Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Best New Year's Eve of All

2014 is drawing to a close and I'm beginning to put some thought into what I'm going to wear this evening. Or, more to the point, which of my clothes I haven’t managed to balloon out of over the Christmas period. Our plans for tonight are fairly modest – an evening with a few friends and family members at my sister’s cottage, children in tow, but I expect it to be a good party. That said, it does have rather a lot to live up to. I've had some incredible New Year’s Eves in my time, from the big blow-outs to the drunken pyjama parties, and only very few of them have been shit.

However, not one of those drunken midnights, seeing in another year, will ever come close to last year. Last year was the best New Year’s Eve I have ever had.

It actually started terribly. I was still in hospital, recovering from my C-section, and was rudely awoken at about 1am on the 31st because the nurses needed my bay for another woman just out of surgery. In pain and exhausted, I tried to gather my things from the floor around my bed – I had been unable to move enough to tidy up until then, and the emergency nature of my operation meant that I’d hardly been able to get myself comfortable and organized beforehand – while the HCA stood and tutted at the mess. I was then instructed to move from my nice, calm, private room into one already occupied by two other women, both of whom were mothers to premature babies and had been in hospital for several weeks. One of the girls didn't even have her baby on the ward with her yet. Suddenly, in crashed Blake and I; him screaming for a nappy change, me blubbering that Blake was dying (the baby blues: that shit is as real as it gets). We were tucked into the corner bay – the only one without any functioning lights – and left to our own devices. Let me tell you that changing a newborn’s nappy in the dark is hard; trying to do so whilst looking through a curtain of your own tears and inexperience is even harder.

Fast forward a few hours and I woke up feeling refreshed after some fairly decent sleep, but desperate to go home. The pain in my incision wound was beginning to abate slightly, and the lighting on the ward was really starting to harsh my morphine buzz. Visiting hours didn't start for ages and, while partners could spend most of the day on the ward, Mr Meaney was still without his driving license and had to wait for my parents to bring him in. The day was about watching the clock tick and wondering if my tits would always hurt this much.

Eventually, visiting times came around, but still I was not allowed to go home. I had to wait for a nurse to give me a bunch of syringes to take home and a lesson on how to brutally ram them into my own stomach before I could leave. My Mum was due to babysit for my niece so that my sister could go out, and as day rolled into evening, I could feel the stress emanating from her pores. Finally, a huge bag of drugs in one hand, I was allowed to leave the hospital. Blake’s electronic anti-baby-theft device was cut from his teeny, tiny little ankle (his first ASBO, really) and we were set free into the world. I had to sit in the front of my parent’s Land Rover to try and get as comfortable as possible, while baby Bear had to go in the back; the wrench of not being able to see him on that hour long journey was intense.

When we got home, Mr Meaney gave the best present that any husband could ever give a wife that has just spent three days in a maternity unit: he let me go to bed. He helped me to get comfortable under my nice big duvet and took the baby for a couple of hours until the next feed.

I slept like the dead.

Resurfacing after two hours, I was greeted by a baby screaming for food and a clock that alerted me to the fact that 2013 was nearly over. I settled down with my two boys – the new one and the one that had been kicking around for a while – and watched the London fireworks on TV. I was tired, a little frightened of what lay ahead and yet completely elated by where I was. As the first few minutes of 2014 ticked by, I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. For all of the wild New Year’s Eves I had had in the past, everything up until that point suddenly felt like I had just been waiting.

It has gone on to be an incredible year. There have been a few ups and downs along the way, but every single day is a new adventure and I wouldn't change any part of the last twelve months. Even the shit parts have been better than anything that came before.

This New Year's Eve will see me spending it with my two boys again, although I hope the newest one will be in bed by the time Big Ben chimes twelve. Last year was the best New Year’s Eve I have ever had but from here on in I expect them to just get better and better. As I watch Blake grow and turn into even more of an hilarious little weirdo, the future seems more exciting than I could have possibly imagined.

So, here’s to 2014; A truly vintage year! 2015 has got some pretty big shoes to fill, but I reckon it’s up to the challenge. Fingers crossed, next New Year will see us celebrating as a four…

Saturday, 20 December 2014

30 Things I've Learned During My First 12 Months as a Parent

Blake will be one next week, and the past twelve months have flown by in a way that I can barely believe. It has been an absolute roller-coaster of emotions, as well as learning curve steep enough to feel like I'm trying to climb up a demon drop slide. Here are a few of the things that I've learned along the way (only some of which involve bodily functions):

1. Throw unused mashed banana away straight away. You are not going to want to deal with it two hours later.

2. There is no upper limit to how many times a cupboard door can be opened and slammed shut.

3. Apparently bath bubbles are fine for consumption. That or it takes more than twelve months for adverse effects to appear.

4. Boys discover their willies way earlier than you might imagine.

5. Other parents don't always provide a particularly good support system; they have their own problems.

6. Poverty can actually make you a better parent.

7. At no point does poo-finger become any less traumatic.

8. Being dribbled on fast becomes a way of life.

9. As your baby becomes more active, you will find yourself putting nappy changes off until absolutely necessary; no one likes an impromptu wrestling match.

10. People will always criticise your decisions. 

10a. Take their advice with a pinch of salt and carry on doing it your way.

11. Controlled crying works. Sometimes. For some people. If the baby decides it's going to.

12. You will break every rule that you've set for yourself, from dummies to co-sleeping to television consumption. 

13. Broken sleep does not get any easier. 

14. Babies will hold onto an exploding poo for days, only to release it in spectacular fashion the moment you find yourself out in public and away from accessible baby changing facilities. 

15. At some point, you will probably have to throw away a rug or two after too many nappy free sessions.

16. Babies will do things at their own speed. Ignore the charts and milestone predictions.

17. Other parents do not want your opinion on what they're doing. Unless it agrees with them completely.

18. Hangovers will never be the same again.

19. Baby brain never goes away. Ever.

20. Your relationship will change, but that's usually mostly OK.

21. The post-partum hair loss does eventually slow down.

22. Join local buy and sell groups on social networks; baby clothes are bloody expensive and they grow out of them in the blink of an eye, so cheap used bundles of clothes are a money saving essential. 

23. Forgoing the baby monitor at night is a terrifying prospect. 

24. Sadly, some friends will probably lose interest in you.

25. Parents feel guilty about most of what they're doing, most of the time. Just embrace it; chances are you're doing a fine job. Let those feelings of inadequacy wash straight over you.

26. People will continues to ask questions like, 'how is the weight loss going?' even when you're feeling incredibly svelte. 

26a. Who am I kidding? Svelte is long gone.

27. Childcare is a fucking nightmare if you work weekends.

28. Baby socks exist in some kind of parallel dimension in which they are invisible 99% of the time, turning up only occasionally to be shoved into the baby's mouth. 

29. Pram shoes are completely pointless.

30. One day, you will unexpectedly stumble upon one of your baby's newborn vests and feel an uncontrollable broodiness that says it's time to do it all over again...