Posts tagged ‘babies’
I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September. I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is. What I want to share today has more to do with the content.
When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”. Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice. Soothing music would play in the background. Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer. The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]
You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters. Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear!
So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.
When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together. She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.
‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.”
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle. In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well. She got frustrated and I got sore. She yelled every time I picked her up. Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”
It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:
“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”
I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt. The bars of a rhyme? The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob. No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”
I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going! She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!
They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other. Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner. Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the
Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish. When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple. Oh no. The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”. Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure? Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure! I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?
For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence. Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television. I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!). Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.
Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!
The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free. The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package. As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?” The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!
Anyway, so we got rid of the TV. No biggie. Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)
But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all. In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age. The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development. It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home. I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity? On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy. While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa. It does make me a bit sad.
And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by. A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was. We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear. Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to. I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now! (Fingermouse, anyone?). It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children.
We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House. I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook. My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time. Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?
I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event. It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing. Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”. Strangely, I just felt relieved. I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.
Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama. I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages. We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us. And maybe that should be by talking to them!
It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter. Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent
It seems that it works both ways, too. The touch of her baby was enough to rehabilitate Australian coma sufferer Emma De Silva, whose husband and family had been told there was almost no hope. Their incredible story can be seen here. Get the tissues handy before you hit play, though! What an amazing testimonial to the power of touch.
The one thing that I can confidently say about every parent, whatever their beliefs, is that we could all do with a little bit more sleep! Here in the Alt.house, we each have our own very different styles when it comes to sleep. Whether this makes for harmonious times all depends of course on whether we are all actually asleep at the same time or not!
Alt.Father could sleep on the proverbial washing line. His sleep habits have led us to wonder whether he was in fact quite possibly a cat in a former life. A single shaft of golden sunshine falling across just about any kind of soft surface draws him in like a moth to a flame, and soon he is snoring gently. He’s a big fan of quick naps and like a trusty Nokia phone a short charge-up leaves him re-energised and ready to go.
Whereas I can’t do naps at all. A cat-nap for me will turn into a two hour zonk out from which I will wake slightly groggy and disoriented. I’ll hold my eyelids open with matchsticks so that I can finish reading the last chapter of my book, and struggle with my self inflicted tiredness by being grumpy like a bear with a sore head the next day. I love to sleep where it’s quiet and comfortable, although darkness isn’t mandatory. A peaceful summer afternoon in the garden snoozing on a rug for a couple of hours would be absolute bliss.
Alt.D1 started off as a shocking sleeper. Her preferred pattern was 20 minutes sleep at a time, day or night, with a lot of noise in between. It would take us hours of pacing up and down in between those sleeps just to get her back down again. Her sleep pattern was not unlike a series of delayed trains, with one sleep becoming so far gone as to roll into the next. She settled down as she grew older, eventually taking morning and afternoon naps and at long last, bedtime in the evenings became a more predictable state of affairs. Now she sleeps wrapped in snuggly duvets and blankets, legs and arms sometimes poking free, head sometimes at the foot of the bed and sometimes hanging off the side!
Alt.D2 was the opposite of her sister on arrival. Sleeping for four hours at a time as a newborn, quickly making it known that she wasn’t hungry and just wanted to be put down to sleep. We had made the decision to co-sleep before she was born, and she cuddles down comfortably in the evenings, sucking a thumb to send herself off. We call her the “light police” though – no chance whatsoever of reading a book in bed for her parents, she’ll snuffle and squeak until we turn the light off!
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, we used to frequently remind Alt.D1. Somehow she always seemed to know when there was an early morning meeting for Alt.Father, and would choose that night to remain awake during the early hours, refusing to be put down, refusing to just GO TO SLEEP! We tried all sorts of tricks: hot water bottles in her moses basket, warming the blankets in our bed, wrapping her up in my t-shirt… mostly to no avail. We read up on all sorts of methods for encouraging good sleeping, including the No Cry Sleep Solution (although it wasn’t clear whether it was the parents or the babies doing the crying!), the Baby Whisperer, Babycalming, and the Dr Sears website.
|Alt.D1 teaches Alt.Father the meaning of “share”|
What worked for us? Probably just the passage of time. Alt.D1 did suffer from awful colic for many weeks, something I will probably write about another time, but that aside, things eventually just eased up. We “gave up” on trying to get the baby into her own bed, and kept her in ours, moving her cot right up against the side of our bed with the bars removed like a little refuge she could be rolled into when she eventually dropped off to sleep. Even then she was about 15 months old before she slept through a night (March 5th, 2010, I have it etched in my mind!) and sadly, it was a fluke! We were like the line from that Alanis Morissette song “I’m tired but I’m working, yeah”. Somehow, be it hormones, or adrenaline, or magic powers, we just kept going through the days and nights until things became easier of their own accord.
By the time Alt.D1 was 2, she was often sleeping through. Sometimes it was in her own cot, in her own room, and sometimes it was in our bed, but sleep is sleep, as far as I am concerned! We started to think about having another baby. We reasoned that the sleep deprivation couldn’t be as bad as the first time around, and anyway, if it was, we would be prepared for it. We bought a bigger bed. Plenty of room for all of us.
Alt.D2 had a lovely moses basket. I used it for storing my laptop, phone and book in. Whilst we were in the maternity hospital, we had been tucked up in the bed together by the midwives, and she had slept beautifully, nestled into the crook of my arm. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they say, so we continued that way once we came home. I read Deborah Jackson’s “Three in a Bed” which reassured us that this was the right thing to do. It’s working out ok so far, although Alt.D2 hasn’t yet begun to roll! A much easier life for all of us, and still space when Alt.D1 decides she wants in on the action, too!
Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone. You do need to be careful, as although you are unlikely to roll on the baby and squash them as many people fear, it is not without its risks. The NHS current guidelines are that the safest place for your baby to sleep for its first six months is in its own cot in its parents’ bedroom. There is more information available here about sharing a bed with your baby. Statistically, mothers who co-sleep breastfeed for longer (probably because they are not driven half mad by lack of sleep!) so there are health benefits, too.
In most parts of the world, babies sleep with their parents, and it does make sense, really. For 9 months they were inside their mother, then all of a sudden, they are out in the big wide world. They feel safer, calmer and more relaxed when next to their parents, making sleep come more easily and life a little better for everyone!
I will leave you with a clip that sums it all up. Michael McIntyre on children’s bedtimes:
Sleep well, all.