Co-sleeping Kids 2: The Sleepquel

That's a really cute picture, but either those two people have the tallest baby in the world, or that child's going to suffocate!

That’s a really cute picture, but either those two people have the tallest baby in the world, or that child’s going to suffocate!

Baby number two is on its way this November. Many of you may remember that my partner and I were poised to embark on a mission to encourage our two-year-old son, with whom we co-sleep, to sleep in his own room ahead of his brother’s arrival. You can read all about that, and how we felt about it, here.

Well, it’s taken many months of patience, tenacity and tough-love, but I can report – with just over a month to go – that our mission has been… a complete and utter failure. We still wake up, each and every morning, with that smiling, tuft-headed little creature lying right there next to us, smiling over at us and issuing a few foul-breathed good mornings before ordering us out of bed. We tried, people, we really, really tried.

Prior to, and during, the transition, we played it perfectly, doing everything by the unofficial child-rearing handbook: we bought him bedsheets and duvet covers emblazoned with things that he loved (in this case Thomas the Tank Engine), and made a big deal of how awesome his room was, and how lucky he was to be snoozing in his very own big-boy bed. We became like a couple of drug-addled children’s TV presenters – the Krankies on crack, the Chuckle Brothers on ching, the Singing Kettle on ketamine – with eyes as wide as our maniac fixed smiles, a pair of howling lunatics striding and emoting our way around his bedroom.

“OH, THIS IS A BUH-RILL-IANT BEDROOM, MUMMY, I WISH I COULD SLEEP IN A BEDROOM LIKE THIS.”

“OH, YES, DADDY, ISN’T IT FAN-TASTIC? IS THAT… IT CAN’T BE… IS THAT THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE?”

“OH YES, YES I THINK IT IS! THIS IS A-MAZING! THIS IS LITERALLY THE BEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME!”

“I’M SO BLOODY JEALOUS! SHALL WE SING A SONG ABOUT IT NOW, DADDY?” “OH CAN WE, MUMMY? CAN WE?”

I’d just like to add, for the avoidance of doubt, that our son was present at the time.

chuckle

That first night, his mum crammed her pumpkin-esque pregnant belly into that tiny single-bed alongside him, and lay stroking his hair until he drifted off to sleep. Minutes later, she tip-toed through to our bedroom and whispered a cry of victory. I’m certain there was also a high-five involved.

Well that was easy, we thought. Maybe he’s going to be cool with this after all.

Sometime around 1am, the door to our bedroom swung open with the force of a fearsome gunslinger bursting into a wild-west saloon. Our son stood blinking in the beam of light cast from the hallway behind him, his hair standing up in nutty-professorial clumps. He wore a puzzled frown as he surveyed the half-dark around him, sooking sternly on his water cup. We sat up and watched him. He seemed certain there’d been an admin cock-up in the bedtime arrangements. “You surely didn’t mean to leave me behind, mum and dad. I’m not mad, just… disappointed.”

He staggered to the foot of our bed, tossed up his water cup, and quickly clambered after it, shuffling and snuggling himself into the crook of his mum’s arm. What could we do? We knew we should have picked him up and plonked him back down upon Thomas the Tank’s ever-smiling face, repeating the process hour after hour, night after night, for as long as was necessary until he’d adjusted to the new reality. But what the hell. It was a transition. This was only the first night. Let him sleep, dammit. Let him have one more night… Weekend. Just one more weekend. Okay, a week. A fortnight! Just a fortnight, mind. Oh, hell, let’s just let him have a clean month, goddamit.

And so now, every night – any time between the hours of midnight and four – that stern little face, with its crown of bed-head, struts or slinks into our room, and jumps into our bed.

future

The future??

Sometimes we hear him crying from his room, and one of us goes through to console him. Now and again we can placate him with a bonus bed-time story, during which he’ll happily drift back to sleep, but hours later he’ll always be back, creeping into our room like a tiny foggy-eyed ninja.

Sometimes a story just won’t do. More often than not, when I respond to his cries and whimpers in the late evening or dead of night, I’ll extend my arms to give him a comforting cuddle, only to find his little arms locking around my neck like clicked-in seatbelts, his legs propelled upwards by his full strength and weight to perform a similar fastening trick around my torso. “Mumma,” he’ll say, nodding and sniffing back a tear. “Okay, wee guy,” I’ll say, carting him back off to our bedroom – because I’m a big soft shite and I hate being apart from him anyway.

Because we’re enablers of the worst kind, we always leave on a dim night-light in his bedroom, and the light in the hallway; like lights on a runway guiding him to a soft landing on our bed. His stealth tactics have improved to the point where we don’t often realise he’s with us until we wake up in the morning. Either that, or our brains have adjusted to the new reality… which wasn’t really the way this was supposed to work: he was supposed to adjust to our new reality, wasn’t he?

Four weeks to go…

MORE PARENTING/PARENTHOOD ARTICLES

Co-sleeping kids: banished from the bed

Happy Father’s Day… to me?

On the horror of taking your child to hospital

A Celebration of Public Breastfeeding

Existential Nightmare at the Soft-play Warehouse

Flies, Lies and Crime-fighting Dogs

When people take pictures of your kids

A Celebration of Public Breastfeeding

breast1

It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, so I thought I’d pitch in with a rebuttal of some of the most common arguments levelled against women who wish to feed their babies in public, and should be able to do so without stigma.

Number 1: The ‘how would you like it if I just took a shit wherever I liked?’ argument

poop

Oh, that’s interesting,” comes the familiar sarcastic cry from the army of mammary-phobic morons inexplicably allowed to walk our streets unsupervised, “Breastfeeding is a biological function, and so is defecating, so why is one okay in public, and the other isn’t? In fact, since pooing is an almost inescapable daily necessity, shouldn’t we be more supportive of street-shitting than we are of breastfeeding?” They say it with a self-satisfied smirk, believing themselves to have constructed an argument worthy of Plato. ‘Defend your gross act of nipple-sucking now that I’ve lumped it in with jobbies, you Guardian-reading heathen’, their eyes seem to say.

This is a bullshit argument brought to you by the same people who brought you: ‘Letting gays marry? Well why don’t we just allow people to marry their pets?’ If you can’t see the distinction between the process that allows us to eliminate waste from our bodies and the mechanism that enables mothers to provide their offspring with life-boosting nutrients then your high-school biology teacher has failed you, and they should be redeployed to the McDonalds’ serving hatch immediately. Also, you’re a fucking moron.

We are compelled to poo in private, in dedicated, enclosed areas, for the sake of good hygiene and for the good of public health. If the streets were awash with excrement, as once they were, the NHS would implode as it scrambled to find enough cash to treat a hundred million cases of pinkeye a year. We’d all have diarrhoea, all of the time, and our children would go blind from munching on an unknowable number of poisonous people-pats left dotted up our streets like cats’ eyes. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, doesn’t pose any risk to human health or safety. No-one’s going to get their eye taken out by a sling-shot of titty milk, or catch some horrible contagion from a mother’s briefly exposed breast. Also, and this is crucial, nobody – save the most despicable or inebriated of us – wants to remove the stigma and consequences associated with shitting in public. There’s no pro-jobby lobby about to stage a million-strong march on Westminster waving placards bedecked with slogans like “WE’RE DESPERATE FOR EQUAL TREATMENT”, “SQUATTERS’ RIGHTS” or “WE WILL SHITE THEM ON THE BEACHES.”

Which brings us to argument…

Number 2: The ‘Fair enough, you’re breast-feeding your kid, but I don’t see why I, or my kids, should be forced to see that’ argument.

breast2

This argument is seen by its proponents as a corollary to the street-shitting argument. The implication here is that there is something inherently gross, shameful or dirty about the act of breastfeeding, and that children should be protected from this highly-damaging sight. After all, it’s a scientifically proven fact that kids who spend even a few seconds near a woman who’s nurturing her infant child can go so maniacally ape-shit for tits that they have to be brought down with tranquiliser darts and treated with ritalin and morphine cocktails for the rest of their lives, lest they become warped and broken-minded sex offenders living in syringe-littered bedsits.

I know that some babies have trouble latching, or can’t, and I’ve witnessed how gruelling it can be for new mothers – sore, sweating and exhausted – to pick up the knack of breast-feeding. I don’t seek to denigrate mothers who bottle-feed. I was mainly bottle-fed, as was my partner. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know who was breast-fed, at least beyond the first few days or weeks of their lives. Bottle-feeding is as pervasive as it is persuasive, a torch handed down from generation to generation without much debate or forethought. It’s the method by which more and more mothers are choosing to feed their newborns, in the UK and around the world, to the point where breast-feeding is beginning to be seen as some bonkers new-age fad, the boob equivalent of reiki or homeopathy.

Maybe if more children could see breast-feeding in action, and have its function and benefits rationally and gently extolled to them by their parents or guardians, there would be a much needed sea-change in our attitude and culture. A good thing, too, because the benefits of breast-feeding are legion. For the baby, breastfeeding means increased protection against a host of bugs, afflictions and diseases; an improved ability to homeostatically self-regulate; a higher likelihood of developing good communication and language skills; and a lower likelihood of developing things like diabetes and heart disease in later life. For the mother, breastfeeding means a decreased likelihood of brittle bones and post-birth anaemia; a decreased likelihood of developing ovarian and breast cancer; a closer bond with their child, and, of course, a financial saving of approximately £600 a year.

For the father, breastfeeding means a decreased likelihood of having to fuck around with bottles and sterilising kits for six to eighteen months, but an increased likelihood that his precious breasts, those vaunted fun-bags he thought were his exclusive domain, will be off-limits for a very, very long time.

And with that tongue-in-cheek, cheeky tit-shot we arrive very aptly at the next argument…

Number 3: The ‘bare boobs are indecent and sexual’ argument.

breast3

This argument is of course connected to the previous argument in the minds of those who would cling to it: breasts are sexual, and so having them out in public is inappropriate. It’s all about context, really. Breasts can be sexual, but let’s not forget that men find them arousing – deep in their primal core – precisely because of their ability to support their theoretical offspring. Breasts don’t exist in a vacuum; divorced from their primary function, they’d be about as alluring as a knuckle or a liver. Breasts exist to sustain life, and ultimately men’s fetishisation of them is both a regrettable by-product and a corruption of this purpose.

Before I morph into Germaine Greer, let me state for the record that I’m certainly not immune to my biological impulses, and find myself rather a big fan of breasts. But, let me repeat the word again: context. There is nothing sexy or sexual about a woman breast-feeding, and if you think that there is then you belong on a special edition of The Jerry Springer Show, togged up in nappies and sucking a dummy. Do you think male gynaecologists go home and masturbate over the thought of all the vaginas they probed that day? Hunched and sweating, muttering to themselves: “I knew you wanted me to… take that glove off, girl.” Context!

If my partner suddenly whipped her top off in a busy nightclub and started jiggling provocatively I’d feel rather aggrieved, and ready to fight any man who ogled her. But when we’re in public and she pulls a bit of boob out to feed my son, hell, even a full boob, it elicits no stronger a reaction from me than were she to scratch her arm. It’s normal and natural, and if I feel anything it’s pride, and a sense of security that my little boy is getting all of the natural, life-giving nutrients he needs.

Remember, those of you who agree with or actively employ the arguments dealt with in this piece: women don’t feed their babies just to piss you off. They feed them because they’re hungry, Einstein. A breast-fed baby – up to a certain age – pretty much only cries when it needs fed, and it is cruel – and detrimental to their development – to leave them wailing without immediate resolution. Because of this, mothers don’t always have the time to dash off to a darkened room, or cover their head with a towel like a budgie at night-time, just to appease your fuckwitted, Cro-Magnon thinking. Why should they in any case? And, no, breast-feeding mothers can’t just stay at home to save you the sight, because being a full-time, 24/7 carer for a tiny human being can be arduous and isolating (as well as incomparably beautiful and enriching) and mother and baby deserve a break, and the chance to get out and about wheresoever they please.

There’s no justification for adopting a negative stance towards public breast-feeding. The fabric of the country won’t unravel. The world won’t end. But more babies in the future might just get the chance to reap its benefits. We owe it to them.

But if you really feel you can’t be supportive, then at the very least be neutral, and keep your nose out of other people’s breasts.

http://www.breastfeeding.see.nhs.uk/

Baby Talk: Baby’s First Workplace Visit

"Hello Dave? You ma baby naaaow."

“Hello Dave? You ma baby naaaow.”

There’s nothing more terrifying than a cabal of older women suddenly having their maternal instincts re-activated by a baby. You’ll see this happening most often when parents take their newly-spat spawn into their workplaces to show them off.

At first, all is calm. Just another day at the office. Normal. Innocuous. Unremarkable. Near-arthritic fingers rat-a-tap-tap, tatter and clink on keyboards. Phones trill, machines whirr and beep. A discussion about shoes is underway. And then it happens… One of the old women snaps her head back on her neck and takes a long, deep sniff of the air. The other women turn to look at her. The sniffer nods slowly and sagely. There can be no doubt: the seer has saw, preparations must be made. Excitement swells in the air, a Mexican wave of agitation rolls and rushes through the office. The women begin to chitter and hyperventilate like spooked monkeys.

The door to the main entrance, two floors below, creaks open, and they can hear it. They can smell it, taste it, feel it…

“It’s here…” comes a whisper from the old seer, “…it… is… among us.”

A woman starts to beat on the floor with the handle of an umbrella, and all of the others clap in time. The beating and clapping gets louder and louder, angrier and angrier; as it builds to a crescendo the women accompany the percussive rhythm with a malevolent hum, the droning of a thousand wasps, a sound that gets deeper and deeper, louder and louder, before finally exploding into a roar, then a shriek, then a howl. THUD THUD THUD! RAAAR RAAAAR RAAAAR! The oldest woman in the office leaps onto her desk in a single bound, defying both reason and medical science. “Chillldddreeennn,” she moans, her body convulsing violently. “CHILLLLLLLLLDDDRRRRREEEENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” she screams, throwing her veiny arms into the air and shaking her fists at the heavens.

stamp

“You didn’t tell everyone in the office we were bringing the baby in today, did you?” “Erm… no?”

All of the women lope and scurry away from their chairs like something out of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. A fist fight breaks out at the head of the line as the women vie for pole position and the first crack at the baby. Three of them are killed, but still the horde advances, fingers outstretched, eyes red, bulging and demonic. The parents reach the top of the stairs and are assailed by a terror that detonates in their stomach and makes mince-meat of their bowels. They see it but can scarcely believe it: the  mass of elder zombies staggering towards them, moaning and gnashing. The parents stand frozen with fright, the car seat clutched tightly in the father’s grip, their poor baby swinging inside it like bait.

“COME TO YER AUNTY JEAN!” shriek twelve of the women, even though none of them are called Jean. Within seconds they’re upon the baby, a hellish scrum of old ladies, hands grabbing and clutching and clenching and tearing, like a grizzly death scene from The Walking Dead.

zomb

The baby is gone, taken, passed among the old ladies like crack. The parents can no longer see their child, just a mess of grey limbs and hair-dos. They only know their child is still alive because they can hear the old ladies talking and cooing away at it.

“OH,YOU LOVE YOUR AUNTY JEAN, DON’T YOU? YES, YES YOU DO, YOU LOVE YOUR AUNTY JEAN! OH, I COULD JUST KEEP YOU. I’M GOING TO KEEP YOU, YES I AM, I’M GOING TO TAKE YOU HOME AND KEEP YOU AND THE POLICE WILL HAVE TO SHOOT ME TO GET YOU BACK! OOOH, HE’S GOT MY EYES, DON’T YOU THINK? WHAT ARE YOU FEEDING HIM? BREAST? OOOH, FORGET THAT, YOU NEED TO LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. GET HIM THE BOTTLE. GET HIM A BOTTLE AND PUT HIM IN HIS OWN ROOM AFTER THE FIRST WEEK, HE’S GOT TO LEARN, HASN’T HE? IT’S NOT FOR ME TO SAY, BUT THAT’S NOT THE WAY I’D DO IT, COURSE IT’S YOUR BABY, SO MANY PEOPLE WILL GIVE YOU ADVICE, BUT DON’T LISTEN TO IT, JUST IGNORE THEM ALL, YOU’VE GOT TO DO YOUR OWN THING, EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO MY ADVICE, IN WHICH CASE FOLLOW IT TO THE LETTER. OH, HE’S SMILING AT ME, HE WANTS ME TO TAKE HIM HOME, DON’T YOU WANT ME TO TAKE YOU HOME? COME LIVE WITH YOUR AUNTY JEAN, YOU LOVE ME DON’T YOU, LOVE ME BETTER THAN YOUR OWN MUM, DON’T YOU??!!! YOUR MUM’S GOING TO HAVE TO PRISE YOU OUT OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS, ISN’T SHE, HMMM???!!”

I think we can all agree that taking your infant to work can be a savage and unsettling experience. Old women in offices make David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth look like a registered child minder.

"Gimme the baby and no-one gets hurt."

“Gimme the baby and no-one gets hurt.”

You’ll notice that no men were mentioned in this little office-based reconstruction. That’s because they were all sitting at their desks muttering ‘it’s just a fucking baby’ and ‘you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.’ Sure, some  of them looked up from their monitors for three seconds and aimed a half-hearted wave and an awkward ‘hiya’ in the general direction of the baby, but most of them just continued typing, wishing with all their hearts for the baby to fuck off.

Next time on Baby Talk, we deal with the age old question: “Oooh, what weight is he?”