Monday, 7 October 2013

Mum Life

Thursday night I got a taste of what it's like to be a mum.  Odd to say since I have technically been a mum for 21 weeks but that night it got real.  The baby was at the tail end of his cold, still fussy and sicky, but generally a happy chappy.  The husband came home sick.  At first I thought it was a case of man-flu.  

Within a half-hour I was feeling a right bitch and wetting muslins.  He had proper chills with uncontrollable shaking and a wicked fever high enough for me to consider a hospital visit.  I semi-rushed through the baby's night routine attempting to maintain a sense of calm and sending out signals that everything is okay, Daddy is just not helping tonight, but EVERYTHING IS OKAY.

Then I turned my attention to husband violently shivering under a duvet on the couch. I have no idea what to do to break a fever.  Do I feed it, starve it, stuff it in a bath, or a bag?  I can never remember the catchy phrases when it's crunch time.  

I Google it.  

Turns out he shouldn't be under the duvet or drinking juice or necessarily eating the emergency pizza I heated up.  

To add to my stress, our expensive, top of the line, baby monitor crapped out the night before so I'm just hoping the baby decides tonight is the night to sleep a bit more peacefully. Failing that, our house isn't that big, I'll hear him scream if he's really upset.  It's time he learns to settle himself anyway at the ripe old age of 4 and a bit months, right?  

Luckily, the baby is quite for now.  I make up the spare bed and coax husband off the couch, up the stairs and into bed. I leave him with some water, paracetemol, a bucket and his phone to text me if he needs anything.  

Back downstairs I scarf down some cold pizza and make myself a bourbon.  I catch the bead of liquid running down the side of the bottle on my finger, at £30 a bottle it's precious stuff.  Instead of a smooth oaky nectar I get sickly sweet strawberry.


I sip my bourbon, absently watching whatever channel was absently left on in the midst of the evening.  I think about how I have no idea what I am doing, thank the universe for Google, and decide to head up to bed.

Before I pull up the duvet I do the rounds.  Husband's fever is still raging, but the violent chills have left.  No hospital trip, then.  I leave him with a promise that I will check on him every time I'm up with the baby.  Next stop, nursery.  Baby is still breathing and seems peaceful enough.

Day is done.
All is well.
Safely Rest.

As I snuggle into bed, somewhat relaxed and calm, confident I made it through, I glance at the clock.

It was only 9pm.

The long night was still before me.  The frazzled mom montage was only paused, a brief respite before my 'Groundhog Day' began again.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Month Four

This is the month I fell in love with my son.

This is the month I seriously considered giving him back.  

These two feelings are strongly linked.  It's hard to admit motherhood might be a bit too hard when you aren't sure you love the thing giving you crow's feet and melting your brain.  Once that thing giggles and naked-rolls it's way into your heart you don't feel like such a monster saying you need some time off.  

I need some time off.  

Better yet, I need more than two hours of consecutive sleep.  

baby unibrow & mum's crazy eyes with extra bags

"Things get better after three months, trust me."

I now know this statement's only purpose is to keep new parents from devouring their young.

We have hit some milestones this month.  Rolling is one of them.  Sleeping well at night is not.  Napping is better but they only last 20 minutes which is just enough time for me to get in and out of the bathroom, throw some wet, forgotten laundry back into the washer, and maybe stuff some cold leftovers in my face.  

We also now have a schedule of activities for the week.  These are great for distracting Pruin and giving him something other than me to look at for at least 30 minutes.  Theses are also great for building Pruin's immune system.  We are currently experiencing our first baby cold courtesy of the noise-making toys passed around at library song time.  A bucket full of toys slobbered and sneezed and puked on by a variety of children and then safely stored away to incubate for another week.  Every time they come around I am loathe to accept but also don't want to be 'that' mom sanitizing everything her baby touches.  I mean, the kid chews his toes directly after sticking them in the mess that is his nappy.  I really can't be too precious when it comes to germs.  

In a lot of ways this month feels like a huge step backwards.  Sleep has gone from iffy to bad and mummy has gone from high functioning multi-tasker to blank stare baby-babbler.  Sleep is always the measuring stick.  If sleep is going wrong we forget all the amazing things the baby is doing 'right.'  I take it personally that my child isn't sleeping.  As over-achievers it is hard to accept that our little one can't figure out how to sleep and we can't figure out how to help him.

We are obsessed.
We are very tired.
We have aged five years in four months.
We are probably making it worse.

But even on my worst sleep deprived mornings when I've had a total of three hours of sleep and have to take an exam about Life in the UK or spend the morning at the embassy proving I'm an American, I could never devour this little guy.  He's too damn cute (and cannibalism is seriously frowned upon in both the UK and America).

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Month Three

We are now in that month in which everyone assured us 'things' would get better.

Better is subjective.

Feeding is easier but it also has a new angle now that Pruin is aware of the world and wants to see it all, even while feeding.

Sleeping is quieter but still unpredictable and nap training is even harder with three months of sleep deprivation under one's belt.  We are actively encouraging 'bad' habits just so we can all get a bit of sleep.

Additionally, now he wants to play and mummy isn't great at entertaining when it doesn't involve cocktail shakers and amusing anecdotes.

The books say mummy should be fully healed and recovered from the delivery and resuming moderate exercise.

Who are these people writing these books?

At three months it still hasn't sunk in that we are parents to this little person.  We are responsible for keeping him fed and dry and happy.  No one is coming to tell us we have done enough and done well, they'll take over from here and we can go back to our previously scheduled life.

Simultaneously, I am acutely aware that his sleeping and eating habits rest solely on my shoulders.  Teaching him to eat and nap 'properly' is all on me.  No matter how supportive and involved Pete is (and he is both) in these first months it's mummy who sets the tone and schedule for the day.  It's mummy who enforces (or, more likely, gives in) and decides which battles are worth fighting and which are worth leaving for another month.

Is it the worst thing in the world to feed him into his morning nap or lay down with him for his late afternoon nap?  These are some of the 'bad' habits I am encouraging but at this point I'm just happy if we get some sleep that doesn't involve screaming.  Although we have a lot of that as well.

It doesn't get better.

It gets harder.  There are more balls in the air with every passing day.

It also gets more rewarding.  We are watching him become a person.

And that makes the 'failures' in sleeping and eating that much harder to accept.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Mother's Hands

This is the week I realized my life took a turn I expected but is still unexpected.

I think it began with my hands.

Each morning I bring Pruin into bed with me for his last few hours of sleep.  He smiles and giggles and strains and yawns.  There he lies squirming with my hand on his chest until he gives in to sleep.  My hand reminds me how small he still is despite his growth spurts and weight gain.  My hand almost covers his entire torso, proving comfort to both him and I.

My hand is brown and spidery next to his fresh, smooth skin reminding me of the song from which we took his nickname.  It bears the scars of my life's adventures.  A life which indirectly led to these mornings.  It looks 'old.' But everything looks 'old' next to his newness.

Some days feel never-ending.  I long for bedtime only to dread it when I finally put my head down.  There's no knowing how long I have until he needs me again.  Other days flash by and he suddenly no longer fits into his newborn clothes.  What remains constant are the days themselves.  Everyday is just a copy of the one before with minor variation.  It isn't until I look back that I see where 'progress' has been made.  Although what we are progressing toward is still foggy.  Everyday I begin again with no real clue about what I am working toward.  There is no hard deadline.  The benchmarks are vague and only visible once you pass them.

I still don't think of myself as a mother (Despite referring to myself in the third person as 'mummy.'  And not just to Pruin but to adults and in conversations not pertaining to babies or parenting. A thing which I said I would never do. The first of many, I fear).  Yes, I know I have this little Pruin to take care of daily, but the identity of 'mummy' hasn't fixed itself to my brain as of yet.

Or, more likely, my pre-Pruin ideas of what 'mother' meant haven't materialized and so this new life seems, well, unexpected.

I keep trying to fit Pruin into my life.  Trying to hold on to what I was and did before...him.

Inevitably, I fail.  Instead, I find I have to craft a new life.  Keeping important and meaningful bits from before and letting the rest fall away.  Or maybe just packing it away for later.  Not unlike preparing for a move or spring cleaning but with less tangible clutter.

At times my hands itch to be free of his.  To do their own thing as they did before he arrived.  But this little man has a tight grip.  If I can't find a way to do it one-handed, it will have to wait.  Maybe forever, but hopefully not.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Month Two (+5)

Last night marked the end of a beautiful run of sleep.  Little man had been sleeping six to seven hours a night.  Quietly.  It was amazing.  We were trying to ignore this miracle in case we jinxed the run.  We needn't have bothered, the heat did it for us.

This mini heat wave caused a power cut last night.   That in itself wasn't the end.

Apparently when the power goes out an alarm goes on at the school across the street.

A very loud alarm.

While we laid awake cursing the noise and the heat, Pruin remained blissfully asleep.  I won't lie, I was a little bit jealous.

Eventually the alarm turned off.  That silence revealed two separate car alarms going off in the background.  Little Man rustled, but clung to sleep.

Finally, only one car alarm remained.  Little Man rustled and added grunting but we thought we were in the clear.

When silence prevailed, Little Man wailed.

If we weren't so hot and tired we would have laughed.


This past month offered up so many gifts.  Pruin is smiling and 'talking.'  Almost giggling.  He recognizes Mum and Dad and gets shy when he catches his reflection in the mirror.  He also recognizes the iPhone since we stick it in his face so often.  He now watches TV.  We aren't so pleased with this development.  Especially since we don't get to watch it very often.

Two days ago he spent five minutes chewing my finger.  I'm not looking forward to what comes next.

Yesterday he almost rolled over.  The excitement in the room was perhaps disproportionate.  We are easily amused these days.

The routine of Feed, Burp, Change, Cuddle remains.

The rewards are a bit greater this month, but it isn't all bliss.  Last month I couldn't believe this was my life now.  This month it's hare to remember my life being anything but this little man.  I admit it isn't always a happy thought.  On days he won't sleep and insists on day long cuddles I wish for a day off.  Or just a few hours.  I'm desperate for a haircut.  I remember when clothes fit and I could sit and walk without pain and mourn the loss of my weekly yoga class and daily runs.

Then there are the days he sleeps easily, giving me a bit of time to myself (even if it isn't completely relaxing), and wakes with a smile and almost giggle.  It isn't a haircut and I still can't sit easily, but it is something.

Watching a little human develop into a little person is a pretty amazing something.

Exhausting and frustrating, but amazing.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Safe is where I'll keep you

A thermometer in your crib 
(which reads too hot)

The sturdy pram
(because the streets of London are rough)

A thermometer in your room
(which reads too cold)

Two baby books
(because it would be irresponsible to completely wing it)

A thermometer in your bath
(which only gives three options)

Bumpers in your crib
(to which the health worker says no, but your flailing arms say yes)

One Bourbon
(because it would be irresponsible to completely stress out)

Breast milk
(because, luckily, we can)

The video monitor
(because sleeping quietly is rare for you and mummy and daddy worry)

20 minute breathing checks
(see above)

A red bit of string
(to keep away evil spirits)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Suck it!

The other day some NCT buddies (and babies) met up in a local beer garden.  It was the usual scene, partners getting in a few precious minutes of baby time after work, mums chatting about the parent room in John Lewis and others wrangling babies and over-sized muslins to breastfeed while sipping at a much deserved microbrew and daring any of the other patrons to judge.

I was one of the latter and while balancing my son on the boob and sipping my precious half-pint I overheard this snippet between two of the dads, "I never realized how hard breastfeeding would be."

I've heard this before from new moms but I never really understood how difficult it could be to accomplish this seemingly completely natural task.  Much like childbirth itself. Just because it's 'natural' doesn't mean it's easy.

In our group of eight couples three babies are exclusively breastfed, the others benefit from both breast and formula.  In our group there were two tongue-tied babies, two mums suffering from nipple thrush, at least two struggling to produce enough milk and three mums with mastitis.

Pruin enjoyed a nice long feed on the boob a few minutes after he was born.  He wouldn't experience that again for another six days.

The first day and night, I'm ashamed to report, I was so drugged I forgot to feed my son.

I forgot to feed my newborn baby.

In fact, it didn't even occur to me to feed him.  I remember trying to hold his little hand while I slept but was too weak and exhausted to keep my arm lifted to his hospital-grade bassinet.

I don't recall him crying much (or at all) but I also don't recall much of those first hours.  When I could finally move again and had my head about me, I realized he might be hungry and we tried to eat.  It wasn't to happen.  Pruin had a rough entry into this world and had a sore head as a result.  Every time he tried to suckle he screamed in pain.   I cried in frustration and the midwives unsuccessfully attempted to manhandle us both into some position that might work.

Nothing worked.

With every shift change another midwife would come and scold me for not feeding my baby and then, after manhandling him and me, realize it wasn't the fault of either of us, necessarily, but just not happening.
I spent hours hand expressing minuscule amounts of colostrum into a syringe.  One night in the early hours of the morning I was given an ancient pump and spent hours pumping slightly bigger amounts into what appeared to be plastic shot glasses for Pruin to then be syringe fed.

Every time we tried to get help another midwife would tell me I couldn't leave the hospital until he was properly feeding or we switched to formula.

There I was, feeling isolated and trapped, in my blue-curtained cubicle, still in a lot of pain from my ordeal, desperately trying to feed my son still in pain from his ordeal.  Each day felt like an eternity.  Every time we attempted to feed it was all screams from him and tears from me.  Yet another midwife telling me to calm down.  On night three a young student doctor told me (at 3am when I finally convinced someone to do something for my son) I cuddled my 3 day old son too much and this was why he wasn't eating.

On day four I had a full meltdown and was moved into a private room so my husband could stay with me beyond visiting hours as I still was having mobility issues and could barely hold my son, let alone feed him.  At this point we were cup feeding.  I would attempt breastfeeding for 20 frustrating minutes, then we would spend 20 stressful minutes trying to get Pruin to drink a few mils of expressed milk from a cup (and losing most of it) and then I would start expressing and we would do it all again 30 minutes later.

The night Pruin finally took the breast I had run out of expressed milk, popped two episiotomy stitches and had a midwife tell me I wouldn't be let out of hospital if he was still cup-feeding.  This was at 2am.  Pruin and I spent the rest of the night crying together while I held his head to my breast and begged him to eat something.  He screamed in my face. I continued to cry.  But eventually he did it.  It was such an ordeal that I couldn't even feel relief about our success.  There was just fear it was a fluke and wouldn't happen again.

Five weeks out from that night we still sometimes struggle with getting the right latch and I still worry about whether he is getting enough.  Every time we have a difficult time in the middle of the night (or the middle of the day) I have a momentary panic and remember those horrible days in the hospital. But we're doing it and he's fine.  If we never managed it he would be on formula and he would still be fine.

But if we never breastfed we would have missed the once in a lifetime experience of flashing a minor celebrity at a London landmark.  So there's that.

Why share this story?  Especially as I am not a fan of hearing women's sob stories about labour and beyond or advocating any particular point of child-rearing.

Maybe it's because it's breastfeeding awareness week, maybe because I'm an over-sharer and hypocrite.  Or maybe because that scene in the beer garden belied all the problems and trials many of those women experienced.  Because we new moms feel like we have to hide the trials and the tears and only appear blissfully happy even though it is a well discussed fact that we are not, necessarily.  If you look closer between the sips and tips, those moms are staring vacantly into the middle distance just trying to get through the present moment and dreading the next.

Because breastfeeding is hard.

Because being a new mom is hard.

Because you do what you have to do to get yourself and your family through the day (and night).

And if anyone ever tells you differently, you tell them Pruin said they can go suck it!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

4 AM

If you came to our house in the wee hours of the morning you would find Pete asleep in bed, Pruin asleep in his basket next to the bed and me, naked but for a nursing bra, in my beautiful new bathroom rocking myself on the beautiful new bathmat.

I had gone in for a wee after putting Pruin down yet again and I hadn't been able to bring myself to return to the bedroom.  I got as far as the bathroom door before I burst into tears.

Sleep deprivation is a bitch.

All things considered, Pruin is a great baby.  He doesn't cry much, he goes down to sleep fairly easily, he's cute as hell.  However, at night, he sleeps in diminishing returns (3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour, 30 minutes, etc.) and while he sleeps he grunts, whines, growls, snorts, chirps, all while fast asleep.

At 4 this morning I couldn't face going back into the room and listening to the mini wildlife preserve. Lying there, no sleeping and not needed by the little animal in the basket at present, but at any moment the animal imitation would switch to a convincing hungry baby.

I just needed a break.  Just a few minutes away from his constant needs.  But that is impossible, even when he's sleeping.  I no longer exist.  My needs fall to the end of the line behind this little man and my big man who has to maintain a work schedule.  Even my most basic needs of eating, sleeping, excreting are pushed aside.

So at 4 o'clock this morning I curled up on the bathmat to get some me time.  Just a few minutes when I couldn't hear him.  I still didn't get any sleep.  Eventually I had to vacate the bathroom as Pete had to get ready for work.

There were thoughts of failure for sure.  Because I needed a break.  Because I swore at my sleeping son. Because I was lying on the floor of my bathroom like a college freshman back from her first frat party.

I hate to tell you there is no happy ending here.  I didn't find any deep well of patience.  I wasn't restored after my stay on the bathmat.  I wasn't even able to see the humour in a grown woman hiding from her five week old in the bathroom.  I just went back in and numbly went about the business of taking care of my son knowing the day ahead would be another day of not sleeping and barely eating.  For both him and me.  This is my life.  I don't know if I have accepted that reality. But I am living the reality daily.

Sleep deprivation is a bitch.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Month one

Our little one is one month old today.  I have been a mother for a month.  It doesn't compute.

In the early days, in the middle of the night, when trying to comfort this little thing, while also trying not to cry out in pain from my own recovery and from exhaustion, I would think of him as someone else's.  Not a direct thought, but a delirious feeling that this couldn't be my life now. Forever.

Last night, Pruin slept in three hour intervals with no babbling.  We worked together, quietly and calmly, to each get back to sleep and I was very aware that this is my life.  Sometimes I am amazed at my ability to be calm and address his needs, even when that little face is wailing in my face.  Although, of course, there are times when I let him grumble to get just a few more minutes of half-sleep.

On Monday, we had a very large outing to the zoo.  Pete was working behind the scenes for the day (his Christmas gift from me).  I spent the day circling the animal enclosures trying to keep Charlie calm and happy.  No viewing of animal antics for me.  No viewing of my husband enjoying his gift.  I was barely able to find time to eat.  However, I did manage to flash a minor celebrity while breastfeeding near the meerkats.  So that's something.

I've always known I am a little selfish.  Maybe it's the only child thing.  Maybe I have just been spoiled and come to expect things my way.

That isn't happening much these days.  Without thinking I put Pruin first.  Every minute is a minute I am fully engaged.  There is not much thought for what will come later in the day.  I am constantly working through the list; feed, burp, change, cuddle.

There is nothing else.
Feed. Burp. Change. Cuddle.

There is no reward but silence.
Feed. Burp. Change. Cuddle.

I don't know if I do it, calmly, out of love or duty.
What I do know is it is like nothing I have felt before.

Feed. Burp. Change. Cuddle.

In the park.
In the cafe.
In IKEA showroom.
At the zoo.
On the couch.
In the night.
In the day.

Feed. Burp. Change. Cuddle.

There is nothing else.  For now.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Arrival

On May 12th Pruin came into the world.
The arrival did not go to plan.

Such is life and so it goes.

What happens next is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Reveal

I know you have all been waiting patiently for the bathroom update.  What could be more important right now?  In all seriousness, this bathroom being done is the most important thing for me right now.

It was actually finished two weeks ago but we had some shower leakage problems.  As they say, third time's a charm and we seem to have all the problems fixed (touch wood, fingers crossed, etc.). I now know more about plumbing and the logistics of building than I care to know. I'm sure it's all useful information but I'm hoping it gets filed away in the same place as 80s commercial jingles and cartoon themes.

We still have to paint and decorate.  In six months we will still need to paint and decorate.  At this point I don't care.  I can shower and bathe in my own home and it's pretty.  It's the nicest room in the house.

Without further ado, here are some quick and dirty before and after shots.

How'd'ya like them apples?!

Actually, I lied before.  It isn't the nicest room in the house.  The nursery is pretty good too.  Pete spent a week DIY-ing the panelling and we spent two days wallpapering. (Top tip: don't wallpaper.) Of course it won't be in proper use right away but it's still nice to know it's done and we have a place to store most of Pruin's things.

I think we're done with home renovation for awhile.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

I could

I could write about the process of having a bathroom redone and begging neighbours to use their toilet and shower while a fine layer of whatever horror is hiding in the bathroom floor sifts down to the kitchen surfaces below in a fine and steady pace.

Or I could write about how winter has somehow returned in full force and the accompanying winds are blowing over our house with a maddening wail that never stops.  Seriously, it’s like that chapter in Little House on the Prairie where she describes the constant howl of the wind driving women to kill themselves with the noise and the constant dust.

Or I could write about our prenatal class which is turning out to be a very expensive meet and greet and not much else.

Or I could write about being almost at the end of this first pregnancy and some lofty ‘what I learned’ moments that make me sound like I am calm and prepared.

Or I could write about pelvic pain and falling asleep drooling in my chair and discharge and excess hair growth and all the related glamour of pregnancy.

I could.

The thing about being pregnant, much like getting married, is that it is a private decision and process gone through very publicly.  Pregnancy much more so than weddings, but I think you see my point.

The thing about being a writer is that every moment and life experience is fodder for textual documentation and consumption.  Every life moment is an opportunity to connect with someone else that will read my take on the mundane and either find something relateable or not.  Again, private moments and feelings and reaction documented on a public stage.

I love writing bits for this space and while I have shared some bits that might be considered in the realm of ‘too much information,’ I haven’t shared much about either my wedding or my pregnancy.  Sure there are bits here and there and a few funny (hopefully) and cynical and maybe even honest observations but on the whole I have kept the core of these events to myself.

Maybe it’s because of the private/public nature of these events.  Being pregnant offers one up to the public eye more than any decision I have made thus far in life.  Writing about it in detail would open up yet another avenue.  I’m not really up for that.

Despite my complaints this pregnancy has been by the book, physically speaking.  No problems or concerns beyond the usual ‘charming’ niggles of growing a human.  Psychologically, on the other hand, it has been a bit of a battlefield. A private and often terrifying battlefield looming ahead.  There's no getting away from it.  You're going over the top with no guarantee of how it will all go down.

I could say my decision to move abroad with no plan or valid visa was a courageous leap of faith. Or driving into a blizzard with a motorhome to join the circus alone with no real plan beyond driving took courage and resolve.  Or eating the food in Morocco was a real test of bravery.

This trumps them all.

I could write about how I am finding the courage to face each day as I get closer and closer to the fateful day of the big push and becoming a mother.

I could.  I probably won't.

I will say, I could really go for a bath.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Photo Friday

Just some treasures found during the demo of our bathroom this week.  We've managed to save the old fireplace alcove, but the red hearth will be hidden again.  The old newspaper found at the foot of the toilet is a remnant of old floor insulation techniques. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Romantic Gesture

It’s half-way through February and I have finally gotten the hang of writing 13 instead of 12, so I thought the time was ripe for a ‘New year-new me’ post.  Maybe throw in a little Valentine's love.

Then I wrote this…

I didn't make any new year’s resolutions this year.  I figure with a new house and a baby on the way, this coming year is already going to be a long list of unmet expectations and goals so why pile on more self-inflicted guilt.

The older I get (because, you know, at 34 I’m aged and wise now) the less I find myself making sweeping proclamations or grand plans about who I am or will be.  I find life has a way of laughing at these kinds of gestures anyway.  What’s the saying?

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Little did I know when I made that high school art project emblazoned with this Beatles lyric that it would turn out to be the most poignant of life lessons for me time and time again.  I believe I have mentioned before how I have a tendency to become doggedly stubborn about a chosen glamorous, worthy of a rom-com script, life path and then become witheringly depressed when it doesn't pan out.* What I have slowly come to accept about my life is that the daily negotiations of everyday life, punctuated by occasional big decisions and leaps, actually created a very lovely life. Strangely, this realization is very close to the subject matter of my PhD. You know, one of those stubbornly-held-on-to rom-com plot points which now sits unread on maybe three bookshelves (mine and my parents’ included).

That being said, there are some things on the year long To-Do list and most revolve around Pruin and need to be done in the next two months because I’m giving myself the second half of the year off. If at next Christmas Pete and I are still looking adoringly into one another’s eyes (or at the very least can still stand to look one another in the eye after seven months of baby and resident in-laws) and the house is still standing and the baby alive, I will count it a successful year.

It’s the simple things, really.

The biggest item on the To-Do list (which coincidentally illustrates the ‘life is what happens’ discussion above) is officially changing to my married name.

*GASP*  cue shock and horror

I’m over the whole ‘should-a-woman-change-her-name-after-marriage debate/anxiety.’ Do it, don’t do it.  It’s no skin off my back. Yes, it’s a bummer that it is assumed the woman will take this action and that it is her place to do it. Yes, I can see the argument that it is a ‘feminist’ issue. However, there are so many more pressing feminist issues which involve extreme bodily violence, injustice and death that I can’t jump on this particular ‘first-world feminist’ bandwagon.

I waited at least a year into our marriage to even take the first steps due to over-zealous relations crying out ‘Mrs. Hislast, Mrs.Hislast’ moments after the ceremony and every time I was in proximity thereafter.  I mean, I had only just earned ‘Dr. Mylast’ two weeks prior and it was already getting swept under the table.  I had a year of angst around how changing my name would be losing my identity. It was all very rom-com, internal-conflict, fake-drama worthy.

I briefly tried the professional vs. personal name game. That was a worthless experiment as I have no professional life, but no ‘official photo id’ proof of the personal name.

Picking up packages at the Post Office became a real bitch of an experience.

I won’t lie, those experiences, which involved an over abundance of paperwork and tears, went a long way to sealing the decision for me.  (Is it really necessary to drag the marriage certificate, a property tax bill and both our passports to the office for a package from my in-laws? This is not a matter of national, or even postal, security. JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN CROSS STITCH!)  The imminent arrival of Pruin took me the rest of the way.

We already hold two different passports with two different names. Our visa applications are slightly more complicated because we have different names. We already cross customs in different lines because we don’t share nationality or name.  I wasn't going to add another small body to that confusion. I also am not going to saddle my kid with a double-barreled last name (my own double-barrel is the root of most of the name angst) along with double passports. If we are going to continue this international life we are going to do it as a family.  In name as well as biology.

Most importantly, I now want to change my name. My time with Pete and our life together are the best things to happen in my life and are the reason all those little daily negotiations of everyday life add up to a very lovely life.

Why not commemorate that little bit of wonderful with a mountain of confusing paperwork, an embassy, numerous international phone calls spent on hold at £1.50/minute and a governmental office visit?

** there are too many of these 'woe is me' posts to highlight and, really, who wants to remember, or read, privileged whining?

Monday, 21 January 2013

with child

Hello my name is Ariel and I am with child.

This is not news to you.
It is news to me.

Until quite recently, Saturday evening in fact, I was well aware I was pregnant, but it really hadn’t clicked that I was already a mom.

This is an identity I had been avoiding for about as long as I had known I was pregnant.  I wasn’t feeling connected to this experience or this ‘thing’ I was gestating.  I was afraid of it.  Sometimes I resented it.  A lot of the time I wished I didn’t have to deal with it.

I hated talking about it.  I hated pretending to be excited.  I hated trying to think of things to tell people when they asked how I was feeling or how it was going.

I was annoyed by other mothers pushing their pregnant or new mom friends on me.  I was tired of hearing stories of difficult births or assertions of ‘you’ll see’ and being told to get annoyed by XYZ.  I was annoyed by the assumption that I had names and nursery colours and schooling plans all picked out.

Truth be told, it is a lot like planning a wedding.

Being pregnant was becoming my defining personality trait and I find that really annoying.  I’m Ariel.  I just happened to be knocked up as well.  I didn’t suddenly change personality or interests because we made the decision to ‘do it’ without prophylactics.

On December 19th, a very distinctive and very tiny fist reached out and punched me.

It wasn’t a lightening moment of sudden ‘mom-dom’ and it wasn’t the first hint of movement, but it did stick in my head.  A very clear feeling of a miniature fist reaching out.  Like that movie poster for ROOTS (without the chain) or any student activist group anywhere.

Power to the People.
Or in this case…to the Pruin.

Around Christmas I popped.   My body suddenly had a very distinct pregnant look.  Pruin began to respond to Pete’s voice and touch.  A very cheeky personality seemed to form.  Slowly, I began to change my eating habits and start exercising again.  The more my inability to get off the couch and tie my shoes increased, the more I began to believe that this pregnancy thing was real.

However, it was still just an idea that it might be real.  That in about four months there might be a screaming, wriggling thing in the mix.  It was all still very abstract.  The slight changes I made were made for selfish reasons connected to body image and a real annoyance with heartburn.

Friday the snow started to fall.  I was so excited and was out in it walking to my chores with more enthusiasm than I have felt for anything lately.  Pruin wriggled and punched and kicked all day long.  To the point that it became really annoying and I may have directed an ‘Ok. I get it. You can chill out now.’ toward the bump.

Saturday seven hours went by and I didn’t feel anything.  Not one hiccup, or squirm, or readjustment.  As hour eight came along Pete and I spent a feverish 20 minutes prodding the bump, talking to it, playing loud noises and sitting in uncomfortable positions trying to get a response.  Pete got out the Ukulele and strummed loudly for a good five minutes, something which always gets a response.

Nothing.  Nothing was happening.

Finally, in a last ditch effort, Pete got very close to the bump and gave Pruin a very stern talking to.

…and got kicked in the ear for his trouble.

Pete looked up and smiled with relief.  I started crying.

I think it was part relief and part realization.  This isn’t just anything I am gestating.  Despite my annoyances and resentments and name-calling, I care about this little thing even though it gives me nothing but grief.

That’s parental love, isn’t it?

Hello my name is Ariel and I am with child.  

Monday, 7 January 2013

Toilet Talk

I promise this is not about throwing up or pregnancy related.

At least not completely.

our home sweet home
(the white door in the middle)

When we settled on this house as 'The One.' We were considering its location, general upkeep, size, room placement, garden placement, proximity to transportation, room for improvement, etc.  It has new windows, a new roof, new boiler, damp-proofing: all big investments we didn't have to make.  Perfect.

However, it also has a kitchen and bathroom that haven't been touched since the 70s, a different off-white or tan carpet in each room, potentially dodgy electrics, and textured wallpaper, too-short blinds (visible in the above photo) and faux fireplace in the living room.

These things didn't bother us too much (with the exception of the dodgy wiring).  We get a chance to make it our own space.

As our schedule was a bit tight, we planned to move into the house as it stood and make plans after living in the space for awhile.

This sounds great in theory.  In practice, I was newly pregnant, sick as a dog and squatting in someone else's house.  Or so it felt to me.  It was our furniture but I was staring at, and living with, a stranger's questionable design choices.  The bathroom alone was enough to make me sick without the help of hormones.

avocado with a side of cork

I decided pretty quickly that the bathroom was going to the top of our list of projects.  This decision might have been slightly influenced by the abnormal amount of time I spent with dear Kermit here but there are other contributing factors to back up my prioritizing.

Let me take you on a short tour of this peculiarity.  Hang onto your hats.

Hello, my name is Cork. 

The 'Romantic Roman Ruins' tiling really classes up the joint.

The wood panelling pulls the room together. 

Before you say, "It's not soooo bad."  I would like to inform you that the box on the wall is the alleged 'power shower.'  It's gravity fed (read: campground shower trickle), choked with 30 years of limescale, and took us a month to figure out how to get the water to reach a barely acceptable temperature above freezing.

It was so painful, I took baths for the first month.  I would sit huddled in the water like a child, splashing water over my body in order to rinse and trying to see the humour of the situation instead of crying uncontrollably.  I contemplated getting one of those white 'granny' attachments for the bath taps to at least get some semblance of pressure and heat but I couldn't find one with a long enough hose.  I started bathing every other day in an attempt to avoid the pep talk I needed every morning to face the bathroom.

Pete bravely stuck it out.  Facing bracing showers at 5am with no complaint (although we did move a portable heater into the room in an attempt to produce an environment that would live up to the sauna-like interior.  It didn't work.), it was Pete who finally discovered how to finesse some warmth out of the water.

It still has no pressure and is situated in such a way as to necessitate a slight back bend in order to really use it properly.  I don't need to tell you that at almost 25 weeks pregnant, back bends are becoming increasingly more impossible.

However, lest you think it's all misery, the wall opposite the shower features an enormous mirror so you can watch yourself shiver and wriggle.  Comic relief built right in.

I show you this now because we are in the midst of collecting estimates on the remodel.  We have the design sorted and have the fixtures picked out and on hold.  With any luck, when it's done it will be the nicest room in the house.

And before you ask, we didn't contemplate DIY.  I'm pregnant and Pete works in an office with computers. My father-in-law is a builder but he's in New Zealand and the skill isn't genetically transferable.  My father builds theatrical sets but he's in Cleveland and we need this to hold for a bit longer than your average two week run.  So we are hiring people in to do the dirty work.  We are not ashamed.

While hiring someone in instead of doing it ourselves will provide less fodder for funny/ridiculous/incredulous anecdotes, it will hopefully save our sanity.  In a relatively short amount of time we will be at the end of our sanity ropes and up to our necks in diapers and despair so cutting down on the craziness can only be for the good.

It will also be really nice to take a proper shower on the rare occasion I find the time.