Fly away Peter

Jimmy and I had an animal rescue mini-drama at the allotment site today…

I was footling about behind the shed when my eagle-eyed henchman came running over and told me that he was sad because a little bird (a thrush, I think) was trapped in some netting nearby.  We thought it was probably dead as it was tightly tangled up at ground level and not moving. But when I approached it started flapping about in panic.

The good news is that we were able to snip away the netting carefully and the bird flew away with no apparent damage done. I don’t know how long the poor thing had been trapped but it had enough energy left to bite me repeatedly and make itself as objectionable as possible while I was attempting to help it.

As the microbe’s first animal rescue experience (I doubt it will be his last) this was probably the highlight of his weekend. I made sure to tell him that the bird was only alive thanks to him. I doubt I’d have spotted it and in fact we were only at the allotment on his request.

In baby news, we introduced Matilda to some high contrast baby books this morning – the same set that I had for the boybot when he was tiny.  James was interested to see a photo of himself looking at them when he was 4 weeks old and still had his weird Clive Anderson hairdo. Then, for fun, we decided to stage a matching picture of Matilda.

Once again, like brother like sister… (you can click to view them larger)

Next Monday it’s going to be Pops’s funeral, which will be a sad and difficult day. G and I were discussing whether or not to bring the boy along but we’ve decided to try and arrange things so that we can leave him at home. He’s unlikely to understand what’s going on and the last thing that grieving people need is a small, confused child running about with no grasp of how to behave. We’ll have to bring the girl with us for feeding purposes but I’ll cross my fingers and hope that she sleeps through the service.

James’s new school has organised an induction meeting for parents on the same day, but I’m hoping that they’ll offer a way for us to get the information separately, given the circumstances.

On a happier topic, I can’t believe my little microbe is going to be four in 6 days’ time!*

He’s spotted some packages arriving and knows that they’re top secret and related to his birthday, which has introduced him to an entirely new sort of agony – he’s been unaware of this sort of suspense until now. Suffice to say I have to be extra good at hiding stuff nowadays.

We still haven’t decided what to do with him on the day, but it’ll probably involve a farm or a local show or a museum. Firming up the plans is on my to-do list for this week…  that and sorting out the party bags and cake for his party on the Sunday. Fingers crossed for nice weather…

* ps – for those family members who were wondering, I can confirm that his amazon wish list is fully up to date – and if anyone is desperate for a  further hint, I have a feeling he’d *really* like the toy sloth! 

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Sad news

For personal reasons, this is just a brief post to mark and remember some sad family news.

Yesterday evening we lost Pops. He was a well loved man with a large family and will be terribly missed by everyone. I’m especially devastated for Granny, who has lost a husband, and for G and his siblings, who’ve lost a father.

I’m sad that Matilda won’t remember her grandfather but I’m glad that she did at least meet him once, even though he’d fallen drastically ill by then and was unable to hold her.

We haven’t told James the news yet – we need to think how to do it in a way that he’ll understand. My hope is that he will remember Pops fondly as the person who made him lovely things from wood, such as his toybox and his book box.

Only a few weeks ago, when all seemed well, we had a celebratory meal with Granny and Pops in Richmond and he gave us a little wooden sign that he’d made for James to stake out his patch on the allotment. It feels even more precious now.

Sending all of our love to Granny x

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You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals

IMG_1234Last week James kissed Matilda and then exclaimed gleefully

“Mummy, she looks like a pig!”

I was all set to say “That’s not very kind” when I realised two things:

  1. In Jamesworld, in which there is no finer animal than a warthog, being told that you look like a pig does not count as an insult.
  2. I had to concede that she did indeed look a little bit piggy on that day.  (I even took a pic…  yes I am a terrible mother.)

Bless her. I think it’s just that snub nose… and the fact that she hasn’t got her eyelashes yet – and her jaundice suntan has faded to the finest shade of Pinky and Perky.

She scrubs up cute though…

In fairness, I don’t think James was any less porcine at her age, though he was a little less tubby of tummy and chubby of limb. Matilda is definitely squidgier.

One thing the boybot shared was her affliction with milk spots – in fact I think he had them worse than she does. Hers tend to flare up when she’s hot, especially if I take her out in the sunshine – then they pretty much disappear again at night when the temperature cools down.

It’s an amazing thing about baby skin – how their faces can transform from spotty teenager to flawless peach in the space of a few hours. Right now she’s looking positively peachy, but I won’t be at all surprised if she goes red and blotchy again this afternoon as I’m planning to take her out for an al fresco lunch in the sunshine with daddy.

This morning I realised that she’s exactly three weeks old. If she’d made it to 40 weeks without being evicted, she’d only be 2 weeks old – though I have no idea whether that makes any real difference to their development. As it is, her eyes are open more often this week, but they’re a little cloudy looking and it’s hard to tell what she’s looking at or what colour they’ll end up being. She still doesn’t really do much apart from sleep, eat and create emissions. I think it’s at least another couple of weeks before she’ll be able to hold her head up or give us her first genuine smile.

One thing I can say is that she’s nowhere near as ladylike as her brother. Awake or asleep, life is pretty much one long audio track of snuffling, snoring and explosive nappy noises. That and some very strange squawking noises that cause G and me to wonder if we accidentally gave birth to a baby T-rex.

Meanwhile, in big brother world, little Jamesy Attenborough has been showing a disconcerting level of interest in the animal mechanics of breastfeeding. “It’s because you’re a mammal, mummy!” Having no memory of his own days at the boob cafe hasn’t stopped him from wanting to advise me at every opportunity – (e.g. by pointing to a boob and saying “she’s hungry, mummy, why don’t you give her that one?“).

Er, thanks James…  (is ‘toddlersplaining’ a word yet?)

On a similarly patronising note, he came home last week singing a song that they’d learned at nursery, which has these lyrics:

I’m squashing up my baby bumblebee
What will my mummy say to me?
Yuk! I’ve got bee all over me!

At this point the poor microbe was forced to learn exactly what his mummy would say to him, as I launched into a lecture about the agricultural importance of bees and why we must never squash them. He listened to all of this patiently and then responded, with a faint air of pity:

“Mummy, it’s only a song, It’s not real life”

Well, that’s me told.

In other news, the boybot had a lovely weekend at some local fairs and events. On Saturday we went to a Gruffalo storytime with his pals and he met the brilliant Axel Scheffler who signed his book and drew a little custom illustration of the fox, at James’s request.

Then on Sunday we went to our local community fair and he had a little horse ride and got his face painted and met the filth, and so on…

Recently I’m reminded that I have to be careful what I say to the boybot, for fear of having it repeated back to me later.  As is the lot of small children with siblings, all of James’s requests these days for drinks/attention/stories/activity/anything whatsoever are met with the default response “in a minute” or “in five minutes“, depending on how generous I’m feeling.

Unfortunately for James, a grown-up minute can equate to anywhere between one toddler hour or 300 toddler years, depending on the ratio of toddler urgency to parental fobbing-off.  This has not gone unnoticed by the microbe, hence he asked me last week “Mummy, is five minutes a long time?” and I replied “Well for grown-ups it’s a very short time indeed, but for children it generally feels like eternity

Since then, all of my fob-offs have been met with “But Mummy! For me that’s a VERY long time!”  Ach…  I’m afraid that you might just have to suck it up for now, little boy.

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Fly-by observations

There are lots of curious things about parenting that only become clear afterwards.  For example, having gone to the effort of conceiving, growing and delivering a baby, it’s interesting to note that:

  1. The moment they arrive, 90% of your time is spent striving for ways to ‘switch them off’ again.
  2. If, at any point, you achieve this feat, it’s surprising how long you can tolerate sitting in a pile of projectile milk-sick, in order to avoid waking them up again.

Hmmm. Lets just say that I am not currently in a fit state to answer the door, should the postman come a-knocking…

I am sure I had lots more to say than this when I opened up WordPress, but I seem to have forgotten all of it. Never mind.  All is well, and anyway I’d be better off trying to cram in some lunch before howling ensues than footling about on here.

More later…


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Little Dahlings

So… we have a new blog title – and I’ve made a few small edits to welcome Matilda into the cyber-fold. I received lots of good title suggestions from friends (including the title of this post) but practically everything I tried was pre-bagged as a WordPress domain. Many thanks go to brilliant Charles for coming up trumps with a new title that is both perfect and available. Hooray!  (Hopefully those of you who subscribe by email should notice no difference).

I’m somewhat freaked out to note that Matilda was born a week ago today. I swear it feels like the day before yesterday… this week has been a very weird time-shifting experience.

On Tuesday the midwife came and weighed the girlbot and did the heel prick test. I’d forgotten, until G reminded me, that we had a scare with James’s heel prick results, which came out inconclusive for hypothyroidism twice in a row and we were quite worried and had to go and get him re-tested at Great Ormond Street.

Ever an awkward devil – the midwife also declared his birth weight to have dropped to worrying levels and was considering admitting him to hospital – hence we ended up feeding him with syringes and bottles for a week just to measure what he was getting and ensure that he gained enough weight to tick the right boxes.

Matilda is clearly a better feeder than he was and her minimal weight loss seemed to satisfy the midwife. Lets hope her blood test proves to be as cooperative.

She also took my dressing off on Tuesday and today I had a first proper look at my scar, to see how it’s doing. I have to say I am WELL impressed with the consultant who did my op! It’s such an improvement on the scar that was there before, it’s as though I’ve had cosmetic surgery.  Only one week in and it’s already smaller, flatter and less visible than its predecessor.  I just wish I could remember the surgeon’s surname as I’d like to send her a thank you note for doing such a nice job.

As for girlbot, she appears to be doing what week-one newborns do and spending most of her time either eating, sleeping or pooing.  It’s pretty much one of those three at all times and she’s rarely awake without wanting milk. I seem to recall that the bawling phase starts after the first two weeks, so I shall look forward to that…

I think that her eyelashes are just beginning to emerge – though they’re still so fine and fair as to be almost invisible. I’d forgotten that newborns are often born without eyelashes – it’s one of the things that makes them look a little bit alien.

Her face also looks quite red and blotchy at times, usually on her forehead, nose and eyelids. It tends to calm down when she sleeps and flares up again when she’s awake or feeding. And she’s started to peel very slightly here and there but, overall her dermatological woes are less severe than James’s as a newborn. I seem to recall him suffering from a blotchy facial rash for several weeks and he had quite bad peeling on his body from being over-pickled for two extra weeks.

In an attempt at comparisons, I rummaged out a couple of pics of James as a newborn to compare with his sister. It’s tricky to judge because so many newborn features are generic – also the fact that they’re wearing the same hat goes a long way here to giving an illusion of similarity – but still…


I think that they have similar mouths, but M has a slightly wider and less buttony nose than J, and she definitely has smaller, flatter ears. Other than that – we will have to wait and see what little face emerges. (If she changes half as much as James did in the first few months, she could look completely different by August.)

As for me, I’m really enjoying certain things about not being pregnant, such as:

  • Indulging in a celebratory Campari spritz or two
  • Not needing a wee 24 hours a day
  • Fat slices of unpasteurised brie (if anyone feels the need to tell me that I’m supposed to avoid that while BFing I shall simply stick my fingers in my ears and say “la la la”)

Other than that, I was braced for the fact that I’d still look 5 months pregnant for several weeks after the birth but I do wish my horrid bulging feet would hurry up and shrink.

So far James’s favourite nicknames for Matilda are Tilly Tiger (when she is good) and Millie Monkey (when she is naughty). Our friend Jane prefers Mattie Aardvark.  Lets face it, this child never had a hope of escaping the nickname deluge. She shall be legion.

As for the boybot, I think he is suffering a little bit from anticlimax and a melting pot of emotions after the birth. He’s been so good and sweet with his sister, and he keeps telling everyone at nursery all about it and how he helps with her nappies. But I think the sudden drop in attention (especially from me) is getting to him and we’ve had a couple of tired and emotional meltdowns from him about nothing in particular, where I’m not even sure if he knows what’s wrong with him. It’s really quite unusual as he’s never been one to go in for tantrums or histrionics.

At the moment G and I are just trying to be a little more indulgent and sensitive around him, and reminding him that we love him at every opportunity. Here’s hoping things will settle down soon. I’m glad he has his birthday coming up soon, so that we can make a fuss of him then.

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A post for posterity

Thing 2 has arrived, at 9:37 on 21st May, and we have decided to call her Matilda Jane. With that and James, I guess people could be forgiven for thinking that we’re Roald Dahl fanatics, though that thought only occurred to me later.

Suddenly my little microbe looks like a giant – and I’m reminded once again that newborn babies’ heads smell like toasted nuts.

Here’s a pic from this morning. Imagine spending your days like this…


Suffice to say I have already pic-spammed Facebook with this sort of thing…

Her Hawaiian Tropics colouring is due to the fact that she has jaundice. Apparently this will go away by itself as a result of breastfeeding and daylight so there’s every possibility she’ll take on her mother’s deathly pallor in a few weeks’ time.

Meanwhile we’re all busy playing the ‘who does she look like?‘ game, which comes up with varied answers depending on what face she’s pulling. In repose, she occasionally looks like James as a baby – other times not at all. Sometimes when she’s awake I see a resemblance to her daddy, albeit without the ears – but others have suggested a newborn resemblance to Natalie, Helena and Uncle Alistair. Lets face it, the honest truth is that a lot of the time she looks like the unholy love child of Ena Sharples and Mrs Overall. (We’re just a tad less inclined to get the camera out for those gurning faces.)

This week has passed in a sort of surreal baby-fug. Mostly spent trapped under the girlbot while trying to enjoy a 3-day weekend with James, without him feeling overlooked or ignored. That’s easier said than done. By the bank holiday, it felt like we were descending into a stir-crazy domestic chaos, with James getting out toys, books, stickers and mess at 3x the speed and frequency with which G and I could put it all away. Thank god for a blessed play date yesterday, which he really enjoyed. Now he’s back at nursery and it’s amazing how much calmer and easier everything is. I’ve actually been able to tidy up a bit and write this blog post, for a start.

As for the op, I felt oddly nervous on the day but all went well – and the first day/night in hospital felt very similar to last time. You really lose all sense of time. I think it’s a combination of being unable to leave the bed in a searingly hot ward where the lights are on all day and night – and where something medical apparently needs to happen every hour on the hour…  hence you’re either feeding the baby or someone is giving you pills or checking your blood pressure or taking a blood sample (at 3am? Why?).  The rest of the time I dozed, on and off, amid the moans and whimpers of fellow patients begging for painkillers. Of the four ladies on my ward, I think I must have got off lightly. (Any doubts I had about my birth plan went out of the window when I had to listen to the woman next to me being counselled about her 3rd degree tearing – gargh!)

The next morning G brought James in to meet his sister, and it was just lovely to see him. He’s really in love with the baby and has been an absolute sweetheart about the whole thing.

Afterwards I had to hang around in bed for quite a few hours before we ticked enough boxes to be discharged – but we made it home in the afternoon, which was great.

As for the baby, she is now 5 days old and I’m waiting for a midwife visit, where I expect she’ll be prodded, pricked and weighed. Hopefully all will be well on the weight front. She was 6lb 13oz at birth, and seems to be a good eater (though there is easily as much coming out of the other end as there is going in).

Last night was the first time since her birth that I was able to put her down to sleep in her bedside crib.  She actually slept for a blessed 5 hours – hallelujah! Prior to that, she’s been feeding every 1-2 hours and has objected within seconds every time I put her down, even when she was already fast asleep. Hence I’ve had to cuddle her all night long with me propped up in bed against the pillows.

Oh, the joys of breastfeeding. Seriously – how come none of the how-to articles ever depict the mother biting down on a twig? It would be far more realistic than the dreamy depictions of mother and baby in boob-related bliss.

As I recall, James was fed largely to a soundtrack of groaning and shrieking.  I suppose if I’m honest it’s not quite that bad with Matilda. This time around I don’t have any visible war wounds but, dear god, the first week has had its moments. On the positive side, I think it’s already starting to get a bit easier, and some credit may be due to these silver hub caps, which I’ve been wearing since day one.  Unfortunately they’re obscenely moulded and make me look like I’m wearing a pair of giant comedy fake boobs under my clothing but… after last time, I reckoned that anything was worth a try.

I showed them to the midwife on day 2 and she was not disparaging about them and, as I say, things seem to be a bit better than with James, so I shall keep on with them and see how we go. Apologies, as ever, for the TMI.

Other than that I feel generally pretty good. My painkillers run out today, but I think that’s ok. Also (I’m afraid to type it without touching wood) but I seem to have escaped the despairing descent into day-3 baby blues this time around.  Last time I was a mess… I wonder why this one is different? Hmmm…

Well that’s all I can think of right now but I’m sure there are a hundred more rambles on their way imminently – and I’m getting quite adept at typing one-handed.

PS – I need to come up with a new blog name. Suggestions on a postcard, please…

Posted in Along came Matilda, Life of James, Pregnancy & Birth | 3 Comments

The day after tomorrow

It’s a little bit weird knowing the exact day that you’re going to give birth. Certainly a different experience from last time. In 48 hrs I will, theoretically, be holding Thing 2 in my arms. I don’t know why I feel so calm about it really, I seem to lack either anxiety or excitement – I’m just feeling uber-relaxed and sanguine about it all.  G appears to feel more or less the same – all of his anxiety is reserved for getting through a ton of work before she arrives, rather than the arrival itself.

However I think the mental hormones are really starting to kick in. I can’t be allowed near anything remotely tear-jerking right now (e.g. had to re-do my mascara yesterday after listening to In The Ghetto by Elvis). Also I’m looking kind of puffy and weird all over. G and I held hands yesterday on the way back from his birthday lunch and he told me that it felt like holding a stranger’s hand, because my fingers are swollen and fatter than usual.  Same goes for my feet (good god, how I yearned to take my shoes off) and even my nose looks a bit puffy and swollen this week. Suffice to say none of my extremities are at their most attractive.

Thing 2 hardly seems to be moving at all lately – I keep having to prod and tap and jiggle the bump until I get a reaction… just to be sure that she’s alive in there.  I imagine it’s pretty annoying, from her perspective – especially as she was probably asleep and is really cramped up in there. But never mind.

Today I had my last pre-op appointment, where they took blood samples and told me what to expect. I have pills to take the night before and again at 6am on the big day – and after that it’s nil by mouth. I have to be at the labour ward at 7:15am… and, as long as no emergencies occur that bump me down the queue, my procedure could apparently start as early as 8:30am and finish around 2pm.

That elapsed timing sounds WAY longer than last time. I swear the whole business of getting James out and sewing me back up was done in the space of an hour. But, then again, it was an emergency procedure and I was already hooked up to an epidural, which probably made everything go quicker.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens on Thurs. I’ve been told that, all being well, they’ll send me home between 24 and 48 hours after the op. I’m kind of hoping for 24 on the dot, but I suppose I’d better pack for the possibility of 48.

Oh, packing…  why is it such a drag to do? It’s on my to-do-list for today, along with eternal laundry loads and a range of weird and wonderful things that you feel compelled to do before going in for a procedure…  like epilating to within an inch of your life, buying flowers for the house, cutting your fingernails short, removing nail varnish and (in my case) cutting my own hair.

That last one is actually a freak occurrence. I’ve been meaning to get it done before the birth but have been too feckless and disorganised to arrange an appointment. So, this morning, I thought what the hell and lopped a few inches off the ends with my super-expensive dressmaking scissors and – actually – I think I did an ok job. As far as I can tell it doesn’t really look any different to when I get it done at a salon.  (I may well be kidding myself – hence I shall be asking a reliable friend to check whether it also looks ok from the back or is in fact a heinous hatchet job!)

As for Thing 1, I have a feeling his intense excitement about the baby may have burned out several weeks ago, but he is nevertheless looking forward to the big day. He still talks to the baby often and insists on kissing the bump goodnight every evening, and telling her that he loves her, which is v sweet.  But I do fear that he’s going to be mighty disappointed by the reality…

In preparation, he’s been given the responsible role of cat monitor. His job is to make sure that the cats are not allowed in our bedroom at any time or on any of the baby’s stuff.  He’s taken to it very well and is currently doing an obsessive job of keeping our bedroom door closed and shooing cats away as and when needed. He’s also fully expecting to be my little helper for nappies and is aware that his other important job is to make sure that his 8,000 tiny animal toys are not allowed anywhere near his sister. Here’s hoping that one lasts. (In the meantime we have entered into talks with carpenter Pops about the possibility of a wooden box with a lid for secure storage of 8,000 tiny plastic choking hazards.)

The boybot had his first visit to his future school on Saturday as it was their May Fair. It was a hell of a lot more impressive than the school fairs G and I remember from our youth… (e.g. they had huge bouncy castles and a go-karting track and a Back To The Future show being run by a minor celebrity dad).

Early on I started to worry that it had been a mistake to take the boy along – I think we underestimated how freaked out and intimidated he might be by the profusion of ferocious 10-year-old boys that were racing about and play fighting and hogging every fairground game. But I think his intimidation eased somewhat when we took him to the part of the school for reception children and he saw his future classroom and all of the children’s bags on pegs, just like they have at nursery. He also had a rummage in a box of books that he liked the look of and saw the separate, secure playground for the 4 and 5 year olds. Since then G and I have had a letter inviting us to a series of school meetings ahead of him starting reception, so I expect we’ll learn more as we go on about how best to prepare them.

Eep! A seriously loud hail storm has started outside…  it’s hard to carry on typing while the window beside me sounds like it’s being battered by marbles. So I shall say goodbye for now and – y’know – see you on the other side…


Posted in Life of James, Pregnancy & Birth | 1 Comment