My baby and me, different colours

“Mummy having a bad day?”

I am on a bus with my son beside me in his pram. An old lady is tapping me on the shoulder: “Is Mummy having a bad day?”

“Oh no,” I tell her. “I’m fine, thanks.”

She shakes her head, jerking her thumb towards my blue-eyed, blond baby. “No, love. His mummy. Hard in the beginning, isn’t it? It’s good of you to take him out for her.”

“He’s actually my son,” I say, but she’s already cooing at the baby and doesn’t notice. He’s cooing back. I feel slightly conspired against.

“He’s my son,” I repeat to the bus at large, in case someone thinks I’ve stolen him. “Hahaha.”

“He’s like a Stu-coloured you,” my friends tell me. “He looks just like you facially.”

“He really doesn’t look like you at all! Are you sure he’s yours?” laugh the women at my local playgroup. “Shall we check the hospital records?”

When we’re out as a family and Stu’s carrying the baby, people get inbetween the two of us on escalators and squeeze between us on trains.

When Herbie is a couple of months old, we’re in Waterstones, and a woman asks if I’m working for families in the area: “You’re an au pair, right? Your English is very good. How long have you been in the country?”

I explain that Herbie is my son, expecting her to be embarrassed and leave, but she continues to ask questions: “Your natural son? Was it IVF?” It doesn’t occur to me to tell her it’s none of her business. “Was he from your actual egg?

Then she says my favourite thing: “He doesn’t look black at all.” It’s one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard, but I still go home and have a little cry.

Whenever he sees a dark-haired woman, Herbie tilts his head and smiles up at her from underneath his eyelashes.

And when Herbie sleeps and his face relaxes, I see my mother all over his face. My black-haired mother with olive skin and dark, flashing eyes. My son’s grandmother, who’s too sick to be in our lives right now. At night, Herbie looks just like her.

And it’s enough.

I’m a guest on the amazing Scummy Mummies podcast!

If the wonderful Scummy Mummies ever invite you on a podcast, I highly recommend that you accept this invitation, because they will ply you with wine and cheese, give you other babies to play with, and make you laugh until your pelvic floor explodes (and if that’s not a good time, I don’t know what is).

Here I am with Stu (and, if you listen closely, Herbie and Ellie’s baby, Joe) talking to the Scummy Mummies Ellie and Helen about living in Kent, working at BuzzFeed, and making up lyrics to TV show theme tunes. Oh, and getting audibly drunker as time goes on:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 7.18.39 AM

I can also highly recommend their live show – it’s a giddy whirl of gold lamé catsuits, swearing, and bawdy jokes about Mr Tumble that I don’t quite get yet. I mean, just look at this poster. Have you ever seen anything so life affirming?

1589679

If you’re around on 19 September, do go and see them in New Cross. You won’t regret it. Also, there’s wine. Thanks, Scummy Mummies! You’re brilliant.

 

 

 

The utter uselessness of parent shaming

Originally published on The Pool

I was on my way to my favourite shop in all the land, Lidl, when a woman in the street started yelling at me about my lack of parenting skills.

You see, I was pushing my baby son in his pram, and I had committed the great sin of crossing the road while the lights were green.

Despite the fact that it was a quiet time of day, and there was no oncoming traffic, this woman – who was waiting at the crossing with her own child – was of the opinion that I was a terrible mother, and moreover was setting an awful example for her own son.

“How could you?” she shouted, long after I’d reached the opposite side of the road, spectacularly un-run over. “What if my son copies you? What sort of mother are you?”

These words rang in my ears as I roamed the hallowed cut-price halls of mighty Lidl, and I began to doubt myself. Should I not have crossed? This woman’s son was older than mine, so clearly she’d been a mother for longer. Had I transgressed some vital unwritten parenting rule? Was she right? Was I a bad mother?

Now, I get nervous every time I approach traffic lights.

It amazes me when some parents jump all over the way other people raise their children. At the risk of sounding naive, shouldn’t we all just get along?

Being a parent is hard. Giving birth is an earth-shattering body-shock and, in the months that follow, you have to recover from this, learn how to look after a child, and look after a child – all at the same time.

And I’ve only been doing this for six months. I haven’t even got to the part where you have to keep multiple children from eating each other, or when they grow into tiny adults and start copying you when you swear at the television.

How all people with children aren’t constantly weeping and patting each other on the back simply for getting through another day is beyond me. But they’re not.

It seems there’s always someone not only bemoaning someone else’s parenting style, but using it to extrapolate all sorts of unsavoury things about that parent’s personality.

Recently, this happened to David and Victoria Beckham. When their four-year-old daughter, Harper, was photographed with a dummy in her mouth (current NHS guidance says to stop using dummies in infanthood), tabloids were quick to wheel in “health experts” who warned of the dangers this posed to Harper’s teeth, her speech, her future mental health. Were the Beckhams allowing prolonged dummy use because Victoria was “clinging on to her last baby”, wondered these experts. Or was it because the Beckhams were just poor role models?

Precisely none of these experts asked, “Is it because an unsettling human wall of paparazzi is forever leering at a small child, and she might need a bit of comfort to deal with it?” or “How is this any of our business?”

And the below-the-line comments were stuffed with almost gleefully cruel judgements from other parents.

In a small way, now, I know how the Beckhams feel.

My husband, Stuart Heritage, writes for the Guardian. Six months ago, panic-stricken and sleep-deprived, he wrote arecord of our son Herbie’s traumatic birth, and has kept a weekly column for the paper ever since, detailing the highs, lows and poo explosions of new fatherhood.

The column explains our parenting set-up (I’m on maternity leave for a year, so doing most of the parenting for now, although Stuart takes over when he’s not working), and records landmark moments, such as our first family excursion to A&E, or the first time I breastfed in public and Stuart used his coat to shield my modesty, “like a Poundland matador”.

His latest instalment, though, has caused an internet ruckus. It concerns a day when I fell ill unexpectedly, and Stuart had to sack off work to look after Herbie.

And the fact that a) it wasn’t a barrel of laughs for him, and b) he’s said so in his inimitable self-deprecating style, has been misinterpreted by vast swathes of parents in the comments section as aggressively perpetuating gender disparity in parenting, and child cruelty bordering on abuse.

The main issues are:

1. He said that babies can be boring after a fashion – which people have taken to mean that he finds *all babies* constantly awful, and as such should have his own baby forcibly removed from his care.

2. He complimented my parenting skills – obviously confirming the gender stereotype that ALL women are more natural at parenting than men, and/or was trying to get into my pants.

3. He marvelled at how I do this all day without going nuts – I have never been so needlessly defended as I was by those who seemed to think he was some cold, distant chauvinist patronising his meek housewife, when really it was a terrified cry from someone who was deprived of his safety net for the first time. Incidentally, I’ve felt this way frequently when Stuart’s been away. It’s just that, if I say so, I’m not being sexist. I’m just being human.

The frenzy even reached US site Jezebel, where this response piece sprang up. It wrongly assumed all sorts of things about both of us, without taking the article in the wider context of the column as a whole, and the site went with a clickbaity OMG-this-guy-finds-babies-boring-WTF headline, which may explain why some of the parents in the comments called for Stuart to “die in a fire”.

To die in a fire. For shame, parents.

I stand by my belief that parents should support each other’s choices, not tear them down. Because what has all this judgement achieved, other than getting everyone all hopped up on adrenaline and finger-pointing?

Is Stuart a better parent because of all this criticism? Is David Beckham? Do they need to be? I mean, Harper seems to be doing well. She looks well and seems very loved by her parents. Herbie’s fine too, in case you were wondering. He’s just spent the day laughing hysterically at his father pointing at a ceiling light.

So, the woman at the crossing, I’d like to say this: it’s not my job to be a role model for your kids; it’s yours.

I think David Beckham summed it up well on Instagram. “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?” he said, in response to dummygate. “Think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent.”

23 things I never did before I had a baby

1. Sway.

2. Sway while holding my baby.

3. Sway while not holding my baby.

4. Sway while holding distinctly un-baby items, like my phone.

5. Be able to identify other parents in public, even when no babies are present, from how they’re swaying when they should be standing still.

6. Unwittingly match their swaying rhythm until we’re just two idiot strangers swaying at each other in the queue in Tesco Express.

7. Leggings as trousers – and not maternity ones. Lordy, what a revelation. JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED.

8. Really appreciate the word “enough”.  As in, “clean enough not to poison my child” (Sophie la Giraffe, floor of Starbucks, 20 seconds), “slept enough not to be a danger to myself or others” (three plus hours), or “enough wine to take the edge off without giving my son a hangover via my breastmilk” (one large glass of Pinot).

9. Do so many things one-handed while calming a baby – like online banking, or eating a three-course meal.

10. Miss so many friend conversations. I live about an hour and a half away from most of my friends, so I really should be more diligent. But someone will text me a question while I’m changing a nappy, then I’ll have to feed the baby, then I might need to clean, then we might need to go out, then I might need to do some work, and then several days later I’ll emerge from babywrangling and realise I haven’t replied – not because I don’t care – but because I’m mired deep in early motherhood. Sorry, friends. I will do better.

11. Realise that I somehow know all the words to the Home & Away theme tune, and sing my son to sleep with it.

12. Reappropriate theme tunes in general for my son. For example, New Girl (“Who’s that Herbie / Who’s that Herbie / It’s Herbie”), and The Affair (“I have only one thing to do and that’s / be a tiny baby and / do a poo in my nappy.”)

13. Hum in public.

14. Ambiently say things like “right then” or “let’s go” when leaving a shop.

15. Walk two miles uphill with an 18lb monster strapped to my front like it’s no thing (and by “no thing” I mean “constantly go on about it, and what a hero I am, and how under all this chub I now have abs of steel, of steel, and then pass out”).

16. Shout “SNAP!” at some poor woman in the street just because we have the same pram, and genuinely make her fear for her life for a second.

17. Really, really, really appreciate an afternoon nap like never, ever, ever before.

18. Walk around topless in the evenings. The more tired Herbie gets, the less able he is to navigate through the T-shirt/vest system I have going on when he feeds, so I just take my top off most evenings. After dinner my house is basically like a strip club, but a really shit one with a creche, where the strippers have really let themselves go and are just walking around in their pants, eating spaghetti bolognese.

19. Felt the way about Mrs Crimble’s chocolate macaroons the way some people feel about crack.

20. Become more intolerant. Not in a horrible UKIP way, but now there is an inbuilt sense that my baby comes first, in all sorts of ways. If you look a bit iffy and you approach us in an underpass at night, I will shout at you to stay away and not worry about your feelings. Similarly, I met a woman who said that she didn’t like babies my son’s age because they “just sit there like a lump with no personality, I mean look at him”. This woman is dead now*.

21. Gazed at parents of twins in the street with undisguised awe.

22. Broken down my life into 15-minute bursts while the baby is occupied. Still working on this one.

23. Realise how beautiful all other babies are. For most of my life I didn’t think I wanted children, and was pretty clueless when it came to babies, but now I’m a mother all I see are gorgeous children and brave parents all around me. Well done, humans of Earth.

*To me**.

**And everyone else***.

***Just kidding.

Five ways I trick my boobs into producing more milk

Now, this is blatant blog filler because I’m away on my holidays** and need to get back to slightly-more-hungover-than-usual babywrangling in a slightly-nicer-than-usual location.

That said, I am rubbish at expressing milk into any receptacle other than my son. I have a hand pump. I have an electric pump. I have, er, hands. During a good hour’s boobery (even after massaging them and doing other things that make me feel a bit like my own molester) I can squeeze out a teenth of a millilitre of milk using these methods; it’s pathetic. And yet my son, exclusively breastfed, is fat and bouncing.

Occasionally, though, I can trick my breasts into squirting out the requisite amount to allow me to go to the cinema or dentist now and again. This is how I do it, but if you have any tips, my boobs, and maybe other people’s boobs, would really appreciate it if you shared them in the comments…

   

1. I browse photos of my son until I cry

Admittedly I do this all the time, and that’s why my phone keeps going STOP THIS THERE IS NO MORE ROOM STOP IT NOW at me. The thing is, if I do it until I cry, eventually my boobs cry, too, and I can capture their tears in a Tommy Tippee cup so I can go and watch Jurassic World and have a cheeky Nando’s once every couple of months. Isn’t nature majestic.

2. I watch this clip of Miracle on 34th Street 

The strangely soft-focus 1990s remake is my unashamed favourite Christmas movie. Here, a deaf little girl goes to see Father Christmas and her mum’s all “oh, you don’t need to talk to her, it’s just enough that she can see you”  and then Kris Kringle asks her what she wants for Christmas in perfect sign language, and oh god. I and my boobs are in floods.

3. I hug my husband

I hug him good and hard until the oxytocin starts flowing, and then I abandon him for the breast pump, like the heartless cow I am.

*Bbbrrr*.

A video posted by Robyn Wilder Heritage (@orbyn) on

4. I watch this video of my husband and son having a raspberry conversation

I watch it over and over while massaging my boobs which, now I think about it, is super creepy.

5. I listen to this song Dumbo’s mum sings to him when she’s taken away, because apparently I bloody hate myself.

*Inconsolable sobbing, forever*

** Literally an Airbnb in the same county, only closer to the beach.

Guardian commenters and the myth of the perfect parent

Yesterday, in his Guardian Family column, Stuart wrote about a day when he had to take over primary parenting duties because I was laid up with a migraine, and how it wasn’t a barrel of laughs.

I thought it was a particularly sweet piece, but somehow it attracted 400-odd dementedly outraged comments that often dripped with condescension and outright insult.

Generally, my reaction to comments like this is to read them out gleefully to Stuart over breakfast, because I am a delightful and supportive wife. However, today I feel I should actually address them.

These are approximations of the main offenders (or offending comment trends).

“If you find your baby boring you are a terrible parent and should literally give your baby to someone else.”
Look, I find my baby as charming and curious as Paul Rudd with a magnifying glass, but spending an afternoon watching him hit himself on the head with a plastic toy while waiting for a laundry cycle to finish is not my idea of thrilling, either.

Of course I play with him, and sing to him, and gaze at him for hours, marvelling at every single hair on his head, and the fact that he’s here and he’s ours – we both do – but we all have our limits.

You may have a neverending well of fascination for your children, and good on you if so, but being so histrionically judgmental about other parents reeks of arseholery. We’re doing our best just as you are.

“You need to spend more time with your baby.
Well, it’s lucky Stuart gave these commenters our schedule, because how else could they fairly decide whether he spends enough him with our son? For the record, when he’s not working the first thing Stuart does is offer to take Herbie. Good thing, too, or I would be perennially unshowered.

“How could you have been bored? Why didn’t you take your baby to the park or to a baby group? Your wife would have.”
Firstly, I am Herbie’s food source, even with a migraine, so short of dragging me along, all pukey and photophobic, Stuart was a bit tied to the house. Secondly, woe betide Stuart for not preternaturally knowing where the nearest mother-and-baby group was and what time it ran, and thirdly, just fuck off. We’ve all had days where we’re stuck inside with a baby, whether it’s down to weather or illness or sheer dive-into-Netflix knackeredness. I might not have gone out with the baby, in fact. I suppose that makes me an awful parent, too.

“Your wife could deal with it because she HAD NO CHOICE. Society expects it of her, you chauvinist, not like you in your IVORY TOWER OF AN OFFICE.”
Er, I didn’t accidentally poo out a child then discover that I’d been manacled to the stove for a year. I had plenty of choice. I chose to have a baby. I chose to take a long maternity leave and do the largesse of the parenting while Stuart did most of the breadwinning. Thanks for all the empowerment, though.

“Boring? You don’t know what boring is, at least you don’t have to cope with your partner having post-natal depression.”
Actually, despite your assumptions I do have PND, and Stuart does have to cope with it. At least now your own partner knows that you don’t find her mental health very stimulating.

“Your wife sometimes feeling insecure about her parenting skills will result in your child growing up skittish and emotionally damaged.”
THIS IS MY FAVOURITE TYPE OF COMMENT. On behalf of new mothers everywhere who sometimes need reassurance that they’re doing an okay job, thank you for your kind words.

“Your praising your wife for taking naturally to parenting is sexist.”
Yes, and my making Stuart a cup of tea is racist, and if I ever tell anyone they look nice it’s basically terrorism.

“Only boring people are bored.”
Au contraire.

Tl;dr Stuart wrote a column, the comments went nuts, Herbie’s face sums up my feelings on the matter:

Snoob reviewb: a decent breastfeeding scarf

Full disclosure: I was sent this Snoob for free.

With apologies to Full Metal Jacket, this is my Snoob. There are many like it but this one is mine. My Snoob is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life. Without me it is useless. Without it I am useless.

Before I got my Snoob, breastfeeding in public was an exercise in humiliation. While I’m all for municipal nursing in theory, in practice I am extraordinarily awkward and really only recently managed to be okay with taking a poo in the same postcode as other people, so whipping out my norks willy-nilly in Starbucks has been a steep learning curve.

And Herbie doesn’t help. He is the most active baby I’ve ever met (admittedly I only know, like, two other babies), and unlike those docile creatures who quietly fold up under your arm and suckle peacefully in your arms, Herb’s preferred breastfeeding MO is to nurse intermittently while roaring into the sky and flailing his limbs about as though he’s playing an invisible one-man-band kit.

Which is lovely.

And the more discreet I try to be, the more Animal-from-The-Muppets he gets. He kicks at my shoulder. He yanks on my T-shirt and tries to punch my hair clean out of my head. He lurches wildly back and forth as though he’s finally getting out of the welding business and into a modern dance audition.

Enter the Snoob.


The Snoob is basically a roomy snood made of lightweight cotton jersey. You can wear it draped prettily round your neck, and when you want to breastfeed you can pull it out to its deceptively deep full width – there’s enough material to cover you, your shoulders and most of your baby once they’re latched on.

There’s a bit of shuffling involved as you need to basically manoeuvre a hungry baby into a giant fabric hoop, which doesn’t always go tranquilly, but once they’re on the boob the acres of material actually create a tenting effect, which Herb seems to find less offensive than a bunched-up T-shirt in his face.

Also, you can do all sorts under the private canopy of your Snoob: swap boobs, wind your baby, gossip with your baby about the man sitting opposite you, eat a Snickers bar; all sorts.

Basically I never leave the house without my Snoob now, because it also functions as a baby blanket, sun shade, thingy for Herbie for yank at/twist/gnaw on when we’re on the train, and a shawl/attractive ethnic rain hat for me. It folds up neatly into my changing bag and goes with most of my outfits (although a linen one for summer would be very welcome).

Recently I went into London with Herbie in the carrier and totally underestimated how cold it was. The Snoob was exactly big enough to wear looped around the carrier as a second layer, and when Herbie inevitably kicked off his sock in the middle of Soho I was able to magic up a makeshift foot covering using just a hairband and a corner of the Snoob. Tuddah!

So, the Snoob, £25.00. I am a fan. Yes, you could just get a regular snood, but it wouldn’t cover your baby as well, or be as soft on your baby’s skin.

They come in lots of different colours (mine’s “petrol blue”, but “cloud grey” is my favourite) and once I win the lottery I shall buy them all. BUY THEM ALL, YOU HEAR ME? And then there will be none for you, which sort of renders this review pointless. But anyway, there we go. Snoob!

9 partially successful ways to work from home with a velcro baby

1. Put him in his moses basket with a few toys
So you’ve chosen to work from home or freelance through your maternity leave. What you’ve done here, though, is mistake your baby for a good baby. The sort of baby who, if you plop him in a corner, will play contentedly on his own. But you don’t have that sort of baby. You have the sort of baby who causes health visitors to exclaim “doesn’t he have a lot of character!” At the end of a long, hard day of baby-wrangling, you yourself have told him “it’s a good thing you’re cute”. He needs constant stimulation. He is never not wriggling. He cries anytime you’re not holding him. What you have is a velcro baby, and it’s a matter of minutes before he kicks a hole in that basket, sweeps your coffee to the floor, and screams himself hoarse.
Work completed: 15 minutes, tops.

2. Make a floor desk!
Kills two birds with one stone, right? You get to work and supervise your baby, right? Wrong. You will surround your baby with all his toys, but the one he’ll be interested in is the big shiny one you’re spending all your time on, and the minute your back is turned to answer your phone he’ll roll over onto your laptop and suddenly your screen will be full of gibberish.
Work completed: FKSMASLG;J’K KL28_)(


3. Take a train to Penzance!
No, seriously. Buy a ticket, hop on a train and, provided you have enough laptop battery and/or your baby isn’t ill or teething, the movement of the train will rock him to sleep for the largesse of the journey, allowing you to work. Obviously this way you spend an entire day’s salary on a ticket to Penzance, but in return you get to eat in the buffet car, which makes you feel like a spy, and you get to visit Penzance (Obviously, if you live in Penzance, get a train to London).
Work completed: Five hours’ worth, unless you take this opportunity to sleep instead, in which case who could blame you.


4. Leave your baby with a friend or relative!
Leave your baby with someone while you work in the other room and you’ll realise just how well you can interpret your baby’s various cries. Also, you won’t be able to think about anything else. Whoever’s looking after him will try to feed him when you can hear that he’s sleepy, or try to rock him to sleep when he just wants someone to play with him. And you’ll sit there mentally critiquing their technique instead of working until you can’t stand it anymore.
Work completed: Very little, unless you measure work in tears and leaked breast milk.


5. Decamp to a park!
Okay, in my experience this one actually works when I time it with my baby’s morning nap. If I wheel him to the park via Starbucks I get to a) enjoy a soy hazelnut latte, and b) do some real work, because the combination of fresh air and birdsong lulls him to sleep and keeps him there for much of the morning. Of course, the cons include potential iPad theft, rain, toilet negotiation, and park yobs going “weyyy” if you breastfeed.
Work completed: Anything up to two hours’ worth, unless a yobbo nicks your iPad in the rain while you’ve got your norks out.


6. Wear him!
This also works. Strap your baby into a carrier, go for a walk until he falls asleep, then open your laptop and get some work done. If he wakes up for a feed, try and feed him in the carrier before he figures out that you’re sitting down (they always figure it out somehow).
Work completed: Up to 90 minutes’ worth.


7. Stand up!
If your baby gets restless in the carrier when you’re sitting down, set up shop on a kitchen counter, and work standing up. This also counts as a workout.
Work completed: As much as you can do before your feet get tired.


8. Work on your phone while he sleeps!
Typing one-handedly on my phone has become second nature, and I’ve even managed to push past the RSI I’ve been developing. Still, I only use this method for notes and edits, because it gets too cosy. Suddenly you become aware that you have this cuddly baby squished up against you, the oxytocin shuts down your higher brain and you just want to smell your baby’s head and nap all day.

9. If all else fails, give up, embrace poverty, drink wine.
You can do this. You live near Lidl.

Guess which one(s) of these methods I’ve used to write this post.

 

Five things I would have done differently from the beginning

1. Co-slept from the first night
From the moment we brought Herbie home from the hospital, he went off like a burglar alarm if we even looked like we were going to put him down, and the doctor said not to push it as he’d had a traumatic birth. So Stuart and I settled into a nightmarish 24-hour-a-day routine of holding the baby for two hours while the other one of us slept.

Day and night we slogged through these purgatorial shifts, dangerously nodding off in front of the worst of what Netflix had to offer with the baby snoring in our arms while the other one catnapped. This went on for two weeks which, when you’re living without REM sleep, is roughly 97 years.

Eventually a visiting midwife (I don’t know which one, only that she is the most glorious human alive) asked whether we habitually drink to excess or thrash around in our sleep. When we said no, she told us, a little conspiratorially, about safe cosleeping and breastfeeding lying-down.

Since then we haven’t looked back. I lie on my side with Herbie encircled in my arms, and together we sleep for between four and six-hour stretches. Even when he nurses, he’s basically at boob-level, so neither of us really wakes up. Compared to those early days, it is bliss.

I mean sure, sleeping in a family bed doesn’t make for a very romantic bedroom situation, and I can’t really feel my arms anymore, and I don’t sleep quite well enough to stop accidentally putting the kettle in the fridge. Oh, and obviously when we start sleep-training I will write a post totally reversing my position, BUT for now this works for us. Ish. And what I’m finding is that “works-ish” is about as good as it gets when you have a new baby.

2. Not bothered with nursing tops
Okay, FIRST OF ALL, why are most nursing tops ALSO maternity tops? Surely the subset of pregnant women who are nursing a baby AS WELL is relatively small?

SECONDLY, it turns out that if you develop giant mutant milkbreasts, as I have, those hidden-flap tops just make them look like the world’s most obscene tongues sticking out.

It’s so much easier to just wear a vest under a normal top. Then to feed you just pull the former down and yank the latter up, and tuddah! Accessible boob. Job done.

3. Watched RuPaul’s Drag Race
Why did I save up all of True Detective to watch while trapped under a breastfeeding baby? True Detective is slow, requires concentration, and contains “upsetting scenes”. I am a new mother. I can’t deal with slow programming because I’m too busy wrangling a crying/pooing/vomiting baby. Also my brain, she no work so good anymore. I barely sleep, ergo I don’t GET moody police nuance. And my hormones are so ridiculous that I pretty much consider Jennifer Lopez saying “I AM A BRONDE” an upsetting scene.

What I need in a show is primary colours and an easy-to-follow plot that will captivate me all day but not disintegrate if I conk out for an episode. I need a show where no one mumbles and everyone experiences simple, relatable emotions – like jealousy, and reem. I don’t need moody supernatural dramas like The Returned or challenging moral dramas like Breaking Bad. I need trash. I need RuPaul’s Drag Race.

So if you’re about to have a baby and you’re building up a stash of Game of Throneses to plough through after you give birth, well done, but don’t. Because do not underestimate how annoyed you’ll be if you miss a key scene because the baby’s crying. Whereas it won’t matter if you have a bunch of Catfishes or The Royalses, or Pretty Little Liarses, instead. Hear me. Netflix up some trash today. You’ll thank me later. Actually you won’t, because you won’t remember, but still.

4. Bought a little bag
One major thing I’ve learned about breastfeeding is that one session can take anywhere between zero and 90 minutes, you require constant rehydration, an obscene amount of snacks, your phone, and all the working TV remotes in your house.

What makes things worse is that when you have taken steps to assemble all said items, but find yourself trapped under a feeding baby ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM FROM THEM. For 90 minutes.

Hence I should have bought a small bag.

5. Saved up for a cleaner
Look, I don’t know about you, but my house is a fucking state. We moved to Kent from London a month before Herbie was born, and six months on we’re still finding homes for everything. Tidying, when I have time to do it, is mostly a case of moving the mess from one place to another.

All the literature says “just do the necessary and leave everything else”, and reasonably so, because entertaining a needy baby and keeping the house perfect is near-impossible.

The truth is, the dirtier your house gets, the worse you feel about it. You become convinced people are judging you and that you’re days away from a plague of rats, and every day you’re home with the baby this worry ticks over and over in your head until one day you put on your too-loose glasses, strap your baby to your front, and attack the kitchen floor with a mop too vigorously.

And then THIS happens:

  

More regrets coming soon!

The particular sadnesses of a pregnant woman at Glastonbury

Oh hi there, I’m the fucking worst. This time last year, you see, I was at Glastonbury for free on my husband’s press pass.

I was washing in the hospitality area’s only slightly traumatic facilities (as opposed to the fully PTSD-flavoured ones the public had to use). I was sleeping in a weather-proof Wendy house instead of a tent. I had unlimited access to the backstage VIP area.

And I was fucking miserable.

I mean miserable. I scowled through a DJ set at Bloc 9. I threw a legitimate tantrum because my husband had the temerity to do his actual job for a couple of hours and, while he was away, I fell over briefly. I cried when the Pixies played, because they were so old and sour-looking.

I know. I know. I am the worst.


In my defence, I was two months pregnant.

And I wasn’t a good, glowy, blooming content sort of pregnant – I was in the stage where you just want to go to bed forever and shut the world out. I was hormonally unpleasant to be around.

Let me be clear, I went to Glastonbury voluntarily. I’d been to a million Glastonburys in my teens and loved then, so I assumed I’d enter into the spirit of things once I got there. But I entirely failed to do this.

I hated the mud. I hated the noise. I hated tramping for miles through soggy filth only to end up at the arse-end of a crowd, downwind of the loos, watching tiny people on a faraway stage perform songs that I ALREADY OWNED STUDIO VERSIONS OF.

I hated being buffeted by loud, happy fools who kept walking into me without psychically intuiting that I was pregnant. I hated not being able to drink. I hated how it wasn’t the 1990s and I wasn’t 16 and The Orb wasn’t playing and I wasn’t on some dodgy mushrooms having the time of my life.

Most of all, though, I hated being such an ingrate. I was here on The Guardian’s buck, and was probably spoiling Stuart’s first Glastonbury, but I didn’t seem to be able to stop being such a buzzkill.

My feet hurt. My back hurt. I kept having to throw up every couple of hours (a month after this I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum), and I’m afraid to say I got quite whiny about the loos. I very specifically wanted to be on my sofa watching TV and getting a foot rub, and I was biologically opposed to anything that wasn’t that. I think I tried to persuade my husband that we should go to bed early on Friday night, and not in a sexy way.

Things improved markedly on Saturday, though, and I put that down to one horrendously obnoxious revelation.

I saw her dancing aimlessly in the Green Fields while I was glumming around in the rain, halfheartedly contemplating getting some sort of hemp aura massage: a happy pregnant woman.

There she was, contentedly swaying in the drizzle, her bump protruding prettily under her tie-dye skirt, all beads and ear-cuffs and smiles. She seemed perfectly happy to be here in the middle of this stupid field with all these trustafarians. She didn’t seem like she was going to lose her mind over a spilled chai tea latte like I had that morning.

Maybe, I thought, I should learn from her example, let go of some of this preggo angst, and make the most of things.

But then I thought, maybe fuck her.

Maybe fuck her stupid dreadlocks and her stupid band of adorable mop-haired children probably all called Fern, and her stupid crocheted bra top, and her stupid tan and scruffy partner and circle skirt and open smile and perfect bump.

They say love is the greatest power, but I’d have to disagree. At that moment it felt amazing to turn off my guilt-sodden misery and activate 1,000 volts of pure, undeserving hatred.

And it allowed me to enjoy the rest of the festival. Obviously I constantly wanted to go home with every fibre of my being, but occasionally thinking fuck that happy pregnant woman, fuck this, fuck everything somehow freed me up to crack a smile at Jurassic 5, dance at Fujiya & Miyagi, and even briefly contemplate returning with my child to enjoy the kids’ field.

And now, one year later, as I sit here with my son and glass of frizzante enjoying the Glastonbury coverage from the comfort of my sofa (foot rub pending) I’d just like to thank that woman for being the unwitting recipient of my silent, horribly obnoxious attentions.

Happy pregnant woman, thank you, and I’m sorry. But I couldn’t have done it without you.