Sunday, 27 December 2009

Happy holidays

What do you give the neighbours who, such is their capacity for etiquette, present you with a card printed "You're Great Neighbours" featuring a picture of a peaceful snowy alpine village (just like our hood, init)? They also sent flowers during weekend building work, and champagne on the birth of D-Bubz. They are impeccable. So how did we, their shambolic alter-egos, react? By giving them a cheapo card and a half-eaten box of chocolates, and oh how I wish I were joking, but on the bright side they didn't catch me shoving the dubious booty through their letterbox.

Apart from that, it was a lovely crimbo, though now traditionally a time for whisky and despair as throughout the land the whirring of cashpoint mini-statements reminds folk just how much cash they've wasted on being festive instead of saving it up for the season of drear, unless you're one of those peeps for whom life really kicks in with the January sales, in which case enjoy being trampled by the masses in competition for that ghastly DFS sofa on spesh...I wish I had your iron constitution.

Sorry. Its just that I saw the advert for, whose services I shouldn't really be advertising unless I want to endorse His Ronsealness (aka Dale Winton)'s cadaverous appearance urging all the rentachav, overdraft-mired types to start flogging their jewellery by mail to receive an alleged couple of hundred or so 24 hours later, like some blinged-up Ghost Of Christmas Just Past. The contrast between this grubby cashing in and the fabulous lives of those celebs I envied so much in the December issue of Marie Claire (if you must know, Kimberley from Girls Aloud featured heavily, and yes I KNOW about the accent but still suffer from the jealousy), couldn't be more poignant. It makes me angry in the same way seeing Anthea 'Sugar-flavoured snot' Turner advertising GMTV Bingo to desperate housewives - if your career is on the slide, can you really justify espousing such shady causes just to relight your bank account? But of course you can. Of course. Anything goes these days, and to be fair if I had any gold right about now, I'd definitely be thinking of flogging it, such is the power of dreadful advertising (and craggy-faced TV has-beens).

But sod all that, getting v excited re our incredible freebie holiday which was increased when lovely friends round the corner lent me their baby beach tent. So now Dylan is free to indulge his fave pursuit (grappling with a blanket, or in this case lightweight sarong) while being hopefully less likely to get sand in his eyes. Yeah! Although I am still gripped with night-time terror re dropping him off a boat, or accidentally sending him to sea on a lilo. Not that I 'do' lilos, but there was this one incident in Thailand where we acquired one blown along the beach which we fought over for several hours until karma made it blow away from us too, and I can report that it was excellent for lazy snorkelling, although there may not be so much of that in the Canaries, given that a) there is no coral reef, just lots of lovely sand (I think) and b) I will not have my mind on the job, worrying about my baby sitting innocently on the beach prey to every passing mossie and mistral (no, not the painter in the televised melodrama of yesteryear, but rather a sudden mini-tornado the likes of which I don't know the Spanish word for but had better find out).

In other holiday news, I am wondering how we will pack five islands into seven days, and whether that means we have to be ready to go at all times (probably a good idea considering our penchant to spread chaos across any hotel room in a matter of hours, but a bad one for the same reason); as well as anxiously waiting delivery of my two purchases from Bravissimo of their uplifting swimwear, and wondering whether I should have gone for the very tailored, slightly boring yet undeniably St Tropez-esque one piece number instead of the disco Barbie, less supportive, belly-baring numbers (a leopard doesn't change its print) - but only time, and their delivery service, will tell.

So eek, I am going on holiday in two weeks and that is still not enough motivation to force out a single sit-up. Not even J's daughter's helpful assertion that I still look a bit preggers can make me buy a Wii fit, that new shouty Davina workout DVD, or consider joining a gym. Plus am so bored of the park that my daily trip there (which I promised myself as way of getting back in shape) has turned into a weekly event. I am too fecking lazy to exercise unless it happens accidentally (sex, housework, lifting baby, stressing out). Even when I worked in a gym and had access to all free facilities, I didn't exercise. Am a lost cause!

Anyhoo, another exciting postal development was the arrival of D-Bubz' passport - collective aaaah! - he looks so sweet and serious in his pic and more than ready for some fun in the sun, as befits one born in the swish district of Westminster with a mother who listed her occupation on his birth certificate as 'writer', based entirely on this blog. He's a bohemian rhapsody, a west Londinium dandy, and now he's even got a top that says dude (although true to babyish form was more taken with the wrapping than the actual pressie, and quite right too).

I did quite well on the present front - for a start, I won't be needing to purchase handcream until at least 2012, and managed to control my gift envy (beware of assisting one's partner too well in the buying of presents for other females, else you'll find yourself in the same predicament, ie wanting to rip said gift from recipient's hands on basis of underwhelming response), but have now entered the realm of being just as happy with gifts for my son as self, although this may not be a lasting state. And something else now I am a parent - this is the first year that NYE has been a cause of zero anxiety, planning, or even headspace - I think we're just staying in with some booze and the breast pump, Jools Holland may even feature - and that in itself is very, very strange....but strangely calming too. No tickets, no guest lists, no drama....WTF?!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ding dong merrily, I'm high

We won! We are going on a fabulous trip to 5 of the Canary Islands on the 13th-20th Jan, and I'll be telling you all about it as it happens. 5* accommodation, loads of activities, and average January temps of 25c. YAY!

It still feels unreal as generally I do not win stuff, esp stuff I really want, so somehow the good karma fairy has found us and done her swishy wand thing: you rock, fairy. Its going to be amazing, and J's 6-yr-old daughter is coming too, making him really happy and completing the familial picture. So its going to be a very merry Christmas for us all...ho ho ho!

Normally, I hate January. Now I've got Dylan, its a bit different, as its hard to hate anything when you've been blessed with such a beautiful, smiley, joyful baby, but I still wasn't exactly looking forward to it, and suffer from SAD, which is rubbish when you live in the UK. So this really is the shiz, and I'm sure he knows that something is up, as he's being even more happy than norm. And I've kick-started the post-baby holiday wardrobe (always a tricky one) after impulse-buying a gorgeous ruffled navy shift and hot pink faux-Chanel clutch (I'm all about the practicality, but as I'll be clutching a baby too it luckily has a tuck awayable, over-body strap) from New Look - if it's good enough for Beyonce, its good enough for moi:, so I'm feeling not only festive, but fabulous too. Tackling the swimwear is another issue, however: I can theoretically still fit into my old bikinis, and they'd look great on a Pirelli calendar shoot, but as I'd like people to talk to my face, not my chest, and be able to swim without fear, I think I'd better go find the budget version of cruise collections pronto...

Right, I'm off to do last-minute panic shopping! Christmas, doncha love it?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Beat the winter blues (if we're lucky)

So Wednesday was rather exciting, because we went to a casting to become ambassadors for the Canary Islands, which would involve taking a 5* trip there in mid-January (oh, dear, the things one does to be an ambassador!), under the banner of 'Say no to winter blues', which we certainly would. We dressed Baby D as a Christmas elf, and it even helpfully snowed to complete the festive picture, which seemed to amuse the panel of judges from the Canary Island tourist board no end (although hopefully increased our chances due to bad weather keeping other families away).

It was strange turning up at a casting event with nipper in tow; cool young singles vying for the opportunity cooed 'Ahhhhh!' as we trotted past avec pram, feeling a bit like aliens. But D couldn't have been better behaved - he slept all the way there, woke up for the interview and then failed to whinge til we'd finished. If we were being judged on cuteness of baby, we'd be a shoo-in.

There was one sticky moment where J metioned Formentera, which we'd visited on a trip to Ibiza and loved - the panel thought he was confusing it with Fuerteventura, clearly a taboo. But I think they realised he didn't mean it like that...must be like confusing the Isle of Man with the Isle of Wight. Or Penrith and Penryn. Actually, I think you could be forgiven for that last one. But the rest of the interview went smoothly, and we were filmed afterwards talking about the experience, which was fun and made us think we maybe had a chance. The trip itself sounds amazing, in fact I don't dare to hope as it would transform our winter. And we have to wait until the 23rd to find out, so am keeping everything crossed until then. PLEASE PICK US! If they do, you'll be hearing alot more about the fabulous Canary Islands, so watch this space...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Go comp-aaaargh

This morning I woke up with the song to that advert for the comparison search engine site in my head, you know, the one starring the fat twizzly-moustached tenor and his floating arias, urging folk to stop thinking about the clever branding of that other comparison site (which has used the differences between the words market/meerkat to such fabulous effect), and click on his instead. He even has an online identity - Gio Compario (a productive afternoon was clearly spent in the pub by the creative department), and, like his furry nemesis, a Facebook fan page (2687 members compared to Aleksandr Orlov's 615,766 -I mean who would you rather be a fan of, a comedy-accented playboy version of the cutest animal on the planet or a fat annoying faux-Italian? Simples!)

They have achieved this early morning seepage into my weary psyche by coming up with a jingle so brain-drillingly catchy that even Pete Waterman must be asking how they roll. It, though this may well have featured in the pitch literature as a plus point of the campaign, makes me want to garrot Gio Compario with his twizzly moustache, then feed him to the cast of True Blood. "GO COMPAAAARE! GO COMP-AAAARRGGHHH!" In fact, if that was the follow-up ad, I'd visit the site for sure.

Anyhoo, it doesn't matter much, as I find myself with precious little needing insurance (except my son, and I haven't got around to it yet - I'd say several million to protect the perfect sphere of his head with another couple of mill for his pointy little chin) as the year draws to a close. No car, no new electronic gadgetry, and as for bling - I'm not that kinda girl (although I wish I was). I've been thinking I should make a will, being a mother now and all, but the fact is - I don't have much to leave, so the process could prove rather embarrassing: "To my son, I bequeath my laptop, which may have some kind of virus and is very slow to load Facebook these days" - at least he'll get away without inheritance tax.

One thing I do have in abundance right now, although it might not work in a legal context, is flesh. About an extra 10 kilos, if my mum's scales are to be believed. While it is very sweet of all who have said "You've really got your figure back!", what they are neglecting to mention is that I've also got some of somebody else's, and would quite like to give it back.

Trying on clothes is interesting: I have to squeeze and force bits of errant jelly into stiff material which would rather not receive it, thank you very much. And here's the thing: although I know I have enough fat reserves to deal with the extra 500 cals a day breastfeeding requires, so this and a sensible diet are all I need; now I feel cheated if I haven't had the requisite man-sized portions, extra butter and chocolate snacks of a morning, and think nothing of adding dollops of mayo to everything I eat (even the choc). Serves me right for listening to mother at the onset and deciding that 3000 cals a day was the way forward. For the record, its not. Hold the front page!

Before I gave birth I was convinced getting back into my size 8s was a simple matter of walking briskly round the park avec pram a few times a week, I now realise that was stupendously optimistic. But god bless optimism, where would we be without it? I even bought some control pants (the kind of garment I'd previously looked at with a patronising smile and pitying shake of the head), but optimism led me to buy them in a size so small it took a good 5 mins to get them on, which was good for my fragile (compared to before, and I don't need Gio's website to tell me) ego. Ditto not understanding that the chest of a milkmaid requires a size larger than 12. Denial: not just a river in Africa or a stubborn infatuation, but the mind of a postnatal woman. God bless.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Slippery nipple

You know what, breastfeeding is actually the shizzle. I really thought I would resent it quite a lot, being that it would prevent me from returning to a pre-pregnancy state of mind and all that for a few more months, but honestly, its more effective than an AA meeting, and more rewarding too. Nothing can replicate the maternal joy of seeing his little boot button eyes stare up at me while sucking noisily, that unconscious and total dependency (as well as the fact that in Baby D's eyes, a nip and some of the white stuff is as much of a party as it gets - he's gonna go nuts when I start him on the baby rice), making me realise (as its easy to forget in our sciencey times), that I'm an animal and proud of it. And, the big sell if you're as lazy as moi, its easy - no sterilising, no bottles, no heating, no testing, just whip it out and you're good to go.

Consequently, the electric breast pump I purchased at great expense and in a state of high agitation ("I NEED NEED ONE NOOOOW OR THE WORLD WILL END") a whole month back, remains in its box, as do the 'pump and save' milk bags (its like a 24-hour garage around here). I also have the steriliser, and ditto - for some reason, I am in complete denial re getting into the expressing zone, and its starting to get embarrassing.

I need to get a move on, if I want some festive drinkie fun - apparently its not an instant thing, either, and your boobs need to get used to making the extra. And the most important issue, which may make the whole enterprise a major problem, is that my little boyo needs to be willing to take to the bottle. And at this stage of his development (8 weeks, fact fans), he doesn't even know what a bottle is. Are we rating my chances? Not so much, but I'm finally on the case...

Mine's a large one. Hold the milk!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mother in the hood

That first week with a newborn is rather like the start of a torrid love affair - dazed grin, chafing nipples, pillow perm - with the obvious differentation that should your object of lust require their nappy changing six times daily, it may well dampen the ardour. Walking around (or in my case, doing a John Wayne) in a bubble of love, overwhelmed by the presence of this new little dude in our lives. Beaming smugly as the compliments started to flood in, nodding vehemently at every affirmation of his cuteness and general loveliness, on top of the world like a Carpenters song.
Once the shock of his presence had started to wear off, however, I started to run the whole gamut of emotions (I used to think 'gamut' was a slutty Audrey Hepburn, but apparently not) - checking the rise and fall of his chest every time he slept, fretting over milk production, and bursting into tears at the thought of being responsible for something so perfect, with Philip Larkin's most famous words constantly ringing in my ears. Would I fuck him up, however honourable my intentions? Then back to happy happy joy joy, then oh shit how will we afford the school fees, then suddenly he's 17 and demanding expensive footwear, and then I'm weeping over a nappy spillage like stain remover was never invented. But, god - not wanting to change anything, so overwhelmingly amazing becoming a parent is. No wonder Kensal Rise was overrun with them - it really knocks spots off the office.
My hormones went into overdrive (and it didn't help that the magic shrinkage of my belly ceased around day 6, just as I started to believe in the power of the cheesecake diet). Having always been something of a weeper, I now had to avoid nature documentaries in case of encountering cruelty to baby animals (the leopard seal bit in Life, where he kills the baby penguin, was worse than the Exorcist in the horror stakes), tiptoe around emotive language (when a friend, not known for her subtlety, turned up in week 2 and started a casual convo re cot death, it unleashed a storm of upset which lasted an entire evening - this made me feel a bit stupid until another friend, also a mother, confessed she couldn't even say the 'C' word), and try and rein in my overactive imagination (empathy is both a blessing and a curse). It was a wibbly wobbly time. The first time he really cried, cross at having his nappy changed on day 3, I stared fascinatedly at his red face, little tongue protruding, all the effort he put into showing displeasure. He was a sentient being, not some offshoot of our vanity, and this the most overwhelming thing of all.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Welcome to the jungle...

I did it! I gave, like, birth. Didn't think was going to, for a while - in fact, I thought I could well end up as the world's first eternally pregnant woman, and was already imagining the various ways I could make a living off the back of that fact (This Morning, Loose Women, even Oprah if I was as lucky as old Susan Boyle). But then I went into labour, just before the official dawning of the '2 weeks over' date. Yes it hurt. But yes it worked.

It started on Tuesday evening (that's Tues 6th Oct), shooting out of bed at 4am, at the mercy of a rather violent stomach cramp. Nuts, I thought. It would happen when I'm tired. Of course, that was only the beginning - they escalated slowly through Wednesday, and by the evening I was variously puking, cranking up the currents on my Tens machine, cursing the imbecile who decided it was a good idea to advise me to try and sleep between contractions - er, only if you enjoy waking up from a pleasant doze into a screaming nightmare - and pacing up and down the lounge, grim look plastered to face, pillow tucked under arm (I have no idea why) to soundtrack of reggae courtesy of Augustus Pablo (again, I have no idea why), just daring J to laugh. When I could handle no more (about 1.30am, showing me to be a remarkable model of reticence), we somehow manouevred me and my belly into the car (seatbelts not an option at this juncture and, indeed, junction) and J drove like the proverbial clappers to St Mary's Birth Centre, Paddington. As I lurched down the road, clutching my stomach and weaving, I was given an aggrieved look by a staggering drunk, who clearly thought I was busting his style (and I suppose I was).

You may remember me waxing rather descriptive about the joys of the birth centre, and indeed you'd be right - there are white fluffy towels in abundance, soft and beauteous to the touch, large birthing pools which scream 'heeled mules or Moscow Mules' and the fabled purple glitter disco birthing chair. However, it is only in the heady throes of labour that the real nature of the birth centre becomes apparent. Apparently I thought it a good idea to book into a place where pain relief consists of sucking on gas & air - to clarify, this only gets you high when you are not, in fact, in agony - staffed by midwives who are qualified to assist in the pushing/dragging business, but not to insert morphine into your jacksie, unfortunately. And only when firmly ensconced in the second stage of labour (thats where it really really REALLY hurts, as opposed to merely really really hurts) did the colossal stupidity of this commitment hit home. I was now going to have to endure one of life's most painful gifts armed with nothing stronger than a full set of fingernails and a gimp-esque mouthpiece worthy of an S&M bash. And as for the purple disco birthing chair - this, I can report from grim experience, would not look out of place in the dungeons of the Marquis de Sade, or possibly Bluebeard; Donna Summer wouldn't touch it with a purple disco bargepole.

Towards the end of the night, when I had thoroughly exhausted the midwives on duty whose shifts were due to end at 7am, I realised there may not be a coward's way out of the whole situation. Until then I had been holding on to a faint hope of salvation - that baby would fall out, or compress itself into a tiny being capable of squeezing through a keyhole, a la mice. But sadly we were dealing with humans, and as I settled in to the agonising business of pushing babs out, one excrutiating half inch at a time, I realised that this was what all the fuss was about, that this was it. No 'whoosh plop' for me, no sirree - more of a 'go on, that's brilliant, well done, well done!' 'is it nearly out yet?' 'er no, but you're doing just great'. Whoopeedoo, pass me the party hats, grrlfriend!

Growing weary of such snail-like progress, I hopped off the iron maiden, sorry birthing chair, and dived bumpfirst back into the birthing pool - hold the front page, this delivery was CANCELLED. It hurt TOO DAMN MUCH, so sayonara to that. If they wanted the baby out, they could flipping well cut it out, sod the stomach muscles and slow recovery. Or tempt it out with a bit of cheese, as a male friend helpfully suggested a couple of weeks back. I had already lost my dignity (turns out that when you push, other substances may emit prior to babies, and may possibly be caught in a net by your erstwhile, modern partner, and that you will barely even notice; similarly, that gas & air may make you puke heartily all over said fluffy white towels without a hint of regret), I sure as hell wasn't going to lose my mind to boot. Boot? You see, time to stop the madness, right now.

Luckily, the exhausted midwives' shifts had finished, and two other midwives, bright-eyed and bushy-barneted, rocked up. They weren't standing for any of my nonsense (currently, this consisted of attempting to get dressed and walk my way up to the labour ward to find the good stuff even though, as people kept telling me, it was Too Late). So they nasty-copped me into sitting back down in the (burning) hot seat and giving things another whirl. With the result that, at 8.47am on the 8th October, my baby slithered (the best way I can think to describe it) out, was placed on my chest, and stared at me noiselessly with huge dark eyes. So this was the person I'd been carrying around, this was the strong heartbeat which had comforted me throughout the entire pregnancy, boom-boody-boom-boody-BOOMBOOMBOOM, this son? Yes, it was a boy, and J leapt into the air with shining eyes, I looked at his willy to make sure, and I lay back, insensible with relief, to savour this moment that I'd sweated, screeched, and pushed for. I don't think I'll ever forget it...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Just sing already, fat chick

OK, so resembling Mr Greedy post-Haagen Dazs binge is starting to get a little old (rather like my placenta). Its got to the point where tapping someone on the shoulder in a shop to ask them to make way is a weary pastime - they glance, they move a fraction; I tap them again, they look down, their mouth slackens in disbelief; they swiftly shift as if to let Moby Dick and the participants of Celebrity Fit Club make passage, flattening themselves against the baked beans and just resisting a shout of "Thar she blows! To the boats, and may God protect ye!" as I pass.

I feel like a comedy prop (Tweedledee, back end of pantomime horse, Jo Brand) of the highest order: personally, if I was talking to me, I wouldn't be able to hold back a giggle or three, or restrain myself from pushing to see if I wobble like a Weeble (but don't fall down). I just look really, really funny, and am spending at least 20% of my time thinking about waists, hourglasses and belts cinched tight around ribless bodies, or pressing my size 8 high-waist Warehouse shorts caressingly against my cheek and murmuring "Soon, my pretties, you will be on me once again.....or will you? Will you??" And then I weep. Well, nearly.

So I grow weary of feeling like the punchline to a joke, and never was this more apparent than while encountering a traffic warden recently, accompanied by two equally preggers friends. Seeing him standing sinisterly by the car, we all started to uber-waddle across the road, waving our arms to make him desist from issuing the ticket...."But look...we're PREGNANT!" It was too late, but am sure he's had a few sleepless nights since, and dined out on it a few times: "So I look up right, and there's these three pregnant women running towards me...well trying to....I thought they were gonna drop right then and there...boom boom!" (Drum roll, appreciative laughter, more wine, cheese straw.)

Hey ho, it'll all be worth it I know. Am now half a week 'late' and showing no signs of incipient labour (apart from the gigantic gut). Baby is clearly very comfy in there, despite the lack of guest bedroom or incense. I am pretty comfy too, considering - my hands have stopped feeling like hams, my feet not too sore, my backache non-existent - really, its fine. But every encounter with a normal-sized friend reminds me that I am in fact a pot-bellied pig, and even J has started sighing wistfully in rememberance of abs past. "I just want my skinny baby back" he admitted bleakly the other day, when trying to lift me up and finding my feet stuck stubbornly to the floor. And I am pretty sure he wasn't referring to the svelte nature of our unborn child...

Oh and I made apple crumble the other morning. At 8.30am. I think that says it all.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Bulking up

I've noticed something about my shopping tendencies in late pregnancy; rather like my body, my purchases have tripled in size. I am no longer capable of buying a 2-pack toilet roll without serious misgivings - no, dammit, gimme an economy-sized, bumper 24-pack, and throw in a month's supply of kitchen roll while you're at it. 3-for-2 deals are the stuff my dreams are made of, and I actually purchased a 4-pinter of milk for the first time in ever the other day. Can I be - gasp - turning into a right old mum??

Anyhoo, only time will tell, as I am now officially a day past my EDD (that's estimated delivery date, baby virgins), and have 13 more before those paedos (that's paediatricians) in white coats lean on me to go down the road of induction (that's having labour artificially started, rather than a week of pints in the hospital staff room and being the recipient of multiple timetables) and all that it entails - namely increased pain, probable need for epidural, and being unable to try delivering in the purple disco birthing centre. Hopefully this scenario will be avoided, although all the walking, shagging, scoffing of curry and pineapple and quaffing champers (surely this last was made up for pure enjoyment's sake) will not change a thing if the baby really isn't up for coming out before the 42-week cutoff point.....come out, little dude/ess, the lack of water's lovely!

On the other hand, it could happen at any time, a knowledge simultaneously exciting and paranoia-sparking - I am now restricted to a 2-mile radius in my solo wanderings, less J gets worried, and was completely confused when a swine flu-afflicted friend called me in tears earlier and asked me to cover her shop for a few hours - hello, I can't be put into any position of responsibility, don't you know I am a TICKING BOMB? I could go off AT ANY MOMENT! In front of a customer! I think she was delirious....either way I declined, for the good of the neighbourhood (and my dignity).

So finally, le hospital bag is packed! I know you're meant to do it about 3 months before labour starts, but I've always been lame that way, so today it was finally done properly like. And I am really happy with the amount of stuff, the way I packed it, and the bag itself. I've been admiring it from all angles, esp the way the Decleor washing bag is perched so jauntily atop. Its a red tote, btw, with a charming drawstring fastener. Now you may think all this focus on the accoutrements of labour is a kind of denial re the visceral truth come baby-day, and you'd be right. A vajayjay is for life, not just for suffering hideous pain, thus I hope you'll forgive my reluctance to dwell on the seamier side. I'll be there soon enough.....tra, la, la *puts fingers in ears*...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Avin' a geezer...

I was lucky enough to meet Ray Winstone a couple of months back, when he popped into my office to do a voiceover. As I had to speak to him regarding script, and was wearing a tight dress that day, he clearly felt obligated to mention my emergent unborn child: first by pointing knowingly, as if letting me know I was, in fact, knocked up; and then by asking if I'd found out the sex.

"Er no", I replied, going into my usual slight fluster when confronted by the prospect of conversation with a male celebrity, "I mean I can't decide which I think. Sometimes" I added, displaying spectacular stating of obviousness, "I think it's a boy...and sometimes a girl," (wisely refraining from mentioning that dream I had where it was a little of both, Jamie Lee Curtis stylee).

Ray nodded knowingly again, father of several to first time mum. "You're carryin' it all in front, init" he said sagely. "You're avin' a geezer".

Well, if Ray said it, it must be true, right? Instantly I was confronted with mental images of my son popping out, betting slip in hand, the only sound the crackling of his tracksuit as he stroked his pitbull and looked around for a burger. Not a comforting thought. The alternative, of course, was to doggedly assume the opposite of Mr Winstone's blithe assertion, but this simply meant avin' a bird - who would no doubt emerge St Tropez-fresh, smelling of biscuits and looking for her clip-in hair extensions. Way to get inordinately worried regarding issues of gender!

It is strange, though, how confidently people predict the sex of a baby based on the shape/size/position of the bump, and to be perfectly honest, over these last few months its rather got my farmyard animal. For a start, there's a 1 in 2 chance that every guess could prove to be the right one - who wouldn't fancy those odds - and for afters, we didn't find out the sex of our child for a reason - ie, we didn't want to know. Friends (and random folk on the street) have been scandalised to learn that we haven't performed the foolproof ring test (you know, the one where you hold a ring on a piece of twine/hair/intestine over the bump and determine the sex from the manner in which it rotates - yep, and then you can repeat the process and discover the sex of your dining table's child aswell), as if, should the NHS take this method on board, there would be no need for pesky peering at scans to look for something dangly, or not.

The other 'method' of telling me the sex of my baby tends to base itself on 'vibe' - as in, "I'm getting a boy vibe", and while I am not one to knock the powers of intuition, I am still sceptical regarding the effectiveness of this method - for example, a rather scuttered male friend, at a party (one of about 2 I've been to this summer, before I mislead you to think I've led a kicking preggers social life - kicking only in the literal sense, unfortunately), told me he got a strong girl vibe because "you're so feminine, I can't imagine anything male coming out". Flattering, yes - stupid, also yes. But there we go - everyone's an expert when it comes to babies, it seems, and if we had found out the sex, we'd have missed out on the speculating fun....because it is fun, in a faintly irritating way...and also, presumably, have a little less cream and beige in the baby's capsule wardrobe.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

A melon-choly feeling

I've been so busy recently wishing away the last days of my watermelon status that I didn't even stop to think that losing the bump could be a bittersweet feeling. It may even be the last time I experience this, my one and only preggers period to inform my life. And when you put it like that, its definitely a choke-making thought (to be fair, it doesn't take much right now). This could be the only time I can watch my stomach lurch around a la Alien, feel the vibration of tiny hiccups, or watch myself stretch and change daily in nature's time-honoured, mystical tradition.

I have been in the early stages of pregnancy before (twice in fact) when younger, and that knowledge has definitely tinged this experience with a little sadness for what might have been. If its been this easy as a 35-yr-old, would I have breezed through it aged 17/28? Also, the fierce protectiveness I feel over this little life, which of course will only grow when it bursts into the world, has made me prey to all kinds of random mental scenarios - I have dreamed about being stabbed in the stomach, of tiny lungs collapsing with the strain of breathing solo, of freak fires and floods and name the paranoid parental landscape, I've dreamed there. And over and over it confirms how much I already love this little person I don't yet know: how I, and things, will never be the same; and what a huge responsibility this is, and how dependant my future happiness will be on the happiness of my child.
From the second that cord is cut my baby will be an independent being, slowly forming his/her own desires and opinions, and no longer my own little belly prisoner, bringing out the maternal emotions whilst not spoiling any of the innocent, pre-reality fantasies of how I will raise and love my child. What's not to miss?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Fear, and not in a Lily Allen way

Its been creeping up on me (as these things tend to, the fuckers) for a few weeks now, but yesterday I got the bigtime fear. It started innocuously enough: I had popped to the deli for some delicious home-made pesto and a perfectly-ripe avocado, paying a mere £90 for the privilege (yes dahling, one lives in Kensal Green), and outside the deli and next door Gracelands cafe I suddenly realised that either I was living in Lilliput, or there were a hell of a lot of children around. Like, obscene amounts. A positive abundance of reproduction, even for here - several couples enjoying a coffee, avec pushchair, at the outside tables; several more wandering about, some accessorising with occupied carseats, others preferring the more relaxed format of sling across body, screaming toddler hanging casually from arm. Three little folk milling around solo, of unspecified ownership: one of these engaged in crawling up the steps of the cafe, ostensibly on its way to the counter to order a decaf mocha and a nappy change. Two of them, not including my own, temporarily residing within the body of an adult female. And that was before we got to pram-pushing stragglers further down the road, anyone in school uniform, or those actually within the shop and cafe. In short: you could rename this place the Baby Square Mile.

It wasn't so much that I realised we were dealing with a major coals to Newcastle scenario here, or even that soon, Jack and I will be similarly unable to leave the house without several appendages of the flailing-limbed creature/pushchair/carseat/mini diary-room chair variety (as one who is accustomed to winging it with a clutch bag and single front door key, its clear that I will shortly be having a rather major wake-up call). Its more than that: I have gone from underbelly to overbelly, I am on course to become one of those people who orders lunch at 11.30 because they've been up since 5am. Worse, I will become a baby bore, indulging in socially sanctioned pastimes rather than stumbling in at 6am with my false eyelashes stuck to my chin. I may even take up religion as a means to getting my little darling into the school of choice, like my friend Annie who combined all nighters with afternoon tea with vicars, and managed to control her shaking hands long enough to pour his Rooibos and proffer a french fancy. And its not like I wasn't aware of this before, its just that yesterday it hit me slap bang in the face like an errant football.

Excuse me, I'm going down the garden to expel a primeval yowl.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Disco birthing and baby shower!

So my lovely friends in Sarf London threw me a baby shower on Friday, hurrah. It was lots of fun and proved I can actually drink alcohol without weeping, as I consumed 3x small glasses of prosecco (over a 7-hour period, but still) and thought I was very hard indeed. Apart from the amazing cakes (strawberry pavlova, pictured *drools*) and cucumber n watercress sarnies, I was lucky enough to get some gorgeous presents too - uber-trendy unisex baby clothes, bunny-eared towels, a brightly-coloured cuddly centipede (which makes noises!!) and lots more - as well as being the recipient of many compliments re my fecund state. Weirdly though, I found it really hard to hold actual 1-2-1 conversations along the lines of 'so what are you up to at the moment, how's the job/man/house/kids?' Either inescapable proof that Mr Brain has long since departed, or due to the prosecco and the arduous journey (Bakerloo/Victoria lines, no fun in my condition)....either way, I guess I got away with it....although I am still clueless as to most updates in certain friends' lives! Is there anything more self-centred than a preggers chick? Its all me me me with me....may explain why I am currently loving the name Mimi...
Saturday saw a trip to the birthing centre at St Mary's hospital, complete with flat screen TVs, slings to swing off mid-contraction and swanky-looking birthing pools which just needed fillng with Bollinger to complete the Las Vegas vibe. However, my personal favourite gadget was definitely the purple glitter birthing chair....more disco than Donna Summer, and more proof, if were needed, that the extended porn mix of 'Love to Love You Baby' will be No1 on our i-Pod playlist (yes, they have docking stations too). Of course, there is a payoff for these beauteous surroundings courtesy of the embattled NHS - in this case, that would be the lack of anything stronger than gas n air to get you through contractions, and should you wish otherwise then its off to the 70's-inspired labour ward with you, milady (am sure, on my last visit there, I saw a small boy with page boy hair on a tricycle being terrified by a semi-decomposed, bath-dwelling ghost but that may well have been a paranoid hallucination), so if I do end up yelling, in true yummy mummy style, 'JUST GIVE ME THE DRUGS YOU BASTARDS', I will hopefully be too far gone to be on the lookout for Mr Nicholson and his axe ("Heeeere's Caesarian!")
Well, I'm off to order my Tens machine and think positive. Our zany Canadian midwife has urged me, every time I receive a text (does she KNOW how often that is right now?) to practise a little light perineal massage, but I am sadly coming up with every excuse in the book not to comply. And hey, its not always appropriate. Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.....and sometimes, its a genuine trip into the unknown. Eeeek!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Bob, the lonely penguin - but a perfect wannabe house-husband

Am nesting like crazy (more on that later: too damn tired) and for some reason can't stop thinking about our trip to Birdland the other week (we had Jack's daughter with us, it wasn't a gratuitous trip), in particular about Bob the king penguin, all on his lonesome as his peers frolicked in couples around him. Doggedly he perched through feeding time, looking away into the middle distance, almost as if he were sulking, or looking out for more flightful birds; it turned out he'd been like that for 5 days - you see, male penguins take shifts keeping the egg warm, and Bob was in the full throes of a phantom eggnancy.
Apparently, when it had come to mating time that year, no-one had wanted poor old Bob, despite him giving his "helloooo, ladies" call loud and clear - the females were either taken, or on the lookout for more exciting prospects, such as Feckless Frank, who had already fathered 2 of the penguins at Birdland, although had no idea they were his children - proof that the lady birds love a bad boy? - and solid dependable Bob, who wanted nothing more than to be a fahmily man, was left on the sidelines as the rest paired up.
Well, in my hormonal state it was a bit too much, and I had to leave swiftly to the owl enclosure (where I encountered a rotund northern family staring agape at the dead baby chicks left for the owl's nosh, convinced they were other exhibits who had carked it - I didn't want to burst their bubble). The moral of the story? Envy the lucky penguins who take shifts with the foetus-minding (apart from those knocked up by old Frankie-boy), and be glad that my own fellow egg-sitter combines the best qualities of both.
Here's to hoping that Bob finds a good woman next year.....

Friday, 28 August 2009

Countdown is progressing - uno, dos, uno dos tres quatros!

I am a human balloon, which is pleasing. Instead of a wasp waist, I have a tweedledum. People do their utmost to avoid stressing me out in public places, and to this end I have travelled first class on trains several times with an economy ticket. Any residual guilt is countered by the knowledge that in a few weeks time I will be a second class citizen all the way, my only vehicle a baby sling, and the only baggage that needs declaring the dark circles under my eyes.

Ah, good times. In this blog I will attempt to make sense of mama-dom, treading a path that so many have before, but hoping to put my own unique spin cycle on it. Please visit me in the process!