, for the four teeth breaking through the top of her gums like an army of sadistic soldiers. I love to have her here next to me and she loves it too, until she’s ready for some shut eye – then she pushes me to one side. Budge up, Mama! I have the worst night’s ‘sleep’ that I’ve had in a long while…

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Say sorry or choke on it later

Head in hands

For whatever reason, I was never taught to say sorry. Please and thank you, yes. “Sorry I hurt your feelings,” no. You were just the perfect child and never had to… said no parent or guardian ever, certainly not mine. As a teenager I was too busy playing bad pop music at a volume only necessary for Wembley Stadium; I didn’t hear any instructions I might have been given. This means I spent most of my young adult life annoying, upsetting and disappointing people without being able to properly acknowledge it. (Hey, everyone has their flaws!) When I first saw my husband apologise to his children with an openness of heart I’d never before witnessed, my mouth fell open. Whatever I was holding dropped to the floor. They accepted his apology then everybody hugged and moved on – not a week or two of awkwardness and then let’s just forget about it in sight. I had to learn how to do this and didn’t realise how important it would become.

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My baby is my boss

Baby contemplatingI remember with real clarity the day my baby daughter first looked at me with an honest question. Mum, why do I feel so bad? Can’t you make it go away? Big eyes, wide open. Her beauty in that moment was devastating. She destroyed the tough outer wall of my heart with one wilting look. With a temperature as high as my alert, we both hoped she could just sleep it off. Up until that day I’d only considered dreaded questions like Mummy, what’s the square root of 289? With a smug surety, I knew these were years off yet and by then I could blame my age for ‘forgetting’ the answer. For now, my daughter is taken care of without question. Life happens to her. The temperature came and went, but her world was beginning to take shape. What she sees is uncomplicated. I am all she knows. It’s a given that I am here, making decisions on her behalf, but what happens when I hit a blank? The baby boardroom has no simple equations.

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Turning in to our parents

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Parenting was instant for me. Not because I grew up with a lot of siblings, had always longed to have children or had started early – no, it is exactly the opposite. The alarm on my biological clock never went off. It didn’t make a sound. At least, if it did, I couldn’t hear it. I once managed to simultaneously hit the snooze button and sleep for three hours straight; perhaps that’s when it sounded and I missed my calling. I’d certainly never pictured myself as somebody’s Mum. I didn’t wake up one day in a panic that I’d missed the boat or that I was late for some kind of compulsory duty. Motherhood just wasn’t on my radar, so when I met somebody who had children I started with a blank slate. These days I’m up at the crack of dawn, I play board games instead of drinking games, and I can count to three as sharply as the next parent. I was quite happy with the parentified me. I didn’t think I was so different, until it happened and I bought a kagool.

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A tattoo for my baby

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I’ve always looked at tattoos with great envy. The permanence of them would leave me cold. Not the pain, but the bravery of the commitment. It made me weak. I couldn’t do it. I wanted one, but didn’t go through with it. I designed my own, but drawings found the bin. Intrigued, I spied tattoos in the flesh, creeping around ankles, up arms like ivy and poking out the backs of trousers for peekaboo. I was curious. Even the bad ones tell a story. The garish and offensive tattoos. The ones lacking imagination. The sorry looking tattoos that are more like a rubber stamp: GOT A TATTOO. They all lay bare the inner emotion; the feeling at the time or a general demeanour. I was never sure to reveal it, until I became a mother.

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Hate shopping? Have a baby!

Woman shopping

I’ve always been an infuriating shopper. Dilly-dallying, nit-picking and shopping around. Often, I wasn’t fully satisfied with my choice and thought there was something better just around the corner. For life in general this is a great philosophy to push your dreams forward, but choosing a new pair of shoes or buying a gift doesn’t need this level of intensity. Invariably, the first or second dress I tried on would trump the sixth or seventh, and the object for the house I’d found in the first shop turned out to be the closest match in colour. Shopping for me was more often a chore than it was fun. I wasn’t sure why I did it to myself and any companion shopper who was unlucky enough to be by my side. These days my companion is less than a year old and sports a nappy. Her urgent needs combined with my tendency to drift was begging for a disaster.

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Worn and torn, ‘So Long’ the step-family friend

Shabby sofaLet’s be honest, you’d seen better days. Those faded bum prints in the middle of each seat supported another family before us. As a couple just starting out, but not for the first time, we had nothing between us. Until we found you, our shabby sofa. Free and forlorn, we made do. You held us in winter when we cuddled up in the draft and romance of a big bay window. You reverberated our frequent laughter and the joy at having found our soul mate, but also cushioned our tears when life got in the way. Making room for our growing step-family you squashed us so close together – until the day came when we had to say goodbye. We tore you apart and chopped up the remains. All of us, we were sad.
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Why to wean your baby, even if you can’t stomach it

Weaning a baby

Perhaps you were one of those Mums who went straight in to milk production like a pro dairy farmer. You showed the boob to your baby and milk exchanged from your body to theirs like air going in to a balloon. It’s not this easy for many new Mums and breastfeeding can be a real challenge. The last time I came up against such a massive feat of endurance was – well, never. Certainly not one this important. I can only imagine a marathon breaking me in the same way, not so much crossing the finish line as collapsing over it. When you’ve finally cracked it and your breast pump starts to grow mould in the kitchen and the box of formula has long been relegated to the back of the cupboard, it turns out there is no medal for the fight you’ve given to feed your baby breast milk. You start the next challenge: weaning on to solids. A blender replaces the steriliser. Bowls and spoons replace bottles, but I wasn’t sure I had the stamina in reserve.

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HELLP! My pregnancy syndrome you’ve never heard of

Blood pressure monitor

Not much gets past me. My intuition rages and sensitivity speaks to me at a volume that only dogs can usually hear. I’ll pick up on the slightest adjustment someone makes to their demeanour and the tiniest doubt in their voice, but my midwife was a real pro. I didn’t feel alarmed when she told me the growth of our baby had slowed down. When she booked me in for a routine scan I really believed this was down to our choice of a home birth and to check the head had dropped. It was all just erring on the side of caution. Being sure. She didn’t tell me until after the birth that she knew the baby hadn’t grown in two weeks. I’d felt fine. Daily, others commented on how well I’d looked. There was barely any swelling of the hands and feet – a regular, small amount from the heat. No headaches or bright lights. There was no protein in my water. Yet we went for the scan and immediately were sent to the consultant. I had HELLP syndrome. Never heard of it. She told us that the baby and I were both in serious trouble and needed an emergency caesarean. Four hours later, our baby girl was pulled from my womb weighing just over five pounds. The rapture in my heart weighed more than that.
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Don’t kick at self-esteem, raise a Supergirl

Great Gorilla Run

I recently wrote a guest blog for Sport Watchsport watch. Let’s just say it started off an unlikely match. The last time I went for a run was four years ago and I was dressed as a gorilla. Limping and panting over London Bridge like it might be my last day on Earth, I raised more than £800 for the charity race and Bill Oddie presented me with a badge, regardless of coming in around 500th. Was I proud to reach the finish line? Yep. I was, but the pain I put myself through only reinforced the idea that I am ‘not sporty’. Looking back now, I realise that it was my attitude and not my ability that held me back. Writing for Sport Watch was borne out of the idea that I was missing out by having labelled myself as a non-sports person; at some point I’d started to tell myself I was “no good” and the idea stuck. Writing the post, I challenged this belief and the impact was almost instant. I saw things differently for the first time in years. Words, rather than weights shaped me and I went from Kara Zor-El to Supergirl overnight through the power of speech alone. Without running a marathon, joining the gym or local club, I realised that I can impact how girls see themselves in sports. As a Mum and step-Mum, this is a powerful medium at my disposal.

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