Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pregnancy Perspective

Glad tidings! I greet you with the happy news that Shiny Life Sister is with child.  Mother's eleventh grandchild and Shiny Life Sister's first child, is cooking nicely and due for arrival in November.

So exciting. Obviously you can imagine that at first I was thrilled - finally a mewling infant to take some of the shine off her life! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha (evil laugh - wasn't sure if it was obvious). I was hopeful that she would look slightly less polished and manicured too - I was thinking weight gain, greasy hair, lack of up to date clothing, baby sick etc etc. BUT, then she started to feel terrifically sick. And then she started being terrifically sick. She has been suffering a lot - especially with her final work trip to China where she felt dreadfully ill. And then last week there was a mad hospital dash in an ambulance (demanded by me), in severe abdominal pain which turned out, after an excruciatingly long wait, to be a horrible cyst, twisting her ovary. All is mercifully fine with the baby and she will be closely monitored from now on but she is still being sick which is really not fun.   (AND quite gallingly, she still looks amazingly glam and not at all like she is suffering so all my hoping for her looks go to pot are in vain - I have had to come to terms with the fact that she will no doubt even have immaculate hair and make up for the birth and post birth pictures - I have made peace with it, I advise you to do the same).

So, all in all, her pregnancy has not been easy thus far and there is still a long way to go. And that is just the pregnancy. There is an even longer way to go after that. So, in order to make her feel better about how horrid pregnancy is, I thought I would dedicate this post to some of the crap that comes after. To help her put all the pregnancy crap in perspective. I do like to be helpful. So, here are some of the highlights:

  • You become the unofficial goddess of all that is disgusting. The Goddess of Gross.  I know there must be some homes where this isn't the case obviously, (Blonde Bombshell's husband is responsible for the sick in her house because she can't stomach it) but by and large the poo, wee, sick, dog poo on shoes, stringy snot, plug hole gunk, nits, blood, worms and any other associated gross, is entirely up to you, and only you, to sort out. 
Example: Last week I was upstairs when I heard my lovely cleaner scream and yell my name in a panicked sort of way. I came downstairs to discover her up against the wall outside the playroom looking as if she had seen a ghost. It would appear that the cat had had a go on a mouse and left the decapitated head complete with blood and trailing veins, on the rug in the playroom. I had been in the room frequently in the lead up to my cleaner's arrival and had failed to notice it, (which gives you an insight in to the state of our playroom on a day to day basis) and so, going about her business, she had gone to pick it up, assuming it was another bit of a toy, only to make the grizzly discovery.  At this point it really does fall to the only other grown up in the house to sort it out and that was obviously me. Luckily the 'rug' on which the decapitated head lay, was in fact a large off cut of carpet so rather than scoop up the grossness in a plastic bag, which was my initial plan, I just rolled up the carpet and chucked it in the bin. This week I did a THOROUGH sweep of the floor before she tentatively tip toed inside to begin the clear up.

This is the least of my gross encounters though. On Easter Sunday I was called downstairs by the children because the cat had either been taken very ill, was very naughty or was potentially trapped in the room overnight and had defecated three times on my new carpet. It was a hideous start to the day, particularly because he clearly wasn't that well for some of it so it was hard to clean up, because it was the same colour as the chocolate the children were all merrily eating whilst watching me clean up and because Cybs seemed to want to step in it, which made cleaning up all the harder. K was at least in the house at that point but there was little point in trying to get him to deal with it - by the time I had woken him up and got him down to help, Cybs would have achieved her wish to walk in it which would have made the whole situation far worse and to be honest, I knew he wouldn't clean it the way I wanted him to, so it was just easier to do it myself. The cat has also taken to pooing in the bath far more frequently than is at all acceptable. Although it is the most practical of places for him to do it and very easy to clean, it is still majorly gross and not really something I want to wake up to  - particularly when there is a perfectly good flipping cat litter that is actually designed for him to use. Hey Ho.

And finally, on Sunday evening, after a lovely day in the sun, I got in the bath with the little two. Ted got out to do a wee and when he started to get back in, he commented on the fact that it looked like someone had been sick in the bath. No one had been sick. Unfortunately, it was a matter of the other end and I was mid hair wash. Obviously I vacated the bath pretty quickly and took Cybs out too but then there was a drainage issue. The water was not going down fast enough which left us all staring at a bath full of poo water. Eventually I decided enough was enough. I shan't go in to the gory details but I managed to use a wire coat hanger to dislodge whatever was causing the issue in the drain and eventually the bath was cleared enough for the clear up to commence. After a thorough bleaching we all took turns to shower as it seemed the best option in light of what we had witnessed. After what seemed like the longest bath and bed session ever, everyone was clean and dry and the children were in bed. For five minutes. Just as we breathed a sigh of relief downstairs, we heard a huge commotion upstairs. It turns out that the sore tummy G was complaining about pre-bed was in fact the tummy bug going around and we arrived upstairs to find a big pile of sick on their bedroom carpet and a poorly George. Bea was being very motherly but also retching slightly. Ted, who had not yet had his fill of grossness (he was the one that kept pointing out recognisable bits of food from the bath debacle) came over to have a peek and quickly ran back to his bed and hid under the duvet. It was quite late by now due to the bath delay and it being a Sunday night n'all so I was quite keen to get them back in to bed so my sick clear up window was brief.  I clearly didn't do a good enough job of the interim clear up because the following morning the stench of sick was really quite bad. The splatter had gone further than I had thought possible and so I spent Monday morning scrubbing quite a large area of carpet with anything I could think of to try and rid us of the smell and the stain. (That is the end of the story but for those of you caught in a similar situation I would highly recommend Bicarbonate of Soda which I used to great effect today. Sprinkled a whole box of the stuff over the area, left for two hours and hoovered up - et voila, no sick smell.)

  • You are CONSTANTLY preparing food.  
In the early days when they can't yet have food, you look forward to the day when they are able to eat and the first few times they do so are big occasions and jolly exciting events for which picture taking is mandatory.  However, after the novelty wears off and they stop being small and cute and eating small amounts of things with their hands and potentially that child is not your only offspring, the entire day is centred around the preparation of food, the serving of food and then the clearing up of food and then the packing of snack food to have when you are out lest a child be suddenly struck by hideous hunger pangs in the few hours that you are not serving it a meal. I know it sounds like something obvious that I should have considered before multiple reproduction occurred, but there are times when the need to constantly think about food and its preparation seems ridiculously overwhelming. The big two have packed lunches, so I am entirely responsible for three meals a day for four children, every day.  I am in the kitchen for a disproportionate amount of my day. The lack of their adventurous taste buds also means that I prepare the same meals over and over and over again and it can feel like groundhog day very quickly. And I have further to go than I have already come. Another sixteen-ish years. That is a flipping long time to be in the kitchen. I hope I can persuade Cybs to take up cooking from a young age so she can do the last stint for me. I may well never want to see a baked bean or a sausage for the rest of my life by that point.
  • You become the parent you never thought you would. And not in a good way.  
Even after I had Bea I still had very hard and fast rules about what sort of parent I was/would be. I merrily judged other parents of older children as they did a 'terrible' job of parenting (whilst also smugly knowing that my beautiful tiny baby was not only the MOST beautiful baby that ever lived but also that she was never going to grow up, just like I am never going to get old or grey).  Not that it was an example of the parent that I judged, but an example of my changing standards, my sister had four by the time I had Bea so her fourth and my first were these lovely little blonde twins who spent an awful lot of time together. On one occasion we were in the car and her daughter wanted something she couldn't have or some such (it was a long time ago) and so my sister promised her a packet of crisps which she duly pulled over to purchase. I sighed, or similar and asked if she HAD to buy them as Bea would then want them and I really didn't want her eating crisps at the tender age of one and I maybe said that perhaps she shouldn't give them to her daughter either as they were terribly bad for her. Luckily she was able to just smile and say, 'wait until it's your fourth'. And proceeded to buy the crisps. Fast forward to Cybs who probably had crisps shortly after she was six months, has had more lollipops than you can shake a stick at and quite often eats her lunch in front of Peppa Pig (another of my absolute parenting no-nos was eating in front of the tv). 

Food is just one example. There are millions of others. Telling them to 'shut up'. If I heard a parent tell their child to shut up in the supermarket when Bea was little, I may well have tutted and/or given the child a sympathetic look. I must say it almost every day now. As well as 'bloody' - swearing in front/at children is most certainly not what I would have wanted. Also I say things my mother used to say which I hate. 'Because' as an answer. 'I'm Friday' to yet another yell of 'I'm Thirsty'.  I shout. I swear. I tell them to shut up. I feed them shit. I yank their arms when they won't walk and we're in a hurry. I am fat (I didn't want to be a bad example). I don't exercise (ditto). I don't listen to them read very often at all (please don't tell anyone - I feel terrifically guilty about it).  These are all things I would have been horrified by as I sat, smugly waxing lyrical about the type of parent I would be as I rubbed my swollen, first pregnant tummy. That 'me' would have judged this 'me' very harshly. But this 'me' would think that 'me' had absolutely no idea what was coming....

  • You enter an unofficial, unspecified, never ending competition. Even if you are entirely uncompetitive or incredibly lazy like me.
You are competing for brilliant children as well as being a brilliant parent whether you want to or not. Intelligence, development, manners, behaviour - it is ALL judged. And sometimes commented on. A friend who lives in Chelsea is apparently repeatedly asked 'how many words' her daughter has - from when she was only a year old.  It is mainly so the enquiree can brag about how many words their genius offspring has mastered 'already'. Even if you are not remotely interested in the competition, thousands of others are, and they rope you in to their weird game. A brilliant child is, by association, the product of a brilliant parent/gene pool, therefore to the competitive, children are the perfect fodder.  Sadly even I am beginning to be bothered by Cybil's lack of vocabulary. She is twenty one months old and rarely forms a word. She has Mummy, more, George and something that sounds like 'stop'. She also makes a noise like scooter but isn't actually scooter but I know that that is what it means. Babies far younger than her are more understandable. Sigh. No doubt she will be a late bloomer in that department. She can scooter to school and back very competently and stops and waits to cross the roads, so she has talents in other departments which are incredibly useful. And she makes herself understood without words so maybe she is alarmingly intelligent and has realised that she has no need to actually speak and therefore won't waste her time doing something so mundane. Like Maggy from The Simpsons. Or that evil baby out of Family Guy. Or perhaps a mix of both.

The Internet has taken competitive parenting to all new levels. You can't JUST take your child to Euro Disney, which is, in my book the very pinnacle of great parenting, you have to keep it a secret and then let them know in a 'magical' way just before you go, which has to be filmed and then posted on the Internet to show exactly how happy you have made your child and by insinuation how unhappy our children are in comparison. And it isn't enough to just throw money at the parenting competition, you also have to be amazingly creative which is hideously time consuming. Every day there is another 'what an amazing parent' link on facebook, twitter or even worse - making the news.  From elaborate 'themed' packed lunches (do not get me started on that), to taking a photo every day for eighteen years to make a tear jerking time lapse video for their coming of age, to the Dreamworks animator who makes 'superhero' films of his son, to the inexplicable month long, nightly shenanigans putting toy dinosaurs in different creative and amazing situations for the excitable children to find in the morning.

Every now and again I put some effort in to the whole parenting shebang, just for the hell of it, but I certainly couldn't guarantee 'effort' every day for a month. I see the efforts of other 'brilliant' parents and I feel exhausted.  Maybe that is why my children are so average. Although that is actually a relief. Gifted children require an awful lot of attention and looking after - that also seems exhausting.

  • You can NEVER rely on attending anything ever again. 
This one never ends actually, although obviously lessens over time. However, when they are young their illnesses mean that any number of nights out, weekends away etc can be cancelled at short notice.

For example. For the last year I have been looking forward to a very special long weekend away with my very special friends from school. It was to be three nights of blissed out magnificence in a lovely big house near the Suffolk coast. On the Thursday night, the day before I was due to drop the little two off at my mum's, Cybs started to cough. It appeared that she just had a cold which I thought mum could handle so I merrily left her on the Friday afternoon and drove with indecent haste and happiness to our holiday house.  The Friday night was just bliss. It was all that was right with the world. My Saturday morning phone call to mum revealed that Cybs' breathing was quite heavey and that she was coughing badly. I was quite hopeful it was just a cold so told mum to keep giving her pain relief.  By the afternoon mum assured me she was fine and I stayed for the second night, which was even better than the first, eight old friends eating delicious food, drinking way too much wine, playing games and living the life. I could have stayed for a week, but the following morning mum put Cybs to the phone and her breathing was so incredibly laboured I was immediately terrified. I rang 111 who rang mum to try and organise a doctor's appointment whilst I threw my stuff in to a bag and drove far too fast, back to mum's. On my way there I spoke to mum who told me that the 111 operative had called an ambulance. I drove a tad faster. I got home and found the paramedic still there who had been largely useless. Cybs became so upset whenever he went near her that he hadn't been able to listen to her chest or in fact do anything. He decided she wasn't an emergency and made us an out of hours GP appointment.

Anyhoo, to cut a long and dull story short, we ended up having to wait hours for the GP appointment, I started crying in the waiting room when we got there, we got bumped up the list and managed to avoid the hour delay, saw the GP who agreed she was struggling to breathe and we ended up in A and E for steroids, nebuliser and monitoring. So, instead of my lovely last few days with my lovely gal pals of old, I spent a very scary and long day with a very ill Cybs and finished off the day in the paediatric ward of West Suffolk hospital (which is very lovely for anyone wondering - I highly recommend it as paediatric wards go). I was obviously very upset for poor Cybs but I was bitterly disappointed for me. I do not go away for weekends - it isn't really 'me'. I don't do it out of martyrdom but I am with the children 99.9% of the time (I mean outside of school hours obvs) and this weekend was so incredibly important to me that I was a bit heartbroken for about 48 hours. (I KNOW Cybs is more important. I mean I didn't wallow or anything, I was just silently heartbroken whilst also being very grateful that I was able to get immediate medical help for my poor baby. I am able to see both sides.)

Interestingly not really it turned out that Cybs didn't have croup as everyone (except me) said, because on the Wednesday when we were safely back in London, I took her back to A and E after her breathing, which had never fully recovered, became ever worse. They did all the same sort of stuff, only this time they also took an x ray which revealed a chest infection (my original diagnosis). Happily, she is much improved and back to her wicked but wonderful ways.

  • You HAVE to know where the hell they are, all the time. And even when you think you know where they are you quite often have to triple check.  
Example. During the Easter Holidays we were lucky enough to go to Center Parcs for the day as a guest of Bea's best pal. All was going 'swimmingly' in the Subtropical Paradise (which is a misleading title as it is really nothing at all like paradise and the headache you get after a few minutes inside it, lasts for an awfully long time) until the last twenty minutes when we were trying to wrap things up and have the 'last go' on things. I was giving G his last go on the rapids, Bea and Alice were having their last go on the Tropical Cyclone and Ted was shattered from the two hours he had spent racing around the pirate ship and baby slides in the children's area and was happily sitting in 'our' spot outside the pirate ship wrapped in a towel and tucking in to a bag of crisps and an apple juice, patiently waiting for Alice's mum to return.

G and I finished our ride down the rapids and were just going to chance another final run when I heard a worrying alarm. At first I thought it was telling people the waves were beginning again - but a few seconds later I realised there was a different air to the tropical paradise and like meerkats on the Savannah, all these heads were popping up looking for something. It was then I knew, deep in my mothering bones, that Bea was dying. I saw a group of lifeguards running in the direction of the Tropical Cyclone. I grabbed G's arm and yanked him in the direction of the running life guards. I pushed through the crowds with a hammering heart and tears in my eyes as I thought I saw Bea's friend, with fingers in her mouth, looking scared and bewildered. I think I actually started crying at that point but it all happened so fast. I was busy looking for the lifeguards who would surely be trying to resuscitate my beautiful daughter who had obviously fallen off the stupid rubber ring thing on the death defying ride and was in serious trouble, WHEN, a small child grabbed me. I looked down and saw Ted clinging to my side and I remember thinking what the hell are you doing, get off me I need to save Bea. Then a lifeguard asked me if he was with me and I said yes - again annoyed that everyone wasn't trying to save Bea - she then said 'He can't swim' which was when I realised that all the lifeguards were all stood still, staring at me and Ted. As were a number of fellow guests in the incredibly noisy SubTropical Paradise. It transpires that the alarms were actually for Ted. Bea and Alice had admirably managed not to drown. G was with me and Cybs was safely at home with my mother. Ted had been the missing link, and instead of waiting for Alice's mother, he had evidently decided that he would go for a wander. He had wandered up the stairs that G and I had gone up and then he had found an unattended flume ride and as it seemed quite fun, he sat at the top and pushed himself off. He didn't realise that at the bottom of the flumes that aren't in the children's area, there is a deep pool in which to splash land. So, as he splashed down at the end of the flume he was probably somewhat taken aback and a little scared as he realised he was drowning.

As luck would have it, a very kind man who came down after Ted had seen him unsuccessfully trying to save himself as he attempted to grab hold of the circular floats that divided the plunge pool in to two, and realised that the man in front of Ted was in fact nothing to do with him and that this little boy was on his own and in some distress, so he saved him. It was then that the alarm was raised and all the lifeguards had come running. I was in total shock. All I kept thinking was that he couldn't possibly have nearly drowned as he was sitting on a chair eating crisps. But I knew it was all true as I had a very wet and scared Ted clamped to me and a calm and rational lifeguard telling me that he could have drowned but for a very nice man who was luckily using the flume at the same time.

An hour or so later as we were using the swings in the playground Ted casually said, 'that's the man that saved me when I was drowning' and we went to say thank you, and thank you and a bit more thanking. He told me all the details the lifeguard didn't know and that I hadn't taken in at the time. I am most extremely grateful to him. But, people like him aren't always around and I was clearly in the wrong by assuming that an exhausted and troublesome four year old would stay where I left him for a few minutes. You must always know where they are. Do not rely on assumptions.

  • There will forever be 'stuff' - lots of it and very little of it will be yours.  
  • Leaving the house will always take five times longer than you hope - for an extremely long time to come. Even longer if you have more than one. 
  •  If you are anything like me your jeans will always be slightly falling down and needing to be yanked up. 
  • Leftover children's food will always be appealing even if you are fat and trying not to be.
There are many, many more but this will have to do for now.

On the flip side there are also some good things. Obviously. Or the world would be very sparsely populated. In the interest of fairness here are some: They are quite cuddly and sometimes they have moments of loveliness. And when they get older they can be very good company. And on the whole they are a lot more fun and a lot more smiley than most adults. And they find getting wet more fun and are more open to spontaneous outbreaks of dancing. Dressing them up in fancy dress is also jolly good fun.

And there you have it. I apologise to anyone reading this who hasn't had children or has no interest in having them. It's a bit late to point this out, but this isn't the post for you.

Until we meet again,