Category Archives: Parenting

Gosh. (12 + 5)

Hello, little person!




I am the ship in which you sail,
little dancing bones,
your passage between the dream
and the waking dream,
your sieve, your pea-green boat.
I’ll pay whatever toll your ferry needs.
And you, whose history’s already charted
in a rope of cells, be tender to
those other unnamed vessels
who will surprise you one day,
tug-tugging, irresistible,
and float you out of your depth,
where you’ll look down, puzzled, amazed.

Maura Dooley


Fatty (12 weeks)

Hooray for milestones! TJ is -6 months today, and while I don’t feel much different from yesterday, I do feel like we’ve achieved something, he/she and I. He has reached the impressive size of a plum and grown some phalanges, and I’ve got through another month at work and become a world-class expert at sucking in stomach bulges. The later it gets, or the more I’ve eaten, the harder it is to prevent myself from looking like it was me, in fact who Ate All The Pies. (Note: I don’t at all mind growing a belly – the novelty of getting fat without recrimination and having to buy lots of new clothes seems like a wonderful thing to me – but while nobody knows about it, it’s awkward). So wear a long scarf. Sit close to the desk. Cross your arms a lot. Don’t go to the printer very much, and if you must, make yourself as tall as possible to stretch out the stomach. And then I get home, undo my belt, and see how many things I can balance on my huge belly. It’s all go in this house at the moment, I can tell you.

My scan is on Tuesday. To say I CANNOT WAIT would be an extreme understatement. I hope we catch him or her in the act of licking my uterus, because why else did he need a tongue so early? I ask you.

PS – A very bad idea to watch ‘One Born Every Minute’ for the first time. I can’t cope with little blue babies – I was sobbing into my duvet after five minutes.

In Short (11 + 5)

I don’t want to feel sick anymore I don’t want to feel sick anymore I don’t I don’t I don’t I don’t. The end.

Frog Livers (10 + 1)

What follows is a wondering about apricots.

I have recently made a switch from dried bananas to dried apricots in the difficult hour where breakfast has been digested but it’s too early for rice cakes (gag). Banana chips are mostly tasteless, always come in shapes too awkward for a human mouth, and are so hard that everyone within a ten-metre radius can hear my endless crunching. Apricots are a nice change, but confuse me.

  1. Why are they called ‘dried apricots’ when they’re all squishy and sticky and reminiscent of some small animal’s internal organs? They’re not dry in the least – they’re like little frog livers.
  2. Sometimes the end bits are brown and shrivelled, like a frog’s liver that’s been left out too long in the sun. Is it ok to eat these bits?
  3. Today in my very last apricot I found a little grey something buried in a fold of skin that I had to pick out with my fingernail. It was like a frog’s liver that had recently undergone an operation and the frog surgeon had accidentally left his sandwich in there and sewn the frog patient back up. What the heck?! (I ate the apricot anyway. It was a desperate moment.)

In other news, I saw someone on Facebook today saying they hated sunny days in February. I wanted to add a comment underneath along the lines of ‘What kind of WEIRDO hates sunny days in February?’, but I didn’t know the person so I thought it might be rude. In other other news, I just read Room by Emma Donaghue and it was wonderfully good. I read it in two sittings, and wouldn’t mind reading it again straight away, and you know the only other books of which that is true are Wolf Hall and Goodnight Mister Tom, so that’s pretty elevated company.

A Letter (9 + 6)

Dear TJ,

I hope you like pot noodles. Your umbilical cord will start working in a couple of weeks, and that’s pretty much all I can stomach right now. Which is your favourite flavour? Mine is chicken and mushroom.

PS – What are you doing to my insides? I spend more time on the loo than I do asleep.

PPS – If one of the qualities of a good mother is sheer, bloody-minded determination, then by the time I’ve got through another month of first-trimester full-time-journal-editing, I’ll be a natural. Seven hours a day is an Olympian feat (I will tell you the meaning of Olympian when you’re old enough to like dictionaries as much as your mama).

Sing When You’re Winning (8 + 6)

I highly doubt I’ll manage to continue at this high rate of bloggy output for the whole 9 months. But while I have the inspiration (and a big pile of washing-up to put off for half an hour longer)…

A better day today, in that I wasn’t so morose, but a considerably worse one as far as toilet-floor-time went. I felt sick enough to throw up my entire cringing stomach from the moment I got up, and it never really went away. I ate every last thing in my lunchbox in an attempt to stave it off, but it only got worse, so I only proofread a page and a half at a time and kept nipping back out to dry-heave spectacularly (and as silently as possible) over numerous toilet bowls. I vaguely remember what having personal dignity is like, but officially have none left.

However. What I do have is lovely family. I stopped off after work for cake and hot chocolate with my mother-in-law, and went away feeling approximately ten thousand million times better. How delightful it is to have people who really do think you’re brilliant. Such a nice change from how I often feel about myself. It makes it so much easier to be kind and generous and forgiving and all those other things I’m not very good at. This is a good parent lesson to learn, I think: believe the best of your offspring, and they’ll generally choose not to disappoint you.

On the way home – much later than I usually drive, these days – I had to put on a musical soundtrack and do some truly outrageous expressive singing to keep myself pepped up. Oh, I emoted like a Broadway star. I brandished fists, I gestured, I sang so loudly and in so many registers that I lost my voice. This was tremendous fun, but unfortunately seemed to trigger my gag reflex. So all my grand posturing was punctuated throughout with more retching. I choose to believe that this gave my performance a certain emotional honesty, though I am glad it was too dark for anyone to see me.

Sleep-Boxing and Sadness (8 + 5)

People suck, sometimes, don’t they? Today I had a day in which people sucked, including myself. I woke up so tired I felt like I’d been sleep-boxing with Christian Bale, and he’d beaten me up good and proper with his Batman muscles. After a long morning, in which I was mostly depressed about the people-sucking thing, I thought I’d try eating my sandwiches at my desk, like the good old days (eating them lying down in the car is tricky). I’d only taken one bite when I retched incredibly loudly, right there in my open-plan office. It’s ok, I didn’t throw up, and I’m pretty sure I managed to pass it off as a burp. But what a sad state of affairs it is when convincing twenty of my nearest work colleagues that I let out a massive belch at my desk is a good result. I went to lie down in the car, wriggled uncomfortably with heartburn for half an hour, and cried fat salty tears into my undercover car blanket.

Things might’ve continued in this dismal fashion if I hadn’t discovered that Timothy bought me some more battered fish and another Goodfellas pizza. I have a weird obsession at the minute with battered fish. So we had some for dinner, and then I went to bed, probably for another good kicking from Christian Bale. But at least there was battered fish. And a digestive biscuit with jam on. Oh yes.

Midwifery (8 + 4)

I am sat on my sofa eating pepperoni pizza for lunch, with sunshine streaming in through the living room blinds and a feeling of happy-happy-happiness all through me. This is the pizza, no doubt; it is also the sunshine; and it is definitely the fact that I just came back from my first midwife’s appointment and had a thrilling time.

Not that the appointment itself was anything exciting. My midwife came into the waiting room to get me and rather charmingly handed me a plastic drinking cup and asked me to go procure her a urine sample before she’d even asked my name. I didn’t think urine sample requests were suitable for the hearing of an entire roomful of sick people, but what do I know? I’d come prepared, and hadn’t had a single toilet break all morning. My little bladder was crying, and was most relieved afterwards.

Once I’d gone upstairs rather shamefacedly holding my cup, there was a lot of filling-in of forms, during which I denied having all manner of congenital defects and infections, and then she measured my height and weight. I was slightly underweight, apparently, which may nominally be a bad thing, but does give me free reign to eat pizza, so hurrah for that. Finally the piece de resistance was depriving me of about half my blood volume for testing. I staggered back up the hill clutching my bulging envelope full of ‘SO, YOU’RE PREGNANT’ documentation with the easy-to-read title facing the main road, and was so iron-deprived I didn’t even realise till afterwards that this might blow my little secret to everyone who happened to be passing in a car.

So, nothing unexpected. The best bit was that she spent the whole time acting as though I were pregnant, even booking me some scans and throwing around words like ‘birthing pool’, which means I actually am. Obviously the positive pregnancy tests and the exhaustion and extreme aversion to rice cakes were pretty good clues, but without really telling a lot of people and with no bump to speak of, it’s hard to believe it’s really happening. Well, it is.

I am fairly freaked out by the insanely detailed, colour-photographed breastfeeding booklet they included in my envelope – the over-sized boobs of strange women are not what I want to see, ever – but come September I will doubtless be studying it with great attention.

The best thing I learned today is that TJ has grown himself a tongue. Rad.

Hey Baby! (8 weeks)

I had a really brilliant idea today.

Here is a secret: I am covertly and stealthily growing a baby. Right at this moment! But because little TJ* is only -7 months today (happy negative birthday, little grape!) no one knows about it except our immediate families. And my boss. And my two friends at work who are most likely to notice my suspicious absence from yoga. Oh, and my Relief Society President, who is all-seeing and all-knowing and who also caught me retching into a bowl when I should’ve been in Sunday School.

Anyway, no one. So I can’t write about it, right? But wait: I can write about it, and keep it in a file, and then when TJ is -6 months and safely attached to my uterus, and everyone knows, I can put it all up on the blog and back-date the entries. WordPress lets you do that, because they understand about secret foetuses.

I have wanted a baby for eeever so long, but we weren’t allowed to start making one until I wasn’t paying the mortgage. In the long meantime I have had to be content with holding other people’s babies and thinking about possible baby names, and deciding which of our genetic characteristics would go together best to formulate a super-child (‘OK, my hair. But your skin. My ears, your ear canals.’ Etc. Etc.). We have been married almost three years and baby-making wasn’t at all on the agenda until last month, at which point we…promptly made a baby. I cannot find words to express how lucky I know we are to have conceived so quickly. Except nothing’s lucky, of course: we are blessed. And Heavenly Father has obviously chosen another time to teach me about patience, for which, big reliefs.

So my little grape-child has been growing for eight weeks today. Mostly he/she looks like a watery alien, or so the BBC tells me. Check out that head! He’s** been pretty busy the past month growing major organs, and this week’s task has been getting that old spinal cord over and done with. Much busier, in fact, than me, as my body has been treating me to the following indignities:

    • Absolute deathly tiredness. I want to sleep ALL THE TIME. I am, in fact, spending my lunch hour curled up incognito in the back of my car under a blanket (I put the blanket over my head in case people walk by and think I’m weird. This way they’ll just think I’m an oddly shaped, lumpy blanket. With hair). Then I get home and flop down all dramatically on the sofa or the bed, and don’t move again. Ironically, I’m not actually sleeping very well.
    • Initially, pretty awful stomach cramps. My uterus got all uppity with the rest of the stuff in my belly and pushed it out of the way with really sharp elbows. It’s not so bad now.
    • Diarrhoea. Enough said there, although I will say this: like I wasn’t spending enough time in the loo already. Thanks, BOWELS.
    • Sickness. Oh, the sickness. I’m not throwing up, I just want to, all the time. I have discovered that the key is to eat constantly. So I shove another banana chip in my mouth as soon as the previous one’s been chewed. I’m fairly tired of banana chips. I’m even tireder of rice cakes, which will be forever sent to the gastronomic hell reserved for cardboardy, tasteless inedibilities. Still, I’m trying not to perma-eat chocolate hobnobs, so it has to be healthy stuff. I already have enough guilt from the pretty certain suspicion that, for the first week of TJ’s little existence, I ate nothing but Domino’s pizza (it was a good week).

The next entry will be dedicated to describing the many wonderfulnesses of Timothy. I am pretty much the worst person ever to live with at the moment, but he’s without doubt the very best. Till then: grow, little TJ, grow!

* He is TJ because Timothy has long insisted that a) we are having a man-child; and b) the baby will be named TJ Junior, after himself. Both of these things are jokes. I think. But TJ is a useful foetus name in the meantime.
** Writing he/she is cumbersome. I will stick to ‘he’, if you bear in mind that we’re equally likely to have a girl.

It moves; it cries; it lives

Clay animation has come an awfully long way since 1908’s intriguingly titled ‘The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream’ (produced by the manufacturing company of one Thomas Edison – was there anything that chap didn’t invent?). Last week I saw Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max, and discovered something entirely new. Comedy comes naturally to clay, obviously. It can be creepy, too: just try to watch the empty-eyed, silent penguin in The Wrong Trousers looking suddenly at the camera without jumping a mile. And you only need to see Jack Skellington dressed as a tattered Santa Claus, falling spectacularly from a blown-up sledge in The Nightmare Before Christmas to find it captivating and otherworldly as well. After Mary and Max, though, here’s a new find: clay can be easily as poignant, dysfunctional and human as – well – humans.

It’s the story of plain, neglected 8-year-old Mary, living in a bland, sepia-toned suburb of Melbourne. The narrator explains that her eyes are the colour of ‘muddy puddles’, and she has a distressingly poo-coloured birthmark on her forehead. She’s neglected by her distracted father and alcoholic mother, and one day starts a correspondence with an address she finds in a Manhattan phone book: Max, a middle-aged, obese, atheist Jew with Asperger Syndrome. Max lives in a film-noirish greyscale world of social anxiety, in which his only contacts to the outside world are his therapist, his fat-fighting class, and the man at the bus stop who keeps dropping cigarette butts on the floor.

There are some hard, ugly themes in this film, including severe depression, alcohol abuse and mental illness. The rumbling, fairy-tale tones of the narrator stand in grimly ironic contrast to the dreary situations of the characters. That doesn’t diminish the grace of the storytelling and soundtrack, though (the final scene is the most stunning use of Puccini’s Humming Chorus I’ve seen in a while), nor the oddball humour of Mary and Max’s letters.

‘Do you have a favourite-sounding word?’ asks Max, ‘My top-five are “ointment”, “bumblebee”, “Vladivostok”, “banana” and “testicle”’.

In the end, the grace wins out over the sadness. Friendship really can transform a miserable life. It’s amazing what they can do with plasticine, these days.

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