Baby showers

When I found out we were having a baby boy (pretty much waved his business at us when we had our 20 week scan) one of the first things that sprung to mind was the zizi situation. Right, let’s be realistic here; I’m going to spend my first months of motherhood covered in wee. Baby boys, in particular, have a propensity for showering you with pipi at any opportunity.  Well, all babies do it, but boys are capable of more acrobatic waterworks n’est ce pas. Eek.

Having grown up surrounded by sisters, with limited real exposure to “Malian” babes and their zizi antics, I was genuinely worried about ensuring I safely and effectively managed / avoided the piddle. What if it goes in his eyes? Or up the wall? What if it goes in my eyes and then I accidentally knock him off the table or blindly attach his nappy to his head? What if we all go blind?? What if the wall caves in due to excessive moisture? What if we drown in wee? Etc. Bit dramatic. Sure. But all they do these bébés is drink liquids all day, so it’s fair to assume that you will be facing (literally) a lot of wee.

image

As well as googling the latest designer raincoats, I did a bit of research on how to manage the pee.  Naturally I went straight to Amazon Prime. And bien sur Amazon had the answer. Fear not anxious new mums! For the small price of £22+ extortionate postage (wtf?!!) you can buy these Peepee Teepees “for sprinkling wee”!!

Seriously. Aside from being ridiculously expensive (are they stitched with golden thread perhaps?!), considering that they are going to be catching baby wee, they are a little bit tiny and – once your baby is more than about a month old he will wiggle around endlessly – you will surely find the Peepee Teepee is stuck to his chest in a way that would make Madonna proud.

I’m happy to report that for once I didn’t succumb to the Amazon middle-of-the-night-slightly-delirious-purchase of the Peepee Teepees. I resisted and I’m proud.

More importantly I also managed to escape being peed on quite effectively. Touch wood.  I needn’t have worried. Monsieur FF was not as fortunate. He seemed to attract the pipi. I suggested maybe Bébé FF was trying to make his daddy proud, nothing like a bit of willy waving between chaps. I won’t forget the panicked screams of “PIPI !!! PIPI!!!” in those early days when Bébé FF was mid-change and decided he wanted to relieve himself al fresco. I’m not sure what Monsieur FF thought that screaming would do, but putting his open hand up didn’t help much either. Sans designer raincoat he just had to man up and take it on the chin. Tee hee.

image

Unknown man “taking it on the chin”. How to baby shower – nailed it.

I’ve developed a couple of techniques to prevent baby showers which I am happy to share:

  • Place a strategic wet wipe over the danger zone as soon as the nappy is off. This allows bébé bottom some air whilst protecting you.
  • Otherwise if going for a quick change prepare your clean nappy by inserting it in place under the existing nappy, whilst the dirty one is still on. When you are ready, fait attention, remove the sticky sides and then swiftly extract the dirty nappy with one hand whilst deftly lifting and fixing the new one into place.
  • Ensure the zizi is not sticking upwards otherwise bébé may end up with a wet belly button.
  • Purchase designer raincoat.
  • Umbrella hats are also a winner.

Voila….good luck! 💦💦

BFFs

One of the best things about having a baby is making new friends, solidifying existing friendships and generally realising how extraordinary mothers really are.

The BFFs (baby fast friends)

These are your new baby momma friends. They are all in the same boat as you: pregnant, and scared. You have been thrown together, in the same fast moving car, on the epic rollercoaster ride that is impending parenthood. You don’t know each other well, you haven’t checked if anyone is actually licensed to drive, you probably don’t know very much about them at all, but you are about to go on the most remarkable journey together.

These new friends are your saviours.  You’ve barely had time to learn each other’s surnames before you’re sharing intimate birthing stories and cake recipes (not on my side, obvs. I am excellent at eating cake, but leave the baking to those more qualified).

The friendships are established so quickly that, when a few months go past, you might not actually recognise your BFFs out of context.  That can’t be her, where’s the bump?! Why is she talking about work?  Does she have a job?!

It is around the 3 months post-partum stage, when you emerge from the bubble of new motherhood, briefly, because bébé kind of sleeps and eats regularly enough for you to leave the house without having a nervous breakdown, and you suddenly realise you need to actually get to know these ladies. Properly.  Absent some seriously bad behaviour, I can’t imagine when you could get so personal so quickly with people without actually knowing what they do, where they live, or how they came to be in the present, slightly compromising situation.

These ladies help you get up and out of the house when you feel like you are on a mission impossible (urgent feed, followed by poo, followed by realisation you are still in PJs with a boob out), comfort you during the painful and delicate post-partum recovery phase (don’t ask) and they are there for you, with bells on, in the middle of the night when hubby is snoring away next to you (anything to distract you from Amazon, ASOS *maternity and feeding*, John Lewis, Mothercare…. ).

image

So how do you get these BFFs?

As well as random stalkering, you can pay to do NCT, hypnobirthing or other classes. You can also find local new parent groups through your GPs and community centres, libraries, leisure centres etc.

We did NCT, despite being told we were just “buying friends”. Well, buy friends we did, and frankly we got the Joey, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Ross and Phoebs we could only dream about. Warner Bros would be proud. I told you I’m good at shopping.  (OKKKAY, it was pure luck). Our NCT group is amazing. Genuinely, we couldn’t have wished for a more lovely group of thoughtful, kind and caring individuals. And beautiful babies.  These women and men (and their babes) will be our friends for life, not least because they shared the most precious, exhilarating and terrifying life experience we have ever had.  But they are also just bloody lovely people.  And they live around the corner. Parfait.

The NCT classes themselves are a blast, the highlight is the cup of tea and biscuit, and they are particularly pertinent for the papas, who up until circa 37 weeks into your pregnancy genuinely believe babies come out (from where?!) walking, and talking, and eating fish’n’chips like the rest of us. They think contractions are a type of mathematical operation and meconium is a precious metal. Through the classes they find out that “afterbirth” isn’t a general reference to after the birth but is far more gory, and that the birth itself will be days and days and not 15 mins as seen on TV.

These BFFs are there for you through thick and thin in the last months of preparation through pregnancy, and the first hazy and delirious months of parenthood. From frantic freezer filling to 3am Amazon Prime shopping, you are in this together.

You will also likely have an obligatory WhatsApp group.  On the mum side, we have daily Q&As like:

“What colour are bébé’s poos today?”

“How many feeds are you doing through the night?”

“How can I get Bebe to stop itching?”

“Have you got your period back?”

“When can we go for more cake?” – btw the answer to this is always EVERYDAY.

image

Just in case you had forgotten what cake looks like.                         get. in. my. belly.

 

On the dad side it’s more:

“Are we still going for a beer on thursday?”

“How about that new curry house up the high street?”

“Is your wifey super grumps??”

“So France lost against Portugal, eh Frenchie?!”

“Has Bèbé started rolling yet, I understand it should be happening around now?”

No, just checking you are reading thoroughly. I made that last one up. Aside from a  few comical exchanges during respective labours, alluding to various horror films, I’m pretty sure 90% of the content of the daddy2daddy chats is sport, food and beer. Correct me if I’m wrong lads.

Generally speaking new mommas are up for a chat. Any time. There are so many places and ways to make even more new baby momma friends, including going to baby classes (more on this later), chatting up other young mummies in the baby aisle at the supermarket, and conversing remotely on mumsnet chat rooms.

image

My NCT crew 💞

The EFNMs (Existing friends, new mommas) and M2Bs

If you’re lucky, as I was, there are people in your existing circles who are also growing a bébé.  You’ve probably known these people a while and are close enough to ask the critical yet embarrassing questions in the run up, and immediately post partum. “Are these tiny baby mattresses or sanitary pads as they claim to be?” “Do I look like a fat Pamela Anderson right now?” You can also share tips and impart knowledge as you go.  Some of my friends are doctors and medical professionals and thankfully they put my mind at ease many a time. Thank you guys.

There are also those friends that are just embarking on the journey. The Mums-To-Be. They are getting or have recently got married, or are starting to take more notice of baby-related chat and generally getting a bit broody.  It may even include the mamas that already have babies and are going for number 2, 3,…

It is tres tres hard to resist the temptation to grab at these people and ask them on every meeting if there is a baby coming. That extends to Facebook stalking and zooming in on pictures trying to determine if there is a bump a-growing. Yes, you all do it, stop pretending. The actual sheer joy when it happens is the best. It’s a combo of excitement, love and a tiny pinch of “just you wait!!! Oh you have a major treat in store.” For a long time we were waiting for bébéFF and I can genuinely say, even through the waiting, hearing someone was pregnant was just the pinnacle of joy. I am always going to believe this is the biggest miracle in life. Can you even believe how monumentally complex it is, biologically speaking, to make a human being? I can’t. But we seem to be able to do it. (And I just want to note here that I am fully aware it isn’t possible or easy for everyone. I will blog about the struggles soon).

There is little more heart-warming than the excitement you feel when your friend is having a baby. Honestly. It’s just the most pure love. It’s also so special when you are on the receiving end of that love from a fellow friend. It certainly makes friendship bonds stronger.

image

You mean “ca roule ma poule?”

The Mommas

These are the ladies in your life that have already *done* their babies. They have had kids and are still alive.  Legendaire.

After giving birth, you will look at these ladies with a new-found awe and appreciation. You will call on their profound knowledge and expertise, having got their bundles of joy to taille grande. Questions to these ladies include “how does the baby ACTUALLY come out?”  “Does this get any easier?” And “will I ever contemplate having another baby ever again? And if so, how might one go about that…?” Etc.

I’ve always found mums to be some of the most inspiring people in my life, even before I was lucky enough to have the chance to become one myself. I had a vague sense of the magnitude of the job they do, without ever fully comprehending. Mums have to balance themselves and the needs of someone else, commit to them and care for them. Unquestioning love and commitment. My own mother has shown us F-sistas how to love, care for and encourage children above all else. My own mother wasn’t satisfied with having 4 under 5s of her own so decided she would challenge herself with child-minding other kiddies too. Seriously. What on earth was she thinking??!

My appreciation of mums is infinite. I am inspired, on a daily basis, by the ladies out there that get on with their own lives, their marriages, their careers, their passions, whilst ensuring that their mini-me(s) have everything they could possibly need to grow and eventually build their own lives. This goes beyond just getting them out of nappies.  This includes getting them to school, to uni, supporting them in their relationships and generally being at the end of the phone when life gets a bit rough.

That’s not to say the dads don’t play an absolutely critical role. But I think we can agree that the roles are different. Growing a person inside you, expelling them somehow, and then nurturing them to adulthood…and beyond. It boggles my mind. Oooo there’s another good “b” word.

One of the reasons I had Momma F in the delivery room with me was a slightly gory and obscure way of recognising and thanking her for getting me to adulthood, and to a place where I was able to give birth, myself. Ultimately it is thanks to her (and Daggghhd, obvs). I also wanted her there to hold my hand (which she mostly squeezed rather than vice versa) and to help her to realise the freaking madness that is giving birth – four times. Holy moly. Her face was a picture. What a woman.

Baby Stuff #3 – Bathing, Dressing and Playing

The last instalment – for now – on baby stuff.

Baby bathing products. Yes, you need to bathe your baby. Eau de fromage can become quite pungent after a while.  You have to be careful about the umbilical cord, but once that’s off, you are free to bath.

When you look at your bath and then your baby, you see there is a distinct disparity in sizes.  For the first few weeks we actually used the sink! When the time comes to upgrade to the actual bath, there are some great bath seats around, some that swivel as your babe grows, and you can of course let them splash around pure and simples on their backs.  Careful though – water in the ear can cause ear infections.

Bébé FF LOVES the bath now.  Usually he demonstrates his excitement with a little piddle as his feet touch the water.  It wasn’t always like this.  The journey to loving bath time took a while – I remember his first bath with Auntie Em and Mary, and there was a lot of screaming.  And a few wees and maybe a trickle of poo. The first months were made up of a cacophony of screams (before, during and post bath) not to mention howling when it came to being dressed.

You may have received hundreds of samples of bath products for your baby, all claiming to make your babe’s super soft skin….softer.  Does it need to be softer?

Nope.  It turns out that – in our experience at least – you do not need the super-gentle-made-of-fluffy-marshmallows-and-clouds cream, in fact, you don’t need much at all.  Especially if your baby has sensitive skin, despite what the marketing tells you.  It is best to keep it very simple. (Every baby is different so do see your GP if you have skin concerns, it could be allergy related (washing detergent, moisturiser, bath products, your perfume, the air…) and lots of babies have baby eczema which will clear up.  We also had cradle cap (dentinox seems to be the universal winner on that). We received lots of mixed advice from the health visitors and the doctors – don’t bathe him, bathe him every day, jump up and down whilst you apply five layers of cream…etc.)

We have tried lots of lovely stuff, including Mummy & Me, Oilatum and Neal’s Yard, coconut oil (yum) and currently use Aveeno and QV emollients.

image

The post-bath snuggles though are wonderful.   And baby bath towels with the little hood are the BEST.  The more soft and snuggly the better.

Then on to baby clothes, because these are kind of critical and also make up a large volume of the “stuff”.  You might assume clothes will be bargainous.  After all, they use significantly less material. Right?  Wrong. Despite the fact bebe is about 1/6th the size of a normal human being, his clothes are only about 1/2 of the price. Sometimes the same price. Ok slight exaggeration but don’t tell Mr FF….

Bebe won’t like his clothes. He doesn’t want his head shoved through a small hole ever again.  Whoever thought to put poppers on the back of newborn clothes clearly has never tried to dress a screaming newborn.  Think practical.  What is the easiest thing to dress your baby in?  I highly recommend zip-up items for the first few months. If not for your sanity, for the hubs.  (hint:  Don’t put them off dressing the babes, it adds to the general reluctance to change nappies…)

You will also quickly discover that those baby clothes will usually get approximately two wears. Yep, two goes on the item.  And n.b. that does not mean two full days’ wear. That means two wears.  It could quite literally be on and off in the space of a poo.  And, to be fair, the second wear presupposes you know how to fill and activate the washing machine – with one hand – and you have some pretty effective stain remover.  This can be bitterly disappointing and your favourite gift item, the little Petit Bateau onesie or the Bonpoint suit will be ruined…  I digress.

Last there’s the play equipment. This becomes critical after a few weeks of intense cuddling.  Your baby can barely see beyond a black and white cloud of blur at this point. But bien sur he needs a state of the art “gym” including tummy time, scrunkle noises, flying objects, bells, whistles, hooters and insanely bright and clashing colours EVERYWHERE. One similarity with adult life : when he comes out of the gym he is exhausted. When I say “Bebe FF had a great session in the gym and he’s zonked when he comes out” it’s brilliant – you can see people momentarily believing he’s actually been to the gym. Yes, he was totally nailing the cross trainer…

 

He also needs books and cuddly toys so that he can scream every time you place one close to him. Sometimes he will dribble or even vomit on them. Brillo.  He needs things to chew on to help those teef push through. N.b. your finger will always be first choice and you won’t loose that in the bottom of your interminable baby bag (I think I need to post separately about those…!)

All these things take up loads of space in your previously sparsely* inhabited living space and will, naturally, require special “baby” or “nursery” furniture for storage. Bam. Another wad of cash disappears.

So what’s the message here? Three posts about baby stuff.  Likely more to follow.  I haven’t even mentioned nappies, wipes, nappy bins and bags, mussies and milk!

Having a baby actually does cost a fortune, and takes up all the space in the house.  But that’s what a MasterCard is for.  You can’t put a price on your baby’s happiness or safety.  And some of the baby stuff is L’AMAZEBALLS.

New Parents:

If you’re about to embark on this journey of joy and you aren’t made of money, don’t panic.  There are LOADS of ways to get what you want without going bankrupt.

I will try to include tips as I go throughout this blog, but to begin with, a few obvious ones:

  • check out nearly new sales around your area, the NCT organise plenty – you can often get designer attire for primarni prices.  I’ve yet to get to one but Momma F loves a nearly new.  N.B. You have to get there early.
  • Explore Schpock and eBay for equipment that is new or in very good condition.  There are also lots of Facebook pages for local parents selling and looking for goodies.
  • When it comes to nappies and wipes, be sure to test out samples – if you sign up to sites like this one you will get bits and bobs through the post or vouchers to use in stores: http://free.emmasdiary.co.uk.
  • Sign up to Mothercare to get 10% off initial purchases.
  • Amazon Prime. Nuff said.
  • Before you buy your travel system check the auction / second hand sites to see how many are selling and why – useful way to gauge how long they lasted, how much they were used, and why they are being sold!!  If you see someone with a pram shopping for prams… consider asking them why. But don’t act like a stalker.
  • If you are looking the obvious choices are Bugaboo, Joolz, Stokke, Uppababy, MaxiCosi, Cossatto and we went with Venicci.  We also just got the amazing babyzen Yoyo 6+ – more on that later.

 

*anyone that knows me will appreciate the use of “sparse” is possibly slightly misleading.

image

Baby Stuff #1

Babies are expensive. Everyone starts to tell you this about a minute after you announce your happy news. You nod politely but secretly imagine yourself laden with baby joys in one hand and a full purse in the other. After all, you are a master shopper.  Bargains fall into your hands.  Shopping is easy.

When your bump is sufficiently secure and protruding, you will start the exciting task of equipping yourself for ze bebe.  This involves reading endless blogs, signing up for every advisory webpage under the sun and, primarily, mothercare and mamas and papas, reviewing endless “must have” lists and seeking individual and personal recommendations from anyone who has ever been in close proximity to a child.

It is at this point you start to realise that, yes, everyone was quite right: if you survive the birth, you may be bankrupt.  How can such a small thing require so much stuff??

This is the first of a series of blogs on baby stuff.

#1 Sleeping

Let’s start with the simple stuff. When you think of a baby, how do you imagine them?  Peaceful, angelic….snoozing.  You usually imagine them asleep, right? So it probably doesn’t cross your mind that your baby might not actually sleep. Of course he will sleep! I’ve seen lots of them, it’s all they do!

How wrong you are.

You get all the basic sleep devices for a tiny human being; a moses basket, maybe a crib or a cot attached to your bed, or separate, ready for the big move after 6 months (!!).  You get the special mini sheets and blankets and cushions-for-ants. Maybe even a dangly musical mobile, and the special sheep – you know, Ewan the Sheep, the fluffy white, glowing noise machine that pretty much everyone and their uncle recommends… (see pic!)  But that’s just the start, my friends.  You see, the baby won’t actually want to sleep in the basket when it is bed time. Or in the crib.  Ewan the blessed Sheep won’t help. In fact, there is only one sleep thing baby requires and that is to sleep on mummy.  He doesn’t care about white noise, soft sheets or mobiles. He wants warm, milky, sweaty, tired mummy.

By the way, it is strongly recommended by the NHS, the midwife, the health visitor, your mum etc. that baby does not sleep with or on you.  PANIC FACE. What do you do?  You’re extremely sleep deprived and insanely protective of this little thing.  Ok, it makes sense that they should not sleep on you or in your bed – what if you fall asleep or roll over? It’s logical and safe advice not to do it. Except logic isn’t necessarily prevalent right now.  Your baby literally won’t sleep anywhere that’s not you. And just as a reminder, you haven’t slept yourself in what feels like a decade.  You are literally delirious from sleep deprivation.  Every time you feed the little babe they fall asleep on you.  So what the heck do you do?  This was the situation we found ourselves in. To make matters worse Bébe FF wouldn’t sleep on his back at any time, so even when we managed to get him to sleep somewhere that wasn’t on mummy (or daddy, or grandma) then we had to wedge him onto his side.  Not as bad as him sleeping on his front, but still not ideal.

If sleeping problems happen to you, you may need the next level of sleeping device.  And you guessed it, there are loads to choose from, they all claim to work miracles and they come with a hefty price tag.  There’s the baby swaddles that claim to work miracles (we found certain “normal” blankets worked well and secured Bébé FF nicely), baby sounds and smells (lavender and camomile) and then there’s the memory-foam-based-item-that-feels-safe-and-snuggly to essentially wedge your baby into a position that they feel safe enough to sleep in like a womb (like the cocoonababy, the sleepyhead, etc, although sometimes towels will do).  Why someone hasn’t invented one in the shape of boobs I do not know.

In our house, le must ‘ave for sleeping baby is the “Lambie” – a lambskin that bébé can snuggle into, that keeps him warm or cool, and travels around in all sleeping devices as a constant.  He loves it.

Oh and one last thing – when they are asleep safe and sound in their cribs or cots or baskets, with their sleepyheads, sleeping music and sleeping suits, you will then need a baby monitor to check – roughy every 2 seconds – that your bundle is, in fact, asleep.

A baby monitor is essentially a walkie talkie.  Except baby monitors do so much more.  They are literally all singing all dancing… you can get ones with a camera and screen and a light show and musical accompaniment, including white noise, classical music, ones with a safety mat alarm thingamy (I’ve heard these are more hassle than they are worth) – the choices are endless.  Naturally, the level of technical wizardry is proportionate to the level of $$$ you will be handing over.  This may be one that Daddy decides is his domaine.  Mr FF made the executive decision on ours (BT) because, you know, even though it is a baby monitor there are technical things like batteries involved so best to leave it to the experts…

image

Unknown baby winning at sleep.  FYI probably not a safe sleeping device.