Saturday, December 31, 2005

Motherhood's a breeze

Motherhood's great. It's partnership that's the nightmare. I still can't belive how I behaved last night, and I'm still crying mad at how he went on. Tall dark and handsome, as Hellen called him, but boy can he be childish. And so can I. But the main thing is the disappointment.

This is the fifth week since I went back to work at the end of my maternity leave. He got to quit his horrible hectic stressful driving job, and really I doubt our relationship could have weathered the strain of that job much longer, and get to stay home with the baby. Now, when he went to work in the 9th month of Jen's life, we made his account joint and I happily spent his money. I was pleasurably surprised at how easy and pleasant it was to do that.

So when I went back to work we made my account joint, and I expected that life would continue as it had. I dropped him at work, I did the housework, I did the babycare. I know Maria warned me that it wouldn't work the same way, that the person who's at home manages the housework, that it would take time for him to be used to it. So I was ready for some degree of difficulty, but not total lack of reason.

I work a 4 week cycle of shifts, and this is the second time I've had a set of earlys. Because I work so far from home the trip here to relieve the night shift is a big deal. The first set of earlys himself had to drive me. It was my first week of fulltime work in two years, my first week back from a year off, my first week in a new supervisory position and at a new station - I felt like several kinds of idiot, and was exhausted, I'm still breastfeeding and nearly burst, the baby got a cold, and eventuallyI worked out that I could get a staff taxi from Leyton at 0441am. This meant we could leave the baby home with Kamille promising to listen for her while S rushed me the ten minutes to Leyton and rushed back.

I thought it worked beautifully; she stayed asleep, S went straight back home to bed, I got to work without a headache, I had a good day yesterday. I went home and took it easy all afternoon, and in the evening I went a did a big grocery shopping and cooked(the weather is foul this week, near freezing. I don't expect him to contend with getting the baby wrapped up enough to handle the weather, or plan a shopping trip that would be all indoors, and plan what to buy, and execute the plan, all in one day by himself. I'm not unreasonable, I just go out and get it done, I don't even mind, I'm glad I'm still needed, why sweat the small stuff?) But my energy stalled over the washing up. It was 1030pm and I had to sleep. Quite often when I was home full time I left the washing all day till late at night, when himself took the baby to bed and I had the time to use both hands, so I guess the household has got used to seeing a heap of dirty dishes as evening draws in. Well, himself objected when he came downstairs about midnight and decided to wash them. I sometimes got a little upset washing dishes by myself as the house slept, but I knew why it was the best time and I handled it.

He got himself into a stew, and he came glowering upstairs at 0102, found me snoozing through a breastfeed, informed me I could get a taxi to Leyton in the morning and went back downstairs. I woke properly and worked out that he was ill and I needed to book a cab, because if you call them they can take hours. So I went down, found the phone book, called a couple of places and booked the most reliable sounding one. Then I worked out there was no cash in the house and I started dressing up to go down the road to the cash machine, inquiring about his health as I did so. He was fine. He just felt it was selfish of me to get him out of bed at 0430am when he'd been doing dishes till one. Also, he didn't want the joint account any more. Also, he thought it was lazy of me not to have done the dishes. What use was I to him and Jen? Also ... no, it was ok, it's New Year's Eve, cabs will be very pricey, he'd take me to work in the morning.

I started to get out of my trousers. Then I bethought me that this refusal could raise its head again any time, it's the third time my earlys have caused a problem. (why? why? is my womanly working somehow less valid than male working, even if it earns thrice the price?) I need a way to get to work that won't give me a headache. Supposing I don't get one from lack of sleep. I went down the road and got my cash, and I came home and told him to get out of the bed. He could sleep on the sofabed. Ooo, he was cross. He swore mightily, and when I went to pick the baby up out of his arms so she could return to her breastfeed he wouldn't let go. She woke up and started crying. Neither of us would let go. Eventually he did, and he picked up her cup of water and emptied it over both of us. I considered calling the police. ('he threw a cup of water at me officer, and I was holding the baby' - what do you think?) He switched on the main light and saw how we looked, switched it off and went downstairs, leaving me scrambling for a dry bit of quilt to wipe the baby's forehead with. At what point does one have a battered baby?

We moved to the dry half of the bed and I slept for a couple of hours, and my trip to work was pretty smooth, but there have to be some changes. We only have to last a few more weeks for gosh sakes. When I went down I found his debit card thrown on the floor near my handbag. Well, I'll keep it. I guess some things I can't change. I'll have his name taken off the account and take the cab to Leyton in future. I won't worry about his having no spending money. I'll worry about maintaining access to my baby. But I won't wash dishes!

Friday, December 30, 2005

I Feed Myself

Just had a look back at my woes of 6 months ago re feeding Jenifer. May I add that they have increased with time, as now she won't be fed by spoon for anyone's money - we have to assemble a healthy meal of finger foods only, so she can feed herself. Two apricots, a little corn, a tomato, a potato, a sprig of broccoli, a piece of cheese or boiled egg ...

Back At Work

Omigod! Back at work after a year of maternity leave and LIFE IS HARD. My mind feels all blurred and baby soft - well you have to slow down when you're having kids, it's just necessary. And the long journey to North London that once was nothing much is now a massive inconvenience! Not to speak of the viccissitudes of breastfeeding around an 8 or 12 hour shift - sometimes I think my relief will come into the station and find me splattered on the ceiling in bits of blood and milk. Then my breasts ache all the way home ... garn!

Today the other half is using up the last packet of frozen milk so from tomorrow on her ladyship will be on cow's milk. She's done very well I think; exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and she'll be 13 months old when she gets her first cup or bottle of cow's milk. Very satisfactory. Never a spot of the devil's milk either; I wouldn't even know how to mix the stuff. I am disgusted to report that the first time I ever saw the stuff was at my local baby weighing clinic. The receptionist tried to tell me Jen was crying from hunger at 4 months, when I'd tried to feed her sweet potato due to peer pressure, and I needed to buy a massive tin of formula from her (at a subsidised price, disgusting) to dump down the baby. I thought I reacted quite tactfully. Steve was with me that afternoon; he said I looked as though she'd suggested I poison Jennifer. I felt she had! Why would I spend my hard earned cash on some industrial item when my body's already laboured to make a far superior product? Why, why would anyone feed a child on cow's milk when there are lactating females of your own species everywhere? I've only heard of one woman in the modern era advertising for a wet nurse, but I'm sure if anyone did they'd find plenty of volunteers. You could even have gotten me to express milk for your baby in my mass producing days, 6 months ago.

Personally I feel that the existence of baby formula is a paternalistic design to undermine the value of a woman-produced product; if it didn't exist everyone would breastfeed, and if men routinely breastfed it would be thought insulting to try and market a competing product. In fact if one day men do choose to breastfeed as an ordinary thing, I bet formula will die back to its status in New Guinea - a prescription only item where your doctor has to explain why neither of you is able to produce milk for the baby. Or rather where you have to explain to your doctor. That's not what would bother people of course - it's the explaining to your mother and your sister and your mummy circle; getting the look on buses and in the clinic when you whip out a bottle to stick into your precious newborn's mouth; and explaining to your mother in law. That's the true hurdle. If once everyone assumes 'baby milk' means breastmilk, not some nerdy powder, then the world's babies will be set, and the environment won't have to absorb the effects of processes adulterating cows' or goats' or soya milk for human babies.