Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gold medal mummies

Today I did my first race since I had Eve. It was in a double scull, racing over 2000m, and in stinking hot sun. I had been having a complete panic all week about it because I have not done anything resembling the type of effort required for a rowing race for well over a year and wasn't sure whether I would humiliate myself or even survive the course.

So, it was with some pride that myself and my doubles partner for the day, J, won rather convincingly. It was as we picked up our medals that we realised not only were we a fair few years older than our opposition, but also both had children.

When I got home Eve spent ages looking at the shiny gold medal, rolling it over in her hands and, almost unheard of, didn't try to shove it straight in her mouth. The Boy thinks this is a good sign for her (i.e. his) hopes for the 2024 Olympics.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

So last season

There is no consumer category quite so exploitative and laden with embedded branding guilt as that for baby. I can think of no other category (except, perhaps, healthcare) where every single marketing message is tinged with the underlying message of "this will make your baby happier/safer/more clever/walk earlier/sleep better and if you don't buy it then they will become a drug addled prostitute and die in a gutter and it will all be YOUR fault". In almost all other categories messages are carefully regulated precisely to stop people being conned or guilted into buying things but if for baby then it seems perfectly acceptable.

However, it is only once you have had a baby for a few months and become hardened to all of this that you realise how much crap you have or could have bought for your child. For example, we have lots of lovely toys for Eve (less than most of my friends have for their babies, however, so much so that I often feel we are depriving her), but her favourite two toys are an empty water bottle and the cat.

We did, however, feel that we had to purchase some of the childhood essentials and, when Eve was about 4 weeks old, we purchased a mobile.

Mobiles are referred to in all the baby books, you are supposed to put them on to help your baby to go to sleep. Being modern and, as we like to think of ourselves, trendy parents we refused to get anything too brightly coloured or noisy and went for muted natural tones and fibres with a nice gentle tune with a pseudo-classical lilt. It was such a "design" piece that the animals looked quite creepy, and the zebra only had one eye. And, yes, it was a bit more expensive than the plastic ones.

The mobile has not, however, been quite the worthwhile sleep-inducing investment we hoped it would be.

Phase 1 (4-8 weeks) - the music seemed to wake Eve up so we didn't use it
Phase 2 - (2-3 months) - this was the wind-down scream phase so we used to use the mobile as a distraction technique (my mum discovered this one), but it only worked twice and then Eve went back to screaming to get to sleep and the movement of the mobile seemed to make her worse
Phase 3 (4-5 months) - Eve used to wake up in the middle of the night and talk to it, or try to grab and eat it

Then, this week, came the final straw. At 5am I awoke to hear a thud, thud noise coming from Eve's cot. Upon closer inspection Eve had managed to get the mobile down and was happily whacking it against the side of the cot as if to say "I never liked this bloody thing hanging over my cot and, aha, I have finally got rid of it!".

Top tip to new parents, don't bother with a mobile.

Buffet #2

We have reached a new level of self service with Eve - yesterday while we were playing she reached out and grabbed my top. This is not unusual, but what was unusual was that she then pulled it up and, mouth open, lurched at my boob.

Thank goodness she has yet to do this in public.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


One of the things the baby books warn you about is when your baby becomes mobile. This causes all sorts of problems, they start hitting things, munching their ways through wires, sticking their fingers in sockets, and pulling expensive sacred family heirlooms off shelves. Another issue is that they tend to move in their sleep and end up wedged in all sorts of place they can't get out of. Eve manages this with remarkable regularity, and at least once over night I end up having to move her back down the cot from where she is wedged and bashing her head. She has perfected the ability to go backwards, and it is only a matter of time before she figures out forwards locomotion.

One somewhat more unexpected event, however, occurred last night. At about 5am Eve woke up and decided she was hungry. As usual, I ignored her (we are trying to wean her of feeding at night) but after her insistence got to a sufficiently loud and continuous stage I decided to bring her into bed with me. Rather than feed her, I first tried to settle her by cuddling her (again, part of weaning her off night feeds is to try to get her back to sleep without food). I was lying on my side cuddling Eve in front of me, when she put in all her effort and squirmed around to face me. I turned her round, and she did the same thing again. On the third time I finally realised that each time she was also lunging at my boob with her mouth. With her increased mobility Eve seems to now think my chest is some sort of self-service buffet to be accessed at will.

Another nail in the coffin of breastfeeding me thinks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The flight from hell

Flying with a baby was altogether a new experience and, I must admit, not anything like as bad as I thought it would be.

Being British, and acutely aware of what other people think of me, the thing I was most worried about were the hard stares from my fellow passengers as Eve went into the inevitable meltdown. I am used to her screaming from time to time, others are not. Therefore, how people were going to react was my main concern.

The people I encountered on the flights can be grouped roughly into 3 groups.

The first, although I am willing to admit this may be airline specific, were the cabin crew. Never having travelled with a baby before, I had no idea how accommodating the crew are. We boarded first, the crew on both legs made sure we were settled before tending to anyone else. They chatted to Eve, helped me with bags, and every time Eve cried at least two members of crew checked whether there was anything they could do. During one of the, mercifully rare, meltdowns (Eve only cried on take off and landing and was a delight for the rest of the flight) a crew member came up to be and asked if I was OK. I mumbled apologetically that Eve was tired and just needed to sleep, to which they replied "Yes, but are YOU OK?". They made the whole thing much less stressful.

The second group are grandparents and those traveling with children themselves. They will cluck and coo, played with Eve and look on sympathetically whenever Eve cried or was being difficult.

The final group are the middle aged men, almost exclusively businessmen in ill fitting clothing and using their blackberries until the last possible moment, who look upon you with horror and disgust as they realise there is a baby on their plane, in their business class. As I entered the lounge I could see people look up from their copies of the FT and start to pray I was on a different flight. One man in the lounge at HK actually had the audacity to say, after cooing over how cute Eve was being, that he hoped she was at a different end of the plane to him.

Thankfully Eve was a delight for most of the flight, and there were few of the last group of people around. I didn't have to drug Eve to get her to sleep (although I had Calpol and Piriton in my bag just in case), and she slept, played and ate well.

So, my top tips for travelling with a 6 month old would be the following:
Travel business class. I know this is impossibly expensive but having the flat bed for Eve to sleep on with me, the foot stall to use to feed her, and the huge chair to turn into a playpen for her to potter around on made the flight much more bearable than if she had been sitting on me for 14 hours.
Use Air New Zealand if you are going from HK to the UK. Brilliant in every possible way, I couldn't fault them.
Take a day flight if going to the UK. It was an awful lot easier just keeping Eve up a few hours and then slotting into her normal routine and she was much more bearable on the plane because she was awake and could eat and play.

And finally...
If anyone, anyone, glares at you then get out a boob and start breastfeeding - they will most certainly look the other way.

Jet lag

I hate jet lag. I get it really badly, always have. As a result of being able to fall asleep rather easily, I have always found it particularly difficult to get over jet lag because I have a tendency to fall asleep at the drop of a hat, wherever I happen to be (once I fell asleep as pillion on a motorbike going 90mph down a motorway - I really can sleep anywhere).

However, on the most recent trip the ease with which Eve and I slotted into the difference timezone was really rather surprising, and delightful. She even slept through a couple of nights (or would have done had we not been doing our best to freeze her to death which she, quite rightly, objected vocally to).

Which has made the return leg all the more difficult. Trying to explain to me, a grown adult, why you might be awake at midnight for three hours is hard enough, explaining it to a 6 month old baby who just wants to play is altogether a new challenge.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Everything but the kitchen sink

Over the years of business travel I have become very adept at packing quickly and efficiently. Perhaps by the simple trade off between sleep and packing on dark mornings to get early flights, I can now pack for a week in under 10 minutes. The Boy, conversely, takes an hour to pack for an overnight trip, but I have become increasingly efficient.

Today, during a 10 minute slot between conference calls I laid out all the things I will need for the trip home, with Eve sitting on the bed and advising me on which shoes I should take. All my stuff is now ready to be packed into our suitcase.

So, now I turn to Eve's packing. She is only just 8kg and won't even have her own seat on the plane so surely it can't be that hard? Oh, that was a very silly thing for me to think!

Aside from the thousands of changes of clothes, bibs and pjs, I also have to think about wipes, nappies, nappy bags, nappy cream, her favourite toys, her two rubber ducks for bath time, books, little blankie things she holds while she sleeps (if we forgot those I would cry, as would she), baby calpol in case she get ears pain on the flight, bottles, utensils, three meals for the flight (apple, pumpkin and pear - her favourites). Don't even get me started on the travel cot and associated bedding.

I now have visions of the Boy and I turning up at check-in only to find we have remembered everything but have forgotten Eve.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hell at 30,000 feet

Imagine the scene. You have had a tough week at work and are due to fly back to the UK after some particularly difficult meetings. You are looking forward to lying back in your big spacious business class seat and shutting out the world.

Or, you have saved up all year for a trip of a lifetime for your honeymoon and are looking forward to some discrete smooching with your loved one on a long flight over some chilled champagne.

Just as you settle down in your big flat-bed seat a slightly frazzled couple get on the flight with a 6 month old baby who is clearly very awake, very happy, and very chatty. She won't sleep very well in her bassinet because it is not dark or quiet enough, so will cry until she exhausts herself to sleep.

Oh yes, people are going to hate us.

What a difference a year makes

In 2 days time I depart for the UK to spend a week at home with the families. It will be quite different from any other trip because this time all the siblings (the Boy's and mine) have children. I am looking forward to meeting my new nephews (who are both now 9 months old), and seeing my other nephew and niece and how much they have changed in a year. Of course it will be the first time Eve has met any family other than my parents and it will be a great time for all involved.

The trip is, however, a micro example of how much my life has changed in a year.

In previous years it would involve at least 2 days drinking Pimms at Henley in the posh bit (can't do it with children under 12 so that is out for a few years). I would usually go shopping for clothes that actually fit me, and the Boy would do a pub crawl. I would take in the Tate, normally with my Mum and Dad, and revel in the quiet of my favourite pieces - like coming to see old friends. We would at least once spend an evening in a nice restaurant and get slowly drunk.

This time we will be picnics and swimming and pottering around some of London's markets. I expect we will be in bed at 10 every night, exhausted.