BB had a great birhday. Lapped up all the attention and stayed up late. My cousins sent this fantastic card –
The silliest nickname lives on! My friend told me that she was mortified to hear that her parents used to call her ‘Clairie Cloggs’ as a baby. Obvously in terms of embarrasing names, Clairie Cloggs has got nothing on Blibiblob. As a one-year-old, our daughter is much less of a blob now, but she is still pretty blibby.

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My BB is almost one. Although I have two days where I escape several times to teach piano, and the evenings are mostly BB-free, I think I can call her my constant companion. Looking after a baby is relentless, but I miss her when she’s gone to bed. I was driving to choir last night and took care not to swerve for the sake of BB in the back. I was sad to realise she wasn’t with me. It feels fantastic to leave BB with Dad and stretch my legs, cycle in the fresh air to my lessons, meet with the big wide world as one person, like I used to be. But there’s usually a point when I’m on the way back, lost in thought when I remember she’ll be waiting for me and I pedal just that bit more because I can’t wait to see her.

Communication is much easier now. We really know each other and share jokes. And she is comical! She likes playing the kazoo, making funny noises into cups, putting things on her head, cuddling the floor and splashing like a mad thing in the bath. She’ll pick up a book or magazine and laugh at the pictures of people. But when I’m dressing her, changing her nappy and cuddling her, I am often struck by the enormity of it all. BB is a funny roly-poly baby now, but I see in her a running child, a teenager, a young woman, a middle aged woman, an old lady. A lover, a mother, a grandmother. I guess in the same way that you have to respect old people for all that they have been, one must respect babies for all that they will be.

First camping – five days at the Ile d’Oleron with the Uberparents.

Camping with this baby was good, all in all. We have got into a rhythm over the last few months – but it seems to stretch back as far as I can remember – of me dealing with BB’s early rising (anytime from 4.00) by keeping her quiet with nature’s bounty (my bosoms, of course) and then Dad taking her for a walk in the park about 6.30–7.00 to tide us over till breakfast and so I can have a little kip.

The night-times when camping were a little stressful for me! But we didn’t have any of the long crying bouts I feared. I lay next to her and administered a boob every time she got upset which put her back to sleep. The problem was she gradually woke up more and more to suckle plus the nights got progressively colder. I had a struggle to keep BB asleep and keep warm (of course you have to keep swapping sides to feed) so I didn’t get a lot of sleep done myself. Dad’s early morning walks saved me from total exhaustion, and would always result in a tasty treat for breakfast which dad had proudly brought back from the boulangerie wherever we were. A couple of the mornings were rainy and he spent them with BB sitting in the car, feeding her croissant.

Our tent held up through a few storms. It has a pod for two people at either end, and a big space in the middle. A great design for the extended family! There was one moment with a terrific storm going on overhead. Me and dad came out for a parent’s meeting, BB and SS (Stroppy Stepson) sound asleep in our respective pods. ‘Is it coming through your bit?’ ‘Not too much.’ ‘yours?’ ‘Its holding out so far’.

It was actually the daytime naps I feared most of all, knowing how desperately unhappy BB gets without enough. But every day I put her in the pod for a morning and afternoon nap (ok, I fed her to sleep most times. Each time she slept a good hour and a half and woke up refreshed. I was amazed she could sleep so successfully in broad daylight with a multitude of noises going on around her. I put it down to all the fresh air and excitement she was getting. Something to remember for home.

Well, lots happened on our hols, SS fell in love with a French girl which was really sweet – abandoned was the BB gun (I suppose that’s BB for ball bearings in this case, not Blibiblob) bought on the second night and obsessed over for two days. Now he was learning how to say certain things in French, going for ‘walks’ around the campsite, seeing who he could see, sometimes wearing BB as an accessory to show his caring side!

The track going past our tent was used as a general boules pitch, BB either watched the games with amusement or amazingly slept successfully through them. I enjoyed watching a game between Dad and Uberdad, and two French guys from the cabin across from us. Each of the four men looked like a typical stereotype of their country. The Gallic faces of the French (one we called Gerard because he reminded me of Gerard Depardieu – we later learned his name was Jean-Claude) and their summer vests. Dad and Uberdad sporting floppy hats. Dad in a football shirt, Uberdad in a cardigan. The French team had their tactics sewn up. One’s job was to get their balls as close to the jack as possible. The other would bomb their opponent’s balls out of the way, with frightening precision. Poor English dads! Every now and then they would manage a beaut of a shot, but then in would come the bomber, hurling a ball way up to smash theirs from directly above, sending their ball skittering away with a clatter and leaving his own in place. Score – 13/2. To guess who.

  

After this stay we abandoned my initial itinerary which involved more long, long car rides for the sake of everyone’s sanity. The Uberparents, who had done just a small leg of their big Europe tour headed south. We made our way up to Calais in four days, finding places to stay as we went.

Of course for SS, nothing could compare to the campsite on Oleron, where his heart still languished, but now it was my turn to fall in love. The object of my affections? La Chabotiere.

The most beautiful campsite ever. If you want to stay somewhere quiet, shady, with mossy grass, the Loire running alongside, nothing but the faint sound of a waterfall in the night, masses of open space for kids to run around in, two playgrounds, football, volleyball, table football, skittles, boules, ping-pong (ok, in france that’s a given), daytime bar, peddalos, canoeing, fishing, country walks AND a beautiful swimming pool with a diving board, and you want to be right next to a picturesque villiage where you can get your morning croissants and from which you can hear the faint sound of the ancient church bell, go to La Chabotiere! Oh, and I forgot to mention the loos with paper, the hot showers, the BABY BATH WITH EXTRA SOFT CHANGING STATION, rows of cubicles with hairdryers, the friendly people who patiently encourage you with your pigeon French and the fact that it was 13 euros a night for the four of us.

Phew.

Everywhere we went people expressed their adoration for BB. Travelling with a baby does get you a very friendly welcome. At La Chabotiere there were two old French ladies staying in huge motorhome affairs. They were staying with their husbands and only lived in the next town. They showered us with gifts and affection!

Old lady holiday activities – fishing and knitting.

The driving with BB had been OK, we managed to time each journey to her naps, and SS had an in-car entertainment complex (portable DVD player, PSP, a pad and felt-tips). But on the last day, just before sailing home on the evening ferry, we timed it disastrously wrong. Thinking we would be kind to our poor cooped-up teenager, we bombed it up on the payage instead of going slower on the nicer roads and stopping somewhere half way. Got to Calais half a day early, couldn’t spend any time on the beach as the wind was howling. BB started howling as well. Nowhere to go, we ended up driving to random places in order to send her to sleep. She didn’t go. We drove. She screeeeaaaaamed at the top of her lungs. SS was in a thunderous mood. It rained. we drove. The squeaky windscreen wiper squeaked. She screamed. I couldn’t bear it any longer, decided the best thing to do was to turn off at the first opportunity and feed BB to calm her down. I said ‘I’m going to turn off at Loon Plage and feed her, and you two can go and look at the beach’. There was no beach. There was bleak industrial stuff and an almighty traffic jam. We ended up completely stopped in a labyrinth of cones, with people desperately driving up onto the pavement and over into a hypermarket carpark to escape. Over we went. The boys went thunderously off into ‘commercial hell’ (Dad’s verdict) and I administered milk. On the way out, there were circus lorries parked up, and just the other side of a thin fence were zebras, camels and a giraffe, just minding their own business. We drove. She screamed. He sulked. We drove. She slept. He slept. We drove around some more, Dad thought there might be rows of graves in Gravelines. I was doubtful. There was nothing but speed bumps in Gravelines. The kids woke up when we were at passport control for the ferry, refreshed, merry and bright! We watched some Essex girls accost two unwary Italian bikers and insist on having their pictures taken posing suggestively on the bikes. By the time we got to my mother-in-law’s, the other side of the channel, everyone was happy.

It was a great experience full of different things, great for family bonding, for reminding us just how fantastic France is and for practicing conversing in French (Dad for the first time), but I must admit that when we got back to our own front room and put our feet up, it was then we really felt like we were on holiday. It took a week or so to wean BB off constant night feeding. It was such a relief to get her back in her cot. Night-night, I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.

We made it! Driving through France in a Nissan Micra with a baby and a teenager AND CAMPING! This is the first installment about our trip.

For an all-but 13 year old stepson on a blazing hot day, an old French farmhouse with shutters and an old stone well in the most pretty and peaceful setting holds no amusement. There is nothing to do but hide at the back of a dingy garage where you can more easily view your PSP screen. But come nightfall, it’s a different story.

I gave BB a bath and put her to bed (successfully, for now). When I returned to the garden the sun had disappeared and all I could see were glowing balls whizzing about in the air and changing colour, accompanied by the sound of various family members shrieking and falling over each other. Dad and Stroppy Stepson (SS) were holding the near end of the garden, while from the far end came the disembodied voices of various relations of mine. Trying to catch a glowing orb when you can’t see ANYTHING else is quite a challenge. The shrieks and laughter went on into the night.

Sitting at a table in the blackness was the rest of the assembled gathering, observing the mayhem, chatting and looking up at the myriad stars to discern which were satellites and to catch the odd shooting star making its way across the sky. Someone had a torch lying on the ground, illuminating the side of a big old barn. My mum, the artist noticed the shadows of people projected large on the barn, flitting about. This lead to hand puppetry and experiments with how various things looked when put in front of the torch.

The next blazing day, no-one was to be found lurking in the garage. SS and Dad were at work drawing characters on cardboard and cutting them out, ready for that night’s grand puppet show. There were the Three Musketeers, World War II people, a parachutist and a big Terry Gilliam like monster with great snapping jaws. Others contributed, I did an alien with three eyes and many feet, Crazy Sister made an excellent horse, Crazy Sister’s Pikey Blagger Husband drew a big hammer with which to flatten everyone else’s character and a dinosaur.

The den of creativity.

Me, BB, Uberfather, Pikey Blagger, SS, Dad.

That evening was the celebration which had drawn us all there, my mum’s 60th birthday. We feasted, drank plenty and toasted the Ubermother.

Exuberant Aunt, Uberfather, Pikey Blagger, Ubermother.

Ubermother, me,BB, Crazy Sister.

BB went to bed (for now, at least). My Exuberant Aunt and I had prepared many songs for the occasion, but being the only show-offs in the assembled crowd it proved more like a concert than a jam so we picked some choice offerings and left it at that. Jokes were told, including Dad’s perennial favourite – ‘what’s brown and smells funny? Clown poo.’

Then Ubermother suggested her favourite activity of singing rounds so we were all merrily singing as the light slowly faded and night fell, allowing the main event of the night to begin.

The puppet show was as anarchic and chaotic as was hoped, many people chipping in. A big problem was it was so dark in that garden that whenever we placed a character down away from the beam of the torch it took us ages to find it again. It was amazing to see how real our little cardboard figures looked. The horse and the dinosaur were fantastic. Some mutating of characters went on. One of the World War II guys turned out to look exactly like Darth Vader when projected on the wall, so Darth became a lead role. I shrunk myself by going closer to the wall and rode the cardboard horse to try and vanquish the dinosaur. The normally shy and retiring SS and Dad’s zany humour came bubbling up. The Welsh Musketeer was a favourite with the audience, his call of ‘Oreeeet’ on entrance became a catchphrase. But Dad professed not to remember any of it the next morning!


it works!

Big changes about to happen in the world of BB. She is reaching out and trying to pull herself up on everything, even in the bath. She’s a wriggly rolly girl who is extra pleased at her new found angles and frustrated at the same time about the angles she can’t quite reach. The percentage of time spent smiling and laughing in a day is considerably higher than before. Go BB!

No let-up on the early morning poo front, sadly. I have been trying to alter the pattern with what I give her to eat, but no change yet. Every morning at around 4.30 – 5.00 like clockwork. Waa waa waaaaa! Good morning, my smelly daughter.

Right now she is having a nap. I love these days where the two naps are a good hour and a half. (Doesn’t happen that often) Hopefully that means she will be a happy bubbly girl till bedtime and sleep well tonight. That’s the theory.

This morning we went on the tube with the sling to the music shop where I used to work. We got some guitar strings for a great kid’s size guitar I found in the charity shop on my road for next to nothing. It got a bit too late to head home for lunch so we sat outside a café and shared a jacket potato with tuna. She spoke to passers by in her ‘ledledledl’ language. They spoke back. Its so much fun now I can feed her proper food. And on the way back, she drank out of a straw for the first time. How exciting a person’s life is, when it is full of firsts.

Another first is hurtling towards us – we have got her passport and on Saturday we are taking her out of the country. On a ferry to France. With her teenage half brother. Oh, but there’s so much to DO! And when BB’s awake, no time in which to do it. As I write, she is sweetly playing in her cot, I’ve been listening to her slowly waking up on the monitor for the last ten minutes. What a cutie. Better post this now.

By the way, her bike seat was a roaring success. I took her into town and she squealed with excitement all the way there and back.


Parents tentative at first, baby looking like the cat who got the cream. This is going to be so much more fun than pushing a buggy. Trips are being planned. I wonder if you can get a mirror to check in in on babe – or whether it’s best in any case to just concentrate on what’s in front of you!

10 months have passed since that exhausted cosy morning, and I guess that’s a good summing up of life with our baby – Exhausting and cosy. She carried on guzzling and soon transformed from the skinny, furry one into the chubby, round, pink one. Day and night melted into each other and formed one incoherent, sleepless haze. Now having obsessively read countless books and web pages I recognise my child as one who ‘resists sleep’. 10 months and 50,000 books later I’d say we’re just about sorting it. Just trying to convince her now that 4 a.m. is not morning, and definitely not time to have a poo.

She has many nicknames, Coco-le-Schmo, Geggy McSmeggy, Smeggles, Poopy, Boobles lasted a while, but there was one coined by Dad when she was sitting in his arms as a tiny lump. He looked down and said, ‘Blibiblob’. It has stuck and the whole family call her some permutation of it. Blibs, Blob, Blibi. So for the purpose of this blog she shall henceforth be known as BB.

BB was born with a fuzzy head of very dark hair which she then proceeded to rub off, initially till from the back it looked like she was wearing a Toupee. Exhibit A:

Then went further till just one little collection of strands remained that even our wriggly, resist-sleepy baby couldn’t get to. This remained a long dark lock and the rest of her hair grew back a sandy blonde.

I’m amazed every day at this almost unbearable, impossible mother love which just grows and grows and threatens to swamp everything else. I remember a friend telling me about it after the birth of her third child, that there’s ‘nothing like it’, but I didn’t understand till it happened to me. How can you imagine something like that? Now her behaviour is getting more and more complex, she has an infinite number of smiles and the one that she shows on recognition of me swells my heart till it nearly bursts.

The other over-arching theme of a new baby is responsibility. You can’t have any time off (especially breastfeeders!), you can’t have a lie in, you can’t stop because you’re ill, it is endless. Baby comes first every time. It has got a lot easier, but the question that has followed everything I’ve done for BB  since that first morning and probably now till the day I die is – ‘Did I do the right thing?’

BB on her birthday.

I got my first proper contraction at about 11pm. Then another a few minutes later. Then another. What happened to the slow build-up when you have to preserve your energy and rest between contractions? We were diligently timing them, but they were just coming thick and fast. I got in the bath, Dad called the midwife who told him to call an hour later and see how we got on.

I had my home-made flapjacks, salted peanuts, orange juice, Lucozade sport and other snacks for me, Dad and the midwife out on the kitchen table. We put a futon mattress covered with dust sheets, then soft blankets on the floor in the living room. On this I had my two big cushions and gym ball to lean on. A pile of clean towels on the table, low lights throughout the house.

I can’t remember well enough to describe how the contractions felt, but I know the pain was in my lower back as I could cope with them as long as Dad was massaging the base of my spine.

Dad duly called the midwife again at 12 and she said she was on her way.  Breathing out slowly an imagined golden thread (yoga teacher’s advice) wasn’t doing it for me anymore and I realised that a long audible sigh helped control the pain. These long audible sighs carried on through the night, and transformed into long, extremely audible bellows. If I heard myself getting too high pitched I forced the pitch lower, stopping myself losing control. I think it was the thought of losing control that scared me most. What scared Dad the most was the time spent waiting for the midwife to arrive, she eventually appeared at 2am. Those two hours were very long for him. For me they whizzed by. I was concentrating on not losing it.

She examined me, I was 4 cms dilated. I was really pleased. But then hours went past – I divided my time between the cushions, the loo and the bath, contractions getting stronger and stronger, poor old Dad following me around, not allowed any time off. There was no change, the baby had hardly moved.

I remember the midwife needed me on my back for examinations, which was unbearably painful and almost impossible during the contractions which were relentless. There was no time to eat or drink anything and towards the morning I was becoming exhausted.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but afterwards the midwife told me the baby had been facing the wrong way, ‘back to back’. That was why it hurt so much in my lower back and also why the baby hadn’t budged. She had to turn first before she could come down. The midwife was concerned she wouldn’t turn, but eventually she did, and after many hours of contractions and no movement I think she came down for the final stage quite quickly (I think!)

When I did my stints in the bathroom, the midwife didn’t follow us in there, so me and Dad (and baby) were on our own. Dad recalls – and I do too – that about halfway through my labour, I was sitting in the bath and I said to him, ‘I don’t think I can do this again’. I think I felt that I could cope with it as long as I knew I never had to go through it ever again! I also recall one time a contraction started and Dad didn’t immediately jump to massage me. He was sitting right next to me, but I let out a loud, long and desperate, ‘WHERE ARE YOU?!’

The midwife said I would feel the baby get lower but I didn’t really feel any change. I kept looking down at my enormous belly thinking what a physical impossibility it was for the contents of that belly to get through where they had to get through. Then suddenly she was apparently a lot lower and I was being urged to push.

The impossibility of my big, round unaltered belly remained and this little babe was having trouble coming out. I had almost reached a state of total exhaustion. Even when the midwife told me to reach down and feel the emerging baby’s head, all furry, it just seemed to reinforce the impossibility of the whole thing. I think I was there for about 45 minutes with baby’s head half-way out. It was EXCRUTIATING! No sign of the gas and air that I had been promised. I remember saying ‘I can’t do it’, several times, and the midwife saying, ‘you have to’. I was squatting, supported by Dad who was sitting behind me. When a contraction came, the midwife told me to push, and Dad with his head behind mine was pushing with me. Eeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnggghhhh! Afterwards I commended him on this good idea of his which I had found very encouraging, and he said he wasn’t aware at the time that he was doing it!

The midwife laid an assortment of terrifying looking scissors on the floor just in front of my intimate parts. Sweet Jesus! (Throughout my upbringing, my mother had put the fear of God into me about the dreaded episiotomy). The midwife said, ‘you’re not pushing enough, and for long enough.’ It felt like I couldn’t possibly do more. Then she said, ‘Be angry.’ I wasn’t feeling anything like anger, but somehow this helped me understand what I needed to do. So at the end of each push when it felt like I couldn’t do any more, I screamed at the top of my lungs and gave it everything I had. This is how I managed it, and at 7.17 am, we became three as a tiny girl at last slithered out into the universe and came up for a cuddle.

Dad had tears in his eyes and I think the first thing I said to my daughter was, ‘I knew you were furry’. She still had fur on her back, shoulders and ears. The midwife cut the umbilical cord with a pair of the terrifying scissors. Baby was handed over to Dad, and I was guided over to the sofa to rest. It was a dark, peaceful morning, the world was just waking. The gas fire was on, I watched the midwife weigh the baby and dress her tiny form in a vest, babygrow and hat to preserve her body heat. She had been through a lot waiting to be born. I had used up every last bit of energy in my body. I couldn’t sit up without blacking out. The baby was brought to me, I rolled onto my side. She was placed on my breast and at once began to suckle. When the midwife wanted her to change sides, I couldn’t really get up enough to turn around, so the baby was placed on a pillow and commenced feeding from the upper deck. She lay there, a tiny, skinny, furry body in suit and hat hungrily nibbling on her exhausted, naked mother who was drifting in and out of dreams.

So that was my homebirth. No tricky travelling to and from hospital, just the peace of familiar surroundings. The midwife left us with our new tiny person and we transferred to the bed and spent all day there.  I didn’t get the rush of euphoria I had read and been told about at the point of birth. I was physically and mentally shattered. The sight of my daughter provoked a calm wonder in me. It wasn’t till a lot later when I sang to her in bed and she fell asleep that I got my tears of joy.

A few hours after the birth another midwife came to see us, then another the next day. Oh and I forgot this detail – our midwife did come back that day and while she was here, she started looking around the room and asked, ‘did I leave the placenta here?’ We said we hadn’t seen it. Later, we found it in a bucket with a lid on that I had got ready but never needed. When we saw her again, we didn’t mention it, and she didn’t ask!

dmc@dressmecaroline.com; cathmeir@hotmail.com; artygerty@hotmail.com; carey.catherine@yahoo.co.uk; celia.kent@classicfm.net