Monday, 28 October 2013

The Happy Mummy list of stuff

I have many friends who are expecting a Happy Event. The prospect of these Happy Events makes me vicariously happy, not only because I'm pleased for them but also because I have the chance to Get Rid Of Stuff loitering in boxes in the garden shed.

So Hurray for my chance to lend on long-term loan!

And let's face it, the vast majority of baby Stuff (apart from maybe used cloth nappies) can and should be passed around. This applies in particular to that brightly coloured plastic stuff which babies love but we hate because it just clutters up our living rooms and makes us look like we have no taste.

There are lists and lists out there of all the Stuff you will need for a Happy Baby.
Here you will not find guidance on the perennial quention of how many baby bath-towels-with-the-cute-little-corner-hood to buy.

This is My List of Stuff based on the adage Happy-Mummy = Happy Baby (an oft repeated but nevertheless blindingly easy-to-forget rule). 

Let's discuss things you may feel you wish to achieve in the early weeks and months of your motherhood:

RE: Showering, peeing and pooing

These are functions you may presently believe fall into the category of Business As Usual but which demand strong project management skills in a new mother:

Option A: Taking your baby into the bathroom with you: A warm steamy bathroom with the noise of running shower can act a bit like the White Noise aps people download for soothing babies. The critical thing though, is to keep the baby safe and away from both the particularly hard surface which is 'Bathroom Tiles', or from falling into the toilet. Therefore you need an easily portable and safe bouncer/rocker. Nothing stresses out a showering mother like a baby who's just slid off the closed loo seat and hit faux-marble.

If you want to take Option A to the extreme (let's imaginatively label it Option A Extreme) you may wish to have a proper bath with your baby. Do bear in mind however that the little tykes are as slippery as wet soap (particularly if they are covered in wet soap) and the only thing more stressful to a mother attempting her daily ablutions than a baby that's broken its nose on the tiles is a baby that has has sunk to the bottom of a bathtub (this is worse if you can't see the baby because of the bubbles). The other downside is that you'd probably like the water a bit hotter than the baby will or, put another way, you would prefer your baby to be a different colour than boiled lobster.

If you are attempting Option A Extreme though, all you need is a large and comfy towel on the side of the bath to lay wet and wailing baby on whilst you jump out, (trying to avoid stepping on it)) and wrap a towel around yourself so that you can spend the next 20 minutes drying, moisturising and dressing the baby whilst your wet hair streams down your neck. Having thought about Option A extreme a bit more, perhaps an investment in a bath robe wouldn't go amiss (for you that is; a baby is perfectly fine in a towel).

A bouncer / rocker is also great if you feel an urgent need to take your baby in with you whilst you wee and poo, but, if like me, you feel that there need to be some boundaries (I didn’t enjoy being watched whilst I covered my stiches Down There with Tea Tree antiseptic gel) then progress to Option B.

If you've gone and got haemorrhoids (sexy!) then please, do yourself a favour and only use Option B. Some things are just too difficult to do in company. And keep repeating to yourself 'This too shall pass'!

Option B: Doing it alone: The fundamental tenet of keeping your baby safe to avoid stress and near-disaster applies. The aforementioned bouncer / rocker works, particularly if positioned in front of a washing machine in a spin cycle, the TV or a window with a fluttering tree outside. If your cot has high sides, this is a safe place too and can act as a play pen. If you are super-worried take a baby monitor in with you. You won’t hear the coos over the shower but you will be able to see the visual sound indicator. Leaving the baby alone for the 1 minute it takes to have a wee, the 3 minutes it takes to have a poo (unless you've got haemorrhoids) or the 7 minutes you can safely take for a shower is Good Training for night times too (see below).
Stuff to help you shower, wee and poo
·         A bouncer or rocker
·         A baby monitor with a visual indicator
·         A bathrobe
·         A snorkel mask  
 RE: Getting the baby to sleep so you can stay approximately sane

For night times, a soft tinkly mobile or a gadget which throws light and shade on the ceiling can be a godsend. Nothing though, is more critical than a black out blind especially if you are birthing just before summer. I reckon it’s worth the £9.99 from IKEA – the hardened American-marine-cum-terrorist in Homeland Series 2 caved after a mere 48 hours of sleep deprivation torture (wimp!).

Dim and cosy lighting which is soft enough to let the baby chill out whilst providing you with sufficient light to get a baby latched on or make up a bottle and being the ‘right sort’ of pinkish comfy hue really helps (for this reason energy saving bulbs aren’t great in lighting baby rooms)

For day time naps, a baby is going to have to get used to being out and about; that's just tough. No baby needs a depressed agoraphobic mother, after all. Out-and-about naps can, however, be greatly aided by black coverings for the pram or a muslin clipped onto the pram hood by means of 2 laundry clips. If you have a washer-dryer at home or chuck your wet laundry onto racks like I do, finding 2 laundry clips can be surprisingly difficult. Ask a grandmother or someone with a garden. Black pram covers which come with elasticised edges (like a fitted sheet) work really well but you may find that the baby gets used to darkness which can be a pain later. Somehow later pain never seems like a big price to pay for current quiet though, in my opinion. A blackout pram cover got us through a whole wedding reception when my baby was 4 months old as we stuck the pram in the middle of the dance floor like an unwieldy handbag and danced around it.

Stuff to help the baby sleep / your sanity
·         A black out blind
·         A night light projector / musical projector
·         Blackout cover or muslin + laundry clips for pram
·         Energy-wasting soft lighting
·         More stamina than an American marine

RE: Eating properly

Even if you feel up to cooking, it’s pretty hard to do in  5-minute bursts interspersed by 20 minutes of being in a different room with a Demanding Someone who is screaming so loudly you can only just make out the fire alarm.

Either have a constantly replenished supply of balanced meals in the house (proper food in the kind of portion sizes a feeding mother needs are hard to come by cheaply; a  lot of pre-prepared supermarket food is chock-a-block full of rubbish that will just make you fatter) or make sure you have proper tools at your disposal; microwaves can only do so much, although it is pretty fun on a slow day to try hard boiling an egg in one.

Stuff to help you eat something other than rice cakes and leftover puree
·         Rice cooker, slow cooker, toaster (for making toast you will eat cold)
·         Bung-in-the-oven casserole recipes
·         A working fire alarm

RE: Staying healthy

It is really really really hard to push a pram, walking legs akimbo because you can’t sit down or walk straight yet, whilst simultaneously opening doors, holding an umbrella and desperately searching through a bursting change bag for a teether, keys or purse when it’s windy and/or raining.  

After a few days like the above, when your immune system is down from lack of sleep and ingesting ONLY cake for breakfast lunch and dinner, you run not only the risk of getting ill yourself but much-much-worse infecting your baby.

Sucking snot out of a baby’s nose with a mini-turkey baster (or worse, and horrifically, with your mouth) is a life-scarring event.

Stuff to stop you catching pneumonia

· A coat with a hood
· A plane ticket to Kenya, India or the Gobi desert
· A 'snotsucker'

RE: Feeling attractive

Some people I know (and I won’t name them) bounced back to their pre-pregnancy body shapes in a matter of days. I once got an email at work, from a male colleague announcing the safe arrival of his baby, which said ‘Mother and baby are both well and are home (XXX is already back in her Size 8 jeans!)’. The fact that he felt the need to broadcast this to 300 people, none of whom had met his wife, seemed to show he felt it was as much of an achievement as the production of new life after a 48 hour labour. And since I took months to get back into my (not size 8) jeans, perhaps he was right!

For most new mums, it is disconcerting and depressing to find we are forced to wear our maternity wardrobes; with all its associations of not being able to see our feet, nerve-wracking apprehension and, lastly but not leastly, extreme physical pain.

You won’t feel like going shopping in the first couple of weeks, but once you’re out and about, splash out on one thing that fits your current size that isn’t maternity wear and works for your first night out to dinner with your partner alone. 

Stuff to help you feel attractive
·         Non-maternity clothes which fit
·         Washed and extra-conditioned hair
·         A ban on girlie magazines
·         Stomach-holding-in pants

RE: Abdicating responsibility

It’s phenomenally easy to just let the weeks slip by and then Bang, you find that your partner doesn’t know where the baby-gros are, how to make up formula or what goes in a change bag. Suddenly ONLY you can do ANYTHING and your life stretches ahead of you in one long boring agony of utter dependence.

Telling doesn’t work. Remember all the well-meaning people (like me) telling you what to do with a baby you don’t have yet? It’s kind of meaningless until you are facing the situation yourself. It’s the same for him, so let him Have A Go. To do this without exploding in impatience and frustrated who-the-hell-thinks-that-giving-a-6-week-old-baby-KFC-chicken-wings-is-fine rage, Get Out Of The House, and invest in Stuff which forces you to do so.

The temptation to stay and helicopter mother will be immense.

Stuff to help you abdicate responsibility
·         A course of post-natal Yoga or Pilates
·         Beauty treatments
·         A gym membership
·         A cinema loyalty card
·         A schedule for when you can take baths alone at the right temperature and partner and baby are banned from the house.

RE: Remaining yourself

Look for ways you can do things you enjoy whilst taking care of a baby. You think a bit of music will soothe your new-born? Want to dance around the living room? Do it to your own soundtrack. After all, the baby is crying, burping, feeding or pooing. It’s you who really needs entertaining and there's nothing wrong with getting the baby into proper rock/indie/jazz according to your tastes.

The time will come when you spend a 6 hour car journey singing The Wheels of the Bus.

You think you should read to your baby? Read it Dickens, 50 Shades of Grey, the Economist or whatever floats your boat.

The time will come when you know the Gruffalo by memory and think the plot twist in The Gruffalo's Child is complex.

You want to watch a bit of telly whilst feeding? Watch the news, Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey according to your tastes.

The time will come when you will think it strange if someone confesses to not know who Peppa Pig is.

Although it is convenient to make local mummy friends, don’t forget your non-mummy friends; they’ve loved you for longer and although you may quickly forget what life BEFORE was like, these are people you’ve already put time and effort into and you know YOU like (the real you)

Stuff to help you remain yourself
·         The same stuff you had before.
·         The same friends you had before.
I know I know, this isn't helping and what you really want to know is what to buy For The Baby...

...But for those of you out there who are making lists as long as your arms of everything from the ambitious (pre-natal Mandarin tapes to enhance your baby's future career chances) to the absurd (no, babies dont need running shoes), please remember that the happiest you will ever see your baby is when its just done a squidgy poo that has squashesd all the way up its back and spilled out the neckline of its baby-gro. You, unfortunately, particularly if you have haemorrhoids, are harder to please, add You to your list.

(And if you really need a primary coloured drum set I've got one in my shed!)