A routine question

Before Fig was born, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, I had poured over baby books, and established in my head that without doubt the single most important thing about parenting was getting your child into a routine practically before they even get home from the hospital. I had even written a detailed daily schedule for us, based on what I considered to be practical hours for Saul and I and what the books said Fig, being one of those ‘typical’ babies (bear in mind there’s no such thing), would be like. Reader, I was an idiot.

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I swore I never would…

Before you become a parent, you have a very specific list of the way you definitely will, and definitely won’t, bring up your children. This list will be an amalgamation of things your parents did, things your friends have done, things you have observed complete strangers do in Sainsbury’s, and things you have read about or seen on Supernanny.  But then you become a parent, and all of that goes out the window in a matter of (I’d like to say weeks, but I’ll be honest) days.  Here are the Big Four things I swore I’d never do, and in fact do regularly because I live in the real world.

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The Big Question: Breast or Bottle?

Like most pregnant women, I wanted to breastfeed.  And I guess I thought I just would.  I’d read that it was hard, and that not every woman could do it, but I still thought I would, that I could.

When he was born, Fig was placed on me and fed for the first time.  It seemed successful for a first attempt.  But from then on, even though he latched on fine and all the midwives said we were both doing it perfectly, Fig would pull away and scream after just a few seconds of feeding.  We tried for three days, by which time the midwives were having to cup-feed him between my increasingly futile attempts to breastfeed.  Perhaps I wasn’t producing enough colostrum for him, they wondered.  They put me on the milking machine (officially called the breastpump, but it was of such industrial magnitude, it made me feel far more bovine than the ones you get for use at home!), which hurt so much that I was by this time in tears.

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Moofing the tumbly, and other nonsense…

I’m not ashamed to admit I love babytalk.  Saul, Fig and I have a whole repertoire of our own family terms for things, which I know is completely normal and everyone does it – I guess the depth of the madness is judged not by the fact that we do it at all, but by the silliness of the words invented.  We have our favourites, and our most-used.  Pretty early on, Fig’s mouth became his moof.  This quickly became a verb: when mummy kisses him, thus putting her moof on him, she is moofing him.  See?  There’s grammatical logic.

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There is nothing that has broken my heart so much as seeing my little Fig screaming in pain with trapped wind.  He pulls his legs up, then stretches them out and arches his back; his little face goes cherry tomato red and the tiny white knuckles of his clenched fists punch furiously at the air around him.  He cries and yelps, then it eases for a moment and he looks at me accusingly before it starts again.  This can go on for a long time.  Hours sometimes.  The pain often wakes him, and he can be inconsolable, and impossible to settle again.  I stand or sit holding tightly onto this little being who fights me as though I’m causing the tummy ache.  My own helplessness has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

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Who and why am I?

Oh my Lord, another baby blog!  Is there anything at all that ‘Baby, cradle and all…’ can possibly add to the genre that doesn’t already exist, probably in a better written and more informed form?  Well, no, very likely not.  But there are one or two things that are different about my experience as a first-time parent, that might be useful to some people.  Firstly, I am old – nay, ancient – for a first-time mum.  I am 44, nearly 45.  Secondly, I thought I’d never have a baby, as I had a serious case of fibroids.  For those of you that don’t know, a fibroid is a benign tumour that forms on the inside, outside or within the walls of, the uterus.  They are very common, and can range in size from that of a pea to that of a grapefruit, but often are not a massive issue.  Mine, however, were.  For years, they had caused me excessive bleeding during my periods, extreme cramps, and almost hospitalisation levels of anaemia. I had also, despite trying, never been able to get pregnant.  I had an operation to remove those on the inside of my uterus, but that had no effect on my ability to conceive.  So I then had a huge operation to remove the rest – I was in theatre for four and a half hours, and six fibroids were removed, two of them the size of oranges.  I was off work for six weeks, which led up to Christmas 2015, and things went back to normal in January.

Except they didn’t.  Because in February – yes, that soon – I fell pregnant.  My partner Saul and I couldn’t believe it.  The operation had worked, and despite my age, I had managed to conceive.  We were so happy.

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