Saturday, 31 July 2010

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Crazy nappy lady

My name is Badger, and I am addicted to nappies.

This is yet another in a series of 'what a sad state of affairs', otherwise known as Lumpy-induced generalized crapness (a recognized medical condition which is, sadly, terminal - see previous post for lager-based evidence of this tragic disease).

How did I sink this low? Mere months ago, I had never even changed a nappy - not even a standard-issue disposable. Yet now I will happily rant for hours about pocket systems versus shaped terry with waterproof pants at anyone who comes within a half-mile radius. If you have no idea what that last sentence means, then you obviously haven't visited me in the last month. Or you have, and wisely shoved your fingers in your ears and took refuge under the table as soon as I started. I spend hours online browsing nappy shops and feel bereft if I don't have a new sample turning up in the post every day. I experiment in stuffing techniques, and my first reaction when I find my lap filled with escapee poo is not 'Oh. My. God. I have a lap full of toxic orange baby poo', but rather 'Hmmm, interesting. The leg cuffs of the Pop 'n' Gro aren't as all-containing as I thought. Or maybe I should have doubled up with an extra microfibre insert. Or would that be overstuffing..?' All while my dining companions stare at me in mute horror, wondering when I'm going to get up and clean the poo off my lap. I even love washing the poo-encrusted, pee-soaked things, delighting in how they transform from skanky rags to fluffy loveliness in the space of a mere was cycle. And I bubble over with preening smugness and pride as I hang them all out on the line. Look! They're so small! And cute! And fluffy! Here, let me rub your face with them! Stop! Why do you run from me, screaming in that way??

This is clearly becoming a serious problem. Even in the grips of my obsession, I realize most normal people don't really want to hear about things that are basically portable baby toilets. But, like all the worst drug bores, I don't really care. On and on I drone, eulogizing on the wonders of reusable wipes, as my friends' eyes glaze over and they consider whether smothering themselves to death with a handy Tots Bots Bamboozle would be more effective than attempting to garrote me with a Bum Genius outer shell.

I clearly need to start up some sort of self-help group. Nappy Sniffers Anonymous. Reusable Ranters Redeemed. Together we can break this cycle of addiction!

But first, I hear they have special offers on Little Lambs. Must just go and check them out...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Going solo

Somehow, I managed to get to two and a half weeks without ever really being left in sole command of Lumpy. Sure, there had been periods of half an hour or so, when my keepers had slipped out to breathe fresh, un-nappified air and get essential supplies (generally squashy white bread, pate, brie, and hard liquor), but until last Friday I had not had a day without extra help and supervision. But it was time. Badger and Lumpy needed to go solo, and attempt to survive a whole day with just one another to look after.

The morning went surprisingly well. I managed to write a blog post, with Lumpy lying on my lap, transfixed by the computer screen. There was a minor grizzle meltdown mid-morning, when I may have attempted to do something like make a drink or empty the washing machine, and dared to remove my attention and rocking ministrations from the Lumpy for a full minute, but I had yet to break out the secret weapon - the walk in the pram. Lumpy, you see, loves his car seat, and can go from screaming to sleep faster than a greased ferret up a trouser leg simply by being wheeled 15 feet across the car park. So, I bundled him into the car seat, strapped his flailing, wailing little form in, and raced to attach it to the magic wheels and get a-wheeling.

He bravely resisted sleep for a full five minutes, heavy eyes struggling against closure, but he had, essentially, stopped squalling. We reached the library, and I somehow managed to manoeuvre the pram up the ramp and through the doors (I did note that the pram seemed particularly recalcitrant and unmanouvreable, but assumed this was just my amateur status and utter lack of driving skill, and continued bashing it around corners and rebounding it off conveniently placed peoples ankles to get where I was going. I threw the two books I was returning at the assistant and hauled the pram backwards through the doors.

Then it was on to Cowley Centre - somewhere I have become very familiar with over the past few weeks. This is a shopping centre on the edge of the delightful Blackbird Leys estate (the place joyriding was invented, and where I used to work at the sports centre - perfect for witnessing casual drug deals in the car park, interrupting cottaging incidents in the men's changing rooms, and having your phone stolen every time you turned your back). It is a chav's paradise if ever there was one - containing only shops of an, ahem 'budget' nature. Iceland, Wilko's, Poundland, three other versions of Poundland with slightly differing names (such as the cunningly undercutting '99p stores'), Greggs, Bon Marche, Savers, Shoezone, Peacocks... If you're after disposable tat or deep-fried frozen 'food', this is your place. But it's 15 minutes walk from the Badger residence, and there's a cafe that sells Tango Ice Slush drinks, so it's a daily essential for me and Lumpy (he insists on a mega-cup of the blue raspberry flavour every day - and who am I to deny my darling son?)

And so we wheeled ourselves up the ramp and joined the rest of the hard-faced pram pushers. I bought an astonishingly expensive, but surprisingly nice, skirt from Bon Marche (£22.50!! I was under the impression you could buy the whole shop for that! But it was nice, honest. Or maybe the baby is sucking my brain out, and I now think curtain-like old lady skirts are top fashion. Who knows?) I then had fun trying to steer the pram around a rammed-full charity shop, and bought a James Bond novel for Mr Badger for 75p. Spendaholic tendencies quieted for the day, we turned around (with difficulty) and headed home.

And then it started to all go a bit wrong. Lumpy, who had slept the instant his car seat was attached to the wheels, woke up the instant it was removed from said wheels. He stared around suspiciously for a moment, and then started bawling. I raced inside and placated him with a strategic boob. Phew. Crisis averted! But no. The silence was short-lived, as Lumpy went into his 'feed for two minutes, scream in outrage' mode (despite extensive searching, I have so far failed to find the reset button to switch this off. Or a volume control, for that matter. A stern letter will be written to the manufacturers, have no doubt). Try as I might, I find it rather distressing (and not a little insulting) to have my son scream in disgust and horror while still attached to my boob, so this was all a bit trying. Before long, I was bawling more than Lumpy, berating myself for being The Worst Mother in the World (TM).

We managed to fill the next three hours or so in this delightful way, and then I had another excuse to bung him in the pram again and hit the streets. We were, rather appropriately, off to the pub, to meet Mr Badger and his merry work mates for an end of week pint. And, praise be, this required a long and soothing walk into town. Once again, Lumpy decelerated from outraged to comatose in 3.6 seconds, and slept solidly the whole way. So effective was this cure that he remained asleep for the whole time we were in the pub, despite pounding rock music and much shouting (we rule at choosing appropriate places to take our son, oh yeah).

In celebration and relief, I had half a pint of lager and felt rather giddy and lightheaded. In my prime, I was a girl who could sink 9 pints of Stella with barely a wobble and only minor puking. Oh Lumpy, what have you reduced me to? And it only took one day (and 9 months or so).

POSTSCRIPT: I found out several days later that the front wheels on the pram were locked into position, making it virtually impossible to turn, hence my general spazdom and ankle-crashing antics. I am a tool.

STOP PRESS: SHOCK NEWS! Lumpy almost falls asleep on his own

I am typing this very quietly from the scene of this latest shock development: the bedroom. It is just after 9am, and the Lumpy has been lying in his cot since around 8.30am. Initially he was just staring intently at his fascinating 'egg and chickens' mobile, no doubt pondering the meaning of life and the square root of minus one. This period of quiet had allowed the Mother to actually shower and clean her teeth - a fairly remarkable occurrence in itself. Exiting the shower, she noticed that the Lumpy's eyes were beginning to close - a tell-tale sign of impending sleep, but one which the Parents have learned not to trust, as such a state generally lasts for approximately 4 milliseconds, before the Lumpy is returned to full grizzling, caterwauling indignation. However, feeling reckless, the Mother decided to attempt going downstairs and eating breakfast (she is a wild and reckless creature, it must be admitted). While shovelling Scotch pancakes into her cakehole, she attempted to empty the dishwasher. The Lumpy remained quiet, and she began to hope that the impossible may have happened... She dare not even speak the words aloud, so wondrous and improbable they seemed... Just as she had emptied the bottom half of the dishwasher, and was reaching for a bowl on the top rack, she allowed herself to consider it - the Lumpy must have fallen asleep, on his own, without bouncing, rocking, dummy, pram rides, car journeys, feeding, intravenous hard drugs, or ANY ARTIFICIAL HELP WHATSOEVER! It was surely a miracle, and the god of babies must be praised.

And then he started crying.

Oh well. It was a nice thought.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Crying Game

Let's talk about hormones. Post-birth hormones are basically akin to being kidnapped by a psychotically sentimental lunatic who locks you in an attic and plays Hallmark-channel weepie movies on a loop with a background of lump-in-your-throat songs remembered from your childhood, while continuously beating you about the head with a fluffy toy, and intermittently dowsing you in buckets of cold water. While threatening to throw your baby out of the window. And making you cake.

It's just like that. Really.

Things seem to be settling down a bit now, it must be admitted. I achieved my first day without crying at around the two-week mark, and now only resort to tears when Lumpy is crying at me and nothing I can do seems to help, and arrgggguuuuuuuhhhhyyyyyeeeeeeeeee am worst mother in the world. (This situation occurs fairly regularly).

The first two weeks were no way near this logical. Everything made me cry. Looking at Lumpy. Being in a different room from Lumpy. Photos of Lumpy. Looking at Mr Badger. Being tired. Leaving the house. Eating. Sleeping. Going to the toilet. Breathing.

The following are actual events which managed to reduce me to a sniffling, sodden, snot-drizzled wreck in the first two weeks:

  • Leaking nappies. There was a point (on about day 5, I think) where every nappy we put on leaked - dramatically, messily, and generally instantly. Wee would spurt from the top, soaking whatever clothes he was wearing, poo would explode from the leg cuffs, in all its clotted mustard glory. What made me melt down was the fact that this hadn't happened before, so obviously we'd started to fail at even putting on nappies - something we'd seemed capable of doing in the last five days. From now on, clearly, every nappy would leak, and we'd be doomed to soaked, poo-smeared clothes and sheets until we had managed to potty train him (probably not before the age of 14, knowing our skills). Needless to say, the nappies stopped leaking. At least until we started using reusables, which is a whole other blog post in itself.
  • Excessive, voracious, endless feeding. As the previous post shows, we have not really had a problem with getting Lumpy to take to the breast, nor has there been an issue with supply (in fact, rather the opposite - yes, we're talking soggy, milk stained t-shirts (worn proudly down the shops - I am mega sexiiiiie), and literal gushes in the middle of the night. We already have a freezer full of enough expressed milk to last Lumpy till university). For this, I am truly grateful. I was petrified of not being able to breastfeed effectively, and shudder at the thought of myself in a situation where he couldn't latch properly, or I couldn't produce enough, and he was hungry, and we were forced to supplement. That said, I have still managed to have several melt downs over the fact that he has been feeding too much. Seriously, the child would probably be quite content to be attached to me 24 hours a day, and has no concept of 'full'. He will eat until his little belly is swollen and distended, and then produces the most ungodly, raucous farts I have ever heard, let alone from someone who weighs less than a cat. He will literally bubble over with milk, till it's oozing out of every orifice. And he's still rooting and desperate to feed more. He goes through phases of feeding every half hour, which leave me weeping and desperate, convinced he can't possibly be getting any milk from me, as he would simply explode from feeding so long if he was. However, he'd put on 12ozs in 5 days at his last weigh-in, so we reckon he's probably getting enough. But still, sob wah wail, etc.
  • Blood test results. About a week in, I got a frantic call from one of the doctors at my practice, who'd been trying to get in touch with me for days (by calling our broken landline, which we'd repeatedly asked people not to, while desperately trying to force my mobile number onto them). He had the test results from the blood sample the hospital had taken a couple of hours after the birth (to check there was nothing untoward because of the blood pressure 'issue'). Apparently my white blood cell count was very high, and he was convinced I must extremely ill, fevered, and, in all likelihood, dead. I assured him that I felt absolutely fine, but he insisted that I come in to have another sample taken. As soon as I got off the phone from him, I naturally googled 'high white blood cell count', and discovered that I must have leukemia. Cue much sobbing, and pathetic declarations that 'at least I had given Lumpy life' before it would be cruelly snatched away from me. (the next blood test results were completely normal, of course).
  • Which table to sit at for dinner. My mother dared to ask me this question when she was cooking for us one night, and I howled that I couldn't be expected to make decisions like that, before collapsing face down into my Spag Bol.
  • Pretty much every present and card we received. And we received a lot. The postman is now petrified of me.
  • A charity appeal advert for Great Ormond Street hospital. There were babies. With wires and tubes. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
  • Banging my head on the same beam in the nursery three times in as many minutes. It hurt. Fantasies of axes taken to said beam, and howls of 'why can't we live in a normal house without stupid sticky-outy bits of wood and stone all over the place just made to smash babies' heads on.' Boo-hoo, sob, BONK! Repeat.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Lumpy and the Boob - A Tragi-Comic Love Story

Scene 1: The Hospital.
The first meeting is not promising. The Boob repeatedly and inexpertly pokes Lumpy in the face, managing to hit eyeball, nostril, ear: everywhere but the mouth. Lumpy decides to play it cool, and ignores this nipply suitor, preferring to sleep, gurgle, and occasionally smack himself in the face.
Several hours later, the Boob repeats its entreaties, this time calling on the help of a matchmaker (aka the Midwife) to convince Lumpy that this is surely a match made in heaven. Through the help of a strange lying-down position and some strategic head shoving, Lumpy deigns to greet the boob, and union is achieved. The angels rejoice, the Heavens erupt, everyone cheers, etc. etc.

Scene 2: Home, 2nd night. 10pm.
After a remarkably calm and peaceful first night, the Badger Parents are feeling smug. They have a Perfect Baby, who only wakes occasionally to feed briefly and efficiently, before falling back into deep and lengthy sleep. He will clearly be sleeping through the night within a week. This parenting business is easy, they think, heading up to bed on the second night - what is everyone complaining about? They are clearly crap parents, while we are gods of childrearing. A haa haaa ha haaa haaaaaa.
Lumpy wakes and demands to see the boob immediately. They must not be separated for a moment longer. Boobbooobboobbbbooooob....
Lumpy wakes. He must see his one true love this instant. This. Instant. They are betrothed in the eyes of the law and... nom nom nommmm.
Lumpy wakes. His every thought is Boob. Come to me Boob! I must have you now. Suckleslurpgrunteeep...

Scene 3: Day Three. The Milk Comes In.
The Boob has has a makeover, modelling itself on those much admired mammeries of everyone's favourite slapper, Jordan. Boob is now rock hard and torpedo-like, striking fear into the hearts of all who observe her. Boob is also somewhat incontinent. The cup runneth over, so to speak. Lumpy is deeply touched by this image change, and falls deeper in love, declaring he will never more be parted from the Boob.

Scene 4: Day Ten. Hospital. The Weigh In.
Lumpy is plonked on the scales. He was 7lbs 13ozs at birth, 7lbs 10ozs on day five. The Badger Parents hold their breath as the numbers flicker into digital life. Will he have put on weight? Has he been getting any nutrition from the Boob? Are they terrible, neglectful parents who have starved their innocent little baby? The display settles. 8lbs 6ozs. Lumpy has put on 12ozs in five days. The midwife is in awe. Lumpy expresses his feelings about the whole thing by unleashing a mighty piss all over the scales (the midwife kindly does not insist on reweighing him after the removal of this wee - the volume is such, he would probably have dropped back under 8lbs). Lumpy demands the Boob attend him immediately.

Scene 5: Every single day in the Badger household.
A terrible force is coming between Lumpy and his one true love, the Boob. This terrible force is the evil Badger Parents, who cruelly strive to keep the lovers apart for upwards of an hour at a time, using such vicious methods as nappy changes, baths, and some bizarre concept known as sleep. This is wrong and must be stopped. What God has joined together must no man put asunder, etc. etc. Boob! Booooooob! BOOOOOOOOOOOOB!!!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Lumpy has landed - Part 3, We'll really try to get him born this time. Honest.

"Hi, Charlotte," said the midwife, herding me gently into the birthing room. "How are you?"

"I feel like I need to do a poo," I said, because I am a delightful and witty conversationalist.

"That's probably your baby's head," said the midwife, unperturbed. This kind of sparkling repartee was obviously quite standard for the delivery ward. More importantly, she seemed to actually believe I was properly in labour and not just malingering. "I won't examine you just yet," she added. "It looks as if you're pretty established."

So she didn't just believe I was really in labour, she thought we might actually be having a baby, like, sometime soon. I was partly very relieved about this (I'd still been fairly convinced she'd examine me, find I was only 1cm dilated, and send me home in shame), but I was also concerned that maybe I was just doing a very good act of being properly in labour, and eventually, after nothing happened for several hours (or several days) she's start pelting me with fruit and turf me into the gutter. She seemed to have more faith in me than I did.

She looked over my notes, and read my birth plan.

"I'm afraid there's someone already using the birth pool," she said. "But I think she might have already given birth, so we might be able to get in there in a bit."

"I really need to do a poo!" I repeated, clearly delighted with the witticism and deciding it deserved a second go. "I'm going to the loo." I stumbled through to the en-suite and sat on the toilet. Surprisingly, there was no poo. But there was a lot of sunshine, coming straight through the window. It was hot, and really quite horrible. And I was wanting to push properly now, and didn't particularly savour the idea of dropping our baby down the toilet. Particularly not this sweletering, sun-cursed toilet. I got back up and went back into the main room, sheened in sweat.

I should pause now, and describe the room we were in. The Spires is an amazing unit - very unhospitally, with no doctors in sight, and hardly any machines that go beep. The rooms are all set up to be as home-like as possible - ours had a bean bag, and a strange, parachute-type silk, looped over and hung from the ceiling, along with a couple of chairs and a height adjustable bed. All of these came in extremely useful as I moved into the really serious, I'm-a-actually-gonna-push-this-baby-out-through-my-hoo-ha stage. I started on all fours, but then realized I kept collapsing forward, so that my forehead was on the floor. This meant that my arse was up in the air, and I was trying to push the baby uphill - not so clever. I then moved to hanging off the parachute silk, which was nice for a couple of pushes, but then I wanted to be even more upright. Gravity was my friend, and I was keen to embrace him.

I moved across the the chair, raised right up onto my knees. The moos were getting deeper, but strangely, there was absolutely no pain. The earlier contractions had been sort of painful, in a crampy, distracting kind of way, but now it was just productive effort, like a particularly satisfying burst of race pace on some smooth water in a perfectly matched eight, before the lactic acid kicks in (oh, come on. We had to get a rowing comparison in somewhere. Stop groaning).

Sometime around this point, the midwife wheeled a cot in, and I decided to stand up completely. Magically, the bed was at the exact right height for me to lean forward on, with Mr Badger across the other side, gripping my hands and arm wrestling me throughout the big contractions. There was also a fan, perfectly placed to blow cool air on my face. Our midwife, Becky, was clearly gifted with some sort of psychic ability, knowing just what was needed at any moment, and providing it, no questions asked. She was always there, offering reassurance (particularly when I felt like the head kept coming out a bit and then popping back in, and started to fear we'd be there forever, like some sort of horrific gynecological jack-in-the box), occasionally updating us on progress, and gently encouraging me to keep going and not to be scared.

Soon, the head was crowning. Mr Badger managed to text the prospective grandmothers about this milestone, without me realizing it, which demonstrates some pretty impressive skill (or just shows that I was away with the birthing fairies in my own little world entirely). I can honestly say that in the next few minutes I experienced some of the most extraordinary sensations I have ever felt. I can't describe what it's like to actually feel your baby pass out of your body, but I honestly wouldn't have missed it for all the slush puppies, penny sweets, and ice-cold champagne in the world (and I really, really, like slush puppies, penny sweets, and ice-cold champagne). There were some stinging sensations (where I'd break off briefly from the mooing, and go 'ow, ow, ow', which Mr Badger thought was comical understatement, but was actually appropriate from where I was standing). And then we were there. I felt the unmistakable moment that Lumpy's head passed completely through, followed by the smooth slide of the rest of his body. Lumpy had landed. We had done it.

An hour after walking (well, zombie-shuffling, but let's not split hairs here) into the hospital, Lumpy was born. The midwife made an excellent catch, with no fumbling of the slippery little fella, helped me to sit down on the beanbag, and placed our son into my arms. He was gorgeous, and perfect, and quite, quite unbelievable.

"This had better not be a particularly cruel dream," I said to Mr Badger, as he leant down to kiss us both. "If I wake up back at home in a minute, still pregnant, I'll be seriously pissed off."

We sat, cuddling for some time, leaving the umbilical cord to pulsate. Lumpy was a little bit wheezy to start off with, but was too chilled out to cry and clear his chest until they dared to take him away to be weighed, when he demonstrated the true power of his lungs (we actually haven't heard such powerful screams out of him since, but we live in fear of the day he rediscovers this power). We eventually moved up onto the bed, and were brought some lunch (excellent timing). I was halfway through a cheese and pickle sandwich, when the midwife said they usually asked people to wait until they'd delivered the placenta before eating. I guiltily put the sandwich down, and decided to take a brief sojourn into the bathroom to attempt this final stage, passing Lumpy to his daddy for a manly cuddle.

I sat on the toilet, which was blocked off by a cardboard tray to catch the wonders still to emerge from inside me.

"Should I push at all?" I asked the midwife.

"That can help, if you feel like it," she answered. I didn't admit, at this point, that seeing the umbilical cord still hanging out of me, I'd felt an urge to just pull on it and help things along. Luckily, and remarkably, I had resisted.

I gave a couple of gentle pushes, and suddenly plop! I laid a placenta. I looked at the frankly gigantic, liver-like thing in the tray, somewhat impressed that I had produced something like that with so little effort.

"Is that it?" I asked the midwife, just to be sure I hadn't actually pushed one of my essential internal organs out by accident.

"Yes," she said, whipping it away before I could start poking at it with my fingers.

In the meantime, the grandmothers had arrived and were busily cooing over their new grandson. The next few hours passed in a haze of disbelief and euphoria. I had a shower, and changed out of my now rather sullied 'birthing skirt' and into some rather swish silky pyjamas, and we moved into a recovery room, where Lumpy began his career as the most photographed, texted, and facebooked about baby ever. Largely unimpressed by it all, he slept aloofly, waking briefly to feed a couple of times, before returning to sleep. I scoffed a large and faintly confusing dinner (chicken curry with rice, plus a portion of mashed potato and peas, fresh pineapple, and a chocolate eclair. I ate it all, needless to say). The midwives said that we were welcome to stay overnight, or go home if we felt like it. After a few moments thought, we decided to go home, and just after 9 we were discharged, still a bit dazed by the speed of it all.

Hello Lumpy! Welcome to the family! Hopefully you won't think we're too odd and embarrassing. But you probably will. Oh well.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Lumpy has landed - Part 2, Channelling your inner cow

About 10 minutes from the end of the CD, I just couldn't lie still any more. And I suddenly had a very, very strong need to go to the toilet. I stumbled up and off the couch, and made my way upstairs to the bathroom. On the way, I shed my dressing gown, deciding that clothes were no longer tolerable or necessary. I got to the toilet, where, despite an increasingly strong urge, couldn't make myself poo. And then I noticed that there was blood. Quite a bit of blood, it seemed.

This was about the moment I finally admitted that this wasn't food poisoning. It was absolutely and definitely labour. And I was starting to feel a creeping, irresistible desire to start pushing.

With impeccable timing and the sixth sense for which I love him, Mr Badger had decided it was time to call the hospital. He told them that we'd been having contractions two minutes apart for over an hour. The midwife asked whether she could talk to me, but Mr B, hearing the continuing moos emerging from the bathroom, wasn't sure I'd be capable of that. I could just about hear him on the phone, and, between moos, kept trying to call to him. The blood. The blood seemed very important, and I wanted the hospital to know. Eventually he came upstairs, and I managed to relay the blood message. He in turn relayed this to the midwife, who assured him it was probably just a 'show' (and not an apocalyptic sign of impending disaster, as I naturally assumed), and then said that we should probably start making our way in.

I was now on the bathroom floor, completely naked.

"Right," said Mr Badger, managing to summon a calmness he probably wasn't feeling at all. "We have to get you dressed. What do you want to wear? A skirt?"

A skirt would be great, I agreed (moooooooooo!) And a bra, knickers, a top, shoes (mooo, mooo, MOOOOO!). Using the minute and a half or so I was now getting between contractions, we managed to get me at least reasonably dressed. At the same time as struggling into underthings, I called out instructions for packing the last few things into the hospital bag. I had vaguely thought about doing this the previous day, but seemed to have missed out on the traditional burst of nesting energy required to actually do this (just like I seemed to have missed out on the whole first stage of labour). Finally, Mr Badger went to put the bag (now actually containing some baby clothes and nappies) in the car, and I started my slow progress downstairs. Walking was still possible, but it was a slow, waddling, clumsy process, with many pauses to lean against walls and moo to myself. Out in the garden, mid-moo, I idly wandered if any of the neighbours could hear me, and were puzzling over what a distressed cow was doing in the middle of Temple Cowley.

In the car, I realized I couldn't - or, at least, didn't want to - sit down in the seat, so I braced myself up on my arms. And in this relaxed posture, I desperately tried to go to my 'special place' - the beach in the Maldives where we went on honeymoon (and then had a second honeymoon two years later, because, frankly, we're greedy, and love free cocktails just too much). I managed to go there for about 20 seconds, before the inner cow reasserted itself and required me to do some more mooing. And there ain't no cows in the Maldives, let me assure you.

Abut halfway to the hospital, Mr Badger realized that we had forgotten to bring my notes. These notes are like the talisman of pregnancy, filled with essential details, facts, secrets, and cryptic codes, without which you are not allowed access to any medical attention whatsoever. If we'd dared to turn up at hospital without these notes, they probably would have barricaded the doors and forced me to birth my baby in the gutter, probably pelting me with rotten fruit for good measure. Clearly, we had to go back and get them. But you try telling that to a lowing cow-woman, braced rigid in the passenger seat of an Audi, with a baby threatening to slither out at any minute. Since the only power of communication I had now was the moo, however, I couldn't really argue, so back home we went.

Mr Badger ran in to get the notes, leaving me to lick the windows and look doleful. Soon he was back, and we could start again. I remember this part of the journey only in patches - all the traffic lights (red), the taxi driver who wouldn't back down and forced his way onto our side of the road to get past, and the car park which had no spaces... and OMG, I'm gonna have this baby in the car now... eeeeeeeeeppp, moooooOOOOO!

Finally we found a space, which just happened to be about as far from the entrance as it was possible to be. I set off on the walk there, while Mr Badger got the bag from the car and followed. The CCTV footage from the next few minutes would be entertaining, I'm sure, as I stumbled from car to car, hung off any convenient signs and lampposts, and eventually braced myself on the fence just outside the entrance - you guessed it - mooing. A passing woman asked if she should get someone to bring us a wheelchair, which we politely declined (sitting being something of an issue), before gathering all our strength for the last burst to the lifts.

The Spires Unit is on the seventh - in other words, the top - floor. A lift arrived and we stumbled in, then started jabbing desperately at buttons. Before we could escape, however, several other people piled in, selecting all of the lower floors, then staring in vague horror at the woman daring to be in labour in a lift in a maternity ward. I turned my back on them, rested my forehead on the wall, and struggled to stifle the inner cow.

Fourth floor - DING! {moo} - fifth floor - DING! {moo} - sixth floor - DING! {moo} - seventh floor, ohthankgodatlast, MOOOO!

A midwife met us on the way in. I walked zombie-like towards her, sweat-glazed, and staring-eyed.

"I think you'd better come straight to the delivery room," she said. We agreed.


Sunday, 4 July 2010

Lumpy has landed!

Somebody really didn't want me to have that massage...

Lumpy, aka James William Peter Badger, was born on June 29th at 11.40am, weighing 7lbs 13 ounces. Punctual to the point of being, well, a day early.

So here's the birth story. Knowing my great skill for brevity (ahem) it will probably be divided up into parts (and also, the new boss of the house will no doubt interupt demanding BOOOOOOB). Be warned - there are gory(ish) details, and embarrassing revelations aplenty. So only read on if you're prepared to hear about my lady parts and other related regions. And poo, of course. You can't forget the poo.

So, anyone still here? Then we shall begin.

On Monday, after escaping the daytime TV bizarreness I went for my swim, and managed a respectable mile at a not too slow pace (for a beached whale, anyway. Though a beached whale presumably doesn't swim very fast, being beached. Anyway...) I walked home and settled down to the aforementioned 8 hours of tennis. I kept thinking I should get up and look through the last of the bags full of baby stuff that were waiting to be sorted and put into the nursery. I also thought I should probably sort out some baby clothes, nappies, and so on to put into the hospital bag. It was my due date in two days, after all. Not that he would come on his due date, of course. He was going to be late, no doubt. I'd been fairly sure of that throughout the pregnancy. And I hadn't had any signs of imminent labour - I was obviously in this for the long haul.

Late in the afternoon my nighbour, Jo, came round to drop off some spare nappies. She'd had a baby boy 8 weeks ago, and brought him with her.

"Right," she said, unstrapping him from his carrier and thrusting him into my arms. "Have a cuddle. That's meant to bring on labour. You are keen to hurry things along, aren't you?"

"Um, I guess so," I answered non-committally. I was fairly keen to get things moving - not because I was sick of being pregnant or even desperate to finally meet the little invader in my tummy, but rather because of the looming consultant appointment on Thursday, when I would be one day overdue, and was convinced they'd decide to induce me on the spot. I'd eaten a pot of fresh pineapple at lunchtime, but drawn the line at the second one. I'd upped my raspberry leaf tea intake, too, but only to two cups a day. So, yes, things could get moving, but maybe not all that soon. There was the massage to get to, after all. Lovely massage...

I cuddled Jo's baby, boggling slightly at the thought that I'd have one of these in a few days, and not really believing it. Something was sure to go wrong. The hospital would decide I wasn't really pregnant after all, and send me home, ashamed of the fuss I'd been making over the last nine months. Or the baby would just never come, and eventually everyone would get bored and go away. I couldn't actually have a baby, a real baby. That would be too weird.

Mr Badger came home, and we watched some more tennis and had dinner. These were some day-old chicken kebabs which I'd made for our barbecue the day before, and had been rather excess to requirements. They'd sat out in the sun for a while, attracting flies and other such delights, before I decided it would be better to put them in the fridge. (I have my Basic Food Hygiene certificate, don't you know. My food hygiene is officially basic, at best).

We headed up to bed and went to sleep just as normal. The night passed uneventfully, featuring sleep, mainly (ahh, I remember the days when nights featured sleep. They seem so long ago... But I don't want to ruin the end of the story (SPOILER: it involves a baby. That's all I'm saying.)

At 6.10am I woke up and glanced at the clock. Nothing really unusual in that - I'd been waking up fairly early for most of the pregnancy. There was a slightly odd sensation in my lower stomach - I'd had a couple like it in previous weeks and days, but always dismissed them as wind (my farts have been mighty impressive throughout the pregnancy, if I say so myself. Oh, come on. I'm just warming you up for what's to come. Girding your loins for you, so to speak). No doubt these would turn out to be more of the same. I got up and went to the loo, and had an equally impressive bout of the squirts (gird, gird! Think of it as a mental warm-up). So that was it, then. The kebabs. Food poisoning. The day before my due date. Another classy move by the Badger girl. Nice one.

I went back to bed and had a few more stomach cramps, but they were nothing to get excited about. I'm a bit of a pro at food poisoning, and like to get it at every opportunity. And I've had some major, spectacular cases - in Egypt, for example, where the stomach cramps really were something. In fact, I'd compared them to what labour must be like, at the time. Compared to those, these were pathetic. That kebab had been a wimp. I snorted at its patheticness, and picked up my 'Effective Birth Preparation' book. I was only just over halfway through, and had better get my reading in over the next few days. I would definitely make the massage, too. Food poisoning or not, I was getting my goddamned back rub.

The cramps came and went over the next few hours, but they were fairly ignorable, and didn't follow any sort of pattern. When the alarm went off, I told Mr Badger that my tummy was feeling a bit odd, but that it was probably nothing (and most likely a rogue kebab) and that he should probably just head to work. At a bit after eight I had a slightly more intense feeling. And a couple of minutes later I had another, similar, one.

"Oh ho, Mr Kebab!" I thought to myself. "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough, eh? Let's see what you're made of." (chicken, mainly. With some pepper, mushrooms, onion, and Delia-inspired barbecue sauce).

"Umm, this food poisoning might be a bit worse than I thought," I said to Mr Badger, as I lay on the bed and panted slightly. "And regular. They're getting a bit more regular."

I decided to go downstairs and make Mr Badger a sandwich for his lunch (as a good wifely soul, this is something I do every morning). This took rather longer than usual, as I had to keep stopping and concentrating through the stomach cramps. But I made it (ham salad, since you asked), and packed it up with the rest of his lunch. Then I went to lie on the couch and moan gently to myself. Mr Badger came downstairs, and, seeing me prostrate, decided he'd hang around for a while before going to work. The food poisoning cramps had now been coming every two minutes for over half an hour, it seemed.

We both began to suspect the kebab may not be the true culprit here. The kebab may turn out, after all, to be a red herring.

Mr Badger, being a technology nerd supremo, had downloaded an app onto his new iPhone which could record your contractions and show you how often they were coming, and how long you'd been having them for. We started using the app, and it confirmed how regular the feelings were. Every two minutes on the dot, each a minute long.

"I thought you were meant to get a nice break in between, this early on," I said, in between one of them. "And they're fairly intense, for the excitement stage." I was starting to feel a bit of self doubt. A first labour, I had been assured time and again, would take at least 12, and more likely 24, hours. We'd had it all planned - we'd stay at home for as long as possible. Watch some films, maybe a few of our favourite comedy episodes, eat a nice meal, and listen to the hynotherapy CD at least a few times, getting me into a nice, relaxed state before the real meat and potatoes part of labour began. That was the plan. And it was a good plan.

But I hadn't really bargained on the first stage being this intense, or the contractions this often. I wasn't sure I could handle another 12 (let alone another bloody 24) hours of this. And these were the mild, easy, gentle contractions. It was only going to get worse, surely.

I suddenly didn't think I could do this. It was going to be too much.

"We need to listen to the CD," I said to Mr Badger, slightly desperately. I needed to go to my safe place, our honeymoon beach in the Maldives. I could feel the birth I wanted slipping away. I was starting to feel scared. I couldn't do this, after all. What had I been thinking?

We put the CD on, and I tried to get into a comfortable position lying on the couch. I made my breath as deep and steady as I could and tried to focus in on the voice I had listened to so many times throughout this pregnancy. But I was still very aware of the contractions, and kept coming out of the hypnotherapy session to tap the iPhone and record the latest contraction. I was also finding it hard just to lie still and breathe through them. I was gravitating up to my knees during them, and making a noise which was very, very reminiscent of a cow. It was The Moo. And Mr Badger would become very familiar with The Moo over the next few hours...

TO BE CONTINUED... dum, dum, duuuuuuuuuuuuum!!!