Friday, 25 September 2015

The Modern Guide to Returning From Work To a Stay at Home Parent

My take on the 1950s housewifery guide on how a woman should greet her husband upon his return from a hard day's toil in the office. No ribbons in the hair, clean children or supper in the oven on this one:

The Modern Guide to Returning From Work To a Stay at Home Parent

Upon your return from work, please remember that the partner you left behind in the morning may well have had a lovely day with your offspring - drinking coffee and tea, baking cakes, visiting museums, swinging on swings in the park and generally making hay in the sunshine. However he/she may well have had a day that would test the patience of every saint living or dead. And they may be hanging on to their sanity by little more than a thread. And so, as you gingerly open the front door to see what lays in store, please try and keep in mind this brief guide on what not to do/say upon your return in case any or all of it has happened to them during the day.
  • Do not wipe your nose on their clothing whilst pretending to hug them
  • Do not say 'You Know' in response to anything they say to you, even if it is telling you your own name, just thank them for the information they have provided
  • Do not say anything is unfair
  • Do not use the term 'everyone else does' in response to anything, but especially not in a bid to win an argument
  • Do not throw up on them
  • Do not get ill
  • Do not cry
  • If you get in the car with them, do not fight to the death over where you sit in the car
  • Do not suddenly decide you hate all food you have previously liked
  • Do not say you are hungry
  • Do not ask for any food
  • Do not spend hours asking repeatedly for the sweets you know are in the kitchen but have thus far been denied to you
  • Do not wee in your pants
  • Do not cry because you cannot find your kindle/ipad 
  • Do not cry because you can't find the charger to your kindle/ipad
  • Do not cry because your kindle/ipad is not working
  • Do not cry/fight because someone entered your minecraft world and killed the minecraft 'you'
  • Do not cry/fight because someone entered your minecraft world and blew up your village
  • Do not say you have looked everywhere for something you desperately want to find when you haven't even vaguely looked anywhere
  • Do not cry if someone touches your lego creation
  • Do not cry if someone breaks your lego creation
  • Do not cry because you don't have any lego
  • Do not ask if there is another baby in their tummy
  • Do not ask why their tummy still looks like there is another baby in it
  • Do not ask them to download an app, especially if they are feeding a baby and sitting on the loo
  • Do not try and find them when they are on the loo
  • Do not accompany them to the loo/help them to 'wipe'
  • Do not complain of tummy ache
  • Do not find a twig/feather/scrap of paper and then fight to the death over it 
  • Do not ask where a piece of paper is after you left it on the floor a week ago
  • Do not have a tantrum over a lost piece of paper
  • Do not pretend you can't hear them yelling your name
  • Do not refuse to wear underwear
  • Do not draw on the walls
  • Do not ignore everything they say as a matter of course
  • Do not crush up a pack of biscuits and scatter the crumbs everywhere
  • Do not take all of your anger and frustrations from the day out on them with verbal abuse
  • Do not hit them
  • Do not kick them
  • Do not insist you can do things on your own and then spend pain staking minutes attempting to do so even though you know everyone needs to leave the house immediately
  • Do not insist you can do something on your own that you patently cannot and then attempt to do so whilst risking your life and the lives of others
  • Do not refuse to leave the house without a bag full of crap that you have decided is vital right at the last minute thereby making you late for the event you were leaving the house for
  • Do not ask if they were alive in the first world war
  • Do not be surprised to learn that cars and televisions had been invented, even when they were a child
  • Do not spend hours crazing to play with a toy/game with a million different pieces and then empty it all out on to the floor, then lose interest and walk off
  • Do not hit/bite anyone
  • Do not refuse to leave the house
  • Do not refuse to return to the house if you leave
  • Do not throw yourself to the ground and scream if you are refused something
  • Do not pull their clothing
  • Do not deliberately do something naughty and then shrug and say 'sorry' whilst smiling
  • Do not refuse to get dressed
  • Do not refuse to get undressed
  • Do not refuse to get in the bath
  • Do not refuse to get out of the bath
  • Do not become hyperactive after your bath and run around the house naked and screaming 
  • Do not refuse to get in to bed
  • Do not tease them about your reluctance to get in to bed
  • Do not promise to go to sleep if they read 'just one more' story even though they are clearly about to cry with hunger, tiredness and the previous ten stories they have just read you spurred on by the very same promise
  • Do not whine
  • Do not drink their wine
And, finally, in response to them complaining of exhaustion from the day, NEVER, EVER, advise them to have an early night. Sleeping will just bring about the next day whereas staying up means more time to eat, drink, bathe and generally bask in the beauty and glory of the silence that late night brings. Et voila. You can't go wrong.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Number Three


Bonjourno. Four months in and nine weeks after the birth of Dottie Dot the Full Stop it is time to take down the New Home and New Baby cards and admit that nothing is very 'new' any more. K's new job is four weeks in and I have survived. He seems to like it. I think. I get a very descriptive 'Yeah it's all right' when I enquire as to his daily grind. I still don't like him being away all day and being tired when he is home but he is resolutely refusing to gain 10 stone so that we might be able to claim disability benefits for being too fat to work. Such a shame because I am dangerously close and I think with five children we could really rake it in. He keeps wittering on about self respect but I'm totally over that.

So, that is all old. What is new is the pool. It is up and running and quite frankly fabulous. I realise that this is all quite temporary as it is just the novelty of it all but the children are loving it. It is really helping with the summer holidays which I think I might have found even more taxing if it wasn't for the fact that for hours on end they can amuse themselves in our back garden. Mother is still very concerned for their lives as we don't have a 'walk on' cover at the moment but as Cybs can stand up in it and Dot can't currently move I am less worried than I was. Only today mother was telling me how I would be aghast at the cost of a funeral.  Because naturally, if we lost a child, THAT would be what we would be most worried about.

Although the pool has claimed one victim - I managed to drop the exceedingly heavy wooden beam which forms part of our temporary cover, directly on to my foot. The pain was pretty magnificent. I have become a bit of a pompous twit about pain since Dot's birth. I have been known, on one or two occasions, to tell the child making a big fuss about some pain I deem trivial to 'try giving birth to a baby bottom first'. However, the pain of the beam on my foot was pretty close. I managed with nurofen and frozen peas initially, but after a few days the swelling and the pain hadn't subsided enough to enable me to walk properly so I took myself off to A and E. On what turned out to be my final morning without any older children thanks to a delightful sick bug which started the summer holidays a few days earlier than planned. Cybs was FINALLY enjoying a full morning session at nursery after an epic two months settling in period. I have become firm friends with a number of 3 and 4 year olds, mainly girls, who have watched me breastfeed Dot twice a week, every week for a whole half term. Lily, Sophia, Josie - we are all great mates - I was entrusted with their dolls, told of their weekend activities and moving house excitement whilst they waited patiently for a 'turn' with Dot. Never has a child been so gently eased in to a few flipping hours without their mother.

So, I spent my only and final few hours of the summer term having an x ray and awaiting the results. I breastfed and waited. I was secretly hoping that someone might object to me breastfeeding. I have always hoped for this. Just so I could reply with some witty and scathing retort - although I would probably do what most other people do and clam up and feel embarrassed. The problem I have with breastfeeding in public is not nipple flashing or worrying about other people being offended or upset at seeing my unwieldy infant trying to latch on to my giant boobs, my worry is trying to abide by the fat person's code - not upsetting normal sized people by revealing my unholy amount of fatty flesh.  Being fat brings on a whole new aspect to public breastfeeding. It can make the whole thing quite  a spectacle - although the recent addition to my wardrobe of breastfeeding tops thanks to a very generous friend who gifted me all of hers, has gone quite a long way towards simplifying the process.

It's not just when I am feeding actually. I do not enjoy being fat, but I enjoy eating lots. Post baby and in the middle of full on breastfeeding mode, I can't stop eating. I think it is a disease. Abiding by the fat persons code becomes harder and harder. Especially in the heat. Some days I worry more than others about it. Some days I cover all but the socially acceptable parts of my body - ankles and lower arms - and some days I throw caution to the wind and reveal my upper arms and lower legs (gasp).  In the past I have assumed I am a lot thinner than I actually am post baby - I realise now that this was because I didn't have a full length mirror when we lived in London. The best mirror in the house was in the bathroom and the sink unit cleverly covered my lower body, so I never realised the true horror. In this house there are a number of full length mirrors and one is opposite Dot's changing unit so I will suddenly catch a glimpse of myself before I have a chance to breathe in or pose in a way that softens the blow. It is probably for the best - it does stop me eating the whole pack of biscuits and only eating half a cheesecake at a time.

Luckily, the foot was not broken. Just badly bruised. Thank goodness. The idea of being here without the ability to drive is unfathomable. And no one asked me to spare their blushes by covering up my boob or my stomach. People are usually too polite to make a fuss anyway. Last week I took Bea for a physiotherapy session back at the hospital (boring issue with leg pain) and managed to replace the wrong flap on my breastfeeding top in my hurry to stand up when Bea's name was called, so I accidentally greeted the lovely student physio with my nipple poking out, loud and proud, as if a feature of the top. Luckily he seemed largely unphased and I acted as if nothing had happened as policy dictates, and quickly replaced the correct flap and bra over the offending boob and we managed to get through it without note. 

The summer holidays at home on my own are something I have never tried before. I have always run away to Suffolk to enjoy a bit of a break from all the cooking, cleaning and childcare. However now that we are in Suffolk I have nowhere to run. I am here and in charge of five children all day, every day. K now works six days every other week as well, so it is pretty full on. Hence yet another long silence from me. The silence of the evenings with just the whirring of the machines is something I crave for most of the day and doing anything else but eating and falling asleep is asking too much. I spend almost all day saying 'in a minute', 'hang on', 'wait', 'IN A MINUTE', 'don't fight', 'stop fighting', 'get off me', 'you cannot be hungry I fed you five minutes ago', 'no', 'I said no', 'I SAID NO',  'who's done this??!' and 'IN A BLOODY MINUTE'. I have largely given up with worrying what is right and wrong with raising children and just try to keep them alive. (purely to save on funeral costs). They get up and come downstairs before I have finished feeding Dot woken up in the morning and so Ted has been having a lot of ice creams for breakfast and he's also been handing them out to Cybs. The first fight of the day has often taken place before I am fully conscious. Cybs has taken to wiping her bottom with her clothing. G has worked out most of my threats are meaningless and therefore acts accordingly and is encouraging others to do so as well - I heard him tell Ted not to do as I had told him because there was no way I would actually cancel his friend coming over. The boys have collectively decided that living in squalor is actually fun so leave every item of clothing they have worn, thought about wearing or just come vaguely in to contact with, on the floor. Bea has decided she is now fully grown up and is in need of pierced ears, a bank account and a mobile phone. So, whilst I keep them alive and their clothes washed and dried, I have decided to become obsessed with the health of the pool and leave them to it. The temperature of the pool is now so interlinked with my mood and general well being that I am becoming concerned. It is MEANT to be able to get to 40 degrees but at the moment I can't get it beyond 27/28 which is maddening. I have also been known to tell the children that they can't get in the pool in case it gets too cold with the cover off or they splash so much I have to top it up with cold water.....

I am missing my friends so much at the moment. It has been four months now and the reality of not having them around all the time is setting in. I am very lucky to already have lots of shiny new friends, it's not that I am lonely, it is just that I miss my grubby old friends being nearby and the ease of the friendship.  I am not able to keep up with almost anything I want to at the moment as I seem to be permanently trying to achieve things and not managing and before I know it a whole day has gone by again. This includes updating this, writing thank you cards, emailing/writing to friends and trying to keep the old folks from over the road in London up to date with 'their' babies who have up and left them. I am lucky that a lot of good pals have made the trip up here already and more are planned so I do not fear being forgotten or losing a friend, and obviously lovely FB keeps me up to date with most things, but there is no replacement for seeing someone every day or every week, or popping to their house for a cuppa or meeting for lunch etc.  I know it is still early days in my 'new' life and eventually it will all fall in to place and soon feel 'old' but even planning birthday parties is a whole new ball game here. Although I am quite friendly with Cybs' pals from nursery, I don't know the parents at all so wasn't properly able to organise her party before the end of term which means she has a fairly random mix of children attending her party tomorrow. Only two of the children are even vaguely her age. Not that she will care. There is a bouncy castle and bunting and a lot of children so she is unlikely to notice. Oh! There will also be balloons.  You will all be relieved to know that I have managed to locate a local balloon person who will deliver all that we require in the way of helium filled celebratory shapes. The first party kicks off tomorrow and then it's the first birthday of the season for Cybs before we leave for two weeks at the coast. I can't wait. I don't think I have ever looked forward to a holiday more. For one thing I will finally have K back for two weeks. I may even find out how is job is going.

I shall update you all as soon as the opportunity next presents itself. If it does.

Until then. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Number Two


Hello!  Thank you for your patience it has taken me a magnificently long time to get on here and get it all written down.

So she is out. And she is a she. Dorothea Honor or Dottie for short, finally touched down on June 2nd. Again, I didn't manage the home birth we wanted (I am now 3 for 3 on having girls in hospital and 2 for 2 on the boys at home). But this was actually quite lucky as she not only surprised us by getting in there in the first place but also gave us quite a shock in how she came out.

I don't have an awful lot of time to fill you in, as you might imagine/know, having four children and a newborn is pretty exhausting. But here we go:

After being slightly scathing of local midwives, I went along to a 'VBAC' appointment (vaginal birth after c section for those not in the know and apologies for the use of the word 'vaginal' if, like K, you object to me using an official term and not 'down there') and met one who appeared to be very much on my side and who set forth a plan to help get the baby out 'on time'. She agreed I wasn't actually high risk and that I was more than likely to have a normal delivery so suggested they start twice weekly stretch and sweeps from 37 weeks to ensure that I didn't go overdue and would hopefully have the home birth I wanted and all would be dandy. This was all very positive and I was very excited by the possibility of missing out on the last heinous few weeks of pregnancy and having a smaller baby than usual.

Fast forward to 41 weeks and I was at the hospital meeting the VBAC Consultant for my EIGHTH stretch and sweep and a discussion on what should be done moving forward. At nearly every one of the preceding seven painful encounters with midwives (again, for those not in the know a stretch and sweep isn't the most pleasant thing ever - google it if you have no idea) they assured me that the baby would be out shortly, they made appointments for the next S+S saying how unlikely it would be that I would need it and I became well acquainted with a number of midwives and their living situations as we chatted about that night's arrangements and who was on call, in case our encounter that day elicited the desired results. After a number of the sweeps I got some contractions, sometimes there was even a run of them over a few hours, but other times there were none at all and eventually they all came to nothing. So, I ended up at the 'over due' appointment at the hospital with the consultant who explained my options.

The consultant sent me away with an appointment for the following morning to have my waters broken and yet again, reassurances that I was unlikely to need it as I would no doubt have the baby that evening as her sweeps were, according to her, 'legendary'. And it was indeed the most painful one I have ever had. And I did indeed have a number of painful contractions for the rest of the day. So much so, that K was quite insistent that I sit on a tarpaulin in his car just in case my waters broke. He was very concerned that the liquid could seep in to the stitches and leather and he would never get the smell out of his car. He tried to get the tarpaulin out of the boot and was desperately trying to 'sell' the idea to me but it actually just made me want to leak amniotic fluid all over his leather interior all the more.

We had left Cybs with mum and the big children were back at school after the half term so it was just K and I, awaiting the contractions to get serious. We went in to town to pick up my repaired iphone (the screen had been repaired for the second time in a month). I wanted to be distracted from the wait and the occasional contractions with a slap up meal and champagne but K had just paid for my phone so decided he would 'treat' me to a Burger King meal instead. He did say I was able to choose anything I wanted from the menu though.....

Anyhoo, my waters remained intact for the rest of the day so his car seats and Burger King were spared any fluid disasters. We collected the children from school and still nothing happened. Nothing happened that night either so the following morning I rang labour ward and confirmed I would be in for my waters to be broken. I made three packed lunches, got the children ready, finished writing Ted's book he really wanted finished in time for school, dropped them off at their respective schools, returned home, packed my bag and off we went. The consultant had persuaded me to go ahead with the induction because she said that unlike my previous experience at King's, I would be given 24 hours to go in to labour after the breaking of waters and if I wanted, I would be allowed to go home afterwards so that I could wait for labour to begin. She also insinuated that 'should' I not be able to get back in to the hospital in time for the birth, then there was nothing anyone could do and the midwives would have to come out to me so that I would wind up having my home birth as I planned. This had all seemed like a great idea the day before.

However. My determination to have a home birth was already waning on the way in to the hospital. I had worked myself in to a bit of a state worrying about the pain of contractions. The pain of Cybs' birth was over two and a half years before but it was remarkably fresh in my memory and I was terribly worried that I might have such a quick labour (the eight stretch and sweeps and the fact that it was my fifth meant that I was already 3cms dilated and fully effaced so that when labour did eventually start, it was likely to be quick) that I might not be near gas and air or the gas and air might never arrive and I would be stuck with K as my only form of pain relief and comfort. He was also very worried about me returning home in his car with freshly broken waters..... so by the time we got in to our room I was pretty sure we were going nowhere and the final baby, like the first, would be born in West Suffolk Hospital. 

The labour ward was mercifully quiet and our allocated midwife was very lovely. All seemed well. I was hopeful we could get the waters broken and the baby out quickly. I hadn't at that point arranged anyone to pick up the children from their schools. Labour had started with Cybs three hours after they broke my waters so I was sure I could pop this one out even sooner. Sure enough, when the midwife did break them at 11 am I started having contractions almost straight away.  Each one pushed more water out of me. At one point a small flood ensued which then created a smelly waterfall over the edge of the hospital bed. We called the lovely midwife back in who very sweetly started cleaning it up for me as I apologised profusely (for something I had no control over - but I am British so therefore one must apologise for such things). Laughing at the situation also made me leak more fluid and at one point the midwife was unfortunately positioned as I laughed and a small gush splashed her. This made me laugh more. Other than that high point it was a very dull few hours - the 'view' from my room was a wall with some very noisy machinery behind it which made a loud bang when it kicked in every 15 minutes. K who had been finding various reasons to nip out for errands eventually settled in his comfy chair and became very sleepy as, like all hospitals, the room was very warm and there was also a loud humming noise coming from the building opposite in between the loud bangs which lulled him into a deep slumber.

I continued to contract infrequently and sporadically as he slept. Some were uncomfortable so I began to use the tens machine. However nothing much else happened and the midwife, when she popped in to check on progress, remained unimpressed with my 'progression'. So much so, that after four hours of non standard contractioning I was chucked out of the labour ward and relegated to the antenatal ward. This was not in my plan. I had waited a jolly long time for this baby, I had even been waiting patiently as I wasn't as fussed about it getting out as I had been with Cybil where I had driven myself half mad with it. This time around I was almost happy for her to stay in, if it hadn't been for the constant need to wee and the inability to plan anything I would have quite happily continued being pregnant for at least another week. With children who need to be taken to school and Cybil in need of childcare in the event of labour, it wasn't particularly helpful not to be able to plan when the baby would come out. I had thought that finally forcing the issue by having my waters broken would mean we would have the baby that day and that would put an end to the speculation, planning and back up planning that had preceded induction day for weeks. I felt particularly guilty about half term where we could only really work on things on a day to day basis as we had no idea what would happen over night. Mother had taken various days off work 'in case' and even stopped drinking in the evenings in case we needed her urgently. When you 'fail' to go in to labour you can feel like your body is letting you down and you are in turn letting everyone else down by not making things easy and just bloody well getting on with it. People always talk about keeping the sex of the baby a 'surprise' as it's the biggest surprise you get in life - I would argue that labour is a bit of a shock as that really has so many variables - there are only two possible options on the sex front so it isn't a massive surprise.

Back to antenatal ward. I was NOT happy. Not only do I hate wards but I hate other people in wards with me - even though they are no doubt delightful people out of the hospital, I hate having to share rooms with strangers. Particularly when I am leaking water, attached to a tens machine, having contractions and in a bad mood. The flimsy curtains that surround each bed are no protection against the sound of people burping, eating and my all time least favourite, talking. I realise I am not the most interesting of people, but when I am in a bad mood and in occasional pain, I really don't want to listen to other people talking about crap. The view was at least better, I could see a road and some trees and a small building that was no longer in use. I spent a long time looking out of that window so that there was no chance the other two residents of my 'bay' would engage me in conversation. It was unlikely anyway. It was clear I thought myself to be too good for the 'waiting' ward. Or maybe that was just my paranoia because I really did think I was too good for the waiting ward. This was my fifth sodding baby for christ's sake - I had been told it would come tumbling out as I was so 'favourable' and yet here I was, hours and hours after induction and I was no better than the woman on her first over the aisle to me bouncing on her sodding ball and heavy breathing. I became slightly belligerent at this stage in the process. Particularly because the communal loo (which was, like the rest of the loos I encountered, brand new back in the 70s, so gave the air of an old boarding school which badly needed funds to renovate) was a good walk away from my bed. When you are constantly leaking, the need to be near a nice comfortable loo really cannot be over rated. Especially when you have to carry a Tena Lady pant with you for changing purposes. (OMG if you are ever in a similar situation and have had your waters broken, you MUST invest in some tena lady pants - they are amazing. I mean truly. No more waterfalls over the bed or water down the leg. These things are the bees knees when it comes to saturation.)

Fast forward some more boring hours, K left and collected children from a friend's house and deposited them with mum along with their swimming stuff for the morning and returned with 'food' - I asked him to get some because I was obviously not going to eat the 'slop' the hospital was offering. He returned with about 10 packets of crisps, 5 chocolate bars and a chicken wrap - I became paranoid people would look at this haul and think 'no wonder she's so fat'. He had a sleep. I read more of my book (Paradise City by Elizabeth Day - another recommendation - it kept me going through the whole thing). They ran a trace and noticed my 'tightenings' - also known as contractions if they are happening in your uterus. I got fed up. We went for a walk when K awoke. We returned and I informed the midwife that I intended to leave. I was going to self discharge and get in my own bath and my own bed and come back in the morning. Unsurprisingly they were not keen. Another midwife came back to try and dissuade me. K was on their side. He didn't say it but he was entirely unkeen to take a leaky wife back in his car (the leather) and then potentially have her give birth whilst he was the only other person around. Just as I was wavering and having just had another large contraction, he asked if I could be put in a private room. The midwife was thrilled with this compromise. I relented and ten minutes later we were shown to our new quarters. Still no flipping ensuite, although the communal loo was at least right next door. By this time it was gone 7 pm and K was getting quite itchy to leave for the evening now that he had procured me suitable accommodation for the night. He set off to find me a tv viewing card and came back with enough credit on the card to keep me goggle boxing for a month. I refused to let him leave immediately and so he sat down and read his book. I sat on the bed and began my evening's viewing, occasionally holding on to his hand if there was a contraction that hurt. By this stage they were still not at all regular, not that frequent and also varied wildly in strength. I set about furious texting complaining about the 'very un-Portland like facilities' and stupid baby that wouldn't come out. I watched Phil and Kirsty's 'Love it or List it' programme, waited to see the end, put the red hot phone down and visited the communal facilities next door.

From this point it all became very surreal. No sooner did my Tena lady's hit the floor and my bottom the seat, I felt a very odd sensation. One I had felt a number of times before but not in this situation. I put my fingers down to check and my suspicions were confirmed, the baby was coming out. I also felt that it was not the head that was leading the charge, it was in fact, a squishy bottom. I yelled incredibly loudly at this point. K came running as did a charge of midwives. I apologised profusely (obviously - I am British and I had stupidly not realised I was fully dilated and I had my tena lady pants around my ankles and I had yelled). They said I needed to get back on the bed for them to see what was happening, I said I needed to wash my hands first (MRSA and all that). I got on the bed, spread my legs and then the sides of the bed were up, a sheet was put over me to cover my dignity and the bed was being moved at a brisk speed over to labour ward. I will admit that I was highly scared at this point. Not only because the risk to the baby was huge but because I had had no drugs, was as alert as it is possible to be and I didn't think that pushing a folded up baby out of a small space would be that comfortable. In seconds we were in a labour room filled with midwives and doctors. I apologised to all of them, obviously. They used 'calm' voices to tell me not to panic but that time was very much of the essence and I had to do exactly as I was told. I apologised. Obviously. I did exactly as I was told. I moved myself on to the bed, put my feet in stirrups and pushed so hard I thought I might split in two. The second push was quite honesty the worst pain I have ever experienced. I swore badly. I said I couldn't do it. I asked for gas and air. I apologised. No gas and air was allowed. I delivered the body. More calm voice instructions from the amazing old school midwife sitting front and centre of all the action. She told me that it was vital to deliver the head as quickly as we could. I pushed for the third time and out came the head. As I had been warned, the baby was quiet and lifeless when she was put on to me. Being told something doesn't necessarily make it any less scary though and I was convinced she wasn't in a good way. 'They' took her over in to the corner to check on her and get her life like. It seems like quite a long time when you are waiting for that all important first cry, the confirmation that you have done your job and delivered your offspring 'safely'. It did finally come though and suddenly it all seemed wonderful. K and I were a bit high from the drama of it all. I KEPT saying 'I was just watching kirsty and phil'. I was in such shock. I have never been fully dilated and in minimal pain or able to walk and talk and focus on a tv programme and texting before. I have never had an undiagnosed breach baby and I have never been the one to diagnose it. It was a lot of firsts. And she was perfect, as they always seem to the euphoric and relieved parents. I did want to then find the three midwives I had been involved with over the course of the day and yell "I TOLD YOU THEY WERE CONTRACTIONS AND NOT FLIPPING TIGHTENINGS. WHY DIDN'T YOU EXAMINE ME YOU IDIOTS". But I did not. I just kept on apologising to anyone who would listen for 'all the fuss'.

Twelve hours after they broke my waters and two hours after she was born, I was wheeled back to our private room without ensuite facilities and K was told to go home. West Suffolk hospital has an odd policy which decrees that partners are not allowed on the ward between the hours of 9pm and 11am. That is an exceedingly long time in the life of a newborn baby. It also would have meant that if we had adhered to the rules, K would have missed the birth. (They had actually been yelling for all partners to leave whilst I was busy watching Kirsty and Phil but we had assumed that it couldn't possibly be applicable to us as a) I was having contractions and b) we were in a room and not on the ward - it turns out we were entirely wrong and he should have left just as I was discovering my undiagnosed breach baby was trying to enter the world). However I didn't mind him leaving as the baby, by this point, was very sleepy and so was I. I was also 'buzzing' a bit from the shock and drama of it all and the tea they had given me with about four sugars in it after the birth so needed time to calm down. Although in the morning 11am felt like a very long time coming. I really can't think that such a draconian policy is entirely necessary..... 

So, there you have it. By and large. The safe arrival of our little Dot. Dotster or Dottie. Or, as she is most commonly referred to - the New Baby.  The children were all so thrilled to meet her when I got home - even Cybil.  Her reaction was my main concern, obviously, but then and even now, her main concern seems to be the baby and her well being. She even sings when Dottie cries. 'Don't cry ickle baby, don't cry ickle baby, mummy's coming' that kind of thing. And my boobs which have belonged to cybs for the last two and half years have been permitted to nurse The New Baby and if Cybs still wants to cop a hold she very kindly holds the one not in use at the time. More of a shock was G's reaction to her. I have never really seen him go all soft over babies but he holds her and even kisses her when he thinks no one is looking. Ted has his usual exuberance for all things in life and can't contain his love and affection for the New Baby. If I pick him up from school he runs out and yells 'the New Baby' as if it is the first time he's seen her. Bea was extremely keen for about a week. Now she is quite variable, sometimes keen and sometimes exceedingly not so. Unless there is someone from outside the family around when she becomes overcome with love and affection for the baby and demands to hold her - purely for acclaim on her mothering skills. I suppose this is precisely why nature didn't intend for 10 year olds to have babies. To be fair, a crying baby is an annoying noise and both her and G have realised that if you get 'stuck' holding a baby you are unable to do anything else, so their desperation to have a 'go' holding her has waned. So, other than not really having any time to do anything other than essential housework and child maintenance because of her, Dot has fitted in well to family life.  There have been times when I have questioned how on earth this is all going to work, particularly as K has very selfishly found paid employment and is leaving us to start it in just over a week. I have also spent some time in tears at the enormity of how I am now in charge of an awful lot of shit. Literal and metaphorical. But I have also had an amazing few weeks. Ten days after Dot was born (and one of the main reasons I decided to have an induction) I went down to London to enjoy a fabulous lunch with my SE23 mum chums, who showered me with gifts, cards and cake, and then I had the pleasure of going back to the old school playground to deposit Bea and G with their respective friends so they could go off on their sleepovers. It was indescribably lovely to be able to see lots of old friends and show Dot off to all and sundry. Then I carried on to Kent with Dot and we spent a fabulous weekend in Herne Bay with ten old school friends in a gorgeous house right opposite the sea. It was quite honestly the best thing I have ever done with a newborn. Like Tena Lady pants and a good book in labour, a weekend by the sea with excellent friends and food when you need a rest, is hard to beat. Dottie was held almost all weekend and before we left, two very clever people were left in charge of her whilst I retrieved the car and when I returned she was fast asleep after a bit of a scream and she continued to sleep the entire way home - via London for two pick ups and then on to Suffolk. Four hours in total. Bea and G were shattered and happy from all the fun they had had with their friends and slept too. I had a blissful few hours alone with my thoughts and my music. It was the perfect end to the perfect weekend.

More apologies. This has become rather long. I have more to say but shall save it for next time.
Enjoy the sun whilst you can, our pool is nearing completion and from then on it will no doubt be constant cold and wet weather. I apologise for that too.

A toute a l'heure. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 4 May 2015

First one


I can't be bothered to change the name. I didn't bother changing my surname for eleven years after I was married ("just in case" but also as I liked my maiden name and also because it seemed like a faff) so as I've only been in Suffolk for four weeks it seems entirely premature to choose a new name so I shall just number them from now on and add the above sub-heading. It will do. 

I have been thinking of writing so often to let everyone know how we are getting on but I have never, ever been so busy. Ever. I now wonder why I was such a major wimp about being pregnant with Cybs as I had nothing to do but look after three children and clean a house. I can't think what the fuss was about. Now I have no choice but to get on with being heavily pregnant whilst the house is being renovated, boxes are unpacked, children are ferried to various schools and clubs and friends and six lives are transplanted in to a new place.  However, the worst thing of all is my big swollen fingers and feet (actually worse than the huge stomach). It makes gripping things tricky, walking uncomfortable and both are constantly irritating.  It also makes touch typing trickier than usual. Anyway, we are in, I am alive, the children are happy. All is well. Read on for a brief (I hope) summation of the good and bad of our new country life.


DAB radio signal is shit. I hadn't thought much about this in the grand scheme of the move, but my daily joy of Radio 2 is being seriously hampered by this problem. We are only four miles from a major town so we're hardly in the flipping sticks. I don't understand why it isn't a crystal clear reception. I had assumed that there must be an easy fix for this but the woman at Currys didn't seem to think there was any solution whatsoever which was very disheartening. So I either go back to FM or somehow rig up a very obvious aerial in my kitchen and keep the stereo at a particular angle in order to hear Chris Evans, Simon Mayo and Jeremy Vine etc without interference. If anyone knows what to do to solve this problem, do let me know post haste.

The broadband took a while to get set up and the speed is quite slow, but Bea is still able to watch her programmes on her ipad and the boys can still link up to play on each other's minecraft worlds (and then fight to the death in real and virtual life about anything that goes on in the virtual world) and K is able to access Netflix on our new and flashy 'smart' TV (smart for us, btw not for the world at large) so it is entirely fine and within the next few years we will hopefully be getting this new superfast broadband BT are rolling out so it is very liveable with for the moment. Amusingly, my niece had a sleepover with Bea last weekend and before she agreed to come and stay she checked if a. we had broadband and b. if it still worked in Bea's room. I have never before been vetted for my broadband but I am happy to report it met her expectations so it is obviously entirely adequate and I shall have to adjust.

The schools are all full/or not full but not good. This has caused me quite a headache and a lot of heartache and stress. The very lovely local school which was a big 'PLUS' when we wanted to buy the house had spaces for newcomers but in years 2, 4 and 6.  I needed spaces in Reception, year 3 and year 5.  Luckily one space became available for year 3 which I quickly applied for and got confirmed for G but that left two more to house. I found another amazingly good school ten minutes away from the house (in the opposite direction to the local school) which had a space for Ted but that wasn't accepting years 5 and 6 until next year. Which left Bea school less. I refused to send her to yet another school so decided to appeal to the local school to admit one extra child in to year 5, making it a class of 31. The problem was that the appeal date was last week, two weeks after term started so she had nowhere to go to school at the beginning of term. The first day we dropped G off and they showed us around the school, Bea was incredibly upset. She was just desperate to get in to school after the Easter holidays and make friends and have some structure and order to her life.  Without formal education, I was in charge of 'schooling'. I home schooled her for three days.  We did well for two days but then Bea became so upset at bedtime on day two because she missed her friends, I took her on a 'school trip' in to town the following day for shopping and lunch therapy. It worked and she cheered up, but then the absolutely amazingly wondrous head teacher at Ted's school (who must remain anonymous) said Bea could secretly join their year 4 class until she had somewhere permanent arranged. This truly saved the day. I think the last few weeks would have been hellish without this intervention - Bea has been so happy just to go to a school and have friends again, even if they are the year below, she loves the school and the teacher and has been incredibly happy there. 

Luckily, I can now report that Bea does have a permanent place at the local school and will start tomorrow after some form of divine intervention caused a child from year 5 to defect to our 'back up' school for Bea (to a school in town that is closing in just over a year so it really is quite bizarre) and gave in her notice the afternoon before our appeal. K and I still had to attend the appeal and put across our points just in case the local authority had a child in greater need of the place but we found out that they do not and as we won the appeal anyway, there is now nothing stopping her! The relief is quite magnificent. The alternative was a 45 minute and about a ten mile round car trip in the morning and similar in the evening as well as trying to juggle three different schools/uniforms/rules/sports days etc. Plus I really, really, REALLY wanted the local school for Bea. It is small, lovely, has its own heated outside pool and she already has a fabulous friend in her year who we found during the first week of term through mutual friends.  I only wish we hadn't had to wait three weeks for her to get in there.

The midwives are hideously Fatist. I went to my first appointment without expecting too much 'ado'. As you may have guessed, I am a bit of an old pro when it comes to the whole birth thing - in that I pretty much know the form, know what to expect etc (obviously it still hurts and I never, ever emerge looking like Kate Middleton ten hours after birth, I just mean I am fairly well acquainted with the lay of the land when it comes to pregnancy and labour). However, the lovely young midwife I met seemed to take my relatively high BMI and run with it. Within minutes I was being advised to take daily injections to stop blood clots, to attend antenatal classes with 'gentle exercise' included, to see a nutritionist, to take daily aspirin tablets and to be scanned regularly at the hospital (in case the baby was as enormous as me) and put under consultant led care. This was a shock to me. My BP had reduced in the move, not increased. My weight gain with this pregnancy is far less than my gain with Cybs (although my BMI was far less at the beginning of that pregnancy which meant no one gave a shit). It will come as little surprise to know that I politely declined the exercise/antenatal classes. I also refused the daily injections. I promised to take aspirin as a compromise (I lied). I laughed at the idea of a nutritionist but said I would be scanned at least once to prove that I was not having a gigantic baby just because I am gigantic. (I am actually smaller than I was with Ted but my previous experiences of giving birth unharmed seems to fall on deaf ears). I went to the scan. Shockingly, the baby is entirely normal. I am now not attending any further appointments until medical evidence necessitates it. I very much wish I had a sedentary lifestyle but that is just not the case and therefore my risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clotting is unlikely. There is more risk that I will be unable to stop bleeding after the birth as the uterus can apparently get a bit lazy after the fourth and might not contract efficiently.  I feel awful being so mean as she is a very lovely midwife, but really, it is a little tiresome. I do not need extra appointments to attend as I am quite busy with lots of other stuff and I also don't believe I am the 'high risk' fatty bum bum they seem to think I am. I have freaked her out totally by insisting on a home birth. Luckily it is entirely my right to insist upon it but clearly they are very keen to advise a hospital birth. I am enjoying freaking them out though.

I thought having money and shopping for lots of house stuff would be fun, and don't misunderstand, it is WAY more fun than having absolutely no money and needing to get essential stuff, but after the initial excitement of choosing a lovely fridge, TV and sofa, the daily decision making over every little thing - chairs, wallpaper, light fittings, table, chest of drawers, curtains, wall colours etc etc. has actually become a chore. I had no idea this was possible. Ideally, I would like someone else to know what I like and want and go and buy it all and then organise its implementation at the house (for free). And sometimes, when it is a really expensive decision like a vast expanse of carpet, I would like someone else to tell me what to do without having any input whatsoever. I hate being entirely responsible for such vast outgoings. Obviously K is a very useful second opinion but he tends to just agree with me (it makes his life a lot easier) unless he absolutely hates my suggestion (or it's way more expensive than he was expecting). I am VERY much looking forward to the house being finished so I don't have to make any more interior design decisions.

Oh and lack of mobile signal in the house - although this is being rectified shortly with the arrival of our signal booster so it seems churlish to complain but it has been slightly irritating when you are used to using your mobile for everything. We have had to rely on our landline which seems very old school.


Where to begin.

Space. Space cannot be overestimated for what it does it to one's state of mind.  The house isn't enormous but it is noticeably bigger than our old house and the garden is at least ten times as big. And it's not just the space in the house and garden, it is the vast expanse of open fields and skies that surround the house that make me feel so much better.  I can't actually express why it helps but it really and truly does. The children just love the garden and K seems to be having a love affair with his double garage. Bea even has her own en suite bathroom which makes her feel like she's living in her own flat and she can disappear for hours up to her room (it is a loft conversion without a dorma or proper stairs so doesn't officially count as an extra bedroom but it is surprisingly large and the fact that she has steep steps up to her room means she doesn't get bothered by anyone very often so she absolutely loves it). Cybs' new room is three times the size of her old one (she will probably have to share it at some point so that's not all hers forever) and the boys still have to share a room which will have to be rectified at some point, especially when they get big enough to do serious harm to each other, but all in all everyone is very happy with their new living space. I am writing in our 'grown up' room. On my new duck egg blue sofa. K has his own new chair to my left so this sofa is JUST for me and I am very protective of it. This room is only used in the evening. I LOVE it. And it has an open fire which we have used a lot already. The children are allowed in here, but not for long. And most certainly not with food. They have a big playroom, complete with our old large sofa and Sky TV which leads off the kitchen and so far the segregation is working a treat.

Garden. We are now the proud owners of a decent sized, south facing back garden, and thanks to me it has an extremely large climbing frame. And thanks to K who agreed to my crazy purchase and then spent three exceedingly long days putting it together. On two of the days he had my lovely Godmother's husband helping him as well. It was a particularly epic build. But it is now up and extremely well loved and it means that the children spend an awful lot of time outside. At the moment. Mother is very quick to point out that no one will use it in a few weeks' time once the novelty wears off. Still, that is not an issue as we are also having a pool put it in! It is EXCEEDINGLY exciting. I am hoping that this will 'do' for an entire summer's entertainment whilst I am busy breast feeding the newbie. Now, it is by no means a full sized, proper pool. It is being converted from the site of the old pond that was here and should make a really decent children's pool - like the shallow end of a normal pool. No one uses the deep end anyway. As long as no one tries to dive in or use it for professional swimming training, we should be ok.  I am just desperate for work to start so it will be ready in time for the summer.

Schools. I am a massive fan of both schools so far.  They were almost tailor made for my boys. The week after Ted started at his school the theme in Ted's class was spiders. I couldn't actually believe it. He was even asked to bring a live one in to class. Luckily the house is covered with them (they are taking a while to adjust to the fact that the house is now inhabited after a long time vacant). There is also a forest school which he loves and a great playground. All children are amazed by the expanse of grass they get to play on every day - particularly G. Most of the after school clubs are free - and quite cool - G is starting Gardening club on Thursday, K is quite jealous. And you can chop and choose whether you want packed lunch or school dinners on the day without having to pre-book. This sounds like a crap thing to be excited about but when you have to make three lunches every morning during the chaos of breakfast and pre-school shenanigans, the fact that there are some days the children will stomach the school offerings instead, means a lot to me. Also Bea came home from her first day as a pretend year 4 pupil and told me she was amazed because the head teacher knew everyone's names and didn't just point at them and say 'You', like the dragon Head she had at her London school - this kind of thing makes me very happy. And they get given instruments to learn like the violin for FREE (I used to learn the violin so I am particularly excited about that). Oh and obviously there's the academic side of stuff. But to be honest I care less about that than I do about all the extra stuff like nice parents, nice buildings, good playground, great after school clubs and the outdoor swimming pool. We even get to use the school pool during the summer holidays. Again, we are new to all of this so it might all turn out to be crap but as a wide-eyed ex-Londoner this all seems totally amazing. OH OH OH and the very best bit of it all is that at Bea and G's school there is a car door opener. You literally pull in to a lay by at the gate, the door-opener opens the doors and helps the children out and you say your goodbyes, the doors are shut and you drive off. IMAGINE. K likes to call it the Concierge service. I am thrilled that this means after the baby is out I could sometimes do the school run in my pyjamas without anyone realising. Awesome.

People. They are SO NICE. So far. Potentially they may turn out to be intensely annoying in the future but for now I have collected lots of numbers from people who seem to be desperate to help me with school pick ups/drop offs and one generous soul who offered to unpack boxes for me whilst I sat on the sofa. What could potentially be a negative in some ways has turned out to be a rather fabulous positive for us as everyone seems to know our business. We are known as the family who have just moved with lots of children who couldn't get them all in to the local school. News of Bea's school place spread like wildfire and G was told at lunch time at his school before Bea even knew about it. It is quite amazing. Not only this but people seem to genuinely want to help. Like the lovely headmistress who wanted to make Bea happy and my life easier by allowing her to illegally join year 4.  G has already been over for a playdate with his new best friend and Bea met her new friend because I rang the mother, explained our situation and asked if she would bring her daughter over to play with Bea, and she did. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers and relative strangers. The morning I arrived at the house I discovered a beautifully decorated box waiting for us with home made flapjacks, a Suffolk magazine, tea towel, loo roll, tea bags etc and a card from an old school friend I hadn't seen for years and years. She lives in the next door village and had tracked down the house from Right Move and left us the lovely welcome.  Not that there weren't amazingly lovely people in London, it just took me longer to find them when we moved in there.

Car. I am a huge fan of driving.  Every morning I get to do the school run in the car I am a grateful bunny. Especially at this size. The baby is basically ready to go (I am 37 weeks) and what with my hurty swollen feet as well I am so happy not to be walking the school run. It also means I get to listen to my new CDs which is the best bit of all. Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift are my new bestest buds. Also as K is still at home (mercifully he is not yet gainfully employed which I couldn't be happier about), he quite often takes Cybs to do G's school run which means I get a beautiful ten minute journey (longer if I decided to find a circuitous route) home after dropping off Ted to myself with my favourite new music. This is pretty much the best thing ever.

Waitrose. Enough said. 


We are all much happier.  K and G in particular. It is so noticeable it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Bea and I were pretty distressed as we said goodbye to our old house and we pulled away in the car. We had said a heartbreaking goodbye to the old folks over the road who were there to see us off and to the house. I kept running back in to the house for things I thought I had forgotten, unable to believe we wouldn't be going back there ever again and taking a last look at every room, knowing that we couldn't forget anything as the removals men were about to pack it all up and bring it all to us. The boys were just keen to leave and had their heads buried in Kindles in the back of the car and Cybs just wanted to get on the road to see her Grandma and obviously didn't quite comprehend the enormity of the goodbye she was saying, but Bea and I really felt it. And it was so very hard. BUT, that was the very worst bit of the whole process. The last four and a bit weeks have been some of the happiest we have ever known. It feels like we are on holiday and yet it's real life. Obviously it helps that the sun has shone most days, that K is off work and that there is some slush fund money for fun things like shopping trips and cinema visits and meals out etc. Who knows what it will be like when there is another child (who I am incredibly hopeful will be far less trouble than Cybs but could actually turn out to be far worse) to look after and pay for and it has rained every day for a month and K is at work all day long and we have had to go to Aldi not Waitrose for our evening meal and the children are telling me that they are REALLY BORED. It will clearly not feel like a holiday for ever but for now life is good, Suffolk is good and once the house is finished I will be even happier with it than I am already. Although leaving was hard and we miss our friends and the lovely Honor Oak, we have definitely made the right decision for our family. As far as I can tell.

Until the next time lovely ones, when hopefully I shall report on the safe arrival of No. 5. The final delivery. I hope. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 29 March 2015

So long, Farewell

SO, that's it. The end is nigh. We have exchanged, the move is happening and we are facing the very last days of living in London before completion.

I don't know where to begin. I am all over the place emotionally. It's a bit like when you know you have to break up with someone even though you really love them, but you have to go ahead and go through the heartbreak as you know it's for the best. I don't particularly have strong feelings for the structure of my house or any of its features but I have loved our life here (on the whole - obvs the rat in the loo and various periods of time in severe penury weren't particularly enjoyable), but it is the centre of our world. Bea was six months old when we completed on this house ten years ago (almost to the day), two of my babies were born in the house, four of them were conceived here (TMI?), it is the only home any of them have ever known and most of our lives revolve around this place and the surrounding streets. I can't realistically imagine calling anywhere else 'home'. The new baby will be born and raised in Suffolk and have no idea of our former London life. Cybs also won't remember any of the life Bea and G have enjoyed here for almost a decade. It is so odd to think about it. I was fortunate enough to never move as a child, mum still lives in the only family home I have ever known, so to me this feels like a massive upheaval for them and for me.

It's not that I don't want to move, I am desperate to do so, but I want to move and stay here at the same time. Ideally I'd like to have kept this house and move as well but that was obviously never an option.  As you know, we haven't always had the easiest of times with money. This last year hasn't been that great and it is just not at all fun. I don't know who on earth thought that money doesn't buy you happiness, they are entirely wrong. Maybe someone with money said it.  Living in fear of not having any money is terrifically dull.  It dominates everything and makes your decisions for you.  It limits your options considerably and makes you feel very vulnerable, particularly when you have children. With this in mind, we decided to be very sensible and went for a slightly smaller and less grand house than my original plans for a 'forever' home, but it will still fit us all in and there is room for improvement and extension for our growing brood. The important things are that it has a nice big kitchen, a garden big enough to play in, a drive to rollerskate on and a school nearby. AND its main advantage is that it is marvellously cheap. (In comparison to our London house I mean, it's not a fiver or anything). So, it means that we will finally have something that I believe 'normal' people call 'disposable income'. We may even finally get on a plane with our brood for a foreign holiday which they are quite desperate to do. (Not that I am keen after all the recent air disasters and the price of buying six passports - K is currently the only person equipped to leave the country. A fact he has mentioned once or twice as an advantage....)

I am quite scared of doing things like taking a flight. I have a feeling that we weren't meant to have money. It somehow feels as if we are going against the universe's plans for us and I do worry we may feel its wrath in penance. I have a recurring hideous thought that a great tragedy will befall us soon after we move and I can envisage the front pages of the newspapers with pictures of our smiling faces beaming out with headlines screaming of a family who left the perils of life in the wilds of South East London for the safety and tranquillity of the Suffolk countryside, only to be murdered in their beds/burnt alive/mown down by a tractor. That kind of thing. Or, we all die in a hideous pile up on the motorway now that we have to use it far more often. The car pile up thing is actually the fault of the Speed Awareness Course I was forced to attend after being caught on the way back from my first visit to the house (initially I thought this was a really bad 'sign' but then I found lots of other, more positive 'signs' like the owners having a cat called Keith and decided to go for it anyway). They are quite hot on the whole speeding thing in Suffolk. Another thing I will have to get used to. Although the fact that I am still terrifically haunted by what they showed me on the course should help.....

I will have to get very used to spending a large amount of time in the car from now on. We can't walk to the children's new schools (I will explain at a later date but they can't all go to the local school at the moment...) so we have done our final school run on foot for many years to come. I can't say I'm upset. Not only is it a lot easier to drive than to push a buggy when you are carrying another heavy human and its various add ons inside you, but it also means we don't have to dodge the urine trails, vomit and various poo we usually encounter on our daily commute to their London school.  I had the 'final' day all planned in my head. Our final morning school run was going to be jovial and calm, the pick up was going to be emotional and there would be much time spent in the playground as the children and I bid farewell to all our friends. It didn't turn out at all that way. The children didn't get ready in time, I ended up shouting, there were fights over the bags of sweets I'd arranged for them to give out to their classmates, Ted left his bookbag at home with his farewell cards inside and we all ended up at the school gates in bad moods. I tried to turn it around in the final few minutes before they left me, with cuddles and kisses, wishing them a lovely last day etc but it didn't help. Annoyingly I was more angry that they had ruined 'my' final school run. My last wait in the playground and my last chance to chat to the mothers I had spoken to every morning for years. As Ted was finally ushered in by his teacher with a face of thunder it suddenly hit me. Right as someone was saying their final goodbye to me. I started to well up.

Crying in public is a real no no for me. I don't really like to show emotion. I am fairly traditionally British in that way. Obviously I will happily show anger when provoked but crying is really not something I am at all comfortable with. I don't like other people crying either. It's not that I am cross with them but I would like them to stop, for their sake as well as to ease my own discomfort. I will obviously be sympathetic to start but then I will try and lighten the mood with humour as soon as is appropriate. I don't want people to feel the same discomfort as I do which is why I hate people seeing me cry. Luckily, I am able to bury painful emotions and act as if nothing is happening so that is what I did to spare anyone's blushes. After those few tears on Friday morning I haven't shed a tear about my departure. I have done the final farewells in the playground, said goodbye to my closest friends - both individually and en masse at my goodbye night out, I have seen the children bid sad goodbyes to their best friends and walked the well worn path to the school I've been going to for five years for the last time without even a lump in my throat. Fizzy alcohol has helped. I know it's not good to use drink to stop feeling unpleasant emotions, or to drink (in moderation) whilst pregnant, but seriously, I don't care. It has worked. No one has felt uncomfortable. If I can't stop snivelling and snotting and weeping when we finally say goodbye to our happy family home then only the children and K will suffer and K is incredibly used to it.

Even though we are literally about to leave I still can't quite believe it is happening. Although I have been going through the motions of finding schools, doctors, midwives, moving utilities and stressing over exchanges and removals people, I have also been assuming that at any moment it would all fall through and we would go back to our 'normal' life. What makes it more surreal is that we are having a full packing service - obviously we needed it with me being pretty pregnant and fairly immobile already - but because of this the house has no idea what is coming. We are living in it as if nothing is happening. Dirty washing is still going in the basket, ketchup is still going back in the cupboard and the floors are still littered with things that should be somewhere else. It is entirely 'normal'.  Only very soon the children and I are going to walk out with our suitcases of clothes and a few special toys and most importantly their flipping ipads/kindles and never walk back through the door. I am taking the children and running away to mother's before the packers arrive so I can pretend nothing is happening. And to enable the packers to get on with their ninja like packing work without tripping over children or having to deal with an angry Cybs who might assume they are stealing her books (the most important thing to her - they all had a box to pack and hers is entirely filled with story books) and clothes and toys.  K is staying on to oversee the packing and completion and then coming up afterwards. It won't feel like we have finally left London for a while I don't think. I won't get to see the empty house, or hand over the keys or anything that might feel like 'closure'. The children and I will just get in the car and go to Grandma's for our usual country break and never come back. Well. Not to live. We will of course visit frequently.

For a person who doesn't like change or uncertainty, this is pretty much a nightmare for me.  I know it will all be worth it in the end and eventually it will all begin to feel 'normal', but for now I am much like the children, varying between utter excitement and total panic. Right now I shall ignore the rising fear and spend time trying to think about what on earth I should now call my blog. In hindsight a geographically specific name wasn't a good idea. The new postcode is IP30 but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it. I will forever be grateful to the wonderful SE23 (and its close postcode neighbours) and to all the magnificent people who live within it to whom I have become incredibly close and who have become so very important to me. I don't 'do' emotion, but if I did, I would be balling my eyes out at the thought of no longer having them near me and how on earth I can live without them.

There is little more to be said. We need to get ready, get on and ship out. This house needs some tidier residents to inhabit it. I shall of course keep you informed and updated on all my trials and tribulations of suddenly being a new country mother.  Until then lovely ones. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Unrealistic Resolutions

HELLO! Happy New Year! Or Happy New Yeast as my predictive text would have me bid people. I hope you had a suitably non eventful and enjoyable festive period.

So, as we are still in January (JUST) I will once again start off the new year with a list of highly unrealistic resolutions I shall very likely not achieve in the coming year:

To Control My Threats
For some reason my threats have become wildly out of hand. As my lack of control over the children grows, my desperate threats to get them to do what have I asked become ever more violent.  Basic threats of killing and beating grew to chopping off heads, stabbing, removing fingers one at a time until I found myself on one dark December day threatening to stab G, who no surprise said I wouldn't, so I said I would do it whilst he was asleep so that he wouldn't be able to stop me. He looked slightly surprised and said mothers don't do that. For a SPLIT second it crossed my mind to show him the news reports of the hideous massacre in Australia that had recently happened where a woman, who was clearly extremely mentally ill, had stabbed her eight children. It flashed through my mind that showing him that mothers do do it would be a good idea as he might take my threats more seriously in the future and I would finally gain control.  Luckily common sense beat me to it and I thought it might also cause irreversible fractures in our mother/son relationship and give him a sleep disorder.

The problem I have is that following through on real, achievable threats is exceedingly hard work. Removal of kindles/ipads is really all I have at my disposal. Going to their rooms is not a punishment - Bea voluntarily does that to be alone and watch some shite Aussie programme called Mermaids. At 8 and 10 the step isn't an option and Ted is totally unable to sit still - he is constantly moving for some odd reason - it is like a permanent 'wee dance' which I find boys do when keen for a wee but haven't quite decided it is desperate enough to formally relieve themselves - except that when I ask him if he needs a wee he says 'no, I'm just dancing'. (I hope to get him in to formal dance training at some point - he may well be my Billy Elliot). I can't actually whack them (although honestly the desire to do so often flits through my head. I think any parent is telling a big, fat, fib if they can't admit the instinct to smack a bottom crosses their mind when pushed to the very limits of patience and endurance). I can't send them to bed without supper because I wouldn't sleep for fear that they were hungry.  They don't go on a huge number of after school playdates and I would never stop them going on one because it is a pain having to rearrange them as a parent and that would mean upsetting the expectant child as well.  Ditto with parties.  I also see no point in removing a favourite toy as they have so many they would barely notice.

SO, I am left with removing screens. This causes such hysteria I would only use it for the most heinous of crimes. I mean you would have to almost stab someone for this to occur. Bea is the very worst. She goes in to some sort of psychotic episode and also becomes entirely fearless whilst simultaneously crying, such is her determination to retrieve her most prized possession. She will argue and argue and argue with you, ignoring all reason or sense. K tried to take her on the other day for simply not tidying her room when asked. The fallout was intense. She would not stop asking for it back, coming back time and time again, fearless and teary and 'getting all up in K's grille' about her desperate and urgent need for the ipad back. He kept his cool for as long as possible but then resorted (understandably) to shouting. I kept out of it, mainly because I hate conflict but also as she hadn't actually stabbed anyone, I did feel he was over reacting and the subsequent drama was entirely of his own doing. 

Therefore, my resolution I won't keep No. 1 of 2015 - Threaten the children with only normal and child friendly punishments. Also potentially Resolution I won't keep No. 2 - try following through on normal and child friendly threats so that they respond to your requests to come for supper, get in/out of the bath, do homework, pick up their coats, stop fighting, get dressed etc in the future so that there will be no need to break resolution No. 1.

Stop Shouting as Much
I fear I have made this resolution a number of times before. This evening I screamed/shouted so loudly at George to get out of the bath that my throat still hurts several hours later. Although in keeping with my No. 1 resolution I did at least not threaten him with any physical violence. I just kept saying GET OUT OF THE BATH at rising decibels. So in a way, this is a step forward. However, it does seem that bath time is a particular flash point for me. After 7pm all patience and reason evaporates and I become some wicked harridan. Sadly that means that almost all of the bath and bed routine is spent with my anger levels rising. It is only as I finally descend/ascend (depending on whether I am tired enough to go straight to bed or I think I might manage a few hours downstairs) at nearing 8 o'clock that I find I become calm and rational once again.

I can't help thinking that the newbie isn't helping. I am not at my best whilst pregnant. Even I can objectively admit that I have slight issues with tiredness, anger and hormones when in this state. And even though it is far too early to be doing so, I am finding the bump a bit weighty - there is still a whopping 16 weeks to go and there is no way I can continue a normal life at the end if I am already finding it a bit uncomfortable now. However I need to move house before then so I can't actually think about it.

Resolution I Shall Never Keep No. 3 - to stay calm and not resort to mad-woman-levels of shouting which should be reserved for life and death situations only. 

Master Using a Sling
This is something I have longed for for ten years. A baby sling/carrier looks so lovely on other people. I see the small baby wrapped up inside a Baby Bjorn or one of those wrap around material jobbies, all warm and cosy, sleeping on their mother and I feel a deep sense of longing. I have tried them with each and every sodding baby I've had but the problem I have is that I am jolly large each and every time I give birth to each and every sodding baby. The Baby Bjorn structured thingy seems the best option, but I have to let the straps out a fair bit to fit around my stomach and back but you have to wear it quite tightly in order for it to hold the baby comfortably. Any fat person will know that pulling something tightly around your middle looks awful. That is strike one. The other strike is that my boobs are enormous post baby and my babies are usually heavy (all except the poor starving Bea in the early days), so combined with the excess weight in my boob and tummy I am already carting about every minute of the day, a heavy baby added on to that area means my back gives up fairly early on and results in acute pain.

For George I bought a stripy hammocky sling thing that goes across your body like a bag. Again, it worked for a few weeks if that. The minute he got huge (G went from 8lbs 8 to 10lbs 4 oz in the first ten days - he was always a massive eater) he was only portable in a buggy. For number three I invested in the wrap around material thingy - it looked very earth mothery and easy to use and I was very keen on the idea of having my hands free to cook and care for the other two. This was vaguely ok for a few weeks except that getting it on and off took a level of care and expertise which wasn't easy to do in a hurry and again, it required me to tie it tightly around my middle. Added to this I stupidly bought it in a cream colour. The last time I wore it, when Ted was a few weeks old, I opened the door to my elderly neighbour and she gasped in horror. I was a little thrown by her reaction but when she asked me what on earth I had done to myself, it transpired that she thought I was swathed in bandages and she was under the impression that I had done my torso a serious harm.  I realised immediately that my illusions of looking like the lithe mothers I see walking effortlessly down the street, hands swinging, baby happily attached to their bandage free torsos was in fact all in my head. In real life I looked like a tightly wrapped, fat, Egyptian Mummy.  This scarred me so deeply that I didn't even invest in a sling for Cybs. I dug out the stripy hammock which K wore on our holiday in Devon when she was two weeks old as it was easier than a buggy and three children for getting in and out of trains and on and off beaches etc but that was the only time we needed one. She was in the buggy, car or in my arms at all other times. 

Even though I am still fat and my babies are still heavy I am determined to try again with the fifth. I am once again convinced that the perfect baby sling/carrier is out there and waiting for me, regardless of bad back and tummy fat. I am going to track it down. Potentially I shall begin my search in America where there are quite a number of fat people - maybe they produce a nice sturdy baby sling with extra large straps and a sturdy back support. Or I may give the bandage type thing a go once again, but this time in black or a very dark colour - not only is it slimming but it will also look more like a top to save any cause for alarm to the elderly.

Resolution I will never keep No. 4. Use a sling with the new baby. More than once and for longer than a few weeks.

Enjoy December
This is a big one. I really do not like December.

December and I are not happy bedfellows. It is one long (or short as it is only actually 24 days long and it races by far quicker than I ever want) ball of stress as far as I'm concerned.  Every waking (and a number of sleeping) moment is taken up with concern over gift purchasing and keeping the 'magic alive'. There were also a few tense days awaiting the opportunity to book my Tesco delivery slot. Add to that a number of social engagements (some welcome, some not) as well as three school concerts (some good, some not) and it is hard to find any of it enjoyable. The children's growing excitement and anticipation as the days roll on, just compounds my fear and loathing. Maybe if you have lots of sleep, lots of money and spare time, it is an awful lot of fun preparing for the big day but as I had none of the above this year I really couldn't find the fun in it.

I am VERY over people believing in the big man. It was really fabulous when Bea and G were very little but the novelty wore off after about five years and now it just adds to the stress. Bea STILL believes and yet she is old enough to be incredibly inquisitive and read and understand that all the boxes arriving in the post can't possibly be for the neighbours because they have my name and our address on them. I am quite keen to rid her of her belief this year. I need an ally to help decide what to get, what people want and someone to know that I have to work with budget restrictions. K's answer to almost everything I show him for a second opinion on whether to buy the gift or not is 'they don't need it'. Oddly enough I agree. I would estimate that less than 1% of people in the western world receive items for which they have a genuine need as opposed to something they want. Potentially homeless people being provided with warmth, shelter and food but other than that, the entire point of a modern Christmas is commercialism. Trying to fight it with reason is pointless.

As it happens I surpassed myself with gift buying this year, even with an exceedingly low budget. All the children were thrilled and the day itself was actually pretty delightful. I felt a massive weight leave me as the last present was opened. Although I felt a little stupid for getting myself in to such a state about the whole thing. G is normally happy for days on end if I return from a shopping trip with a multi pack of socks - why I worried that a pile of gifts containing anything even vaguely relevant to his life would fall short of expectation was entirely idiotic. Ted is pickier and can be quite vocal about his thoughts on gifts but even he was beside himself with happiness at his haul.  The girls were naturally happy with each and everything they opened, Bea always is and Cybs is only two so you can pretty much wrap up anything and she would be happy. My meal was pretty darn good as well thanks to my efficient Tesco slot booking ability. It was probably my most favourite Christmas ever even though the December was my worst.

So, Resolution I Shall Never Keep No. 5 - Enjoy December more as it always turns out perfectly whether you spend the weeks and months preceding it in a state of misery or not.

Be More Patient
Somehow, from somewhere I need to find more patience. I am not sure it is at all possible but I really have to find a way to deal with Cybbie on a daily basis without going crazy (and potentially this will help with resolution number one and two as well). I am seriously thinking of asking the powers that be at Sandhurst if they have ever considered employing tired two year olds to test the metal of their new recruits. I honestly have no idea how you are meant to stay calm in the face of total illogic and pedantry. And the need to do everything herself. The words I dread most are 'I help you with that!'.  She has to help with EVERYTHING I DO, from cooking, hoovering, washing, pouring milk and making tea to me going to the sodding loo. Sometimes I just want to do things quickly and on MY OWN.

It is also the relentlessness of it all. Aside from the 5/6 hours I am afforded, between putting her to bed and then her joining me in my bed (of which I am awake for only half), I am with Cybs all the time. At her best, she is an utter delight, but as I have discussed before, at her worst she really could try the patience of a Saint (or an entire army barrack). In a good mood you can get her dressed, leave the house and go about your business as needed. On a bad day leaving the house can take such a long time it can stop you wanting to do it at all. Sadly, I have to leave five mornings a week for the school run and she just about lets me most days but for the rest of the day we are pretty much housebound unless we are going out to get sweets or do something she deems acceptable. I am allowed to go to one playgroup a week, IF she consents. The rest of the time she is quite happy to stay in the house until the afternoon school run.  It doesn't help that it's the winter. And that before Christmas she gave up nappies and agreed to wear knickers and use the potty. It has been largely successful. She was far quicker on the uptake than the lovely Ted BUT she was instantly aware of the power this gave her.  I realised my patience needed a makeover when I was imploring her to do the wee she so desperately needed and after watching her become ever more desperate to wee and yet ever more resistant to the idea of weeing I yelled 'Oh For GOD's SAKE JUST GO FOR A BLOODY WEE'. 

So, my final unachievable resolution for the beginning of the year is To Be More Patient with my truculent two year old. Who is adorable in small doses. But can drive you to distraction in larger doses.

There. I have a way to go before I reach enlightenment and parenting glory. I don't think 2015 is going to be the year I achieve it. I can't see it in 2016 either if I'm desperately honest. This year I have to get another baby out and to move house and get three children in to an already full school etc etc. Oh yes, we're under offer by the way - turns out being on the internet was pretty vital to the whole house selling thing - the first Saturday after it went on Right Move we got our offer. We have also found a house to move to so if all goes well and no one starts being stupid we should be moved by Easter. The buyers seem keen but I don't believe that they won't pull out at any moment so I shan't celebrate until we exchange. K has had a number of idiots pulling out just before exchange and one who tried to do it post exchange. I will not pack one thing until we are legally required to vacate the property just in case.

That's your lot for now. It doesn't really catch you up much and it makes me sounds like I'm having a horrid time which I'm really not, I am quite happy now that it is January and there are no gifts to be bought and I don't have to keep the house spotless for viewings on short notice. I am very excited about the move and now we have our head around the idea of another one, we are also quite excited about the new baby too, so all in all things are pretty good. But this doesn't stop me losing my temper, my patience and, momentarily, my mind as well when it comes to the children.

I shall be back with more thrilling updates and details of the Great Move shortly. Ish.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Things That Keep Me Awake At Night

Hello! I'm BACK. I am in my usual spot, the house is silent and mainly tidy, I have hoovered up the cheerios and corn flakes from the living room carpet (never piss off a two year old and then leave her unattended) and I have a full hour and a half before my peace and tranquility are shattered by demands for yet more Peppa Pig and milk.  I shall attempt to catch you up with the various excitements that have occured in the last few months.

Things That Keep Me Up At Night

1. Worries

I have various and many worries that keep me from sleeping even when I am desperate to do so.  A while ago I couldn't sleep because I was panicking that the children couldn't speak Chinese. It was so unlike me to worry about such stupid things that made me worry more. I began to panic that everyone was secretly taking their children to Chinese lessons and mine would be woefully left behind when the great Chinese take over of the world occurred. How would they get any job if they couldn't converse with their Chinese counterparts? If they got too old to learn would they be able to learn at all? Isn't now the prime time to get their brains around such things? Maybe this would make up for me not teaching them to play the piano?? In the cold light of day I realised that they are not only still learning to spell and write English but potentially extra French or Spanish lessons to compliment what they are already doing at school, might be a better place to start. I also realised that we couldn't afford any extra lessons on top of what they already do so it was an entirely moot point. Quite why I spent a good few hours thinking about trying to get two reluctant learners and one very busy child taking on another very complicated extra language is a total mystery to me. I have gone back to worrying about all the usuals, 'Why will no one buy my house?', 'Should we move?', 'how will I afford x, y and z?', 'how much fatter will I get?', 'Will I ever sleep enough?', 'Is that Ted - does he need his inhaler?', 'Shit did I put the tumble dryer on?', 'Bugger - I haven't paid that bill', 'Should we move?' etc etc etc

2. Birthdays

We have finally completed the birthday marathon. All four done and dusted. Four Birthday surprises, three parties, a tonne of cake and hideous, hideous amounts of money on plastic stuff all behind me for another year. The panic beforehand was higher than ever this year. I have no idea why. Before Bea's I awoke in a cold sweat after a nightmare in which I had forgotten to lay her birthday table, wrap presents or in fact do anything to celebrate her big day in any which way because I had managed to fall asleep instead. In the nightmare I had luckily awoken at 2am and screamed at K to wake up and we had set about rectifying the situation. I have no idea if we managed because luckily I woke up before I got to found out and then wallowed in my sweet relief for quite a while before I felt the shock wear off and my pulse rate return to normal. I don't know if, as they get older, the expectations and anticipation is more exaggerated which in turn increases the pressure on me. Or maybe it was my subconscious forcing me to check all the details of her impending extravaganza as the following day I realised the balloon lady and I hadn't actually confirmed a date for delivery and sure enough - her balloons were not scheduled to arrive on time! QUELLE HORREUR. I know normal people would not panic at such things but about seven years ago I stupidly set a precedent when we only had one very cute three year old and a non plussed one year old so it seemed totally ok to over indulge and spoil the then three year old with a pile of gifts and balloons and cakes and a massive and pricey party. And seven years is a long time to get used to something, so I couldn't very well have her waking up with no foil number balloons - particularly as she had reminded me for about six weeks that finally making it to double figures wasVERY important.  Anyhoo, there is no point in wallowing in the past. On to the present. I found a local party shop and a very helpful woman was able to come to my aid although sadly she didn't deliver. (This is relevant - keep reading I am not just being dull for the sake of it).

The morning I picked them up happened to be quite windy and I had unfortunately decided to wear some comfy jeggings on my bottom half. I couldn't park outside the party shop so I had to carry a number of helium balloons, including a large 1 and 0 and a small 'airwalker' dog a little way back to the safety of my car boot. The wind wasn't kind and I had no hand free to yank up the irritatingly saggy jeggings so I was very desperate to deposit the balloons quickly so that I could prevent exposing myself entirely. By the time I reached the car I also realised that we had so much crap in the car which we were hiding from the house viewers, that fitting the balloons in at all was going to be tricky. Just as I managed to shove in what I thought was all of the unwielding and cumbersome balloons I saw a small, cute dog balloon fly off down the high street. My initial thought was to leave it to its fate and  write it off. Then by some bizarre luck it didn't get instantly run over by the oncoming traffic so I decided to fight for the dog. I slammed shut the boot ensuring the remaining balloons were safe and well and then set off down the middle of Sydenham high street with one hand on my jeans and the other obsessively pointing the key fob at the car and pressing 'lock' in case any local thief had seen this as an opportunity to steal my car and the blessed balloons. The dog (which had weights on its feet to keep it just above ground level - like a real dog) was quite realistically running away and then tantalisingly stopping when the wind died down.  I try not to imagine what an overweight middle aged woman trying to surreptitiously run down the middle of a busy high street whilst holding up her trousers in order to retrieve an inflatable dog looked like, but I do think if I had been an onlooker rather than the victim it may have been quite a funny scene. As luck would have it the dog made it to the other side of the road (albeit quite a way down) entirely unharmed and I managed to scoop it up and place it firmly under my arm before the recalcitrant jeggings had revealed the entirety of my backside. I was quite desperate not to turn around and see if anyone had witnessed the whole thing so I was very pleased to see the shop we had stopped outside was a stationers - I went inside and accidentally bought a number of rolls of hideously expensive wrapping paper I had foolishly assumed would be cheap. Still, it gave me a chance to regroup and calm down before I proceeded to return to the car and make it back home in time to deposit the pesky balloons at my obliging neighbour's house so that Bea wouldn't see them.

Turns out I needn't have panicked. Bea's Birthday Bash was a huge success, she was thrilled, her slumber party was just what she wanted, mainly thanks to a superb Magic Masterclass courtesy of her Godmother's talented husband, the Magician and a huge number of sweets (slight sore point there in that when I came down in the morning I discovered that half the children had lost teeth during the night. It was quite surreal as one after another they presented me with bloody tissues and tiny teeth that had succumbed to toffee consumption). Equally George's birthday went without a balloon escaping hitch. Aside from a distinct lack of money after the first three had had their turn, and a pesky viewing by a rude woman on his actual birthday, he received the giant stuffed wolf he had been desperate for (I have no idea where he gets his ideas from - for Christmas I have to find a large stuffed Skunk - any tips gratefully received) and he had all manner of hideous and not so hideous creatures at his party with the very thorough (but exceedingly pricey) Ranger Stu. And now that it is all blissfully completed, I finally get to start diverting all available funds towards the money black hole that is Christmas. Wahoo! I want my advent calendar to end with January 1st which is when I truly start celebrating.

3. Birthing Sister

During the rather dull half term (there is nothing to report on that front - I was forced to sit through a frankly terrifying ((I really cannot do suspense or threats of danger or any violence in any film - I am ruined for anything but rom coms - I do not exaggerate - I find some things tricky to get through on Cbeebies and cried real, heartfelt tears in Toy Story 3)) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and the far more enjoyable Book of Life and that was really it) Shiny Life Sister went in to obediently timed labour.  Typically for her, she was actually a day ahead of her due date and perfectly timed for me - as she wanted me at the birth I had told her it would have to be during half term so I could abandon the children with mother at short notice and one day in, she obliged. 

Not that I wish to compete in the tiredness stakes when someone is in the throes of labour but it actually wasn't the best day for me - I had only just arrived at mother's in dire need of some long periods of sleep but thanks to the clocks going back and my very beautiful but early rising nephew deciding that that was the morning to start the day at 5.20 am (old time) - I was pretty done in before I even got in the car to return to London. However, much like in actual labour, adrenalin kicked in and I imagined that she was imminently about to push the baby out so I became panicked about my need to get to the hospital. At the first sign of traffic I dumped the car at Tottenham Hale tube and jumped on my most hated form of public transport (I used to use it every week day but now I find it difficult to cope with - so dirty, noisy, everyone is miserable and if it breaks down I am stuck in the dark underground - what is to like about that?) to Warren Street. Again, it wasn't really my moment in the spotlight but I managed to make it to University College Hospital from leaving mum's front door in precisely one hour and forty five minutes. I felt heroic. I rang mother for praise but surprisingly received none (she was not only more interested in what was going on with Shiny Life Sister but she also had nine children at the house and only one other mother (Kent Sister) for help so was understandably not able to recognise my own heroism in the midst of her own) so I saved it for an appropriate time in the birthing room. Mercifully the father-to-be was suitably impressed by my speed and ability and I felt my accomplishment had been justly recognised. On to the birth.

Well. Turns out that she hadn't been imminently about to push it out and I had become far too used to secondary plus births where things don't tend to take twenty four hours but are mercifully far swifter. As soon as I got in to the room I made the incumbent midwife (who I didn't warm to and mercifully left us very quickly after my arrival) provide my poor suffering sister with some gas and air. This was gratefully received and imbibed. From then on it was just a waiting game. She progressed steadily but slowly and the contractions seemed unfairly strong and painful for the stage she was at. Eventually we opted for some diamorphine to help with the pain, and when that wore off we were lucky enough to get her a birth pool. By the time she entered the pool her husband and I were getting very excited about the birth finally seeming imminent (poor SLS had really had enough by this point - it was about 5pm and she had been in constant pain since 1.30am that morning). By the time she got to fully dilated there was lots of excited speculation about being back in time for Downton and how she was SO close to being out of pain and eating toast in bed. She began to push. She pushed like a 'Mother Fo' (I think that is the term) and she pushed and she pushed and she pushed. The midwife kept putting her bent mirror in to the water to see any sign of a head. I started virtually pushing with her and squeezing her hand in solidarity. Nothing happened. Except that SLS, who was already at her limit of endurance when it had got to the pushing stage, got to a point that there are no words to describe. She was broken. She came out of the pool and tried pushing on a stool. After an hour and a half of pushing she admitted defeat - the baby was not coming out regardless of what she did. Then she suffered an excruciating further half an hour wait whilst plans were put in place to move her to the labour floor as the midwife led unit was not equipped for epidural/forceps etc. The wait was agonising. SLS was in tears and I knew exactly how she felt having had the same experience almost ten years ago to the day. To cut an agonising story short, once she eventually made it to labour ward and the obstetrician eventually made it to our room, it was gone 11pm. I have never seen a more broken human and I would have done anything I could to have taken the pain for her for even a little bit. Finally they wheeled her off to theatre to attempt forceps delivery of this back to back, badly positioned baby girl. At one minute to midnight they managed to drag the reluctant Lia in to the world with brute force and forceps and she was gloriously healthy and well. Finally the ordeal was over. When they wheeled SLS back in to the room her relief was palpable. Although not for long as she started to have a reaction to the drugs and couldn't stop vomiting. So much so that they had to give her anti nausea drugs intravenously. By 2.30am, with her still vomiting, it was my time to leave and finally retrieve my abandoned car and get to bed for a few blissful hours of sleep.

Since then Shiny Life has lived up to her name. In the first week she went for a shopping trip to John Lewis Oxford Street, had her hair done, took Lia trick or treating and when I took Bea and Cybs back for a visit on the 7th day, found her with full hair and make up, in an immaculate flat with a very happy breastfed baby. I was not in ANY way envious of her ability to adapt or keep her figure or manage great make up and have a tiny new baby. Not AT ALL.  All hopes for her to get fat, tired and haggard have been entirely dashed. I bet her boobs even stay perky. Sometimes shit like that just happens. I have decided to just deal with it and be a very grown up big sister and to be happy for her. (Albeit through gritted teeth).

4. The Accidental Fifth

It sounds like a musical chord. It isn't though. Somehow, with the excitement of the loft and all the birthdays we have managed to have a small accident. An accident that will get bigger and bigger until in May next year when it rips me in two to enter the world and take its place in this big family. Am I thrilled? Honestly, even with my love of newborns and children I really can't summon too much excitement about it. It sounds ungrateful and I know that 99.9% of people assume it was intentional even with my protestations to the contrary but really, it was truly a surprise to both of us. I am sure once the tiredness eventually wears off (I am hoping that it must be soon, surely - I have been so exhausted I can't stay up past 9pm, and have nearly been to the doctors on a number of occasions to find out if I have some serious, undiagnosed major health issue) I will feel more positive, but at the moment I am just getting through the days. I also seem to be causing issue with the medical peeps because not only am I fat for this pregnancy but I also turned a year older last week so now I am fat AND old. This is not a combination the medical world seem to be keen on. I have been referred to several different consultants to 'consult' on my fatness and elderliness. One supposes that were I to attend these appointments they would tell me to be less fat and possibly try to be less old (I jest).  Due to the high blood pressure issues with Cybs I am also 'on the radar' as 'high risk'. SIGH. Oh and also my placenta is lying low (maybe due to the sheer weight of the rest of my body pushing is southwards...) so I have to attend something called the Placenta Clinic. Such Fun. These appointments annoy me immensely. Not only because I would just like to get on with the hell of pregnancy, not keep being interrupted by people wanting to talk about it or take my blood or measure my sodding blood pressure or tell me to eat less and move more. Also each appointment means either leaving Cybs with Lovely Friend or worse, taking her with me. She is adorable, naturally, but as a two year old with a temper she isn't the best appointment partner. Anyway, this is why the Accidental Fifth keeps me awake at night. Not only does it make me need a wee in the middle of the night, it also makes me worry about a. coping b. being hideously fat c. stupid BMI fattists who now have a say in my fat which drives me mad. I will lose weight, I just can't be arsed to do it right now. d. how the hell Cybs, who still shares my bed every night, will cope with something smaller and cuter wanting me and my boobs at night. (Just to clarify, she comes in to me in the middle of the night after going to sleep beautifully in her own cot and also, she is actually off the boob, she just still likes to stick her hand down my top to go to sleep - like a warm, squishy comfort blanket. Much as I hate the hand down my top, I do actually love sleeping with her. I can't imagine not doing it.)

So, there you have it. That is sort of the last few months in a nutshell, and why I haven't managed to write for two months. I think that brings you all up to speed. Oh, re the house - no one has liked the house enough to make an offer which is intensly annoying.  I HATE having to keep the house tidy for stupid people to view - ideally someone would just drive past and decide to buy it from the pictures but people are stupendously picky when it comes to parting with hundreds of thousands of pounds - weirdos. We aren't on the internet at the moment so as not to jeopordise K's job which isn't helping. We are planning to try again in January, all guns blazing and on every property website known to man. Hopefully that will bring a steady stream of people willing to buy.  I can't really think ahead until we know where are on the house front so in the mean time we will just settle down to enjoy our final SE23 Christmas and as a family of six.

Now I shall leave you to your lives. I must go and sleep. As per usual.

Until the next time.

(As a footnote to all this - how the hellidy hell do people work from home? I have taken hours and hours and hours to write this - an hour and a half was nowhere near enough - I have checked facebook and emails around a hundred times, I have taken a long and leisurely lunch hour, had a little lie down with Cybs ((to get her to sleep but also because it is lying down)), taken an unusually fervent interest in the outcome of an episode of Cowboy Builders and also played a lot of Words With Friends. I think it is quite obvious that if in the unlikely future, I ever had to return to the world of work, it would most definitely need to be in a formal setting with time structures, no kitchen and no TV. And preferably no internet access.)