The blind leading the blind? Who’s in charge here?

Since when did I become the one dishing out parenting advice? This morning I found myself ending a message with the legend ‘You can never have too many muslins’ while wishing a friend good luck on leaving the house with her newborn baby girl.

A few hours later it dawned on me just how far we’ve come from that point.

I still remember Adam’s first trip out to the Broughton Deli (still a regular hangout now; he has his regular highchair and we share lunch). He was snuggled into a stretchy wrap and we fussed about whether he was warm enough/too warm, if he would suffocate and if we had enough spare nappies etc for the 200 yard walk. I was all at sea, and my enduring memory is of a sense of ordered chaos. Its a fond memory now but seems like decades ago. A different me, a different Adam.

And what a learning curve it’s been. I want to caveat any advice I give you, should you be a new parent in my company: feel free to ignore me. Advice gets hurled at you from each and every direction in those first few weeks and months. Take on board the stuff that you like the sound of; that sits well with who you are; that suits the way you want to live. The rest is entirely redundant and belongs to another sort of parent.

What would I have done differently? Not much, actually. I believe you need to make your own mistakes to learn independently – something I’m trying to pass on to Adam now as he goes through some massive developmental changes.

I’d maybe have avoided springing out of bed to lift Adam as the first sob rang out of his cute wee bake; he’d maybe be able to settle himself to sleep by now (at 10 months I’ve still got to be in the room for him to nod off). Meh, he’ll do it eventually. I never heard of a three year old who couldn’t fall asleep on their own.

I’ve read a few articles about child development and been interested to find that independent learning is really important for babies. We’re conditioned to intervene almost constantly to keep babies doing what we want them to do, and stop them doing what we don’t. We engage them in structured play and games, songs and stories. We take them to classes and playgroups. We get disappointed when they don’t listen or take part, and allow ourselves to feel guilty or inadequate for that.

Since I stopped worrying about this (along with the sleep, the pressure to do baby led weaning, and the eternal fear that he will be emotionally damaged by something I must be doing wrong) and started letting him ‘free play’ I’ve seen how much fun babies can have when they just use their imagination.

We have a story at bedtime – most of the time he grabs the book (which has a cut out hole on the front cover) and opens it so he can ‘peep’ at me through the window. Once the hilarity of that is over with he will tolerate me reading to him because its a habit now. I know some babies love books and it used to vex me that Adam’s main interest involves trying to eat them.

But then I see him crawl over to his toybox and pull himself up to stand peering into it. He will carefully select what he wants and then spend a while interacting with toys, cruising around different parts of the room, overcoming physical obstacles and whooping with delight at inanimate objects. He doesn’t need any input at all! What is lovely is that he frequently comes over to me to ‘touch base’, give me a toy or pull me down for a cuddle, to make sure I’m watching. He knows I’m there and he feels secure enough to play independently – learning all the time.

So can’t a new parent learn this way too? I feel like I struggled to follow advice from books and websites and peers, to the point where my brain began to fizz and I found myself feeling quite down – as though I was a bit of a failure for not managing all the things I felt I should.

No one was harder on me than… well, me. And yet I’m still rushing to suggest stuff to new mums. I’ve reflected on this today and while I know its just out of a desire to help, I want to be mindful about it. Unsolicited advice can be helpful but can also weirdly make you feel under pressure, like you’re a sandwich short of the full picnic. I don’t want to perpetuate that so I’ll stick to answering questions I’m asked, and making sure my proverbial door is always open.

If I want Adam to learn anything from me, its that he can be confident and have faith in himself. I think I have been on an amazing journey over the past ten months, and have learned a huge amount – most of it just simply through experience. There is just no substitute for ‘on the job training’.

But it IS true, you really cannot ever have too many muslins.

I let him go and do what he wanted at the Mela. Turned out he wanted to join a Senegalese drum circle.

I let him go and do what he wanted at the Mela. Turned out he wanted to join a Senegalese drum circle.

 

Time slows down, speeds up, clocks go back… Dr Who would be impressed.


What’s been happening in the world of Ruth? Lots, of course. No baby just yet but if the little blighter does turn up early we’ll just about be sorted. Sigh of relief that can be heard from outer space.

I’ve finished work! That’s a funny one to get your head around – after working full time since the day I left education (working part time and sometimes full time throughout that too since the age of 18) suddenly not having a job to go to each day is a strange one. I’m not really on holiday, but I’m not ill. And the baby isn’t here yet to keep me busy so I’ve been filling up my days with lots of lovely catch ups with friends, short and gaspy walks to nearby locations such as John Lewis, and basic sewing projects that have taken up hours and yielded fairly little. And Yoga. And baking. And a wee bit of resting too.

The rest/activity ratio is about to swing dramatically as I’ve just about had enough of ‘keeping myself busy’. I’m lucky to have this time off work before I meet my baby so I’m bloody well going to enjoy it without feeling guilty or lazy for doing as little as possible. Today is officially the first day I’ve not gone outside yet! I’m going out later on to a halloween party so not feeling like a recluse yet. I’ve done three loads of washing (watch as anyone who knows me reels in shock), hoovered, tidied up the spare room and kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. These simple tasks are quite hard work when you’re almost 37 weeks pregnant, have a baby headbutting your bladder whilst kicking you in the lungs, and have hips that feel they’ll give way at any moment. As for picking things up off the floor by hand, that is so last month. I now use my toes to lift a lot of stuff.

So the first two weeks of maternity leave have made a mockery of the concept of time. Receiving my beautiful hand made baby blanket and a gorgeous Narcissus bouquet from my colleagues on my last day feels like months ago. And at the same time it’s like I walked out of there only yesterday! “You’ll lose track of time” Jamie helpfully and knowingly piped up last night. This terrifies me! I need to let go, and not let it bother me. I shall get a diary and keep all my appointments in it rather than in my well oiled machine of a brain. My poor brain. It’s in for a shock I think.

Aside from becoming a time lord, I am upbeat and optimistic about the next few weeks and finally getting to meet our baby boy or girl! I’m carefully filtering negative birth stories, comments and ‘advice’ and focusing on doing things the way that suits us best. We’re stocked up on real nappies (a good lot of second hand and some shiny new ones too) and I’m heading over to the Changeworks Nappuccino next week for a blether with some cloth nappy mums and dads to get some advice. We’ve received lots of ‘pre-loved’ baby clothes from friends and colleagues who’ve recently had their own little babies, and even got a beautiful cot mobile from a friend who was given two for his little girl – we’re very lucky indeed! Our baby will be well kitted out between these nearly new offerings and the lovely gifts we’ve received from friends and family.

Still happy we’ve not made too giant an impact on the environment (yet) as lots of our stuff is pre-loved, nearly new, reusable or at the very least biodegradable. Hopefully this cancels out some of the tumble-drying I’ll have to do over the winter!

And on that happy note, I have to go and walk around – seizing up here! Oh alright then, here’s a pic:36 Weeker

And here are the beautiful flowers I got from work:

Flowers from Narcissus

the blank canvas

Progress. Time marches on, and we are busy. Busy getting rid of stuff and accumulating new stuff. Busy growing a new human being. Busy decorating the spare room, which is now a gloriously pale white cube. It’s a blank canvas just waiting for us to put our stamp on it.

A bit like our baby I suppose. 

I must confess I haven’t stuck religiously to my desired ‘make do and mend’ path during  the preparations. I’ve certainly given away lots of things to be reused, or sold valuable things to fund our progress. Very little has gone in the bin, and this Sunday I’ll be at the omni centre at 7am to try and flog what’s left of my frivolous, baby-free life. The ‘misc’ if you will. The white elephant in the room.

My plan was to stick to this ‘reuse’ ethic when decorating and furnishing the spare room, and gathering what we need to be ready for the baby. I’ve done quite well with the small stuff – as with maternity clothes I have been really lucky with friends and family donating baby clothes, toys and cloth nappies. I have enough sleepsuits to avoid doing a single wash in the first three months (should I decide that this is appropriate).

Our pram (or ‘travel system’ as they’re now called) is made up of a kindly donated car seat and a £70 Gumtree steal – worth the trip to deepest darkest Penicuik and the imminent prospect of steam-cleaning it. Likewise some larger stuff like a crib and a baby gym have been generously given to the cause by friends and relatives doing their own clearouts. 

And of course we’ve received some lovely gifts of new things – bedclothes, baby-gros and even a little tiny pair of baby crocs! 

Where I’ve failed to stay on the low-impact bandwagon is the big stuff. Now, if you know me you’ll know I adore old furniture. I have been wittering on about mid-century sideboards and art deco dressers for years now, and I’m quite good at finding spontaneous bargains – the problem is finding furniture to order. And then getting the bloody stuff home, up the stairs and suitably cleaned up and (if necessary) decorated within the next few months, with no van and an increasingly unforgiving ‘condition’ that denies me the fervent energy needed to complete even one upcycling project.

No, forgive me Kirstie Allsopp for I have sinned. I have been to IKEA and drunk from the well of flatpack furniture with free delivery and assembly. So we’re getting a new ‘daybed’ and some drawers, a wing chair and our cot from the Swedish wonder. It wasn’t plain sailing either, but took a lot less time and energy than browsing for shabby chic items that meet our needs as a family. I shan’t apologise, of course, because it’s hardly a crime, but I can’t help feeling a wee bit sad not to have fashioned a nursery out of one-offs that we ‘just stumbled on’ at car boot sales or found in a skip.

In a way it feels appropriate to buy some new things (as in really new) as a gesture that this baby is a long term investment. 

Another area I didn’t achieve the green flag was the decorating. I contacted the community repaint project who sell fantastically cheap paint second hand (it’s remixed from leftover and unused paint and sold by this cool project) to see if they had any white emulsion and white gloss. Alas, they didn’t have at the time. I would have happily traipsed to Glenrothes for some but we opted for good old ASDA who had an offer on instead. But you should check out that paint project next time you’re decorating… it’s very cool.

So I’m not beating myself up – we have saved a fortune in cash and carbon by buying second hand where we can – where its safe, easy and really economical. I shall recline on my pristine virgin IKEA mattress and feel the luxury of having splashed out on something really nice for my growing family – in a few short years it will be our son’s or daughter’s first bed too.

So that’s how we’re getting on – our old spare room has been totally vapourised; the remnants of it’s contents are now lurking in corners waiting to be car-booted. The clearout continues apace, and this Saturday a new carpet will be fitted to replace the absolutely skanky navy thing that somehow went like a proverbial hotcake within hours of going on gumtree freebies. When the carpet is in and the furniture arrives, I think that’s when shit will get real. 

The blank canvas won’t stay that way for long.

Obligatory bump pic. 28 Weeks and having a huge day (I swear I look smaller today than I did yesterday):

(bonus shot of cat mid-fucking-off)

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