Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Miffed about Miffy

When I was pregnant I found the entire set of Miffy books in our local Oxfam Books for £1 each. I loved these Dick Bruna books when I was a kid and wanted to get them for our baby to enjoy, so I bought the set. Except for one - it just didn't feel right buying Goodbye Grandma about the funeral of Grandma Bunny for a baby whose Grandma and Nan are both very much alive. Not only that but the book focuses on a church funeral and, well. let's just say the word rabbit only contains one religious word within it and it's not vicar.

Turns out the stories aren't quite as scintillating as I'd remembered and the rhymes seem to have lost something in translation from their original Dutch. Maybe that's why reading them now as an adult my favourite is the entirely wordless Miffy's Dream in which Miffy floats off on a cloud. meets another bunny, slides down the moon and watches shooting stars. Surreal, yes, but makes me cry every time.

I was particularly proud of my bargain when I saw the same books for sale for more than £1 each in a bookshop on Lamb's Conduit Street in London. The shop has a lovely selection of children's books and I suspect many of its customers are people buying presents for children they know who are being treated round the corner at Great Ormond Street Hospital. That's what we were doing. Which is why I found it a pretty cynical marketing ploy that all the Miffy books cost the same except for one - Miffy in Hospital. Now that's cheeky.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Practising what you preach

Apparently my ante-natal teacher, yes the one who counselled us against opting for an epidural, who told us to while away the early hours of labour by building a 'nest' of pillows and duvets in the corner of a room to retreat into, who suggested we might like to go through birth using hypnotherapy techniques we could pay her to teach us, let slip that she had a boob job and a tummy tuck after having her kids. 

The general message her classes put across (and I will blog another time about the misogyny of the ante-natal lobby) is that intervention is bad, painkilling drugs are for the weak and medicalised is a dirty word. So all I can say is I hope, when the scalpel was cutting open her tits to insert silicon bags under the skin, when they were stitching together skin on her belly and separating strands of muscle (I'm making this up - I have no idea how surgeons tuck tummies or expand breasts), well I hope she practised what she preached and said "thanks for the offer of anaesthetic but I will just breathe through it while visualising my childhood home."

Monday, 29 August 2011

In recovery

A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I felt physically and emotionally recovered from birth and, without thinking about it, I said no, which was odd because until that point I'd been feeling that I was ready to start trying for another baby. What did I feel like then, she asked. 

Actually I recently started to feel emotionally near to normal again which, no coincidence I'm sure, was almost exactly when sleep improved so that I started to get at least a six hour chunk more nights than not. 

Physically however I feel wrecked. This isn't directly from the birth. That was, well, birth, gruesome and yukky but the right bits stretched in the right way and the bits that didn't do as they should (that pesky placenta!) were dealt with by doctors. But my body was so run down, pummelled by pregnancy and never given the chance to get a full night of restorative sleep, that it has had a litany of minor complaints since. Coughs and colds and fungal things, wheezes and infections and tender tendons, stiffnesses and cramps and aches and things just not being right. Bits creak. I am weary. 

When I was little I remember my parents stretching their joints in the morning, groaning the way grown ups groan, preparing their bodies for the day, and my young elasticy limbs not needing teasing into life like theirs. And I realise the answer to her question, what do I feel like, is that I feel like a parent, like my parents, like every parent. I suspect there is no recovery, just condition management. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

A baby's touch

Years ago when I was backpacking in Australia, straight after graduating, after a couple of months making my way through tropical Queensland and its barrier reef and rainforest and sandy beaches, I ended up, like all backpackers in Australia do, in a town in northern New South Wales called Byron Bay. It's where cool kids hang out, surf and party. And I took a day long massage course run by a lady called Amanda that I had been hearing about in every youth hostel along the way. Backpackers paid what was about a week's budget for me but was probably not very much, and we learnt to give each other massages and, as we all practised on each other, to receive them too. And I remember at one point Amanda saying that she thought the hardest thing about backpacking, if you were not doing so in a couple, was the lack of touch in your life, and how people often cried on her course as their bodies, and minds, remembered what it is like to feel a human touch.

She was right. Casual sexual encounters aside, backpacking is characterised by a lack of touching. If you travel the world alone there are no pats on the back from mates, no hugs when you meet old friends, no arm squeezes from siblings and no strokes of the cheeks from your mum or other relatives. You can very easily not touch, or be touched, for months. Amanda's philosophy was that we all have 'touch needs', not of a sexual nature but as part of what it is to be human and part of society, and that without it we get stressed and emotionally cut off.

I'm reminded of this having a baby. How wonderful it is to have all this touch, every day, whenever I want it. How amazing that I can swoop in to my baby's cot and pick her up and cuddle her and smother her with kisses and stroke her soft skin and put my nose to hers in an 'eskimo kiss'. And I can pat her bottom when it has just been cleaned and squeeze her lovely thighs and rub her tummy and sniff her newly washed hair and give her what the midwives call skin-to-skin, where I cuddle her my naked skin against her naked skin. And I think Amanda might be right - for however stressful parenting is, however exhausting, however anxiety ridden, there's a different type of calm you have too, a kind of humanising and knowing your place in the world, and I think it might come from all this touching. Soon my baby will be able to wriggle away from me, and these touches will be hers to allow or not. But for now I am making the most of it, and it really is quite wonderful.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

These books saved my life

Well, not my life, but my sanity. The first, What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, was a present from a very good friend of mine. I started reading it when my baby was about two weeks old. Already I was reeling from the shock of it all, and here was a book full of anecdotes from other women like me about how hard it was. It wasn't that it said things would get easier (though they do), rather what helped was knowing the thoughts and feelings I was having were normal. I could read bits to my partner and show him I was normal too. Thank you Naomi Stadlen, and thank you very good friend who got it for me. I shall buy it for other friends in return.

The second, Life After Birth by Kate Figes, I found in a charity shop when the baby was a couple of months old. It talks about the shock of both birth and of having children and again it showed me I was not alone, that the highs were normal and the lows were normal and that having a baby (birth), and having a baby (it actually being here) is difficult. Wonderful, but difficult. Thank you Kate Figes.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A day off?

We've been ill - nothing serious, a cold or virus making our ears fuzzy and our necks achey and our throats swollen. The baby has been fine but less so the parents. If we were our pre baby selves a good night's sleep, a day off work and a hot toddy would have sorted it. But we're post baby selves and guess what, turns out the parenting doesn't stop. The baby still needs to be fed, kept clean and entertained. She still needs (yes, needs) enthusiastic parents telling her several times a day that she is beautiful and clever and the most wonderful person ever created, reminding her that even if all the container ships in the world were piled high with containers and filled with densely packed love, it wouldn't be a patch on how much we love her.

I cried when Goodynuff Dad said he was ill too. I wanted to be allowed to be ill myself, to have a day where I could be looked after and to have just a short break from the nurturing and the enthusiasm. So I turned to Goodynuff Grandma who looked after all three of us. When, I asked, would I be allowed to be ill myself, to not have to worry about looking after others, to take a teeny tiny day off from the responsibilities of being a mum. Oh how the gods must laugh hearing me ask this just eight months in. Goodynuff Grandma is 61 and turns out she was feeling a little under the weather herself, yet still had to look after us. So I guess the answer is never.

This reminded me of another blogpost by When you ARE that woman about her own mum in which she says:

"Last time I stayed at my parent's house I wanted to borrow a pair of scissors. I walked to my Mum's room. She was in the loo. I called in and asked her where the scissors were. I had to search carefully for the memory, as it was so commonplace I missed the importance of that non-anecdote, and every other time I've done it. Her personal space, her body, her bedroom, doesn't really exist in the mind of me, her child. I am as boundary-less as a toddler, and my mother, even 33 years on, still can't have a piss in peace. No wonder she went to work." 
Read the whole post here.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The way you make me feel

You know how much you love your children, that primal animalistic way that means you would quite literally rip the throat of any predators out with your teeth, the way that means you can stare at them for hours congratulating yourself on how clever you are to have made them, the way their cry makes you cry in an instant, the way you cannot believe that someone as flawed as you can make someone as perfect as them, the way that if they look at something with longing you want to buy it for them, and how you can't bear the thought they will be old one day except the alternative is so much much worse, how you take anything anyone says that isn't an out and out compliment as a judgemental slur, and how if we didn't have running water you would be prepared to lick them clean, even the icky bits, and how your ambitions are now all for them and not for yourself, and the way you look at their face and see in it everybody who has ever been before them and everyone who will ever come after them and how even though you may be an athiest it's almost enough to make you believe in God. Well just a thought but that's probably how your parents felt, still feel even, about you. Mindblowing isn't it?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

What I really want

When we were trying to have a baby, and it was taking rather a long time, we had an appointment with a doctor who, having analysed my blood tests and hormone levels and prodded and poked, asked me what I wanted to get out of the appointment. "A baby" I said simply. He looked taken aback - I think he wanted me to say clomid (a fertility drug) or ivf or something medical. But it was true - I desperately, primally, wanted a baby, and I thought I was being both clever and honest in saying that was what I wanted.

Now I have my daughter however I realise that having a baby is not the endpoint, it is the beginning. No, what I want is not a baby, but a baby who then grows into a toddler then a little girl, then a bigger girl. I want her to be a teenager then a young woman. I want her to be a mum, to be a middle aged woman, to be a grandma and to be old. When the doctor asked me what I wanted from that appointment I might as well have said I want to be a grandma one day. See, turns out not just that I wanted baby, but that I wanted to begat generations.

None of which is fair to the baby of course. She may make choices or have choices thrust upon her that mean she doesn't have children, or that her children don't have children. She might emigrate to the other side of the world. She might decide to cease contact with me. The moment she became herself and not an abstract want on my part, was the moment those decisions became no longer anything to do with me.

But although they will not be my decisions, I hope she follows the rule my parents taught me, that we cannot hope for a moment to repay our parents for the love and (emotional and material) support they give us, but we can repay them by doing the same for our own children. I hope we bring our baby up with family at the heart of her life, and a happy childhood she will want to replicate for her children. All of which was a little too complicated to tell the doctor of course.

Friday, 19 August 2011

My name is Mummy, hear me roar!

Having a baby has given me a new means of gauging whether or not I like someone. They can be as mean to me as they wish, their look can be stony, their remarks can be cutting and their actions annoying, but if they look at my baby and tell me she's beautiful, if they make a face that causes her to smile, or pick her up and let her nuzzle her milky snotty spitty dribble into their collar, then I will like them. 

It's slightly annoying at times.  I've spent seven years harbouring a grudge against someone and just had to let it slide the moment they complimented how alert and lovely my little girl is. It's affirming at other times though - the person who has twice refused a cuddle, failed to enquire after her health even when prompted and not once told me what wonderful eyes or hair or smile she has or even given us the backhanded compliment of praising her personality, well I never liked them anyway. The difference now is that beforehand they had a chance of making our relationship better and now nothing they ever do will make me like them. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

In this together

I try not to judge people for the techniques they use getting their baby to sleep. Those sleepless nights can be so hellish that if you discover your baby will only sleep on a mattress covered in Egyptian cotton held by you at a 45 degree angle, or with you laying beside her your breast 5mm from her nose, or after you singing thirty verses of Coming Round The Mountain, well you'll do it. You may have sworn you'll instigate a routine, you may have said you won't look your baby in the eye at night or interact with them so they learn night from day, but if that's what you have to do to get them to sleep, believe me you'll do it. This is because there is no sound worse to a new parent than the piercing scream of their baby, especially if it has gone on for more than, oooh, about six seconds. 

But though I am striving for non judgeyness, and that includes parents who let their child cry themselves to sleep, I just don't get people who take perverse pleasure in their baby giving someone else a hard time. I'm thinking specifically of the medical professional I was talking to recently who told me, in a conversation about soothing babies after procedures and whether it is the mum or dad who does it, that there's nothing she likes more than hearing her husband upstairs with their screaming baby while she sits downstairs with a magazine and a glass of wine smug in the knowledge that now he knows what it's like. 

Now I'm all for sharing the work, but there seem to be some people who fall into the 'if I have to suffer then he should too' camp. While this is tempting, especially when you want them to share your up-five-times-a-night pain, surely no one is a winner. I don't want my baby to scream at my husband for twenty minutes. I don't want my husband to be screamed at for twenty minutes. And I don't want to hear it myself from a distance  for any amount of time. It's the quickest way for all three of us to end up in tears. Sure, my husband might understand better what it is I do all day and why I am emotionally fragile even once the crying stops, but he and the baby are the two people I love most in the world and I never want either of them to be upset, let alone both of them. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Why I can't see you anymore

I want to see you, really I do. I've always prided myself on having time for my friends. I don't think I lost any when I met my partner, I didn't intend to lose any when I had a baby.

But, as Americans say, let's do the math. If you work regular hours you only have weekends, evenings or your annual leave and bank holidays to see me. I'll assume your annual leave is taken up with holidays and your bank holidays are taken up with ill advised trips to the seaside and picnics in the rain.

If of course you are free in the day, meet me near a step-free station for coffee. But please not before 11am or after 3pm as rush hour with a baby is not fun. And remember we need somewhere with a highchair and changing facilities.

You are of course welcome to pop by our house after work but please bear in mind that from 5pm until 6pm there's some form of food fight known as dinner followed by some sort of water fight known as bath. Then from 6pm-8pm depending on yawns, eye rubs and general malaise (and that's just me) is bedtime which might take five minutes and might take an hour but do feel free to come and watch Eastenders downstairs while we do that upstairs.  We could then start making you some food about 8pm-ish which means we could eat at 8.45pm-ish but would you mind awfully leaving by 10pm please as we're knackered.

Which leaves weekends. There are 52 weekends in a year so 104 weekend days. Of these each set of parents want to see us at least once a month (24 days) as do other aunts, uncles, cousins and relatives. Let's conservatively say we do that one day a month (12 days). Now we are left with 68 days.

Let's take off some of those for the occasional holiday or weekend away - two weeks of holiday and two additional weekends away shall we say. That leaves 60 days.

On some of those we have household chores we need to do as a family. We might need to make furniture or paint a wall or sort out the garden. Like everyone we are great procrastinators. We put it off as long as we can but we still need a day perhaps every six weeks or so. Let's say eight a year. That leaves 52.

We're getting older and many of our friends are married now, and not many are onto their second marriages yet. Despite that we still have perhaps three weddings a year with maybe one of those necessitating an overnight stay so that's another four days leaving 48.

Then there are the significant grown-up birthdays, the anniversaries, the Bar Mitzvahs and christenings. Take off another five days. Still that leaves 43 days we could see you.

And the peril of having a baby, you meet lots of other people who do too. Add another ten days for first birthday parties that you could miss of course but who will come to the party of your little one if you do that. And then there were 33.

Take two off for illness. 31. Then a whole weekend for Christmas shopping, that's 29. You then need a special treat day to make up for a day being dragged around shops of course leaving 28 whole lovely days for seeing friends. Then there's father's day, mother's day, our wedding anniversary, my birthday celebration and that of my other half. 23 left.

There's usually a tube strike weekend and a snowed in weekend, then the three times a year I must get my hair tamed with an afternoon at the hairdresser. Bugger, 16 days left.

16 whole glorious days when we might see you. When we might come to your BBQ, have a picnic with you, go for a walk or cook you lunch. Presumably if we're that kind of friend we'll want to see each other more than once a year. So that's not 16 friends or couples we get to see, it's four lots of friends four times.

Of course it doesn't work like that. We do more than one thing a day. We squeeze in breakfasts and brunches and lunches and teas and dinner and drinks and parties with the baby in a travel cot in the other room. We have the occasional babysitter. We see more than one friend at once at parties and meals. And occasionally we go out, not with friends, not with family, but the two of us, as a couple.

None of which is a complaint. What a lovely lively busy life, what a wonderful problem it is to have so many friends. But please understand when we try to make arrangements, it's not you it's us, but we just don't have time to see you, not this year.

Monday, 15 August 2011

I remember, I remember

I remember it so clearly. Sitting in the car outside a pub, the window open to give us some air, being brought lemonade and crisps to occupy us while our parents were inside. I can taste the lemonade, the strong distinctive taste of R Whites, the fake cheese and onion flavour of the crisps back when cheese and onion was green, salt and vinegar was blue and prawn cocktail was exotic. 

This is the memory of a million 1980 childhoods and I can transport myself there so easily, back into that memory. We were wearing bodywarmers before they were called gillets, our gloves were attached to our duffel coats with strings up each arm and across the back, my earmuffs had pandas on them. 

Except, except... this image might be true for everyone else who writes about them, but though I remember them so well I am pretty sure they are all false. My parents never went to pubs. If they did we wouldn't have been left outside in the car. For many years we didn't even have a car. I never had a duffel coat. My gloves always just got lost. 

I've been wondering about memories of childhood because it seems to me that so much of parenting is about creating memories, be it the perfect day at the zoo or the ideal birthday party, a wonderful summer holiday or a special treat trip. Yet we never really know which are the images that will stick, which will define a generation, and which will be true. 

For now though, even though everything we do no doubt has an impact on the baby's development and her understanding of the world, the memories we make each day are for me, be it a sleepy cuddle before bed or a morning of giggles and wonder at the world. And though I am a grown-up, I suspect these memories will be just as riddled with false realities and rewritten history as my memories of childhood, not least because I seem to have already forgotten the detail of events of even a few months ago, as evidenced by having no idea of the answer to questions from parents a few months behind me asking about sleep patterns and weaning.  

But though no doubt different from what really happened, the memories I am making now will be wonderfully glorious, of that I am sure, and some details will even be true. For I did have panda bear earmuffs. I did. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Neither a rioter nor a cleaner-upper be

It's the newest parlour game of the twittering classes, playing how badly did the riots affect you. We get kudos for living about a quarter of a mile from the epicentre of the first night of rioting, though in truth we were safely home watching a film and wondering why the helicopter overhead wasn't going away and whether it would wake the baby. 

It was close enough though that today there was a riot clean up near here. Members of the community were asked to turn out to clean up the streets, to show good can come out of bad and that we shall overcome and all that. 

We didn't go. I caught up on sleep while my husband entertained the baby. And later when we went for a walk through the affected area, we wondered whether we should have, and whether doing that kind of thing with a baby is possible, and more to the point given the whole thing is about perceptions and being seen to care about communities, whether we would be judged for not turning up. And we concluded that probably those who have had children will understand the logistical difficulty of all being fed and clean and dressed and awake and able to get to the right place at the right time, and those who haven't will wonder why we weren't there from the very beginning, baby strapped to our back and broom waving in the air. 

But that's the thing about babies - they give you the moral highground from which you can worry about the impact on society of practically everything, yet for a few years at least they sap you of the ability to do anything about it. I've noted it though, and will remember that when we are able we, as a family, owe our area some kind of community activism. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

My baby, my daemon

I used to laugh, before I had a baby, at women who happily watched psychological thrillers before becoming a mum only to ditch them for romcoms afterwards, who said they could no longer watch the news because all the bad things went from sad to unbearable, or who, like a member of my bookgroup, didn't want to read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (by Kate Summerscale) because it's all about the murder of a very young boy. 

In fact when my baby was born I started joking about this kind of woman. People would ask me "What's it like being a mum?" and I'd say "Well, not much has changed except as a mother I now really hate peadophiles!" as if I didn't before. 

But joke as I may, becoming a parent does change you. Not because non parents don't appreciate how horrible bad things are, but because it's only when you've known the all encompassing deep rooted obsessional feelings that you have for your own child that you can envisage what it might be like to lose them. 

I don't hold with the idea that your child has no sense of self for the first couple of years. My baby has very obviously known from the very beginning that although we are clearly, profoundly, connected, she is her own person. I smooth her path in life and provide her with absolute and unconditional love, but without me she would still survive and flourish. It is me who now has no sense of self. My fate is inextricably caught up in hers. I do not think I could be happy if she was not. I realise she is my daemon, like those in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, and without her I would be a shadow, a soulless entity. 

Which is interesting because it means having a child hasn't 'completed' me, it has (literally and metaphorically) shattered me. I have been ripped into pieces, of which she is one, and though her piece operates as a whole, my piece doesn't. Which is why I think I now understand why the bad things are more unbearable when you are a parent, why the story of the McCanns whose daughter Madeleine is lost, why the lament of Tariq Jahan whose son Haroon died in the riots earlier this week, why all the stories that make the news of parents losing their children of any age, why films in which baddies seek to harm the families of goodies, why books detailing the murders of young boys, are all worse once you have a baby. Not because it wasn't bad before but because it's no longer unimaginable, and because you realise just how horrendous the consequences would be should it happen to you. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Baby love

Whenever my daughter plays happily with a baby boy someone, the other parent or an onlooker, makes a reference to them maybe getting married one day. I hope not, I say, as having friends become your child's in-laws could be disastrous. Imagine the layers of rivalry when it came to who they choose to spend Christmas with. But I am also always keen to stress that we don't assume heterosexuality for our child. "Yes, she might fall in love with him," I say, "but you know, she might be into girls, and that would be okay too." And this being liberal middle-class London everyone falls over backwards saying "yes, yes of course, might be into girls, yes yes, how lovely."

One of the local new mum friends I made after having my daughter is a lesbian. Her son has two mummies as well as a daddy and an uncle. "What a lucky baby to have so many people to love him" we all say, desperate to show how okay we are with their 'alternative' family.

Her son and my daughter were playing together the other day, by which I mean snatching each other's toys, grabbing each other's hair and stealing each other's breadsticks, and a group of us watched from the sidelines cooing. "It's so sweet," his mummy said, "I think they might get married." And ridiculously, what with her being a real life out the closet happily civil-partnered lesbian, I just didn't feel comfortable saying that yes they might, but my daughter might be into girls and we'd be okay with that too.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Best of times, worst of times

Since having a baby of my own there is a message I send to any other friends or acquaintances who have a baby, apart from the congratulations on your arrival one which is of course the most important one. It varies depending on how well I know the person, but I send it around the six weeks mark and it goes something like this:
Dear X,
Now that x is roughly six weeks I thought I should send you an email to see how you are doing. Having a baby is awful isn't it? Wonderful, but awful. The lack of sleep (and subsequent sniping with those you love), the hormonal surges that make you question mortality and the nature of the universe, the sheer sense of utter responsibility for life (an actual life!), makes it truly the best of times and the worst of times. Hopefully you are feeling fine but if you aren't then know you are not alone. You are allowed to be teary and upset without it being pnd, and to find bits of motherhood shitty - and not just the bits that are literally shitty - and to still be a good mum. I am sending you this because I wish someone had sent me something similar and I promise you it does get better, though you won't believe me at this point.
Love X.
Everyone I have sent this to has got back to me saying yes, it is awful isn't it, thank you for having the courage to say it out loud and I reply yes, the only thing worse than having a baby is the thought that you might not be able to have one. Except the one person who replied saying 'Thank you but everything is wonderful, our life is brilliant, sorry you're not coping.' The fucker. And the sad thing is, probably they need that email most of all, because anyone who says every aspect of those first few weeks is wholly amazing is surely lying aren't they?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Why blog?

Since my daughter was born several months ago a number of people have asked me whether I have a blog yet. I've been a bit saddened that they expect me to be so cliched, after all every Thomasina, Dickette and Harriet is a mummy blogger these days, but when I say no it's not actually because I am trying to avoid being a cliche but because my brain has had barely a thought worth putting on paper, or screen, since giving birth. Turns out that 'baby brain' isn't a misogynistic attempt to put a woman down when she is at her most vulnerable after all, or rather isn't just a misogynistic attempt to put a woman down when she is at her most vulnerable. Rather it's a real condition created by the fact that every spare cell my brain has after remembering to breathe myself is spent on checking that the baby is breathing, and if there are any left over after that then they are used up wondering whether we've remembered to give her the medicine she must take, or thinking about when she last did a poo and whether it looked normal, or realising that weighing my breasts with my hands in public to check which one is fullest is not an acceptable activity. 

Then last week a eureka moment. I was driving, the baby was asleep in her car seat, I'd turned the radio off and  whoosh, a thought came into my head. Sure, it was connected to babies, but it was a thought nevertheless. It was followed by another, and another. And whilst I am not egotistical enough to think that anyone else wants to share my thoughts (I am actually, I am just pretending I'm not), now, nearly eight months after my daughter was born, I am, if not inundated by thoughts, then catching them pretty frequently, and feel it would be quite a good thing to have a place to write them down, expand on them and share them. And of course, there's nothing better for the soul than monitoring your blog stats and knowing that a total stranger got to your blog not because they find you fascinating but because it came top of a google search for 'milky tits', 'bladder control' or 'I got poo on me'. [Waves to the pervs who got here by mistake - well done on reading this far.]

So there you go, it's not 'I blog therefore I am' but rather 'I have started to think therefore I blog'. Let's see how long it lasts...