Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Six weeks in....

Howdy. I have five minutes to chat. The big two have been dropped off at their respective schools (Bea has now moved up to Junior School) and Ted is happily ensconced in his Nursery (he has started three mornings a week) with a woman he has 'adopted' as his own called Margaret and for a few minutes, Newbie is sleeping, so I am going to make the most of it. To be honest there is actually too much to tell you which is a bit daunting and has put me off trying up until now. Oddly,  having nothing much to tell you is far easier to write about. Nearly six weeks of happenings is far too onerous a task to take on, so I will just try and remember bits and pieces and we will have to make do with that. Also my brain isn't exactly funcitoning on all cylinders so do bear with me if it is not quite up to scratch.

I last left you all aglow with post birth hormones.  The following day I hatched a plan to steal my children back from my mother. It worked beautifully and after a practise run to Essex on the Monday to introduce Cybs to K's family I set out first thing and drove for three hours to find my children and mother on holiday on the Suffolk coast. They were surprised to find me at the front door to say the least, but it was definitely a brilliant decision on my part. My children met their sister in my favourite place on earth, in a beautiful holiday home that Cupcake Sister was renting and then Kent sister arrived as well, so it was a fabulous party atmosphere and I could not have been happier. Cybil met all but one of her cousins and her siblings in the space of 48 hours. The day was a whirlwind but just lovely and one I will remember forever.  I took G over to the beach and paddled in the sea, I bought ice cream with the boys, watched Bea in the sea and I spent the day being overwhelmingly happy that we were finally all together (bar K but we filmed the introductions and sent the footage to him at work so he was sort of there). K never takes very long for his paternity leave - he never actually takes paternity leave as the pay is so rubbish so he just saves up his holiday and takes around a week off. Ted was the longest I got - he took two weeks then and only went in to the office on the odd day during that time. After the glorious day by the sea I spent a restorative week at Hotel Mum. It was the best post birth experience ever. The sun shone, too hot actually, the children ran around with their cousins enjoying all the facilities Chez Mum which now includes a treehouse, Newly Married Sister arrived with husband and they played with the children, BBQ'd up a storm and cooed over the baby, Mum ran around like a headless chicken all day every day (even on her birthday) making sure I didn't over exert myself (she repeated many, many times that when she had babies in her days they spent two weeks in bed), K arrived and thrilled the children with his frog finding skills and we ate, drank and were very merry. All in all it was totally perfect. It is hard to think of a better time. The cherry on top was that Kent Sister was now visibly 'showing' as she is carrying on the grandchild boom and expecting mum's tenth grandchild in February. In fact she is one of newbie's Godmother's which means that every one of my four children have a pregnant Godmother. Bea and I will not be short of a baby to cuddle for quite some time to come.....

Enough of the baby bubble hormone glow, it all seems like years ago now - it's hard to believe it was only 5 weeks. In fact it feels like we have always had Cybs and the fact that she is quite a giant baby means that she feels a lot older than her six weeks. Oddly enough this baby is the one that has affected me the least. She is the same as all the others in that she is very needy, not a fan of being out of my arms, feeds A LOT, cries, sleeps etc but I don't feel like I have freshly given birth - in fact the only reminder that I have is the three or four extra stone of fat that hangs around my various body parts (mainly my stomach) and the fact that I keep having to attend irritating post birth appointments. The most detested of which is the Health Visitor visit. If it were up to me they would remove the 'Health' aspect of their title. They do nothing but annoy, in my long history of knowing them, they should called either Visitor or Irritating Visitor.  The one I had for Cybs spent an awful lot of time sitting in silence and writing. She asked occasional annoying questions and told me i should go to A and E immediately so they could look at Cybs because she had a slight tinge of jaundice in the corner of her eyes. I declined rather abruptly by laughing at her and saying there was no way I would be going to hospital with four children and wasting everyone's time. She did many various annoying things including asking me at least three times if she was a 'planned baby' and constantly referring to K as 'baby daddy' - it is more annoying than you might imagine - but she reached an irritating crescendo when she started asking me the names of mine and K's parents and siblings. I had humoured her by answering stupid questions and looking at her brochures on PND, contraception etc but this was 40 minutes in and I was losing my sense of humour. I asked her why on earth she wanted this info. She said (very slowly) that she was drawing a family tree. I gave her more info about our siblings. I asked why. She showed me the family tree - pointing out how it worked - 'these are your parents, these are the baby daddy's parents and these are your children'. Clearly she thought I had an IQ similar to hers. I informed her, slowly, that I knew what a family tree was but I wondered why on earth was she drawing one for me when I was WELL AWARE OF MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY ALREADY. She said it was to show me what support I had. Honestly, I cannot imagine what idiot thought it would be a good idea to irritate a new mother by telling her what she already knows about her own family. People tend to know if any of their family members are supportive or not. I did tell her that she might want to remove mine and the baby daddy's fathers as they are both very unsupportively dead. Anyway, mercifully she left and I am hoping to be out the next time she calls round. Particularly as I promised her I would take Cybs to the Doctors before we went on holiday to get the slight jaundice checked out.  I did not, obviously.

On to that holiday. Two weeks and two days after she was born the newest member of our crew set out in the car seat for her very first holiday.  Sadly for her it was a camping holiday. 'Luxury' camping, but to be honest, it would appear that luxury is a very subjective term. Yes, our safari style tent had a wood burning stove, wooden floorboards, beds and a loo but it was not luxury in my world. The farm it was situated on was not the Disney version of a farm I had envisaged when I booked. It was a very real farm. There was an unpleasant smell and A LOT of mud. And poo. And muddy poo. And pooey mud. All the animals were muddy and very soon after arrival the children were very muddy too. Added to this, the luxury tent was situated under trees, and not having an electricity supply, our bedrooms never ever got light and the main part of the tent always seemed to be in perpetual gloom even on sunny days. And there were no comfortable chairs which was irritating for someone who needed to spend most of the time sitting and breast feeding. And don't even get me started on the showers - they were outside so rather cold in the evening and the button you pressed to start the luke warm water flowing gave you a mighty 25 seconds (I counted) of water before stopping and you had to press it again whilst standing on the wooden slats which had a particularly unclean feel to them. Having said all of that, the children absolutely loved it and so did K so that made me love it. The wood burning stove also meant that K had to get up at 6.30 every morning to start the fire and warm the place up for us. I got lie ins. Lots of them. It was oddly more restful than being at home so I did get more of a holiday than I had imagined.  We went on day trips, we went on a filthy steam train, we went to the cinema, we went to Corfe Castle, we even got some sunshine and days at the beach which is my favourite part of any holiday, but most of all we were all together 24 hours a day whether we liked it or not which was just what we needed after the many weeks we had spent apart. Due to there being no TV, K and I were even thrown together. It got dark from about 7.30pm, so we sat there in the silence every evening, staring at the glow of the fire in the wood burning stove - it turns out that staring at a small box of orange light is a perfect replacement for the crap that is on Sky TV - we talked, he cooked for me, I ate and most evenings the baby slept. All in all it was a magnificent success and by the end of the holiday I was quite sad to be leaving.

Although I was particularly keen to get back to a washing machine. In the panic of packing up to leave I  hadn't thought through all the mud and the children getting dressed in the morning and going out and being covered in mud within 10 minutes. To be honest, the packing up was the hardest part of the holiday - even including the six hour journey to get down there (we got stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 for about an hour which didn't help). I very nearly didn't go on the holiday with the stress of trying to pack everything everyone needed for a week in between breast feeds and with a time constraint and three excitable children asking how much longer and a husband reminding me not to pack  too much so that we could all fit in the car. In fact there were a number of tense words between K and I in the lead up to departure. Bea was probably thrilled. She is very keen for us to get divorced. I know, it is not usual but over the summer holidays she got in to watching a programme on CBBC called 'marrying Mum and Dad'. Originally I wanted to stop her watching it, as my Mary Whitehouse opinions immediately kicked in and I tutted and bored her rigid with my rant about the changing times and society, however, after I watched an episode I realised it is actually rather lovely and the children organising the weddings were totally adorable. Having said that, the downside is that Bea is magnificently disappointed K and I are married and has asked me a NUMBER of times to get divorced so that she can organise my wedding for me on Marrying Mum and Dad. I have no idea how desperate the couples are to get married who agree to be on the programmes, but it must be pretty damn desperate as the children get to choose everything to do with the wedding - dress, venue, food etc. One woman ended up marrying her 'baby daddy' dressed in a Tarzan outfit, in a zoo, feeding monkeys as the 'entertainment' and eating BBQ food her son cooked for the reception. Bea assured me if I agreed to get divorced she would find a beautiful indoor venue with no animals and she'd put daddy in a suit and me in a stunning white princess dress. I still won't agree.

Oh, I forgot to say that Ted had his cast removed. In a stroke of joyous luck, I opened the post K had ignored whilst I was staying with my mum and found a letter informing us that Ted's appointment had been changed from the morning of our holiday to the day before. In fact the day I opened the post. After some hasty rearrangement and the wonderful Replacement arriving to help (K was at work), we popped off to Lewisham hospital and got the smelly and well used cast cut off.  When we saw the Doctor afterwards he questioned how it was that Ted had a tattoo on his arm. I quickly assured him that it had been on there when the cast was put on, but he seemed to imply that I had somehow managed to take the cast off and taken the opportunity to apply a temporary tattoo of a smiley yellow face.(there was a small communication problem as he had a heavy Indian accent which I struggled to understand) I have no idea why, but people in the medical profession seem to think i am a shockingly bad mother. Much like the woman who nearly ran over Ted the other day. We were on opposite sides of the road and he decided to cross in front of her moving vehicle. She swore very loudly (her window was open which was lucky as she heard me scream) and she just sat there staring at me as I crossed the road to retrieve the shaken Ted and then walk back across the road with him. Still, the good hting about having four children is that I no longer give much of a flying fig about what other people think of my parenting skills. I do things my way and so far so good. It's like the whole 'sleeping in a bed' furore. I have always had my babies in bed with me and I have always fed on demand. I really don't agree with all of this 'babies as master manipulators' rubbish. When she cries and can't be soothed, I feed her. It doesn't really bother me how long it has been since the last feed. She just gets fed. I also sleep with her. The health visitor was not keen that I couldn't answer exactly how often she was fed and she couldn't take in the idea that I slept in a bed with her so in the end I agreed that she slept in a moses basket next to my bed and not in my bed - it was just easier. She wasn't any fun to fight so I gave in to set her mind at rest and she could tick whatever box needed ticking on the papers she was so fervently filling in.

Back to the happenings - once we returned from the holiday we went straight in to Ted's third birthday. It was in fact, the very next day. Within half an hour of us getting out of the stinky car from Dorset, K had to get back in to it to drop Bea off at a sleepover party, get birthday balloons and all of Ted's birthday presents I had managed to reserve at Argos on our way home, all before the shops shut. He managed it all and the birthday itself was a massive success - Ted seemed extremely thrilled with his thrown together birthday and hastily bought chocolate cake with G's old '3' candle on top and presents wrapped in Christmas paper. Once all gifts were open, K went and sourced a spiderman cake for his party later that day and also enough party food to sink a battle ship. The party was not a typical three year old party as such - I had just invited five of my friends and their numerous children (round here having four children is not that unusual) to a scout hut and hired a Scooby doo bouncy castle and a set of sumo suits. Kids sumo suits are incredibly good fun by the way - especially if you have a lot of older boys to entertain. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable kids parties ever as I had to do relatively little - Cybs even slept through the entire thing. Tidying up afterwards was even a breeze as a lovely friend and her husband did most of it. Even with all of that, I am still rather proud of myself for pulling it all off. Camping holiday, third birthday and party and newborn fourth baby. I think my bottle of sparkling wine that night was entirely justified.

So after the excitement of the birth, grandma's, holiday and birthday party the children had to get ready to go back to school. Shoes were hastily purchased, a final hurrah! on their last day was spent at a local paddling pool in the park in glorious sunshine with tea in the cafe afterwards (my first solo day trip with all of them) and in all honesty I was vaguely sad to see them go. Although obviously relieved when they were all gone and I returned home to the mess with only a baby for company. Since then life has gone back to normal, constant mess, huge piles of washing, rushed mornings, homework, fraught afternoons with grumpy and hungry children and the constant cry from me for someone to 'jiggle the baby' so I can do whatever it is I'm trying to do. We even have the Extra Child after school again. It's as if the summer never happened.

Although obviously the screaming baby it left behind reminds me that it very much did. When I had Ted I was so scared about managing the school run. Bea was just about to start full time school and I had to take her down there seven days after my new baby was born, knowing that very soon I was going to do it totally alone. I can still remember the fear and the tears when K went back to work. This time around it has made little to no difference. Yes i have to get up earlier, spend far less time getting dressed and on my hair and makeup  (around 3 minutes for all 3) and I have to make sure the newbie is fed sufficiently before we depart, but all in all it is far more 'doable' than I had envisaged. Last week I had a particularly successful morning where I managed to grab a shower and hairwash and still get them all dressed, packed lunches made and the big two to school on time. It made me feel slightly superhero-like. Mainly because I do it all on my own. Not because K has left me but he doesn't 'do' mornings. Oddly enough this isn't something that annoys me now. In the early days I fought it and we used to have epic fights about him not getting his lazy arse out of bed and being 'like everyone else'. Now I have accepted the indisputable. K is NOT a morning person and never, ever will be. I, on the other hand don't find it too tricky to get up in the morning but I get particularly panicked when the clock strikes 10pm in the evening and if I am not near to being in bed, I may start hyperventilating. Conversely K deems 10pm to be 'early evening' as he rarely falls asleep before the early hours of the morning, and so it is that we have come to do our parenting in shifts. Therefore anything I achievee with a newborn baby and three other children and still get to the school gates by 8.50am means that I feel victorious.

I have to hold on to these moments of victory and self congratulation as there are definitely moments when I actively and loudly wonder why I had even one child. It is exhausting. I am more often than not, ready to throw in the towel by 4.30pm, I feel like I achieve nothing almost every day, I yearn for days when I can go to the loo in some degree of peace and enjoy a stress free bath and I miss, miss, miss, miss with a deep yearning longing, my old wardrobe and body and I also cannot wait to wear clothing which doesn't have to allow easy access to my boobs - or 'milkies' as Ted now calls them. However, another benefit of her being my fourth is that I know that this time where she is constantly demanding and ridiculously cute is fleeting and before I know it she will be 'big' and I will have to face the reality that I will never again hold a baby of mine in my arms. For now I am taking the bad (being up around 6-7 times a night on a bad night what with Ted's cough and cold, G waking up once at 2.30am thinking it was morning, Bea crying in the night from a nightmare and K waking up downstairs and then coming to bed at around 3am, not to mention the odd breastfeed for the newbie) with the good - a constant, 6 week stream of gifts and cards to welcome Cybil's arrival, all four of them in the bath together, the other three being totally in love with her (although it IS irritating when they fight over their 'go' with her) and the general mayhem and chaos of residing over a house full of children which was oddly enough, all I have ever wanted. So, i shall leave you now and prepare myself for everything the rest of the day may throw at me. Although again, not all of it is bad, I have just collected the post and not only is there yet another lovely congratulations card but there is also a £100 voucher for Boden which I won in a prize draw after buying a dress for Cybil online. Happy Days. Onwards and Upwards.

(I will just say she hasnt been asleep for this whole time - I have fed several times, picked up Ted, fed again and now I am writing one handed as she sleeps on my lap. It took a lot longer than five minutes to fill you in.....)

Until the next time........ xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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