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Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me: March 2015

Saturday 21 March 2015

Babies Don't Care About Birthdays

Sooooo...this is another post prompted by me feeling like a weirdo in the 'Mum Community' (if there is such a thing - which there isn't really but it seemed like a better phrase than 'amongst all the other mums I've come across at baby groups, in Facebook groups and on forums').

Baby Bear is just coming up for his first birthday.  In fact, we're 'celebrating' it tomorrow because the Wolf can't get the day off work on his actual birthday.

This brings up two issues.

The first is that my whole blog here is titled 'Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me'.  Baby Bear will technically not be a baby anymore once he turns one.  What if I keep writing for years and years?  Should I keep referring to him as Baby Bear when he's at secondary school??  Of all the first world problems I've encountered this ranks right up there with that time I tumbled dried one sock from a pair and that sock was softer than the other one.

The second issue is the actual subject of this post.  First birthdays, the stress they cause and the fact I just seem to be so very different to many other mums.

When Tyger was a baby I actually left the house every week to go to baby groups so I was friends with a load of mums with babies a similar sort of age.  For their babies' first birthdays some held parties at their houses with food for babies and mums laid out, some hired a hall, some went for soft play type parties or those sensory parties with singing and bubbles and lights and other cool stuff.  All lovely and great fun for Tyger, if a little bit stressful for me both because I don't drive so had to either walk or beg a lift and because Tyger was a little older than most of the others so tended to be at the running off stage where I couldn't sit for even two seconds without being worried he'd be halfway down the road.

Like I said: lovely...and a lot of effort and planning and money for the parents of the baby whose party it was.

I don't mind effort.  I can manage effort, depending on what I'm supposed to be putting effort into.

I hate planning,  I really, seriously hate having to plan something that involves people and places and...ugh.  My wedding ceremony took place at a registrar office (albeit, a nice one) and the 'reception' was just a meal at a restaurant.  There were 14 guests and no flowers, invitations, favours, chairs covers (this is apparently a thing people worry about).  My lovely mother in law made a couple of cakes but there was no big white tower with loads of tiers and the miniature bride and groom on top (which always kind of make me think of the little angel and devil on cartoon characters' shoulders when they have to make an important moral decision.  Not like I think the bride and groom are a devil and angel but more like they're the same sort of size and I can imagine them having a little get together...you know what, this is so irrelevant...).  And, yet, even this small amount of planning was stressful for me.  Having to call someone on the phone to book things...having to fill out forms...having to decide on a date and hoping it wouldn't inconvenience anyone.  *Shudder.*  Don't get me wrong; I'd have loved all my family and friends to have been at my wedding (we went for the smaller wedding because we used the money my amazing parents gave us for a deposit on a house instead of a big wedding) but I was very grateful for not having to plan something that large.  I'm not sure I'd have actually made it to the ceremony if I had.  So, having to plan for 20 little people and think about food and make phonecalls and all that jazz was not something I fancied doing for Tyger's first birthday.

Money was a bit of a problem at the time.  It was pretty tight and spending a fortune on something so - dare I say it - trivial just wasn't really an option for us.

So, what happened on Tyger's birthday?  Well, I made a carrot and walnut cake.  One of Tyger's friends came round for a little bit so her mum could drop off his present and have a cup of coffee and a chat.  The Wolf's parents popped in to see Tyger open some of his gifts.  And we Skyped with my mum (my dad was on a business trip) for a bit.  That was it.  And to be honest, that was enough to tire Tyger out and overload him with stimulation from all the fuss because...you know, he was one.

Do I regret spending his first birthday in such a low-key way?  Not at all.  He was a baby.  He didn't understand the concept of birthdays or presents or parties.  How are we spending the day for Baby Bear's 'birthday' tomorrow?  I'll make a carrot and walnut cake (seriously, it's a fracking good cake and it has carrot and banana and nuts and cream cheese in so it's practically a healthy meal...sort of), we'll all (me, the Wolf, Tyger, my Mum and sisters - my dad's on a business trip again) gather to watch Baby Bear play with the wrapping paper and boxes from all the presents he'll have.  And if the Wolf's parents are about we'll Skype them so they can say 'hi'.  That's it.

If you're the kind of person - unlike me - who enjoys planning things meticulously and who likes to spend hours making sure the wrapping paper matches the bunting (which is something I just had to google to ensure I did in fact mean 'bunting' so that gives you an idea of how often in my life I have dealt with it) and if you have the money then I have nothing against throwing a big party for a baby.  There are things I enjoy doing that other people do not and this is something some people enjoy that I don't.  It's fine as long as you realise it's not really for the baby.  It's for the adults.  Which is totally okay.  Why shouldn't parents get to have fun??  Go for it!  There's nothing wrong with that at all...

...But some people get very stressed about these parties and offended when family members can't come and upset if the cake is the wrong shade of red for a ladybird and...I just don't get it.  Your baby doesn't care that uncle Brian won't be there because he's on holiday with his new girlfriend in Madrid.  You baby won't notice that Grandma only stayed for an hour because she had a hospital appointment to fix her ingrowing toenails.  Your baby will be delighted to get a little taste of the Peppa Pig cake even if Peppa looks like a half-crazed, pink horse instead of a weird cartoon pig.  Your baby will still chew on the wrapping paper whether it's blue with silver stars or orange with purple hearts.  Seriously, you have years and years of birthdays ahead of you when your kid actually will know what's going on and will insist on a Minecraft theme after you've already bought the space themed tablecloth and paper plates.  When they'll be disappointed because you got them the wrong character figure from whatever awful show is cool at the time.  When they'll change their mind seven times about who they want to invite...even after the invites have gone out.  So, for at least this first year, give yourself a break!

It doesn't matter.  Honestly.

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Monday 16 March 2015

Frack You, That's Why (Breastfeeding in Public)

After not posting anything last weekend because the Wolf was on a call out, I thought I'd take advantage of Mother's Day (UK - don't panic if you're elsewhere) and write two this weekend.

I'm devoting this post to something that's been in the news a lot recently: breastfeeding in public.

Considering the subject, this post may well mention such things as boobs, nipples and breast milk.  *Gasp!*  If this makes you feel uncomfortable my advice to is - pleasingly - the same as my advice to people who don't want to see a mother breastfeeding: don't look.  Seriously, there are so many awesome things to see in the world (I hear there are a few cat videos on the internet, for instance) so why you'd waste time complaining about seeing something that's harming nobody and no-one's forcing you to look at is beyond me.

So, that's really the take home message here but that seems like a very short blog post so maybe I'll go into a little more detail.  We'll run through some of the things I read that anger me because who doesn't like to spend a day that's set aside for relaxing getting worked up about something that angers them?

The first thing that pisses me off: 'Why can't you just express milk and use a bottle when you're out?'

Tyger had a tongue tie when he was born but it took four months for me to realise.  This - coupled with terrible advice and lack of support from midwives - meant for several days after I got home from hospital Tyger wouldn't latch on to feed and I had to express every three hours.  Sounds kind of rough, right?  You have no idea.  My three hourly cycle (and we're talking all through the day and night) was to spend half an hour doing 'skin to skin' with Tyger and trying to get him to latch on (in the desperate hope he'd actually feed and we could break this terrible cycle).  After that I'd have to express milk.  The people who moan about women who could 'easily just express' need to pay attention to this part.  I had to make sure he had 30ml of milk every three hours as an absolute minimum (this increased after a couple of days).  Only 30ml.  That's a pretty tiny amount of liquid there.  You can practically sneeze and produce 30ml of snot (or...a less gross example).  And you know how long it took me to get that much milk out of my agonisingly sore nipples?  Up to an hour and a half.  Then I had a further hour in which I could choose to eat, wash (advisable when you have stitches) or sleep.  There were eight of these cycles every 24 hours.  So, eight hours of this 'free time'.  Deduct three for meals and one for having a shower and maybe just sitting not doing anything for a bit and that leaves four hour long (or maybe a little longer if I'd done particularly well expressing - yay, go me!) slots for sleep.  And if Tyger showed any signs of actually being inclined to feed during those slots my mum and the Wolf were under strict instructions to wake me so I could try latching him on.  I have suffered from depression for a long time (I'm currently on antidepressants I've been advised to stay on for at least two years because of the frequency of my depression) but those early days of trying to feed Tyger were the absolute worst of my life.  They were nothing compared to the fog of depression.

Why have I brought this up?  Because I like to include a downer in my blog posts?  Because I want sympathy or admiration?  Well, for two reasons.  Firstly, to show how hard breastfeeding can be.  Some people seem baffled by how heated the whole subject can get but don't realise the sorts of struggles mums might have gone through or still be going through just to keep feeding their baby every day.  Yeah, when I've gone through the crap I have to be able to breastfeed I will get Goram worked up when I feel my decision is under attack from small-minded people.  Secondly, to explain - in a roundabout way - that not all women find expressing easy or even possible at all.  Even after those hellish first few days when my supply was more established I struggled to express.  Tyger was not a good sleeper and the Wolf used to get me to express a bottle's worth of milk a day so he could stay up with Tyger and I could get two or three hours of sleep.  It took me several sessions of expressing through the day in order to get enough milk for that one feed.  If I was out for several hours in the day Tyger might want two or even three feeds in that time.  That's several days of expressing to get enough milk and forfeiting hours of sleep.  On top of that, of course, is the fact nobody should have to go to the effort of expressing when they can just bloody well breastfeed!

So, why can't breastfeeding mums just express?  Frack you, that's why.

The second thing that pisses me off: 'Feed in the toilet and/or breastfeeding in public is the same as peeing in public?'

Okay, so the toilet thing first.  Yuck.  Why would I take my baby (one of the most vulnerable groups susceptible to nasty germs in our species) into a place where people wee and poo in order to feed him??  Does your dislike of the possibility of seeing a human breast (if you choose not to look away) really trump a baby or small child's right to eat somewhere that isn't full of faeces and urine?  No it does not.

As for the second thing...what is wrong with your brain?  Seriously, were you dropped on your head as a baby?  Breastfeeding is pretty much the exact opposite of someone peeing.  You know what it is the same as?  Someone eating or drinking, you moron.

The third thing that pisses my off: 'Why can't you just cover up/breastfeed discretely?'

In some ways, this is the worst one.  It's certainly the most insidious because it's often said by people who say they 'support' breastfeeding and they're fine with breastfeeding in public or they have breastfed their own babies...but...  Ah, that 'but'.  'Of course you should be able to feed your baby in public but there's no reason to flaunt it.'  'Just use a breastfeeding cover or drape over a muslin cloth.'

It seems so reasonable, right?  Except, you know what happens when I put something over Baby Bear's head when he's trying to feed?  The same thing that used to happen when I put something over Tyger's head when he used to feed and probably the same thing you'd do if I put something over your head whilst you're trying to eat your dinner.  He pulls it right off (probably thinking, 'What's wrong with you?  I don't want to have a snack with a blanket over my head!').

And, yeah, I could point out that actually every single breastfeeding mum I've come across would rather the general public didn't see her boobs.  And, yes, I could also point out that by putting some huge cover or blanket or cloth over me and my baby I'm actually drawing more attention to us and to the fact I'm feeding than if I simply pulled down my top and got on with it.  But all that's missing the point.

The point is: why should I have to be discrete??

I'm not doing anything wrong!  I'm sorry if you have been told over and over by our society that breasts are sexual objects and their sole purpose is to arouse and sexually please and sell stuff but that's not their sole purpose.  It's not even their primary purpose!  Their actual purpose - for those of you who are so bad at Biology you think your eyes will fall out if you don't close them when you sneeze - is to feed our young!!  Why should I have to cover up the fact I'm doing something totally normal and natural and good?

When I was pregnant with Tyger, I couldn't wait to breastfeed and I actually hoped someone would make some sort of comment when I was out and feeding him.  I pictured myself laying into whatever monster dared to insult me for feeding my baby.  I was so confident...before the reality of doing it.  Then I had him and breastfeeding was so much harder than I ever thought possible and I had to listen to him screaming and screaming and screaming as I tried and failed to get him to latch on and I felt like the worst mother in the entire world because I couldn't even feed my own baby.  That knocked my confidence a little.  Okay, a lot.  I dreaded feeding in public in case he wouldn't latch on.  In case he cried and people looked and judged me or - worse - said something.  Luckily, I'm largely a recluse and rarely went anywhere other than baby groups with other breastfeeding mums, anyway, but it was still one more stress and worry I could have done without at a time filled with stresses and worries.

Then I had Baby Bear.  I actually had a home birth because I couldn't stand the thought of being in the same hospital I had Tyger in with those same midwives who had failed me so badly when I was desperately trying to feed my child.  As it happens, Baby Bear's breathing wasn't great when he was born so we were rushed to hospital anyway where it turned out his breathing was fine but - haha - he was now really cold from being taken outside and bundled into an ambulance as soon as he entered the world, which meant we had to stay in a night and most of the next day.  So, despite my careful planning I found myself in a hospital bed with a newborn once again; trying and failing to get my scrunched up pink bundle to latch on once again; dealing with the stress of a tongue-tied child once again.  This time, however, I knew what the problem was.  I knew what to do about it.  I was assertive and got on with things and never had to go through the three-hourly awfulness of Tyger's early infancy.

Best of all, my confidence was back.  I have breastfed Baby Bear whilst walking round the supermarket, whilst chatting to a pharmacist in Boots, in cafes and restaurants and on the train.  That's how confident every mum should be about feeding her baby wherever the baby needs feeding.  There are so many things to worry about as a parent.  Legitimate things that are worthy of concern like whether you remembered to put spare clothes in the changing bag in case of a poopsplosion or whether that twat Gove's policies will still be in place by the time your kids start school.  Panicking about the possibility of abuse whenever your baby is hungry is not something that should be an issue.

The law is on our side.  In the UK, at least, it is illegal to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place and that's great but it shouldn't be necessary.  People are 'offended' by me feeding my baby in public?  And?  There are things I come across all the time when I'm out and about that offend me: incorrect use of apostrophes on signs, football being shown on TV in public places, Ugg boots, hot drinks served in tall glasses instead of mugs, people constantly using the word 'ignorant' when they really mean 'arrogant'...  I don't go around telling everyone these things must be hidden from my view, though.  That would be ridiculous because it's me with the issue.

You know what, my hero and most favouritist person in the whole world has expressed what I want to say much better than I.  I am, of course, talking about Stephen Fry.  His view on 'offense':

"It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.'  As if that gives them certain rights.  It's actually nothing more than a whine.  'I find that offensive.'  It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase.  'I am offended by that.'  Well, so fucking what."

And with that reference to Stephen Fry I have calmed down.

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Saturday 14 March 2015

London, Baby!

Toddlers are pretty repetitive, obsessive creatures.  Aspies are pretty repetitive, obsessive creatures.  Tyger - being both a toddler and (probably) an Aspie - is a very repetitive, obsessive creature.

The Wolf works in London.  My Dad works in London.  My brother and his girlfriend live in London.  One of my sisters recently had a school trip to London.  Tyger hears a lot about London and, in turn, we hear a lot about London from him.  A lot, a lot.  Like, seriously, a lot.

Tyger:  My go a Wondon?

Me:  Not today.

Tyger:  Why?  My go a Wondon.  My go a Wondon.  My go a Wondon.

This was a pretty common conversation for a few weeks (common meaning at least five or six times a day and often more like five or six times in as many minutes) so the Wolf booked a day off work for us to head into London since there was no way we were going in at the weekend.

Planning a day out with a toddler and baby is stressful.  Especially if you're me and hate both planning and travel.  Questions like 'should we take the buggy?' become achingly important and require full discussion of the pros and cons:

Place for both boys to nap if needs be
Easier on our arms and backs than carrying/using the carrier the whole time
Keeps Tyger contained if required

Taking a buggy on the London underground
Taking a buggy on the London underground
Taking a buggy on the London underground

In the end, despite the very compelling arguments against (seriously, a buggy on the underground!), we decided to take the buggy.

We made a plan: get a lift to the train station, get the train to Waterloo, walk across some bridge to somewhere else, get a tube to another place, go to the Natural History Museum to let Tyger see the dinosaur section, get lunch, get more tubes from more places, go to Hamley's and then more tubes back to Waterloo and the train home again.  Yeah, I don't know London very well and I'm rubbish with place names (or any names, come to that).

Tyger hadn't been on a train before (or, at least, not within his memory) so it was one big adventure for him.  He loved the idea of the train before we got there and mostly did seem to like the first train journey, even if he was extremely concerned the train would 'squish' him as we got on and even if he insisted on sitting on the Wolf's lap for the whole journey instead of his own seat.  Baby Bear - surprisingly and thankfully - slept for the whole first leg of the trip.

It was a lovely, bright day.  Unfortunately, it was also incredibly windy and I'm sure Tyger's memory of London must be as some sort of face-scouring hurricane of a city.  The entire time we were outside he had tears rolling down his face from the wind and when we crossed a bridge he was quite concerned about being blown away.

His first reaction to the underground was to voice his consternation about the possibility of the train crashing into his chocolate chip cookie.  Don't worry, though: the tube stayed on its tracks and the cookie was safe (phew).  Being on the tube was largely stressful for him (the noise, the darkness, the movement - all a little overwhelming and scary) but to hear hi, talk about it now you'd think he spent the entire time laughing and singing and generally marveling at the wonder of it all.  Children have selective memories.

We made it to the Natural History Museum and either the fact we had two young children with us meant we didn't seem to pose a threat or the museum staff didn't fancy the chances of sticking their hand in a poopy nappy or sicky top because we were waved through the bag search point without so much as a cursory glance over (despite having several bags with us).  When we got into the main hall, Tyger's reaction to the diplodocus (which will soon be controversially swapped for a blue whale) made the entire day worthwhile as he let out an awed and whispered, 'Wow.'

Then, on to the dinosaur section.  We knew this would be hit or miss but Tyger seemed eager...to start with.  There's a staircase leading up to an overhead walkway (with dinosaurs on either side) and Tyger was desperate to get up the stairs but we had to wait for the lift (okay maybe there were a couple more downsides to bringing the buggy than having to take it on the tube) as he repeatedly tried to drag me up the stairs.

Tyger did not like the walkway.

It's quite dark and crowded.  Because it's crowded, it's noisy and slow moving.  I suspect it was somewhat of a sensory overload and Tyger had a bit of a meltdown.  I was carrying him so he could see over the railing and he started shouting that he wanted to get down and even grabbed the railing and tried to pull himself over it at one point.  He cried and attempted to push the people in front of us forward, shouting, 'Go away!'  Luckily, the general noise and crowd meant I don't think anyone even noticed the poor, distraught toddler and he started to calm down as we got to a more open area.  He was able to enjoy the remaining dinosaurs and very much enjoyed the dinosaur gift shop but the ordeal must have taken it out of him because he was happy to sit in the buggy - glassy eyed - whilst we left the museum and searched for somewhere to eat.

We should have - perhaps - eaten lunch in the museum because apparently all the cafes and restaurants around that area are trendy types with cramped, tiny tables/no highchairs/no changing facilities (the one place that looked promising had an out of order toilet - not ideal when you have a toddler with you who hasn't peed in several hours).  So, we walked for a Goram long time (I had the dead weight that is Baby Bear strapped to me so my perception may have been skewed a little.  We eventually found a nice little Italian place clearly not well-equipped for children but keen to accommodate us, quiet, not cramped and - most importantly - serving food we'd all eat.  Tyger had to eat his (full-sized) pizza with an adult's fork and we had to hold his huge glass of apple juice for him every time he wanted a drink just so he could reach the straw but the staff and food were nice and I got to sit down without a big fat baby on me out of the icy wind.  So, all was good.  Baby Bear was even kind enough to perfectly time his only poop of the day to coincide with the end of the meal!

Next stop was Hamley's and I was...let's say unimpressed.  I won't go into detail because I have already made my feelings on gender stereotyping pretty clear in my last blog post Yes, I Bought my Son a Dress.  The ground floor was fine.  It had various cuddly toys and puppets stacked up all over but there was also one pink glittery floor trying to choke the life out of you the moment you stepped out the lift with the overpowering smell of sickly-sweet...perfume?  I don't know really.  I'm not sure what in a toy shop needs to smell like that.  Only female employees seemed to work on this floor and it contained dolls, princess dresses, jewelry, and...you get the picture.  The floor below equally assaulted the senses but instead of the sense being smell, it was hearing.  This floor contained a lot of blue and grey and had mostly male staff members shouting and guffawing as they battled each other with remote control toys.  There were lots of vehicles and I'm not sure what else because we were starting to worry about hitting rush hour by then so hurriedly grabbed the toys Tyger seemed most enamoured with (a cuddly Peppa Pig and a pack of Matchbox cars) and made our escape (after paying, I should probably point out).  All I'll say is: seriously, there are no girl's toys and boy's toys.  There are just fracking toys.

All in all, the day was more of a success than we could have hoped for.  Tyger certainly came away with a positive view of London and of course there's the added benefit that it's stopped him going on and on about going there.

...No, of course it hasn't.  He now just goes on and on about the fact he wants to go back.  Ugh.

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