The automatic right to nibble on nuts and/or chocolate all day without anyone raising an eyebrow
Feeling the love with all my friends and family, with visits and nights out and hugs and cards and general cheery mumpetness
The Christmas Fluff (pictured below) - a pair of completely pointless fluffy balls on sticks in silver plant pots that Mr Meep and I bought many moons ago when we lived in a flat too tiny to fit a tree in
Gingerbread lattes from that evil corporate coffee chain (clearly my ethics are having a little festive break)
On a less festive note, I have had gastric flu (Monday to Wednesday) AND a cold (just starting today) all in one week. And the snail has a tooth and is very grumpy and screams. A lot. It doesn't make for a good combo. Bah.
Today is our fourth wedding anniversary. A cause to celebrate, of course. Although, for the fourth year running, it has all gone a little bit wrong.
The first year, I dropped lots of hints to Mr Meep that he should arrange me a lovely surprise weekend away somewhere. Despite the hints, he left it until the last minute. He tried to book a weekend in Bath, but the Christmas markets were on and every B&B had been booked up months before. He tried Hay-on-Wye, only to find out there was a mini winter version of the Hay Festival on. However, after ringing most accommodation in Hay, he booked us into a swanky hotel with a lovely restaurant, with thoughts of lovely walks by the river and cosying up with glasses of red wine in old pubs with real fires. It couldn't have been more perfect.
Except that on the day, I woke up with the most horrible cold. I couldn't get out of bed, let alone enjoy lovely food and wine. We had to cancel. Bah.
The next year, I booked us into a really nice restaurant in Cardiff. We were going to have cocktails first, then go for a nice dinner. This time, it was Mr Meep's turn to be ill. A stomach bug this time around. We cancelled.
(Can I just add here that we both very rarely get ill, so this was beginning to feel like a conspiracy.)
Year three and I booked us tickets to see Mitchell and Webb at the Wales Millennium Centre. We both loved Peep Show, so were really looking forward to it. We woke up the morning of our anniversary and could not believe it. Neither of us was ill, we hadn't lost the tickets, the show hadn't been cancelled, the WMC hadn't exploded. It was all looking rather positive.
Shame, then, that Mitchell and Webb were probably the unfunniest act ever in the history of comedy. So bad, in fact, that when we walked out of the auditorium for interval drinks, we kept walking down the stairs, out of the door and home to cwtch up under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate.
This year, we aimed small. We thought we'd just have a nice day out, then Mr Meep would cook us a posh meal at home. Perfect. It was a simple plan. We're both in good health. What could possibly go wrong?
Yesterday morning, Mr Meep gets a call from an old friend. A lovely lady, she's been going through a bit of a tough time lately, is in a bit of a state and wants to know if she and her three kids can come and stay. Straight away. Last night and today. So they did. So our anniversary day involved all seven of us having a romantic breakfast together (involving lots of Coco Pops and lots of mess), then a mass trip to Barry Island in the wind and lunch at the only place that was open - the world's greasiest caff, complete with even greasier waiting staff and even greasier chips and the original '60s decor (but not in a good way).
Dear Gwen, On Monday, you turned six months old. Where on earth did that time go? This month you have been mainly charming people wherever we go. You charmed your Grandma and Grandpa Shepherd when we went on holiday with them. You charmed your Great Auntie Brenda-Jean when we went to visit her. You charm everyone who makes eye contact with you in the supermarket by giving them a great big grin. Of course, you charm me and your dad every single day.
You are my constant companion. Sitting in your Bumbo seat watching me while I cook. Going to coffee shops to people watch. Coming out for walks with the dog. Lying next to me on the bed while I have my coffee in the morning. Basically, you've become a very smiley and lovely person to have around.
This month, there's a lot of babbling going on - I sense you will be a chatterbox (can't imagine where you get that from). You can sit up on your own now, but you still topple over all the time, so it's not quite time to ditch the bouncy chair just yet.
You're so amazingly alert and awake compared to the tiny sleepy bundle we brought home from the hospital. Everything is fascinating to you. Last Friday, I gave you a spring onion to hold while I was pottering in the kitchen and you examined it for a whole hour without getting bored.
And we're onto food now. Well, we're bypassing the 'mush' stage and going with baby-led weaning. So we present you with whatever we're eating and if you fancy it and can pick it up, you have some too. It's messy, involves occasional scary spluttering from you, but it's much more enjoyable than trying to jolly you along while we aeroplane smushed up carrots down the hatch (and, of course, Blod is a VERY happy dog and spends a lot of time loitering under the high chair). So far, sliced pear, satsuma segments and a dough ball in Pizza Express have been your favourites, and today, you devoured a whole roast potato while we were having Sunday lunch. Your dad is really pleased that you like roasties, because they're his favourites too.
Today is a bit of milestone, because we've decided to move you into your own bedroom, so we all get better night's sleep. This morning, your dad and I thought this was a good idea. This evening, we feel really sad. I'll really miss your dawn chorus of babbling waking me up, and the way that you lie there waiting patiently for one of us to pick our heads up off the pillow to look at you, then you start giggling with excitement when we do.
I can't wait to see what the next six months will bring.
lemon tart - making soup - Armistead Maupin books - my gorgeous girl - The Green Parent - going to the beach - Rioja - wearing woolly hats in winter - swimming - being outside - sunflowers - cwtches - cosying up under the duvet with a book - weekend newspapers - really nice coffee - carrot cake - crisp winter days - long summer evenings - Mr Meep - Amelie - writing lists - readinginspirationalblogs - taking photos - being barefoot - bubble baths - home-made bread - pizza - growing tomatoes - hugging my dog - my cat purring - family - talking to strangers - dogs running - houmous - wearing red - painted toenails - Ugly Betty - my nan's chips - chunky rings - donkeys - green tea - sushi - boots and patterned tights - Ray La Montagne - candles - the smell of vanilla - tea from a teapot in a proper cup and saucer - Damien Rice - shopping in independent shops - my friends - stripy socks - rom coms - getting post - grandads with their granddaughters - Nut Body Butter - breastfeeding - Neale's Yard Remedies - a line of clean washing - visiting Brighton - cottage holidays - trees - Belgian beers - fairy lights - real ales - Kettle Chips - baby wearing - pretty notebooks - custard slices - the sky - looking at art - indie coffee shops - water - Howies clothes - Waitress - gerberas - Cranks cookery books - marmite - house bunnies - pyjamas - singer songwriters - West Wales - Green and Blacks - food photography - making banana pancakes - Fion Reagan - composting - going to the cinema - learning - Love Actually - nice underwear - birth stories - seeing people surfing - how a red onion looks when you cut it in half - Colliers cheddar - little girls in stripy tights - people with passions - fresh air - letting warm sand run through my fingers - Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 - Earl Grey
Last night, some friends were coming over for dinner. Mr Meep had made the pizza dough, I'd chopped the toppings, and there was a lemon tart baking in the oven - and all with an hour to spare.
At 6.30 though, the lights flickered. Then they flickered again, then they totally faded to nothing. The power was out on the whole street. The electricity people said there'd be no power until at least 9.30.
So with no oven to cook pizzas in, no pudding, no light and no music, we cancelled dinner. Luckily we have a squillion tea lights and candles leftover from our wedding, so I set to work filling the house with little dancing flames. With Mr Meep, a glass of vino and a chinese takeaway, it was one of the cosiest evenings ever.
When we move to the country shack in a few weeks' time, no cooker or lights may be a daily occurrence for a few weeks, possibly even months. Cripes.
Last night was a full moon and the cat's gone bonkers.
This morning I got up to find The Evil One sitting next to the fridge, staring at the gap between the fridge and the wall, occasionally batting a dust bunny with his paw. I made us breakfast, took it up to bed (aren't I a nice wife?), came back down an hour later. He was still there.
Later, he moved to the bathroom, where he sat, staring at the gap underneath the shelving unit. The rest of us went out to the beach for a walk. When we got back, two and half hours later, he was still there.
Now he's back in the kitchen, this time staring at the cupboard with the baking tins in. He won't even consider moving. We have to step over him to get into the kitchen.
Actually, perhaps he is trying to kill us. A fall over him onto that cold, hard Welsh slate could be fatal. Mwah, hah, hah.
Dear Gwen, Five months old and you have a very nasty cold. You are full of snot. It's in your hair, on your forehead, on your cheeks and on your fingers. You are a grizzly little snot monster. Poor little you.
This month, you've learned to blow raspberries. You like doing this, especially when you've got a mouth full of drool that can splat out and onto anyone/thing/pet that happens to be passing. You can almost sit up on your own. Oh, and you can put even more things in your mouth than last month - this time, using... both hands! You've begun to get really into the pets, laughing at Blod and Zeb when they hair past your bouncy chair.
You love men. You grin at men in shops and cafes, then when they smile back, you bury your head into my chest in a very coy and coquettish fashion. And you save your biggest gurgles and cutest coos for your grandpa and your dad. But no boyfriends until your at least 25, OK? And then me and your dad have to vet them to check that they aren't emotionally retarded/ alcoholic/ commitment phobic/ too macho.
You've also discovered someone who gives never fails to make you grin with delight - that lovely baby we keep seeing in the mirror. Whenever we're on our way out, we pass the mirror in the hall and you do a double take, check out that baby looking back at you and give it the biggest beam ever.
Your dad and I have a problem. What are you going to call me? Being a Valleys girl, I called my mother Mam (or Mammy when I was a tot). Your Dad, being a posh Northerner, can't get his head around Mam (and he thinks Mammy makes me sound like a large, black lady from the Deep South) so thinks I should be Mummy. But I can't get my head around that. It sounds so posh and English. Better get it sorted soon though, or you'll be all confused as to who I am and you'll end up calling me Milko or something.
Apart from that it's baby business as usual. Lots of dribbling, cooing, gurgling, giggling, farting, wiggling and looking incredibly cute. And you've still got the biggest, most gorgeous grin of any baby ever. And that's official.
Love, Mam (or Mummy or Mum. Or how about Mater?) xx
And if you could just learn to go to sleep in strange places so we can go to lunch or friends houses without it turning into Screamadelica 2007, that would be great. Thanks.
Can I share with you my experience of hospital food?
I'd never been into hospital until I had Gwen. I had her in a lovely purpose-built midwifery unit, all dim lights, birthing pools and whale music.
Although the birth was straightforward, I had to stay in for a few days because the naughty little snail was so sleepy that she wouldn't feed. Trying to get her to feed involved me being woken up every three hours, while a maternity assistant or midwife or whoever was passing through (I'm surprised the cleaner didn't get involved) took turns to poke, pull, squeeze, prod and generally manhandle my breasts, while forcing Gwen's head against my bleeding nipples. As you can imagine, going through this palaver after just having given birth meant that I needed all the emotional and physical strength I could muster. And for me, good nutrition (and cakes) are really important to how I feel.
Now because of the whole lights/pool/whale music approach, I was expecting some quite nice food. Well, nice by hospital standards anyway. Maybe a pasta dish with loads of veggies or even a nice jacket potato.
I'd managed to avoid the food on Day One, as Mr Meep and I had a celebratory Chinese takeaway in the room. Day Two was Sunday. The lunch trolley came around at around midday. It was a Sunday roast.
"Pork or Lamb love?" "Oh, neither thanks - I'm veggie. Do you have any veggie options?" (Looks a bit flustered) "Uhhhh... I'll see what we can do."
She disappears for about half an hour, then returns with a pre-packed sandwich with that classic veggie filling - tuna.
The next day, the choice was cauliflower cheese. I was quite excited. I shouldn't have been. When it turned up, it was more like baby food - a mushy mess of sloppy overcooked cauliflower swimming in a watery, milky sauce. Bleeee.
Day 4 was a real treat. The trolley came around and I was offered chicken curry or ham salad. I asked if there was anything veggie and off they disappeared to the kitchen, only to return half an hour later with a cheese salad.
The cheese salad involved some iceburg lettuce, wedges of cucumber, some grated mild cheddar, no dressing and... wait for it... two ice-cream scoops of cold mashed potato on the side. Mmmmmmmmmmm. It's all anyone needs to keep their strength up.
Luckily I was discharged about half an hour later and was reunited with wholemeal bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Oh, and muffins.
As a bit of a connoisseur of tea and cake, I have today realised that there is something really wrong with the combo.
Picture the scene. You go to a cafe and order a pot of Earl Grey and a slice of carrot cake (my winning combo).
You get ready to enjoy it, look forward to the little ritual of pouring the hot, fragrant tea from the pot into the white china cup, all the time eyeing up the slice of carrot cake, its cream cheese icing enticing you to pick up the fork and enjoy every moment of that first mouthful of its tangy sweetness.
So you do. And it's every bit as lovely as you thought. When you've finally swallowed it, you pick up the cup of tea to cleanse the palate before the next mouthful.
But there is a problem. The tea is too hot to drink. And there's no way that you can wait for the tea to cool down, while the cake sits there on the plate teasing you with its cakey delights. Not even, like, a nun, could do that. So you eat the cake first. Then drink the tea afterwards. It becomes a two-course affair instead of the combo it should be.
Ah, talking of cake, look who's popped up talking about cupcakes in the newspaper.
Last night, Mr Meep was at work and the little snail was snoring away upstairs in her cot, so I had a whole evening of me time (or, as I like to call it, meep time).
I fancied listening to some music. We have way too many CDs in our collection - from Fugazi to (I kid you not) S Club 7* - so we've been digging out some old classics lately. Next to the CD player in the kitchen was one of my favs from the 90s - It's a Shame About Ray by The Lemonheads.
I put it on and was taken back in time to 1993. I sang along to every song, daydreaming about being 18, wearing flower-painted DMs, drinking smuggled sickly Mad Dog 20/20 in the pub toilets to save cash, drooling over the gorgeous Evan Dando on the NME stage at Glastonbury... ahhhhh, salad days. Well, Pot Noodle days is probably a more accurate description.
Such was the strength of the nostalgia, I decided to enhance the '90s ambiance and make some retro food. Hmm, what did I eat as a student? Those who went to my prestigious alma mater will know that there could only be one choice - the speciality of the DMU Students' Union - cheese and chips.
In the old days, it would be a tump of pale chips and mild, coloured cheddar served on a paper plate and washed down with a pint of lager, preferably with a dash of lime (although that added 10p on to the price, so you'd have to feeling frivolous). But in the sophisticated noughties, from my palatial home in Splott, my version of cheese and chips was very different.
1993 version Greasy chips Red Leicester cheese Pint of lager Paper plate
2007 version Home-made potato wedges, oven baked in Maldon sea salt and extra virgin olive oil Colliers extra mature Welsh cheddar Glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Served in a John Rocha white china bowl
How times have changed. Really, I should have been listening to a Dido CD.
*Mr Meep would like to add a disclaimer that the aforementioned S Club 7 album has nothing whatsoever to with him. Not a sausage. Nor can he be in any way affiliated with the entire Spice Girls back catalogue, which also finds its way into the collection.
We put our house on the market on Saturday, had two viewings on the Friday, then two offers the following day. So we put an offer in on the cottage - and we got it. All within a week - eeek!
It's damp, it's very 'old person chic' and needs a heck of a lot of work. But it's got three bedrooms and a sunny garden (with grape vines and a fig tree!). It's in a lovely village with lots of country walks for Blod and a little park for Gwen.
Here it is (just imagine it painted cream with some wooden windows and honeysuckle growing around the front door)...
Let the jam making, cake baking and chicken rearing commence.
You've learnt all kinds of new tricks lately. You can laugh out loud - especially when we whizz you through the air or blow raspberries on your belly. You can hold things with two hands, which means everything goes straight in your mouth. You can roll over onto your belly, but can't quite get back yet, so you make a really sad little struggly noise that makes me want to wrap you up in a blanket and protect you forever in a warm, safe, bundle of love.
For about a month you were sleeping through the night - we couldn't quite believe our luck. But this week, you've started to wake again. But that's OK. I still think you'r e perfect, even if I do have a few more dark circles.
You've also made me more emotional. I mean, I was really emotional before, but now anything sets me off. I went to the bakery to get me and your dad a nice custard slice the other day and popped into the Co-op to have a look at the magazines. On the cover of OK was Charlotte Church and her new baby. I had a flick through and started reading the interview, all about her home birth. Next thing I know, I've got tears in my eyes and have to go and hide up the household cleaning aisle and compose myself.
I think this is one of the cutest stages of babyhood, because you're still so little and vulnerable and cute, but you respond to things too. Sometimes when I look at you, I can't quite believe that you're real. Your skin is so perfect and glowing, and your smile totally lights up the room - it's as if you are a magical creature.
In a way, I can't wait for you to grow up so we can run around with Blod and make cakes and do painting and visit farms to pat bunnies. But part of me wants you to stay like this forever.
I've never really been good at anything before, but I hope I can be a really great mother because you deserve nothing less.
You're the best little snail I could ever have hoped for.
Do you know those days where you just feel so bleurgh about yourself? I call them Ugly Days - you feel a bit fat, it's a Bad Hair Day, every item of clothing you try on just looks wrong. Well, I've been having one of those days for, oooo, about a year now.
Now I am... gulp... 32, I think it is time for drastic action. I fear I will soon be one of those flabby, pasty mums who has given up hope, buys everything from Next in beige and has back hamsters. Even if it's just so Gwen doesn't feel embarassed by me, I need to sort myself out.
I need Dr Gillian McKeith, I need Trinny and Susannah, I need Mr Motivator, I need that woman off 10 Years Younger... and I need them all before it's too late.
And so, a new list: Things to sort out, starting from the head and working down.
1. Hair Oh where to start with this barnet of mine? It's very dry from thrice weekly swimming. It's neither blonde nor brown. I never brush the back of it (Mr Meep has been known to follow me around the house with a hair brush, as did my mother before him). And I hate, hate, hate going to the hairdressers and spending time or money on it. I keep thinking I'll grow out the blonde and go red, then back out at the last minute. Action: Fight the frugality, invest some money in going to a proper hairdresser.
2. Skin I used to glow from daily juicing, tons of water and loads of fruit and veg. The glow, however, has gone. And now, I just look a bit pale, despite a summer of daily walks. OK, so I haven't had a proper night's sleep since May 24th (eek!), but still, even the Touche Eclat isn't helping. Action: A month of intense juicing and packing in the veggies should do it.
3. Figure Ironically, just three months after having a baby, I am the same weight I was when I was 17. Goodness knows what miracle has caused this, but I put it down to lots of exercise while pregnant, and breastfeeding literally eating up fat and calories. However, the stomach is in a bad, bad way. The muscles have gone, literally disappeared. Even if I try to tense them, they are just not there. Then there's the arms which, despite the thrice-weekly swimming, are getting more like the limbs of a bingo-fan by the day. Action: Daily sit-ups and weekly 'Fab Abs' class. Lift tins of beans 60 times, or some other snoresome armercise.
4. Clothes I have never been good at clothes. I just don't know what to buy, what suits me or what to wear. I was happiest in my indie kid days, when the uniform was DMs, stripey tights and a Wonderstuff t-shirt and I didn't have to worry about fashion, because I looked so damn cool (well, I thought so at the time). Now, I live in jeans and hoodies. I still have a cardigan I bought when I was 19. When I was pregnant, I just wore hand-me-downs from friends of varying shapes and sizes. I am, in short, a fashion disaster. It's a bit of an anti-consumerist thing, but 90% of me just not having a clue. Even my mother despairs of me - she even gave me money for my birthday to buy some nice new clothes, so I no longer have an excuse. Action: Find someone to go shopping with me. Do not come home with more jeans, hoodies and trainers.
1. Spend the whole sunny day indoors doing freelance work 2. Mr Meep working all day and evening, so no company all day 3. No cake in house 4. No ingredients to make cake 5. Decide to take dog and baby to park for walk to cheer up 6. Get to park, immediately lose dog's ball in the river 7. Sky suddenly fills with dark clouds and wind starts howling 8. Baby dressed for high summer, so freezing cold 9. Go home after 10 minutes 10. Dog jumps on next-door neighbour's friend, on her way out, wearing white trousers, now covered in muddy paw prints
I need carrot cake, sauvignon blanc and Amelie. Now!
Dear Gwen, Tomorrow, you will be 12 weeks old. Apparently, it's a magical milestone, where you turn from a crazy crying newborn to a calmer, more predictable and generally more pleasant sort of baby.
But you're already an angel, so how can you get any better? OK, so when you came along, it was a big shock to the system. Actually, the first few weeks were easy, you just slept all the time. It was about a month in when you suddenly woke up and screamed a lot that I started to lose the plot a little. But once I got my head around the fact that you just need a good old scream now and again, and there wasn't a lot I could do about it, I stopped stressing and we got a bit of an understanding going.
And last week, something changed. You started to really notice the world. When you're awake, you're happy to wiggle and look around and take everything in. You only cry when you're hungry or tired. And you smile so much.
Now, I look forward to you waking up every morning, so I can lie you between me and your dad on the bed and we can watch you kick about and gurgle and grin at us. I love the little freckle on your knee. I love the way you open your mouth really wide when I try to kiss you, so I get a big wet gummy snog. I love the milky sweet smell of your breath. I love the way you make a squeaky noise just before you go to sleep.
You're a great baby. Thanks for coming to live with us.
Only 16 days until my birthday. You're probably wondering what I want (Mr Meep, are you reading this?).
Well, here we go.
A gorgeous new notebook A pair of fake Uggs (real ones way too pricey) A macro lense for my camera A new belt A cute, girlie gym bag Some of SARK's books KT Tunstall or Richard Hawley's new albums Body Shop Body Butter always welcome As is Green and Blacks chocolate As are more babies and furry things
ETA: Oh, and this coat And some cherry red nail polish for my toes
Me: Mr Meep? Mr Meep (engrossed in Harry Potter and looking like he doesn't want to be disturbed with my twittering): Yes? Me: When I've finished brestfeeding in three months' time, we can have another baby.
Insert tumbleweed-type noise here.
Mr Meep looks a bit pale.
I can't help it. I love pregnancy. I love birth. And I love babies.
I can't get enough of their fat, biteable thighs and dribbly, gummy smiles and I want more, more, more.
This evening, we were sitting in the lounge, me and my lovely family. I was sitting in the armchair with Gwen on my lap, all wide-eyed and cooing happily (that's her, not me).
Mr Meep was on the sofa, doing what I like to call a double pet special - cat on his lap, dog at his side, one hand stroking each.
So many things to cwtch and kiss and love. Thing is, when another lovable thing enters the equation, does the amount of love grow, or does the love that's there already get spread a bit thinner? When we have more babies and more pets, will we have enough hands to stroke them all?
This morning was the perfect morning. Gwen slept throught the night for the second night in a row (if I was religious, I'd be thanking that man upstairs so much), so I woke at 6.30, refreshed after a full night's sleep.
I headed off to the gym and had a blissful early morning swim, enjoying the feeling of flowing through the water while the sun glistened on the surface.
I got home, energised and full of endorphins, to a baby that gave me the biggest grin.
I made banana pancakes, fresh juice and coffee, and ate them while the morning light streamed through the window.
My furry baby turned two years old today. Two of her favourite things are tuna and cheese, so a made her a special birthday tuna melt for her tea. With two of Lidl's finest Brockwurst as 'candles'. Voila...
Since I gave up my quite well-paid job to become a part-time worker and part-time freelancer, there are not a lot of pennies in my purse. This is fine, as money isn't my thing and I'd swap my days of office-free freedom for all the cash in the world.
Pennies are even more scarce now I'm on maternity leave, surviving on the very generous £114 per week that the government thinks I can live on (this doesn't even cover my mortgage).
Anyway, having less money has made us a lot more creative in our leisure time. And as a result, we have much more fun. This Sunday was the perfect day. Here's how it went:
It's raining. Again. Feel a bit fed up and in need of cheering up/comfort food. Forage in the fridge and cupboards and - in a Ready, Steady, Cook stylee - manage to make up a new type of cake out of what I found (chocolate and chestnut brownies - all eaten within three days so I guess they were nice). Cost: £0.
Get in the car, drive to the beach. Cost: a few squid for petrol.
Walk along the beach, throwing a ball for the dog and watching her silly, happy, hairy face as she pants with knackered delight. Cost: £0.
Stop and sit on a rock to share a bottle of beer (brought from the fridge) and devour a couple of the improvised brownies. Cost: £0.
Walk back, stop off at the chippie for a bag of chips and two bread rolls. Cost: £2.20
Sit looking out to sea while munching the chip butties (enhanced by the ketchup we keep in the car for such occasions). Cost: £0.
Go home. Listen to CDs. Read. Cwtch up with husband, baby, dog and cat. Cost: £0.
Janet and Luther were right. The best things in life really are free. Well, quite cheap anyway.
At seven weeks old, I thought it was about time to introduce Gwen to some fruit. Here she is. With a banana.
Sir Jamie of Oliver would be proud.*
So I've got through the first few weeks relatively unscathed and not too tired. Here are some things I've learnt.
Breastfeeding is hard and can hurt and sometimes you can spend all day long doing it.
After the birth, you get hideous after-pains, like labour all over again.
You might also get night sweats, which make you think you are about to die.
If you go to M&S with a newborn baby, you will never leave as every old lady will want to talk to you. Aw.
Prams are rubbish - slings are much better.
Anyway, I'm slowly returning to normal after the shock of having a baby to look after. I've managed to read a book, go out without her (THREE times - bad mummy!), cooked a meal for six, made a batch of cookies, do a freelance job and even had a day out at the beach.
Miss Meep is back, back, back.
*If the NSPCC are reading, I wasn't trying to actually feed it to her. It was just for observation.
Mr Meep, about fifteen minutes ago, sitting on the sofa gazing at the Dr Who Fathers' Day card that Gwen got him: "You know when I see a dalek? I feel really, really happy inside. Like some people would when they look at a flower or the sea."
Sorry in advance for this post - it's probably really boring for anyone who wasn't there, but I have to write this down in case I forget anything.
On Friday 25th May, one day over my due date, I got up and it was business as usual. I took Blod on a really, really long walk to one of our favourite spots. I made Mr Meep and I a lovely lunch, then did a bit of washing and cleaning. Mr Meep went off to work - he was working from 5pm and wouldn't be back until around 2.30am.
My mum called me at around 6-ish to see if I wanted some company, just in case anything happened. I had a few niggly pains in my stomach, but nothing to speak of, so I was happy at home alone with Wife Swap and Jonathan Ross for company.
At around 8-ish, I listened to my natal hypnotherapy CD (more on this later). While I was in a deeply zen-style state, imagining myself breathing in the beautiful golden light, I started to feel a pain in my stomach, which gradually got worse, then moved into my back, then slowly faded away again. About ten minutes later, I had another one. By the time the CD ended, I'd had four pains in forty minutes. They weren't that bad, so I put them down to those Braxton Hicks practice contraction thingies.
Throughout the evening, I got a few more, but still they weren't that bad. I retired to bed with a nice mug of Horlicks and drifted off to sleep. I'd wake up every now and again with the pains in my tummy. When Mr Meep came home from work at 2.30am, I woke up and calmly declared: "Hello. I think I am in labour." Mr Meep looked a little shocked - why hadn't I rung him at work? What was going to heppen next?
I was a bit excited now, so there was no way I was going back to sleep. I decided to have a bath and see if the water helped speed things up. Mr Meep got the laptop out and logged on to Contraction Master (you really can find anything on the internet), which scarily revealed that my contractions were between two and five minutes apart and were lasting a minute each time. Really, this should have alerted me to the fact that I was in full-on labour, but I really didn't think it was that painful, so I was still in denial that it was really happening. I lay in the bath, breathing in the golden light and visualising myself on a special beach with the waves crashing on the shore...
I thought maybe I'd better call the hospital anyway, just in case. The midwife on the graveyard shift said she was happy for me to stay at home as long as I felt fairly comfortable, but to give her a call if my waters broke or if I felt any... ahem.. rectal pressure.
I sent Mr Meep off to bed for a few hours kip, while I pottered around the house, straightened my hair, had a cuppa, played with the dog (who was very confused by all this night-time activity, and could I just bugger off please so she could get some sleep).
By the time Mr Meep woke up at around 7-ish, I was feeling a bit more pain. Still managing to waddle around while they were happening. Mr Meep decides that now is a good time start reading about what happens in labour. I start feeling a bit odd - too hot, then too cold, then a little bit sick, then... oh my god... "Gah! I need to push!".
Mr Meep steps into action, ringing the hospital, getting the bags together and calling my parents to come and collect Blod. Meanwhile, I am writhing around trying to fight this overwhelming urge to push the baby out. Rectal pressure? Bloody hell yes - and then some.
I was trying to get dressed but couldn't stand up. Mr Meep managed to get some clothes on me, but I didn't think there was any way I'd make it down the stairs, let alone into the car and the three-mile drive to the hospital. I could feel the baby's head, right there waiting to be pushed out into this big bad world as soon as possible.
Somehow, I got into the car without giving birth in the street. The urge to push was coming in waves that were closer and closer together. The car journey was interesting. Mr Meep, not the best at directions, had to ask me which way to turn out of our street. I managed to splutter a few "lefts" and "rights" in between trying not to have a baby, doing lots of "Shit, shit, shit, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiits" and frantically trying to find the 'Emergency delivery' section in 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'.
At the traffic lights outside the Cardiff Bay Morrisons, I thought I would try and see if I could see the baby's head, despite the fact I was sitting upright in the passenger seat of our not-very-spacious car. As I looked down, I felt a warm wet senstaion. Ah, I'd forgotten about the waters - this was them breaking then. Goodness knows what the lorry driver stopped next to us at the lights must have been thinking was going on.
The waters going made it all kick off. By the time we got to the hospital, the pains were coming one on top of the other. Mr Meep pulled up outside the entrance to the midwife unit to drop me off. I tried to get out of the car, but collapsed on my knees on the pavement, bum in the air and head still inside the car. I managed to get inside between contractions, got inside the foyer standing in soaking wet clothes, dripping amniotic fluid all over the nice clean floor.
The midwife came out to see me, but before I got her name, I was on my hands and knees again. She took one look at me and had me straight in the delivery room before you could say 'Gas and Air'. I'm wondering what's happened to the birthing pool - I'd packed my Ray LaMontagne CDs as some chill-out music while I laboured in the warm water.
"No time for that love, it takes an hour to fill - this baby's coming now."
Meanwhile, Mr Meep, who said I was so calm that he had no idea the baby was about to arrive, was concerned about the car park.
"Shall I go and move my car? I'm in a disabled spot, and it says we'll get a £15 fine."
Ten minutes later, he comes back...
"Em, have you got any change? The car park's £1.50 and I've only got £1.30. I don't want to get a fine."
No time for fumbling about for 20p though. He was about to miss the main event. It all happened so fast. I was on a bed, they were putting plastic sheets under me, getting a big box of 'birthing' stuff out and then I was pushing Gwen out. Just three contractions and a few puffs of gas and air later, and there she was. A purple crying thing covered in yoghurty stuff was plopped onto my chest.
I arrived at the hospital at 9am, she was born at 9.43am. You know when anyone tells you about giving birth, and the amazing feeling that comes over them when they see their baby for the first time and they cry and cry tears of overwhelming love and joy?
Mr Meep and I - we looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Then we had a nice cup of tea and got into a big bed for a family cwtch.
And that's it. Childbirth? Don't know what all the fuss is about! OK, I was incredibly lucky, but I think the Natal Hypnotherapy is the best thing ever, ever, ever! The midwives said they had never seen anyone so calm and relaxed - I was even chatting in between pushes. So pregnant ladies, my top tip for you is to get hypnobirthing - the best £18 you'll ever spend.
Number of babies appeared: 0 Number of babies looking like they might appear any time soon: 0 Number of times woken up in the night wondering if slight crampy tummy caused by yummy South Indian food is, in fact, labour pains: About six million
No, not literally my friends. They're all still here. I haven't become a cannibal or owt. I mean our gilled friends that live under the water - the fishes.
I did dabble in fish on honeymoon in Morocco, until an incident with an eyeball reminded me of the reality and put me off for the next four years.
This time, it all started with a trip to the beach when I'd just found out I was pregnant. I'd read lots of books with info on pregnancy nutrition, stressing the importance of fishy things for your growing sproglet.
After a long walk on a windy beach, we often stop off at the Best Chip Shop in the World* for something suitably stodgy to scoff in the car while looking at the sea. Somtimes we'd have a flask of tea - you know, like proper old people.
Usually, I'd have some chips, lots of vinegar and ketchup, maybe a buttered roll. This time, my head filled with Dr Miriam Stoppard's advice to stuff as much fish down my neck as possible or else my baby will leave school with no GCSEs and a collection of ASBOs, I ordered... a piece of cod. I have to admit, it was tasty. Since then, it's progressed to...
Fish pie Teryaki Salmon Tuna mayo in jacket potatoes Smoked salmon pasta Sweet and sour king prawns from the Chinese
And on holiday in Cornwall, I ate the whole sea.
Anyway, last night, insomnia came to visit. I was sitting up at some ungodly hour reading The Pig Who Sang to the Moon and it hit me - this is wrong, wrong, wrong. When Kurt Cobain said "It's OK to eat fish, cos they don't have any feelings", I think he was being ironic, right?
I woke Mr Meep up to dramatically declare "I'm not eating any more fish!", to which he replied "Zzzzzz... What?... Oh.... Zzzzzzzz."
So that's that. I've saved this bit of PETA propaganda in my favourites in case Colin the Cod comes waving his tempting battered self at me again.
Anyway, I've confessed. And now I've stopped. I feel better already. And anyway, it couldn't last, as this conversation was inevitably bound to crop up over the next few years...
Mini Meep: "Mummy, why don't we eat meat?" Me: "Well, Mini Meep, meat comes from animals and animals are our friends, and we don't eat our friends. Imagine eating Blod or Zebedee." Mini Meep: "What about fishies - aren't they our friends too?" Me: "Er... um... oh look, a hedgehog!"
"... As your baby's arrival nears, your body is going through some of the most intense changes of your whole pregnancy. Try not to do too much, and focus on taking care of yourself by getting plenty of rest... "
And here's me, yesterday. After a six-mile walk...
One day, Miss Meep woke up and her belly was rumbling. It was only 6am, but her hungry belly went 'Groooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwlllll, wake up and fill me with delicious treats.'
So she got up and had some Weetabix Minis with soy milk. The belly was satisfied.
However, after she had showered, dressed, been for a womble with the dog and returned home, she was hungry again. It was 8am. She made two pieces of toast - one with marmite, one with peanut butter. The belly was silenced and off she went to work.
At work, the belly continued to rumble. It wouldn't shut up. The only way to silence it was by eating. That day, she ate:
1 apple 5 dried figs A jam doughnut Another apple 3 pieces Green and Blacks chocolate 1 cheese and tomato sandwich Banana Packet of crisps Slice of carrot cake Box of veggie sushi rolls (whilst walking around the supermarket - the shame) Slice of cheese Wedge of Spanish omlette Avocado and tomato salad Mug of Ovaltine 4 squares Green and Blacks
Then she went to bed and had a long sleep. When she awoke, she didn't find that she had turned into a beautiful buterfly. Instead, she - or rather her bathroom scales - found that she had become two pounds heavier overnight.
She went downstairs and made a batch of home-made blueberry pancakes.
And Mini Meep is rapidly running out of space in there. She likes to nestle her feet right under my ribs when I'm sitting upright - a great excuse to spend the sunny weekend reading the paper on a reclining deckchair in the garden.
I'm doing lot of 'birth preperation'-type things, like drinking raspberry leaf tea (supposed to make your contractions more powerful - is that a good thing?), bouncing on a giant bouncy birthing ball (the pets are terrified of it) and listening to my natal hypnosis CD (put it on on Friday night about 9pm - woke up on the sofa at 12.30. It's obviously making me VERY relaxed).
I'm really excited about meeting her, but a bit scared too. Eeek.
Sometimes, I think about all the people I love and think about what it would be like if we all got in to a giant bed and had a big long cwtch - in a totally non-pervy way, of course (I realise that when I say this out loud, it sounds really wrong, but it's totally innocent, this need for cwtching).
Cwtch someone you love today - a friend, your partner, your mam, your dad, your nan, your gramp, your sprogs, your dog, your cat, the postman. Just give them all a big squeeze.
I hope I don't wear Mini Meep out with too much cwtching when she arrives.
Hello - it's been a while, I know. The thing is about this balancing freelancing with a part-time job is it sometimes gets so bloomin' busy that you don't even have time to write your blog or even cook a proper meal or anything.
Here's a Top 10 of things what have happened:
I've been to Cornwall on hols - am attempting to post some piccies but it's all going wrong and I'm swearing at the computer. A lot. Shame, because one of them is the best photo of a chicken ever. Watch this space - bet you can't wait.
In Cornwall I ate: 2 cheese pasties, 3 cream teas, 2 ice creams and approximately 236 chips.
One of my dyselxia students turns 50 this year. She likes running and really wanted to run the London marathon in this milestone year. She tried lots of the big charities but got rejected. One day, I was reading the magazine that the Donkey Sanctuary sends me. I noticed they had two places for the marathon, so I told her about them. She got the application form, and in one of our classes, we spent the session filling in it in. She got a place! She's happy and donkeys will be saved. And I'm baking cakes to sell raise money for her tomorrow, so tummies will be filled too. Ah.
Someone on Freecycle was looking for maternity clothes. I've been given more than I can wear from friends, so I told her she could come over and have a rummage. I sent her directions to my house. There was no need - she lives at number 174 (I'm number 189). She came over and is lovely. Her baby is due two weeks after Mini Meep and we'll be off on maternity leave at the same time.
I went to a local primary school to start volunteering as a classroom assistant last week. As I walked through the playgound to meet the head teacher, three little girls came bouncing up to me on space hoppers, shouting delightedly 'Look Miss, we're all bouncy!'. You don't get that when you walk into an office on a Thursday morning.