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Biscuit is a chubby, windy, smiley three months now. BB is continuing a long obsession with ‘choo choo trains’ with no sign of any let-up. She views her little brother with interest, mirth and occasional frustration, but seems to have just accepted his sudden presence in her life unquestioningly. I always characterise life with two as a general niceness, peppered with moments of high stress that never last very long.

As much as BB is a really early riser, Biscuit is proving to be a really late riser, so I can still enjoy mornings of gazing in admiration while Dad is up and watching endless youtubes of choo choo trains with the busy one. You can read all the baby books you like, it just goes to show how much these things are a part of their nature, over which we have absolutely no control!

Thanks to biscuit’s triumphant, early and speedy entrance (or exit I suppose), I managed to return to all my piano pupils by September. I even started some new ones the other day, a girl and a boy, thirteen months apart! Blimey, what was that like? I asked their mother. She told me it was full-on at first, but now it’s like a constant play date because they are so close in age, and there’s not that much competition between them because they aren’t the same sex. Hooray then! Although I’m sure BB is going to be a bossy sister, she bosses me and Dad around pretty successfully.

I can’t wait till biscuit is BB’s age. I’m impatient to see his personality emerge, and when they’re running around together it’s going to be so much fun! Also, babies are cute but quite tricky. I mentioned he was windy. He throws up after every feed, gets hiccups constantly and needs burping all the time. I have to make sure I go out wearing an unsullied set of clothes, and remember to remove them when I nip home to feed him because of his predilection for redecorating his immediate surroundings. This was brought home to us when dad was told by SS, ‘you smell weird’. Sadly I didn’t quite manage it the other day. Around the corner from their house I realised with horror that I was going to meet my new pupils with white regurgitated milk all down one shoulder of my red top.



I started writing the previous blog at 8 a.m. By 2.11 p.m. I was a mother of two. Our son came 8 days early, and in a hurry.

I had decided to use the time that Dad gave me by taking BB to the park for their regular morning jaunt to write on my poor undernourished blog instead of grabbing the opportunity to sleep. SS (my now teenage stepson) was asleep in the front room. The practice contractions had become steadily stronger and more frequent; they had woken me up from a deep sleep a few times in the night. Pretty much from the time I got up, big contractions were coming short but strong every two minutes. Just like last time I started noting down the times at which they occurred, but quickly gave up as they were simply every two minutes and didn’t waver. I was confused by the early date, and the fact that they were over so quickly. Surely it can’t be today? I had texted a friend just the night before saying I expected it to happen in another couple of weeks.

The morning continued with these bursts of intensity every two minutes. BB returned from the park. I was trying to look after her whilst regularly shutting myself away in the bathroom, half thinking the pains were stomach related. But BB was in an uncharacteristically mellow mood, unphaseable which I took as a sign of this being no ordinary day. I phoned the midwife and said, ‘It might be the start of something.’ I reasoned that things were a long way off, as I hadn’t even had the show yet. Figuring that one can’t teach the piano whilst having contractions I cancelled the lesson I had booked in for 11.00.

Dad was asking me if he should take SS home that morning instead of later in the evening as planned. It’s a 2 ½ hour round trip. SS said, ‘does that mean we’re not going to play tennis?’  I said, ‘Go and have half an hour of tennis, then yes maybe you should take him back early’.  In between contractions I felt so fine it seemed I was making a lot of fuss over something that still must be far off in the future, but they felt very real for each short time they gripped me.

The boys left, and almost immediately I got the show. What now, shall I call them back from the park? Should I call the midwife again? Alone with BB I called my friend, Brilliant Mum. She had offered to take BB off my hands when the time came.

‘you know last night I said it would probably be another two weeks?


‘Well, scrap that. I’m having contractions. Would you come and keep me company while Dad takes SS home?’

She duly arrived with her son the same age as BB and a friend and her 3 year old girl. The children played and I kept up conversation through the cramps, my mind racing about the things that needed to be in place that weren’t quite there yet. Things like, ‘where are the dust sheets?’ A very important requirement for a home birth. The girls were concerned about Dad going away on the tube. When the boys returned from playing tennis, they asked SS, ‘Can’t you go on the tube on your own?’

The look on his face was one of perfect bafflement. Dad left whilst still trying to get hold of SS’ mum and grandparents, saying hopefully he would hand SS over somewhere on the way and high-tail it back. The children milled about, BB started being impossibly clingy and difficult. My mind was spinning. After a while, brilliant mum said to me,

’If there’s anything you’d like me to do, just tell me.’

I didn’t miss a beat. ‘Take her to the park!’

So they did. I took BB downstairs and kissed her goodbye. I wouldn’t see her again for another few days. Suddenly I was alone with space to focus my mind.

Between my regular bouts of leaning on the windowsill, trying to be relaxed a la the hypnobirth CD, I packed an away bag for BB. Clothes, nappies, her beloved panda etc. I found the sight of this bag so forlorn and poignant I took a picture.


I packed a bag for me and the new baby in case I ended up in hospital.

The midwife came to check in on me, thinking she might then go away and come back later. The contractions were still very quick but getting more and more intense.

‘Where’s your husband?’

I felt a little embarrassed. She said it was impossible to tell how far away it was unless she examined me, but examining me might set things of resulting in Dad missing the birth. I had some toast and got a text from Dad saying he was half an hour away. We put dust sheets down. I leant on cushions and moaned. Dad eventually arrived and I suddenly felt all wobbly and worried, and wondered why. I thought it was the added number of people in the room, but maybe it was the transition I was feeling, because when Dad put his hand on my back, the contractions were suddenly stronger still.

The midwife was asking me questions and I was annoyed to have to expend the extra energy trying to answer them. I muttered through the pain and Dad translated.

Another midwife arrived and I was asked if a student could come in with her. ‘No!’ I said emphatically twice as I was already put out at the thought of someone else swanning in!

I remember it really annoyed me that the new midwife was quite heavily made up, as if she represented too much of the day, of the outside world invading the intimacy of my nest.

At some point I thought it would help matters if I took my trousers off. All was bright red when I looked down.  A few contractions later my waters broke with disconcerting violence. I remember thinking, ‘Aren’t you’re supposed to feel some relief with that?’

But things were happening fast. A few big contractions later the baby’s head was through. I had instinctively put my hand down to help it out, and then it was through and in my hand, all small and furry and silent. I marvelled at this and just kept saying, ‘Baby. Baby.’

The midwife was shouting loudly, ‘You have to listen to me now, this is very important’, and getting me to pant instead of push. I did pant when I heard her but her voice was quite distant in my head and the urge to push was inescapable. My son was out. They let Dad cut the cord and I held this tiny lump of new life while the midwives surveyed the damage.

I had a tear which was too large to be stitched properly at home.


Well my little boy is now nine weeks old, asleep, and so is his two year old sister. Better get this piece of writing finished. We went to hospital in an ambulance and I was stitched up properly with the help of an epidural. I was then very reluctantly stuck in hospital for two more nights. I remember feeling a little twinge of defeat when my perfect baby boy and I were tagged and entered into the system.

It was exactly right to be seen to properly in an operating theatre, and the epidural and all that that entailed, but I felt keenly the sudden loss of autonomy over myself and how I chose to care for my baby. I felt the sudden lack of family and even knowledge of what’s going on, stuck behind a curtain having no idea where I was, waiting for the next person (of the vast army) to come and see me.

I was regularly given an assortment of drugs which kept me out of pain. This never occurred to me after my previous birth, stupidly. Back then I sat on a rubber ring, bathed twice a day and was in pain for weeks. I can’t say I felt any pain at all in hospital. But I had a lot of discomfort, catheters and cannulas, noisy ward nights. So I concluded that birth at home meant more pain but family and comfort, and hospital meant less pain but more wires and strangers and discomfort. I don’t really know which is better or worse!


The impersonal and uncomfortable nature of hospital summed up on one wrist.

So now enters my son onto the world’s stage. He looks all-knowing, wise and strong. For the purpose of this blog I think I’ll call him Biscuit.


Dad with Biscuit when we had just got to hospital


Drowsy early mornings spent gazing at perfection.

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.


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.

it works!

My lovely American friend (the one who got married) made this animation for Bubble.