I heart half-term

What is it about half-term, that induces this feeling similar to when you realised you forgot to do your essay and hand it in at college, you know, the dreaded sensation that feels like your stomach is about to fall out of your bum? I haven’t planned anything specific for my children to do every day, other than to save money by not sending them to holiday club at nursery, which would have enriched their week no end, I guess, but instead, they are at home with me whilst I am on maternity leave. We are on I think maybe the fifth movie of the week. They’re sat watching Arthur Christmas, it’s October ffs and it’s not even 10am yet. Do I win at parenting this week?

So far the week has been peppered with arguments about whose bed of cushions is whose, who can do a better forward roll, and drawing on each other’s paper because “she’s not given it any hair so I’m doing it for her.” And then saying ‘sorryyy-a’ because she means it so much she gave it an extra syllable.

To add to the pressure of giving my children a fun-packed week of wonderfulness, we have an extra house guest for the week. Bertie the bloody class bear. Bertie has his own personal journal where’s he all braggadocious (thanks Donald Trump) about the delightful things he’s been up to since his holiday started back in September. Seriously Bertie, get a job -stop exploiting children’s weekend freedom by insisting they pose with you for photos in front of the Eiffel Tower or whatever other parents do with their little sweethearts on their time off. He really has been up to all sorts. Well I’m sorry, Bertie, your extended holiday with us might not live up to your high-society expectations. We won’t be visiting the aquarium so you can pretend that you’re interested in learning about freshwater sting-rays, and I refuse to spend £8 on a ham sandwhich and a tiny yoghurt in an imitation happy-meal box for you in the cafe. You probably won’t even eat it, you’ll just sit their sulking like when you bring a friend home from school and your parents have got the wrong kind of ketchup. Then you’ll down the fruity drink of doom in 1 long gulp and refuse to admit you need a massive wee ten minutes later.

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Bertie on the way home from school to begin his excursion. Refused to wear a seatbelt.

Bertie has so far, however, enjoyed watching his hostess go swimming with Daddy and her sister. I say watched, he napped in the bag with the towels after the obligatory photo-opportunity but after swimming he enjoyed drying under the hand-dryer after the humidity got to him, and I’m pretty sure he found this quite invigorating. Made him feel all macho and bear-like. He’s since had a ride into town in the pushchair basket, and was very content unlike his hostess, who complained about having to walk ‘for ages’ and questioned whether we were in town yet every 90 seconds even though she knows the frigging walk into town like the back of her hand, and the traffic lights at the cross-roads is not town, is it darling.

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After drying his lustrous tendrils, Bertie let Amélie dry her hair too.

Later on today we plan on walking to the newly refurbished park so Bertie can be thrown gleefully down the slide and span round on the roundabout. If he pukes I will not be impressed. But I’ve already made a large parenting cock-up by suggesting that we might walk to the park later, while the girls were getting dressed. “Might”? What the hell was I thinking? Do I not know my own children at all, and realise this will start a cascade of ‘when are we going to the park? Can we go to the park yet? Are we actually going to the park? What time are we going to the park?’ So I’ve nipped this in the bud by stating that anyone who queries when we are going to the park, will not be going to the park. Not that I will follow through with that threat, because the idea of staying in all day and policing altercations over who lost Anna’s cape and winter fucking snow boots, is quite frankly hideous (I beg you, dearest doll manufacturers, glue the sodding stilettos, boots, crowns and other garments onto these princesses, please, they don’t need to come off. At no point in Frozen, did Anna remove her boots before frolicking in the snowy mountains with Kristoff because cartoon snow is still bloody freezing) and anyway Bertie must have a lovely lovely holiday and he really wants to go to the park and have a super time.

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Bertie didn’t have anything off the menu yesterday, I didn’t know if he had any intolerances and I don’t want the blame for bear diarrhoea.

It is really going to be a wholesome and adventurous week, honestly. For all you know we might have taken an overnight trip to London yesterday and have been to the Natural History Museum already this morning, and after lunch we are nipping for a quick go on the London Eye and then cruising the Thames before catching the train home. I just can’t prove it because we left the sodding bear at home by accident which is such a shame as he would’ve loved the Big Smoke. I could’ve taken photos of the girls but we didn’t want Bertie to be jealous, we just told him we were popping to Aldi and would be back in an hour.

I know children find school exhausting by the end of half a term and they need a break, and I know half-terms are really for the teachers’ sanity so they don’t end up tying children to their chairs in their class. But I think it should be that schools send home a parenting care-package for the week, which I suppose can provide some good old-fashioned phonics fun, but really it should include daytime essentials like extra-strong PG Tips teabags, or a giftcard fot Costa, pre-made BLT sandwiches and chocolate, and also post-bedtime necessities such as a good white wine (not Chardonnay), Dominos vouchers for when our brains can only cope with phonecalls rather than trying to decide what to cook, and a list of activities to revise for tomorrow when they wake up and expect you to be all parenty and organised again. Or Netflix works just as well.

I’ll let you know if I survive the rest of the week.. Only had two cups of tea this morning so far, the girls are currently not arguing/crying/sulking/playing too loudly for my liking, and the baby is sleeping. For now.

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Bertie may have gotten a slight concussion.

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You can see how much i enjoyed the roundabout. Made my eyeballs feel like they were falling out of my skull.

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Have you used a wheelchair lately?

My guess is that, no, you probably haven’t. It’s really quite a fun and exhilarating experience so I thought I’d give you a factual account of what you’re missing. Any profanities are strictly necessary.

Having a sweaty bum and back for the entire time between April and November. For me this was especially awful this year as I was heavily pregnant. And being hot, pregnant and in a wheelchair brings a special kind of under-belly sweat that I bet you’re all jealous of. But being seated in a black chair constructed from man-made fabrics, nylon and sponge and not being to stand up and cool your butt down is just hideous.

People leaning on your wheelchair. There are only certain people to whom I have given special permission to lean on my chair if they feel they need to for any unforeseen circumstantial laziness. The rest of you, use your glutes. Seriously, you have plentiful bum, leg and core muscles which I’m quite sure have many uses, one of these being holding you in an appropriate standing position. Magical!. Use ’em or lose ’em. And while you’re at it, stop moaning about having to walk somewhere or go for a run to keep fit, you don’t know how good you have it.

I have eyes, ears and a brain. If I am unknowingly in your way, ask me politely to shift. It is never necessary or helpful to move a wheelchair-user who is a complete stranger, out of the way for your own convenience. This actually happened to me in a supermarket – an elderly man saw it as his job to move me slightly to the left so he could get to something on the shelf that he couldn’t reach. Probably denture glue. But I was actually quite stunned, as was my partner who then looked at this gentleman with utter amazement. Would he go up and lift someone’s leg to get them to step out of the way? I doubt it.

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The numb bum. Always a numb bum. (There’s a theme to this post isn’t there?!) You’d think after years of using a wheelchair I’d be used to it. However, each and every day I get an achey numb bum and have the urge to stand up and stretch my legs. But I’d have to quickly get back into my chair incase people thought I had been faking it all this time. Maybe it’s because I used to be able to walk albeit in an quirky fashion, so I know what I’m missing, but it never goes away. I can’t wait to get on the sofa at the end of the day to lay back and be in a position that isn’t a right-angle. Being sat down all the time also brings great joy when it’s raining outside (or inside). Your thighs face up to the sky and get drenched very quickly. A raincoat serves little purpose here..

No, we’re not all paralysed. Not everyone who cannot walk and uses a wheelchair is paralysed. Use your imagination for f*ck’s sake. Maybe my legs have been taken for use by aliens who move around their own universe using stolen human limbs and replacing them with useless, but very life-like, dummy legs. The aliens have immobilised me for their own benefit. Consider this a cry for help.

We weren’t all in a tragic accident causing us to lose the use of our legs. See above. Some people have experienced this kind of heartbreaking occurrence though, and I’m pretty sure some of the following applies to these people too. The question asked most often with the accompanying tilty-head of doom is “Oh, how did it happen? You poor thing! You cope so well though!” Oh crap. Do they want a biological breakdown of the faults in my Mitofusin 2 gene and how it has affected me my whole life, gradually taking my movement and independence, or will the simple answer “I have a muscle wasting disease” suffice?

Disease!? Hark! This girl is DISEASED! Step away immediately, we might catch it!

The jokes about women drivers and being in charge of an electric or even my manual wheelchair, never get old. In fact I’ve not heard enough of them. Please say more things like this so I can legitimately punch you in the face.

Last time I checked (which was never) wheelchair users did not feature on the list of banned or dangerous dogs. If you see one of ‘our type’ coming down the same side of the street as you and your little darlings, there is no need to yank your child out of the way, almost dislocating their shoulder in the process. I don’t bite children. They taste like snot and poo, and I live with three of them so really I’m ok with just rolling past you in a completely nonthreatening manner. But you’ve just made your kid scared of wheelchairs and people in them. Round of applause to you.

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Shopping and general wheelchair access woes. We’re in the 21st century with 3d printing and robots and cars that drive and park themselves. But we can’t work out how to make pretty much everywhere accessible to wheelchairs and have facilities for people who need them because of a disability. It won’t be cheap, but most things that are vital for disabled people aren’t cheap. But surely it can be done properly and not take decades in the process. Hopefully it’ll happen in my lifetime but I am doubtful. I mean, we must be quite a healthy, capable nation, or why would they not give more funding to local NHS care trusts and councils. Maybe disabled people are just moaning about nothing.

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The shitty wrists. You read correctly. And by shit I don’t mean my own or even humans in general. Dog shit specifically. People are idiots and lazy and perpetually leave their dog’s crap wherever it was delivered. Because who wants to pick up poo? Well not me and my wheels. And seeing as I don’t own your dog, or any dog for that matter, I do not want to find chunks of dog poo in the tread of my wheels and then the creases of my wrist/hand before realising what has happened. Some dog poos are highly stealthy and not obvious, hence why we sometimes wheel through them. No amount of Dettol spray and hand-washing gets rid of the horror. And here’s a picture because my teachers taught me to support my arguments with evidence:

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Any enquiries about trying out a wheelchair and experiencing all of this for yourself should be submitted via my facebook page or Twitter @shopgirlygm.

Check out another blog I love, and which inspires me to write about the crappy stuff more and try and illustrate the unillustrateable. Hurrah for Gin is hilarious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t feed your baby here

I visited Marks and Spencers in Torquay recently with my young baby and my friend. We went into the baby changing/feeding room to change his nappy and I was surprised to see a place where mums can breastfeed in private, in a nice comfy chair, if they so desire. Even if you’re confident to feed wherever, it’s nice to have the choice to feed somewhere calm and comfortable. 

There was also a separate toilet cubicle for non-babies/adults/grown-ups to wee in private. However, neither of these rooms were accessible to me. By that I don’t just mean that there were no grab rails (there weren’t) but I literally couldn’t get through the ridiculously narrow doorways. My wheelchair is a pretty standard width and I can normally fit through ordinary doorways. But these were in no way ordinary. In fact I’m sure normal mums (I’m not quite normal) would struggle through them with a baby carseat or pushchair. I’m sure there is a perfectly understandable reason why M&S couldn’t spend out on wheelchair accessible change & feed rooms, it’s probably because they spent too much on vocal coaching for the tantalisingly sexy voice-over of their TV adverts. 

Aside from the toilet and the breastfeeding room not being available for me to use, the changing tables are also too high for me to reach. This is something that occurs in pretty much every baby changing cubicle however. They’re normally situated in disabled toilets which is just lovely. I get to smell my own kids’ poop on a daily basis, I don’t need to sample the aroma of 30 other babies’ sh*t when I go to the toilet but that’s a minor issue compared to how much room the changing tables and giant nappy bins take up when you’re trying to turn an electric wheelchair around in a tiny space. 

So I was left with a conundrum. I could wee in the separate disabled toilet across the corridor and just about fit the baby carseat in there too, but where could I breastfeed my baby? I didn’t like the idea of feeding him in the only toilet that I could fit my wheelchair into, and why should I have to? Would you eat in the toilets? Did it not occur to anyone that some mums might use a wheelchair? No, probably not. 

Instead, I whipped a boob out in the middle of the school uniform area and self-consciously fed my son. Hopefully I didn’t scare any young children, vulnerable pensioners or anyone in between.

To briefly conclude – These aren’t JUST breastfeeding rooms… These are 100% British M&S inaccessible breastfeeding rooms. 

The feeding room…


The parents’ toilet…


The hungry baby…


@shopgirlygm

The Painful Fourth Trimester

I’ll start this by saying that, for me at least, having children is one of the most magical things I’ve ever done. I love my three more than anything and most days if I really think about it, I can’t quite believe they are mine and that my body made them. There are lots of parts of the whole parenting thing that I love. You get to be a kid again and enjoy the things your children enjoy, at the same time as being their protector and their mentor. But it’s not always magical. Sometimes having babies is pretty shitty.

Giving birth is something that I strangely enjoy, despite all the pain and blood and the pain and useless gas and air and did I mention it’s painful? Going into labour is confusing and scary and exciting. You have no idea how things will unfold, how long it will all take and you’ve forgotten or haven’t yet experienced how bloody painful it is. But it’s happening and that means you get to meet your baby soon, and that’s what you want most. For your beautiful (you hope) baby to be here and you’ll both be well, you and your partner will be euphoric for at least some time and then you’ll get to carry on life at home with your now bigger family.

By the time you get home most of your family and friends have heard the news and can’t wait to see and hear all about the new little being. They’ve stopped asking how you’re feeling and are now asking how much sleep you’re getting. And the looks on their faces when you say “oh not too bad, about 2 or 3 hours at a time”, tells you that they slightly pity you because they can’t think of anything worse. These facial expressions are most helpful when you’re trying to be positive about the amount of sleep you’re having. You like it when family and friends will come and stay and buy take-away food, bring cake and hold the baby so you can drink a cup of tea whilst it’s still hotter than 20 degrees Celsius.

Over the first few days, these things happen: Part of your baby’s anatomy (hopefully just the umbilical cord) will shrivel up, turn a bit gunky and then fall off. Nothing is quite like it and it’s not pretty but in a strange turn of events you feel compelled to hold onto this gross little thing as a keepsake. You also feel gross – you haven’t picked up the eye liner in about seven days and you look and feel weak and somewhat ghost-like. You need to sleep only marginally less than you need oxygen to survive, and no matter how much people tell you to, sleeping during the day when the baby sleeps just doesn’t happen. Whoever came up with that nugget of advice needs to have a baby. You will lie there on the sofa for over an hour listening to BBC News on very low volume (being in the loop on current affairs is apparently quite a priority for me) with your eyes shut and you won’t fall asleep, because at any given moment, probably when you just manage to fall asleep, your baby will fart and you’ll jump out of your skin and take a further thirty minutes to relax again, at which point the baby will wake up.

After a few days you might be turning into a hermit because you haven’t stepped into outdoor daylight for quite some time, you’re wilting like an unloved plant and you think maybe a change of scenery will perk you up a bit. Just when you go to get in the car your boobs will start leaking and because you were cocky and didn’t wear breastpads, thinking you could manage to not leak just by squishing your boobs against yourself in a stealth-like manner when you feel an unwanted let-down, you’ve now got to hope that the matching 50p sized blobs of wet milk on your top will evaporate before you get to the supermarket. You get to the supermarket and you have a bit of a nervous breakdown trying to make a decision on which trolley to choose. You could put the baby in the trolley with the raised up bit that you strap the carseat onto (I am well aware of the campaigns to ban these ‘unsafe’ trolleys) but because it’s so high up and you’re in a wheelchair, you cannot see your baby for the duration of the shopping trip. Your PA (in my case) understands this issue and is just as irritated as you that there are no wheelchair-friendly baby-carrying trolleys. Because disabled people don’t have babies of course. You opt for the stupid trolley with the carseat holder and cry inside at this minor problem which doesn’t feel at all minor. Your baby is 4 days old and you’re still firmly in the stage where you have to look at their face every 3 seconds to check they’re still alive. That, and you’d like people to know that he belongs to you. You try very hard not to cry in public about this and feel like you’ve failed at this day already, this being a tiny obstacle but reminding you of how this parenting thing is never going to come as straightforwardly as it does for the average mum. You feel particularly anxious at being in a large supermarket at this stage postpartum and don’t really know what you’re supposed to be doing, so the only things you buy are shampoo and oven chips. You leave as quickly as possible and get home to be able to burst into tears on your partner’s shoulder for no apparent reason other than failing miserably at buying things in a bloody supermarket. It’s also your partner’s last day of leave and you know that tomorrow his shoulders won’t be around to cry on. Crying again. There’s a lot of crying.

In the following days you will burst into spontaneous tears whilst you’re getting dressed, sat on the sofa, sat on the toilet and many times whilst sat in your wheelchair. Unless you don’t use a wheelchair – in which case don’t worry, you can cry standing up. The baby is feeding well and putting on weight though which is the desired progression, but you still feel like you’ve accomplished nothing in the last few weeks. Check-ups with your lovely midwife have turned into check-ups with a health visitor which is scary and you want to hold onto that era for a little longer but you can’t.

You seem to have forgotten so much about the new baby stage and what the hell you did three years ago. You can’t remember how often you used to feed, or when they started to have a sleep routine or really just how the hell you do this. You’d also quite like to have an appetite again rather than just eating for the sake of needing energy to feed and be half awake. Food is a chore for the time being but hopefully it will start being fun again soon.

Suddenly the idea of seeing friends and colleagues at work fills you with nerves and you realise you’re not quite sure how to be a ‘new mum’ again in front of some people. People who aren’t used to seeing your boobs in the middle of the day. What will they think? Will they think you’re doing a good job?

Surprisingly your other two children have been nothing but adoring and helpful since the birth of their little brother. They haven’t experienced him stealing their toys yet and for the time being he’s the best thing ever. Your five-year-old takes pride in choosing his babygrows and vests when he’s puked on himself one too many times, and your pride levels rocket when you watch her holding him and rubbing her face on his velvety head because she is so in love with him. Your three-year-old is equally as in love with him but shows it in a more “I’d like to squish his head and then make his feet clap” kind of way, but she takes her job of putting nappies in the bin very seriously. You and your partner find this mildly amusing and think it’s a fitting job for the culprit of the most recent episode of pooing-in-knickers.

Some days you feel like you’re doing okay, you’ve kept the baby alive for a few weeks now and every day you look at his little face in awe at how brilliant he is. Some days, more than you’d like though, you feel completely overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at the same time, exhausted, anxious and pitiful. Everything is difficult right now. Then you look at your partner holding his baby while the girls are giggling and using felt-tips to draw ‘tattoos’ on Daddy’s back, and realise you have the perfect little package of people right here on your sofa. And you know that one way or another, between all the crying from you and the baby and the puke and the poo and the stressful mornings, everything will be okay.

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