A Walk in the Park

Mayhem is walking backwards pointing at his bum.

“Poo poo mummy.”

I put my finger inside the stretchy bit of his nappy and pull it back, to peep inside.

“Just a fart,” I say.

He waddles off and balances a knight on top of the rocking horse. “Charge!” he shouts and wallops the knight under the sofa. He spends the next four minutes grunting on his knees as he tries to retrieve it.

He approaches me again. “Poo poo mummy.”

I yank at his nappy too quickly, and my finger is met with warm poo.

When I see my husband later I say, “I think Mayhem may be ready for the potty.”

He sighs. “Do we have to talk about this over dinner?”

“Would you prefer to talk about it in bed?”

“I don’t think we need to talk about it at all – I mean it all went rather smoothly with Milk didn’t it?”

I watch my husband closely to see if he is joking. He isn’t.

I think back to potty training Milk. We put potties all over the house which, on reflection is a little odd because adults don’t go to the loo all over the place, unless they are 95, pissed, or just had a baby.

There are many ways to approach potty training. Some people lock themselves in the house for a week in a sea of pee. I decided staying inside with both children was much worse than swimming in wee, so I used to put Milk’s nappy on when we left the house, and take it off when we got home.

One day Milk refused to wear a nappy. This is a critical moment in potty training. You have reached the point where you have to trust your kid.

And then pack lots of spare clothes.

We headed to our local park.

“We’re going to have a walk and then dinner in the café,” I told my husband over the phone.

“Lucky you, I’ll be stuck under someone’s armpit on the Tube.”

When we arrive I take Milk to the loo and he does a wee, which makes me ridiculously happy. It is a bright spring day and Mayhem is asleep in the sling, while Milk runs ahead of me. As we climb a steep hill onto a walkway lined with trees covered in fluffy pink blossom, I feel guilty my husband is trapped underground.

Until Milk tugs at my hand. “I need a poo.”

“What? No. Don’t do that now,” I say desperately, but his face is already scrunched up and turning red like someone trying to blow up a long thin balloon.

There is a ditch running alongside the avenue of trees. It’s our only hope.

“It’s coming mummy!” Milk shrieks and I push him sideways and yank his trousers down to his ankles. I’m nano seconds from winning this race, but the poo is victorious and breaks off, landing in Milk’s pants.

For a moment we are both silent, crouching in the ditch, staring at the problem, but then I hear laughter in the distance and look up to see a family wandering towards us.

I scrabble around for a wet wipe, and pull out a packet. There is only one left. It is so dry it blows away in the breeze.

“Cold mummy,” Milk shivers. I help him step carefully out of his clothes.

The family is getting closer. A little girl is jumping in and out of the ditch. A little boy is poking at things with a stick. I have left all of the spare clothes in the car, but I find a pair of socks and pants, and in a blind panic use the socks to wipe Milk’s bum.

I try and encourage the poo to stay inside the trousers as I gather them up, but it rolls away into the ditch.

“Let it go! Let it go!” The little girl is singing Frozen at the top of her voice, and the family is close enough to be taking an interest in what I’m doing.

I can’t possibly leave a human poo in a park can I? Mayhem starts to cry in the sling. Yes I can. I grab a handful of gravel and chuck it over the scene of the crime, shoving the soiled clothes inside my bag. I heave myself upright.

“Afternoon!” I call enthusiastically, over the top of Mayhem’s screams, as the family approach.

“Lovely day isn’t it?” The mum smiles, glancing at Milk who is waiting on the path in his clean big boy pants.

“Oh yes wonderful!” I say brightly, standing over the pile of gravel so the little girl doesn’t jump in it, and the little boy can’t poke it with his stick.

I try to look relaxed in the smelly ditch with my baby crying and my little boy inappropriately dressed. They move on and we make a dash for the car.

I relay the events to my husband that evening.

“Sounds like a walk in the park,” he jokes, but quickly adds, “when we potty train Mayhem, we’ll have to remember this.”

“No, you will. I doubt I will ever forget.” I down a glass of red.

 

 

The Golden Thread

“Did it hurt?” I ask because it looks like no one else will.

“Nah,” Juliet says, “not really. I mean nothing you can’t deal with.”

In her late twenties, Juliet has the plumpness and energy of youth. Her squishy pale limbs are cradling her new baby, Baby One. The first of the NCT babies. The rest of us are marooned at the end of our pregnancies, swelling like balloons about to take off the wrong way.

I touch my bump and breathe in, thinking of the Golden Thread the yoga teacher talked about. I’m not sure how long the Golden Thread is, or how it got to be in my throat, but apparently you breathe in a special way and the Golden Thread spins out in front of you, and then your baby floats out with no pain, and starts breastfeeding immediately while you have a snooze.

“We like to call them waves of love rather than contractions,” says the yoga teacher. She has green eyes and a tattoo of a Griffin in the small of her back. The lion’s head is roaring. She also says she can hear her kids breathing two floors up because she has such a strong connection with them. I wondered if she had heard of baby monitors.

I find myself worrying about the Golden Thread. What if I breathe it out and it doesn’t come back? How far is it supposed to go? Sometimes when I concentrate really hard it goes out and gets caught on people and corners and shopping trolleys, and even strangles one man on a particularly low day. It’s the same with counting sheep – it’s never worked for me because they all rush out at once and go off in different directions.

Someone is saying my name so I leave the Golden Thread dangling over a sheep and focus on the scene in front of me. We all look at Baby One. He is asleep. He looks – well he looks like a baby.

Minnie helps me with the tea. We are both one week over due and desperate for some movement. She leans into me conspiratorially.

“Juliet hasn’t sat down since she got here. Have you noticed?”

“Euugh” I say sympathetically. “I must offer her a cushion.”

“It must hurt if you can’t sit down right?” Minnie passes me the milk.

“Yeah it must hurt. Surely… a little bit. But not too much otherwise women wouldn’t do it, and there wouldn’t be any second and third kids would there?”

I wonder again what labour is like. Will it be waves of love or a tsunami of  pain? I’ve been told the last bit is like doing a really big painful poo after a vindaloo, but it was a bloke who said that. No one who has actually given birth has told me anything.

My husband said being kicked in the balls is supposed to be more painful than childbirth and I am in awe of the confidence he has that I will not do a comparison after I have the baby. I guess he knows he is safe because my yoga teacher said if I don’t squeeze my vagina every time I stop at traffic lights I will wee everywhere, all the time after giving birth. So instead of giving him a good old hoof to the balls, I’m more likely to lift my leg and pee on him like a mangy dog.

Minnie nudges me. “Zara has almond milk in her tea. She brought it along especially.”

I glug some of it in. It’s a bit yellow.

“So who will be next?” I say as I hand out the tea.

Everyone says “Ooh.”

Teeth, breasts and guns

The World Health Organisation recommends women breast feed for two years as a minimum. I am sure this is because they are talking to the whole world, and the UK is only a small part of the whole world. In fact, according to just over half of the people who voted, the UK wants to be on its own entirely and not even part of Europe, even though that is geographically impossible.

Anyway my theory is that the two years must be aimed at developing countries who can’t feed their kids proper nutritious solids. I mean if you start weaning at six months and all you can give them is rice or potatoes then breast milk is probably better, right? I could be wrong and I could look into it more, but I don’t have time because I have a baby to look after. I convince myself I am right about this but I then read the UK is not great at breastfeeding their kids. I don’t mean we are bad at it like we spray people in the face, but we do it for the shortest time in the ‘developed’ world, or not at all.

I breast fed mine for a year but around seven months it got really tricky.  I remember  when Milk got a couple of teeth. As much as I rejoiced in those tiny little white bumps, I was soon cursing the day teething was successful. He started to test out his teeth on my nipple. Some people might enjoy being bitten on the nipple, but when a baby decides to bite your nipple as you are gently feeding him, it is a monumental shock – and it hurts a lot. It’s a pain which grows as the seconds pass. It’s like when you stub your toe on the corner of a chest of drawers and you yell out, but then the pain swells and you wonder if you have actually lost your foot.

Anyway, Milk was testing out his teeth, giving the odd nip here and there and I am wondering if I should take this as a sign to stop breast feeding. I live in fear of feeding him and every time I get my boob out his eyes gleam with recognition. It’s a little stressful, like if you gave your older kid cereal, and every day you wondered if they were going to head butt you as you passed them the bowl.

Gradually though I realise that maybe Milk just likes eating more than drinking.
“I think Milk is stopping breastfeeding I tell a Health Visitor at a children’s play group. “He’s been doing it for seven months and I think he has finished.”
“Well that’s up to you” she says and turns to face me, her eyes penetrating mine.
“Er, no I am saying I think he is stopping.” I speak clearly but my eyes are filling with tears.
The HV sees she has a bit of a wobbler on her hands. “Well it can happen naturally but have you changed your diet, or are you stressed? Sometimes these things can affect the milk supply.”
How would I know about my milk supply? It’s not like I can see a milkman delivering four pints and only two being drunk.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I mean maybe I’m a bit stressed.”
“With your husband?”
I think about my husband and how at the moment he is the only person I want to be around. It’s a strange assumption the HV is making, but maybe other blokes are arseholes to their tired, cranky emotional wives.
“No, with my baby”

As soon as the words leave my mouth I realise I shouldn’t have said them. I didn’t even really mean it, I just meant I was stressed with my baby biting my nipples. But the HV is onto me. She is looking at me more closely. She looks at Milk who is chewing a wooden brick on the floor.
She takes me by the elbow and turns me away from the rest of the bustle of the group.
“Do you feel close to tears or think harmful thoughts towards your baby at all?”
“No I don’t, I’m just trying to tell you he is biting me during breastfeeding and I think it may be because he wants to eat rather than drink.”
The HV looks almost disappointed and steps back. “Perfectly normal I’m afraid.”
“But painful none the less…” I add, hoping there may be some kind words coming.
“Yes but normal. Push on through I would, you’ve done well so far and the WHO…”
“…Yes I know all about that and the UK is very bad at breastfeeding, while the USA has a great record, but they also have a higher rate of toddlers shooting their mums dead.”
This completely stumps her. It takes her a while to compose herself. She manages a tight smile. “That’s because they have guns in America, and if you have guns you will use them.”
“Exactly,” I say “And if you have teeth…?”