Friday, March 28, 2008

Full time job

I go back to work in just over 2 weeks and have been dreading it. As Eve gets older and more interactive, she gets more fun to be with. She is especially fun in the morning when, after the Boy goes to work and Eve is fed, we play in bed together and she is at her most adorable. I found myself the other morning at 8.30 getting all tearful because this lovely mummy-daughter time I have had since Eve was born will be when I am on my way to the office.

The basis of my desire to be a full time mum is mainly rooted in the horror that strikes me that someone else will be her main carer and will be the person who will be there for her when she is sick or needs a cuddle if she falls over. This is entirely about me and my emotions, our nanny is brilliant and Eve will be loved and cared for wonderfully. I am just not sure I want someone else to fulfill what I think should be my role.

However, it has been useful that over the past few days since my parents left and I have looked after Eve full time on my own, I have had a sense of what full time motherhood would be like. After all, one should go into a job knowing what the role and responsibilities are before taking it on.

What I am about to say may offend some, but the truth needs to be told.

I love my daughter and I am having a great time with her. However, by 5pm today I was bored. There are only so many times you can sing "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" before it does your head in and you start substituting other body parts. I have found that many nursery rhymes lend themselves to naughty or rude versions if you are in a creative mood. I even found myself doing the washing up this afternoon for something different to do.

Of course every time Eve smiles or giggles, it lifts me. She has started to chat in baby talk and loves singing along with me. All this is adorable and a lot of fun. But some people like babies, some people find them a bit boring. I love Eve and she is more interesting than most, but my brain has not worked (other than reading the Economist) for 3 months now and it wants to get back in shape.

So, providing I can get flexible hours or maybe working from home a couple of days a week, I am really rather looking forward to being a Mum and having a career. A decision made not too late considering I am back at work shortly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sleeping with the enemy

After the vomfest of the junk, Eve slept through the night for the first time, a whole 9 hours. I, of course, only slept 6 and then lay there waiting for her to wake up!

This was only achieved, I must confess, because for most of it Eve was asleep on me. Among Eve's many qualities is having a lot of wind and needing to fart a lot. A few weeks ago she was waking herself up a few times a night with it because she can't pass it lying on her back. Each time I would get up, pop her on her front for half an hour until it was over, and then put her back down. It started to piss me off so, after one such night, I just put her on her front on me and fell asleep. We both slept for 4 hours.

The cot death research means that putting her on her front in her cot is really stupid and dangerous so, if she needs to sleep on her front then on me is the only option.

Every baby book says that babies should sleep in their cots, and sleeping with their parents means they will never be able to independently sleep. As a result, I tend not to tell people that I do this. I con myself that because Eve goes down in her cot each night (only to be taken out 2 hours later when the farts appear) that she is not getting into bad habits, but let's face it she much prefers sleeping on warm soft mummy than in her cot.

Everytime I tell anyone I do this they look aghast and I get comments like "you are making a rod for your own back", and some people look at me with such horror that you would think I left her rolling in her own poo in the gutter.

Until yesterday at baby group. We were talking about routines and I rather proudly said Eve slept through the night. All eyes turned to me "How?". I confessed that she sleeps on top of me so I had sort of been cheating. A small voice next to me piped up "I do that too, he sleeps much better like that". Someone across the room then said "I was feeling so guilty but I do it too, I need to sleep". The session then turned into a scenario akin to an AA meeting "Hi, my name is Yummy Mummy and my baby sleeps in my bed".

After trying to get her to stay on her back last night, and waking up with her crying for an hour, I no longer care. Perhaps when she is 18 and will still only sleep with her mummy I will care, but right now I need my sleep too much too.

Monday, March 24, 2008


The title being a reference to boats that can be hired for a trip in Hong Kong, as well as the amount of stuff I have to take with me on the aforementioned trip as a result of taking Eve with me.

A year ago, my very good friend R booked a junk for her birthday. It took us around the island in the warm sun, to lunch on a small island, and then back via a quick swim. I got pretty drunk (drunk as a skunk on a junk) and had a great time. And looked pretty damn fine in a bikini.

This year, R booked a junk again to repeat the same trip. However, my experience was somewhat different. I love my daughter, I really do, but a reflux baby is not quite a portable as perhaps I would like.

It started quite well. I made it out of the house after only one change of clothes (me) because Eve decided to wait until she was in the Baby Bjorn before she vomited up her breakfast. Being quite organised, I made it to the shopping mall near the pick up point to buy a card and gift, get the latter wrapped, and meet a friend to grab a croissant then was only 5 minutes late to meet the party and board the boat.

Eve initially slept like a log and various people marveled at how pretty/quiet/sweet she was.

Then the chaos began. Firstly, she was hungry. Feeding Eve without her super duper baby-sized feeding cushion is a challenge at the best of times, but on a rocky boat in swell it was a real challenge. She bobbed on and off while eating, usually a sure fire sign that she is going to vomit the lot back up. When I passed her to the Boy for winding, this is exactly what she did, all over the deck of the boat - while I cleaned it up and C, who was already feeling seasick, went a nice shade of green.

When we finally got to the pretty little island, Eve waited until the food came and then decided she was hungry again. I didn't know many of the people there, we were in a small Chinese restaurant that packed us in very tight, so I thought the better course was to find somewhere else to feed her rather than whip out a boob at the table. Except that it was very sunny and I was anxious not to get Eve to hot so finding a shady place took a bit of effort. Not that I worried for too long because on the way to find a feeding location, Eve did a huge poo and the mission's objective changed.

A little girl helpfully pointed me to the rancid, disease infested, dirty hovel that passed for a toilet. In the absence of anywhere else in the shade, I laid the change mat out next to the sink (in which a small family of unidentifiable bugs were living) and got on with it. Eve, being very much her mother's daughter, took one look at the disgusting surrounds and started to scream.

She was still screaming when she was in a new nappy and dressed, so the original mission continued. By this point, shade was merely a luxury, and anywhere with a seat would have been OK. Not far from the rancid hovel was a car park sort of thing. I say "sort of thing" because there are no cars or roads on this island so why there needed to be a car park was up for grabs, but it had a bench and I fed her. Or rather, she hung like a limpet off me and sucked for all she was worth because without the feeding cushion or an equivalent I practically had to sit her upright in front of me and attach her to a boob.

Did I mention there was no shade and it was bloody hot?

At the first sign that she was at least sufficiently fed to stop screaming, I walked back to the restaurant and ran into the Boy who had decided to come and find me. He politely pointed out that I had vomit down my back - the little darling had immediately vomited up everything she had just ate.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a bit of a stressful blur of vomit, feeding and poo. The poor darling, it was not her fault, she was feeding in such a bad position and with so many distractions that she kept of throwing up and then being hungry again. I pretty much fed her all afternoon.

I have never been so glad to get home.

Postscript: This was all compounded by another couple on the boat who had the "perfect" baby (one month older than Eve) who fed well, didn't cry and played sweetly with everyone.
Postscript 2: Did I mention I also get seasick?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Attention seeking

Over night the cat threw up. Clearly, as she is a clever little thing, she has realised that the best way to get attention in our family at the moment is to vomit.

I am waiting for the Boy to join in now.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Like mother like daughter

Since Eve was born I have been clutching at straws that there might be something, other than being a bit stroppy when she is tired, that she has inherited from me. She has the Boy's hair colour, blue eyes and occasionally looks scarily like his brother or my mother in law (if you are looking for something to screw with your head at 3am then feeding something that looks like your mother-in-law takes some beating). However this week I have finally found an area where Eve is like her Mum.

To explain this I need to take you back to Cardiff University Student's Union bar in the early 1990s. My sister was at Uni there and I, as a 14 or 15 year old, had gone to visit her. The bar doormen were quite tough so to get me into the bar she had to sneak me in quite early before the bar got busy and the doormen got picky. This meant I was in the bar with my sister, some of her friends, her ex boyfriend D and the Cardiff Uni rugby team at about 6pm.

To begin with the evening was quite refined, or as much as students ever are. I began by drinking pints of the tipple of choice of your average teenager, cider. After a few pints of the nicer tasting stuff, I moved onto larger. Hitherto I had never liked lager, but after a few pints of cider I was willing to give it a go. A couple of pints later, and a drunken conversation with a cute member of the Uni rugby team, D and I decided it would be a top idea to drink vodka with orange. After one drink, the mixer seemed like too much effort, so he and I stood by the bar just downing shots of vodka.

My sister, showing much common sense and foresight, decided at this point to go and spend the night with her then boyfriend leaving me in the capable hands of D and her flatmates. We stumbled back to the flat where my memory gets a bit hazy.

My next memory of the night was walking into her sitting room where her flatmates were sitting and asking them what I should do with the vomit I was holding in my hands. The next memory I have is of them cleaning the sitting room floor, and the final memory is of me lying with my head over the side of my sister's bed with a bowl underneath it.

The next morning it transpired that I had pretty much redecorated the flat. However, displaying a remarkable new talent, I had not at any point got vomit on myself but rather been very effective in projecting some distance and with considerable velocity (apparently the one down the mirror was especially impressive).

It was as I held my daughter yesterday as she projectile vomited all over the floor, bookcase and pot plant (fertiliser anyone?) but not on herself or me that the Cardiff Uni incident came back to me and I realised I have passed to my daughter a very important talent.


Eve becomes more and more aware of things everyday. This has two implications. Firstly, she is cute as a button as she smiles, gurgles and hits things. Secondly, she doesn't want to ever go to sleep.

Bleary eyed yummy mummy today...

Friday, March 14, 2008

We are family

There is nothing like being a parent to give you a profound sense of gratitude for what your parents did for you. Until I had been through the sleepless nights, wiping up vomit and poo, worried at the hospital (and this is just in the first 10 weeks) I found it hard to truly appreciate what my own parents have given up for me. I am increasingly incredulous that even those who don't much like their parents should at least be grateful.

Take, for example, my friend P. He has had every opportunity provided to him by his parents - a stable home life, a good education, support in his choices whatever they may be but he is still resolutely mean about his parents whenever he speaks about them. He finds them dull, boring, uncultured, and lacking in interesting conversation. He seems to dread his rare trips to see them, and moan about them when he does. I have never met his parents, they could be all of the above, but even if they were a couple of axe murderers they still brought him into the world, and cared for him, and made him who he is. This alone should ensure some respect, if not love.

My own parents are visiting at the moment and being the doting grandparents. I can only imagine how odd it must be to see your child with a baby of their own. Perhaps a sense of pride that I didn't turn out so bad? That I grew out of the stage where I [insert one of my many odd stages], that I made it to my 30s in good health, and that I didn't end up with any of the many unsuitable boyfriends I previously dated?

As I change Eve's nappy, or hold her as she cries, there are loving and knowing looks exchanged between my parents and I as I do my best to convey "I now understand what it was like with me, and thank you more than I can articulate". I suspect I actually just look a bit bemused, but the thought is definately there.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Prude and prejudice

I consider myself a pretty liberal minded person, my general approach to life being "It does not matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you don't do it in the street and frighten the horses" (Mrs Patrick Campbell). I have seen, and done (sorry Mum to reveal this on my blog, although I suspect you always knew) all manner of things and substances in the past and have not led a sheltered life. However, I find that as a mother I am becoming something of a prude.

I was walking across Central after my trip to H with LottieP and came cross a large "erection" on the Ritz Carlton of a scantily clad young man ( for evidence) and found myself quite aghast at the semi naked torso in CK underwear before me. I have also had cause to write my first letter to a newspaper since I managed to have two letters published in Melody Maker in the same week when I was 15 (text below), this time regarding how paid for sex is so obvious in Hong Kong.

On the radio today I heard details of a study in the US that found 1 in 4 teens in the US has a sexually transmitted disease, and I was horrified that not only are so many teens having sex but being so completely stupid about protection.

I am not quite sure what it is in my hormones or lack of sleep that should lead me to becoming Hong Kong's moral guardian. However, I increasingly find myself worried about what young eyes see, young ears hear and, although I dread to think about it in relation to a teenage Eve, protecting young bodies from all manner of sexually transmitted nasties.

Letter text below. For anyone who worries, I used a little artistic licence on Eve's age and am not taking her out night clubbing quite yet.

"It is with some interest that I have watched the disgust from the media and "public" regarding the Edison Chen photos. Without a doubt there are things that we should protect our children from, and showing what amounts to soft pornography in daily newspapers is a step too far. However, I can't help feeling that the moral outrage at the celebrities in the photos is a case of double standards and reveals a greater problem that many in Hong Kong have regarding their attitudes to sex.

I find it strange that so many people have chastised grown adults for engaging in a consensual activity in a town where we blindly allow strip joints next to office and residential areas, turn a blind eye to prostitution in some of the districts and bars in Hong Kong, and even the SCMP this week had an article on compensated dating. The puritanical response to the photos is completely out of proportion to the actual content and context. Where is the outrage that I, and presumably my child, can walk along a street in Wan Chai in the middle of the day and see scantily clad strippers hanging outside doorways and men entering hourly hotels with young women on their arm?

I find it far easier to explain to a child why two grown adults, in safe and secure relationship, engage in the types of activities shown in the photos than I do explaining what goes on overtly but unmentioned in many parts of Hong Kong."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sleep, perchance to scream

Eve has, for the past 5 nights slept 5-7 hours straight overnight. In fact, she has something of a routine now of bed at 8, feed at 10 or 11 and then sleep until 4 or 5, then up at 8 for breakfast.

I don't quite know what to do with the extra sleep I am getting! The Boy is positively perky in the mornings.

Only took 9 weeks...

Ladies wot shop

I have a bit of a tendency to drag Eve everywhere with me that I can. I would like to pretend this is good for her development or some such, but in reality it is because I refuse to stop going out, and at the same time am acutely aware that my maternity leave only has one month left and I want to spend as much time with her as I can.

Usually when we go out people comment - ask how old she is and whether she is a boy or girl. If she is awake people, especially Chinese, comment on how blue her eyes are and she does have an adorable smile. Eve is pretty portable as she doesn't cry much and is such a glutton that if she's not eating she is often asleep digesting the vast amount in her tummy!

Earlier this week I found myself in one of HK's most glam shops (starts with an H, is named after a god and sells stupidly overpriced bags named after Grace Kelly). For the past 4 years I have been coveting, and I do not use the word lightly, a particular watch from the aforementioned shop. I have never managed to justify spending such a horrific amount of money but the combination of three factors, carefully rationalised, led me to the store.

Firstly, other than a pair of Jimmy Choos in the sale I have not spent any money on clothes, shoes or handbags since I got pregnant (the Luella nappy bag doesn't count as it's for Eve). Secondly, the bank was very generous with my bonus this year. Finally, I have just had a baby and deserve a pressie so I might as well buy myself one!

So, accompanied by my glam friend LottieP to guide me in case I had lost the designer shoppings skillset along with my flat stomach, I put on my best baby sling and pottered along to H. I believe that one should always walk into stupidly expensive shops as if it is an everyday occurance so I strode towards the door...

To find that nobody opened it for me! Even in dodgy little seconds shops someone opens the door if you have a baby, but not here. Inside the shop assistants were of the type of seem to float around without actually being responsible for anything. In HK, where shop assistants tend to jump on you with a sales pitch, this was refreshing but unnerving - the pink bundle on my front was not a growth to be ignored!

When we found the watch section and a lovely lady to serve us, she waxed lyrical about the products, helped me try on a few different watches, and even let me try hers to see what a different colour strap looked like. However, not once did she or anyone else mention the fact I had a small snuffling thing stuck to my chest.

The only person, in fact, who registered was a 60 something, Chanel-clad, blonde lady who looked utterly horrified.

I think I prefer the cheaper shops where people are a bit more human, although I have a very nice watch now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Two months and counting

Eve is two months old tomorrow and I am currently writing this as I watch Eve sleep in her cot. Our evening routine has evolved from the relatively simple bath, feed, bed to now include half an hour to an hour of screaming. We have tried everything - feeding her before bathtime, making sure she has a nap just before bathtime so she isn't overtired, and all manner of variations. Nope, it appears that my darling daughter just needs to scream for a bit to wind down after the day. Like everything, she'll grow out of it at some point. Had it started when she was 2 weeks old rather than two months I would have been a nervous wreck, but now we just let her get it out of her system ("It's good for her lungs" her nanny says with a wry smile) and then she falls asleep.

Eve is now the oldest baby at the mother and baby group (which is for 0-3 month old babies) and I found myself today in the unusual situation of being asked for advice from all the newer mothers. I don't in any way think I have done much right, but then Eve is still alive and putting on heaps of weight (she is now twice the weight she was when she left hospital) so I can't have done too much wrong either. I know that a number of pregnant women and new Mums are now reading this, so I thought now would be a good time to review some of the "dos and don'ts" I have gleaned so far.

- Realise this is going to be the hardest thing you will ever do, and the most rewarding
- Accept help wherever you can get it be it a nanny or friend
- Ask for help, nobody won a prize for doing everything themselves
- Moan, whinge, complain, scream and cry. In fact anything that makes you feel better. Apologise later if you want to, but otherwise don't worry.
- Jettison anything or anyone who doesn't support you or makes you feel bad, life is simply too short
- Ditto anyone other than a professional childcare expert who offers "advice" based on their friends, their kids / grandkids. NOBODY knows your child better than you do
- Get used to your baby crying sometimes, or a lot, and that this doesn't make you a bad mother
- Become very clear in how you communicate. If you don't want your husband to go out because you've had a crap day and need a break, tell him or at the very least send him an SMS
- Make time for yourself, once a day if you can, and do something mindless or intellectually challenging. Strangely either reading Hello or reading the Economist make me feel better
- Try to sleep when the baby sleeps - ignore the books and gumpf about bad habits and stick them in bed with you if that means you will get an extra 10 mins kip
- Get out and have fun
- Find a mother and baby group to share your experiences and realise you are not alone

- Expect your baby to be like the babies in the books - they get ill, have growth spurts, have bad days. Factor in all these and your baby will only do what Gina Ford says one day in every 20, let it go (or burn the books)
- Plan anything until the morning of the day itself. All it takes is for baby to have a crap night and you need to sleep more than you need dinner with friends. Caveat every invitation with "we'd love to but baby is a bit ill/grumpy/ difficult at the moment so can we provisionally say yes but let you know on the day?" - real friends won't mind at all
- Spend too much time in a confined space with baby - get out once a day if only for a walk
- Be too ambitious about what you will have time to do. 20 hours of your day will involve burping, feeding, nappy changing and sleeping. The remaining 4 hours will come in 15 minute increments!
- Think breastfeeding will be easy. And don't beat yourself up when it's hard.
- Put up with any crap from anyone. Someone makes you feel guilty about something, stop talking to them for a while.
- Believe that babies are portable. They are more portable than, say, a 4x4 Jeep but they have huge amounts of stuff and love routine. Suddenly having bath time at the same time each night becomes very important for your sanity!
- Feel bad about going to see the doctor when you are worried about something, it's what they are there for
- Forget to enjoy your baby. The roundabout of feeding, burping and changing sometimes feels so functional you forget that your baby is fun, and that first smile is amazing.

Story so far... other suggestions welcome!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The smell of burning martyr

Eve had a bad night last night, lots of wind, awake a lot, and I only got a couple of hours sleep. For the first time in a good few weeks I started to find myself losing the plot a bit about the lack of sleep. This was in part due to the fact that Eve has been sleeping much better lately, 3 or 4 hours between feeds overnight, and also because in my hazy, sleepy state I figured out that it has been 60 days since I had a semi decent nights sleep. That is only 20 days less than Mr Fogg took to go the whole sodding way around the world. This morning I was tired, feeling a bit shitty about both lack of sleep and the complete unfairness that I have a great baby except her digestion is screwed up.

However, I am a bit unusual it would seem, in HK, in that I do overnight myself. I was at lunch with colleagues yesterday and I found out that I am a bit of a novelty in not only breastfeeding overnight, but doing everything it myself. One colleague, whose wife is pregnant with the second child, has hired a maternity nurse to look after the new baby 24 hours a day for the first month. It is costing him an arm and a leg but they have decided that it is too hard to do it all themselves. Another colleague, who grew up in the Philippines thought it was strange I was waking up at all and I should be getting the nanny to do it - she described her family approach to new babies as one of "delegation".

I believe that you get no points for doing things the hard way so I find myself wondering why I continue to do the nights myself, and during the week when I let the Boy sleep, entirely on my own.

Perhaps this stems from the example of my own mother and sister who both did/do everything themselves. I feel I would be something of a fraud if they managed it and I didn't. I also want to spend as much time with Eve as I can before I head back to work and the nights are a lovely quiet time for the two of us to be together. I also feel that having a baby is not supposed to be easy, that sleepless nights are part of the deal and so I should go through it.

However, what this ends up with me being is something of a martyr about all this. It is the "no, I will do it" attitude but of course I will make sure that everyone knows I have made a big sacrifice/it is really hard. At baby group today we were even discussing the fact that we sometimes won't let our partners carry the bag/baby/push the buggy because we quite like being the "I do everything all the time and isn't it hard" wife. There is always a distinct smell of burning martyr at these times.

Is this a bad thing? On balance probably not. I could possibly do things with a bit more grace and stop complaining as much but it is tough, I am exhausted, and I really don't care who knows.

However, the Boy needs to be ready with the fire extinguisher.

New beginnings and old friends

The past weekend has been one of change in the little universe that revolves around Eve. Firstly, her godfather-to-be has left Hong Kong and moved to Australia to follow his heart and head. It is really sad to see him go, although nice to know that via Eve he will always be in our lives and supportive of her (he had organised a case of wine to be laid down by the time she was 1 week old). He is very much part of our little family, and now we have his lovely girlfriend to add as well.

I also found out that my friend, S, is pregnant and it was a delight to welcome her into what I consider to be a club that nobody tells you exists until you join and then it is lovely to be part of it, just as so many Mums have welcomed me.

Finally it was Mother's Day (Mothering Sunday for my Mum) in the UK - my first as a Mum. Thanks to my friend C and Facebook I remembered it, although Mum still beat me to my call with an SMS (my own mother being particularly quick on the draw when it comes to major events!). It wasn't Mother's Day in Hong Kong, so I don't consider it my first. However, the SMS I received from my oldest friend, B, to a wonderful mummy, was a reminder of my new status and the warmth of my friends.

Eve also turned 8 weeks on Saturday and will be entering her third month this week.

All change.