Today, my lovely Lumpy, you are 9 months old. That's very old indeed. Virtually grown up, really. I expect you'll be wanting to borrow the car keys and stay out all night drinking with your friends soon. Well you can't. Not till you're a year, at least. Call me strict, but there have to be limits.
Good blogging mummies, I know, write special posts to their babies every month. As far as I can remember, the last one I did was at 12 weeks. Um, sorry about that. I'll do better in the future, promise.
It's fairly amazing how far you've come since eighteen months ago, when Mr Badger refused to believe me when I emerged from the toilet and waved this in his face:
Before long, I looked like a python that had swallowed a pig without chewing:
And then you spent the next 9 months eating everything that came near you (BOOB, cats, household electronics, soft furnishings, parents, tables, etc. etc.), leading to the mighty figure that is MEGA BABY.
Okay, so you can't quite crawl yet. But, man, crawling is for babies. You've got all the other essential skills mastered: sitting up (preferably on top of Mr DaddyBadger, to keep him in his place):
Bouncing (in '70s-stylee velour stripy tracksuit, natch):
Levitation (spoooooky. Okay, not really.):
And, of course, flirting (with shop assistants, little old ladies, other babies, lampposts, and, most often, cameras):
My amazing little man, I just can't wait to see where you're going next. Hopefully not up and running and on a collision course straight into our wine rack. Not until you've learned to use the corkscrew, anyway.
Nothing I can say can sum up quite how fabulously brilliant you are. From your pinball, jackpot-winning smiles, to your uncontrollable, cackling laugh, to your special extra-slobbery, somewhat bitey kisses. How did I ever get so lucky to be your mummy?
We went to stay with a couple of friends this weekend, who are due to have their first baby in August (and before we get started, let me just say that I did not punch my pregnant friend in the face, nor did I ever have any desire to. Just in case you were wondering).
For some reason, since having Lumpy I've felt like we're suddenly advocates for all of babykind. Which is fairly weird, as *whisper it* I've never actually been all that keen on babies. Mine, of course, is completely brilliant and lovely and wonderful and fills his nappies with nothing but rose petals and puppies. But others... to be honest, I always thought they were a bit sticky and squishy and smelly and squawky. I'm getting over that, and do now think that some other babies are okay, or even fairly nice, but it's still odd to find myself defending the little beasties.
Lumpy has, in my mind, become the representative of all babies. If he behaves, my pregnant friends will be reassured and think that babies are a GOOD THING. If he's an evil screamy grumpster, they will be plunged into despair and probably elect to abandon their newborn on a rocky hillside to be devoured by wolves.
Luckily, my friends are a bit more rational than me (not too difficult, seeing as I am a screaming loon...) and realize that even if Lumpy started waving a flick knife around and threatening grannies, it would have little influence over the future disposition of their unborn child. And (even more luckily) Lumpy behaved impeccably, joining us in the pub for a couple of pints and not starting any fights. We managed to smother him effectively during his night squawking sessions, and I repeatedly reassured them that their baby would no doubt sleep through the night from two weeks and under-eye suitcases are not an inevitable side effect of breeding.
Because I have always sworn that I will not be one of those people. One of those people with children who look witheringly at pregnant people and tell them to get as much sleep as they can, and go to the cinema, and enjoy being on their own, and going to the toilet, and breathing, etc. etc. etc. because they're not going to get the chance to ever again. What helpful, positive advice. Thank you so much! And please accept this punch on the nose as a token of our deep appreciation.
Even worse than this, though, are the people who attack those with newborns. Having a newborn is completely mental. All of a sudden, you have this person - who's not really a person, but more of a strange, noisy bug-creature - that you have to look after. For the rest of your life. And it keeps demanding things, but you have no idea what it's demanding, because it just shouts and shouts for no reason. And even when it's not shouting, it just stares at you in a blank, faintly disapproving fasion. While dealing with this cross little invader, you also have to cope with rampant hormones that leave you a gibbering, tearful, incapable idiot.
It's brilliant, basically, and exactly what you need to help make it even better is someone to tell you that it gets worse.
Less than a week after Lumpy plopped out, we went into Mr Badger's work to show him off. On our way out, someone we don't even particularly know accosted us. We'll call him Mr Twat.
Mr Twat peered into the pram.
"So this is Lumpy?" he said, the sneer already beginning to play on his twattish lips.
"Yes," we said, grinning like the exhausted idiots we were.
"How old is he?" asked Twat.
"Six days," I said.
"Oh, the easy bit!" exclaimed Twatster, a psychotic glint in his eye. "Just you wait till he's six weeks. That's when it gets hard."
And that's when I delivered a swift uppercut to his jaw and knocked all his teeth down his throat.
Sadly, I didn't really. But I should have done. Because he was lying. It didn't get harder at six weeks. Or at twelve weeks, or six months. I doubt it will at a year, or five, or fifteen. Or even when we have another one, which is the other favourite of the harbingers of doom and woe: "ohhhhh, just wait till you have two to run after. Then you'll really know how completely shit it is to have kids."
The truth is, it doesn't get harder. It just gets different. Yes, there are new things to deal with as the days, months and years pass, and if you want to be miserable and self-pitying you can decide those new things make everything so much more difficult than the marvellous, lovely, easy time you had in the past. But you'll be fooling yourself. Sure, newborns sleep a lot. But they don't always do that sleeping at night, and the rest of the time they are shouting at you. You do everything to make them happy, and the selfish little so and so's give you nothing back: not a smile, not a laugh, not a well made martini of an evening. And yes, I'm sure having two or more children is jolly hard work, but at least by the time you get to that point you've got a bit of experience under your belt and know that you've managed to get at least one child through babyhood without accidentally (or, indeed, deliberately) throwing it in a skip or flushing it down the toilet - something first-time parents really don't know. Basically, as time goes on you emerge from the hormone fog, you get to know your baby better, and you finally build a bit of confidence in your own abilities not to kill or maim your own child at every opportunity. It's very easy to look back on the past with gooey pink-tinted eyes, and conveniently filter out all of the grim bits. But just because you've managed to forget them doesn't mean those grim bits aren't very vivid for those living through them right now.
And that's why telling someone with a baby that their life is only going to get harder is both unhelpful and complete bollocks. It's nothing but bullying dressed up as informed concern, just like those who scoff at people's hopes to have a natural birth or use real nappies, or do anything that the other person didn't manage to do themselves. People who do it are just unloading their own frustration and disappointment onto others who dare to be so blindly optimistic that they think they can have children while still maintaining some semblance of themselves.
I think they all deserve punching. So do what I failed to do, and just sock anyone in the chops who dares to imply that your life is both ridiculously easy and about to gallop its way down the toilet. That'll teach them, the miserable gits.
*This rant was brought to you by Barking Badgers. Thank you for your patience.*
(not as if any evidence is required, but still...)
Mr Badger is currently away, throwing himself off mountains in Andalusia, so I am wrangling the Lumpy single handedly. As I was giving him a bath the other night, I thought that it would be nice to take some photos to remind the doting father of what he was missing (apart from continually interrupted sleep, of course. Moan, groan, grizzle, etc.) at first, it all went well. Lumpy looked suitably cute, giving his duckie a big kiss (i.e. biting it to death).
He also obliged by drinking his bath water and giving himself a comedy foam beard.
Then it all started to go a bit wrong. Lumpy, you see, is fascinated with phones and cameras. And what was I using to take his picture? Yes, a camera phone. Which is basically like baby crack to Lumpy. As soon as he sees it he musthavemusthavemusthave gimmegimmegimme booblady noooooooooow!!!! Rrrrrwwwoooaaaaaar! So, rather predictably, he started flailing towards the phone, desperately trying to grab it. And what did I, the intelligent and responsible parent, do? I kept taking photos, of course. Because, as stated above, I am a twat.
Did I also mention that Lumpy has recently learned to stand up? No?
About a nanosecond after I took this photo, the bath toppled dramatically, and rather predictably, sideways, spilling the water, and almost the Lumpy, down the plughole.
I didn't take a picture of that. Because I'm not that much of a twat. Almost. But not quite.
Wow! We got some sleep last night. Which is rare and unusual and rather wonderful. I was still up with the Lumpling between about 3am and 4.30am, but that was it. And the sun is shining, so I feel rather jolly and invincible. For once, I didn't just crawl back into bed as soon as I put him down for his morning nap, I actually got up (GASP!). And had a shower (WONDERS!). And put on clothes (YARP!). Unfortunately, I didn't manage to do any of this before the postman came, bringing me parcels, but hey ho. The poor man is used to my gigantaboobs looming at him of a morning from their woefully inadequate confines of a Primark vest top.
So. I am here. And... um...
Oh yes. To what do we think we owe this magnificent improvement in sleep? Quite possibly, shutting a door.
Yes, radical, I know. I have contacted publishers and they are very excited. The Shut The Door Sleep Method. It'll kick Gina Ford's arse, let me tell you.
Lumpy's room is just across the hall from our bedroom. Our bedroom is very small, so is his. The hall is very narrow. Basically, he is virtually in the bed with us. Since he was born, I've become an extraordinarily light sleeper and will leap from the bed at his slightest snort, squawk, fart, or bestial growl (we get lots of those). When he was actually in the room with us this didn't seem to matter quite so much as I'd work out whether he was really awake without actually getting out of bed. Now, though, I have to actually get out of bed, walk across a room, and go into another room. This wakes me up quite a lot more than staying in bed did, strangely enough. More importantly, I often end up waking up Lumpy by blundering in and poking him, to try and find out if he's awake. This is somewhat counterintuitive, but my powers of logic and quietness at four in the morning are not at their peak.
When we first moved Lumpy into his room we propped the door open, all the better to hear the snorts, grunts, and meeps. Unfortunately, this meant we usually woke him up when we went blundering to bed (we like a bit of blundering in our house), so we eventually started pulling the door to. But, essentially, we didn't shut it. And then, last night, in an effort to stop me racing in and disturbing our poor child the minute he dared to make any sort of noise, we finally did. And, wonder of wonders, we all seemed to sleep better for it. I still heard him the minute he cried, and got to rush in and start poking him to my heart's delight. But I wasn't woken up by every innocent night noise. It was marvellous.
Of course, now I've blogged about it, no doubt he'll scream his guts out every 40 minutes all night long from now till November. Ho hum.
Well. Hello there. It's been a while. Sorry about that. I tend to sit down on the couch on Monday, blink, and suddenly it's Thursday week. Not sure how that happens. But here I am! Attempting to post an actual post! Hurrah for me and my massive efficiency.
I've started thinking about going back to work. (Shhhhh... we have to whisper or Lumpy will hear us. He thinks he has me trapped here forever, you see. But no, I will escape! Freedom will be mine! Freeeeeeedom... to, um, sit at a desk and make up words. While trying to stay awake because CLEARLY THIS CHILD IS NEVER GOING TO LEARN HOW TO SLEEP AND I WILL BE COOING TO HIM AT 3AM WHEN I'M GREY AND OLD AND DEAD, AND... what? Was I shouting there? I'm terribly sorry. Where was I...?)
Ah, yes. Work. I'm feeling rather torn about it to be honest. Half of me despises the thought of having to leave my ickle babba to the care of others and become an office drone once more. I keep wondering what I'm going to end up missing. Maybe he'll learn to walk while I'm in a tedious meeting about print runs and cover designs. Perhaps he'll say his first words while I'm picking my nose by the watercooler. No doubt he'll beat up another child for the first time while I'm browsing the Internet pretending to be terrible busy and important indeed. It's heartbreaking.
But also. Also. It feels like a step back to being a normal person again. To being me again. And to earning some dosh once more. That would be nice. Though as I failed so utterly at moving to London and getting a proper big person's job like all my friends did, I really won't be getting very much dosh at all.
I'm going back for just four days a week, which snips a nice 20% off the old wage. Plus we have to find a suitable baby prison in which to deposit the Lumpy while I'm not there to crack the whip and keep the cage clean.
And therein lies the rub, really.
Childcare is a total and utter nightmare. It's hideously, prohibitively expensive, for one thing. And it's also woefully inadequate for my little prince. What? You have a three to one ratio at this nursery? That means three members of staff for each child, right? What? No? Oh... And I also notice, these toys don't seem to be gold plated. He won't like that. And the other children are allowed to touch them? This really won't do at all.
But it's either a nursery or leaving the cats to look after him. And we all know where that would lead.
The place where I push words around (i.e. work) doesn't have an on-site nursery, but it does have places in various nurseries in town. Not enough places, of course, because that would be too easy, and make its employees lives just that bit easier and more straightforward. And how on earth are they expected to keep up with their disgusting fornicating, constantly spawning workers?
Because we are all so keen on dropping sprogs at this place, you have to put your name down on a waiting list. Now, I thought I knew how waiting lists worked. You got on them, you wait, and when you reach the top of the list, you get what you were waiting for. Right?
WRONG, suckers! That's not how our crazy nursery waiting list works. It turns out that they just randomly decide to offer people nursery places based on whim and fancy. Because they have nice hair. Or their name starts with a P. Things like that. Nothing to do with how long they've been on the list or anything like that, because, oh no, that would be just what they'd be expecting. And we have to keep them on their toes these mothers. Otherwise they'll start getting all out of hand and trying to breastfeed the CEO or eat other people's children. Probably.
Way back in January they rang me up and offered me a place. Because I didn't want one then. I actually considered taking it up and just paying for it until May, but this would have ended up costing thousands of pounds and I have about £3.64 at the moment, so it wouldn't really have worked. I have a friend who had a baby five days before me, who also works at Word Pushing Place. She was offered the same place in January after I had turned it down. Because of this, I stupidly assumed that I was above her on the list. Because I am an idiot who doesn't understand the ancient lore of ye olde mystical nursery waiting list, clearly.
Because yesterday, when seeing said friend, she told me that she'd been offered a place at one of the nurseries for May. Which baffled me a bit, as I hadn't heard anything, and had just assumed there were no spaces till September.
So I gave the nursery lady a call. I was full of righteous anger and indignation, and prepared to kick up a right stink. The conversation went a bit like this:
"Oh, hi. My name's Mrs Badger and I'm currently on the nursery waiting list."
"Oh. Hello scum."
"Um, yes. You see, I'm a bit confused, as I have a friend who's also on the waiting list, who has a baby exactly the same age as mine, and she's just been offered a place. But in January I was offered a place before her, so..."
"It doesn't work like that. You don't have a 'place' on the waiting list. The nurseries just look at everyone who wants a place and chooses the one they think suits the place best. It's kind of hard to explain (to stupid people like you)."
"Oh, right. But..."
"They probably like the other baby more. It's probably cleverer. Prettier. Less vomity. Something like that."
"Right... ok. But..."
"Sorry, but that's all I can say. I don't have any influence over it. It's all up to the nurseries. I'll let you know when they have a place for you and your skanky inadequate baby. Which will be never."
"Um. Thank you."
Yeah. When it comes to the crunch, I'm not all that good at righteous indignation, it seems. I go all humble and polite. And then cry for a bit once they've put the phone down on me.
The plot thickened later when the friend with the special, nursery-desirable baby texted to tell me that she'd turned the place down. You see, this nursery is quite a long way from work, and on the other side of town from us.
So, in theory, the place is still free.
Did I then snatch the phone up again and ring the evil nursery lady back, demanding that the place be given to me and my sub-standard, sick-covered baby immediately?
No. Of course I didn't. I sent her an email about childcare vouchers, in the oblique hope that she'd reply with a "...and while we're at it, that place? It's yours! We love you and Lumpy really! (scum)"
She didn't. She answered the question about vouchers. And that was it.
So now I'm waiting. Like the idiot that I am.
And I've filled in the forms for the big, not so nice nursery just up the road. That had space when I enquired a month ago, but probably won't now.
Oh, well. Lumpy can always come to work with me. I have drawers. And my boss likes him. He ate my keeping in touch days form when I went in for my returning to work meeting (Lumpy, that is, not my boss). That's recycling! He can get a job as a recycling unit. Sorted.