The tide (finally) turns

I don’t know what happened to June: one minute it was there and the next – pofff! – it was July. Just like that.

Perhaps it was in contrast to previous periods of extended solitude, but June seems to have whizzed by in a haze of action and activity, from sunny Fridays lazing in the park to visits from old friends, barbecues a-go-go, a toddlerful of strawberries and even a day out at a festival.

(Admittedly, it was a festival aimed at the under 5s and filled with glue, glitter and sensory play, but it was a festival nonetheless.)

The last month has also seen the little guy’s word count zoom to …. ooh, about eleven.

In addition to yes, no, shoes, door, duck! (triumphant tone, applied to anything with wings) and buh-bye! (solemn hand-waving of the turn-the-tap-on-and-turn-it-off-again variety) we now have more! (insistent look) and no more! (an equivalent to more!), as well as any amount of earnest conversation that doesn’t quite amount to any recognised language.

Even my name has changed: I’m now a perfectly pronounced mom-my, rather than the ma-ma-ma of yore. Yes, my little pud is growing up. He even tried to dress himself today. And OK, he was draping the clothes over his limbs rather than actually slipping into them but hey, as some philosopher* once said, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

Yep, there’s a definite sense of change in the air, and it’s change for the better.

For starters, after hitting an all-time low, relations with the Baby Daddy finally – finally! – seem to be on the up. He’s sent a couple of messages lately full of enthusiasm about spending one-to-one time with the little guy.

Admittedly, it’s six weeks since he actually saw him and the proposal is mainly to avoid contact with me, but no matter. Father and son time is always good news in my book, and I’ll be happy for my little piglet to get some quality poppa time.

There are changes afoot in other areas too: it seems improbable, I know, but my Aura of Romantic Doom seems to be leaving me. Yep, this weekend I went on not one, not two, but THREE dates.

Surprisingly, for such a long-awaited event, there isn’t that much to say, except that coffee was drunk and the conversation flowed quite nicely, but … I’m not sure any of the candidates is set to be waltzing down the aisle with me any time soon.

Admittedly, it’s hard to gauge compatibility in a 90-minute ‘interview’; if you go on first impressions, you’ll only ever spot the instant hits with no chance of identifying the ‘growers’. Which means you might end up dating the equivalent of The Cheeky Girls, whilst passing up on slow burning – and possibly longer lasting – pleasures.

I also concede that the presence of a one-year-old doesn’t really give an authentic dating experience, but all three gentlemen were very gallant about it and acquiesced to the little guy’s demands with alacrity.

Still, even if I didn’t find Mr Right, it was nice to dip a toe into the waters and remind myself what it’s all about. Because, to stretch a watery metaphor, it finally feels as if the tide’s in my favour, so it surely can’t be long until my ship comes in.

*It was Laozi in the Tao Te Ching. I looked it up to spare you the trouble. And no, it wasn’t Confucius. Wikipedia told me so.


Fading to grey

It’s a funny thing, being a single parent. You start to disappear.

You start to disappear because you don’t really fit in any of your social groups any more. You don’t really fit in with your mummy friends, because on the weekends they’re busy doing family things. And you don’t really fit in with your childless friends either, because they’re busy going to parties and dinners and lots of other evening things that you can’t join in with.

Of course, you can meet up for daytime coffees at the weekend, but your conversation isn’t really what it once was – partly because you don’t get out and about much anymore, and partly because you’ve been up since 5am and someone’s swapped your brain for stewed apple.

In essence, you’re reduced to a small subset of people who are both good friends AND have the patience to hang out with you and your energetic child, as well as talk about children more than is usual. It’s a rarefied group.

So this week I’m trying to break the mould: I’m going out for coffee with a man THAT I DON’T KNOW. Or, in other words, I’m going on a date. In fact, it’s a bit of a strange date because, in the absence of a babysitter, the little guy will be coming with me.

It’s been so long since I attempted such a thing, I’ve completely forgotten the protocol … but I’m pretty sure that taking your squawking infant with you is not exactly de rigeur. Still, if we get beyond the first date, the little fella will be on the scene pretty much all the time, so I suppose it’s a good way of seeing how the gentleman in question handles the company of minors.

(And before you get up in arms about me taking the little man on date, remember I’m going for a coffee in town, not a gin-soaked soirée at the Folies Bergère.)

And in another attempt to stop myself from fading from the social scene altogether, I’ve also signed up for a dating event … although my attendance is dependent upon finding someone who essentially wants to sit by themselves in a house free of TV, internet or any other entertainment-based mod cons while the wee piglet slumbers upstairs.

It’s not an easy sell, I’ll admit.

Although my lack of electronic entertainment doesn’t bother me one iota, when I explained the situation to one potential babysitter, she looked at me – completely perplexed – and said, “But what do you do in an evening?”

The truth of it is that by the time the little lad is finally tucked into bed and I’ve tided the residual whirlwind, eaten some dinner and got everything ready for tomorrow’s onslaught, it’s almost time for bed. A few pages of my book and my eyes are already starting to close; I don’t have time to miss the TV.

That said, my phone’s been away for repair for nearly a month now and it’s like being starved of oxygen. Not only am I closed off from the modern world, I’m also wandering around with my friends’ telephone numbers scribbled on a little scrap of paper. It’s like going back to 1989.

More importantly, I’m prevented from taking spontaneous snaps of the little piglet, which is obviously a tragedy. I suppose it will prevent me from boring my date with a ‘quick’ photographic resume of his life since birth, but I’m struggling to find any other positives.

Anyway, since the weather forecast predicts torrential rain for the next five days, it looks as though I’ll be turning up to my coffee date in full waterproofs – a look that’s not exactly known for its ability to snare men at 20 paces.

The only bonus is that my rainproof jacket is a lurid, squealing orange. And there’s definitely no chance of me disappearing in that.

The last post

And so – suddenly – it’s September and the little guy is five months old.

It’s hard to believe that what was once a mewling little bundle is now a bright and inquisitive little boy with a frequent, cheeky smile and an aversion to sleep in all its forms.

Yep, the summer has flown by, and already the autumnal creep has started. In the space of the last ten days we’ve gone from blissful picnics in blazing sunshine to chill, grey days, cold winds and rain … and back again. Winter is on its way. Ugh.

Still, the summer was a good one with lots of fun, sun and (somewhat sedate) adventures, making new mummy mates and catching up with old friends. And the little man proved his mettle as a traveller, clocking up four plane rides to two different countries before his three month birthday.

His first trip saw him discover the joy of lazing in a hammock: being dandled in the dappled sunshine became his favourite way to spend the afternoon. He wasn’t too keen on sandy beaches or the chilly sea, but the hammock became his bosom buddy for the duration of the trip.

For me, though, it was all a bit of a disappointment.

As lovely as it was to see The Semi-suitable Man, and as grateful as I was that he’d made provisions to include the little fella, it soon became apparent that he wasn’t really aware of what it means to holiday with a ten-week-old baby.

Which is fair enough – why would he? – but the little guy and I spent far more time alone than I’d anticipated, mainly because little babies can’t go to the beach at 2pm and mummies who have to get up several times in the night can’t stay up til 5am. Hey ho.

Anyway, Bub seemed to take travelling in his stride, charming his fellow passengers and snoozling gently for the greater part of each flight.

His only faux pas came as the hostess announced our imminent take-off after 25 long minutes refuelling. Lulled into a false sense of security by his patience throughout the delay, I was unprepared for his ill-timed nappy bomb, which sent me scurrying swiftly to the rest room.

Fortunately, his heart-meltingly gummy grin had the unsuspecting passengers oohing and aahing as I cantered up the corridor, battering them with my changing bag.

The ‘Meet the Grandparents’ trip to Spain was altogether more successful. The Baby Daddy was kind and attentive throughout, and although I was a bit alarmed when Bub was snatched from me and paraded round the neighbourhood by a super-keen abuela, I know it was all done with love and enthusiasm.

The little guy coped remarkably well with both the attention and the heat and the Baby Daddy and I got through the whole week with nary a cross word. Yessir, we did. We saved that for ten minutes after landing on home turf, the goodwill bubble disappearing along with the holiday spirit. Hey, and indeed, ho.

And so, with lots of fond memories under its wing, the summer comes to a close. But for us, big changes are afoot: we’re leaving town.

Yep, we’re on the move. Forced into new adventures by the impossible cost of childcare in this city, we’re upping sticks and moving on to pastures new. But far from feeling sad, I’m actually looking forward to the changes coming our way.

I’ve been in this city for over a decade, on and off, and our love affair is well and truly over. I’ve met some fabulous people – as well as a few nutters ; shared good times and bad with an ever-changing crowd from countless different countries; had my heart broken once or twice; and – best of all – gained myself a son.

But if I’m honest, I never really bonded with the city; I always knew I’d be moving on. And, now that I have the little man, that day has arrived.

So, what’s next? Well, first we’re off to Spain for some sunshine and after that … well, we’ll go wherever the tide takes us.

It would have been nice to have a companion by my side, but it seems that single is my destiny and I’d better get used to it. Of the very few men who’ve graced my life in recent times, the only flame still flickering is that of He Who Shall Remain Nameless. And even that’s on the verge of sputtering out.

So it’s time to bundle up all the warm thoughts I hold in his name and set them free on the wind because it’s time for a fresh start. It’s time to sweep away the cobwebs of life and loves past that have been cluttering up my heart.

And besides, I might not have a companion, but I’ve got my trusty little sidekick, and that’s good enough. With him by my side I can swim oceans, climb mountains – yep, even fight lions – because there’s nothing I won’t do to keep him happy and safe.

So I don’t know where we’re going or what we’re going to do, but whatever the future holds, with his sticky little hand in mine, it’s going to be good.

Business as usual

Can you believe it? The little man is already seven weeks old.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s an insignificant amount of time. Yet in 49 days I’ve seen him change from a tiny foetal creature, squinting and purple with wrinkly skin two sizes too large, to a chubby-cheeked cherub, smooth-skinned, wide-eyed and curious about the world around him. I already struggle to remember a time before his existence.

Of course, life has changed significantly since his birth. My days are now moulded to his wants and needs: everything stops for feeding time and I’ve developed an expert knowledge of pram-friendly coffee shops as well as the nicest nappy-changing spots in town.

Some friends have dropped by the wayside, and we only meet when I make the call. Others have surprised me with their generosity, taking time to call on a regular basis and making activities as baby-friendly as possible.

These friends are the very best, as far as I’m concerned. They understand that I still want their company – in fact, that I need it more than ever – and that if I don’t get in touch it’s only because I got distracted by a nappy change, a doctor’s appointment or an hour or two spent getting the little piglet’s wind up.

To be fair, I understand those friends who aren’t quite so visible nowadays. After all, they signed up for friendship with me, not me and my wee sproglet. And since one of us is prone to howling the house down at a moment’s notice (and we’re now an inseparable twosome) you can’t blame them for cooling the friendship just a little.

And if you don’t have kids, it really is impossible to imagine just how completely your life revolves around your little miracle. I never understood it myself until now.

But despite this realisation, I’d expected things to be harder. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, perhaps I was just imagining the worst case scenario, or perhaps the worst is yet to come … but the whole single parent thing has been easier than I imagined.

Even things with the Baby Daddy have been easier than I anticipated. Although it is a little odd to spend weekends playing happy families with someone who, until recently, I was exchanging little more than terse emails, we’ve managed to keep things cordial and have occasionally even enjoyed each other’s company.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments (usually at 3am) when I’ve considered hurling my boy – or myself – out of the window. But mercifully, those moments have been few and far between and have been massively outweighed by the joy I feel every time I look at his chubby cheeks, his bright, expressive eyes or his wrinkled little brow.

And, perhaps surprisingly, my life hasn’t been completely devoid of delightful men. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to claim any passion and intrigue, He Who Shall Remain Nameless and I have been enjoying each other’s company by long distance call, which has been a real pleasure … and there’s a week in the sunshine with The Semi-suitable Man just round the corner.

In terms of romantic action it’s not much, but it’s enough to keep my little heart happy for now.

Back to square one…

It’s 7.30am, and I’m cleaning bright yellow poop from the change mat, the table, the (mercifully wooden) floor, the rug – located an impressive 1.5m from the change mat – a selection of newspapers and magazines, and a book.

With impeccable timing, the little man issued his squitterings just moments after I opened his nappy. Of course, I escaped unscathed: I’ve long since learned that when changing a small person’s undercrackers it’s prudent – nay, crucial – to stand to the side. Pity the man who approaches the task head on; on his own trousers be it. And his floor. And his table. And his book.

(I hadn’t rated the book too highly myself, but it must be said that my review was considerably less harsh.)

Anyway, improbable as it may seem, after the rough times my little pud has had lately, I’m more than happy to be undertaking these tender ministrations. In fact, it’s practically a pleasure. Because for 12 days straight, I’ve been changing his nappy in a hospital room.

It was all very sudden. The Baby Daddy was in town as we were scheduled to register the bubba’s birth. When we said goodnight and climbed into bed, the little fella was fine. But after his 2am feed, he wouldn’t settle and was making a strange groaning noise … and I knew something wasn’t right.

Ninety minutes and one call to the midwife later we were back in the car, on our way to get him checked out.

“Back again?” said the nurse in A&E. I nodded grimly.

I was so tired I could barely think, but I quickly understood the doctor’s assessment: my little man had a stomach infection and wouldn’t be going home tonight, or any time soon – he was set for a hospital stay and an extended course of antibiotics.

The doctor inserted a canula into the back of his tiny hand. Once again, I watched with my heart in my mouth as he screamed with rage and fear while the medicine dripped slowly into his bloodstream.

Thank goodness, the antibiotics soon took effect and my little man started looking pink and healthy again, but those canulas kept giving out: by the time we were discharged 12 days later, he’d had 16 replacements and attempted replacements, not to mention a lumbar puncture, which took four attempts to get right. He’d started screaming as soon as the nurses took his arm and I was a nervous wreck.

After that little lot, you can imagine that cleaning poop from a generous area of the living room really is an absolute joy. And now that we’re back home, we can start creating a routine all of our own.

Right from the start I’ve been careful to avoid Slummy Mummy Syndrome, principally to safeguard my own sanity: I’m dressed (almost) every morning before breakfast, and I make sure I find time to blow-dry my hair and put on a minimum of make-up, just to remind myself that I have other roles beyond Chief Nappy Changer and Supplier of Infinite Milky Meals.

Naturally, these efforts are all for my own benefit: a lady with a baby isn’t high on most men’s list of attractive propositions. And so it is that after months of flirtation and sweet words, relations with He Who Shall Remain Nameless have slipped back into the strictly platonic. His company is still a pleasure, of course, but when you’ve tasted someone’s lips and become drunk on the scent of their skin, it’s kind of hard to be satisfied with anything less.

Still, as with everything else, the feeling will pass and I just have to wait for myself to forget, or to be distracted by something new.

Not that I’ll have much time for anything new. At the moment, my little piglet feeds almost constantly, and five precious minutes for myself seems like an impossible dream, never mind the time to meet someone new to crush on. But of course I wouldn’t have it any other way.

From his soft, baby skin to his fluffy newborn hair, this little man has me wrapped around his little finger – and I absolutely love it. My love for him is completely unconditional … surely there isn’t a man on the planet who could compete?

10th April, 11.26pm

Yep, that’s the magical moment when my little man finally made his way into the world.

Just one day behind schedule, he must have known he was late, because he came whooshing into the world at high speed: I arrived at the hospital around 10pm, and by half past eleven I was cradling my little pud in my arms.

Like all newborns, he was purple, skinny and wrinkled, but to me he was still the most beautiful thing in the world. Utterly besotted, I spent an age drinking in his deliciousness: the tiny, tiny toes, his miniature fingers with their incredibly long nails, his little rosebud mouth and his soft, downy hair.

My mum had made it just in time to hold my hand for the last, intense throes of labour; the Baby Daddy arrived shortly after, and we sat, marvelling at this little being and his tiny perfection.

But my reverie was short-lived. Just three days later, while friends were visiting, my little bundle suddenly became quiet and unresponsive; panic filled my heart and within thirty minutes we were back at the hospital. The little man wasn’t getting the nutrients he needed: he’d lost too much weight and had slumped into a hypoglycemic torpor.

From enjoying our first golden days together, Bub and I were abruptly plunged into a series of tests, checks and nourishing top-up feeds. Watching them put a feeding tube up his tiny little nose almost broke my heart. His little body went rigid as he screamed and turned red and purple with rage and indignation.

I’d chosen the tube over a bottle, as they told me that bottle fed babies may not return to breast milk, with all its health-giving properties and powerful antibodies. Since it’s so much easier to get milk from a bottle, they simply can’t be bothered to battle with the breast once they’d had a taste of the easy life.

But watching his little face racked with pain, I felt like the worst mother in the world. My little man had had three days of being treated like a prince, his every whim catered for, and suddenly he was being poked, prodded and tortured. He must have wondered what on earth he’d done to deserve it.

Big, fat tears rolled down my face and onto his little limbs as I held him still, complicit in his agony.

To give him his due, the Baby Daddy was absolutely brilliant, running errands to collect the bits and pieces we needed for our stay, taking his turn at waking for the nocturnal feeds and nappy changes (even when Bub exacted revenge for his harsh treatment by squittering liquid projectile poo in his direction) and being generally very supportive.

Two days later, we were finally allowed to take a fattened-up Bub home again.

If my little man had had everything he wanted before, he could now count on being thoroughly spoiled – feeding exactly when he wanted, for as long as he wanted, and being smothered with endless cuddles, kisses and snuggles.

Before his arrival, I imagined that a mother’s love for her child was incomparable. But I wasn’t prepared for the feeling that I would literally die to give this tiny human being everything he needs.

Even when he poops just moments after I’ve changed his nappy; even when he vomits all over his freshly washed sleepsuit; even when he wails inconsolably until I surrender my breast, in my eyes, my little cherub can do no wrong.

Precious beyond compare and utterly delectable, he may be just a tiny wee fella, but I think I’ve finally found my ideal man.

Where is Bub?

I know I shouldn’t be impatient. After all, he’s not even due til tomorrow. But I’d assumed Bub would be in a hurry, just like his mum, and would surely be with us waaaay before time.

The latest midwife visit seemed to confirm my assumptions, when she’d checked his position and smiled, “I’m not sure you’ll make it to 40 weeks!” So naturally, I thought I’d be happily cradling my little bundle by now. But no. I can only attribute his tardiness to the mañana mentality, which I imagine he’s inherited from his (Spanish) dad.

Anyway, I really am trying not to be I am impatient. But I just can’t help it. After nine months of carrying this little soul in my belly, I’m more than ready to meet him.

I want to know what he looks like, how tiny his toes are, how pink and wrinkly his little limbs are; whether he’s happy or cantankerous or just plain sleepy. I want to marvel over his crumpled little face and look for traces of my own reflected in his diminutive features.

In the last two weeks, he’s become truly heavy: turning over in bed has become a logistical challenge and I’ve finally had to resort to propping up the bump with a pillow. Even the XL coat that I bought to replace the original size S is straining at the seams. Spring is (finally) starting to spring and there’s no more ice on the ground in the morning … all of which says to me that my little pud is well and truly cooked and it’s time he put in an appearance.

And yet he remains securely snuggled in my belly, reluctant to leave his cosy little den.

Still, I can’t really complain. Some things are going very smoothly indeed: He Who Shall Remain Nameless has been cheerleading for Bub, and brightening my days with his attentions.

Although there are many factors that preclude this from being The Next Big Romance, it’s a real pleasure to know that someone is thinking of me and cares enough to send me the odd text, just to see how my day is going.

He Who Shall Remain Nameless has also reminded me how much I like hugs and kisses, too. They’d pretty much faded from my memory, being replaced with internal kicks and wriggles – which, it must be said, have their own special charm – but now the luxury of sharing body heat is back on the agenda and I feel like the cat that got the cream.

To be honest, I’m seriously impressed that someone is prepared to take on the task of hugging me. After all, at the moment, I’m not easily huggable. But HWSRN has risen to the task, and even seems to enjoy hugging both me and Bub at the same time.

But still, despite all this happiness, I’m impatient. I want to welcome my son to the world. Every day that I’m still at work, every day that he’s not here, is a torture. All I can do is appeal to his better nature, beg him to make his mind up quickly and start his journey into the world at his earliest convenience.

There are so many things I want to tell him and show him, so many places I want us to go – so many tastes and sights and sounds for him to enjoy. So come on, little fella. Put me out of my misery. Come and join this fabulous and exciting world.

Or in other words … stop hanging around and HURRY UP, BUB!!