Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The magical impenetrable world of brothers

I've just had news of friends' new baby boy, their second. I know I wrote recently about how much I wanted a girl but it is true also that my heart swells when I hear news of a new set of brothers. There is something romantic and wonderful about brothers. They can destroy each other (think Cain and Abel, think David and Ed) but they can be the making of each other too. If I were into quoting Bette Midler I'd say that they were the wind beneath each other's wings. Sod it, I'll say it. When brotherhood works it's as if they are the wind beneath each other's wings. It's why, although I am proud to be a Labour Party supporter, I cannot feel easy about having Ed Milband as leader of the party. Whatever your relationship with your brother is like, however much you think you can do better than them, you do not stand against them for a job. When Ed Miliband uses standing against his brother as an example of having shown courage I think no actually, it's a moral failing that you did so.

When I hear of a second son being born, I think of this line from an incredibly moving article by Simon Stephenson that I read in The Guardian in July, about the death of his brother Dominic in the Asian tsunami:

"To have any brother in this world is to be part of an exclusive club to which no riches, no secret handshake, no guest list can ever gain you admittance."

And it makes me hope that I have two boys in the future. 


I've not read it yet but here is Simon Stephenson's book, Let Not the Waves of the Sea

And here is another very moving book about losing, and searching for, a brother. It's called The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky and is by Ken Dornstein whose brother died in the Lockerbie air disaster. 


Related post: Am I a SMOG?

Inflatable bath spout cover

I take it all back. Here I slagged off the inflatable bath spout cover. Now my baby bounces around the bath I think it might be an essential piece of kit. I'm getting one.

Available from the Great Little Trading Company for £6.50.

As pointed out by Ali in the comments, it's cheaper on Amazon:

Emmay Care Bath Soft Spout Cover


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ways to improve postnatal care #2: Change the sheets

I had hoped my experience was just a one-off and that by staying in hospital for several days after my baby was born I somehow got lost in the conveyor belt of people going home six hours after their baby was born, but having spoken to many new mothers since becoming one myself, I realise that I am not an unusual case. But while my baby and I were in hospital after her birth, I had to ask for my bedsheets to be changed. I plucked up courage to ask twice which meant they were changed twice, in a five night stay.

Yet the days post birth are particualrly yukky. You bleed. Lots. You may be a bit leaky when it comes to urine. Your breasts produce liquid, not necessarily to order but nearly always when you have found a dry patch to lay on. The baby poos and wees, also not to order, and as you don't yet know how to do a nappy properly, this also leaks. Current policy seems to be not to wash the baby post birth, but to let the fluids that cover it when it is born come off naturally over the next few days, so this too gets everywhere. Then there's sick. And of course spillages of food and drink that come from trying to grab a mouthful whenever you can while juggling your slippery newborn.

So you're sitting there in poo and wee and blood and sick and food and you think that's okay, whatever else it is nurses and healthcare assistants do, changing the sheets is key and they will be along to do it soon. And you wait. And wait. And wait.

The dirty sheets are not only a health risk but a downer on morale too. Change the sheets, every day, maybe twice a day, and don't wait for women to ask.

Ways to improve postnatal care #3: Help us buy the basics

Ways to improve postnatal care #1: Don't call me mum

Monday, 26 September 2011

My mum is not my best friend

My mum and I have a firm belief that wonderful as the mother-daughter bond is, we are not best friends, and that mothers and daughters should not describe themselves as best friends.

In part this is because our relationship is much more than that of friends, so to describe it as a friendship diminishes our relationship. But I think it's more than that. I think it's because with friends you have a responsibility not to judge them where as with your children you have a responsibility to judge them.

After all, if a friend is badly behaved then providing you are not the victim your job is to provide hankies and chocolate and fun and analysis and chat and distraction and advice, but only when asked, and if whatever they have done is so bad that you can't do this then you can walk away. However with your children you can never walk away and you have a responsibility not just not to ignore bad behaviour, but to take active steps to make it better, to show disapproval and to set boundaries, all under the blanket of unconditional love.

For although one always hopes a friendship is long term, but often they are not. Some are ephemeral, lasting the duration of a conference or a course or even an evening out. Some last for years but you grow apart, either metaphorically or geographically. Others peak and wane in intensity depending on where you are in life. But the parent-child relationship should not do this. If I am to fulfil my role in our relationship, I will be a constant, not always approving but always there.

What's more, if a friend disappears from your life, you may be sad but you do not define yourself to others, or to yourself, as someone who was once a friend of that person. But once you are a mother (or for that case a sister), you are always a mother, regardless of what events may happen. Even if you left you would remain a mother - it is fact as much as feeling.

So whilst my relationship with my mum has many elements of best friendship about it, I'm proud to say she is not my best friend, she is my mum. And nor do I seek to become my daughter's best friend. Rather I seek to be the best mum I can be. My friendship I will save for those who do not need mothering by me.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

No pain = lots of gain, or why I chose an epidural

I didn't really feel any contractions. My waters broke without any and, due to the infection risk, 24 hours later our baby was induced. As I was confined to the bed anyway, which is considered one of the main disadvantages of an epidural, my indecision over whether or not to have one disappeared and I decided to take the drugs. Don't worry - we had our fair share of pain and issues that night and subsequent nights, not least because my placenta refused to budge, but contractions were not one of them. 

I don't buy into the idea of pain as a positive force. I wouldn't have my wisdom tooth extracted without pain relief or my heart bypassed or any other operation without anaesthetic, so why would I for childbirth? But the pain of childbirth, unlike the pain of toothache, is so deeply embedded in our culture (Damn you, Eve) as something that women should go through, somehow I feel as if I cheated a little. 

Isn't that ridiculous? I took a positive decision to make the most of modern medicine, to save my energy for when the baby arrived, to dull the pain that many women describe as making them feel they might die, and I don't think well done me, what a great decision, but I think I cheated. How deep misogyny runs huh, even amongst women, even against ourselves. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ways to improve postnatal care #1: Don't call me mum

This is a plea to midwives, nurses, doctors and health visitors who see women in the hours, days and weeks following the birth of their baby. Don't call me mum. There is one person in the world currently allowed to call me mum, and she can't speak properly yet. 

I know it's easier to just call everyone by the same name, but you manage to use names in every other ward so let's do it in maternity too. You may have put your hands up our most private bits, you may have seen us grunt and cry and bleed and push and poo as our babies came out, but pretend for a moment we're not just on the birth conveyor belt and that we're individuals with names and feelings. That way we might just feel your plans for our health and the health of our babies are individualised too. 

Ways to improve postnatal care #3: Help us buy the basics

Ways to improve postnatal care #2: Change the sheets

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Am I a SMOG?

Apparently there's a word for people like me. It's SMOG - Smug Mother Of Girl(s) - which is a bit unfair because we took what we were given. In fact so elated were we when our baby came out we completely forgot to ask what sex it was until the midwife asked us if we wanted to know.

But actually I did desperately want a girl. Not because there is anything wrong with boys, and I am sure I would have loved a son and will love any future sons, but because I so wanted a girl with whom I might have the relationship I have with my own mother, who may want me when she has a baby the way I wanted and continue to want my mum, who will continue the long line of strong, stroppy-when-necessary women, with whom I can share the experience not just of being but of being a woman.

Actually real SMOGs, according to the paper, aren't just pleased to have girls, but actually don't like boys or what is thought of as 'boyish' behaviour. This definitely isn't me - some of my best friends are boys, I even married one - plus I don't believe that there is such a thing as boyish behaviour and girlish (let's not use the word girly, please) behaviour, just being children.

But I am hugely thrilled our baby turned out to be a girl. When my daughter was a couple of weeks old my mum gave me a framed print. It showed her mum's mum, her mum, her, me and my daughter, one after the other. It has become one of my most treasured possessions. The life of my great grandmother (who I never knew) will be vastly different to the life of my daughter, yet by virtue of being a woman they will share many key experiences too, and I feel honoured to have the chance to share this with them both. I am sure my daughter will have many moments where she thinks I don't understand her, and no doubt she will be right at least some of the time, but I will understand some things too, more than she will ever know, unless she has a girl of her own one day.

Related post: The magical impenetrable world of brothers

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Man's Work

I first saw this book a few weeks ago in the library and I was so taken with it I bought a copy for home on Amazon. In fact I bought several copies as I felt it was so good many of my friends deserved a copy too.

Man's Work (All in a Day) by Annie Kubler is a picture book with no words in which we see, over the course of a day, a dad and his child do what many people think of as 'women's work' - putting away toys, hoovering, ironing, cooking etc. I thought it was the ideal book for any child who mainly sees women do this work, be it their mum or a cleaner, to help them understand that actually this kind of task is not intrinsically something women do.

But as there are no words it relies on the person 'reading' the book to make up the story, so actually it becomes whatever you want it to be. Is the dad doing all this because the mum is away and it's a novelty to keep house? Or are they doing it as a surprise for mum? Perhaps it is a stay at home dad and this is the kind of thing he does every day? Or maybe he is the 'manny' rather than a dad and his job involves light cleaning duties? See, when you think about it it is as complex as Milton's Paradise Lost trying to justify the ways of God to men. Whatever your story though, I am sure that normalising men doing housework is an excellent thing.

Incidentally, another lovely picture book with no words is The Baby's Catalogue by Allan and Janet Ahlberg:

Monday, 19 September 2011

For whom the tears flow

We had a difficult beginning, our baby and us. No more so than many people and quite a lot less so than lots of people but it was difficult nevertheless. Feeding issues and possible illnesses and moments of intense worry plus all the tiredness and emotions everyone who has just had a baby feels.

When I tell friends the detail, and the detail is what everyone wants to hear, I often find myself in tears. I'm a crier so it's not that unusual, but also it's incredibly easy to imagine myself back in those moments and to feel everything I felt then again.

And sometimes people say to me that yes, it sounds horrid, what a difficult beginning you had, but look at your gorgeous girl and how well she is now and how beautiful and lively and amazing she is, and how she thrives, so don't cry.

But what they don't realise is that much as life as a mum is bound up with a willingness to give up anything necessary for the wellbeing of your child, it is not an entirely selfless life. For at these times the tears aren't for her - she is indeed beautiful and lively and amazing and oh how she thrives - the tears are for myself.

Related post: Best of times, worst of times

Saturday, 17 September 2011

What does a baby peacock look like?

Further to last post, what about one of these? I found it when googling the entirely genuine question 'What does a baby peacock look like?'

Available here.

Shark in the Dark

Would it be wrong to buy one of these? (It would be wrong, mainly because it's £89!). Available here.

Friday, 16 September 2011

(Not) remembering my first day at school

I've been reading lots of blogs and tweets and Facebook updates about people's children starting school and the pride and the worry and the changes to routine and it struck me, I don't remember my first day at school. 

I remember things that happened at nursery - song circles and the willow tree in the garden and my mum helping hide chocolate eggs for an Easter Egg Hunt and the accident that led to me being hospitalised for dehydration after refusing to drink with my battered mouth, and the nursery nurse I thought was a witch (because she had a wart on her face not because she was mean) and I remember a few details of my early school days such as where the classroom was and the blue maths workbook with an owl on the front and the teacher's name but as much as I try I just can't summon up the first day. 

Which means it must have either been a complete non event or so traumatic I have buried it. I suspect the former. Which should be somewhat comforting to parents of this month's newbies shouldn't it?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A dress to give birth in - wtf!

I like to look through the catalogues of child related things I get sent and play a game with myself where I look for the most ridiculous purchases.

For a while I thought it was the sock-ons, sold at £4 a pop by Jojo Maman Bebe but I do at least concede that it's hard to keep socks on the feet of your baby and this product would do just that, though I personally am of the school of thought that thinks if your baby wants to pull their socks off they should be allowed to do so.

Yesterday though I received the Great LIttle Trading Company catalogue, full of mostly superfluous but really rather expensive items. Two in particular caught my eye for the ridiculous purchase game. The duvet grippers to stop your child's duvet falling off, and the inflatable bath spout cover. Yes, really.

Still, nothing has yet beat the NCT shop's Birthing and Maternity Dress so that you can feel feminine whilst giving birth. As if giving birth wasn't feminine enough. It's one of the many reasons why I have become ever so anti the NCT.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

My baby is a genius!

My baby has now been out longer than she was in and I'm not sure which is more mind-blowing, that she went from nothing to a living human being whilst in my womb or all the things she has done in the nine months since being born. 

These include, but are not limited to: learning to use her hands, smiling with her mouth and her eyes, learning the difference between night and day, recognising her mummy and daddy and other key players in her life, wondering about the nature of objects and touching, licking and smelling them to find out more, eating and showing preferences and dislikes, having a sense of rhythm, working out mirrors (something I'm not sure I understand myself yet), making herself laugh with peepo, making us laugh with peepo, allowing herself to be comforted, comforting me with a stroke if she thinks I'm upset, knowing if she is hungry or thirsty, opening things, closing things, getting our attention with noise, being quiet to avoid attention if she is doing something naughty, making choices about what to play with, playing, concentrating (with an intensity that has led my mum to say the baby has the greatest concentration of any person she knows), understanding the word no, ignoring the word no, forgiving us when we mess things up, recognising whatever it is that makes humans human and responding to them differently to animals, turning pages of books, getting to grips with the idea of animal, vegetable or mineral, working out the difference between solid, liquid and gas, being wary of weird people, sharing, possession (ie not sharing), using language, making a plan, enjoying sensations such as the warmth of the sun, getting cross, bouncing and watching the world go by. 

What a clever clever baby I have. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

My osteopath got me pregnant

I have told this story to so many people that I've decided the easiest thing to do now is blog about it and send the link to anyone who asks, rather than write it out every time. It comes with a health warning though as I don't wish to peddle snake oil, and I'd hate to give any credence to alternative therapies such as homeopathy, reiki, aromatherapy or any other laying on of hands. As Tim Minchin says in his song about 'alternative medicine', if it worked it would just be called 'medicine'. And it may have just been co-incidence and that our time had come, but the usually rational, sceptical me really believes that osteopathy got me pregnant. There, I've said it. May Hippocrates strike me down (only for me too be revived by some water with a memory of some passing lavender but no memory of all the shit and piss that passed through it). 

When we had been trying to conceive for a couple of years, after medical investigations had found no major reason for this and before fertility treatment had commenced, I slipped over on ice and hurt my shoulder. I decided to get it sorted out by an osteopath and rang a practice I had used before for a previous injury. The osteopath I had seen then no longer worked there but another did and I booked in to see him. 

On the day of my appointment I had terrible period pains. I got these every month - the crippling distracting awful pain would last for about four hours and a lesser version would hang around all day. It started just before I left the house but determined to get my shoulder sorted I made a hot water bottle, shoved it in the back of my skirt and got the bus. I may have looked ridiculous but bus passengers in their jim-jams are not an unusual sight round here so a hot water bottle barely raises an eyebrow. 

The osteopath worked on my shoulder then asked about the hot water bottle. I explained and he said he could fix that too. He did something to my back, higher up than the pain, and the pain disappeared instantly. I was so impressed I asked him about fertility. He felt my back again. Of course you're not conceiving, he said, you're all blocked up and your body won't conceive until it is helped to fix itself, or words to that effect. 

My period pain came back a couple of hours later, on one side only. The next week I had another appointment for my shoulder. I told him about the returning period pain and he felt my back, agreed that one side still felt 'blocked', and did something more to my back. I am a sceptic - of course he said one side was blocked, I thought, because I told him the pain had come back on one side, like the guesses of a dodgy psychic. 

I had another period. The pain was minimal - about 90% better. If nothing else comes from the treatment, a fixed shoulder and a 90% better period pain is enough I thought. But encouraged by the amazing improvement in the period pain I went back one more time. The osteopath did something else to my back. I think you'll be ok now, he said. He was right - that month I conceived. 

It may be coincidence. It may be that at over two years we are just one of those couples whose stats combine with people who conceive first try to bring the national average to about a year. But actually, much as I am loathe to sound new agey, much as I promise I don't own a single crystal and am not interested in the colour of my aura, I really think that osteopathy got me pregnant, or as I no doubt annoyingly like to say to my husband, my osteopath* got me up the duff. 

(*You can email me on goodynuffmum at gmail dot com if you want his details)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The shower monologues

I don't shower every morning - what mother of a baby does? (oh, you do - bugger) - but on the days when I do and when the baby is not in the mood to wait for me with her toys in her cot or nap while I do it, she sits in a highchair in our bathroom chewing a rubber duck and watching me. And because we are both happiest when there is a steady stream of chatter, I explain to her what I am doing, what shower gel is, why suds need rinsing, the difference between shampoo and conditioner and that kind of thing. And on the (increasingly rare) occasions when I shave under my arms or defuzz my legs or deal with the bikini line, I try to remember to tell her that these things I am doing are what some mummies do, but they aren't necessary and she should never feel that she has to remove body hair, but that it's okay if she wants to as long as she doesn't feel pressured into doing so, and to come to me for advice before she does it so that she doesn't cut her teenage legs to shreds with a cheap bic razor, and that if underarm hair is good enough for Julia Roberts it should be good enough for everyone else etc etc.

Boy do I tie myself up in feminist knots. Luckily for me children rarely take notice of who their parents were before they existed, so she will probably never take in that I wrote a book on feminism or that The Times, one heady day in 2009, listed me as a feminist icon alongside Nigella Lawson and Michelle Obama (hahahahaha!) and will come to her own conclusions about hair removal, no doubt influenced by whatever the fashions for it are at the time. But while I hope that she makes up her own mind about most things in life, I hold on to the belief that these 'discussions' will help lead her to consider herself a feminist, and that my ramblings in the shower will have some influence, and go in at some level. However on the days she goes downstairs to sit in the same highchair and watch her dad shave I bet she's not subjected to such monologues and I bet he's not tortured by getting the conversation right. But that's because men's beards are not a feminist issue - something I must remember to talk to her about next time we're in the bathroom.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

She's perfect, we kept her.

A friend used to tell me I thought too much to which I used to reply "You can't think too much" by which I meant "You CAN'T think too much" rather than "YOU can't think too much."

But it is possible that I have been thinking too much about our current favourite book. By current I mean for the past six months with no signs of falling out of favour - and that's just me, though the baby likes it too. 

It's Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo. In it the narrator, wanting a pet, is sent various animals by the zoo but there is something wrong with every one - the elephant too big, the lion too fierce, the frog too jumpy - and the narrator sends them back until they send the perfect match. 

It's a lovely lovely book. It was a 'being born' present from friends and we read it most days. But sometimes I worry that it's giving the baby the message that if something isn't quite right you just get rid of it. "We love you despite any imperfections," I tell her. "You can be as jumpy, fierce or big as you want and we'll still keep you." She looks at me, quite rightly, as if I'm mad. 

(It really is lovely. And it has flaps. I recommend it as a present for any parent child.)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Not smug, relieved

Sometimes when I am walking down the road with the buggy (and baby), even if it is grey and wet and in a less than nice part of Tottenham, and even if I am tired and grumpy and harumphing with every step, out of nowhere comes the realisation that I found my man, we had a baby and this is exactly what I always wanted. 

And though when I was single well-meaning friends told me I'd meet him one day, and though when we were trying to conceive well-meaning friends told me it would happen eventually, for some people it doesn't, and I always felt these well-meaning friends would probably turn out to be wrong. 

So on those days when I realise I got what I wanted I can't help but grin inanely as I wander, and whoop internally (and sometimes, to the consternation of passers-by, externally) and breathe sighs of relief. And it's not because I am what Bridget Jones would call a 'smug married', because I am not smug, I promise, nor do I believe that being married is important (though my marriage is important to me), but rather I can't believe my luck that it did happen. I am so so thrilled and relieved. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Privates by name, private by nature

When I was pregnant a number of people asked me whether we would be having the baby circumcised. "Only if it's a girl" was my stock answer. Yeah, I know, jokes about female genital mutilation are beyond the pale, but really, fascinating as the subject is and willing as I am to have a generalised discussion about the subject and my views on whether or not it should be carried out, I was a bit agog that anyone thought that an individual case was their business. 

For a family where one or both parents are Jewish (me, in this case) circumcision obviously comes up in discussions about the unborn child. But I see it as a highly personal issue, and one in which the child deserves privacy. Should I feel able to ask you about your genitals and what they look like? Of course not. So why did so many people think that they had a right to know about my child's? The euphemism 'privates' which we have settled on when talking about those parts, describes both the parts and their nature. 

Yet I wasn't sure how to articulate this without having an argument with anyone who asked. Until my dad gave me a great line to say the next time it came up - "When my son is old enough to decide whether he wants you to know what his penis looks like then you can ask him." Or rather, you can ask me whether you can ask him, though depending on your relationship with us and how old he is, the answer will very likely be no. 

It's a great line. I've never used it though - we had a girl. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

The secret life of parents

I have an image of the future in my head in which our daughter asks us what we do after she's gone to bed and we guiltily look at each other before turning to her and emphatically saying "nothing". And as parents are inherently uncool and even sensitive children are self-centred, I suspect she will believe us.

Turns out though that parents have a secret life. Somewhere behind the boundary setting and the saying no, the 'up to beds' and the 'dinner times', when the baby isn't looking we have fun. We have fun with the baby too of course, but we have fun just the two of us as well. We can spend twenty minutes laughing at a rude joke or making faces at each other or gossiping or just, you know, having a laugh, I wonder whether the baby will ever realise we have this secret life of immaturity, where farts are funny, swear words are used with abandon and all the boundaries we give her are broken by us. 

And if we have fun when the baby isn't looking, casting aside the responsibility of parenthood for a moment and becoming two people who can do other things, then isn't it likely our parents did the same? Which is weird because you know how you think all that happened when you were younger and in bed was your parents watched telly and spoke about you? Well they probably did that, but they probably spent a lot of time laughing at farts too. 

Related post: How to tell you are a grown-up

Sunday, 4 September 2011

What's in a name?

When conception was taking a while and I was thinking through alternative ways to have a family, one of the things we thought about was whether we might adopt children. And it's ridiculous because of the many issues and emotions that I am sure adoption throws up this is a small one, but the thing I kept coming back to was that I wanted to be able to give my children their names, and that if you adopt children over a certain age you cannot rename them.

I don't know what the guidelines and rules are for the age at which you don't rename, but I know that my daughter, at just eight months, already knows her own name and hears it many many times a day. I don't know what sense of self an eight month old has, but I know whatever sense of self she does have is irrevocably tied up to this name already. What's more, I always saw the name we gave her as a gift, our first gift to her other than life itself. When she lay on my tummy all slimy and new we told her her name, and later that day when we were alone I told her again and that I hoped she would like it and that it would be something she would cherish rather than a burden.

If for any reason we were unable to look after her, if she were to ever find herself in a new family, an idea that is itself unbearable, the idea of her name being changed is even more horrendous. I don't mean her not using her full name (we call her by a diminutive), or her choosing a nickname in future, but the complete denial of her name and the imposition of another one.

My daughter would be the same person whatever name we had given her, yet from the moment she had her name I feel it has shaped her and become part of her and grown up with her, etched on every molecule like a piece of DNA.

And though I love thinking about names, choosing names, imagining what I would call sextuplets of the same sex, analysing the names of friends' children, planning the names of my future children, I have come to the conclusion that names are pretty sacred to their owner from the moment they have them, and that once given they really aren't anyone else's to take away.

Friday, 2 September 2011

And the world just carried on

I was in bed last night when everyone else was watching news of the Libyan revolution on tv. I saw some tweets about it and considered going downstairs to watch the news but, well, I was in bed. Bad enough that a mere sniffle from the baby will have me out of bed in seconds, I don't need to get up for Gaddafi as well. 

Turns out that the world keeps, well, being a world, even when you opt out for a bit. I haven't really watched the news since the baby was born except to see how close to my house the riots were creeping last month. Not because, as many parents report, it's too sad, but because the only world I am interested in right now is governed not by coups and revolutions but by naps and purée and poo - poonamis, poocanos and poonatural disasters. Oh I might be too tired to watch the news but the fun that can be had with poo puns is endless. 

The first of the revolutions, the one in Tunisia, started as I struggled to nurse my two day old baby from my hospital bed. If you had asked me then what was going on in the world I could have told you that it was snowing in London, because my bed was by the window and I remember taking her from my breast to show the baby the snow. "You won't realise it now," I told her, "but snow in the south of England, it's a rare excitement. In years to come you will remember snow days off school, snowmen in our garden, snowball fights with kids on the street, perhaps even a white Christmas, as occasional magical days." She probably gave me the bemused look, my two day old baby, that she gives me now when I explain on our walks through the park that acorns come from oak trees and that there are no known cases of a conker fight 'having an eye out' and the rest of my cod knowledge of trees and nature. 

Did I look at the newspaper left by my bed and read about the revolution and say to my daughter that the world was changing, that her first year would probably go down in history as a year that changed the course of civilisation, that events in Tunisia would lead to events in Egypt and events in Libya and change across the Middle East? No, I told her about the snow and barely noticed events in the wider world.

And that has been the last eight months. My immediate world has become fascinating and the world at large seems of little relevance. It's as if having a child has turned me into a child, and only the immediate matters. I see the weather forecast for today is sunny. I do hope so. 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Fifty Campaigns to Shout About

While I was pregnant I wrote a book, Fifty Campaigns to Shout About. It's about issues that you should care about and what to do about them, from being nice to refugees to ending loneliness to cleaning up the seas. It's about changing the world one act at a time. It highlights the issues and makes concrete suggestions for things you could do to make a difference, from becoming a school governor to signing petitions to holding companies to account. It also has interviews with campaigners and case studies about successful campaigns so you can learn exactly how to write to an MP, hold an event or get the governments of the western world to drop third world debt. 

It is my second book. The first, The Noughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism, was published before I became pregnant. I guess then, in my pre baby days, I may have flippantly called it 'my baby'. Certainly I went all out to publicise it, talk about it and write about it. 

Fifty Campaigns to Shout About had competition however. It was published when my baby was five months old. Not only was I tired and incapable of writing articles to alert people to its existence, but I had a real baby on my mind. It slipped from my agenda a little. 

But my brain has come back a little now, I am less tired and I am raring to go. So forgive the self publicising (which all blogs are after all) but here is my nothing-like-a-baby-but-a-good-worthy-book-you-should-most-definitely-buy. 

My new superpower

It's funny what becoming a parent does to friendships. In some ways it has made my friendships much much deeper. The friends who are at the same stage in their life and who I can hang out with during the week when time does funny things such as making days last a very long time whilst simultaneously rushing by, those friends are saving my sanity by empathising and understanding and sharing their own tales of tiredness and snappiness and paranoia and joy. And the friends who clearly take joy in our baby, loving her because we are their friends and she is our child, we hugely appreciate them too.

Then there are the friends who continue to invite us to parties, and who understand that coming to our house is easiest for us at the moment, and who are nice if we have to cancel arrangements, they are great too. And even those who ignore the seismic event that happened in our life when our baby was born, we value those friends too as a reminder of how life was. In fact all our friends are great, and appreciated, it's why they are our friends. 

But in other ways having a baby diminishes friendships, finishes what falling in love with your partner started. Because though I would be sad to lose a friendship, in some cases very very very sad, actually all that really matters to me right now is the safety and wellbeing of my own little family. Which means that though I now have a major vulnerability, I also have a key new strength, a superpower that in many ways makes me untouchable, because as long as my husband and daughter love me and allow themselves to be loved by me, nothing else matters.