Saturday, July 26, 2014

Careers Advice

Dear Mr OB,

Thank you for completing our Careers Recommendations and Advice Procedure (C.R.A.P.). Based on an extensive meta-analysis of conversations you have had recently, these are our best recommendations for the future career choices that are most suited to you:

Analysis 1:

Mummy: Come on, time for a bath.
You: I can't have a bath Mummy. There are no mats. If you don't have mats you might slip and fall.

Recommendation: Health and Safety Officer

Analysis 2:

Mummy: Five more swings and then we're getting off. Let's count. One . . .
You: One
Mummy: Two
You: One
Mummy: Three
You: Zero!

Recommendation: Investment Banker

Analysis 3:

You (in the car): Look Mummy! A bus! A tree! A camper van! A truck! A dog!

Recommendation: Tour Guide

Analysis 4:

Mummy: Do you see that tractor over there?
You: That's not a tractor.
Mummy: Yes it is. Look, it's got big tractor wheels and a trailer on the back.
You: No Mummy, that's not a tractor, it's a small tractor.

Recommendation: Politician

Monday, July 21, 2014

Water Baby

Just under one year ago I posted about how difficult my son found it to enjoy himself in the pool at my parents' house, and how proud I was when he finally ventured off the steps.

It's less than two months since I shared about his achievement at swimming lessons, finally getting his first badge after months and months of terror and tears.

We are at my parents' again, and around the pool again, and to see him fearlessly propelling himself around the water (with the aid of serious floatation devices!), jumping in off the sides to waiting arms and begging every morning for Papy to get the lid off the pool so he can get in the water in sunshine and rain - well, I'm always proud of my little man, but this has been a pretty special week!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Adventures in BLW

Dear Future Adopter of Baby Girl,

It may be that right now you're thinking, "BLW? What on earth is that?!" If that is the case then I can reassure you that it's nothing you need to worry about and you can move right along. Nothing to see here.

However if, as I am sure is the case, you have been preparing for becoming an adoptive parent by finding out everything there is to know about adoption, parenting and adoptive parenting, then you will probably know all about BLW - Baby-Led Weaning. You may even be wondering whether your future child is experiencing this latest and most marvellous trend in weaning technologies.

Let me reassure you. This house is definitely a BLW house.

Well, in theory at least.

Admittedly, Baby Girl is only the second child I've weaned. Still, I suppose that makes me about as experienced as the average person. My first was my very own OB. I was nervous; anxious to make the right choices. I read up on things. I waited the required six months despite OB's seven-bottle-a-day habit which included no less than two night feeds.

I was aware that feeding your child jar after jar of pre-prepared baby food from the supermarket was no longer considered the 'done thing'. A friend of mine had pureed her own organic, healthy meals and frozen them in ice cube trays ready for instant nutritious defrosting. I thought this looked good. I pureed a few things in advance of the big day. Admittedly, as I didn't own a blender, it was a pretty arduous task. I seriously wondered whether I would be able to keep up with OB's voracious appetite.

Then I found out about BLW. It's amazing. Seriously, the long-term benefits to your child are too many to enumerate. I'm pretty sure that following BLW correctly can actually achieve immortality for your infant. The basics are simple. Since we now wait until babies are at least six months before weaning, the vast majority of them are able, by that time, to put their own food in their mouths, move it round, chew (or gum it) it and swallow it. So instead of giving them baby rice, mush, puree, jars or whatever, you simply give them, well, food.

I was transfixed by blog after blog showing images of tiny infants chomping their way through pasta, fruit, veggies and the odd chicken leg. "My 8-month-old loves to dip her organic rice cakes in my home-made hummous!" You know the sort of thing.

The recommendations and lists of supposed benefits for the child were inspiring. But, if I'm honest, what won me over were two major factors:

a) it's easy - no blending or pureeing required
b) it's cheap - compared to sachets of Ella's Kitchen Organic Mush for Babies anyway

So I went ahead enthusiastically with OB, steaming chip-shaped veggies, slicing fruit into handy grab-sized chunks, depositing tiny morsels of pasta, meat and other delicacies onto his bumbo tray and waiting excitedly for him to pick up, move to mouth, chew, swallow, etc.

Only problem was, at six months, OB could neither pick the things up, nor guide them to his own mouth. With BLW, putting food in the child's mouth yourself is a massive no-no, so we faffed about for two whole weeks with him shoving food helplessly around the tray until it fell on the floor, drooling longingly over his steamed carrots, and maintaining, nay, increasing, enormous quantities of milk feeds until the Health Visitor was practically ordering me to stop feeding at night. Yeah, I thought, you come round here at 2am then and listen to two hours of screaming!

In the end I got a fork out and squashed his food into a plastic bowl and fed him with a spoon. And yes, the claims were true - he managed to gum and swallow the lumpy food with no problems whatsoever. Yay for BLW!

Baby Girl is a whole different proposition though. Well before the magic 6-month mark, she was ably picking up everything in sight and ramming it into her mouth. BLW is going to be a doddle with this one I thought.

But sadly, no. It turns out that Baby Girl is a gagger. She gets the food to her mouth and gums away on it just fine, but should so much as a crumb fall off and actually hit her tongue then she starts gagging uncontrollably. It just goes on and on. Now, I know that a baby's gag reflex is much further forward in their mouth than an adults, and gagging during BLW isn't necessarily anything to worry about, but when every mealtime ends in a gag-attack so severe that it results in vomiting not only the few morsels of solid food that might have accidentally made their way to her stomach, but also the milk feed she had two hours previously, then you know you're not onto a winner.

So I'm feeding her with a spoon. And because I'm so over standing in the kitchen for hours pureeing bits of veg, Ella's Kitchen has a convert. The roast pork dinner is a particular favourite!

Don't worry though. Baby Girl has serious skills in the fine motor department, and we're working on the gagging thing, so I'm sure by the time she comes to you, she'll be a dab hand with a chicken leg.

I might have ruined her chance of immortality though!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Mummy Shop

I'm writing this post at the end of an eventful day, but you'll be reading it some unspecified time later as I'm under strict instructions not to reveal the exact location or date of the Adoption Activity Day I have been to with Baby Girl today. Hooray for post scheduling!

I approached the day with some trepidation. I'm not a fan of 'milling about' or 'circulating' or whatever it is people are supposed to do at large-scale gatherings. In fact I tend to avoid rooms full of people unless I am delivering a talk to them!

Thankfully my wonderful social worker had prepared me well the week before and it was all pretty much as I expected it would be. And I knew I wouldn't have to work hard on pointing out BG's best points - they are pretty much right out there for all to see. She definitely already knows how to win hearts.

Thankfully, as Baby Girl isn't mobile, I was able to sit mostly in the same place, drinking coffee, making good use of the buffet, smiling at people encouragingly and watching it all unfold. Here is what I saw.

I saw yellow stickers. These were the children and, to be fair, they seemed to be having a fabulous time! There were concerns about some who find crowds overwhelming, but the range of activities and the non-stop dedication of the event organisers (red stickers) seemed to keep everyone occupied. Each child was given a party bag and had plenty of other crafts and bits to take home with them. Will some of them be upset in the aftermath? Seems likely. But others of them will be matched. It's a hard call.

I saw pink stickers. These were foster carers, alternating between clucking over their charges and talking earnestly to prospective adopters. I found myself stuttering as I tried to extol Baby Girl's virtues to successive prospects. There's a tightrope between being positive and being honest. I hope I walked it successfully. It also felt very strange, even naughty, discussing BG's issues and background so openly after months of confidentiality and guardedness. Yes, there was some pressure to perform. I even wore make-up. I had to find it first!

I saw green stickers. These were prospective adopters, some looking deeply uncomfortable in their (optional) fancy dress. Actually, many looked uncomfortable. I can see why. They have to look around without staring, interact with children without overstaying, approach complete strangers and make themselves vulnerable. And the whole time I'm thinking that some of these adopters have probably been through a heart-breaking and undignified infertility journey to get to this point and now they're having to market themselves to strangers in the hope of becoming parents. And it makes me feel for them and appreciate the lengths some people have to go to in order to get what comes so easily to others. One future dad told me about a child outside of his age range that he just couldn't get away from. The kid so wanted to play football with him and he found it impossible just to walk away and leave him.

I saw blue stickers. These were the social workers, circulating, calculating and negotiating like professional diplomats. Prospective adopters would come to speak to me. My SW would join the conversation. The adopters would go away and speak to their SW. Their SW would come to speak to me. Our SWs would speak to each other. It was like negotiating a treaty between two small countries. Because of BG's matching criteria, we had to elicit certain information out of prospective adopters without being too direct. My SW did this very smoothly, obviously with the benefit of experience. I heard adopter's social workers say things like, "These are the best adopters I've ever taken to panel." I wondered if they said that about everybody.

Did I see Baby Girl's future family? I couldn't say. Nothing is decided at an Activity Day. But be sure to come back to the blog and keep checking - you never know.

Oh, and the title of this post? Well, I obviously did such a bad job of explaining where I was going today that OB referred to the whole event as "The Mummy Shop" this morning as I dropped him off. Must do better next time!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Meanest Mummy in the World

OB has recently developed a new and decidedly unwelcome unpleasant-things-avoidance strategy. It goes a bit like this:

Me: Please tidy your toys away.
OB (sobbing loudly and draping himself over me like a wet blanket): Cuddle Mummy! I need a cuddle!

Or this:

Me: Could you please eat your peas instead of flicking them at the baby?
OB (flinging himself face-first into my lap): I'm sooooo tired Mummy! I neeeeed a cuddle!

It's very annoying. I love a cuddle as much as the next person, but I don't really like the sort of weepy, droopy, dishrag drapery that passes for a 'cuddle' under these circumstances, especially when it's accompanied by siren wails and a fair quantity of snot.

And that's another unfortunate aspect. While the thing I said that prompted this display might have been said in a normal tone of voice, the response is anything but! No, enhanced volume is definitely key to OB's tactic here.

This has resulted in several, very public, performances where any bystander, having not heard my reasonably-worded request to tidy up, use cutlery, stop smashing other toddler over head with toy, etc. will only witness a Very Mean Mummy refusing to cuddle her crying and obviously very distressed child!

Yes, I am that woman holding a crying child at arm's length with an irritated look on her face and I have heard your tut and registered the stratospheric height of your eyebrows. Please move along now.

Of course, I have tried giving the cuddle on request. I thought, you know, maybe he just needs reassurance that I'm not cross with him, or maybe he's nervous about what I'm asking him to do.

It doesn't work. All that happens is that we get locked in a seemingly unending embrace (with lots of wriggling, climbing, snivelling and wailing) and when I finally untangle him, hoping to get back to my initial request, OB sets off for round two. You see, he doesn't want a cuddle. He just wants to distract me from whatever I've said to him.

So I'm holding out. No cuddle until the job is done. Amazingly, once the job finally gets done (and believe me, this can take a very, very long time to achieve), it turns out he doesn't really need a cuddle any more.

Shocking, that.