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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

A Maternal Snapshot

29/08/2016

Memories for Mondays

Status Viatoris

“My mother was a woman who never complained.

My two younger brothers both died in their early forties. My father, the gentlest man you could ever hope to meet, died ten years later. But my mother never cried. She just got on with the business of living.

Our house was always full of people. Our door always open. My mother marching around, ensuring that everyone was fed, watered and happy.

She was a carabiniere. A force of nature. A real tough cookie.

When she was in her eighties she developed Alzheimer’s. She would go to the shop and repeatedly stockpile all the items necessary to run a household containing a husband, two strapping sons and a daughter. Me.

But she still had moments of lucidity.

One day she told me that she was leaving me. I looked at her blankly. But mamma, where are you going? I asked.

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Adventures in Mummying

16/08/2016

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I am now two years and seven months into this mothering lark.

There are moments when I really cannot recall what my life was like without my daughter, and moments I am so exhausted and Mummyyyyyyyyyyyyyyed! out that I feel like she has been here forever (which I am aware is not quite the same thing…).

Then there are those other moments I whip round in surprise at the sound of a squeaky little voice summoning her Mumma, and wonder how it is she seems so confident of who I am and all I am apparently able to deliver when most of the time I still feel as clueless as if the stork dropped her off the day before – although, given that young children are in a state of constant change, I cannot be alone in feeling that I never quite manage to get my mothering shit together or that bringing up a child is substantially more blindfolded white-rapid ride than it is guided amble round a park.

20160430_105953Of course the internet offers a myriad of foolproof parenting methods, playgrounds always contain at least one mother fortunate enough to know everything and bookshops bulge with tomes by parenting experts; all of which give the impression that it really could be a guided amble round a park, if we would just follow their 5-point plan to: Getting the child sleeping through from conception! Getting the child feeding on a schedule from the moment he crowns! Don’t put the child down for the first six months! Wash the birth gunk off, and don’t pick the child up ever again in case she gets used to it! Pretend you can’t hear him crying, he only wants attention! Anticipate your child’s needs the day before so she never has to cry!

It’s a confusing minefield with no possible winners (other than that know-it-all-mother’s ego and the royalties enjoyed by the aforementioned parenting “experts”): no two children are exactly the same, no parents are exactly the same, no families are exactly the same and no lifestyles are exactly the same. Parenting is an ongoing exercise in intuition, compromise, guesswork, consistency, patience and bluff.

One lesson I have learnt is that people who do not have children should not form an opinion on child-rearing, much less voice it. That intense emotional bond with the child you are raising colours every situation you are likely to face from the first moment you hold him in your arms. And your intuitive understanding of that child dictates how you decide to deal with those situations. There are very few OSFA solutions to parenting quandaries, and those on the outside looking in only ever have part of the story.

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Before Maya was even born, I wrote a condescending piece referencing Attachment Parenting (or at least what I assumed it to be). I feel particularly silly about it now because without even really being aware of it, I seem to have ended up practising many of the AP principles. I read somewhere that a child who has all emotional (as well as physical) needs met, is more likely to grow into a well-rounded and confident adult. And not only does that make perfect sense to me; it also fits very nicely thank you with the way I have always instinctively wanted to respond to my daughter.

But in my pre-motherhood ignorance, I confused nurturing with controlling – something I have witnessed quite a bit here in Italy, where meaningful communication with children often seems to be eschewed in favour of endless commands to: Get up of that floor, you’ll get dirty! Get down off there, you’ll fall! Don’t go up there, you’ll hurt yourself! Get your finger out of your mouth, it’s dirty! Do your coat up, there’s a draft! Don’t run, you’ll fall over! Do that again and I’ll smack you!

20160713_175919 (2)In the playgrounds and piazze of my Italian existence, the gentlest of tumbles frequently results in a flurry of panic, surfaces are treated as terrifying germ-coated threats to fallen snacks (and toys and fingers), potential death-traps are seen everywhere, children are bundled up against dangerous breezes about nine months of the year and empty threats of corporal punishment appear to be considered an acceptable parenting tool more often than I care to notice.

It has an uncomfortable edge of negativity to it. I suspect children who are not offered rational explanations for things might have a harder time making good judgement calls, and children not permitted to play freely may struggle to safely discover their own physical limitations. Admittedly the inculcation of a fear of dirt, weather and theoretical parental slaps is not much worse than pointless, but what of the loud proof that these parents have absolutely no faith in their offspring’s fledgling abilities to get themselves safely from A to B? I can’t envisage that being an ingredient for either confidence or independence.

The bizarre bedfellow of the above is the Italian child-worship phenomenon (perhaps partially a result of ever-decreasing family size?) that grandparents, waiters and random passers-by indulge in. This mainly involves a Willy Wonkaesque deluge of sugar in all its most tooth-rotting forms, and a willingness to humour every cappriccio thrown up by the object of their worship.

IMG-20160704-WA0001So is there an absolute right way? I doubt it – there are simply too many variables, but who really knows. All I know is that I have no desire to shout all day, I don’t care about dirt or weather, I think Maya is more likely to learn respect if she is shown it, I encourage her to climb and jump and run as much as she wants and if she falls I comfort her then release her back into play, and although I did slap my child’s bottom once – she slapped me right back AND I WAS PLEASED!

The result so far is a joyous little girl, with a wonderful sense of humour but also a very strong sense of self: woe betide anyone, family or not, who tries to pet her or assist her without being expressly invited. She has strong opinions about what she wants, but gives in reasonably gracefully when told why she can’t have it. She is independent and adventurous, as long as she knows one of us is close by if required. She doesn’t try to dominate other children, but is slowly getting the hang of standing up for herself. She’s endlessly communicative and she’s kind.

On the other hand: she doesn’t sleep well, she has been known to deface the occasional wall with her wax crayons, she’s a bit Mummy and Mummy Milk-obsessed, she cries every single time she wakes up from a nap for no apparent reason, she’s stubborn, she pees in the bidet, farts like her father, is frequently reluctant to do whatever she has been kindly requested to do, and she is far too fond of the television (Blaze and the Monster Machines in particular).

20160522_105702But as a blindly obedient paragon of “virtue” is the last thing I want to unleash on the world, I am extremely content with progress so far as well as being increasingly more besotted with every passing day.

That said, I am also exhausted, wrung-out and in dire need of some time alone with my thoughts: time to write, time to read, time to walk, time to complete work calmly without the stress of trying to squeeze translations in her all-too-brief nap times. So from the 14th of September a new chapter begins for both of us – nursery school! And I don’t know who is more excited…

24 Months Since Me

24/01/2016

A few weeks have passed since I became the mother of a two-year old.

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Transfixed by pink Smarties.

When discussing this milestone with people, I often hear myself throwing out a “I can’t believe it: two already! Where does the time go?” but in all honesty, the previously dizzying fly-by of days and months hasn’t been lifting the hair from my neck or sending a draught down my spine at all in recent times.

Perhaps because Maya is changing on a daily basis, and my fascination and preoccupation with the minutiae of her development confer a rare sense of life passing at an entirely acceptable speed – neither too fast, nor too slowly, but at the perfect pace for the acquisition of knowledge, skills and character that are currently moulding my little girl into very much her own person.

Or perhaps the sluggishness of my cognitive functions since her birth have conferred a similar lentitude to the passage of time.

Who knows. Who even cares! It simply makes a nice change to be living in the moment as opposed to wishing life away waiting for something more exciting to happen, or panicking because it is all going too quickly and I might not be making the most of things.

Of course, two-year olds come with their own set of issues, not least emotions and convictions far too weighty (and often conflicting) to be contained within such a tiny person. The subsequent noisy overflow can often leave a mummy feeling battered, disheartened and in dire need of a stiff drink. But also secretly rather impressed at her offspring’s demands for recognition of increasing independence and individuality, as well as their surprisingly frequent acceptance of reason and compromise.

Trying to patiently mesh guidance, assistance and a touch of discipline with the respect that even the smallest child rightly deserves must be the most emotionally exhausting part of parenting a toddler, especially when coupled with the need to leave the house on time (or at all), or simply complete a few basic tasks before another day rolls over and out.

Luckily for me, I am finding the joys of this stage of Maya’s life just as consuming as the frustrations.

My fears at being swallowed up by motherhood have turned out to be unfounded. Not because it hasn’t happened, far from it. In fact not only have I been swallowed up – I would go so far as to say that I have been partially digested. But I can’t seem to make myself care: the grumbles provoked by seemingly endless physical and mental exhaustion, or by the dearth of reading, blogging, crossword, and relaxing bubble bath time, are almost always balanced out by my absorption in the riotously entertaining little being who, twenty-four months ago, transformed me from “Me” to Mummeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!.

Happy Birthday, my chatty, cheery, singing and dancing bundle of love.

xxx

And the word of the week is, BOOBS!

26/06/2015
Newbies.

Newbies.

This week being World Breastfeeding Week, I’ve decided to leap onto the lactatory bandwagon with my own experiences.

Now before I tripped and fell pregnant, I hadn’t really given much thought to breastfeeding beyond assuming that it is what the majority of mothers do unless they have medical reasons that make it impossible. Given that nourishing their young is what the mammary glands in mammals evolved for, and excepting those occasions when nature stuffs up, why on earth wouldn’t a mother use workable boobs for their given purpose? Thought I.

Naive?

Apparently so.

In the run up to Maya’s arrival, I began to hear all sorts of accounts of just how extremely difficult breastfeeding was: impossible, according to many. But, thought I, would it not be a massive evolutionary design fault if such an apparently large percentage of human mothers were unable to feed their young? Some, I can certainly believe (I grew up in a farming community, and have seen for myself that nature does stuff up) but surely they are the exception, and not the rule?

Sometimes these evolution-based thought processes serve me well: in this case they led me to assume reports on the blanket difficulties of breastfeeding had been rather exaggerated, and so I didn’t enter the process paralysed by anxiety which I’m sure played a part in easing me into the boobing journey.

Getting into the swing.

Getting into the swing.

(On other occasions they do let me down a bit: “What evolutionary purpose could possibly be served by a baby crying in its crib until 3 in the morning??” my sleep-deprived self wailed most nights for the first month of my daughter’s life. But of course I was looking at it all wrong. How would our species have even survived to evolve if its newborn young were left all alone in the opposite corner of the cave? Human babies are programmed to want to stay in close proximity to their mothers. Evolutionarily-speaking, it would have been their best chance of survival.)

Another rather startling opinion of breastfeeding that reached my ears, was that it was too intimate. Too intimate? Really?? So how would you define pushing a whole other person out of your lady bits? Coldly formal?

But when put hand in hand with the ‘boobs are for your man’ and the ‘breastfeeding ruins your figure’ school of thought, though, it does indicate just how far we have moved away from our natural state. Personally the fact that my breasts can make food for the baby my womb has grown makes me rather chuffed with my body. It is certainly a huge improvement on its ability to convert one small cream cake into three extra chins, and transform a modest helping of lentils into a biological weapon.

Anytime, anywhere.

Anytime, anywhere.

An additional and oft mentioned factoid was that ‘bottle feeding the baby would allow other family members to help out’, and ‘provide a bonding opportunity for the baby’s father’.

Hmmmmmm. Thought I. Given that breastfeeding is literally the only act that only the mother is capable of, surely there is an entire spectrum of ‘helping-out’ that can be done without needing to resort to rubber nipples. Housework. Cooking. Changing dirty nappies. Rocking the screaming infant. Cleaning up regurgitated milk… What? None of that up your street, Aunty Edna? You’d rather sit with a happily sucking baby in your lap feeling serene and helpful whilst its frazzled mother brings you a cuppa? Right.

And as for Daddy time, surely there is an entire spectrum of possible bonding activities there, as well. Cuddles. Bath time. Skin-to-skin. Wearing your sprog in a sling. Singing it silly songs and showing it that you are the other most dependable person in its little world.

Luckily for us though, (and yes, I am very aware of just how lucky we have been so far) no sooner was Maya laid on my chest, she started snuffling around like a truffle pig and found her target in a matter of minutes. The cluster feeding to get my milk supply up was admittedly not fun, the pain as my boobs got used to the repeated assaults on them was a little grim, the nipple thrush caused by antibiotics for an infected caesarean scar was even grimmer, my one dose of mastitis grimmer still, and the time she ripped a hole with her first tooth (it only happened once) absolutely indescribable.

But I am no martyr – the joy the breastfeeding bond has brought to my personal mothering experience completely and utterly outweighs the discomforts.

And now Maya is a toddler, I can see even more just how important her ‘Mummy Milk’ is to her. Far from just being additional nourishment or a thirst quencher, it offers her relief when she is poorly or in pain, soothes her when she’s upset, relaxes her into sleep or helps her come round from a nap, reassures her when we have been separated, and so much more. She often uses the time to explore my face – breaking off from sucking to poke at and name features “nos, Mummy, ais, teef, air, eeeass.” She strokes my arm, winds my hair round her fingers and stares beguilingly into my eyes. (On other less Madonna and Child-like occasions, she uses my body like a piece of gym equipment – climbing, bouncing, and cartwheeling her way to a full stomach. Without releasing my nipple. Ouch.) They are moments for me to relax and study her too – I have no option, there’s no rushing a boobing baby. The housework can wait. That translation can wait. This is so much more important, and this precious time so short.

Dozing on the job.

Dozing on the job.

Sadly there does not seems to be enough support for facilitating breastfeeding: I only had to look around the ward in the UK hospital where Maya was born to see that there were at least as many brand-new mothers holding bottles (ready made-up formula supplied by the hospital) as there were mothers holding their newborns to their breast. Saddest of all was the unavoidable observation that most of the mothers who had opted for bottle were fairly obviously those for whom the cost of formula would be burdensome. Then in Italy many of the mothers I have spoken to were told they “didn’t have enough milk” and were instructed to supplement with formula or give up breastfeeding altogether. Given how unlikely it is that such a large number of mothers are unable to feed or not producing milk, could it simply be that there is not enough knowledge on the science and mechanics of breastfeeding amongst the professionals?

(In the absence of fresh fruit and vegetables, tinned fruit and vegetables are better than nothing. Most definitely not as good as, but better than nothing. In the absence of breastmilk, formula is better than nothing. Most definitely not as good as, but better than nothing. And even then, only when used by mothers who can afford not to resort to watering it down to make it go further, and who have access to clean water and a means of sterilising all the equipment that goes with it. What a shame the formula companies lack the morals to take any of this into account when marketing their product. Profit is King, and the most vulnerable are expendable.)

Of course there are women that simply don’t want to, and women that simply can’t, but how sad to think that mothers who actually longed to feed their babies naturally might be being deprived of the experience and the related health benefits simply through a lack of information. Or worse, being actively misinformed by the very people they should be able to trust on the subject.

Mummy Milk apparently has a high alcohol content.

Mummy Milk appears to have a high alcohol content.

And then you have the tut-tut merchants that make life just that little bit more difficult and unpleasant. Showing less cleavage than most women do at the beach, or even out on the piss on a Saturday night, is unacceptable to some people if there is a baby involved. Tits for suntanning or attracting sex: fine and dandy. Tits for tots: just like urinating in public, apparently. So a poor mum, already stressed though lack of sleep and the fact that her child is now wailing in public (another tut-tuttable offence), has to try and winkle a boob out of clothing and bra and attempt to drape her and the thrashing child in a scarf, whilst the tut-tut brigade glare at her, just daring her to flash them a bit of side breast so they can stone her for a shameless exhibitionist.

She should just stay at home until she weans the brat.

But honestly, if it offends you, why look? I avert my eyes from builders’ hairy bums and women who persist in bending over whilst wearing skinny hipster jeans and a g-string, for example. I find both a little stomach churning, so I visually opt out, whilst all the while mentally acknowledging their prerogative to dress as they please. You would have thought that trying to do your best by the next generation would merit a little of the same leeway, but sadly some people are so keen to declare themselves mortally offended that they are actually capable of comparing nourishing a baby with urinating, or even masturbating, in public.

I suppose it says an awful lot more about them than it does about the lactating object of their disgust, but still.

And.... she's gone again.

And…. she’s gone again.

And now I’m breastfeeding a toddler (with no intention of stopping until my daughter is ready) I have no doubt that I shall soon be the cause of some loud tut-tutting (and hopefully a heart attack or two). I have already been treated to numerous eye-rolls, suggestions that the cause of any parenting problem I might have is this boobing lark, and an interesting lecture from my local pharmacist about the fact that I am “no longer producing milk, just a plasma-like substance similar to water”. But to anyone who might actually be interested, I shall simply explain that this is not “extended breastfeeding” but natural term breastfeeding. And yes, even I might have found it weird before I had Maya, but now I realise that it is the most instinctive thing in the world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So VIVE les BOOBS and all the tots who benefit from their milky goodness the world over, not just during World Breastfeeding Week, but now and for always…

Is there no keeping this child awake?

Is there no keeping this child awake?

Just You Wait…

18/01/2015

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

An attentive audience is always gratifying...

An attentive audience is always gratifying…

The “just you waits” flew thick and fast when I was carelessly chucking around my (admittedly not very numerous) pre-Maya declarations of mothering intent. They tended to be followed by a slightly world-weary shake of the head, which I’m sure must discomfit even the most confident pre-mother mother. You know, the one who has read ALL the literature, and subsequently mapped out an infallible parenting plan from meticulously choreographed birth through to high school graduation.

But now I’ve been in the thick of my own personal mothering reality for just over a year, I feel a little backward glance at any previous naivety is perhaps due, to see how my intentions have fared:

There is no way baby will be co-sleeping in my bed!

Although she would very much liked to have snuggled down with Mummy from night one (and let me know it with all the breath in her tiny lungs) for me it remained a definite no. Taking a newborn into bed with an exhausted mother and a winter duvet seemed risky, plus I am an appalling sleeper at the best of times and fear of smothering her, as well as the constant baby snuffles and wiggles, would not have helped. Lastly, eventually having to persuade an habituated older child out of my bed and into its own seemed to offer just as much potential for ear-splittingly disturbed nights as having a newborn grizzling itself to sleep next to me in a cot.

Sharing a bed with her for the duration of our Romanian road trip only served to further convince me that I had made the right decision for us: finding Mummy boobs in such tantalisingly close proximity every night turned out to be a much stronger lure than sleep, and from only a couple of nocturnal slurps, I was suddenly being badgered every hour or two – an exercise in sleep deprivation that I sadly remain unable to shake her of to this day.

Baby will be in a cot in her own room from six-months!

What with roof issues and illness-dogged road trips, her room took a little longer than six months to sort out, but she finally went in when she was about eight months old with nary a backward glance at her clingy slightly wistful mother.

I admit to being surprised at my wistfulness, although it only took a couple of nights for the lack of baby snuffles and wiggles to work their restful magic and banish all and any feelings of regret.

Loadsa teef...

Loadsa teef!

I will regularly get a babysitter in order to spend time with my husband as a couple!

So far only twice, and both times under duress.

The first when she was a teeny tiny three weeks old, and I was persuaded out for a pub lunch, through which I fidgeted obsessively. The second; just last month, when we left her with the Mothership and went to watch the latest and final Hobbit offering (rather disappointing, I thought), and through which I again fidgeted obsessively.

Whereas I can cope relatively well with leaving her with sister-in-law for an hour or so when I am secretarialising for the local estate agent, absenting myself for longer periods in the pursuit of leisure activities brings with it a ghastly wave of separation anxiety that I am hoping will lessen with time (and practice). Lord preserve us from clingy mothers 😉

We have, however, opted for one couple-friendly parenting technique than most families around here seem to eschew: the early bedtime. Whereas it seems to be common for local children, no matter how young, to stay up as late as their parents; Maya always goes down sometime between 19 and 20 in the evening, giving us a glorious few hours to be (albeit exhausted and only semi-functioning) grown-ups.

I will encourage baby to be independent! 

Of course it’s very early days, but one thing I was determined to avoid was to find myself still spoon-feeding a child capable of feeding itself (something I have seen rather a lot of here). A potential pitfall that was rendered even less likely when we chose the baby-led weaning route – basically chucking bits of whatever is on our plates at her to do with what she wants. And what she wants so far has been to eat some things, jettison others onto the floor and wipe most things into her eyebrows.

This method of introducing solid food appears unheard of in Italy, where spoons and purées still reign supreme, and at every monthly paediatric appointment I am forced to hide my blushes as the doctor adds another bland ingredient to my daughter’s paltry puréeing list, utterly ignorant of the fact that the previous night the very same baby gobbled down distinctly un-puréed spicy sausage and bean casserole, fish pie complete with leeks and capers, or a beef and broccoli stir fry from which the slices of practically raw ginger and garlic went down a particular treat.

Krissmuss!

Krissmuss!

I will be making sure to get as many snatched moments for myself as I can!

Ahahahahaha!

Make that a double Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha! now she’s mobile.

Actually, I am astonished at how much I actually enjoy my daughter’s company. Having lived the epitome of a selfish existence for almost thirty-six years, one of my biggest worries about becoming a mother was that I would resent the time it took from me. And yes, I would be lying if I said that I don’t think longingly about the possibility of sitting down with a book, of being able to write an entire blog post uninterrupted or even clean the house without a small helper bumbling along in my wake, pongling in the dustpan and attempting to cram its contents into her mouth. Some days I feel utterly cowed by the monotony of keeping on top of the nappy changes, the naps, the demands for attention, the constant clearing up of spilled food and the scattered contents of my lower shelves…

But I still wouldn’t change a thing: being able to spend so much time with this little person – being able to watch her explore, grow and learn, without any twinges of nostalgia or sadness at the passing of time because I am not missing a single moment, makes me feel indescribably lucky.

I have lived almost exclusively for myself – wandering off on this whim or that whim at any given opportunity, fretting about ways in which I could justify my rather feckless existence by finding something worthwhile to do – and now I am now living the ultimate dream of someone who thrives on the excitement of new beginnings, but who is frankly too old and knackered to keep setting off on her own: I am experiencing them vicariously through the insatiably curious eyes of the next generation.

There will be no more babies after this one!

On Maya’s second night in the big wide world, she started feeding at 19:30 in the evening, and at 5 the following morning she was still going strong (cluster feeding to get my milk supply up, although I didn’t know that at the time). I was tearful with exhaustion, and desperate to make it stop, so eventually a nurse took her away in order to let me get some rest.

Rather than feeling relief, I just felt all wrong. I lay there for an hour or two trying to sleep, but eventually gave in to the overwhelming need to find my baby. She was asleep on the nurse’s chest, but my whispered enquiry immediately cut through the noise and chatter of a busy maternity ward, and up reared the tiny head – craning tearfully around in a desperate attempt to locate me. Me. Her mother: the only person in the world she wanted to be with.

It was a terrifying, yet heady moment. One I never want to forget, and one of the many that have thus far epitomised what becoming a mother means to me. But for all the reasons listed here, I still have no intention of experiencing it all over again, except through my memories.

I am hugely fortunate to be Maya’s mother, and that is enough for me.

From this....

From this…

To this, in 365 days. Crazy!

…to this, in 365 days. How crazy is that?!

This is Status Viatoris, currently compiling her declarations of mothering intent for the next 365 days of Maya’s life, in the hope and dread of harvesting another intimidating crop of just-you-waits, in Italy 😉

Gone to Slush

12/05/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

My days seem to have taken on a slightly drifty quality since we arrived back in Italy. I would blame it on the baby (she certainly provides excellent cover for tardiness, absence, unfinished tasks and odd smells), but I suspect that it’s really just my true nature kicking in.

After years of attempting to keep up the pretence that I seek a fascinating existence, I finally have the perfect excuse to fart around doing very little of any note – an endless succession of happy toothless smiles reassuring me that any guilt I might feel about such idleness is nothing but wasted emotion.

Qui, moi?

Qui, moi?

So time passes in a lazy haze of cuddles, storybooks, long walks, cautious exploration and mutual adoration – with the soundtrack of experimental squeals, cheerful chuckles and incomprehensible nattering that has accompanied my baby’s transformation from helpless newborn to increasingly characterful four-month old.

(It would be remiss of me not to also give mention to the poo explosions, the occasional unexplained crying – both hers and mine, the regurgitation splats that land on most of my clothing within 10 minutes of me dressing, the dearth of more than half a minute to myself at any one time, and the realisation when I leave the house that I have apparently been rendered invisible by the plump and sumptuous little creature strapped to my chest – although in all fairness, my years with Pooch should have inured me to the pain of being overlooked in favour of a more charming companion…)

You got time to burn, I got the matches...

You got time to burn? Coz I got the matches…

Being a new mamma here is certainly an experience – the Mothership was astonished to note that Italian men are just as keen to rush over for a goo goo gaa gaa as the women (most British men preferring to devour their bowler hats rather than interact with a small child).

On the downside, I am still having to work hard at ignoring the insistence of some on telling me how to care for my daughter: “Put a hat on her, there’s a breeze!” “Put some socks on her, there’s a breeze!” “She should be wearing thicker clothes, there’s a breeze!” “You shouldn’t be going for a walk with that baby, there’s a breeze!” and one of my personal favourites: “Does your husband know you brought her out in this breeze?”

Oh please don’t tell him, signora! I’m still sore from the beating I got for not having warmed his slippers…

What do you mean "underdressed"? I've got my cosy socks on, haven't I?!

What do you mean “under-dressed”? I’ve got my cosy socks on, haven’t I?!

I’m also getting it in the neck on a daily basis for the sling, although it quickly became apparent that the pressure to trundle Maya around in a pushchair as opposed to attached to me, has rather more to do with people’s desire to get handsy with her, than any real concern for her well-being.

Many dive in anyway, huffing breathily into my cleavage and grabbing at my spare tyres in their eagerness to lay claim to a beaming grin or force a finger into the gratifying grip of a fat little fist, while I attempt to repress the very British desire for personal space that threatens to bubble out in a blur of aggressively wielded elbows and a swift knee to the groin.

Hanging with Mummy

I’m the only one allowed in Mummy’s personal space, ‘cept perhaps Daddy…

Repressed crossness with an overenthusiastic fan club notwithstanding, overall this is proving to be a magical time.

I never anticipated just how quickly the helpless eating/sleeping/crying stage would morph into something hugely much more entertaining, and I am now captivated by my daughter launching herself with joyful excitement at each new developmental milestone.

The fragile little soul that lay obediently on her playmat until someone saw fit to move her, now throws her way vigorously around the floor with kicks and semi-rolls, frequently parting company with the mat altogether to end up partially wedged under the surrounding furniture.

(No need to panic – we usually manage to hoik her back out before the dust bunnies can get at her.)

Help! The dust bunnies are nibbling my toes!

Heeeeelp! The dust bunnies are nibbling on my toes!

Feeds are interrupted every few sucks with an unmistakable demand to be sat up so she can check nothing exciting is escaping her notice, and even if the view that greets her remains unchanged from the previous inspection, it doesn’t seem to dent her delighted surprise at being faced with it again.

Vocal chords that previously only served to utter monotonous complaints, have stretched to accommodate a spectrum of sounds and volumes ranging from giggles to gusty belly laughs through shrieks and shouts to chatter so conversational that it almost makes me believe we are really communicating.

(I have been told that bringing up a child in multiple languages can make for late speech development. And as I natter away to her primarily in English, hubby in Romanian and most everyone else she comes across at the moment in Italian, I will raise my hat to her if she manages to produce a coherent sentence before puberty.)

You can look, but you can't touch!

I are cute, but confused!

But all this change does bring with it a pang of worry that everything is going by far too fast, that so many delightful moments will be forgotten as she learns and grows.

So at the expense of those readers who would rather eat their headgear than read stuff about children, I am simply going to have to record those moments here from time to time:

Chuckles of hungry excitement at glimpsing an approaching boob – dimpled arms reaching up to guide it home, little mouth pursed into an “O” of welcoming anticipation.

Being woken at 6 in the morning by her chattering and laughing to the teddies in her cot.

Little fingers tracing lazy patterns on my breast as she feeds, playing with my shirt buttons, catching at my necklace – smiling eyes never leaving mine.

Taking a hank of my hair in each hand for added stability whenever I carry her in my arms.

Cooing meditatively at the trees we pass on our daily walks, before resting a chubby cheek on my breastbone and dozing off.

The fist-sucking, body-contorting, fussing and squalling fight she puts up every other time her body clock tries to lull her into having a nap.

The constant and enthusiastic squealing that goes with us lying on our backs reading a book – not forgetting the over excited fist in the eye I get with every page turn.

Kisses to her cheek that she ambushes and turns into drooly, gummy, open-mouthed and milky-breathed declarations of love pressed to my grateful skin.

I am in love.

Just hanging out...

Just hanging out…

This is Status Viatoris who would just like to say – Hang in there, Folks! It’s election time in My Little Italian Village, and the political intrigue is more hot than not… will be digging the dirt for my next post, in Italy!

Home from Home

28/03/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Maya samples budget transport...

Maya voices her opinions on budget travel…

Well, Maya and I finally made it back to Italy where we were duly greeted with much affection and a kind, if unfortunate, deluge of pastel-pink velour.

Pastel pink is just not my daughter’s colour.

Ok, ok. It’s not my colour. And while she’s still small and relatively malleable, I exercise my parental right to deck her in the hues of my delectation – with nary a pastel tone, nor a bow or frill, nor a single cutesy wootsey fluffy image of what society seems to think little girls should represent.

Which might well be why many Italians are wrongly identifying her as a boy (luckily for me, and my belligerent stance against gender pigeon-holing, she couldn’t care less about that… at least not yet).

The only non-pink offering. As you can tell, she's not entirely convinced...

The only non-pink offering. Note she’s still far from convinced by the sheer fluffy bunnyness of this get-up…

Our eventual return to la vita italiana was precipitated, not by the joyous installation of a brand new roof, but by a husband and father who – understandably after five long months and still no apparent end in sight – got thoroughly sick of being without his newly-minted little family.

But as Sod’s Law would have it, and as indeed I had predicted many moons before, the permission to get our roof replaced came through almost as soon as we had finally given up waiting and hoping: in fact on the very day the Mothership, Baby and I flew out of Luton Airport…

The relief after so many months of evasiveness and obfuscation (them), frustration and despair (us) is almost impossible to describe. So, it is with fingers, toes, legs, arms and eyes crossed, that we can now tentatively assume the leaky lid will at last be lifted from our living quarters sometime in late spring.

That would be late spring of THIS year, Provincia di Imperia, do you hear me?

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of...

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of…

Maya is adapting well to Italian living.

The clucking concern about her being horribly under-dressed – hypothermia is apparently but a cotton vest away (she’d be so much cosier in pink velour), suffocated by her sling, and traumatised by her backward-facing back-seat car seat, must be a reassuring indication that here her interests will always be defended; even as the grindings from her mother’s pearly whites float down into the dandelion-fluff of her hair.

The first question on all Italian lips seems to be: Are you breastfeeding? Or as they rather clunkily put it: Are you giving her your own milk?

To which the answer is unfailingly: Yes, and lots of it.

Frustrations over sodden nightwear and chafed nipples aside, I find breastfeeding to be an absolute joy – especially now the dinky diner has entered that charming stage of staring adoringly up into my eyes as she guzzles; occasionally breaking suction in order to further wow me with a beaming milky grin.

I've been spotted!

Ooops! I appear to have been spotted…

We have become unabashed public feeders (always doing our utmost not to flash possibly prudish bystanders with unacceptable levels of bare boob, naturally). Maya has now noshed on a train, on a plane, in a train station and in an airport, on a bus, in many and varied cafés and restaurants, in public offices, in a curtain shop and even walking down the busy shopping street of a swanky coastal resort.

She has also weed on a desk of the local Fiat dealership, but that, dear Readers, is a story for another day…

Some of the older residents of My Little Italian Village are obviously slightly baffled by my sling-wearing, gender-ambiguous, meteorologically-unconcerned approach to motherhood in a place where prams appropriately decked with either pale pink or pale blue tend to contain infants bundled like Eskimos against those dreaded colpi d’aria.

And the younger mothers couldn’t help but express their astonishment when I declared my allegiance to washable nappies. All that extra lavoro! I must be completely fuori di testa!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

But I honestly don’t find the additional maintenance to be all that onerous – rinsing off a bit of poo and setting the washing machine to a cool wash every three days seems pretty simple when coupled with the satisfaction of not having contributed to the grotesque state of our landfills.

Plus they are wonderfully colourful and give my daughter the most squeezably plumped-up backside you could possibly imagine.

What’s not to like?!

This Living business is exhausting

Life is pretty exhausting when you’re only ten weeks old…

Another frequent question – and one I sometimes sense may be laced with a certain amount of sympathy-masked glee – is how we are sleeping.

She’ll be keeping you awake all night, I imagine?

Pacing the tiles from dusk to dawn with a squealing bundle in your arms, are you?

And for the first couple of weeks that’s exactly what happened, but as we approach the three-month mark I am hugely grateful to be able to announce that (at least for the time being) we have a baby who seems to have grasped that nighttime is for trundling off to the Land of Nod.

With just a little encouragement, and a tummy full of warm milk, she currently goes down at about half past seven every evening, waking for two or three dozy snacks during the night before finally rejoining full wakefulness any time from about half past seven in the morning.

Long may it last.

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what's required...

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what’s required…

So Life trundles on, with me still alternately overjoyed and petrified by the weight of my new responsibilities; not wanting to take them either too seriously, nor too lightly. Trying to continue being An Independent Woman, but whilst losing myself in the gloriously fascinating changes that mark Maya’s development with every passing day.

I helplessly confess to it: I’m having a blast. But as the nth nosy neighbour asks me if I’m expecting baby number two, it is brought to my uncomfortable attention that there are some things this Mummy has to set her mind to doing just for her…

Hey ho, it’s time to put the bikkies away and get out those trainers!

This is Status Viatoris, heading off to hang out a horde of vibrant crap-catchers and shockingly non-pink baby garments on her sun-drenched washing line, in Italy.

Where oh Where Does All the Time Go?

27/02/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Thoughtfullness...

Thoughtfullness…

I am only too aware that my posts have not only become pitifully sporadic, but that their recent content is also yawn-inducingly repetitious.

What can I say? My daily life has been reduced to the dietary and waste disposal requirements of a 3.66kg, 50cm being – and it doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for philosophical ponderation, observational rumination or even an uninterrupted couple of hours in the company of a good book…

However I would most certainly be lying if I said that I minded even a little bit.

For a newborn baby, as part of its clever armoury of evolutionary tricks to lure unsuspecting adult humans into providing for and protecting it, exerts a positively hypnotic effect on all but the most hardened characters. And if you happen to share genetic material with the tiny scrap, then surrender now; for you haven’t a hope of escaping the magnetism.

Snooziness...

Snooziness…

Awake or asleep; ever-changing facial expressions (babies are the world’s most natural gurners), fleetingly angelic smiles and astonishingly whirly limbs provide a constant source of entertainment – effortlessly filling the hours between the cuddling, the comforting, the feeding, the burping and the mopping up of possets, poo and pee.

In fact, as befits the modern middle-class mother (according to all the lit-rit-chur on the subject, anyhow), it would appear that my daughter has unwittingly become my brand new project.

With no immediate plans for learning a new language, moving to a new country, trying out a new career, attempting a new e-book, or even a diet; my goals are now frighteningly baby-oriented: tummy-time to ensure Maya has a strong neck and good balance, plenty of music, storybooks, conversation and visual stimulus to ensure Maya’s brain synapses start connecting the dots, an hour or two a day in the fresh air to set up Maya’s body clock and enable her to sleep better at night, and at least half an hour of skin-to-skin contact every day to reinforce Maya’s bond with her mother (moi) and help boost her immune system…

And whilst I didn’t go so far as to fry up the afterbirth, I don’t intend to  breastfeed her up to the age of five, and I even occasionally allow other people to hold her; in most other aspects it would appear that despite my best intentions I have lost myself happily in the all-consuming minutiae of proactive mothering.

At least for the moment.

Baby orangutangness...

Baby orangutangness…

But its not all dimply smiles and talc-scented cuddles. No; there are hidden dangers in this world of baby wrangling:

Boobs, for example, that sprout milk leaks in places other than the conventional nipple tip; liberally soaking unsuspecting babies, clothes and bedsheets alike.

Nipple tips that suddenly go white and burn as if some unkind soul is holding a match to them – the only solution being to tug them from their restraints and leave them bobbing free until the blood flow returns. (Apparently, in the Western world, this is not a socially acceptable thing to do in public places 😦 )

Caesarean scars that get infected, requiring antibiotics, which give the baby oral thrush, which in turn gives you nipple thrush (ex-cur-rooooo-shee-ate-ing), which in turn gives you mastitis (in-des-cry-bab-lee ex-cur-rooooooooooo-shee-ate-ing), which in turn requires more antibiotics.

Babies that wait until you have placed a new nappy under them before shooting out a high-speed squirt of poo over nappy, changing mat, table and beyond. You laboriously clean that up, place a new nappy under little pink bum, and then sit back to watch a fountain of pee soak nappy, changing mat, babygrow and most other things in the vicinity. Sigh. And repeat.

Babies that have fussed frustratingly at the breast all day, only to regurgitate their one hard-won and satisfactorily thorough feed down your back after a particularly aggressive hiccough – just as you were preparing to go somewhere, and when you are already horribly late – before succumbing to hysteria as they realise that at least half the contents of their tiny stomachs has been forcibly and snottily ejected via their even tinier nostrils.

And then of course there’s the crying for no discernible reason: she’s fed, she’s changed, she’s been played with and cuddled – but nothing, absolutely nothing, is right. You throw your hands despairingly to the sky and think about throwing the towel despairingly in (only a very very bad mother can’t soothe the fruit of her loins, surely?) when suddenly the sun comes out and all is just as inexplicably peachy once again…

Sunniness...

Sunniness…

…until the next time.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping this particular project doesn’t lose its appeal after a few years as has happened with most of her past ventures… 😉

Maya

24/01/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Home at last

Home at last

I have been trying to write a blog post for a number of days now, but something always seems to crop up at the most inopportune moments.

Beatific - for a moment, at least...

Beatific – for a moment, at least…

And that something goes by the name of Maya.

Daddy's onesie - a temporary alternative to Daddy himself

Daddy’s onesie – a temporary alternative to Daddy himself

The reason I no longer have five minutes to myself, can barely string together a coherent sentence and am lugging around udders that would do Daisy the Cow proud, finally made an appearance on Friday 10th of January at 21h32 after a fifteen hour labour followed by an emergency caesarean section, and weighed in at a modest 2.56kg.

A lady always crosses her legs

Even the littlest of ladies should always cross her legs…

And as soon as I manage to snatch an hour to myself (ha ha ha), I shall offer up the warts n’ all birth story – why the grimace? sharing is caring, don’t you know… 😉 But for the moment I leave you with a few photos of the new arrival, and the unsurprising news that I am exhausted but exhilarated, terrified by my new responsibilities but bursting with excitement about what the future may bring.

Also comes with eyes!

Also comes with eyes!

This is Status Viatoris: no longer just a Modern Day Nomad, now also Mummy to a tiny daughter. Who’d a thunk it…

Like a Horse and Carriage

06/09/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Marriage is an institution that has gone severely out of fashion; there are occasional reports that it is staging a triumphant comeback, but for many people it is a step that is simply no longer relevant.

Which, I suppose, makes me old-fashioned (ditto my preference for Beethoven over Beyoncé, Pink Floyd over Pink and bog-standard trousers over those that display a spotty, g-stringed arse as soon as the wearer sits down), because I had always felt that should I ever meet a man with whom I decided to have a family, I might quite like to marry him first.

It was never about the big white wedding – horrid, fussy, expensive affairs in which being the dreaded centre of attention is apparently a must – it was more about the stated intention:

We are under no illusions that life is perfect, but we have taken the time and effort to organise a ceremonial promise to each other to try our very best to make our family work.

Giving myself and my intended that one further hoop to jump through seemed to offer an ideal opportunity for a last good think about our most heartfelt desires before we stepped into the bobbing sea of parenthood.

I have always been baffled by those (usually men, I might add) who claim marriage is too much of a commitment, but are happy to impregnate willy-nilly.

Pun, what pun?

But honestly, how on earth is marriage more of a commitment than breeding? You can’t divorce your children – although I understand they can now divorce you, if you don’t buy them the latest x-box or whatnot…

Of course there are still many who reckon love and marriage just go together like a nag and her cart. It has nothing to do with having children, it’s simply about forming a union that is built on mutual love and respect, a union they dearly hope will last forever and so wish to state that hope publicly.

And then there are those who are of the opinion that marriage is just a piece of paper. And I suppose they’re right: marriage can be just a piece of paper, if that is all you want it to be. And if that is all you see it as, then why bother? I get it.

Personally I just felt the need to officially verbalise my commitment to my partner before we went on to make an entirely more binding commitment to our offspring.

I didn’t want to call the father of my child, “my boyfriend” (too frivolous) or “my partner” (too business-like), I wanted to call him my husband and I wanted to be his wife – to me those felt like the building blocks for family.

But I am no romantic. Not a flutter felt I at uttering “I do”, and my heart didn’t dance a jig the first time I said “my husband”, I just felt rather silly – a little girl playing at being grown-up. I had no regrets at taking the plunge, but it changed precisely nothing.

Initially.

And then, once the overwhelming relief at getting the dreaded hoop-la over and done with had started to dissipate and a sense of normality returned, I began to notice that not all was as it had been: there was an added sense of contentment in the air; a togetherness and a tenderness that I hadn’t previously perceived.

Having set sail on the bobbing sea of life and parenthood – precarious novices in our untried and wobbly little boat – the feeling that we are in this together, a team composed of just the two of us, is overwhelming.

Overwhelming, but utterly and joyfully exhilarating.

And that is the part I had never expected.

This is Status Viatoris, I know I know – just wait a couple of years and all the rosiness will have rubbed off blah blah blah, in Italy.


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