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Posts Tagged ‘Maya’

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…

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Conversations with a 2.5 year old

27/07/2016
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Saturday night fever. No, not the Calpol sort.

Her: Mummy! The airplane has come back to the airplane station!

Me: Excuse me?

Her: The airplane is at the airplane station now. We can go to Mim’s house, flying!

Me: The aeroplane has come back to the airport.

Her: What’s a nairport?

Me: It’s where the aeroplanes live.

Her: Like a nairplane station?

Me: An aeroplane station is actually called an airport.

Her. Why?

Me: Because that is the name it was given.

Her: Why?

Me: Ummm… maybe because it is shorter than aeroplane station, I’m not sure. So anyway, where did you say you wanted to go?

Her: To the airplane station and fly to Mim’s house!

Me: …

Me: Maya, would you like an ice-cream or an ice lolly?

Her: Ummm… a lolly, please Mummy.

Me: Ok, let’s go to the…

Her: And when I finished my lolly, I want a ice-cream.

Me: No, Sweety. The choice is ice-cream OR an ice lolly, not both.

Her: Ok, Mummy. I have a lolly.

Me: Right…

Her: And a ice-cream.

Me: …

Me: Who switched on all the lights?

Her: I.

Me: Me.

Her: No, not you, me!

Me: …

Her: Ow!

Me: What’s wrong? Why did you say ow?

Her: I say ow why I hurt myself.

Me: Because.

Her: What’s because?

Me: When you ask, you use why, and when you answer, you use because.

Her: Why?

Me: Because they are two different words.

Her: Ok, Mummy.

Me: So why did you say ow?

Her: I say ow because why I hurt myself.

Me: …

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Insouciance toddlerfied.

Scaling New Heights

04/02/2016

Maya can now climb out of her travel cot (she’s still in a cot because her room is too small for a bed and a solution to that conundrum has not yet revealed itself to us, and it’s a travel cot purely because I happened already to have one).

The first time it happened, I responded to her call of “Mummy!” at ungodly o’clock, only to have two heart attacks in quick succession – the first upon finding her bed empty, the second on turning round and tripping over a small child standing motionless in the middle of a dark room.

The next time it happened, she actually called through to our adjoining room with a progress report: “Mummy, Maya awake! Maya getting out of bed!” to which I replied (as it was slightly more acceptable o’clock) “Ok, sweetheart, come and get into Mummy’s bed.” Only to be told, “Maya no can come to Mummy’s room. Maya not got slippers on.” Oh yes, my child might be mildly adventurous, but she’s not stupid: chilly tootsies are a fool’s game.

The last few nights, however, she has been wearing pyjamas with feet. And so I am now catapulted from sleep several times a night by a startlingly loud and squeaky voice right next to my ear requesting, “Mummy! Booby please!”.

The politeness of her demands is most endearing, but even more endearing would be being left to slumber peacefully without fear of ambush.

I guess that’s what condoms are for.

 

 

Babel-ing

31/01/2016
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Pondering on Italian vs Romanian syntax, or transfixed by a squeaky-voiced porker…

I was thrilled when a friend recently added me to a Facebook group for parents bringing up children in more than one language. Although I hadn’t noticed any particular feelings of loneliness in my own personal “build a polyglot” project, the moment I was thrust into a cyber world of multilingual families, I realised what invaluable support it was going to provide to our little family over the coming years.

Luckily for me and my (slight) preoccupation with languages, I have a very verbal child. I say luckily, because one side-effect of exposing children to more than one language can be delayed speech, and I would have hated to have spent her first years (patience never having been my strong point) in a haze of furiously impatient foot-tapping whilst I waited to see what sense her little brain had been making of its linguistic baggage. But as we have a child who natters almost continuously from the moment her peepers snap open at whatever ungodly hour of the morning she decides to abandon sleep, we didn’t have to wait long.

And my fascination with being able to witness the real-time language acquisition of a future polyglot is looking unlikely to diminish any time soon.

Bar the four-ish hours a week I am at the office, she is with me all day everyday, so her exposure to English is high. My husband gets home from work at 18:30, and once we have eaten, I make myself scarce and they get the rest of the evening to play in Romanian together until she goes to bed at 20:00. Obviously he spends more time with her at weekends, and I am also starting to encourage him to take her supermarket shopping once a week (two birds, one Rosetta Stone 😉 ). My husband and I speak Italian together, so she hears it when we are en famille, although we both address her in our individual mother tongues. Most people we meet when we are in the village speak to her in Italian. My sister-in-law (who takes her when I am at work, and who we see most days) speaks to her mostly in Italian, with some Romanian, and her cousins use solely Italian. The majority of the television she watches (Peppa effing Pig, for example) is also in Italian.

The result of this linguistic distribution is that English is still very firmly in the lead as her spoken language, although her comprehension of the other two, and especially Romanian, is pretty good. I lost count of how many words she uses in English a long time ago, but she has a surprisingly extensive vocabulary for someone who really only has one constant source of it (me). She also makes a concerted effort to form sentences, often pausing for thought and correcting herself before coming out with such gems as:

“Maya helping Mummy in the kitchen! Tati (Daddy) not helping Mummy. Tati on the sofa watching telly.”

(Observant)

“Mummy not clean the kitchen. Tati clean the kitchen. Mummy come play with Maya.”

(Full of good ideas)

“Mummy! Come sit on the sofa, watch Peppa Pig with Maya.”

(Yes, its Peppa effing Pig again. But so much cheaper than childcare)

“Mummy, Tifoter (Christopher) got no hair on!”

(First experience of the follically-challenged)

“Mummy! Come see Maya’s poo poo!”

(Over-sharing)

“Mummy not got slippers on. Put your slippers on Mummy, very cold brrrrrrr.”

(And turning into an Italian nonna…)

Of course her pronunciation is just as any other two-year old’s: Ks and hard Cs are transformed into Ts, her Fs are still Ps, and her Gs are Ds, to name but a few. Nevertheless, I would be tempted to award a gold star for the amount of effort she puts into trying to make herself clearly understood.

When she first starting talking, she limited herself to using the words she found easiest, regardless of the language and regardless of who she was speaking to. English was always in the lead, but there was a smattering of Romanian and Italian words that she apparently found simpler to get her tongue around than their English counterparts. I’m not sure at what stage she started separating the languages in her mind and then attributing them to their speakers, but we became aware that something was happening at around 18 months, when she turned to me and asked for “more cheese” before turning to show her father “Tati, brânză!”

But she still wasn’t attempting sentences in Romanian, and her use of vocabulary continued to be rather random. She began to use more with her father, but also still threw a fair number of Romanian words at everyone else and an awful lot of English ones at him.

The real breakthrough came not many weeks ago, when he asked her where she was going, and she started to say “to the kitchen” but stopped herself, and changed it to “în bucătărie” (a word that she struggles with, pronunciation-wise). It was around that time that we had also decided that he should perhaps stop showing understanding of the English terms she uses with him (he doesn’t speak English, but hearing it every day has increased his comprehension), to try to encourage her to search for the Romanian ones where possible.

It’s still early days, but given that she shouted “Tati, unde mergi?” at his departing back just the other day, I would say this tactic is starting to give results.

Italian is a funny one. It the the language she appears to speak the least, although it is almost always “grazie”, rarely “thank you” and never “multumesc” and we are frequently asked “cosa fai?” whereas I am only occasionally asked “what are you doing?” and Tati is never asked “ce faci?”. She has also adopted “ecco fatto!” and “ancora!” and doesn’t stint in their usage. It is only when she is with her cousins that I realise just how much she is actually capable of speaking: “Vieni qua!” “Dove vai?” “Maya vuole un biscotto!” ” E uno per Mia (her cousin)!” “Dammi!” “Questo è mio!”

And then once we are home, for a couple of hours her sentences continue to be peppered with Italianisms that she would not usually use with either of us.

I have long known that she understands Italian: when my husband and I are talking at the dinner table, she will often turn to me and make comments (in English) about what we are saying. She has also been known to act as my interpreter on occasion: when her aunt informed us that “Mia si è svegliata” Maya turned to me and said, “Mia’s woken up, Mummy.”

One curious thing is her refusal to say “yes” in any of the three languages. “NO!” she mastered long ago, but affirmation is still merely a slight inclination of the head and a thoughtful “hmmm”. I am tempted to chalk this up as a good thing, especially given that I have the reverse problem.

I am also curious to know whether inflicting three languages on a child is likely to slow them down in any other areas. Not being a follower of developmental milestone predictions – all children seem to be slightly different, and as long as there are no glaring shortcomings in progress or behaviour, it doesn’t seem worth worrying about – I haven’t noticed her being particular behind in anything, but then I don’t know what two-year olds are generally expected to be capable of.

Her counting (only up to ten, nothing fancy) in all three languages is often more hit than miss, she is only marginally more coordinated than her mother, she frequently chomps down on her fingers when posting food into her mouth and she is bafflingly obsessed with Peppa effing Pig; but other than that, she’s a pretty cheerful, outgoing, questioning and independent little girl – which on balance, probably gives me my answer.

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Painting too splodgy for a 2 yr old? Not splodgy enough? Who knows…

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

Having a Ball

30/06/2014

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

Can't think who that could be...

Mirror mirror on the floor…

Try as I might, I cannot quite get over my disbelief that in less than two weeks I will be the mother of a burly six-month old; whilst at the same time struggling even to recall a life before this practically new baby arrived to take up the majority of my thoughts and about 99.8% of my time.

Even more curiously – whilst I am pretty certain these have been by far the most exhausting six months of my entire existence; other than keeping one small child fed, cleanish and relatively perky, I am also pretty certain that I haven’t managed to achieve anything else of any real importance.

Motherhood, it would seem, is nothing but a wily manipulator of the very concept of time, as well as being an endless serious of contradictions.

But, oh… how indescribably delicious it is all proving to be.

Hard work? Moi?

Hard work? Moi?

Our last five weeks have been spent chez la Mothership, who assures me she has been delighted (perhaps in a way only a newly fledged grandmother can be) to sacrifice the relative peace of her rural existence to the endless and noisy demands of a tiny, attention-hungry egotist.

Her recompense (other than my finely honed washing-up skills) has been the witnessing of a quite astonishing array of Maya milestones: the sudden appearance of the back-to-tummy roll only slightly marred by a periodic inability to reverse the process – frustration that leads to much slobbery, heartfelt sobbing into the play mat until our need to retain some sort of hold on our sanity obliges us to flip the pitiful creature over onto her back, only for the process to be repeated again almost immediately.

This'll be fun for at least two minutes!

Well this’ll be fun for at least two minutes!

Being in a house with two endlessly yakking women has also borne fruit, this time of a verbal nature, with a babbling stream of chat that is (I imagine) my daughter’s take on what she is hearing.

In which case it would appear that what she is hearing are two rather deaf simpletons, if decibels (lots) and content (arbuldarbundarbuldar) are an accurate reproduction of reality.

(On an idly curious note, I do wonder if the sound and rhythm of this more sophisticated pseudo-speech would have been different if it had manifested itself while we were still in Italy, where she had daily exposure to Italian and Romanian, as well as English…?)

Sadly, the odious and unloved distant cousin of conversational chitter chatter has also recently made an appearance. Yes, the trepanning squeal is here, and apparently to stay, if my desperate questioning of mothers with older tots has been answered truthfully.

Previously restful pit-stops in eateries and coffee houses are now often rushed and red-faced affairs, and to be avoided altogether on particularly squeally days.

Even my plethora of crappy plastic toys can't muffle the din!

Even my plethora of crappy plastic toys can’t muffle the din!

But it’s not all screeching and chagrin; added to the list of the rather more pleasing developments is the fact that Maya can now also sit for more extended periods of time – always providing she does not reach for a toy too far to her left or to her right, in which case she executes a slow motioned yet surprisingly ungraceful face-plant into the floor.

Just waiting for Mummy to get cocky, then I'll pitch headfirst off the sofa and ruin her day...

Just waiting for Mummy to get cocky, then I’ll pitch headfirst off the sofa and ruin her day…

But not content with almost having conquered the rolling and the sitting, she has also taken to stubbornly straightening her little dimply pins when we are attempting to lower her down, forcing whoever is doing the baby wrangling into patiently assisting with the not unimportant issue of balance as she stands there, proud and plump, until gravity and muscle exhaustion bring her back to earth with a bump.

Naturally I am thrilled with all these new developments – not least because of Maya’s unmistakable excitement at getting to grips with her world and her own dinky limbs, but if it does transpire she takes after her happily static mother (who didn’t take a step until she was 18 months old), that would be peachy too 😉

Is this walking, Mummy, is it? Is it?

Is this walking, Mummy, is it? Is it?

The entertainment value of a cheery nearly six month old is quite frankly priceless, even at witching hour.

Being woken up by fake crying that promptly turns into a gusty giggle if I sniff or cough is enough to tell me that madam simply feels at a little bit of a loose end, and reckons that a midnight cuddle and two and a half sucks at the maternal udder might be just the thing to lull her pleasantly back into the land of nod.

Unfortunately for her, she is in possession of not only a most unconvincing fake cry, but also a mother who does not consider two and a half paltry sucks at the maternal udder worth getting out of bed for. So I muffle my laughter as she manfully attempts to keep up the fakery whilst being inconveniently distracted from her mission by the fascinating patterns on her quilt, the pleasing scritch scratch of her nails on the cot mesh, her teddy’s astonishingly soft fur, and, after not too many minutes, the welcome onset of sleep…

Yippee!

Baby-led weaning, AKA – a legitimate food fight.

At our last paediatric appointment before we left Italy, the doctor informed me that at nearly four and a half months old, Maya was now old enough to start sampling solids. Of course by “solids”, she really meant purees (naturally, it being Italy, the recipes suggested did include a healthy wallop of olio di oliva and a hearty dusting of parmeggiano).

But having been witness to the unidentifiable and frankly unappetising gloop being spooned mechanically into my niece’s mouth, I decided to have a gander at this “baby-led weaning” I had heard whisper of.

Now I usually cringe unavoidably at anything possessing a fancy-pants modern parenting moniker (even when I myself am indulging in the practice) – “baby-wearing”, “co-sleeping”, “attachment parenting”, “mommy blogging”, “permissive parenting” are just some of the many descriptive titles which induce in me a perceptible shudder.

I would hazard a guess that regardless of the parenting style you adopt to raise your offspring – neglect, psychological or physical abuse being the obvious exceptions – and allowing for micro-differences in nature and nurture, the end result will be fairly similar.

And I would also hazard a guess that sticking too religiously to the concepts set down by such styles, could easily and stressfully complicate what is already a fairly daunting task.

So in the end I didn’t plump for baby-led weaning because I feel that it is a healthier or more life-affirming option for my sproglet. I have plumped for it because it just seems like a hell of a lot more fun – and who doesn’t need a little of that in their lives?

(Although I am not yet sure how I will explain it to our pediatra italiana… what on earth is the Italian for baby-led weaning??)

Glorious messes here we come!

Hmmm… what do I fancy for lunch today.

Hmmm… what do I fancy smearing in my hair for lunch today.

This is Status Viatoris, delighted to announce that a) her roof is nearly finished b) the “goodies” won the mayoral elections and c) hubby finally passed his driving theory exam! Whoopee!

 

 

 

 

 

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… 😉

Deliverance

08/02/2014

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

Can I really have already been here for four whole weeks??

Can I really have already been here four whole weeks??

As boringly unnecessary as some might find this post, the burning desire I had to write it simply could not be suppressed: my memory alone cannot be relied upon to furnish my tiny daughter with the details of her arrival into this world (should she ever request them).

Thus, here I am; hurling my most intimate experience into the blogosphere, all in the name of posterity and those of Life’s little moments that should never be forgotten.

After a few days spent pawing at the straw like a restless old ewe (the Mothership is to be thanked for that most poetic analogy), I woke at 3am on Friday the 10th of January 2014, surprised to discover that I had given birth to a jellyfish – for the uninitiated among you I should perhaps expand on that by explaining that the mucus plug, which protects a pregnant cervix from infection, is decidedly more spready than pluggy, and infinitely more mucusy than anything, anywhere, has any right to be…

Feeling queasy? Then look away now, for the tale I have to tell is only going to get worse.

Naturally sleep did not visit again after my body’s rather glutinous announcement of intent, and three hours later a gush of amniotic fluid and a spasm of acute lower back pain drove home the realisation that I was not likely to stay pregnant for much longer – five days before my due date, but not a single moment too soon.

The breaking of the waters necessitated a trip to hospital to check that the baby was still of cheerful countenance, so with the Mothership crouched anxiously behind the steering wheel, and me groaning my way over each and every pothole and bump in the road, we advanced on the professionals – hopeful that the increasing intensity of my pains would mean a speedy delivery of the next generation.

Only 1cm dilated. Bloody hell. How could that possibly be? The pain was coming ever more frequently: each contraction sending more amniotic fluid torrenting down towards my socks and leaving me bent agonisingly over the hospital furniture,  yet I was not even in “active labour”.

How much more sodding “active” was this going to have to get??

Luckily (or something) a complete inability to sit or lie down by this stage spared me the 30 minute trip back home to wait for my contractions to hot up, and I was instead allowed up to the pre-labour ward to pace the corridors, continue soaking my socks and fail to find any comfort whatsoever in leaning on hospital furniture.

The ward was awash with other women in early labour, and listening to the short periods of groaning liberally interspersed with otherwise cheerful chitter chatter, I began to feel a little hard done by – for from about 8 o’clock that morning there had been no discernible break in my pain at all. Somebody with a particularly vicious and pointy drill had set up shop in my lower back and was going at my pelvic girdle with enthusiastic vigour, periodically winding my lower abdomen into an industrial strength vice for additional kicks.

After a few grim hours, and a thermos of mysterious herbal infusion sent by my Romanian sister-in-law to help with dilatation, the duty midwife was delighted to inform me that I had reached 5cm. Meaning that rather than soaking her nice clean floors and pestering her about whether this much pain was really right or fair, I was instead wheeled down to a delivery suite and handed into the care of the two midwives hoping to assist me in releasing my bundle of joy from her uterine prison.

There followed the most entertaining few hours: gas and air are without doubt the best matched pair since toast and honey and I partook liberally of their delights to ride out the pain of my advancing contractions, whilst nattering with the Mothership and caterwauling Bohemian Rhapsody and other catchy hits with Sarah and Gemma – two of Kettering General Hospital’s finest midwives.

I’m not embarrassed to confess that it felt like the most exhilarating journey of my life – the pain had a purpose, I was coping with it better than I had ever anticipated and only a handful of hours later I was already fully dilated on one side, 8cm on the other.

We were so nearly there!

It was about 6 o’clock that afternoon when things started to go a little awry: an acute and unrelenting pain started up behind my left hip that even gas and air were unable to ease. The Mothership massaged until her fingers were numb, but the agony just kept on building together with an increasing desire to push.

Unfortunately, however, my cervix was disinclined to cooperate; refusing to budge any further than 8cm and keeping my daughter tantalisingly out of reach.

After some sort of painkilling injection that served no purpose, I eventually agreed to an epidural which kept the pain at bay for about 10 minutes before I was howling like an animal once again and liberally vomiting up my stomach lining into a cardboard bowl.

A couple more hours passed with no further progress before it was decided that an emergency caesarean section was the only likely outcome to my labour. At the time I was convinced it was because I was being too shamefully pathetic about the pain, but as the spinal block took effect and I was at last able to stop vomiting and relax back onto the operating table, I decided that neither my pride nor I really cared very much at all…

(It transpired that despite her unwaveringly strong heartbeat, Maya had the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck, which is why she was not descending – a natural birth was sadly never on the cards. If only we’d been privy to that information fifteen hours earlier!)

I tried to tune out the chatter of the operating staff as they fished around inside me – if I had dwelled too closely on what was actually going on the other side of that sheet I think I might have been psychologically scarred for life.

In fact, so well did I detach myself from the situation that I almost forgot what I was there for, until a faint but unmistakable wail dragged me back to the present and to that indescribably joyous moment in which I at last met my baby daughter…

Are you sure we haven't met before? I really feel I know you...

Are you sure we haven’t met before? I really feel I know you…

This is Status Viatoris, planning never to forget a single moment of that amazing day, but, given her current baby-brain affliction, is still relieved that she at last got the details written down!

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…


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