The only thing you’re truly worried about during labour.

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Or: Things No-One Tells You About Pregnancy And Babies: No. 2. (Or ‘Twos’, to be precise.)

There is only one topic today, and it’s this: poo. A subject I have discussed extensively before, it’s true, but usually because of Teddy and the alarming nature of his emissions. Tonight’s bathtime, for instance, included a fart of such a volcanic nature that he made himself jump. Thankfully, the only thing to erupt into the bath was a series of large bubbles.

Poo is something that concerns every pregnant person. And I don’t mean baby poo, I mean proper grown-up poo. Basically it’s this: all preggos know that at some point in the not too far future they’re going to be told to push a baby out of their front bottom, and in so doing there’s a pretty good chance something might emerge from their back bottom at the same time. Honestly: you try and push from the front without pushing from the back – it’s not rub-your-head-and-pat-your-belly hard, it’s impossible.

So it struck me that this really needs to go into my list. In fact, it should have been first. I can’t think of a single person I know who has given birth in the last few years who hasn’t worried about it. It’s a worrying thing.

“Ha ha!” trills your What To Expect book, “it’s nothing to worry about! For a start, it’ll be the last thing on your mind!”

I can assure you that, after 24 hours of labour, face to face with a ventouse suction cup and three midwives, dosed up on entonox, pethidine AND an epidural (like a delicious cherry on top) it was still at the forefront of my mind.

“Oh pish!” it giggles, “It’s nothing to worry about! Your body has a fabulous way of getting rid of waste before the main event!”

It means, dear reader, that if you’re lucky you’ll get the shits just as you start your contractions. It’s a beautiful time. And this is largely true. But just because you’ve had a nice big evacuation at the start of your labour, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re, um, entirely cleaned out.

“Tee hee!” it chirps, “Even if it does happen, it’s nothing midwives haven’t seen before! They’ll whisk it away before you know what’s happened!”

Now, okay, yes, this is largely true – midwives have seen a LOT of poo, and they’re incredible people doing an amazing job, and one of their fabulous bits of magicianship concern swiping away poo wordlessly (not, say, pointing at it and saying “urgh, you did a doo-doo”). On that topic, there are many other unsung magical things they do (as well as bringing new life into the world), such as commenting on the beauty of your mangled, poo-covered newborn without laughing. They are, quite simply, gods of the highest order.

So there we are – that’s the concern. And who wouldn’t be concerned? Who, apart from the worst sort of internet weirdo, wants to poo themselves in front of, a) strangers and, b) their birth partner? Even just the idea of it is ludicrously humiliating. That thing about pregnant women being really hot all the time? It’s because they’ve been blushing furiously for six months with the emotional turmoil that is Poo Worry. And seriously, if you speak to anyone who’s pregnant, and who isn’t too arsed about speaking about their bodily functions, everyone – everyone – is worried about this small expected factor in their near futures.

What I find strange, however, is that while pregnant people are all frantically worrying about popping out a poo in public, and are usually more than happy to voice their fears at length over a flat white, it’s a completely different story after they’ve actually had the baby.

Because here’s the thing: I have recently uncovered a dark Masonic sisterhood which exists solely to hide the more scatalogical aspects of birth from the uninitiated. It’s like they’ve all gone to see An Inspector Calls, and at the end of the show, the director has gone up on stage and said: “ladies, two things: please don’t tell anyone who’s not seen the play who did it. And while I’m here, don’t ever tell anyone who’s pregnant that you probably shat yourself while giving birth. I thank you.” *applause*

And it’s true. Your jolly friend who happily confided her Poo Worry the week before birth doesn’t even mention it afterwards. She doesn’t say a single word. And of course you can’t ask her, because she’s not slept for a fortnight, looks like crap and is crying because she just dumped two litres of carefully stored breast milk down the sink by mistake. Asking if she popped out a poo during birth seems churlish at best.

You might also discover that although she might mention that her baby was delivered by forceps, she won’t describe how vast they are, and that they resemble the sort of tongs one might use on an industrial barbecue to flip half a suckling pig over. She has also failed to tell you that since she was 14 weeks pregnant she wasn’t able to sneeze without wetting her pants, and that her partner turned green while cutting the cord cos it felt a bit, y’know, gristly. These things – and I’m sure there are many more out there – are kept buried within this secret sect. And I feel it is my duty to uncover them all and tell you The Truth.

We need to stop this befluffing of the birth story right now. It’s not all “Pant, pant, pant, one big push Mrs Newman, aaaaaaand here you go! One squeaky clean baby, and one squeaky clean hoo-hah”, it turns out. If it were up to me, I think it’s only proper that when a baby is born the resulting text from the proud parent to all friends and family should contain the following information:

  1. gender
  2. name
  3. time of birth
  4. weight
  5. yes, she did a massive poo
  6. mum and baby doing fine

And if I’m going to stick to this rule, I should tell you my story. And you know, I wish mine was a bit more poo-filled for the purposes of this post, but the truth is I simply don’t know – which is really rather embarrassing. In retrospect, I think it would have been impossible for me to have pushed out Teddy without having at least a tiny poo at the same time, but Dave has gallantly said that he didn’t notice anything, I certainly didn’t notice anything, and those midwives did an excellent job of swishing all the grisly stuff away while we were cooing over the little person we’d made. It’s a tentative ‘maybe’ in my case, sadly without any charming descriptive poo passages. How vexing.

And after already having pushed out one baby, god knows what’s going to happen this time. But I solemnly promise you now: if it all ends in pooey tears, I consider it my duty to tell you all about it. Now there’s something to look forward to in a month’s time.

Things no-one tells you about pregnancy and babies. No.1 in a series of 1,483.

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Thrush

Pretty much every conversation you have with new mothers starts off with, “They NEVER tell you about that, do they?”

And it’s true – they don’t. The utter, utter bastards.*

And so it struck me that I’d really like to compile a decent list of those things that happen during pregnancy, birth and beyond that don’t necessarily crop up in What To Expect.

My experience is a teensy bit limited: ie, I’ve only had one baby. But that experience is about to expand by 100% in five weeks’ time (ish). And I’ve been secretly taking notes when pregnant and babyfied friends have complained about something happening to their bodies and lives that they weren’t expecting, which makes me two things: a massive snoop of Daily Mail proportions (boo), and yet also Incredibly Qualified for the task in hand (yay!). So, for once, this isn’t all about me. But some of it might be. And just to be quite clear: anything I write about that happens in Downstairs Departments has happened to Friends Of Mine and definitely not me. If you don’t believe me, I’ll name them and link to their Facebook page. You can rest assured, nothing untoward has happened to my nethers.

1. Sleeping on your left makes your ear hurt.

You are told that, once pregnant, you must do all you can to sleep on your left-hand side at all times. I’m not entirely sure why. The only thing it definitely does do is result in a slow form of torture. Over the course of 9 months (ish) your left ear becomes increasingly sensitive until it really really hurts when you lie on it. And then shifting from lying on your left to, say, lying on your right is not only a monumental effort, but it’ll also wake up the incumbent baby, so once you’re there she’ll kick the living wotsits out of you. You can’t sleep on your back because your lungs get flattened that way, and whichever way you do sleep, your nose is constantly blocked – so staying alive in general can be an issue. After a while, you’ll turn back to your left-hand side, and your bloody ear will be in agony. Newly pregnant people, hear me roar: forget taking vitamins, moisturising your bump, and learning breathing techniques – just remember to buy a really soft pillow.

2. You have no money but you can’t stop shopping.

I have no money. I literally have NO money. And yet, every night before bed, I scroll through Gumtree and Ebay trying to find that elusive extra thing that I need to have. And everyone does. If you’re having one baby, it’s understandable: you buy up all of Boots and Kiddicare and that’s the way of the world. If you’ve decided to have two or more whippersnappers, you really should know better. For the record, second-timers, can I just add here that you don’t need the following:

  • New storage, because you also don’t need:
  • New clothes (SHOCK announcement: girls can wear blue things and boys can wear pink things and the world will not implode)
  • New toys (come on, people, don’t you remember that the first baby didn’t even like toys until they were 13 or something?)
  • New muslins (you already have 478 – I know you do. Check under the bed for another 231)

From my extensive research on the matter, you also don’t need the following (this is absolutely 100% not based on personal experience, you understand, I wouldn’t possibly be this foolish):

  • New books (you won’t read)
  • New eyebrow tinting kits (no-one will be looking at you)
  • New glamorous pyjamas (honestly – no-one will be looking at you)
  • New sandals (it’s September, you cretin)

3. Free prescriptions are not fun.

Woohoo! Free prescriptions! I’m going to load up on all the essentials! But just what are those essentials? Because it’s not lavender scented pillow mist, that’s for sure. ‘The Essentials’ turns out to be 37 litres of Gaviscon and 435 tubes of Canesten. And before you’re able to get these, you have to go to a doctor to explain your raging heartburn and unitchable itch, and they will roll their eyes at you. And then you have to go to a chemist, and proffer your prescription to a Saturday Girl who has never seen Canesten in that volume before and, while the chemist is sticking 30 large address labels over it to make sure that everyone knows it’s definitely yours, she’ll try vainly to find a bag big enough to contain it while looking you up and down, eyes widening slowly with the utter terror of the reality of pregnancy, and silently offering herself up to a life of chastity. She’ll heave the monstrous tube over to you with a Superdrug bag stuck listlessly to one end to prove that you’ve not stolen it, even though it just looks like a window prop and not an actual ointment. And off you pop. (You have to send a Man with a Van to pick up the Gaviscon separately). Yay, free things. Yay yay.

In the next scintillating edition of The Things That People Never Told You About: Stuff That Comes Out Of You and underwired bras – the gritty truth. Tune in!

*Okay, so chances are, one of ‘them’ has said something about whatever it is, it’s just that among the bazillions of books and tradillions of web pages, you didn’t happen to read it.

**There’s a prize for deciphering the picture puzzle, by the way. (It’s definitely worth writing in for that half-squeezed tube of Boeing-sized Canesten. Which you’ll probably need if you’ve worked it out.)

Feeling that pregnancy glow? Not second time around you don’t.

greedy2

I don’t know what he’s smiling about. He’s in a rubbish series of books, he’s clearly out of shape, and those piddly little legs aren’t going to support him for very much longer.

Oh. My. GOD. I’m in agony. I’m 35 weeks’ pregnant now. Time has started to move…. very….. slowwwwwly and I am desperate to get this thing out of me. I’m huge and unwieldy, like the human equivalent of the QE2 but with less buoyancy. I can’t bend down, I can’t get up, I can’t walk downhill, I can’t walk uphill (have I mentioned that we live on a hill?). I can’t sleep, I can’t do things, I can’t not do things. I’ve barely got enough energy to complain about it all, but I’m trying my damndest to achieve that at the very least.

This is not like the first time at all. The first time I’d just left work at this stage, and was walking round Bath feeling like a goddess, with people making room for me, kindly enquiring after my health, and admiring my bump. People would say, “Ah, is it your first?” And I’d reply in the affirmative, and they’d coo over me, and stroke my bump, and tell me what a magical time I was in for.

This time, people smile at me fondly, and say, “Ah, is it your first?” And when I say no, THEY CUT ME DEAD.

So the first time around, people lied to me (my cervix can firmly attest to the lack of magic). Second time around they’re just cruel. And why? Here is a general person’s thinking upon engaging with a pregnant person:

“Ah. A pregnant person. How nice. The miracle of life, etc. A sense of newness, fragility, at one with nature. Blossoming and blooming. Wonderful stuff. And the excitement of a first-time mother too – how sweet, how naive, how delightful.

“Oh. Not a first-time mother, you say. Well. In that case, you’ve done it all before, squeezed out a litter of puppies no doubt. Should have realised from the haggard face and the situation of your bump by your knees. Well, it’s your fault, isn’t it? Glutton for punishment.”

Glutton for punishment.

No-one has actually said this to me, mind, but I can see it in their awful, squinty eyes. There has definitely been a marked shift in Public Transport Etiquette, for instance – particularly if I’m pushing Teddy in the pram as well. Not only do people not offer me a seat, but they also look at me as if I’m invading their space, and that the world’s overpopulation problem is solely down to me.

So yes, I think people are generally ruder and more unkind and nastier the more pregnant I’ve become.

But I have to admit one small thing – this pregnancy has been a little harder than the one before. I am bloody knackered with it, and with bloody knackeredness comes the tiniest hint of peevishness. Just a smidgen. Which might – might – lead one to be a little vexed with members of the public who one might have merely ignored before.

This reminds me of an old colleague of mine who was a youthful, and admirable, curmudgeon. It was diplomatically pointed out to him by a girlfriend that whenever he referred to another person or a group of people that he didn’t know, he called them idiots. “Look at those idiots over there”; “Let’s stand behind that idiot in the queue”; “Where have all the idiots gone?”; “There’s loads of idiots in town today”; “I like the shirt that idiot is wearing”. And so on. Idiot = person.

I sympathise with this. When I was pregnant the first time round, people were lovely, I was lovely, the world was lovely. I glowed. I blossomed. I bloomed.

This time, people are cretins, I’m a zombie, the world has caved in. I have exploded. I have aged. I have drooped.

And with that in mind, while I shuffle around town, silently questioning my motives for being in town in the first place, I peer at my fellow unpregnant town-companions in barely concealed disgust and contempt for their easy, unexploded lives. Lives which include uninterrupted sleep, well-oiled hips and actual working stomach muscles. Idiots.

Education, education, education. Oh dear God, I’m referencing Blair. Shoot me.

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Teddy isn’t even two yet, but even before he was born I was thinking about schools. It’s another thing, like that dratted anterior placenta and how long it takes one to dilate from four centimetres to five, that is desperately tedious to anyone else apart from people with babies. And I find it genuinely surprising that I AM interested in it. After all, I’m the one that’s interested in customer publishing, National Trust properties, ebay bargain-hunting, Malbec, perfect roast chicken and Orange Prize winners. Not schools.

But there are LOADS of reasons why I’m already thinking about it, not least because it’s September and the country is stuffed full of kids all dressed in their shiny new Tesco uniforms, eagerly being pushed back to school by exhausted parents. I live in a particular area in Bath which is actually not badly off in terms of state primary schools – this is a Good Thing, and I realise I’m lucky in this aspect. However, the initial (and smaller) worry is that at the top of the road is the over-subscribed Outstanding school that everyone bangs on about. And at the bottom of the road is the fiercely defended Good school that all the rest of them bang on about. So that’s the first decision. The other issue with both of these primaries is that they’re both Goddy. And I’m not, and nor is Dave, and we’d rather Teddy didn’t go to a school where they might teach things that were in direct conflict with everything we believe.

And the odd thing is that in Bath there are stacks and stacks of God schools, and about two non-denominational ones, both of which are out of our catchment area. Why is this? Why is it suddenly the norm to have so many religious primary schools? When I went to primary school, it was a state non-denominational one, and that was pretty normal in south east London. Is it something to do with geography, or to do with generation? Is it seen as a GOOD thing that all these schools are religious? I simply don’t understand it.

In the first couple of years at my primary school we had prayers and hymns, which were subsequently phased out – I assume because of legislation, but we also got a new head-teacher who was clearly having none of it. Throughout primary school we were still taught dull C of E things, as well as stuff about the more exotic religions. And – another assumption here – I thought that was how all state primaries behaved: slashing the formal God bit, bringing in general teaching about all faiths, without suggesting what one should believe. I do NOT understand why the state should be dictating our beliefs by forcing our kids to go to single-faith schools simply because of geography. I think that bit should be in bold, really. So here it is again: I really, seriously, do NOT understand why the state should be dictating our beliefs by forcing our kids to go to single-faith schools simply because of geography.

Then there’s my concerns as a general, wishy-washy leftie. Not a leftie that actually does anything to question or combat the current government or status quo, obviously, and not one that actually takes a huge interest in politics over and above the stuff that was ingrained in me as a kid. You know, the usual kind of leftie. Faint memories of a thousand CND marches and singing “She Was Bold And Strong” at Greenham Common aside, I just blend into the crowd really. So the leftie thing rises its head with the religious schools thing, but it also gets up and marches around with hobnail boots on when it comes to State vs Private. Stating the bleeding obvious. Obviously.

Now, while we are lucky to be within spitting distance of two good primaries, Bath is a bit buggered when it comes to state secondaries. The nearest one to us seems okay, but a little scary (although I think that comes with the territory – all kids over 11 seem a bit… big). There’s one a few miles away (bear in mind, if you’re not from Bath, that a few miles away means the other bloody side of the city) which is supposed to be excellent, but our chances of getting in are not good because of location. And in-between the two of them there are a handful of expensive private schools.

So. Do I stick to my principles and shove Teddy into the nearest one, become involved in it myself to improve it from the inside-out, and hope it works out okay? Or do I try and get him into the one the other side of town? Do we move house to get him closer to the preferred state school and incur all the costs that that entails (as well as leaving our perfect neighbourhood and perfect house in the meantime)? Or do I close my eyes and pretend it’s not happening and chuck him into a private school? It’s a game-changing decision. Life-changing.

While I’m a socialist at heart, I’m not a blinkered one. My time at primary school was actually quite good fun – I found it (generally) pretty nurturing and entertaining. Secondary school, meanwhile, was quite tough – it was in Catford and had about two thousand pupils. I was a bit of a spod – and by a “bit” of a spod, let me underline the facts for you: I looked like a spod, I acted like a spod, I spoke like a spod. Even my shoes were spoddy.* I found it, at first, terrifying. And, latterly, once I realised that getting A grades and merit marks did not also equate with popularity and lots of snogs, I tried to fit in by concentrating on disguising my (“posh”) accent, unsuccessfully fiddling about with my clothes, trying to muscle in to the more popular groups – rather than concentrating on other things like, y’know, school work. And back in the 80s I certainly noticed a fair few teachers rewarding classmates who were popular and loud and attractive with more attention than those of us at the back, silently polishing our NHS glasses.

While I won’t blame the school itself for my shonky A levels (I was – and am – a very lazy spod), I do question the benefits of that education over one which might have taken place in an environment where to be spoddy would have been seen as a Good Thing.

The fact remains: I worry about Teddy and his education and his life. If he continues to be the sensitive and dreamy little man he’s started out life as being, I’m not sure our local comp is going to be the right school to foster his particular talents**. How do I make sure that he is cared for and looked after, that he doesn’t have God dumped on him when I least expect it, and that he isn’t mercilessly bullied for being just about the best boy in the whole world? And if I make the heart-wrenching (and purse-wrenching) decision to put him in a private school, how do I avoid him turning into a massive posho arsehole in mustard trousers who thinks Jacob Rees-Mogg is a sane choice for MP and who wants to kill everything with guns?

I find it all bonkers. It’s bonkers that I’m thinking about this now when Teddy isn’t even two. And it’s bonkers that I have to wrestle with my inner socialist to even contemplate an education for him that isn’t state-funded. What the hell is up with our local authority and the government itself on a wider scale where there simply isn’t any choice? We HAVE to send Teddy to a God school, because there isn’t a non-God school. And we HAVE to send Teddy to the nearest comp – whether it’s good, bad or indifferent – if we’re not going to privately educate him. And both those schools could be the difference between a happy Teddy and a sad Teddy.

And mark my words, oh minuscule reading public: in all of this contemplation, I am not for one second thinking that I want Teddy to grow up to be Prime Minister (I’d really rather he didn’t – I’m not sure I’ve liked any of them***), or an astrophysicist (I want to be able to understand him at some point in his life), or an Olympic gold medallist (Paula Radcliffe always seems desperately miserable). I truly just want him to be cheerful and fulfilled and live a glorious, guilt-free, sociable and, yes, happy life. And school is such a big part of that. Needless to say, I shall continue to wring my hands about it for another two years before handing over the decision of our first-born’s education. And then I can blame the government, the state of this country, the failings of the local authority and, crucially, Dave for every bad grade and every tearful moment.****

 

* And yet I was genuinely surprised when, during the first school disco at age 11, the only boy to ask me to dance was the other class spod.

** At the moment, these talents are (in no particular order): dancing while sitting down, a mania for Sarah & Duck, walking backwards into kitchen cupboard doors, saying “choo choo”.

***Although I’ve always been a little fond of Gladstone. Simply because he had a bag named after him, and that makes him a sort of Victorian Jane Birkin.

**** Oh dear GOD, all the fun has dribbled out of this blog, hasn’t it? I’ll go back to baby-food and poo next week.

Feminism, labelling, parenting and confusion.

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Dave and I were chatting in the car the other week, and because of something (witty and profound, I daresay) that I had said, he said, “what’s it going to be like when we’re proper parents?” And I knew exactly what he meant. Okay, technically, we’re parents right now, but proper ones? No. That’s in a few years’ time when we’ve got a couple of screaming brats in the back of the car, facing a two-day car journey to somewhere a bit too hot in Europe where we’ll probably be staying in a tent. Y’know, for comfort. That’s a proper parent. We, on the other hand, only have a small, whingy toddler to contend with – that, and the merest whiff of a second child to consider. That’s not proper, that’s just playing.

But I am a mother. And I was thinking about this very peculiar truth and how I find it very difficult to assume as a label. I was thinking about it partly because now that I’m pregnant again I’ve had a number of appointments with midwives, who have all been utterly lovely, but some of whom, instead of using the word “you”  – for instance, “how have you been feeling?” – use the word “mum”.

“How has mum been feeling?”

So I reply: “Oh! Very well, I think – I spoke to her a few days ago and she’d just got back from… Ah. You mean me. You’re just talking about me as if I’m not here, and I’m just a role rather than a person. Fine. Gotcha. I’m doing okay, as it happens – varicose veins look revolting, but otherwise can’t complain.”

To compound to this weirdness is the dawning horror that I am what is known as a “Mummy blogger”. Worse still, considering this internet thing is truly an international phenomena, in some arenas I might in fact be known as a “Mommy blogger”. I mean, it’s just hideous, isn’t it? Everything about it makes me want to run for the hills and start writing about car engines instead. But, surprisingly, my knowledge of car engines is, in fact, slightly inferior to my knowledge about child-rearing, so that scuppered that plan.

The Mother thing is all wrapped up in this “Mummy” thing, I think. But I really don’t feel like either label applies to me. Peculiarly enough (in the context of the above) I can’t wait for Teddy to start calling me Mummy. And not only that, but I refer to myself as Mummy in front of him, and Dave refers to me as Mummy (when he’s talking to Teddy, not at any other time, we’re not that odd) and that’s all fine. But I can’t get my head round anyone else outside of our titchy family referring to me as such – or even me saying it out loud outside of our house. For instance, when I phone up the nursery, and introduce myself as “Ted’s mum” I feel that I’m suddenly, automatically two things: 1) very much older than I feel, and 2) very much more motherly than I am.

It’s odd how labels can do that to a person, isn’t it? Mummy and (yeuch) Mommy don’t feel like words that apply to me at all. Everyone else can be mummies, that’s fine and not weird – but not me, ooh the horror, the horror. So what’s so bloody wrong with it? Why do I feel like I’m pretending to be one?

When I was growing up, I remember my mum having a bit of a wrangle with the bank because she wanted her soon-to-be-issued new card to have a name on it without a prefix*. In 2014 this sounds like a pretty normal request, but in 1980-something-or-other it wasn’t. They wanted Miss or Mrs or – and this would have been very modish at the time – Ms. My mother wanted none of these things. Why did she need to have a prefix when men didn’t? My mother has an obviously female first name, so there was no need for anything to specify gender on her bank card. Besides, it was HER bank card and HER bank account, so surely it was up to her to decide what she wanted to be called on it?

As a small aside yes, my mother is a feminist. As we all should be. Got that? So I’m sure a lot of her discussions with the bank – ooh, I think it was Midland Bank: that dates me, doesn’t it? – as well as being grounded in common sense, were also forged from a background of the struggles of (have I got this right?) the second wave of feminism in the 70s. And how impressive is that? Makes you proud to be a daughter of such a woman, right?

(Um, no. It does NOW – absolutely, very much so. But at the time I was mortified, but I have to say I’m pretty mortified now, saying that I was mortified then. Please bear in mind that I was a fledgling teenager and, therefore, also a berk.)

What my mum was doing, on the phone to Midland, was very brave and very important. These days – not so much. I did it myself a few years back, and prepared myself for a right old ding-dong with the bank, and they just said, “Of course, Esther, no problem.”

But what I’m getting at here is that back in the 80s, my mum had a problem with a label, and rightfully so. And right now I have a problem with another label, and I should just bloody well accept it. It’s not derogatory, or reductive, or in any way anti-female: it merely describes one of the things that I am. But the more I think about the first label I was banging on about and how it makes me feel awkward and weird, the more I think about the label my mum was banging on about and how much more important that was. Because at some point between that phone call to Midland Bank and last year, all of those brilliant, hard-won ideals she ingrained in me simply puffed out of my ears without a second thought, and I went and got married, and became not only a Mrs, but a Mrs Someone Else. I mean, sod the Mummy thing, I just threw away my identity completely.

And a year on, it still feels alien to me. Mrs, New Name – all of it. Was I a complete idiot to re-identify myself so completely? I should have been cresting the third wave of feminism, surely – but ended up sinking back into patriarchal happy families.

Perhaps, then, the reason that I find it difficult to see myself as a Mum is that it’s another feminine role – like Wife – and I willingly rolled over backwards and accepted one of those labels, so I feel like I should resist this one. But I can’t! The fact remains, I AM a mother. What I choose to call myself is up to me, but in the meantime I’m stuck with it. I gave up my opportunity to keep my name, that was entirely my decision, but I can’t do anything about being called a Mother – because that’s what I am.

Perhaps it’s to do with my age. I had Teddy relatively late in life, and was never the most ‘maternal’ of people (whatever that might mean) before I had him – I didn’t coo over babies, and never really thought I’d like to have my own until I was at least in my mid-30s. And then Teddy came along when I was 39, and this next one will be here within seconds of my 41st birthday. And it’s quite late in the day to change your view of yourself from “Esther” to “Mum”.

Perhaps it’s to do with not having a job. I have worked, on and off, for the same company since I was 23. My job, and my company, felt like part of me, and it was a body blow to be made redundant. And for the last two months I’ve had very little work – it’s been an extended, fairly torturous, maternity leave, with still no glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing looming large on my horizon is another baby; another big fat reason to be a Mummy and not to be Senior Editor or Operations Director or Something Else with a Work Phone Number and a Work Email and Things To Do between 9am and 5pm.

But perhaps it’s just me being an eejit.

I like having the same name as Teddy, and that’s why I did the name-change thing in the first place. And the reason that I like having the same name as Teddy is because, goddamit, I sort of enjoy, occasionally, when he’s looking cute and behaving beautifully, being his mother. Even when he’s being a little sod who won’t eat his supper because it looks marginally different to the supper he had yesterday. I do like it. I just need to get used to it. Mrs. Mummy.

Oh cripes, yes, and Wife. Wife. Do you know how that makes me feel? Like I should be called Goody Trickett, and grow herbs in the garden to pound into tinctures to cure common ailments. But that’s another story.

 

*There is a good chance that, seeing as this was about 30 years ago, facts might have become a little blurred. If they have, I shall update you once my mum has corrected me on the finer points of banking in the 80s. Now there’s a tantalising prospect.

The three horrors: Blair Witch, a snackless home, and the First Baby Photograph.

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Do you remember The Blair Witch Project? There was a bit right near the end where two of them are walking round the house. I can’t remember who’s holding the camera, whether it’s the snotty girl or the chap who’s not dead yet. Whoever it is, they’re walking round in a wobbly way, and (I think) they hear a noise, rush down to investigate, and find their companion standing with their back to them, pressed in to the corner, unmoving. Brrr.*

This is the image that flashed into my mind yesterday while I was eating a chocolatey marshmallow snack, pressed into the corner of the kitchen, with my back to Teddy while he scampered about with sharp, un-child-friendly implements in his chubby little fists, milliseconds away from life-threatening injuries at every turn. But, you know, I wanted a Wagon Wheel.**

It occurred to me that at some point in the near future we need to adjust a) our eating habits, and b) the contents of our kitchen cupboards. Both of these things fill me with gloom. But we’ve reached a part in Teddy’s development where he just doesn’t believe me anymore when I say things like, “No, sweetheart, that’s not a NICE thing, it’s a BAD-TASTING grown-up thing with VEGETABLES in it,” while he’s pointing desperately at the packet of dark chocolate digestives.

I’m going to try and avoid the problem for the moment – after all, I’m pregnant, and pregnant people need Wagon Wheels, and that’s all there is to it.

There is some residual guilt, however. I remember now that I enthusiastically told fellow pram-pushers that I loved Teddy facing me in the pram, so we could “chat” en route to the supermarket or the park*** – and then the second that he understood that the 83 Penguin bars I ate while we got there looked a little bit appealing, I switched him round to be front-facing “so he could enjoy looking at the cars and buses”.

The other thing I’ve been doing this week, aside from secret retro chocolate snack eating, is packing my hospital bag. It’s a bit early for all of this, but – quite simply – I’ve got naff all else to do, and I do so like a LIST.

This time I had printed out a list from the Internet (sometimes the Internet can be Very Wise) so I could tick it as I went along, and most of it made sense:

  • Clothes and nappies for baby – TICK
  • Tens machine, for all the good it did me the first time round – TICK
  • Lip salve for dry lips syndrome after litres of gas and air – TICK
  • Lots of pants – TICK
  • Various packets of disposable things you get upstairs in Boots in an aisle far away from anything palatable that we don’t need to go into at this juncture (there may be people reading this who have no desperate desire to discover the grim physicalities of what happens to a person after another person emerges from it) – TICK

And then there were some things that were stupid:

  • An eye mask so you can sleep even underneath bright, hospital lights – NO TICK: YOU DO NOT SLEEP IN HOSPITAL AFTER YOU’VE HAD A BABY, YOU STAY AWAKE, LOOKING AT IT AND HOPING IT’S BREATHING.
  • Some massage oil – NO TICK: WHO IS THIS FOR? I DON’T WANT DAVE TOUCHING ME, HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT HAPPENED THE LAST TIME HE DID THAT?
  • Change for the phone – NO TICK: WAS THIS WRITTEN IN 1842?

So obviously I didn’t pack those things. However, as I was packing – and readjusting this list – I realised that a lot of the stuff I had in my hospital bag for Teddy was still in the bathroom cupboard, in a perfectly presentable condition. This was useful, I thought. But on closer examination, it transpired that the reason why the stuff was in a perfectly presentably condition was because there was no need for me to take it with us in the first place. But I still packed it.

This included – but wasn’t limited to – a makeup bag. With actual makeup in it. Powder, eyebrow thing, mascara. Not much, but some. And all of it was in its original wrappers. Because I hadn’t used it. Why hadn’t I used it? Because I’d just had a SODDING BABY. Who gives a monkeys if ones eyebrows have disappeared? Or ones eyes aren’t perfectly defined? Only the most vacuous media monkey from one of those reality TV programmes, surely?

But, it turns out, I gave a monkeys back then – but only in the weeks leading up to the birth. And the only reason I did was because I knew that the Bounty People were on the prowl. They stalk the maternity wards of the RUH like the Stasi in blue eyeshadow, clutching miniature pots of Sudacrem and a cheap Kodak, on the lookout for unsuspecting first-time parents, forcing them to be photographed at their most vulnerable, looking like total crap, awash with the first inklings of parental guilt. Parents that think: if everyone else is doing it, I better do it too. And pay rather a lot of money for the privilege of owning some photos that in years to come tabloid newspapers could dig up and threaten to publish (you know, once I’m famous and beautiful and amazing).

The Bounty Hunters, however, never appeared when we had Teddy – I’m not sure what happened to them; something sinister, perhaps. And this time, with Tedderina, if they’ve escaped the gulag and are once more on the prowl, I shall tell them to bugger off. I feel guilty about a lot of things, but I certainly don’t feel guilty about not having an expensive photograph of me and him while I was both off my rocks on morphine AND eyebrow-less.

And yet, despite all this, the makeup bag is still packed Just In Case, taking up space which would be better filled by something useful. Like a packet of Wagon Wheels.

 

*I didn’t understand quite a lot of The Blair Witch Project. It didn’t stop me from being scared out of my trousers, but still I don’t mind admitting that I was never quite sure what was going on. Apart from the thing with the twigs. That was a bit unnerving.

**As much as I don’t understand The Blair Witch Project, I’m not suggesting for one minute that the character that was standing against the wall was eating a Wagon Wheel. Although now I come to think about it, it makes perfect sense.

*** Who am I kidding? Always the supermarket. For Wagon Wheels.

In which I neatly transition from an epic nappy explosion to the noblest character ever conceived in literature.

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Oh. My. GOD. So this morning Teddy woke up at 6.20am. This is not unusual. Normally, we can hear him start to wake up at about that time, trying out ALL the nouns in his tiny little brain. We tend to wake up to a weeny voice, carefully picking its way over some tricky consonants. It’s something like this:

“Car. Carrrrrr. Carrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”*

And then a little later on, we might get something like this:

“Bah-kee. Bah-keeee. Bah-keeeeeeeeeeeee.”**

And then, sounding a touch more hopeful, we tend to get:

“Dah-deeeeeeeee? BABA? Dah-deeeeeeeeeeeee? BABA BABA?”***

Those are all the words. Sometimes – a lot of the time, in fact – he’ll tend to go back to sleep once he’s realised that there’s no fun to be had the bad side of 7am. This morning, however, things were different. And we should have known that right from the start. He was crying – not a big, scary, I’ve-fallen-out-of-bed cry, but just an ongoing whimper, interspersed with the odd, plaintive, “Bahkee”. Bugger it, I thought, he’s pushed Monkey out of the cot. I’ll leave it and see if he goes back to sleep. Five minutes later, he’s still whimpering. There’s been no escalation, just a continuous, “Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah, bahkee.”

Resigned to an early start, I heaved myself in there, without first putting on my glasses. This is an important thing to note. I am VERY short-sighted – if a two-foot goblin had been switched for Teddy in the night, and I went in to his room without wearing glasses, I probably wouldn’t notice until he started gnawing at my calves. And even then, I’d just think, “Oooh, more teeth! Hopefully it’s the molars.”

So there I am, and there’s Teddy (I assume), standing up in his cot. Instantly, I thought, hello, he needs a change. And then – even in my myopic, tired state – I notice a small dark patch on Teddy’s thigh. And an unbalanced bulging to one side of his bum. And the closer I peer, the more dark patches I see. Teddy, who is holding both Monkey AND Bunny, and rubbing them up and down his legs, flings out both chubby arms for a morning cuddle.

You know that phrase about the realisation dawning on you? Something to do with tiredness, short-sightedness, and also being me, meant that my mind did this:

“Hmm, I’ll need to change him straight away and he hates being changed first thing, he’ll probably kick off, smells like a substantial one, bugger it, why did I go in, why didn’t I make Dave go in, what’s that on his leg, did we let him go to sleep with some food or something, ah no, that looks like it might be…. poo, I think it might be poo, and there might be a bit more there, and possibly there, I think his nappy might be falling off a bit, it’s completely undone in fact, I don’t want to touch him, I don’t want to go near him, OHMYGODTHERE’SPOOEVERYWHERESAVEMEFROM CERTAINDEATH…”

And my voice did this: “…Dave?”

So Teddy has had an early bath. And, thankfully, I discovered some year-old Napisan at the back of the cleaning cupboard, half of which has been poured into the washing machine along with his sheets, his clothes, bloody Bahkee and the sodding great Moose he’s become attached to, which is unfortunately dark brown and wasn’t that close to him, but we’re taking no risks. We’re not having any random poo in this house, oh no.

And the thing is, I wasn’t going to talk about the events of this morning at all – or the August Poosplosion, as we’ll come to remember it – I was going to talk about Winnie the Pooh, but isn’t it delightful how well those two things marry up? Poo and Pooh. So obviously, I was delighted when it happened, as I thought that fabulously I’d have a fascinating little anecdote to pad out another rambling post. I was overjoyed!****

So. Pooh. I was thinking about this the other day. It was during that big Facebook round robin thing where everyone was asking everyone else to list three positive things that happened to them over the day. I see its point, I understand its worth, but, a) I’m not a joiner, and b) I don’t like to disclose too much about my life, despite having a public blog and all other indications to the contrary, and c) I’m one of life’s natural whingers (I honestly, hand on heart, don’t know where Teddy gets it from).

So, eventually, predictably, I got included in this thing. Esther, would you write three positive things about your day, asked one very lovely friend*****. Oh bugger and arse, I thought, how am I going to do that when I’m such an Eeyore? And as the phrase hit me, I began to think about Eeyore and what a bad press he gets. After all, what’s wrong with being an Eeyore? And then I got defensive about him, as though he was being attacked by donkey-haters, when in fact nothing had happened apart from me thinking how wonderful he is.

Eeyore, you see, is by far the best character in Winnie the Pooh. He’s one of the funniest characters in children’s literature – possibly the universe. He’s a genius. He’s the one character we should all aspire to be. These are facts. If you were to round up your closest friends, and most loved members of your family, and were to ask them who their favourite Pooh character was, and they didn’t say Eeyore, you should remove them from your life immediately. Just like that – one swift cut is usually the easiest way, there’s no need to linger. Why? This is what the other characters mean:

“I like Pooh the best.” (“I am feeble-minded.”)

“I like Rabbit the best.” (“I am an egotist, and also feeble-minded.”)

“I like Owl the best.” (“I enjoy feeling superior, and I’m also feeble-minded.”)

“I like Piglet the best.” (“I’m a four-year-old girl who talks to unicorns out loud, and I’m also feeble-minded.”)

“I like Christopher Robin the best.” (“I miss boarding school and nanny, and I’m also feeble-minded.”)

“I like Rabbit’s Friends and Relations the best.” (Now you’re just being silly.)

But if they like Eeyore, then they are quite the best kind of person; a rational person, a normal person, and a person with a well-developed sense of humour. Eeyore acts as a foil to Pooh’s cretinous remarks and Piglet’s ludicrous assertions. He coldly disregards Tigger (who you may note I omitted from the list above – no-one, no-one likes Tigger), he ignores the chatterings of Rabbit, and avoids getting into disputes with Owl. He surveys the chaos in front of him and comments on it from on high. He is, quite simply, a prophet of our times.

Consider his lack of anger, and magnanimous forgiving of Pooh for having destroyed (DESTROYED) his house. “Brains first and then Hard Work.” He says. Quite. And then, when introduced to the insufferable Tigger, in a display of Geneva Convention-esque diplomacy, he says (in a whisper, mind, so as not to offend): “Could you ask your friend to do his exercises somewhere else? I shall be having lunch directly and don’t want it bounced on just before I begin. A trifling matter, and fussy of me, but we all have our little ways.”

So there you have it. If you consider yourself an Eeyore, or even a bit of one, you are holding yourself in very high regard indeed. And if you are called an Eeyore, why – it’s quite the best compliment a person could receive.  Eeyores unite. In fact, if I can end on a quote:

“I think -” began Piglet nervously.

“Don’t,” said Eeyore.

 

* This means, “Car”.

** This means, “Monkey”.

*** This means, “Jesus CHRIST, what’s a boy got to do to get your attention? Get up, you lazy bastards, I want my porridge, goddamit.”

**** This, dear hearts, is not true. I was covered in poo and a touch peevish.

***** And I’ve only just realised I never did it. So, um, three positive things about today: 1) Teddy’s diarrhea appears to have cleared up. 2) I’ve learnt how to spell ‘diarrhea’. 3) Last night I dreamt that Tedderina poked her finger right through my stomach. I’m not sure that’s technically a positive thing, as opposed to a nightmarish thing, but I’m going with it.

Pregnant at 40 – it’s the new black, or something.*

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Two things. Firstly, I’m 40. (Cue screaming, tearing of hair and general hysteria.) On top of which, as you may or may not know, I’m also pregnant. (Cue my P45.)

Secondly, I can’t bear it when people say, “in this day and age” as it goes hand in hand with one of these three things:

  1. Something about “common courtesy” – ie, you’re all rude and need a haircut, and that’s because it’s 2014 and not 1954.
  2. Being held up on the phone or in a queue – ie, things were a darn sight faster in 1954, mark my words. No shilly-shallying, I imagine. Shilly-shallying is a very modern concern.
  3. Something derogatory about women, usually clothing-related – ie, in 1954 we all wore sackcloth down to our toes and STILL got husbands when we were 14.

However, to neatly segue these two things together, I need to press on.

In this day and age, I would have expected more positive role models for women having babies later in life, but there bloody well aren’t. There are lots of people (Lauren Laverne, this is all your fault) who are keen on saying that they had babies early and aren’t they clever to have done so, but there aren’t many speaking from the other side of the fence. It’s pitiful if the only poster-woman we have for our growing concern is Claire Sweeney. I mean, I’m not sure if an early career in Brookside followed by years in the wilderness, and topped off by far too long on Loose Women is really the example I want to follow. Although I wouldn’t have minded a night on the tiles with Jimmy (in his pretend-teacher, Guardian-reading year, obvs).

I was thinking about this last night when – as I had the house to myself albeit for a small person who woke up every half hour to say “Car!” and then fell asleep again – I decided to catch up on a couple of episodes of One Born Every Minute (aka Pregnancy Crack – or possibly Ketamine, which I believe is more fashionable these days).

It occurs to me that in all the episodes I’ve watched (which are legion, frankly), I’ve only ever seen two captions come up saying that the woman concerned is 40. The first time, it was for a rather glamorous-looking woman who was driving a car at the time (I mention both these facts as, for me, they are incredible feats of attainment by themselves, but being glamorous AND driving together is an impossible fantasy of epic Neverending Story proportions. I digress). So, the caption read something like, “Emma, aged 40”. And she chatted away, saying something like, “Well, I didn’t expect it to happen to me. Not at this age.” And there I was on the sofa, cheering through a mouthful of chocolate digestives (this was in March, some time before the move to Bourbons). Oh bloody hurrah, someone else is doing it, I thought. And then it turned out that she wasn’t pregnant – she was about to become a grandmother. The INDIGNITY.

And then there was the second one. Someone should have warned me about her, considering this episode aired about three weeks ago. Now, I’m not one for being a snob, or making snide remarks about other people’s looks, that’s not me at all. Nope. Let’s just say she looked the wrong end of 60 and leave it at that. We might also mention that she was giving birth to her SIXTH CHILD and that she looked as though every minute of every birth had been etched on to her face with the business end of a pair of forceps. We could also say that she had named her children in alphabetical order. We could do all of those things, but we shan’t, as we’re not horrible people. And I’m not sure how I’ve managed to become plural in all of that, but let’s put it down to guilt and a way of trying to alleviate the blame for our snobbishness.

Needless to say, I think I’m the only (sane) person on the whole entire planet who is pregnant at 40. Being pregnant is a weird thing, a strange state of existence. You can’t socialise like you used to, you need to eat more, drink less, sleep more. Un-pregnant friends of either sex can find you incredibly boring if all you do is talk about anterior placentas, it turns out. So for a while, it can be really quite lonely. And being pregnant at 40 highlights that feeling – or at least it does for me.

For while I know a few people who are also knocked up, there’s something about being over this particular hill that sets me apart and makes me different. Being middle-aged with a baby on the way puts me in a very small club and one in which I, currently, don’t know any other members. It’s not just about remembering when Top Of The Pops used to be good (1982) – although that’s incredibly important – it’s about thinking about how long I’ll have with Baby 2 (which I don’t think you necessarily think about when you’re 39, even), and it’s about suffering other agey symptoms along with the pregnancy ones (of which I’d go in to detail were it not for the fact that my parentheses spiralled out of control about three paragraphs back).

It’s also about realising that my mum had me when she was 30, and in the 70s I thought she was bonkers old – so what will the two Teds think of me at the school gates as I claw for them with one of my scaly, arthritic paws while clinging on to a packet of Tena Lady with the other?

It’s as if I’m really going though some sort of deep crisis, isn’t it? But if I’m honest, the whole point of this article is justifying the eyebrow tint I’ve got booked in next week. And I think I’ve managed that admirably. Next week: Oh My God I’m Enormous I Look Awful In Everything (subtext: shoes might help the situation).

*It isn’t. It’s just me. It’s the new, er, unpopular thing.

Camping with a toddler? Fab idea. Definitely. Go for it. Don’t for one minute consider a luxury hotel with a creche.

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Last week we decided to take advantage of the sweltering weather, a lull in work (“lull” = “what’s the number for the DSS?”), and Teddy eating a full meal once every other day by going camping. Yes, I know. Camping. And, what’s more, we decided to do it for just one night. You’d have thought that having more than two brain cells between us (allegedly) we might have considered a different approach to a summer holiday, but no, we were quite determined.

We went camping last year for one night, too. But last year, Teddy was – if this is possible – even smaller. Not only that, but he wasn’t even crawling. We could plonk him on a bit of grass, he would become fascinated in said grass for three hours, and we could enjoy ourselves by struggling with those elasticated tent poles that come unelasticated and get stuck halfway through the little plastic tunnel they’re supposed to fit into. Oh, the sheer unbridled joy of it.  Also, last year I wasn’t pregnant. Do please bear this in mind.

So. So. We went camping. Me, Dave, Teddy and our brand new roofbox. It turns out that camping with a very wobbly toddler (wobbly legs, wobbly moods, wobbly guts) is a very different proposition than camping with a baby. From the minute we got there, he was OFF. And, obviously, so was I. I waddled around after The Mighty Whingeroo, and spent about 13 hours trying to persuade him not to nick other kids’ balls, or to take ownership of their paddling pools, apologising to parents who were clearly peeved that alien chubby legs were taking up space in their carefully-thought-out camping accessories. (What had we brought to keep Teddy entertained on a campsite? Books and a stuffed monkey. We really didn’t think things through at all.) And during this time, Dave was putting up our tent on his own. It was about 50 degrees, he had to manage those elasticated thingies all on his own, and he had a bad back. I still think he got the better part of the deal.

After the tent was up, we enjoyed about five minutes of surveying our neighbours and trying to figure out which of them was Candice Marie*, and then we were off again, trying to track down the worst, most soulless, unattractive pub we could. We succeeded! They bought our planks of wood (these, for those of you who have happily managed to avoid such establishments, are what pass as plates in 2014) covered in grease and chips, two seconds after we’d started feeding Ted his supper, which meant that his nutritionally balanced meal was discarded in favour of yellow grease. Teddy had five chips the size of my head for his supper that night, and looked quite pale as a result.

And then it was back to the tent for a charming seven-hour bedtime routine in which Teddy, understandably, couldn’t fathom why his awful parents were trying to force him to sleep in a mesh cot inside a giant balloon that Hades would have found a little on the warm side. We finally sat down and enjoyed a good 20 minutes of adult-only time, him reading his Kindle, me searching on Gumtree for a Tens machine. It’s the stuff of dreams, really.

After about four hours’ broken pregnancy sleep on a “mattress” which deserves as much sarcasm as those quote marks can muster, no shower, and without changing my pants, we were on our way home again. On the upside, it only took about two days to unpack everything again.

Obviously, we’re thinking of going away again in August.

* If you don’t know, then shame on you. Seriously, leave now. Consult Google, and come back after you’ve administered a thousand lashes on your own, shameful back. And be ashamed.

He loves me, he loves me not.

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Teddy is too young to start taking recreational drugs, or to bring home greasy-haired, monosyllabic partners with swear words tattooed on their forearms. So the one crushing disappointment he can throw at us is Parental Affection Switching (again with the bad acronyms – I really need to think these things through).

When he was teeny-tiny, lots of people (even me) would say of him, indulgently, “he’s such a mummy’s boy!” and that was great. I loved it. If he whacked that enormous great head of his on the fireplace (again), or had just woken up and was in a bit of a grump, or we picked him up from nursery together, it was always ME that he ran to, and would cling on to supertight. Ooh, it’s such a good feeling… I look at Dave in a slightly pitying way over his shoulder, unable to completely wipe the smile off my face in time.

I love my clingy, sensitive, mummy’s boy. And it turns out, from one of my infamous straw polls (of two people), that Teddy isn’t unique in this: my friends with boy babies have enjoyed stupendously affectionate, limpet-like children. I should probably pause here and bang on about gender stereotypes, and how it’s wonderful that we don’t force our babies into these roles, and how a “mummy’s boy” should be reclaimed as a beautiful, positive thing. And all this is true – although my inner feminist (who is a smaller, feistier, clear-visioned, more brilliant version of me, very good at blow-drying hair and simultaneously holding down a conversation about the situation in Gaza) is still a little nervy about Teddy’s love affair with all things with wheels. But that’s not the reason for all this.

The reason is much more selfish, as with many things to do with me (and SO WHAT). My little limpet has recently realised that he can switch his affections from one parent to another to wondrous and startling effect. One week, he’s MY little boy – he won’t let me go: not during breakfast, book-reading, or bedtime routine. There are blood-curdling screams if Dave picks him up, or changes him (obviously this one is a bit of a poisoned chalice), or dares to sing a song he’s not happy about. He will always quickly relent – but it’s that first, all-important moment. Which parent is he going to choose? And when he chooses Dave – without wanting to be melodramatic about it, it’s like my world has just caved in.

Dave, recently, has had more than a few weeks of being Teddy’s Favourite. That Teddy has just learnt how to kiss makes it all the worse. Daddy is getting kisses and intense, wriggling-bottom, can’t-quite-get-close-enough cuddles, and every time I try and grab a piece of the action, all I get is a solemn shaking head, and a low, “Wah wah wah” (this is not WAH, as in the noise a baby might make when it’s crying; it’s a precise, negative, “wah”). Which, in Teddy’s world, means, “No, mother, not now. Can’t you see I’m enjoying the attentions of my father? Please don’t touch me, especially not on my softy-wofty bits, and I don’t find raspberries amusing one bit. Unless daddy does them, in which case they’re screamingly hilarious. Watch!” To add insult to injury, he has in the last day or so made the switch from “Dada” to “Daddy”. Or, more realistically, a joyous “Daddeeeeeeeee!” I am still “Baba”. I’m simply not important enough for him to even try and attempt the letter M. Ingrate.

In a day or two (I hope), Teddy will swing back to being MINE, ALL MINE. And within hours, possibly minutes of that, I shall be complaining about it. It’s the earlier poisoned chalice I mentioned. When you are The Chosen One, only YOU can remove a pooey nappy; only YOU can make breakfast (while you precariously balance three-ton-Ted between bump and boobs, hovering dangerously over the lava-like porridge); only YOU are allowed to have him sitting on you while he watches the 27th episode of Sarah and Duck, eyes agog, wiping bits of omelette rhythmically into your jeans; only YOU are able to sing to him for 14 hours while he gently drifts off to sleep, clutching onto the small, really hurty bits of hair round the back of your neck.

Still want him back, mind.