About Me

To paraphrase a blogger who is far more glamorous than me, like London needs another working mum blogging about her life. But hey, sometimes when you have a laptop on your knees in between serving oven chips and leftovers and starting bedtime you wonder how you became that woman, why you did and how you feel about it. Sometimes I even probe further - who is THAT woman, and did I ever aspire to be her? Do I like her? Could I learn to? Which is why I've started this blog...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Boundaries...

I'm going back to work in two months. Every time I think about it I feel a tiny bit sick. A kind of travel sick, really, as it is the result of the speeding lurching forward of time, rather than any emotional or other sense that I don't like my job. It is just sickening as I can't believe time's speedy march, or that Newborn is so big now.

I think back to last time and I remember the drill and knowing there will be some tears, I take heart that it will be okay. I take some deep breaths and dust down the 'lines' about being a working mother and putting my baby into nursery I have collected these past few years.

There are gooey ones, like how I like the idea of lots of people giving lots of input into his early years, like it is good for him to learn there's more than one way to sing The Wheels On The Bus (even if I know that my way, which includes a driver saying 'no more pushchairs', is the best way). Like the fact that I know he will be cherished there, just like his brother is, as there is a lovely vibe and lots of cuddles and something in the nursery's slightly scatty ethos which embraces the idea of a village raising a child. And that being in a caring situation with lots of other babies is the first baby step towards that important life lesson - that despite being so fucking AMAZING Newborn, like his brother, is not the centre of the universe. This is, of course, a lesson I cannot teach either of them as for me my babies are the universe.

There are the old standards too - 'my lovely Mother worked and it never did me any harm', and that research into child development which I have looked into seems to suggest there are decent arguments to be made but these are about the quality of good parenting, not the quantity. And there are the facts: we could not afford for me not to work, even if almost all our money is taken up in childcare fees.

Then there are the jokes. We all need them. An armoury of humour, for a sensitive subject. When it comes to being a working mother, mine centre on my body and my fervent desire for a hot, yes HOT, cup of tea. 'Can't wait to be back at work,' I laugh. 'At least there I'll get a lunch break'. And, depending on company, I sometimes acknowledge I'm looking forward to going back as in the eight years on my current job, no-one has yet sucked my tits whilst I was on the loo. So far.

Which got me thinking about mothering and our mother's bodies. There is a lot to say, and it is in my experience one of the profoundly shocking things about becoming a mother. Ignoring even for the moment the violation and ruin that birth sometimes wreaks on some poor unfortunates - our children's view of our bodies is quite something. To bastardise Freud, it seems true to me that when they are tiny they think you are the same thing: you and them, mother and child, one big fuzzy, squashy over-tired motherchild.

Even as they grow, my sons act like my body belongs to them. They stick my fingers in their mouths and theirs into mine, casually leave a little hand in my cleavage, absent-mindedly pawing my d├ęcolletage whilst reading or chatting or watching TV. They touch me and pull me, grab handfuls of me. They shove and lick and pull. Both have bitten me. One so badly, and on the boob, that I had to go to an NHS Walk In Centre in one of London's red light districts, whereupon I was asked by a nurse if I had sustained the human bite at work.

Today I'm wearing a thinnish summer top. Newborn claps his hands and screams with glee when he sees my boobs anyway; today he has a GLINT IN HIS EYE as he can half make them out. He sees them as his, just as Spider-boy expects and trusts he'll get his share of my Easter Eggs and attention and lap for cuddles. Just as both have, and always will, see my house as theirs. My poor house, which like my tits was once a monument I decorated to show the best of myself and my taste, and is now tattered and beleaguered and prematurely aged.

They walk in on me naked in the bath, and ignore any sense of my space. My bed, my arms, my head - all belong to them and I cannot go for a wee without someone squeaking or squalling or unleashing an avalanche of 'WHY's. Leading me back to the joked about imminent peace of a cubicle at work... But the train of thought has prompted the most dreadful realisation. I am the same as Spider-boy, and his attention-demanding brother. In fact I'm worse, as I am a Mum and I should know better.

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.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Instant faded snap shots

Above is an 'instagram' photo. A snap my husband took (and made?) with his i-phone app which allows you to play with the saturation of your digital photos, and give them a particular dated look. Smarter media analysts and philosophers of the everyday than I can debate how this speaks to a current oxymoron obsession with instantaneous nostalgia in the proper hifaluting terms.

But even I can see some of the reasons the glowing play of lights on these digital shots particularly appeals to my generation. For us, who remember using phone boxes and taking our holiday snaps to Boots to be developed, see in this look a familiarity, the familiarity associated with snaps which sat in perspex frames, on top of our parents' (remote-less) television sets, getting tinged and singed and faded by the afternoon sun, for many years. And because of this visual echo the pictures and the associated memory seem immediately transformed and given 'treasured' status.

'Instagram' adds years to the informal and easy moments captured on our phones. It brings our past into our present and reimages our digital records into artworks of fragile fadedness, replicants of family shots taken on cheap Kodak cameras with a wind on film and a four use flash bulb. The aesthetic appeal is emotional. The best of our childhood pictures and those of the generation before were somehow more special as there was such a huge element of luck in their creation. Family photos were such a lottery then. Sometimes months would pass before you knew what had been captured beautifully and what posed joke, group shot or gorgeous view was reduced to a smeared mass of nothing, a blinky mess or a never reachable image forever obscured by your Mum's thumb.

Is it a good thing? Imbuing what has just happened with the status of something loved for a long time? I'm not sure. There's definitely something in the craze for this sort of photographic trickery which links in with a need for immediate gratification, and reflects the strangeness of our socially networked over plugged in world which searches for an elusive 'authentic' and sees it only when the real is enhanced.

But we can be over serious about things which make us happy. And I like the snap up there. Parenting has taught me that life hurtles along very fast. Depression is powerful because it blurs and fucks around with time, leaving those in the pits hankering after time which has not only gone but is marching on rhythmically, without them. In this blog I've tried to explore the first year of Newborn's life, and learn what I can from thinking about that alongside my previous path of motherhood which was clouded by serious depression. Immediately I found myself preoccupied with clutching at memories and hoping enough of them will stick.

I hope I'll always remember the joy of chilling today when we read and ate and laughed and got chocolatey this Easter Sunday, a family of four, three lads and one girl still in our pyjamas, laughing on the lawn until early in the afternoon. And because I already feel nostalgic about it, I like to hope that this likeness of my boys larking around with hats under canvas in a little green tent at the end of my garden will be floating around in my memory somewhere anyway, whatever colour way or resolution is used to record or tamper with it. I'm old and wise enough to know though, that sometimes memories drift away or are replaced, so it is nice to have a reminder. Especially one where my boys look so very similar and adorable.

People keep saying to me that any minute now we'll lose the sun. These brighter than bright, washing drying, baby dazzling days will not last and we'll be left with a sodden, dimly lit Summer - miserable and chilly rather than gloriously chilled out.

I'm no weather woman, and have no affinity with the earth or the elements: my flowers only grow by luck; my lawn is a disgrace despite affectionate grooming. I hope they are wrong though. But even if they are right? This super bright Spring will surely not fade too much in my memory.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Post-It notes



I realise I was quite down on Spring earlier this week, when I wrote that I understood why there were so many suicides in these months of hope and burgeoning. And perhaps a bit over-serious too. I'm wont to be over-serious when I'm searching for the sunshine.

I had started a post a few weeks ago, about how Spring reminds me of my Grandfather, my Grandpa, K. We mowed our lawn for the first time recently, and I remember him doing this annual first of the year chore for my parents. I saw some Post-It notes on my best friend's landing (she uses them for work) and they reminded me too.

Spring was when he died and when he was born. His favourite colour, like mine and my mother's, was yellow. Bright and simple, yellow. I like my children in it (I so wished Grandpa had been able to hold Newborn in his thrilling canary babygro) and I like daffodils. I like their silly trumpets, which seem like cheeky heralds to the Spring.

I never felt I'd got the post right though, and in the interim a glorious pre-Summer has singed all of London's host of daffodils. They are now withered sticks, useful only for running through as swishy swashy grass when I'm on impromptu bear hunts with Spider-boy. But I'd hate to miss the moment completely.

Though being reminded of him brings sadness, and a sense of embarassment that I cope with his death by pretending it isn't true, I smile too when the spring sun hits my face, thinking of his gentle scribbler's take on the world and how lucky I've been to know him.

He was a leaver of notes, our Grandpa. If he'd been to stay, my sisters and I would find little notes in our bedrooms. Pretend comments on school books, additional pages in the books we were reading, rewrites of schoolgirl poetry, loving cartoons stickytaped to the mirror. They were always meticulously written (he was a sign-writer too), spaced out, and as charming and pleasantly irreverant as an unexpected but welcome tickle.

His proper medium was watercolours, which he sold and which have given pleasure to many. But somehow for me the best of his art was his love of well sharpened pencils and scribbles and rhymes, of limericks and sayings that struck him as odd, of puzzles and poking fun at the crazy glory of the world and the seriousness with which we all take it sometimes. With only a Post-It and a pencil he could make the world a Spring-ier place.

At his funeral service there was a troop of colleagues, decades after he had retired, many years after he had moved across the Midlands. One had brought with him a yellowed envelope, which had the soft velvety feel of aged stationary. In it was a card, a handmade Get Well Soon card my Grandpa had made for him when they worked together, a cartoon of the man with a joke about keeping his 'chins up'. This colleague had kept it, all these years, because it was beautiful and delicate but also raucous and funny and personal, a joke for him from someone aware that laughing at yourself and each other is as important to living your life as feeling the sun on your face and breathing in deep at the seaside to feel the salt air in your chest.

I read an epitaph that day. Borrowed words, which talked about death and the state of being dead as being in the next room, waiting for those we loved before. Though such ideas didn't always appeal to me I look for him in the air, or in yellow flowers, on my walls in the watercolours he painted for me and sometimes in my old books just in case there's a faded Post-It note. As Spider-boy would say, 'you never know'. In the two years since he died, I have occasionally been lucky and found one.

So I dedicated today, a day of sun lizard Park Life and stamping on the now crispy daffs, of giggling with both my boys, to putting one foot in front of the other and taking deep breaths and carrying on (sometimes without my sunglasses). Not least because Newborn really is outwearing his current alias: he's grown a tooth to remind me time marches on through all seasons and life is a forward momentum for the taking. The footprints and the weekend we have planned, to roam with our lads and enjoy the warmth, might not be a masterpiece, but they show we are going in the right direction.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

#sunglassesON

The last couple of weeks have contained a few not so great days. Along with school stress as noted, I had Newborn sickly again and Spider-boy making it quite clear that he preferred Daddy. 'Mummy?' he asked, all innocent eyes. 'Why does Daddy have to work so late. Why can't you work late, not him?' Like a razor to my soul, way to go him.

I had a brief online conversation with another blogger, where I confirmed my drug of choice when down in the dumps (aside from red wine) was chocolate. A Mars bar for breakfast -offering the perfect depressive hit, chocolate high packed with self-loathing.

One day last week I had two Creme Eggs. And some Galaxy Counters. What a bad girl, and they didn't even hit the spot. I decided to try and wrestle something from my mood, take the bad boy down and cheer the hell up before I pissed away another boy's early months on mooning and mooching and helplessly hating myself. We went out and bought sunglasses. Buying things per se is not always a good idea, though it is a trait I recognise in my depressed self from afar. But I'd say there was an argument for buying new, or at least in frugal times re-discovering old, sunglasses for the early blaring brightness of spring.

They don't hide the window to my soul, or even suit me terribly well. They did give me a reason to go out and a sense of being part of the throng though I haven't been finding the bid for summer terribly easy. I read this winter that most suicides occur in spring. I don't doubt it. A time when the overriding social expectation is for new buds and flowering out and fertile room for growth - all very well but actually a really good whip for your self-esteem if you don't feel terribly hot, whatever the weather.

And for me, it had an (almost upbeat) sense of defiance which was useful and the right response to too many tears. After all, I have small people who are learning from my example how to keep buggering on through the world. And though I hope they are learning how to find playfulness amongst the shadows, joy and beauty and laughter, I hope they are also learning too that things can continue with their own momentum when the world isn't feeling quite so solid and hopeful.

Depression can't be solved by hiding away, just as it can't, however cup half full we'd like to be, be solved by getting back on your horse and geeing yourself back into happiness. Acknowledging the daylight and the turning seasons though, perhaps without pausing to think too much about what they should or could represent, is more possible somehow from behind enormous sunnies. Using the gloom to face the sun, the inherently cool to moderate, and twisting the metaphor as tight as toffee, can harnesses just enough momentum for wobbly feet to keep inching along in those flip flops.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Glorious (four-eyed) birds


I spent half an hour tonight attempting to 'Madmen myself'; that is, to create an avatar based on the hit US show. I don't like photographs of myself as a rule, not because I am picky but because I am decidedly un-pic-y, ie not very photogenic at all.

Great, I thought, I can use the avatar generator instead to create a general impression of me. A flattering but comic sketch of myself where I look like me as drawn by whomever did the title sequence on Bewitched. Turns out I just don't have a 60s enough nose - all I could get right were the (decidedly) 60s tits and two accessories: a pair of specs on a chain and a forgotten, glamorous, now given up fag.

It is hard, though, to get a measure of what we look like and to whom. People's impressions of us are so strange. To Newborn I expect I'm still an enormous pair of knockers with a half-awake moon face on top. To my Uncle, he revealed last Christmas, I'll always be the original Hermione, all well-meant bossiness, massive messy hair and eyebrows. He's not far wrong.

Spider-boy occasionally says I'm beautiful. But he says that to all the girls, and most of the boys too. Especially his Grandad (my Father), who he called 'so so beautiful' this week. But Spider-boy like all children sees me refracted back through the prism through which I view him. I was explaining what university is today, and told him it was a place you go to learn lots and lots about one thing. He had been criticising my storytelling and as a slightly peeved English graduate I asked him what he thought I studied. 'Was it me?' he asked, sure that was the only likely (and worthwhile?) thing for me to know all about.

But back to the avatar, which only really looks like the now non-smoker me in the curve of my bosom where some thick rimmed specs are nestled. And it got me thinking about glasses. I wear glasses, like my Mum, and have taken to letting them hang round my neck librarian style so I don't lose them. They are clearly important. I need them to see, of course, but I don't need to actually wear specs, I could have surgery or use lenses. But I don't have contacts (although my Mum and sisters all do). I wear glasses though I'm not even sure they suit me, and here's why.

I remember being in a London station (London Bridge?) on the day my Mummy first got contacts. She must have been around 23/24. Very young, and very beautiful. She had always had large plastic framed glasses, being a student in the 1970s. When she lost them and revealed her lovely eyes floating in her milky face what did I say? Not 'you're beautiful Mummy', but 'I don't like it'. I didn't like the new face, unframed by specs, at all, as it wasn't mine.

Mum has the sort of darling 60s face which should have a pill box hat on a crop of her glorious ginger mane. And which photographs nicely especially when she smiles. She looks fine with glasses and incredible without. I was no accurate critic then but I'm beginning to think my pre-school self is alive and well in my face fashion choices, I'm emulating the mothering I got from my mother, right down to copying her face.

Glasses are everyday objects. The wonderful JK Rowling, a heroine of mine for many reasons which go beyond getting kids to read 800 page novels and into her castle and her normalness and her political donations, may sex them up but we all know really they are very staid and humble and not that flashy.

But the whole issue puts me in mind of my favourite film. And my second favourite bit in it: a scene where a teen lad, Harold, is wooing his almost octogenarian girlfriend Maude and she explains her unusual choice of favourite bird. Maud is as game a bird that ever breathed in cinema, and her shtick is most certainly celebrating the transformative beauty in what is commonly cast aside as ugly or everyday.

"Dreyfus once wrote that on Devil's Island he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls," she says, surveying the cawing beasts swooping at the rubbish dump in front of them. "To me," she adds, "they will always be glorious birds."

Saturday, 16 April 2011

letting go...

I've read some great blogs about parenting instinct recently. Instincts at birth, instincts regarding sleep, feeding, education.

Today I tried a very brief experiment - to avoid the instinct to NO. By the instinct to NO I mean that temptation on a Saturday morning to embrace any request from a whiny toddler with a negative, or even, simply, with trepidation.

I didn't mean allowing chaos to reign completely, but just letting the day be a little more flexible. Is it disastrous if he wants a different cup or toast not cereal? Could we play with bath toys outside? Do little babies *like*Octonauts and would it be okay if they watch it?

My main impetus was not to do with Spider-boy actually, but his brother who has developed, simultaneously, a deceptively huge wingspan (when carried at the hip) and the habit of screaming at the top of his voice like a shrill egret when he doesn't get what he wants. What he wants, of course, is usually my nipple in his mouth.

And this is good, my intention not being serious or academic (rather than my budding eagle sleep thief) as the experiment was short lived. Spider-boy, ever vigilant for parental differences, deviations or weaknesses on which to swoop could smell the proverbial from the off. Sensing a shift in power, a window of opportunity whilst drawing at the table he smiled. 'You know guys,' he says, 'do you know what we need with these crayons? GLITTER'.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The reality of imaginary babies

Walking down the high street earlier this week I got a surprise and glorious peek at a friend’s teeny tiny baby. A proper few day old newborn which made my Newborn seem enormous and his brother positively freakish. Very cute he was too, her lad, scrunched up and cross-eyed and basking in his parents' blissed out fug of happiness.

His folks and I roared with laughter about the disparities between our expectations and our experience of birth and parenting. His mother, like me after my first, was of the view that positive pain was not everyone's experience of a long and complicated labour. We agreed small babies, like many things, are better out than in. And she confessed she had wanted a boy and, happy as she was that he was safe and well and here, she was also pleased that she no longer had to pretend to be impartial in that regard.

Today I lunched with an expectant girlfriend who finds out tomorrow what her twin bump contains. Exciting news ahead for her and her husband. She asked me what I thought she was having? ‘Girls?’ I ventured, unsure of what she wanted to hear. My hesitation was not to do with thoughts about gender politics, though, but fall out from the ephemeral daydream world of our imaginary babies; the kids we thought we would or should or would never have. They live in a crowded nursery, alongside the children that others expected from us, the walls painted with the names we earmark as we bumble along to adulthood.

I have a family member with no children whose parents talk often of what a good father he'd be. I know friends and family who've lost pregnancies and the real and imagined/hoped for baby with them. Even pregnancies lost very early have left the ghost of a future lost for some.

I know the shock and sadness (and not very often talked about panic) which I've seen in the eyes of those who have had that cataclysmic news that they may not be able to have children, or just can't. I wonder if that panic and loss reaches back in time to the expectations of youth, as well as forward to a wanted and expected everyday future that may not be.

I can't write well about it as I can't really imagine that pain, apart from the dallying in it that most people who actively try for a child indulge in in the middle of the night. If you are planning for parenting it is only natural that a tiny part of you shudders at the thought that maybe it won't happen. But even that thought is enough to feel desperate for those souls who've heard they are infertile for real. What a dreadful thud to rock about your memory and your hopes, it must make you seasick with misery and fury and regret at a lost timeline which fucking well should be there, if a part of you always thought you'd be a parent.

These imaginary babies are potent and real, crawling around in the background, echoes of our toddler games, teenage pill panics, dollies, babysitting experiences, families. They are born of our sense of our self and others’ sense of us: I’ve heard many variations on ‘I can’t imagine X with a boy / She was always going to have girls’.

I always thought I'd have a girl. If I'm honest it was quite a specific thought as well as a wish. A girl, with ginger hair, called Matilda/Mathilde or Cate. A girl I was quite sure of, I realised when I did have boys, in that I could feel her presence humming (like insects in the background of a summer day) in the rhythm of my broader expectations for life. I am one of four girls: FOUR. I am used to girls. I'm the eldest too. I've dressed girls, and bathed them, changed them and winded them, hugged them and sucked splinters from their knees. I am a girl. And somehow my husband's softness and kindness felt to me like he'd be the father of girls too.

In my About Me I talk with wry fondness about that novel I was going to write on my first maternity leave. There are far more embarrassing dreams and visions relating to motherhood that my naive pre-baby self harboured quite closely to her heart. But my firm conviction that I'd have a girl? Shit, I was sure that would happen.

What does it mean? Nothing, really. Did it make me sad, when I found out I was having boys? No, not exactly sad. But it was strange. And I had a very peculiar jolting sensation deep in my mythical stomach muscles when I heard my second was a boy. It wasn’t disappointment in him, I hadn't met him yet after all. But it was one hell of a realisation that it was possible, likely even, probable that I would never hold my girl to my chest.

In a rare, for me, example of sensible thinking I moved beyond any longing for something that wasn’t happening quite fast. I went further and was excited, both times, about a properly unmapped future. A chance to move beyond my incessant inward looking and out to the real world. I still am, in fact, and I'm grateful as ever to my never expected boys for that. My mini tribe of lads offer a brilliant deviation to my roadmap, though they are so present ‘in my now’ as US psychs would say, that I rarely get to reflect on what I wanted ‘in my then’ any more.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Taking a new view of babies. And Pants.

So the sun keeps shining. I met a friend at a local park today. We were chatting as our three-year-olds played sharks and monsters and pirates, climbed mini hills and flung themselves down slides. She offered to hold Newborn (for whom I'll have to come up with a new name). She understands pukey pukey babies, hers, she sighed, was only sick every time he moved.

She added that when you have a small one you are holding all the time, you don't always get the chance to view them fully from a distance. Too true. Not least as, when you have a baby prone to periods of velcro-ness, if they will go to others the temptation to run to the loo/put on mascara/drink a hot cup of tea is very strong.

Turns out he's just as cute and engaging when he's giggling for someone else, and I can look him up and down rather than just glance at his snuggled in head. More so, actually, if it is their hair he is eating and vomming on.

And talking of putting things on show, which are often tucked away, someone suggested I repeat a poem joke I wrote in a comment a few posts ago. On the subject of knickers (what else) I dashed off a doozy of a ditty with huge love and affection for kids' lit heroes Nick Sharratt and Giles Andreae.

I wondered, you see, if they should write a third volume of the wonderful Pants books for the hoards of Mums who buy and read the first two volumes to their shrieking toddler fans. Be thankful I can't illustrate any of it!

Pants 3 - with immense gratitude and huge apologies to Nick Sharratt and Giles Andreae

Pants that suck and pants that tuck,
pants when you don't give a fuck.

Signed pants, refined pants,
Tena-lady lined pants.

Clever pants, hot weather pants,
pants for wearing when you feel sad and small.

Leather pants, end of your tether pants, when you've knackered up your nethers pants...
sorry, we don't talk of them at all.

Net pants, Wet pants, Give what you can get pants,
pants which look sexy but leave you sore.

Fly pants, guy pants, you don't even have to try pants,
don't talk to me of dry pants (not likely any more).

Friday, 8 April 2011

Muff, guff, whales and stuff


I posted that pictures of the Whales on Wednesday, because I had an inappropriately immature flash harumph about the whole sorry mess I feel I'm in regarding physio.

The picture is of Blue Whales, whose sexual organs are so discretely packed away it is hard to tell them apart. It was taken at the Natural History Museam aka The Dinosaur Museum as Spider-boy marvelled at the enormous whale model and I, as was alas always the way for me at school, sought out the cheeky and rude bits of science and remembered them. That was a good day, a trip with the boys, us striving for the family life we want in this great monstrous metropolis.

Posting the picture was slightly childish and I suspect my point would have been better illustrated with a picture of an egg - ergonomic, smooth, protective, and likely to pop out much faster and with less damage (chickens do it daily without stitches, no?). Although I'd stand by the sentiment that the long-term fall out from birth injuries is the biggest pile of cock going so I've repeated the picture for you.

Anyway after all my harping about straight talking I felt bad about the silence. Fanny physio was fine, really, as it always is. I chatted about how it was going, squeezed and had the strength of my muscles assessed and rated.

It is embarrassing. Not because my snatch is on display and I'm discussing wetting myself despite being a 33 year old woman - I steel myself against that by pretending it isn't happening. No, it is embarrassing as I am hugely competitive and find a body so wanting when it comes to strength and tone such a drag. I'm also squeamish about the scatological - which I cover up by being rude and frank. When the physio referred to the 'bulge' of a (shhh - my) prolapse I nearly passed out with shame, though I'd happily drop the c---bomb in public.

The physio said in terms of muscle strength I have moved up from 2 out of 5, to 2.5 out of 5. Shit progress, I feel, for three months hard and fast clenching but she said I'm being hard on myself. She added, after I explained I couldn't handle that kind of failure, that when I reach the illusive '3' I'll be able to lift my older son without fear and do other Herculean tasks. Running for buses, no less, which will be a bloody relief as it really is Hobson's Choice: be late, or be sodden. Her encouragements were not condescending, she's a sparky bright button well aware of how upsetting it all is. It was just the truth, and, I guess, her way of saying a form of normality is on the horizon. She added: 'Thatwoman if you weren't in trouble, you wouldn't be here', which, I guess, is also true.

In SPD terms she tells me to hang on in there, watch I don't spread my legs too far (fnaar), and things will improve when hormone levels change. All good(ish) news then, and at least I didn't piss on her.

I feel a bit sulky (if I'm honest, like a crazy failure). I know I shouldn't though. Physiotherapy is a long game, after all. I knew that before I got pregnant a second time. I also knew that I would need physio again; there have been no real surprises or shocks.

I know that underground at EGA there is no phone reception but there are decent and hard-working NHS professionals who are upfront and clear and encouraging and kind. I also knew there should be a subtitle to the department name reading:No quick fixes here. The crutches and bandages are there to hold you together while the real quiet and slow work takes place in earnest, out of sight. And, for some of you lucky devils, INSIDE YOUR KNICKERS.

And well today, the sun is shining, not metaphorically, not to make the post end neat, but really and like 1976. I am full of Galaxy Counters and rants about sloppy news coverage, midweek, suggesting as an educated middleclass working woman everything* is MY FAULT.

And this, indignation in the heatwave, is better than shame in the shadows. So I'll take it and move on.

* the plight of the working man, at the very least

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Life. School. Update. 2

Bestfriend, she of many previous wise words and catcher of tears, has embraced positive thinking about schoolgate-gate. She arrived with her family for pizzas and plastic car games in the garden last night. As our kids frolicked in the evening sun I realised she was toting a bottle of Champagne.

Why? To celebrate getting into school, of course! said she. Champagne, with pizza, in the garden, on a week night. In your face OFsted and reputations and sharp elbows; bring on sports days and conkers and gym bags and plimsolls at your local state school.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Hi Ho... Update. Sort of.

What would be wrong with this? All neatly tidied away, no real difference between the sexes...

Hi Ho...


...To the snatch doctor we go. Today, we are back to nether region #nostigma folks. Flange assessment and physiotherapy awaits and Newborn and I are dressed to the nines in honour of the sunny day; he's in a still-glorious red, Nordic hand-me-down 'gro and I'm in a black and coral dress over linen trousers with sunglasses to salvage a sense of attractiveness and harness the summer mood.

I had a brief fashion dilemma - do I wear Mrs. Doubtfire-esque suck me in skin coloured pants or frilly knickers? As I'm going to bear (and bare) all and probably cough and piss and discuss poo and be prodded I don't know why that seems important, but because I have to find myself distractions I've gone for the ludicrous compromise of unattractive but shapely pants and shaving my legs.

We are chic and clenching and ready to rumble, wearing our anxieties with our very best togs. Here's hoping that a few months of squeezing will have done something improving and important. I haven't the strength of character to go into grizzly details, but I bloody hope things are on the up down there.

This said, as discussed on my guest post for crapatpregnancy, I do know my situation is not all that bad. I know lots of people who are piddling on their linen trousers in the dark and all alone. So my stresses about incontinence, and flipping and flapping about heading down to the depths of UCLH's Physiotherapy Dept, Urogynae Physiotherapy Dept no less, are nowhere near as bad as worrying about urogynea issues without an appointment and a sense that help is possible and on the way. In that spirit, you poor beleaguered flanged-out readers, I will report back.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Life. School. Update

Spider-boy has a place, and for that in our over subscribed borough we have decided to be grateful. A place at the school closest to his house, which might not be one of the darlings of schooling folk lore but looks safe, and normal, and colourful and fun. Phew.

For all my waxing lyrical, and residual worries about the new mountain of angst (making friends, losing touch with other local friends, learning things, having fun, being challenged, how the hell we'll sort out childcare) from here on in we are saying, regardless of OFsted labels, that this is good. Excellent, in fact, and very exciting.

Spider-boy has his usual arch take on the entire exercise thankfully devoid of my penchant for drama and insanity. He is more than little disappointed that the school uniform is not his favourite colour, and that he isn't going somewhere with everyone he plays with at nursery every day. But he says it will be all right as he knows what happens at school. You have to listen ALL DAY, apparently. He assures me he's on it.

Life. School.

So D-day is upon us and we find out today where Spider-boy goes to school. And the likelihood is he will go to a school that on paper is quite poor sounding, but in reality, well, has nice classrooms a good vibe, kids who like it there and is the school nearest his house.

I've been crying and weeping and feeling some how sucked into a chaos of bad thoughts. Is it depression or me that is barking? Have I finally lost the plot? Will he be cherished? Will he be safe? Will he learn enough? Is life always unfair? Have I well and truly fucked everything up? Will we pay the mortgage.

I'm not really crying about his school, although I have a lot to rant about regarding school 'choices' and how they aren't really choices for most people. I think I'm crying because as a working Mother I do feel strange that my glorious not-yet-four-year-old who is still working things out and exploring and not quite ready for the socialisation of school is leaving.

I worry he'll offend people, won't make friends, will be too clever or not clever enough. I worry he will be led astray or pull others in the wrong direction. In short; that he'll be me, all over again. I appreciate how narcissistic this is, and how unfair. Spider-boy is his own person, his own precious self, how dare I project onto him like this. But when I see my side of the family in his squinty smile or over sensitivities, his temper and his raucous jokes I see the little girl with a long fringe and her hand up for every answer, upsetting some girls without realising it and being in trouble, crying into pillows over what others say and, perhaps crucially, a girl without a Mum at the school gates to stick up for her.

That isn't a slur on my mother. I don't know why it worries me at all, in fact, as I know from experience she worked but was always present at my schools and in my school life. Wonderfully present, actually, especially with books and reading and chatting about our days. My mum did stick up for us. Always, like a mother bear. Sometimes even if we were wrong. She used to ring up the school and have guts for garters. I'll be her, I'm sure, or at least hope.

But I also know having not your mum collecting you means you need to foster a form of independence early. As a child I learned the hard way that unfortunately this independence of spirit isn't appreciated by some grown ups when you are nine. I once engaged in a huge stand up row with a mum at the school gates who told me off for something. I felt the sting of injustice and shouted back saying she shouldn't be telling me off as she wasn't my mummy and things escalated on the street by the school into a row between my impervious upstartish spirited defence of working women and her criticisms of parenting which would produce such a wretch (all implied criticisms of my mum for being at work). It earned me a reputation as a loud mouth and unruly.

I like to think it spoke to a strong sense of justice on my part and my love for my parents: even now I'm fully grown and more nuanced I still think the school gate mum who picked me out, knowing I had a childminder not my mum there, was swooping down on an easy picking.

I think my concerns also speak to other fears and worries too - my sense of impending doom and confusion about whether I am making good enough choices across the board. I have another lad ready for nursery soon. I feel I'm placing him on a track which leads away from my cradling arms and out into the world. I know, know, know this is the aim, and am desperate to see my little birds in action as the glide from the nest and soar. But it feels so soon. So I cry and ask myself should I work? Should we be living in London? Should we both be working? Am I sacrificing someone to my principles and, if so, who (me, my husband, the kids)? Are we doing enough? Will I wind up on *happy* pills and in therapy forever, always broken and wobbling slightly wishing I could stop the world and get off for a bit?

Mainly though the naval gazing shows me how much more than Spider-boy's first school this has become in my head. And reminds me that I have no right to project so much onto him and that for all the tears on my pillow last night D Day must be about a blue polyester sweatshirt with a nametag ironed in it which I know he'll wear with pride. About my son's teacher and peg and classroom and pencil case and all the things he will understand as positive about this transition. Things as his Mother I must forever now defend and cheer and praise because they will be a part of who he is and the last thing he needs is my anxiety rubbing against his plimsolls in his PE bag come September.