Monday, July 28, 2008

Hanging out

The arrival of this weekend was much welcomed, capping a brutal work week for M and a stressful week for myself and an unsettled Little Planet. The weather was glorious and our little family of three enjoyed some quality time together.

Now I have a house and a new baby, my life is much more domestic than it's ever been. Just look back at the evolution of this blog from 2004 to see just how domestic my life has become. New motherhood, and the mundane, housebound routines that accompany it, has been a hard thing for me to adjust to as you well know from my recent posts. However, though I am greatly looking forward for Little P to get a little older so we can go out and do more things again - a few months, just a few more months - right now this is my life and I am resolved to make the most of it and make the little things count, like Little P's first smiles (above)!

Saturday morning began as leisurely as a morning can begin with a baby who awakes at 5 or 6am. We fed and played with her, put her down for a nap, had our own showers and breakfasts. M went for a run as I made up a few feeds, washed up and put on a load or two of laundry. Then the three of us went shopping for provisions.

We put the baby down for another nap at lunch time (though she had slept a little out in the pram too) and I headed into town alone to watch the gloriously camp and hilarious Mamma Mia! movie with the gorgeous Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. The music I grew up with and still love is the gritty, dark likes of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, but the mother-love hormones currently raging through my system made me laugh and cry at the wonderful renditions of Abba songs and the emotional mother-daughter storyline. And like the rest of the audience at the West End Odeon, I applauded when the closing credits came up. How wonderfully embarrassing! I popped into Liberty for some decadently expensive Ren body cream for myself, and then into Borders and John Lewis for colourful Lamaze toys and books for my little treasure.

Back at home, M filled me in on his day. Now we have this house, he loves spending time in it at the weekend, especially because he's rarely home during the week. I, on the other hand, crave to disappear for a little bit on the weekends as I now spend so much time at home. So he had spent an enjoyable day feeding and playing with Little Planet, putting her to sleep, doing some gardening, reading, cleaning... generally pottering around.

We ended Saturday with a barbecue dinner à deux of chicken and lamb chops and sat in our garden until darkness fell catching up as we have hardly seen each other this week. Though we both have some very good friends, essentially we are both loners. When we were single and didn't know each other, we had both always been able to spend contented days, even weeks, without seeing other people. Fortunately for our marriage - and perhaps why it works so well - we also love being loners together. It does sound cheesy, I know, but M really is my best friend.

After our al fresco dinner, we gave Little P her last feed of the day, put her to bed and then watched a few episodes of the brilliant Californication on DVD starring the surprisingly sexy David Duchovny.

I spent all of Sunday at home with M and the baby. We went for a stroll around the park in the morning, ate feta cheese and watermelon for lunch, cleaned the house, read, napped, ate roast chicken and homemade alioli for dinner by candlelight in the garden, looked after Little P who slept for much of the time but who, when awake, brightened up our day even more by throwing us little smiles. Yes, our baby turned 7 weeks old on Saturday and is smiling at us.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mr Sunshine

Please welcome Mr Sunshine to our family! He is my daughter's best friend - the one who she saves most of her little smiles and arr-goo-arrk chatter for.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No greater stress

There is no greater stress than the distress of your baby. A stress that intensifies when you can do nothing to alleviate the distress she is experiencing. Our baby came home from her invasive hearing test yesterday at 1.30pm and could not settle until 7pm. No amount of feeds, rocking, pacing the floor with her, words and lullabies could soothe her. I had to put her in her basket and let her tire herself out whilst I hovered close by, crying myself. I felt like the worst mother on earth, especially as she kept looking at me through her confused and angry tears as if to say, "What's happening to me? Why am I feeling like this? Why can't you take my discomfort away from me and make me feel better?" And I cry harder because all I want is to take away her pain but cannot. And then all I want is for her daddy to come home to comfort the both of us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Roast chicken, edamame beans and poo

Saturday began with a wake up cry at 5am from Little Planet. She had last fed at 10.30 the previous night so this was the cry of hunger. We've noticed that if she takes a full feed of 140-150ml last thing at night, she will stay asleep longer until morning. If she takes less then she will wake up around 3.30am. M fed her then we all dozed again until 7.30am. After another feed, M went off for a run in the park and I had my shower as Little Planet napped.

Later in the morning, and after a spectacularly explosive poo incident (Little P, not me!), we took Little Planet to the park to meet the other parents and babies from our NCT antenatal group. We mothers and our babies meet up once a week, but this was the first proper reunion for the dads as well. I felt very proud as everyone kept commenting on Little Planet's hair and how beautiful she is and how alert and observant she is compared to other babies her age. She was the only baby of the group looking all around and the only one who looked directly at the camera during the photocall. Someone said we could make alot of money from her from baby modelling. I felt my ego swell to gargantuan proportions - I need to watch that.

On the walk home, M and I discovered a Chinese grocery selling a wide range of Asian foodstuffs. So we bought fresh tofu, edamame beans and lime leaves and will return for a variety of Chinese greens and fresh shell-on king prawns. With a Vietnamese grocery also nearby, we now no longer have to rely on Soho's Chinatown.

Back at home, we lunched on Manchego cheese, membrillo, lomo and crusty rolls, then M tackled the garden and I read. Later, M roasted a chicken and served it with a hearty Rioja, roasted sweet potatoes and a salad of fresh spinach leaves harvested from our own garden with avocado, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. As we ate, we chatted about what we would plant next.

After dinner, we ate our dessert of fresh nectarines and Green & Black's hazelnut and currant chocolate in front of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's lovely and languid movie based on the meeting of his parents, Syndromes And A Century. We both miss Thailand very much.

An evening much like the old days, except with a little baby asleep upstairs.

We usually have 3.5 hour "windows of opportunity" between Little Planet feeds during which we can go out and about. She often cries while out but not for long and, like all babies, the movement of the pram calms her down so we rarely stop walking. I know we can feed her outside, but I feel that at six weeks she's too young to be taking on longer jaunts, so all in good time, all in good time. On Sunday, we popped Little Planet into her buggy and onto the bus and went to Spitalfields where we bought assorted chocolate - white chocolate and cinnamon, dark chocolate with orange and geranium, and dark chocolate with chilli - from Montezuma's. Spitalfields really has changed alot - on our visit it was packed with Spanish and Italian students with identikit fluorescent backpacks. We also bought kitchenware from Labour And Wait off an equally heaving Brick Lane.

We hailed a cab and wheeled the baby, still in her buggy, into it (her first cab ride) and returned home. We lunched on crusty rolls stuffed with grilled chorizo and home-grown spinach, then M had to go into his office to work on a deal that is supposed to close on Tuesday, so it's crunch time, and I started reading Ann Packer's The Dive From Clausen's Pier. M didn't return until after midnight.

A day much like the old days then, except frequently punctuated with feeding, burping and settling a new baby.

Friday, July 18, 2008


She is so beautiful. I can't stop looking at her.

My little princess will be 6 weeks old tomorrow and I can officially say that motherhood is getting less daunting, less unfamiliar. As I get to know and understand my daughter. And as I get to fall ever more deeply in love with her.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In and out and about # 2

M had taken Monday and Tuesday off work, so much of Monday was spent working and relaxing in the garden, though M also had to work from home for half a day. In the evening, I cooked some mixed vegetables with spices, chilli and coconut cream.

On Tuesday, we took 5-week-old Little Planet on her first bus ride. Our days of being able to sit on the top deck are over (for now). We took her, fast asleep in her pram, to Exmouth Market, where we bought capers, Manchego cheese, membrillo, lomo, smoked paprika, paella rice, walnut and honey bread and wine from Brindisa. Then we strolled back through Islington, buying a mint plant, glass tumblers and magazines (Dwell, Real Simple, Parents, Wired, Wallpaper*, Redbook) along the way.

In the evening, M cooked a seafood paella for some old friends we've known since our Oxford days, and we chatted about work and babies. One of our friends, a single woman who is a development worker in Africa, has been approved for adoption in India but she was sharing with us her anxieties about actually being able to look after a child.

We sipped wine in the garden as darkness fell and generally relaxed. Or at least, I tried to relax, but it was difficult as Little Planet was having a very unsettled late afternoon and early evening. Just one of those situations where nothing you do can calm her - not even holding her in your arms. She eventually managed to fall asleep around 9. Her unsettledness could have been because the last five days have been full of people and outings, or it could be just something she's going through developmentally, or it could be a mixture of the two. Who knows. The one thing I know for sure is that with a new baby nothing is predictable.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In and out and about

On Saturday, my mother-in-law looked after Little Planet for the day while M and I went into town. The two of us walked along the Southbank in the glorious sunshine to the Tate Modern, where we saw American abstract expressionist painter Cy Twombly's Cycles And Seasons retrospective. The early and middle work of this artist's oeuvre failed to stir much emotion in me - I found much of it rather bland - but his later works were lush and impassioned - for example, his haunting Hero and Leander triptych and his verdant green paintings. I particularly loved the painting above with its calligraphic paint strokes like a Chinese nature scroll. We also checked out the comprehensive An Urban History Of Photography exhibition featuring a wide range of photographers such as Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Wolfgang Tillmans and Jeff Wall. It was such a treat seeing so many wonderful photographers in a single exhibition.

We lunched in the Tate Modern's member's room on the fifth floor and got updates on what Little Planet was getting up to with her grandma. Then we made a quick detour to M's office on Fleet Street. He worked for an hour and I sat in reception reading the weekend paper - or at least I was trying to read: I was so tired I had to struggle to keep myself from dozing off.

We grabbed a cab to the White Cube in Mason's Yard where we saw Jake & Dinos Chapman's new work If Hitler Had Been A Hippy How Happy Would We Be which controversially featured Hitler's original, rather bland watercolours of landscapes, Roman ruins and still life defaced by the brothers with psychedelic rainbows, stars and love hearts. Also downstairs was their disturbing installation depicting thousands of miniature Nazi soldiers carrying out acts of mass torture and bloody cadavers hanging off trees being pecked at by vultures. Upstairs was a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century-style aristocratic portraits doctored by the Chapman brothers to incorporate ghoulish masks and deformations.

Then we crossed Piccadilly to the Royal Academy for the quiet, subtle and contemplative canvasses of haunting interiors and deserted landscapes of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi; into Waterstone's bookshop for baby books for Little Planet; into Zavvi for Beck's new album Modern Guilt and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's mesmeric movie Syndromes And A Century; then a browse in DKNY and Nicole Farhi on Bond Street and Muji on Carnaby Street.

Our day ended with dinner at blink-and-you'll-miss-it Japanese restaurant Kikuchi on Hanway Street, tucked behind Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. This is our favourite Japanese restaurant because it is so unpretentious and yet the food is staggeringly fresh and of high-quality and the service efficient and very friendly. It's not cheap though and it's easy to spend well over a hundred pounds here. We devoured turbot roll with plum sauce, deep fried tofu with ginger, a sashimi platter, a sushi platter, mixed tempura, pickled horse mackerel, soft shell crab, spinach with egg, scallops with citron miso, green and red bean ice creams, Asahi and Kirin beers and Shōchū made with sweet potato and barley. A delicious and refined end to a lovely day.

But of course, we had missed Little Planet and were eager to return home and see her again.

We didn't stray far from home on Sunday and spent most of it feeding and then playing with Little Planet, settling her off to sleep, then chatting in the garden with my mother-in-law, her friend, and my sister-in-law. In the evening, M prepared a Vietnamese meal on the barbecue of chicken and beef skewers with marinades of freshly-prepared ginger and red chilli sauces and a side of green papaya and prawn salad. Little Planet was asleep upstairs in the nursery. I can't wait until she is old enough to enjoy her dad's cooking.

Little Planet was five weeks old on Saturday. She can now hold her head up unassisted, open her hands fully, lift her head more than two inches though not for longer than a few seconds. She's beginning to sleep for 5 or 6 hour stretches at night. She is more alert and can stay awake for longer during the day - though we still try and restrict her awake time to around an hour or an hour and a half between sleeps otherwise she gets overtired and has trouble settling for her evening sleeps. Her face shows recognition when she sees her dad or I. She can stay for longer periods - 10 or 20 minutes - by herself under the activity gym or in her bouncy chair.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


The things my 1 month old daughter seems mesmerised by:
  • The pattern of raindrops on her buggy's raincover
  • The play of sun shadow on her buggy's hood
  • The large, pale blue and yellow flowers on our bedroom curtains
  • The light peeking through the thick curtains in her nursery
  • The subtle shades of the ceiling or a blank wall
  • The play of light and shadow on the ceiling or a blank wall
  • My movement across the room whilst her daddy feeds her
  • The locks of my hair falling free and swaying in front of her
  • The dance of leaves on the large trees at the end of our garden which she watches through the window
  • The journey of her black and white Mr Woozit or orange Mr Lion toys as I move them across her line of vision
  • The water cascading over her head as we wash her hair and the light falling through the skylight above her in the bathroom
  • The warm, noisy blast of the hairdryer as we dry her thick, curly hair
  • The zig zag, black, blue and white patterns on the picture book by her changing mat
  • The bold red ladybird and the purple worm in another of her picture books
  • The big yellow sunflower face that lights up and plays tunes above her head on the activity gym
  • The rustle of a plastic bag or nappy sack
She grips my finger with her fingers now; she stretches out alot - sometimes her stretching out routine can take 15 minutes or more; sometimes she pushes and pulls at the bottle when she wants more or needs to burp; she is spending a little more time on her own under the activity gym or in the middle of the bed or on the changing unit - so long as she has something to look at (even if it's just me); her neck is stronger and wobbles less, she's lifting it higher during daily tummy time; she's slowly beginning to get more control over her limbs, though I still like to swaddle her when she feeds so she doesn't knock the bottle.
Right now, she is asleep and I am happily surfing the net and reading Ann Pleshette Murphy's The Seven Stages Of Motherhood and Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth. I can hear her occasionally stir in her sleep and sometimes I find myself thinking, "Oh, don't wake up yet. Give me more time to myself." When I reflect on why on earth I would think this I realise it is because I have only ever been used to pleasing myself.

Moreover, at one month old I have no idea what effect my playing and chatting and singing has on her when she's awake. I sing her nursery rhymes and chat with her and show her pictures and rattle the rattle and give her tummy time and play track-the-toy and give her lots of cuddles. But she doesn't yet smile or coo and so it is difficult to know how she likes it. Because I see no "reward" as such, play at this young age is often not very fulfilling for me as a mother. I just have to trust it is all having a positive effect on her.

Also, because she is still only a month old, my window of play and cuddle opportunity is small before she cries - a window of time that varies depending on the time of day and what is going on inside her tiny body. Then I get frustrated and try and hurry her to sleep just so I can stop her crying and, dare I say it, get back to my own life again. Her cries are distressing and stressful and I feel so much pain for her that I would rather she sleeps so the crying will stop.

It's not long now when things will hopefully get better as she starts smiling and cooing, for then I will know I am getting something back, that she is enjoying herself and that she loves me. Though my greatest fear right now is that because she cries so much, because I cannot take away her discomfort or tiredness, she may not like me and may not smile or coo at me at all. Saving her smiles and her love for her Daddy.

Oh, the highs and lows of being a newborn's mummy!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


...rain. It hasn't stopped all day in London. I don't know why I'm so surprised - I was born in this country and am used to the irrational weather patterns we have here. The raindrops look so pretty, don't they? I do love the rain, when I'm tucked safely away inside.

Needless to say, the little one and I haven't managed to go out at all today. But it's okay, because it gave me the chance, in the in-between bits of looking after Little Planet, to curl up on the sofa and read Jhumpa Lahiri's splendid new collection Unaccustomed Earth.

And I was relieved a little that it was raining, because there is only so much strolling around the local neighbourhood one can do without going stir crazy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

One month

You, my little cherub, are one month old today. Motherhood may not have turned out to be what I had anticipated, but you my darling daughter are everything and more. Nothing could have prepared me for how much I love you right now. I can't stop kissing your chubby cheeks, I can't stop stroking your lustrous hair, I can't stop looking at you - your black eyes, your long lashes, your perfectly formed fingers and toes, I can't stop watching you stretch your torso and each and every one of your limbs after a sleep. Even when you cry, I pause to watch you crunch up your perfect face.

And here is a photo of your mum when she was one month old.

Happy one month anniversary Little Planet.

Natural mother?

So another week begins when M goes back to work and I am left alone with the baby. On the surface of it, things look appealing: she feeds, she cries, she sleeps; I catch up on chores, I surf the net, I read, I generally potter. But those are the very things that become boring when they are all you can do. No one warned me how monotonous life can be looking after a newborn. Dare I say that it is mind numbing? I am used to a life of constant mental stimulation, of physical freedom, of variety, and this is the opposite of what I am used to.

Yesterday something wonderful happened: we got a first glimpse of a smile. Not a full on smile as such, but a softening of her features, the spreading of her mouth, a glint in her eye and that first look of happiness and recognition at seeing us. I wonder if it gets better - that when she starts being able to express her emotions more, becomes more interactive and able to play without crying, that I won't see motherhood as tedious anymore? That motherhood will become natural to me? That I will finally have that elusive maternal instinct? That I will stop thinking on an hourly basis that I want to pay for a nanny?

It took me a long time to summon the nerve to write this post, as admitting that motherhood can be tedious is not something people like to hear. But I want this blog to be honest and record the lows as well as the highs of life with Little Planet.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Baby bits

  • I hosted coffee morning for the other mothers in my antenatal group yesterday and my goodness did it help put my stresses and strains at being a new mother in perspective. They are having a far harder time of it than me. In comparison, my little baby is much more settled, feeding better, and sleeping well. She is also much bigger and older looking than their babies even though she is the youngest by 3 weeks on average. She certainly has the most hair! So now I realise that my stresses and strains are 90 percent due to my impatient and hot-blooded temperament rather than anything to do with the baby herself.

  • We had some wonderful tummy time on the changing mat yesterday. I placed her down so her head was facing the wall against which I have black and white shapes arranged so she can look at them. Then I called her name from the other side and slowly, and laboriously, she lifted her little wobbly head and turned it so she was looking at me. She lifted her head a good two inches or so in order to do this.

  • She can also track an object - another person across the room or a toy near her face - from left to right and back again. She's reaching out more and she is grabbing her bottle as I feed her - pushing it towards her or away from her. She's responding to a familiar voice. She's already rolling from side to side too, though this is more by accident than by design!

  • We got caught out by the rain returning home from the shops yesterday and she was mesmerised by the rain drops hitting her buggy's plastic rain cover. It was magical watching her wonder and I was smiling with joy and love as I pushed her home.

  • My tummy has gone down alot. I didn't put on more than 15lbs during my pregnancy but I've always had a little pot belly so I am not expecting that to go. However, the water retained from my c-section operation that has made my belly into a jelly belly has reduced considerably. I've worked out that I need to reduce my tummy down by another inch or so to get comfortably back into my pre-pregnancy jeans. In the meantime, I am wearing my maternity jeans with a belt. I am not bothered about dieting though. Not yet at least.

  • I still can't believe she came from my body, that she is a part of me. She seems to me to be such a separate, unique little person. I am growing to love her intensely but it wasn't love at first sight and the love has had to grow. I wonder whether this is because I had an emergency c-section, didn't get to feel her journey out of me through the birth canal, and didn't get to hold her close to me for an hour after her birth - so that by the time she was handed over to me she felt like another person's little baby even though I knew she was mine.

  • Tomorrow she will be 4 weeks old.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Our little baby's existence is finally official in the eyes of the government. Her birth was registered yesterday. Doesn't she look nonplussed!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Typical day # 3

This Typical Day post features a much more settled Little Planet compared to the last Typical Day post and shows how atypical a newborn baby's day actually is. There are good days, so-so days and horrendous days and everything in between. This day (from the Sunday just gone) was a reasonably good day.
  • Little Planet's previous feed, given by M, was at 9.30pm. She awakes at 1.30am and M feeds her.

  • She awakes again at 4.30am and M feeds her as I am out for the count. I don't even hear the two of them.

  • I do the 8am feed as M is on his way to work. She goes to sleep in the miracle swinging cradle with the white noise soundtrack on and I shower, get dressed, wash up, put on a load of laundry, make up more feeds and have a leisurely breakfast reading the weekend papers.

  • I wake her a little early, at 10am, to feed as I want to take her to the park before the sun gets too hot. I pop her in her buggy at 11am. She grizzles but as soon as we start moving she settles completely. We enjoy a stroll in the fresh air.

  • We're back home by 12pm and we play for an hour under the activity gym and on the changing mat. It's a lot of fun and I can't wait for the day when she starts staying awake more just so I can play with her. At the moment, the endless feed-burp-wind-settle-sleep routine is a little too monotonous for my personality and makes me feel I am not a "natural" mother (which is okay, as not all women can be).

  • At 1pm she feeds and I settle her at 2pm.

  • I lunch on sushi, I blog, I read Grazia magazine and Rumer Godden's The River in the garden under a sun-dappled tree. I feel completely rested.

  • She feeds again at 4.30pm and is asleep by 5pm so I take a nap too.

  • But she is awake and griping from 6.30pm until her feed at 7.30pm. I am beginning to wonder whether I should feed her every time she grizzles as perhaps she's simply hungry and going through a growth spurt. It's so confusing to know what to do. I pray for M to hurry home though from day to day we are never sure what time he will return as his workload is heavy.

  • By 8.30pm, M is back and we bathe and wash her hair together. We oil and massage her.

  • She's asleep by 9pm and M makes fillet steaks with fries and tomatoes for our dinner, which we eat in front of catch-up TV (Heroes and the Gilmore Girls). She frets a little and we hold our breath frequently, but she settles each time on her own. I never let her cry for longer than 5 minutes, but generally she self-settles before that time is up. If she doesn't, then M or I are up there trying to comfort her.

  • I'm in bed by 11pm and M gives Little Planet her last feed of the day at 11.30pm.