Saturday, December 17

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

.......jingle all the way!

Christmas is nearly upon us and I am so excited for it. I have always really liked Christmas (who doesn't apart from Scrooge?) but since having A Small Person it has got a million times better.  It is like it gives you that extra reason to celebrate and deck the house in fairylights. Wriggles isn't generally that bothered with the whole shebang to date, but she does quite like trying to pull the Christmas tree ontop of her head. She is such a magpie (baubles, other people's watches, my glasses, tin foil, mince pie cases, teaspoons, forks, tin openers, the kettle, god forbid once a lunge for the breadknife........) at present as would quite happily spend all the time rolling in the decoration. I finally remembered I have fairylights today as popped them on the tree and it was a treat to see her little face light up. We have also been into central Newcastle to see the legendary deliciously over the top Fenwicks window display, which rendered her a bit nonplussed, and this morning went to the TinyTalk Christmas Party. I have spent evenings this week making her a Christmas tree fancy dress in the style of a novelty pinafore. It was something refreshing from mindlessly debating about whether to wash up and felt like a bit of an awakening of Old Me. BC (before child) I had completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and been part of a craft "mafia" and run an admittedly, mini business selling prints and textile good. I would spend regular Sundays lugging wares around craft fairs and inevitably spending all my profits on the cake stall.

I digress; Wriggles today looked as cute as a (festive) button and I am supposed to be packing to leave Sunday morning to battle the intrepid world of the East Coast mainline to spend Christmas with my parents and younger sister in Kent. I am apprehensive about 5 hours on a train with a busy-handed-and-minded baby who is beginning to discover her own mind, but looking forward to being surrounded by family as to me that is the essence of Christmas. The only thing I very mildly dislike about my life, is that I am quite far geographically from my family and being without a partner, it can get a little lonely at times. Day to day I am very content but it would be lovely to see them more often. I am hopeful that in the next couple of years I will be able to move closer, as I'm pretty certain my parents miss seeing Wriggles grow up week-to-week and I would not turn away some more support! Telephones are a godsend, but there is nothing like a face to face blether over a cup of tea. 

It feels as if this is going to be the first Christmas; last year she was "officially" two weeks old and very much a newborn smidge. She was on oxygen and full of the premature baby snuffle (think woodland animal in the undergrowth) and newborn bleat. She slept through quite a bit of Christmas Day and worried most guests who thought she looked very fragile. I was also in a muddle; partly the fug of being a new mum as she has been home a little over a month so i was in the thick of night feeds and erratic routine fatigue, and partly I was still reeling from the SCBU experience. My mum was very keen to show Wriggles off to all but it was simply to overwhelming for me (not to mention the terror of contracting RSV!). "I don't understand" my mum complained after I had a bit of a freak out after being surrounded by her very extrovert work friends who I did not know, "why aren't you PROUD of her? She's wonderful!" I tried to explain but couldn't make her see and to an extent, still can't. It isn't that at all; I am so proud of her it hurts. She is to me, perfect in every single way and more. Every time I hold her, I fall in love all over again. The simple fact is, that after the shock of the birth and hospital, my mind was the fragile thing not her. Whether it was fallout from the months previous, post-natal depression or post-traumatic stress I do not know and it is really beside the point now, but after the weeks and weeks of having to ask for permission to touch my baby, leaving her every night and breath holding after every step back, I desperately needed both time and space to establish the bond proper. In my last post I wrote about the first time we were alone, rooming in. After that blissful weekend, it was nearly five months before we got some space to ourselves as for various reasons I had to return to a flat-share as I was unable to move in time for discharge. I lived with a well-meaning but very challenging housemate in slightly complicated circumstances. It was a bleak time for me as I struggled to accept my daughter would ever love me and that I was a passable parent. I lived in constant fear she preferred everyone else and felt as if I was swimming underwater as the world went about it's business up above with no concern for me. 
This last year has been challenging, but when I look back we have both come on in leaps and bounds. I really could have done without the constant hospital admissions (Wriggles definitely could have done without them) but if I put those aside, I could be a different person from last year. Although I haven't put all my demons to rest, I now have a gorgeous 15 month old who is growing up fast. I have a clear idea of her wants and needs, and we (I think!) understand each other through the medium of raspberries, moos and quacks and errrrr some guesswork. We have a rough routine; I can tell you her favourite things (books; Christmas Hedgehog, stuffed donkey, making noise, Old Macdonald and Wheels on the Bus, peekaboo and spinning toys around) and pet hates (anything food related, wearing any hats apart from party hats, putting her coat on, wiping noses, the hoover), she knows her name and she knows and importantly trusts me. We are each others constants and I adore on weekends getting her into my bed first thing in the morning so we can sleepily come to nose-to-nose and she can blissfully poke my eye out. I can recognise the difference between a rational and irrational thought (mine) and I can ask for help, even if I don't always get it. I know that a bad day does not equal a bad mum and that I am doing my best, which is all I can do, and so far it seems to be working. I would love to say that anxiety is a thing of the past and I am a social butterfly but it is not true-yet! But it is better, far far better. I have had time now, especially since moving in April. It has meant the world and my personal sanity having a space I can call ours, just ours, and being able to establish a private routine and family and to be able to exercise choice on my part of what we do, when we do and who we see. 

This Christmas is a testament to how far we have come AND an excuse for a party!


One of Wriggles' favourite things are books. She cannot get enough. Recently she has begun to be able to turn the pages the "right" way as opposed to reading upside down and back to front. Lift the flap books are a winner although paperback books have currently had to be hidden as her other favourite activity is ripping.

I have always grown up around books and been passionate about reading and important it is so I am delighted she takes such an interest. I have read to her since she was Very Very Small (on coming home initially from SCBU aged 37 weeks gestation, I rather optomistically tried to read her Winnie The Pooh serials by AA Milne; I got stuck for conversation and she nodded off to my voice even when doing a squeaky Piglet and a vvvvvveeeerrrrrryyyyyy meeeellllllannnchollyyyyy Eeyore) and have been egaerly collecting books I loved as a child and new titles since. I have generously given her one whole shelf on my bookshelf but she is already encrouching on the shelf above.

As a student at university, I worked part time in the marvellous Seven Stories in Newcastle upon Tyne, a dedicated centre for children's literature. My job was to be an information point, read stories, lead craft activities related to the exhibitions, sing songs ("If you're happy and a puffin, waggle your tail......") and dress up regularly as a tiger who came to tea or whatever book we were promoting! I adore Seven Stories and am really looking forward to Wriggles being bigger to enjoy it. They have activities for little people to very big people and regularly have authors, illustrators and surprise guests such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar dropping in.

As well as enjoying Grown Up books, I have always had a soft spot for childrens books. They were a love of childhood, but also something I have a deep interest in. I am no budding author but my dream job would be illustrate books. I did an art degree and quickly discovered my favourite area was illustration and design. Sadly by this point I was halfway through a very anti-illustration Fine Art degree but I have pursued it separately. I did submit drawings for a budding author a few years ago but alas have never seen the fruits! I adore collecting images by illustrators though and leafing through texts and layouts. My favourites are Judith Kerr, Lauren Child, Lucy Cousins, E H Shephard, Quentin Blake, Dick Bruna, Catherine Rayner, Jane Hissey and Helen Oxenbury.

If you are a baby here are some recommendations by Wriggles

My Top Books.

*Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mia Fox with Helen Oxenbury
*Peekaboo Peter; a textured lift-the-flap jobby published by Warne, collecetd from Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit
*Quack, Quack Maisy by Lucy Cousins
*My Puffer Train by Mary Murphy
*any of the DK Peekaboo series!

Mummy's favourites to read:

*Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney with Anita Jeram
*Alice and Anatole by Sam Childs
*The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
*Penguin by Polly Dunbar
*Dogger by Shirley Hughes

Thursday, December 15

Strictly a Strictly fan

I am a Strictly addict.
The first thing I do when I come home from work after taking Wriggles out the pushchair is to pop on BBC2 for a bit of It Takes Two . Not only are there the delights of sequins, Anton’s cardigan collection and oh, the dancing, I have a very soppy reason for feeling the Strictly love.

As I prepared to take Wriggles home from SCBU aged ten weeks, I got the opportunity of “rooming in” as it was confirmed she would be coming home on oxygen. They left the air challenges as late as possible but it was not happening; she just liked her 0.1 of oxygen and that was that. The other option was dealing with a bright purple baby-just so not in season! Saturday 13th November, two months old exactly, I arrived bright and early (well early for lunchtime! I had bright intentions for being there for 9am ward rounds but had not counted on how long oxygen installation would take and tying up loose ends likes last minute panics of being without an adequate nappy supply, missing a changing mat and the onset of early winter bringing doubt on if I had enough miniature cardigans; nowhere near. She was in cardigans that would fit a 3 year old all winter) with my little suitcase for a weekend mini break at Room 1, overlooking Leazes Park and the ambulance depot. The room was little like a Travelodge but with a hospital-style television and oxygen. I was given a swipe card to whizz in and out and permission to utilise the kettle in the day room of the maternity ward on which the room were located. The only quibble I had was on the ward opposite my room was a poster proclaiming “Baby is better in than out!” and the image of a sick premature baby next to a frankly 6-month looking newborn cuddled up with his mum. It’s a fair point but I am yet to meet a mother of a premature child who delights in the fact their child was born early and did all they could to induce premature labour. Slightly an insensitive place to display such a poster, if you have to display it at all, given that the ward was next to NICU and all the parents from SCBU roomed in there prior to hometime.

Anyway back to rooming in and dear old Strictly! After making the bed and an all important coffee, I got to do the most exciting bit of all. I went through the doors into SCBU and very proudly got to wheel the cot containing my baby round to my room. It felt unbelievably intrepid to go to the great world of about 10m away, if that. But the sense of pride is pushing my baby, proclaiming ownership for one utterly beautiful infant, was amazing. A nurse helped hook her up to the oxygen that mysteriously lives in hospital walls and left us to it. Two long months and this was the first time that the pair of us had been alone together. Would I cope? Would she cope?! It was all too much for her so she had a nap. When she woke I successfully changed her and fed her (on my own!! Just me!!) and we settled down in the big chair to watch Anne Widdecombe pirouette dressed as a Christmas tree fairy. Being alone was a big deal for me. Obviously I knew she was mine, I had given birth to her after all, but with the overwhelming nature of SCBU and the nature of what I had been having to organise quickly in the last two months, it had not seemed real. I had felt like I was in a dream. The initial shock had worn off and I had been able to locate obvious love and some emotions, but I just didn’t feel like a mum, especially not her mum. That weekend I did. I was a parent. And not just any old parent-I was her parent. Her proud and irreplaceable parent, preparing to imminently take her home.
 I don’t think she was overly impressed with Strictly Come Dancing. I couldn’t even say with confidence she was overly impressed with me. But I had located my inner mummy at last and with joy welcomed the first night of many to come of hedgehog-like snuffling and night feeds and disruptions. Bliss!

This year she has slowly warmed to Strictly. Now I swear she lights up when the theme tune starts and she actually got quite excitable last weekend when Harry Judd started the charleston. Result!