How how

How do single parents do it? HOW, HOW, and often with multiple kids? [Twangy faints from sheer amazement]. The JB has been away for THREE nights eating bonbons in a bubble bath (academic conference, my eye, he's not fooling me) and I am an empty husk with a muscle in my eyelid jumping away like a jumping bean, and an unexplained burn on my hand. Also, I've become very stupid with tiredness. Last night, I stood in the hallway for minutes wondering how I could leave the front door locked and still allow him to enter with his keys. If I left the key in the lock, his key wouldn't be able to enter and turn, I reasoned, very, very slowly. If I unlocked the lock with my key however and removed my key, I would leave myself open to thieves, robbers and highwaymen. More time passed while my brain groped agonisingly toward its conclusion. REMOVE THE KEY LEAVING THE DOOR LOCKED, it shrieked in eureka-like style, in slow motion. Ahh.

The physical strength component to parenting is another thing I didn't know to expect. I have better upper body strength than in my whole life (probably not saying much), actual muscle definition. He is 24 or so pounds and likes to be held so this is a simple physics formula. I go through calories like a barn on fire, too. 

Uhhhhh. I've been very busy, apart from that. There was a funding deadline, a work deadline, anther work thing, a whole lot of hoo-ha about finding people to stand in for me at the two work gigs I missed because of the bonbons, a Betty head which lasted a week, the world is on fire, I got overwhelmed and demoralised, like everyone, (everyone normal that is, there are those who are making this happen, after all) and I dunno, the rest is lost in the mists of time. 

We are now deep into the time of tossing food on the floor with force and peering after it with interest, a time of rolling over in the cot into up dog, and saying EYE for hi, and even knowing that the sheep says baa and the duck says ACK. He's at peak baby. He's great company. He giggles in a half-horrified half-thrilled way when I offer him new food as if to say: Okay, Ma, I'll go along with your mad caper, but then we're going back to the proper food, right? He takes little squares of toast very carefully in his fingers, as if they might be booby-trapped, and sucks off the butter. He'll eat most things, and about half the time he'll sleep what they call through the night, from 1 to 6 or but is actually merely through the wee small hours. He has an upper tooth now, an incisor (I think) which he uses to make appalling gnashing noises with his lower ones. Ahhh! It's awful. I took him on the train to see my mother and he enjoyed looking out the window enormously. He was thrilled. We were moving! He can see so much further, his life is expanding. It's much easier to relate to him; he's less mysterious. He goes swimming now and to baby yoga and enjoys these as long as no strangers look at him too closely. He is not fond of strangers, mostly, except when he is and then they are favoured with a broad smile. 

It is frosty out today in Eastern Ireland, in case you were interested. I must hit the road in an effort to get some presents for the Christmas, so this will have to do for now. Better done than perfect, will be written on my tombstone. More soon, friends.
I hope you're well.






[Bit of a makeover. Not sure about the checked pattern, mind you. It puts me in mind of a strange garment we were supposed to wear in school, the tabard, a square polyester check tunic designed to protect you from poster paints and ketchup.]

[I'm listening as I type to the alto part of Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine. I ought to be singing the part but am trying the optimistic view that it'll just sort of magically get absorbed into my brain cells if I listen to it enough. I took up choir last week but it's tricky to shoehorn practice time into the day, he's sleeping now, and Heaven knows I need to practise.] 

[Oh yes! There are two teeth coming, rather thrillingly, craggy white peaks surging out of a - um - pink clouds? So that's why he's been so moany, poor kid. And yesterday feeling much better, he spent 10 minutes chortling at my brother's family dog, a (hilarious) black labradoodledoodle (more poodle than not) with a (side-splittingly amusing) curly coat. He made us all laugh too; it was a delight.]

It happens every so often, in the baby aisle in the supermarket or when I set foot in the Bermuda triangle of the Maternity Hospital of Doom that I have a clear comparison between this the present Twangy with the previous pre-Jay Twangy. I prod my scars, very gingerly, I try not to forget what it was like. I'd feel a strange loyalty to my previous self. I try to be mindful but it is not easy when your life is so transformed, when it feels so much more urgent and meaningful because of the presence of a baby. It feels like that, at least. I used to say there were many ways of makng a life meaningful, I used to hate it when people would say things like: you have to be a parent to understand. I'd be most offended. Maybe you did, I'd think, but you don't know what I am like. I don't need to be a parent to worry about a child trapped in a burning building. And yet, and yet there are things that I didn't understand and I couldn't imagine. They are not quite the things I thought, though. I didn't realise how relentless it is to be a parent. how much of a shock it is to realise you are going to be doing this again tomorrow and tomorrow and again and again, and there's no way out of the crushing sense of responsibility. You can't run away. Those things are what surprised me. 

So maybe I have leapt some sort of divide. I feel stronger. I feel I would cheerfully throw myself in front of a train, for Jay. Sleepless nights aren't fun, or anything, but my friends are way too horrified by my sleep deprivation. I feel a lot tougher than I would have thought. I seem to remember Seinfeld saying he went to the advanced planet when he became a parent and though this rubs me the wrong way I can see what he means. It's not fair, is it? That for some this way is open, and for some it is not, and it's always alarming to contemplate your own luck, because as soon as you do, it all starts feeling very random,  undeserved and fragile. 

Still, maybe one day I'll be able to park in the parent spot, and feel like I belong. 

Agh! Must go. It's days later and I've run out of time again. 

Good Sunday to all



home and away

So! I hesitated to shout it from the rooftops (because The Vengeful Universe might smite me, you know how it is) but I am now ready to report that He Has Slept Through The Night for over a week, from 12.30am to 8am, with only the occasional whimper. He does wake to play a couple of times, if by play you mean lifting his legs and thumping the mattress with them, but then (thank you Universe) goes back to sleep without a whimper and doesn't get hungry till 8am. 


It has been wonderful. I now have to learn to sleep through the night, but still. 4 am always was my wake-up and think gloomy thoughts time, anyway. 

(I now pay homage to the Vengeful Universe. Just in case.)

Before we even knew about Jay - back in February or earlier - I wrote a quite desultory proposal for a grant to attend a fair which happened last weekend in Finland. Well, most unexpectedly, the proposal grew legs over the summer; two friends applied too, and somehow we ended up going. I probably would not have chosen to leave Jay for 3 nights, I knew I'd miss him, but I felt torn; the trip was one of coolest opportunities I'd ever had, and I'd worked so hard at it.  I (idiotically) underestimated how much he'd miss me, though. I do leave him at bedtime once a month, and that doesn't seem to be a problem at all, but this coincided unfortunately with his realisation that strangers are not to be trusted, so the kind babysitters who came to help the JB with his bath-time were cried at, he didn't sleep well, he wasn't able to sleep through the night. And I got panicked texts about how sad and unsettled he was and felt awful. 

So it was a strange trip; full of pangs of guilt and sickening moments where I'd feel I was in the wrong place, like in those horrible dreams where you realise you've forgotten to feed the twins that you forgot you had. And also full of moments of utter hilarity and FUN like you can only have with your peers. My travel companions were the best you could hope for; so funny and resilient and positive. I laughed so much. I have a lot of joy at home, but fun is a different, carefree beast, isn't it? Fun is a drink and a laugh with a friend. Joy is deadly serious, it's your child's face all lit-up with excitement, it's a hug from your frail parent. You need the fun, though, you really do, it fuels the rest of your life. 

I'm back now, feeling rather husk-like after all the contrasting emotions, the early morning, the stress of presenting work, of absorbing all the new sights. Ah. I feel I'm being stretched by parenthood - it's painful and wonderful. It's so MUCH. 

Jay's happy and settled again now, things are back to normal. Ah, one more thing: he's six months on Saturday. Time to get out all the pureed pear and sweet potato I stashed in the freezer in anticipation of this event. We're moving on.

I hope you're well, everyone.

More soon.

knowing what you are doing

I've been composing this post over many post 4am feed hours and I hope it somehow magically transfers efficiently from my brain on to the page, as I have 20 mins to turn this baby around. So many things to be recorded, if I could only recall them.

It's my favourite time of day. I'm sitting up in the bed, Jay is sleeping peacefully in his cot; all is orderly and calm. I can listen to my podcasts and poke around on the internet. It's cosy. I have the pleasant clarity that I know what I am doing, at night, (the mission is clear, if not always simple: to settle Jay and keep him safe, fed and comfortable) and while I don't always quite have this confidence during the day, I am less at sea than I used to be. He's getting easier; I'm getting more competent, (just like you said!). There are more things he enjoys now and can do. He likes his toys, he likes going to the supermarket (Tesco is Disneyland, as fas as he's concerned). He still doesn't do this fabled Sleeping Through The Night Thing I hear about but he's mostly more settled. (Although, we had a bad week a while ago - waking every blessed two hours for nights on end, which coincided with/caused a Bettyhead. This instilled tremendous gratitude for a mere four hourly wake-up. Four hours is fiiine, relatively.)

It also helps that I now get that a smooth graphed line at 45 degrees indicating progress is not the way it is with babies. It's more like one step forward, two back, three sideways, do the hokey cokey and turn around, two steps forward, etc etc. But gradually, gradually, in the background, the general trend is up and over time you realise, hey, it's much easier now he enjoys his bath, or look, he always nods off at this point, and ug, you remember when he used to take 20mins to drink 50ml? The days pass slowly and the weeks quickly. It's very momenty, and detailed, so much that you can lose sight of the big picture. 

A pediatric physio came over the other day to assess his progress. For whatever reason, that was the day Jay decided that stranger = danger, unfortunate timing, because instead of turning his head and grasping toys offered to him he whimpered and stared suspiciously at the (perfectly nice as far as I could see) physio. Oh dear. Even so! He scored in the 30 percentile, which is not bad for a boy with a less than ideal start in life, who was not feeling cooperative. I did try to tell Physio that Jay was not normally like this, but you know how it is, you start to sound hollow pretty quickly. No, really, honestly, he normally does hold things and does turn his head to the right and does open his hands! He's usually quite jolly!  I might have to video Jay for the next one. We have to work on his tummy-time more, as apparently he will definitely be stealing cars by 15 otherwise. 

The JB and I have been married for ten years. I know you're supposed to say I can't believe it, time flies. But no. It does feel like ten years to me, ten good ones, a solid decade, and we're still happily together, and it's certainly never boring, anyway. I tell you what though, parenthood does change things, doesn't it? The fact that now we need each other as opposed to choosing to be together, is quite sobering. The fact that there's no going back is, too - we are changed by being parents. It's irrevocable! (What a scary word! IRREVOCABLE. The sound alone petrifies me.) We're running a lifelong marathon. But even before and apart from that, the essential question of what marriage is meant to be escapes me. I don't really get it, I never have. I could point to my parents; I certainly would not want to replicate their relationship. In any case, it's all a mystery to me. What's supposed to happen? Am I responsible for his happiness? No? Yes? Don't get it. Must work on this. Must read books or something. No, first I must lie down and listen to The Archers. Maybe they know what marriage is. 

Well, time's up - in fact a day has gone by and I now must depart for a gin and cake housewarming party at the place of a woman from my choir. (Surely the most middle-aged sentence I ever wrote. )
Hope you're all well. Post, anyone?


(My mother gave us this tin of biscuits for our anniversary. 10 years is tin, I believe. The biscuits didn't last long.)

hunger games - really this time

Just as well you don't come here for logic, dear visitors. The last post, (aptly named (I thought) The Hunger Games) was meant to be about the Time of Hunger we are living through. But then I went off on a rant about the infant feed industry and then, I do not know, I must have seen something shiny or nodded off, or something, because I never got to the hunger. However, being that as it may; he is gaining an ounce a day (nearly 30g). That's a lot, isn't it? Even for an infant. I can see the kid grow in front of my very eyes. Already he is out of these dear little clothes:


Goodbye little tiny Jay. Hello, Jay, the mini-power lifter, with all the sit ups (forgive lack of hyphens. It is dark and my fingers don't remember quite where they are, despite the excellent home-training (ooh the hyphen is back! It was there.) in typing I gave myself in 1986 on one of those ancient metal typewriters out of a spiral bound red book. Where did that thing go?) the leg-lifts and the turning over at night. He can bear his own weight, he can stand up in his carrier. He can lift his hips easily, and arch his back. He's a strong baby.
(*Feels 98 per cent proud and 2 scared* Is this kid going to eat us soon? He is hungry.)
Luckily, the pediatrician advised us to give him inverted commas a little inverted commas (where are they?) baby rice to help with his acid reflux. Otherwise, the afore-mentioned Parent As Snack phenomenon would surely have occurred by now. During the day, it's fine, of course, but at night he's just too hungry to sleep through and sometimes wakes 4 or more times for a feed, where it used to be more like 2. And sometimes I am not sure if he's really hungry. I fear we're teaching him that food is the answer to every emotional problem. Lonely? Tired? Sad? FOOD FOOD FOOD. On the other hand, with all the kicking, lepping around the cot, the desperate attempts to sit up AND the rollovers, he's not at all overweight, it seems to me. Just a bit of pudge, like a baby should have. So! Tell me. They do, do they not, sleep better when they get proper solids? And when can I start with those? Really at six months, eh? I would love to hear your experience, if you have a moment.

And another milestone: His birthmother has asked for another update. YAY! I take this to mean we didn't put her off with the last one and (maybe even) have won her trust? I know that birthmothers sometimes fear being judged by adoptive parents, so I really hope any such fear has been assuaged and the lines of communication are open. I've written her another letter densely packed with information about Himself - I hope with the right amounts of respect and warmth and non-presumption. I am also sending her a photobook.

It's racing up to ten past nine, everyone. I must retire; last night was not a pretty affair. Jay had some something going on, (teething? Developmental stuff? Wonder weeks says week 19 is likely to be challenging) which involved sad crying, (you know? with the heartbreaking downturned mouth?) and maddened yelling and some other flavours of crying too, so an early night is in order.

Night all. Be well, everyone,


hunger games

 Ah. I didn't mean to leave it so long. I've taken up worky reins again in a small way and while this is most helpful to the mental health and feeling a part of things again, it takes up the very few free hours I have available, so that taking time for something else (blogging, gardening, getting haircuts) feels uncomfortably like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Some juicy projects have landed on my desk, beautiful, perfect beasts of projects which I must fit into 3 or 4 hours a day; the rest of the time I'm thinking how much I relish getting back into them. 

I am actually not complaining, I must add. It's nothing new, is it, and my situation of being one of two mostly free adults to one easy baby is ideal, rare and wonderful. I have lots of energy and happiness to give to Jay when I come back from work, and I appreciate keenly all my extraordinary luck, I do. The universe is smiling on me, the sun is shining, it's been a golden time. I feel I am where I've been going to all these years. 

Jay is in fine fettle, too. He's enjoying his cot, kicking his way all over it, waking me with a surprised cry when he finds himself up against the bars. He's doing a lot of babbling; when he cries it is much more communicative of simple needs and less of existential angst (or colic as the less poetic of us call it). Aaaahoooo, aaddooo, aiya, he says. You know? Ayyyooh? His field of vision must have expanded; now he can take in his feet, leaves, the tiles in the bathroom. Everything is interesting.

The other day the JB pointed out black circles you could see through the end of the bottle he'd been feeding out of for at least 10 minutes. Mould, people. MOULD. It seems I, the person who has been sterilising All The Things with neurotic care, inadvertently grabbed a dirty one that had been in the bag since the previous week, growing black fur. Well. I felt awful. I watched Jay tensely for the next day or two as if he was a ticking bomb. But no. No explosion, rather, even finer fettle. Totally, totally fine. Finer than fine. I am still sterilising but, you know. Colour me skeptical. I am similarly Fed Up with Aptamil and their constantly changing, arbitrary guidelines for making up formula, written on the side of their packets in their tut-tutting, fear-mongering tone, which at the same time contradict themselves, and make not even pseudo-scientific sense. It all smacks loudly of ligitious arse-covering, instead of giving real information and explanations people can understand. Boil exactly one litre of water, they say. Leave for exactly one half hour. Then I dunno, dance backwards in a circle, reciting the Greek alphabet. Bah. Just tell us why, you twits. What temperature should it be when you are adding the powder, exactly. That's all we need to know. It's not a flipping magic spell. And are we to not mention the fact that on the previous packet you advised pouring the boiling water into the bottle and capping it and then waiting 30 mins? (No matter the amount of water, by the way, always the magic 30). (Grr.)

Ah. Deep breathing. What is it about babies that attracts all the finger-wagging? A woman in the park hissed at me the other day: Don't you feel those raindrops? Dangerous! I was 3 minutes from home, and his buggy closes up to keep him dry. If that's what she meant, I don't even know. Maybe people make themselves feel good by styling themselves self-righteous Baby Protectors? Is that it? Perhaps a cape and tights would complete the look. They could hold meetings and discuss the failings of local parents and how their child did x because they did y and he's an engineer/doctor now. Bah.

Meanwhile though, actual friend parents have been MARVELLOUS with their honest and hilarious stories. So helpful. SO helpful. My friend E, whose child had finally slept through the night after weeks of shrieking the house awake told me one. He must be dead, her exhausted brain reasoned when she woke. But he'll still be dead if I sleep another 2o minutes, it won't make any difference really she thought as she rolled over. LOVE. (That child is now nearly five). Making babies by Anne Enright, in which she says it will occur to any parent to leave at some point but this would be like leaving your own arm. HOW FANTASTIC is that? VERY fantastic. VERY VERY. A neighbour with young daughter I never met before emerged and told me she knows how it can be, and they're great, beautiful, magical and relentless, but it gets better. I mean, let me be in that club.

Oh my, I must go to sleep soon, or I'll be banjaxed tomorrow. He is not, unlike our afore-mentioned caped crusadors' babies, Sleeping Through The Night. He's just too hungry at the moment, and when your baby has been in hospital with a feeding tube, it makes you more indulgent, I suppose. I don't mind at all. He is all magic and beauty. 

Night all


to bed

Stand by, internet, an announcement:

He is sleeping in his cot, for the second night. Hooray! He looks rather little in there (the cot, inherited from his cousins, converts to a child's bed, so it's large), and there has been some flailing and railing against the dying of the day, as predicted, but I am optimistic. We live in northerly climes, as you know, and it's still bright enough to play tennis* at this time (quarter past nine) but when the sun goes down, I think we'll be off to the races.  So to speak. The pelmet I fashioned in desperation out of cardboard is only partly keeping out the rays of sun but the light is fading fast.

Once again, I have to relearn that the things you worry about (sleepless nights training Jay to sleep in the cot, in this instance) are not the things you need to worry about. By this logic, I have decided to start worrying about everything, in order to insure a trouble-free life, starting with aardvark, and all possible disasters concerning them, and moving along the alphabet until I have covered the entire possible catalogue of disasters. 

I'll report on how this works out.

In the meantime, it's getting dark. I keep making typing mistakes. It's wonderfully peaceful, though, with the sound effects CD of rain drumming on a tin roof, and the soft dolphin baby noises Jay makes in his sleep. This is one of those times where my expectations of parenthood are perfectly met - there's something so deeply satisfying about a baby sleeping peacefully in his cot - it fills the heart. It's a sweet moment.

Have good weekends, everyone.
Talk soon

(*Why tennis, me? A game I never play. I mean, how about polo while I am at it? Boules? I can definitely think of disasters concerning Boules, by the way.)


14 weeks old

Unbelievable, yet true, somehow, Jay's fourteen weeks old. He's both much wiser and more complex; better at communicating his needs, at making a protest, like when you have the temerity to dress him. He has more expressions, and more decided preferences. He makes conversational noises, (Ai! Mmyah, Ooooh, etc) blows bubbles, feels fabrics (his blanket crocheted by one of the nurses' daughter in the hospital) meditatively with his fingers, tries to sit up. He enjoys his swing chair (until he doesn't anymore), and gives strangers (he loves them) big open mouth smiles and laughs. He's so much fun, now. And he's much bigger.

(Big to the point where he's nearly grown out of his crib, (although the weight limit of 25 pounds is not too close). This is something that is occupying my mind quite a bit. I am fearful. (Surprising, I know. Me! The Intrepid) How to transition to the cot? Thoughts would be most welcome. Do we just do it one night? He likes playing in there already and looking at his mobile.  And if he cries, we pick him up and try again or lean over and pat and reassure, or what? Also, we have started half-swaddling in an effort to get him used to being less compressed. Should I invest in a swaddling transition solution, like one of those suits that look like a Michelin Man? Or is that for nelly-ish parents, like we are?)

The transition to Irish formula from the US one has been not completely straightforward. "Digestive issues" (euphemism alert) have kept him up quite a few nights, the poor boy, but mostly (fingers are xxx'd) he has continued to be a good sleeper and eater. (THANK YOU, HEAVEN.) And he seems much better and in tremendously good form again this week. 

Ah, another significant event: his birth mother has been in touch with the agency, looking for photos and information about his routine and well-being. We're thrilled. I wrote her a letter with a lot of photos of Jay. It's odd, writing to someone who is both a complete stranger and a family member, someone who entrusted you with her baby, someone who chose you, took the huge painful leap with you, a stranger, on the strength of your profile book, nothing more, but I tried to take this possibly single opportunity to convey our respect for her decision: her bravery, and her clearmindedness. I don't know if I did an adequate job. I can only hope so. Although we'll be writing letters to her every 3 months, I have no way of knowing if she'll ever read them again or not, and I wanted somehow to pack in all that feeling. 

People on the street (a mixture of proper Salt of the Earth Ould Dubliners and young(er) blow-ins like us) have been most welcoming. Walking a baby, it transpires, is a conversation starter even better than a dog. Last week, for instance, coming back from the shop, a neighbour opposite us called me over to see the baby. Another elderly neighbour was talking to her on the doorstep. They cooed over Jay. Other neighbour: Is your husband very sallow? I'm there: Uh. I mean. Not really! Darker than me though. Jay's adopted, I point out. She mustn't have heard me, as she gave me a canny look: You're so pale. Just, isn't it funny, that? 
I mean, what was she driving at? I'm surprised she didn't ask about the complexion of the postman. The cheek! Then, she did some super-rapid sign of the cross over Jay and departed, sure she'd just made the world a better place.
You can only laugh. In the few minutes we stood there, she handed out every platitude known to man to Opposite Neighbour on a recent bereavement (her daughter): Children Are Only Lent To Us, Aren't You Lucky You Still Have The Other Seven, (because it's a well known fact that the more kids you have the less you love each individual. Ah, yeah. They're completely interchangeable units. Sure haven't you plenty of back-ups?) And You'll Be Grand Sure, Cheer Up There, Time Heals All.
So perhaps not a contender for the Most Tactful Person of the Year Award.

It's Sunday. Time to go and see the folks.
Till soon, all. Hope you're well. 

ps Hard to get a chance to draw the child when you are mostly holding him, I discovered. Must keep trying to catch him mid-nap, though.

the rearview mirror

It's been a little busy, but we're settled into Irish time. I have been meaning to update but you know how it is, happiness writes white, isn't that what they say? And I am truly happy. I still have moments of overwhelm, of course, but mostly, it, the whelm, is at a good, manageable level. I'm amazed how quickly the hotel hostage situation has receded since we've been back. Maybe necessarily? Maybe we're programmed to forget when we have to, so we can be preoccupied by new things? Maybe information that is no longer relevant for your survival is fogged over. And yet, when I hear a certain Mozart piece we used to play in the morning for Jay, I'm right back there. In Room, as we facetiously refer to it.
Now, things like transitioning off American formula onto European fill my head, and how in the US the finest paediatricians (the Mayo Clinic indeed) recommend just soap and water, cold water and refrigeration, while in Europe, you must sterilise and boil and make fresh, or you can Make Your Baby Ill, also you are a bad parent. (Total mystery. EU legislation?)
Just like everyone said, Jay's decidedly easier to look after; you can bring him to restaurants and sit outside to awkwardly eat your lunch with one hand, meet friends in the park for walks, go places in the car. He smiles at people like a politician. We're enjoying the parks around here, the garden, where the JB and he go and stare up at the sky, kicking their legs and talking. The weather has been kind. 

More later, everyone, it's time to get sorted for tonight. Thanks for checking on me.
Have good weeks, all.





Totally banjaxed and a bit at sea of course, (because there was no baby in this house before and now there is a baby, and where does the baby go now?) but oh, everyone! I am so happy!

Thanks for seeing me home, folks. More soon, of course. There's always more.