Thursday, 27 January 2011

What Goes Around, Comes Around...

Advice for weaning has changed since I had my first lad. Back then, in 2007, weaning before six months was, if not a cardinal sin, certainly not something easily discussed or admitted amongst the chattering NCT classes (of which I am, predictably, a member). The advice was half way through the first year. I waited, till six months, and he was vaguely interested in some baby led weaning with breastmilk, occasional babyrice, sweet potatoes and bananas.

Now? Things have shifted. Weaning can now be between four and six months. My son's GP told me it was akin to walking - you wouldn't sit a child down if he/she was trying to walk, so why intervene if a child is trying to eat. I understand the reasoning, and have usually followed advice, so why did I feel a faint stirring in my loins? A desire to say, back to a medical professional, but, but, but...

Advice to parents is a fascinating area. It is the root of many conflicts between interfering 'elders' who suggest things which would now be frowned upon from sleeping on tummies through feeding water, to relatively recent friends and neighbours who are vociferous proponents or detractors regarding other trends such as co-sleeping.

It is true that there is nothing more aggravating (and intimidating) than being a new parent, bleary eyed and only just used to be in charge, and being told you should be doing something another way. Especially when cleaving to official advice from doctors, midwives, health visitors and a couple of books you read when 18 weeks pregnant is all you really have. It is an intense time when many of us feel unsure of ourselves. So why do people do it? My Mum was great about the current advice but I know many Mums less lucky. I used to be flummoxed at the advice thrown at them. Less so now though.

If I feel weird and want to both defend holding back on the 'nanas and yams with Spider-boy imagine how I'd feel if I was suddenly told the way I'd tucked my baby up at night (on his/her front in the '80s, say) was wrong and furthermore dangerous. I too might feel torn. On the one hand cross or embarrassed or retrospectively nervous about my past choices, on the other feeling somehow compelled to tell others what I had been told was safe.

But things change. I keep wondering how parenting will change if my boys have kids. What will be the faux pas then? The devil in me predicts break out book 'Happy Slappy' challenging current ideas about not using physical violence when punishing kids. I can only hope that then I'll have the courage to speak up, and my lads' voices echo in their NCT classes saying 'I was never hit as a child and it never did me any harm'.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


First words are a difficult subject for me, and I don't mean the first words said by Spider-boy (for the record it was 'baby', he's such a glorious narcissist) or his brother. I mean the first words I said to my children. The first words they heard from me. I really believed, before I had children, that I would be able to say 'I love you' to my babies, that they would hear, from me, how I felt before they heard anything else.

In reality, just like the movie birth I hoped for, that didn't happen. It took me several months to remember what I said to Spider-boy. In the blur of the photographic intense memory of labour and birth, of the blood and the tears, of the panics and the screams, the drugs and confusion, I forgot. I just forgot. It was only when I wrote him a letter, trying to explain that I loved him and how much he meant to me that I remembered. The word I said was 'Hello'. A year of therapy and antidepressants and endless help, to recall on meeting someone so important to me I'd said 'Hello'. I'm like the anti-Jerry Maguire.

The second time birth happened so fast, 0-10cm in under an hour no less, that I suspect the first words the newbie heard were 'will somebody please sort me out, I don't understand what's happening to me'. But as for the first words I said to him? Again I can't remember, or couldn't until tonight. Which teaches me that birth, whether actually traumatic in a PTSD way, like my first, or speedy and wrongfooting, like my second, is a mindfuck. A strange, time telescoping, life altering, frenzied, boring, bloody mess. And even when it is okay-ish, something we feel positive about even, it isn't something that goes to plan. I didn't say 'I love you' the second time. I said 'Hi little one'. I'm nothing if not original.

When I wrote the letter to Spider-boy I was distraught that I couldn't remember, and desolate that I forgot to say I loved him. This time, well, I'm older if not wiser and sufficiently untraumatised to kind of forgive myself, for forgetting the movie style 'ending' to my birth and remembering birth is actually the beginning. If anything I'm closer to seeing my instinctive introductions as okay.

But for the record, and so both of them will always know, I did and do love them. But I always have and always will and that fact, that truth, seems very simple if I think about it. The love I have for them is white cold and solid, it connects me to the earth and blinds me in the dark. I loved them when I saw them, I love them now, I loved them when I pissed on a stick, I loved them when I saw their perfect, fragile, formed, beautiful faces flickering on an ultrasound screen, shit I'll love them when I'm dead. The timeline is irrelevant. I loved them before they were born, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I'll still love them when the world has forgotten all of us.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Clothes Shopping - Oh Boy!

Just been to M&S, and had a quick look at pyjamas. Spider-Boy is growing at an alarming rate of knots and he needs some which fit his ranging arms and legs. I failed, of course. Not because there were no pyjamas but because each set had something which made me feel a bit weird about buying it.

So many of the boy's pyjamas are either branded with some TV tie-in or plastered with loud, inane slogans about how IT ISN'T EASY BEING THIS POPULAR or SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK or whatever. I mean, seriously, is it impossible to make children's clothes which don't create some mocking ironic personality? My son has personality enough - he doesn't need to be fashioned after some derivative idea of childhood.

I find the teeny tiny baby slogan obsession has the potential for being really aggravating - TIT MAN, I kid you not, and MUMMY'S NEW MAN being my particular bugbears. But in a weird way, the older boy's clothes I find worse as they are just totally asinine. Why would I spatter weak puns and pointless mantras over my son that say nothing about him, and something slightly unimpressive about me ie I have no imagination or, worse, am prepared to go for the lowest common denominator in an attempt at what, wit?

I've spent the afternoon wondering if there is a whole department at each high street store's head office dedicated to coming up with pseudo sophomoric catchphrases for boy's t-shirts. A wag I know quipped that maybe they share an office with a brigade desperate to add a splash of pink to anything looking vaguely unisex so it can be marketed at girls. Probably.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Good Moaning. A Missive From The Land of No Sleep

I spent last night in a room of sleepless pain, built from walls of screams and wails, from which I emerged with that crazy eyed, sparkly faced, mind numbingly brittle voiced martyrdom of the truly sleep deprived. Bite me and I taste of win, my face shouts to the world. Ask me my name? I've no fucking idea.

The newborn refused to settle and cried like a crazed beast, stopping only to sleep for 10 minute intervals, burp like a swearing drunken navvy, or breastfeed like a frenzied piglet. All night. I mean, all fracking night.

My memory shudders at the sound of snorting and fussing and biting and gulping still echoing in my addled brain. Not for my newborns the idyllic mother child bonding experience of breastfeeding, softly suckling like a Mothercare ad, oh no. Like his brother before him he's a full on fussy squirming biting down sucking machine.

Now, of course, reassured that somehow, somewhere in the world at large I am definitely awake, he snores softly in his car seat. I've been told to take it as a compliment - he's waiting for sundown to get me to himself. He doesn't seem to be that into me as he shouts into my stupid fat face as I fumble through the motions of teaching him to settle, mind. But I guess he can rest assured. No lions will get you, little one, I am awake and ready to fight them. And I always will be, actually, however hacked off I get with walking round like a deranged zombie.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

PC Fantasies

There was a lovely post on about how things change with parenthood, most especially its never ending game of sleep catch up. M-A-M talked of her fantasy of 24 hours in a hotel with room service. Like almost every Mum I've ever met or could imagine, I too share this fantasy. Nice bath, TV, glass of wine or two, and the pleasure of a full night's sleep which is only interrupted by my own neurosis.

I realise my lack of imagination knows no bounds though - this fantasy has been pared down for me. I can't quite put a value on what I'd give to simply go to bed and wake up naturally, on my own, when I was ready to. I'd probably cut off a toe.

Sometimes the paring down gets so extreme I daydream (when else would I dream?) about going away to a convent or similar on an old school retreat. No TV, no mod cons, simple food, bed at dark, wake at sunrise, meditation, not having to talk to anyone, damn, not being allowed to talk to anyone. I call it my knackered PC fantasy - I'm sure if I was switched off for a few days and then turned on again it would work wonders.

As a post-script I told my husband this. He replied that he shares the same fantasy, except in his me and the kids go away and he gets a few days uninterrupted pottering in the house, mainly to conquer the mess mountain and get things done. This should tell you everything you need to know about what a slattern I am and what a hindrance families are to the smooth running of family life. But mostly it reminded me of how lucky I am to have Mr Thatwoman, a Dad so committed to family life that he's prepared to forgo the pampering or mind-healing seclusion to tidy up in his dreams.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Wondering in the Wilderness

A couple of months ago a friend of mine tweeted that she'd woken up, written a chapter of her first novel, baked some scones and finished some paperwork. She cheekily added only one of the statements was true. I replied and asked if it was the baking. She responded (with her typical wit) that it was merely that she'd woken up, but she'd typed the rest to try out what it would be like to be the sort of woman she wanted to be.

Given that in the interim we've both given birth, there's been Christmas, and many over things which are actually life changing this brief exchange has haunted me in a disproportionate way. Mainly (I tentatively wonder) because I feel on the precipice. As if I am verging on a new time. Yes, a new time with my newly bigger family, but also as I have been on such a journey of depression and I wonder, in some ways, if I'm heading for a new path somehow. So used am I to the language of the scary woods, the fear and desolation, the sense that some beast is chasing me and shadowing my every turn as I run on uneven ground which could crumble at any turn, that I don't quite know how to approach the light on the path ahead.

Could this be what being happy is? Or at least a road towards it? And if it is, do I have some or any choices in what happy means? Is this the bit of the movie where I get helped out, and I can maybe, tentatively, make a start at least at guessing at the woman I want to be.

It is an exciting wilderness to wander and wonder in. I feel I am nearly there, at a place where I can think about and try out being 'THATwoman', see whether thatwoman-I'd-like-to-be and the-woman-I-am match up. I suspect not, and I'll have to try on some roles, like the early morning cake baker and novel writer, seeing if they fit me, like new pairs of gloves. And like gloves I'm sure though the women I could be may all look the same, some will fit better than others.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Late Expectations - Teeny Update

The most pregnant woman in London (as she called herself), my poor overstretched, overdue friend has now given birth to a beautiful, wonderful, silky skinned newborn girl and is snuggling her warm and tight. Phew. Clever lady.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Recoiling and Remembering

Today I had an IUD fitted and it made me think of sex. Glorious early 20s sex where procreation is a dread fear and your biggest worry is finding a chemist on a Sunday that will give you the morning after pill. (Although in my day you had to do the walk of shame to the GPs for a prescription and lecture).

Before you start thinking I'm some sort of contraception craving 'precaution pervert', I'll explain. The coil fitting was a bloody disaster. First off I needed a long speculum. Although my GP assured me this is because I'm tall, I still felt all flipping woman. Then the coil wouldn't go in. Different implements used to help, things that every girl dreams of. Damn my cervix wouldn't play ball. There was some blood, and some gushing. It sounds worse than it was: having recently given birth I am inured to the horror of lying legs akimbo, and seeing a puzzled face look up every now and again. Mainly I was just spaced out and feeling oddly prudish that my son was in the room.

Then just as it went in, phew, the baby started crying. Awesome timing little one. I wound up trying to get my knickers on and wipe the blood away as my GP jiggled the baby (with the curtain open as the baby wouldn't stop crying unless he could see my embarrassed fat fainty face). Which was when I noticed the knickers.

To my shame I was so tired this morning that I flung on a clean pair from the depths of the knicker drawer, tena-ed up and left the house. As I slipped them on again this afternoon I realised they were a pair of Gossard shapers I'd bough for a formal dinner university. Probably the first shag me pants I'd ever bought, all cheap lace and smooth creaminess, the best I could afford at the time and the only ones that matched the feat of engineering which was my strapless bra. Not only were they the first sexy pants I'd ever bought, but they remain seared on my memory as the most effective. So sexy and confident had they made me feel, that along with my brand new saucy librarian glasses and a brown minidress from H&M (the glamour, the glamour) I marched up and pulled my crush of the year. A younger man, get me, who was about as drunk as I was. The night is memorable for me despite the details being patchy, safe to say I recall agreeing to do the rude up against a Grade 1 listed building in so hammered a fashion that the following day I found my bra tucked into my handbag.

Those were the (pre CCTV) days. I haven't thought about them for years. The pants are ruined, of course. But I'm so glad their passing into the great wash bin in the sky reminded me of those halcyon silly shaggy days. And I guess there's something fitting in that, the reminder of sex I mean, given the implications of having a coil put in.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Late Expectations

A very good friend of mine is overdue. I hope as I type she is inhaling a plate of blue cheese and pate with a velvety newborn on her knees. But if she isn't I mainly hope she's finding a way of negotiating the final hours of the crushing pressure of late, great expectations.

The final days, weeks, hours of pregnancy have their unique joys - moments where, even amidst the 'symptomatic discomforts', you feel thrilled and intoxicated by the weirdness of your girth, at the magic of creation, awe at the proud tautness of the bump, fizzes of excitement at the person you are about to meet. But they are also dominated by a devilish conundrum: you know exactly what is going to happen and when, but simultaneously have no way of knowing, AT ALL, what will happen, or when. It is a greater mind than mine that can handle this without feeling slightly on the edge.

One of my lads was over, the other a week early, but both times I was at my tether's end and prepared to kick my birthing ball through the French windows with any energy I had left not being used up in fretting and fury.

I certainly felt I was failing when I was overdue, that in yet another way I hadn't lived up to the Bounty pack guide to being pregnant - not even giving birth at 40 weeks, what a loser. With every hour over I lost faith in my body, would it know how to start off my labour? If it couldn't do that, what else couldn't it do? Being overdue also adds a strong sense of visibility. You stick out (in every way) by virtue of your size (I remember parting the waves in shops and a look of unparalleled fear on the face of any cashier I approached to ask a question). It is like EVERYONE KNOWS you are messing everything up. Dangerous slopes to slide on when you're full of hormones and have a phone full of unanswered 'how are you doing?' texts.

Brilliantly there is lots of kindly advice, which also makes you feel like a total wanker for not going in to labour. Scrub the floors, have sex, eat a pineapple, sort out your tax return, do all the jobs you've meant to do, clean the windows, engage in any number of frenzied acts of housekeeping this will surely make you pop. If I ever do it again I'm retiring to bed, alone, with a crate of soleros and a kindle full of Mills & Boon and every series of Glee on DVD at 36 weeks.

I succumbed, of course, to advice about paving the way and being 'ready' in an attempt to kickstart labour. My sons, it turns out, were both sexist piglets with high expectations - neither made an appearance until I'd shaved my legs, waxed my eyebrows, moisturised the vast expanse of my stretched out body and generally beautified.

So I have no advice for her really, apart from the aggravating truism that in the grand scheme of life it is not long now. And as it is her second baby there is a) a good chance that however her labour starts or pans out she'll be equipped with enough experience to know somewhere deep inside that it is a strange planet but she's been there before and b) the sliver of hope she'll be able to ignore the temptation of giving into the pressing expectations that make you feel like a failure and rest up watching some crap telly.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Mulling over my previous post I've just realised that a more prescient piece of advice to my pre-baby self would have been something far less cerebral and emotional: buy a coat with a hood. Pushing a buggy and holding a brolly just do not work. Ever.

Mind you, given in these early sleep addled weeks I have to choose between brushing my teeth or brushing my hair each day, soggy and windswept doesn't make too much difference.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Symmetry and Time Travel

I had my six week check today. It was a transforming experience, so different to the crazed meeting with my first child, and more impressively so different to the doctor's appointments when I was pregnant.

My GP saw the date which has a fortuitous look to it 11.1.11. She's the least sentimental seeming person I've ever met - forgoing fluffiness for straight shooting and straightforward kindness. She said, 'I wish I could have had a time machine when you were in the middle of your pregnancy and brought you forward to right now'. The pregnancy appointments she was referring to were ones where I was in a bad place, mostly with antenatal depression. I wish we had had a time machine too. Her feeling was if I saw myself I would know it wasn't as cataclysmic as I feared. I agree.

I'm tired, yes, worried about feeding and weight, yes, finding my way with two children and feeling I have no idea what I'm doing almost all the time, of course. But miserable? heartbroken? empty? desolate? losing a battle I don't understand? Not so much, actually. I'm hoping it stays this way, and am trying to enjoy typing it out and feeling this way, for now. Depression, more baby steps than a 13 monther.

In a coincidence as neat as the date I was also asked what advice I'd give to my pre-pregnancy self. So much, it deserves another full post. However, I'll give a starter for three and finish the list more comprehensively some day soon (before 11 minutes past 11 pm has passed, which is when I'm aiming for posting). They go something like this:

Hey, pre-pregnancy thatwoman you are in there, somewhere, and you will find yourself again.

You haven't lost your life, you have a new and different life but it is a life.

Nothing lasts for ever! This is the biggest solace of Motherhood, but also the reason to savour every good second and not waste time wishing any of the stages you all go through are over.

For Crying Out Loud

A couple of days after my second son was born I was walking along my hallway and I burst into tears. Full heaving sobs which took me quite by suprise. I’d suffered from sever PND after my first son, and antenatal depression and complications including SPD/PGP with my second pregnancy. In fact, if I'm honest taking spiderboy out of the equation (for he has made so much of it the best of times) the last four years really have been tough. Testing, trying, exhausting and often the worst of times.

Depression is not a disease I had suffered from before, and it was like an onslaught, a raging battle which left me wrongfooted, lost and lonely. God only knows quite what it did to my husband - he's still here, but he has certainly had to keep things together with the sort of hard work and resilience required by his wedding vows. In sickness and in health and all that.

I was at my most manic and spiralling in the first months of spiderboy's life (I'll never forgive myself) and when I was pregnant with the latest. All fear, apprehension, anxiety, no sense of myself or who or how I could be. Newborn is only a few weeks old, but this time is different. A new country, for sure, but I don't feel like I have no chance of finding a roadmap. I also feel far more at peace with the fact that I can't control all (or any?) of it. I am scared of slipping down to the depths though, which is why it was such a relief when my husband asked me why I was crying and I could at least hazard a guess, knowing at some point in the next few minutes with a cup of tea and a hug I wouldn't feel so desolate.

I realised I was sobbing because I was so relieved not to be pregnant any more, and I was no longer trapped in a tunnel of expectation. I realise, I truly do, how lucky I am to have been pregnant and carried two beautiful babies to term. My lucky stars are countless, and bathe my life in light. But I have had to fight an image of perfection in pregnancy, family life, motherhood, parenting, modern life more generally, and my sorry lack of measuring up very hard. And I really think many women suffer through unrealistic expectations of themselves which are destined merely to make them feel like that are at best bumbling along and at worst failing completely.

To be fair to me, being pregnant and depressed and having a broken pelvis, isn't a good look for anyone. For me, once it was over I felt far less embarrassed about admitting it was awful. Last night a friend who had her first a month after I had my second noted that no-one had been honest about motherhood, and perhaps if they had people would be put off. The same could be true for pregnancy, but in my experience many women are just beyond relieved when you break the spell with them and acknowledge that for some of us pregnancy is really hard. It is a challenge physically, emotionally, in terms of the expectations of others (don't get me started on being public property and a projection screen for other people's neurosis when you are up the stick) and worst of all in terms of your own expectations of yourself. And crying out loud about it, just once in a while, is okay.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Spogs and snails and puppy dog tales

Well, less snails, but I was eating lunch today with some fabulous, self-confessed former spogs (smug parents of girls), talking kids and gender politics. They have a wonderful 4 year old girl and a beautiful one year old boy, we have two lads 3.5 and just over 0. We were speculating not only on how some of the cliches are often true (boys being more physical, girls more verbal at some stages, say) but also how some things could be attributed to role in the family (only/eldest child, second sibling etc) and/or explained by social attitudes.

A well worn theory doing the rounds of seasoned Mothers came up, namely that little boys are a lot like puppies - beautiful, loyal and adorable as long as you don't expect a tidy house and take them for two good walks a day (rain or shine). The analogy is clearly affectionate, and came from feminist Mums who love their boys and girls equally and joyously. We all went to the park. A park where my son regularly collects a stick (often sifting through several for the perfect one) then runs around with it as if it is made of GOLD only dropping it to roll in some puddles or piles of leaves. My son screamed with delight on the swings and screamed with exuberance whilst climbing on everything. Then their daughter picked up a smooth stick and tried to bring it home with her. So much for theories, at least neither shat on the grass. Hmmm.

But witty generalisations aside it got me thinking about how easy it is to diss boys. So easy. When I was pregnant with my first some people actually winced when I said we knew he was a boy. When I was pregnant with my second people were vocally sympathetic. Aside from how utterly complacent any gender chat is, given the many people who would like a baby whatever size, shape and flavour, it is just so rooood. Imagine how uncool it would be in almost any social situation to express huge disappointment with a girl? Or offer a pregnant woman sympathy because she was having a girl?

And I am one of four daughters and comfortable enough with my love for my lads that I can talk about the strange sensation that occurs when you never have the daughter you always imagined you would.

I get where some of it comes from - my Mother, who had us girls in the '70s and '80s, has often been quite vocally anti-boy, which I've always attributed to her shaking off the shackles of outmoded boy/son/heir attitudes. Others of us would feel squeamish to be linked to cultures where male children are highly praised and favoured and girls are often at best uncherished. But I'm sure the answer is not to be anti-boy.

I think of all the words so often attributed to little boys: naughty, aggressive, cheeky, boisterous, loud, violent, physical, competitive, academically poor, unable to concentrate. And what worries me is not that they are unfair and untrue (although some are loaded and most could be expressed more positively, or at least neutrally) but that many are linked to developmental differences which are commonly seen. And that therefore my toddler boy could be reinforcing negative ideas about himself, just by being himself. It is better than being unwanted and downtrodden for the rest of his days as many women are the world over - and believe me I'm a hairy feminist - but it isn't right, is it? Surely we've come further than that.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Flange Physio - Reality

So I womanned up and took myself down to the urogynaecology physiotherapy department for my first appointment yesterday. Not my first ever appointment, but my first since Thing2 speedily tore his way out. The shadow of my last physical recovery from pregnancy/birth was almost blinding and I realised that I had been nervous about the first physio appointment post birth since I saw my two lines.

I have spent a lot of time looking back at key moments or scenes to try and understand how I got so depressed, where and when and why it all went wrong the first time. And a lot was related to physiotherapy and the first time I walked in to a physio's room and let rip, with honesty, about how I had become, it wasn't just losing my mojo but one of my basic function.

I am by nature and inclination competitive, believing it wasn't called the human race for nothing. For years I was great at school, did well at things I engaged with, performed and yet there I was not only having buggered up giving birth (despite the child bearing figure I'd put up with for years on the promise I'd be good at birth) but having to admit that I couldn't really describe myself as adequately potty trained any more. I had a marvellous physiotherapist and the trauma of that day was all in my head, and in spite of her kindness, straightforward honesty, warmth and positive treatment of me. She had a look and a feel and asked me to do some basic squeezes. She was encouraging and generally nice and then sat me down to discuss what she'd found. She rated my control and muscle strength out of 5. I got minus 5. I mean, minus 5 for fuck's sake - that's not a 2:2 or 3rd, that's a degree without honours.

This time I clenched for her and coughed, detailed my list from my previous post, discussed wearing pads for protection and how often I go to the loo. My witty defences were out in force. 'How much do you drink in a typical day?' she asked. 'Not enough!' I said. However, she was respectful and kind and gracious. She made me feel at ease and unembarrassed in the flange and piss talks, she examined me with care and kindness. I sat down for the results back in my clothes, all Tena-ed up. She said this time I was 2 out 5, that my symptoms corresponded with that and that as last time I managed to -5 to 5 turnaround in around a year (so would be deemed as someone who responds very well to pelvic floor exercises and training) this time she thought it would probably take 6/7 months. Result. I said a silent prayer to the Gods of knackered netherregions who must have been watching out for me in November.

She also talked about my age (quite young for this degree of damage) and hereditary issues (other women in my family with similar problems) and said she'd like to refer me to speak to a gynaecologist in this area when things have improved a bit to talk about the future and what could be done or might be advised as I grow older (inevitable), hit the menopause (likely), have more children (unlikely). I could tell that last time the idea of planning for possible problems in the future would have seemed like a sentence, a horrible confirmation that nothing would be right again. This time I feel more that maybe in the midst of a condition where I literally struggle with control over something so normal most of us forget we're doing it planning for the future is a good idea. So I'll keep clenching and look forward to what they might say.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Flange Physio - Anticipation

Here's the thing. The previous post about a happy memory being created was true. Truer however is that my propensity for stalling is second only to Spiderboy's steadfast refusal to go to bed. As I wrote in my first ever post I wanted to try and be brave in this blog, and to explore some of the unmentionables relating to childbirth and motherhood. Tomorrow I have an appointment which will test my mettle because I have to return to the fanny physiotherapists' to talk about incontinence and damage.

This means if I blog it, I have to get down to the knicker nitty gritty. Do I dare? It is the blogging that is more upsetting for me than the actual appointment however much fidgeting and fanny gagetry it is likely to involve. Flange physiotherapists, you see, are great at talking about wee and poo and urges and pushing and straining and all forms of indignity. They have charts, I kid you not, of different sorts of poo from which you have to identify your most normal kind. (They have prosaic names too like 'log' and 'pebbles' to choose from). And when I am with them, things are strangely okay. What isn't okay is having to think about and engage with incontinence all the rest of the time.

I am actually blushing thinking about it.

On my 'To Do' list for today (alongside buying batteries, going to the dentist, washing up etc) is writing a list of all the different things that make me wee. Not just the things which sometimes catch women of a certain age, pregnant women and mothers out eg sneezing, jumping up and down, coughing, but other things too. Here are some:

carrying or picking up a baby (useful)
walking up stairs
walking down stairs
climbing in or out of a car
sitting or standing (sometimes)

These all relate to stress incontinence, and have been caused both by giving birth and by being pregnant. I can also add that it appears I have also reacquired urge incontinence too. So I also can't tell if I even need a wee and sometimes perform if I can hear running water, if I'm tired, if I am on my way to the loo, if I'm upset, if I'm scared or nervous (especially when my baby cries), when I get up in the morning. Other times I just start weeing. I can't really express how humiliating it feels.

Needless to say I couldn't stop a urine stream, even if I really concentrated (and I have really concentrated). This isn't the first time I've had to get down to the knicker nitty gritty, but it still feels quite rank and annoying to have to. I would stamp my foot, but you can imagine what would happen then.

I have no idea what they are going to say. The midwife who saw me at home was quite aghast by my lack of control, but I always have a nagging suspicion I am making a fuss. This fear comes partly from the cultural acceptance that women, especially Mums and older women, get caught short. As if it is okay to be a bit incontinent and therefore my only moan is joining this group a bit early (I was 30 the first time I had flange physio, am now 33). When I'm feel brave and bolshy I bloody well do not think it is okay to be incontinent, even if it is 'only' when you sneeze really hard. When I'm not feeling brave I just want to shrink into the background, or better still wake up as someone else. Let's hope I'm feeling brave tomorrow.

Happy Memory

Tonight my son smiled for the first time. He was trying all day but slipping back into wine-taster style gurning at the crucial moments. Mr Thatwoman, a good friend, me - we all tried to elicit a cheeky grin and had no luck. We were mere fools and amateurs.

Spider-boy however, was a pro. He was stalling at bedtime by telling jokes and larking about which, as we are crappy parents when it comes to sleep and discipline, is now an established part of his routine. Tonight, however, we decided to beat him at his own game. We lay the baby in his bed. It was an hilarious jape, of course, a baby sleeping in a big boy's bed! But funnier, it seems, for the baby himself who allowed his first milky breathed smiles to erupt as his big brother, and his big brother's well worn monkey 'Gummy', smothered him in giggly kisses.

Later, as Mr Thatwoman and I started our nightly ritual of fruitlessly trying to calm our youngest while he shouts and screams into our stupid fat faces we realised the truth of our ordinary evening: we'd just experienced what might be one of our most remarkable joint memories. Our sons making each other laugh at bedtime. Howzat.