Monthly Archives: August 2005

A minor milestone

Jamie turned nine months old this past Saturday, and he’s still nursing. Doing so as I type, for that matter, although that’s by-the-by. This means that, should I ever want to train as a La Leche League leader, I could now do so.

This is rather a moot point, since I don’t want to. (I like the idea of the counselling part of it, but not the organisational part.) But I still like knowing that it’s something I can do, now. After all, I’m the girl who once felt that the main drawback to losing her virginity would be that, even though I wasn’t expecting to meet a unicorn that needed subduing, it would be a shame to lose the option of doing so. I like potentials, possibilities, the extra richness of life that comes from having extra paths open.

And I like knowing that we’ve made it this far.

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Best laid plans

When Barry and I got engaged, we both agreed we wanted the conventional style of wedding with all the trimmings. Well, pretty much all – I’ve never seen the point of getting a limousine or horse-drawn carriage just to deliver you to the wedding, and I was, in the event, driven to the hotel in question in the aging car of my soon-to-be-in-laws. But we both agreed that we wanted to mark our exchange of vows with a long fancy white dress that I’d never wear again, with bridesmaids, with expensive flower arrangements, with a three-course meal for the hordes of friends and family who were in attendance, with dancing the night away afterwards.

So we set out to make it happen. We spent more than a year on the planning, and more of my mother’s money than I feel comfortable telling you about on the execution, and went through all the ups and downs and squabbles and how-are-we-going-to-get-everything-done panics that go along with such an endeavour. And, as we sat going over the projected timetable for the day with the assistant manager of the hotel where we were holding it, I felt increasingly nervous. Not for traditional bridal reasons – I felt nothing but delight at the prospect of committing the rest of my life to this man – but because talking as though we could plan something like this seemed, to me, to be tempting fate. Surely Fate would look down on us, attention drawn by all this uppity planning, and give us a fat ol’ finger? So many things could play havoc with our big day. Barry or I could get food poisoning or appendicitis and be too ill for the ceremony, the place could burn down, or something as everyday as pelting rain could ruin the plans we had of enjoying canap├ęs and photos in the stunningly beautiful grounds. Why on earth were we being so presumptuous as to think that we could plan anything?

Because, as Barry pointed out to me when I mentioned these fears to him, it wasn’t going to happen at all if we didn’t plan it. (If you’re a Pratchett fan, this would be an apt place to insert the joke about arranged weddings from Nanny Ogg’s cookbook.) Yes, things could go wrong. But, all in all, the chance of things going wrong enough to ruin our wedding wasn’t that great. And, however superstitious I might feel about it, planning the way we wanted things to go was not decreasing the chances of having them actually turn out that way. Quite the reverse, in fact.

I don’t know whether many brides feel the way I did. It isn’t something I’ve seen mentioned in any wedding magazine or wedding planner that I’ve read (and, believe me, I read many that year). What I do know is that nobody else ever said anything to me to indicate that they held that attitude. No-one said “Well, you can’t really plan these things, you know” or “Plans? What a joke. My plan for my wedding went completely out of the window when [insert disaster here] happened” or “Look, just plan to get married to the man you love. What does the rest matter?” No-one thought there was anything strange about the fact that I preferred the idea of the day happening one way rather than another and was prepared to put a lot of effort into trying to affect the outcome of something that, ultimately, I did not have 100% control over. It was considered completely normal for me to care quite a bit about how the day went. And, while it was understood that ultimately the important thing wasn’t that one day but the happiness of the marriage that would follow it, it was also understood all round that it wasn’t an either-or, and wanting a great wedding day didn’t indicate a lack of perspective or gratitude for the happy marriage that I ended up with.

For some reason, though, the attitude seems to change if your plans are for your labour rather than for any other important event in your life. There’s been some discussion about birth-related issues in the blog world in the past week or so, and one theme that was touched on now and again in the comments was the old chestnut of birth being so essentially unplannable that anyone who uses an oxymoron like ‘birth plan’ is clearly a) hopelessly naive, and b) destined for the labour-from-hell of complications, technology, an eventual Caesarean and a lifetime of I-told-you-sos from the anti-birth-planning brigade.

Birth is inherently more unplannable than most other things in life, it’s true. Unless your birth plan involves an elective Caesarian, you’re unlikely to be able to pencil a slot into your diary. You can’t plan the type of labour you get in the same way that you can plan to have a civil or religious wedding. You’re more vulnerable than at other special times in your life, and you’re more likely to run into complications. But births aren’t in a special category of unplannableness all their own, the way people often seem to think of them. If you really couldn’t care less about anything other than ending up with a baby at the end, then I’m happy for you, because your chances of getting the birth you want are excellent. But if you have preferences in the matter – whether they’re for a drug-free birth or a pain-free birth, to avoid surgery or to avoid labour – then why not take steps to improve your chances of getting what you want?

Having a birth plan doesn’t mean that you have delusions of grandeur concerning just what you can or can’t control. It doesn’t mean you think of yourself as better than other women who have different or absent birth plans or whose births just don’t go according to any plan. (WTF was that about, anyway???) And it doesn’t mean that some malevolent fate is going to take this as a cue to swoop in on you. It just means that you find out about your available options, put thought into considering how you might react to particular circumstances, and relay this information to other people likely to be involved in the birth.

Barry and I had the wedding day we wanted, and, fourteen and a half months later, I had the labour and birth I wanted. And, while I would never discount the role that luck played in both of those, I think it’s also fair to say that neither would have happened without the planning. Things went well not in spite of the plans, but, in large part, because of them. The best laid plans of mice, men, brides and pregnant women may often go whatever the Scottish dialect is. But, more often, they come to pass as planned.

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House da-capo-al-fine

We looked at houses.

We discussed the relative merits of said houses as we headed round the supermarket for our bi-weekly shop.

We got back home.

4 missed calls, all from the estate agents for Mr and Mrs We-Don’t-Want-To-Move-Until-November.

Mr and Mrs We-Don’t-Want-To-Move-Until-November have, it appears, agreed to move by 20th October.

We accepted this.

We have, it appears, an agreement.

If and when we exchange contracts, we may even feel free to start celebrating about it. Until then, we will wait with patient resignation for the next piece of fuckwittery to hit us.

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House disharmony

The weekend was filled with grandparental/great-grandparental adoration. It also contained some excellent meals (my mother can cook), a shopping trip for new clothes for Jamie, who is fast growing out of everything he owns, 37, 560 repetitions of “Peekaboo, I see you” from my grandmother, a lot of exhausting moving of Jamie away from enticing looking boxes and plastic bags (my mother is in the latter stages of getting a new kitchen, and there’s still a lot of stuff sitting around waiting to be put away), and the discovery that Jamie does not like hummus. Not that this is likely to have any sort of impact on our menu choices, but I thought it was worthy of note, since it’s the first thing we’ve discovered that he doesn’t like.

What it did not contain, however, was a phone call from the R’s assuring us that they had finally found a house.

So why should this bother us, you ask? Surely this continued silence simply means that we opt for Plan B and put in a bid for the other house? Yes, that was indeed what we did, last week. We agreed, after some debate, on their asking price. We waited for the estate agents to call us back confirming their acceptance so that we could breathe a huge sigh of relief and enjoy the sensation of having a clue where we were going to be living in the foreseeable future. And, indeed, on Friday they called Barry back to tell him that, yes, the offer had been accepted – and, oh, by the way, the owner had just accepted a big contract at work and didn’t want to move in the middle of it, so he wouldn’t be moving out until November.

That’s nice for you, sunshine, and I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding someone to sell the house to at that time.

We, meanwhile, are looking elsewhere. Of course, by now we are running a bit short on elsewheres, and last night the prospects were looking bleak as Barry scanned estate agents’ webpages, something he has now done even more times than my grandmother has repeated “Peekaboo, I see you” to Jamie. But he somehow managed to find three decent-sounding houses in our price range for us to go and see tomorrow, so we are hoping, against all odds, that at least one of them will not only meet our requirements but will be owned by someone who isn’t trying to play silly buggers. Don’t miss next week’s excruciating instalment.

On the plus side, apparently somebody is actually reading this blog, which is a great ego boost (waves at Kitty). Thanks for the interest!

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Well, after all that……

…….yesterday Barry just fell asleep on the bed himself just before Jamie’s naptime, and Jamie took the hint and fell asleep next to him. They both got a good couple of hours of sleep, and both seem a hell of a lot better for it.

It strikes me as a surprisingly diplomatic solution, since anyone with an opinion on the matter can now point to this story and claim that it proves their point. Anti-CIOers can say that, you see, the problem was just about to settle down anyway, given time, and Barry should have just toughed it out. Pro-CIOers can say that, you see, this proves how wonderfully successful it was – twenty minutes of crying, and Jamie was taking his nap just fine the next day. Or, if you’re me, you can just say that, hooray, everyone is happy and we have no current worries. (Well, not about Jamie’s sleep. The house situation is another matter, but one that I will post about on another occasion.)

Anyway, this being the situation, I didn’t do any CIO in the evening – we’re going away for the weekend anyway and it seemed a bit pointless to start anything now. We shall have to consider what we do next week.

Meanwhile, big weekend ahead – my grandmother is over from the States, visiting my mother, and this weekend we’re going to see her and she’s going to meet her first and so far only great-grandchild for the first time. So this looks set to be most cool. I shall hopefully blog about it when we get back.

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To dream, perchance to sleep

Anyone who has read my previous posts (anyone? anyone? Oh, well) may possibly have realised already that my reaction to any mention of CIO does not involve brandishing a cross to banish the eeeeevil far from me while simultaneously using my spare hand to stick pins in Richard Ferber’s effigy. While I have minimal patience for the enthusiasts who claim that CIO is The Way, The Truth and The Light when it comes to bringing up children (because there’s extremely little that I do feel that way about when it comes to bringing up children – I’m a horses-for-courses type), I have read enough personal stories to convince me that it’s frequently a valid option and, in some cases, can even be the best thing for a child and/or his family as a whole.

However, I haven’t done it with Jamie. Not because I think it’s the road to perdition, but because so far, despite Jamie having been a pretty poor sleeper since birth, I never felt we’d quite reached the point where we had to. We’ve got by with other methods – co-sleeping, carrying him around, nursing him to sleep before putting him in the cot, and sometimes dealing with an overtired child who just wouldn’t take a nap. It hasn’t been ideal, and has often been somewhat stressful, but never to the point where I felt that things were unmanageable and that sleep training was the better option.

We have now, it appears, reached that point. Jamie has been napping poorly for the past few weeks, and Barry has been struggling to deal with an overtired child who won’t let him take enough of a break to get anything else done, including eating. Lying with him on the bed and feeding him his bottle normally works, but not now. Nor does cuddling or patting or any other soothing. If he goes to sleep at all, he wakes up after about twenty minutes, still tired and upset.

Yesterday, driven to utter distraction by a wailing, desperately overtired child who just would not go to sleep despite clearly being in dire need of a nap and having a shattered father who was in dire need of a break, Barry finally, after an entire day of this, plonked him in his cot and walked out of the room, leaving him crying. He came back to check on him every five minutes, in accordance with the brief summary I’d given him of sleep training when I mentioned it as a possible option we might need ultimately to pursue, but left him in his cot. Jamie, who had been upset and overtired all afternoon, was asleep twenty minutes later.

He only slept for another twenty minutes, unfortunately, and he remained clearly fidgety and overtired when he woke up, but I was home by then to take him off Barry’s hands. A couple of hours later Barry’s teeth had unclenched and the manic twitch in his face had faded, but his insistence that things could not possibly go on the way they had been going was undimmed, and matched by mine. I am a firm believer in meeting my child’s needs, and that includes his need for sleep. I’m also a firm believer in meeting my husband’s needs, including his need for sanity.

So, the current plan is for Barry to do the same at Jamie’s naptimes today. We haven’t quite got as far as discussing what happens at bedtime (bedtime is less of a problem as I can still get him to sleep by nursing him, and since he was so exhausted last night I just went ahead and did that), but I think it’s going to be best if we do the CIO there as well – he’ll learn more quickly if he gets more practice, and it’s not fair for all of this to fall on Barry. My main concern about that is the risk of the crying running into antisocial hours – we live in a semidetached house, and our bedroom is against the neighbouring wall. I’m really hoping it won’t become that bad – the fact that it only took him twenty minutes to fall asleep this time is very promising, based on all the CIO stories I’ve read, and I’m hoping that that wasn’t just a fluke. But since it has to be done, ’twere best ’twere done quickly.

So, wish us and the neighbours luck. Oh, and feel free to post any dissenting opinions, should you feel so moved. If they include offers to come round and take a screaming child off my husband’s hands on a daily basis for however many months or years it would take for his sleep to improve of its own accord, I’ll be happy to take them seriously.

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