28 November 2008

2posh 2push

Over the last 24 hours, I have had one fight involving two editors, four bouts of crying and three hours of sleep. I am so wired, I almost feel like I could do it again today. A rather dramatic end to my penultimate week of work before maternity leave, and probably not the best way to usher in a weekend of antenatal classes, but there you have it.

More redundancies at work have been made, and someone I legitimately do not like - on a personal or professional level - has been given the boot. No part of me feels like celebrating though, because the axe is indiscriminate and the few colleagues that have made my life in corporate Britannia bearable are leaving too. It makes me wonder if I’ll be walking into a sea of brand new faces when I return next year.

There is so much to do and buy and prepare for before the baby arrives and I’m not sure how we’ll finish everything alongside Christmas, which we’re spending in Hertfordshire. I’ve got four baby books and two parenting ones on the go, and I’m desperately hoping that the essential pieces of information will sink in before I have to do something like, oh I don’t know, pick him up. What on earth do you do with these things?

I know what to do with toddlers – you just follow them around all day, making sure they don’t put small objects in their mouths or run headfirst into the edge of a coffee table until they exhaust themselves and fall asleep on a pile of Lego. But an infant? I vaguely recall tipping a Cabbage Patch doll out of a pram as I tried to wheel it down the grassy knolls of our front lawn, and holding my nephew Christopher as though he was a small sack of gunpowder or a spun-sugar light bulb. I don’t remember what I did next in either scenario.

They say it’s different with your own child, and by ‘it’ I do hope they mean ‘everything,’ because when I see a baby coming my way, my instinct is to hold it at arm’s length and then pass it on to the next interested party. It’s something to do with the drool and the vague waft of brussels sprouts emanating from their nappies. That and the cockeyed way they size you up, like they are trying to determine whether or not you would absent-mindedly leave them in a shopping trolley at the grocery store if this relationship progressed beyond a cuddle and - once they see that yes, probably you would - the way they tense up and scream in your face.

Even if I get past the squeamishness and the not knowing what to do, this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m off the hook. What if the baby triggers my latent obsessive compulsive tendencies and I start to panic if we’re five minutes late for his mid-morning nap or he hasn’t fed enough by my stopwatch and uncanny sense of mammary weight to volume ratio? Or worse – what if I find parenting incredibly dull? It’s a good job these fears don’t kick in until after implantation, or we’d be very limited as a species, numerically speaking.

Also good on the things list: Bruce. He’s very excited to meet the little guy and keen to get started, bless him. Last night the baby was pushing his foot into my side and making it shudder like an overripe jell-o mould and Bruce was poking back and talking to him like he was already in the world with us. I still have trouble making that leap - I guess because if I thought about it too hard, it would probably dawn on me that I am housing a small person in my mid-section that will one day want to vacate the premises. And there’s only one way out of there. Two if you’re posh.

17 November 2008

Million little feces

I’m in my 33rd week now, and the only thing that made the pregnancy halfway bearable (holiday) is now finished. So it’s back to sleepless nights and stressful days of work, at least for another three weeks. In the meantime, I’m trying to forget about symptoms like breathlessness, a drum-tight belly that feels like it will burst, acid reflux and constipation like never before. I’d be a hot date, I tell you, if I could only fit my dancing shoes.

Things at work are bordering on farce now, with freshly redundant colleagues sending scathing emails to the entire division and a general uncertainty about Who’s on first, What’s on second and Where do I report to when he/she gets laid off. Part of me feels glad that I’m experiencing these revelations remotely, from the (dis)comfort of my sofa, but the camaraderie would certainly take the edge off not knowing what’s around the next corner.

As it stands, I am doing the honourable thing: keeping my head down and trying not to give them even the barest elements of a rope (cotton?) I could hang myself with. High branches and stepladders interest me not in the slightest, nope, not I.

I managed to accomplish quite a bit last week – apart from my visit, I also overcame my fear of city streets and commerce, leaving the house every day to buy a gingerbread latte from that coffee giant we all know and love (to hate to love) or eat lunch in a restaurant or just go for walks. I finally finished David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, which I started about four years ago and deigned to pick up again recently. Now I’m onto the latest James Frey novel, which begins with an irritating disclaimer that nearly put me off my first experience with the author.

No one ever accused James Frey of inaccuracy, so we can go ahead and dismantle that straw man. Getting the facts wrong and making stuff up entirely are two different matters, and you and I both know how a little embellishment can sometimes seem a delicious proposition for autobiography – except that we have too much respect for the integrity of truth! And also for our ability to make a tale good regardless. Events are difficult enough to interpret without the added distraction of fabrication, so let’s just call a spade a spade and see if we can keep from burying ourselves with it, yes?

It’s a good read so far, though the disclaimer has me questioning whether or not the historical backbone of the story (City of Los Angeles – an overview!) is made up, or partly made up, or what have you. (It’s your bed, Mr. Frey, so get comfortable.)

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with any of this and the battery is about to drain away on my laptop, so you lucked out of a few more pointless paragraphs. Call me uninspired, but never let it be said that I’m a liar.

11 November 2008

The good, the bad and the absent-minded

I am a bad, bad mother-in-waiting. Let me preface this by saying that over the weekend, we cleaned the flat from top to bottom, which consequently inspired me to face the mounting pile of postnatal booty I’ve been stowing next to the lovely little cabinet I bought to cheer up what will effectively become the nursery (currently our bedroom).

It was through no lack of enthusiasm that I let the sorting of wee socks and bibs, hats and scratch mitts fall by the wayside for so long, and in fact, such apparent neglect was more a reflection of my own sense of inadequacy towards the classification of such tiny necessities and the sheer momentousness of giving these a proper home. At least, that’s how I’d built it up in my own mind.

The task turned out to be much less complicated than I’d imagined though (doesn’t it always), and in no time I was tearing off price tags, untying bows, un-popping snaps from plastic parcels and tossing aside miniature hangers and cardboard shapers with the speed and irreverence of a child at her gifts on Christmas Day.

The clothes and blankets, towels and books fit perfectly inside the cabinet’s dark, woody interior and suddenly the prospect of there being someone here to take ownership of these little things hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt very strange indeed. That same evening, we read through the manual that accompanied our intimidating, top-of-the-line, power-mummy pram and assembled it with relative ease.

We lay in bed and poured over products and advice, debated over sleepwear and toys, and even picked out a few essential items of furniture. We set out a game plan for transforming the flat to maximise on space and efficiency, easily solving what seemed insurmountable issues in past conversations. At nearly thirty-two weeks along, we were finally coming into our own as expectant parents and it all felt like it was falling into place.

Then today, I was rooting through a file of letters from the hospital, the midwives and the National Childcare Trust in order to determine when our first antenatal class was and saw that it was starting…last week. At which point the first real twang of maternal failure – one that is sure to hit me hard and often in the coming months - hit me hard, and I felt like the worst first-time-mother-to-be in the whole of England.

This isn’t the end of the world, of course: we’d double-booked ourselves in advance, signing up to both the free, month-long classes offered by the hospital and also the posh, expensive crash course the NCT advised we take, with the intention of doing both. The literature the midwives gave us claims, however, that the information each class offers is nearly identical, so as long as I write the NCT dates on the wall above my writing desk in permanent red marker and set the oven timer to go off a few hours in advance, we should still be ahead of the game.

I’m on holiday this week, and it was a hard-won holiday at that. Sorting out who would cover what while I’m away proved more difficult than it should have been and I’m still getting copied in on emails that don’t concern me right now.

The break and the extra naps have given me some perspective, and even though I might be a psychological mess in another fortnight, I’ve decided not to play the unbalanced-pregnant-lady-in-distress card and instead suffer through the next three weeks of work. Then I will have an entire year off (provided I’m not made redundant) with no strings attached, and can start planning the next phase of my life, as it relates to this little family unit and also my own personal development.

I’ll have two significant individuals depending on my ability to cope, you see, and I want to set the precedent early.

06 November 2008

Throwing back another

Last night we took a stroll around the Broadway to see what we could see from the hill. Tiny explosions popped and whizzed at irregular intervals, peppering the horizon and sending up small spurts of colour, while close by children called out excitedly as someone lit a succession of mixed fuses and the air sparkled maddeningly before resolving into silent, dreamy clouds.

Our own street was a friendly pall of smoke and gunpowder, regularly punctuated by the screams and crackles of unseen rockets. We’d bought some 50p sparklers, which made more sense in the context of our tiny garden and my compromised state, and we lit them up outside after tea.

It’s been almost two years since I moved to London and nearly a year and a half since Bruce and I were married. Everything is moving so quickly still, and there is hardly any time for reflection. Bruce says this is a sure sign that we’re living in the present rather than looking back or dreaming ahead. It’s a brand new thing for me, but I know that in order to catch more, I have to keep letting go of these fine moments.

05 November 2008

Remember remember?

We’ll be setting off fireworks in our back garden tonight, though it will be for Guy Fawkes Day – an event that President Obama’s recent big win will have surely overshadowed, but hey. America is back on its meds and I think we can all breathe a collective (but cautious) sigh of relief for that.

And speaking of mental health! I need some of it quite soon, as the gap between work’s relentless pace and my capacity to hormonally cope with that is closing quickly now. It’s impacting on my ability to keep a cool head when my colleagues flail about in agony as zombies dine on their limited brain matter threaten to lose theirs, and also sleep.

I can’t sleep. I just can’t do it. I lie in the dark - exhausted, wearing earplugs to block out the distracting noise that breathing and air and photosynthesis make - and the clock goes midnight, then one, then two, then three. Then I fall asleep for five minutes and am wakened by the sound of a spider plant frond waving from across the room or a feather working its way out of my pillow and onto the rug.

I am more or less able to deal with these things, taken together or alone, but Bruce thought I should try and get signed off of work anyway. Just in case our little joke about ending it all stops being funny and starts making sense to one of us (honestly, I don’t know how he’s put up with me so far). As long as I can eliminate the most obvious stresses, we can work on the ones that are not so straightforward.

My midwife called today to say that if I had any problems getting a note from my GP she would write it herself. I guess that means it’s a done deal, but I’m not sure whether I’ll use my get out of jail free card or just pocket it for a rainy day (a monsoon, perhaps). Sometimes just seeing an Exit sign can give you the encouragement you need to keep going. It’s not much longer now.

I probably won’t be handling the fireworks myself, though.

03 November 2008

A good case for taxidermy

On Saturday we took a slow, easy trip into Central London to have lunch, see a film and basically do what the average couple does on a weekend, because it’s been months since I’ve left our borough and I’m finally feeling somewhat stable again after my most recent pregnancy fiasco.

I know exactly how to plan and execute a day that won’t overwhelm me now, or cause massive amounts of pain, which might sound pathetic but is nowhere near as sad as spending entire weekends wrapped in blankets, napping and reading and napping and occasionally emerging for food.

It was a lovely day out anyway, and it reminded me of all the reasons I love this city. I can’t wait to tackle it when I’m back to my old self again, and this time with a new little Londoner in tow!

For now, I find the prospect of leaving the house to do anything on my own entirely unnerving. I’ve been working from home for the last three weeks, and I can no longer remember how to screw up the courage to deal with strangers in a confident manner when the last thing I want to do is come face-to-face with another human being (one I don’t share covers with, anyway).

In the next few minutes I’ll brush my teeth, put on some clothes that I haven’t been sleeping in and head out down the street to have my teeth cleaned. A straightforward process, perhaps, but one that fills me with a nameless dread that almost makes tooth decay sound like the easier option. Ditto on the yoga classes I begin tomorrow after I finish my work – it will be my first ever recreational encounter with a group of strangers, and the fact that they are all pregnant does nothing to reassure me.

My friend from back home has just moved to Wales and is planning to visit me next week, so I’ll be able to dust off my social skills and give them a bit of a workout then. I don’t think the language that couples develop together and use fluidly with one another necessarily counts as a skill, so it’s a long time coming.