It’s not unusual, until it is

Yesterday I was relieved to be diagnosed with a simple hormone imbalance that’s rendered me massively stressed and anxious recently. The difficult thing about being diagnosed with anything, post-partum, is that many symptoms of illness are shrugged off as ‘normal for new mums’. (This is also how a raging infection was missed in the week after Ada was born.)

So I’ve noted down some of the differences between normal new mum anxiety and the perhaps-you-should-call-your-GP kind, for anyone else who feels completely mad at the moment…

Normal: You lose your bonus pregnancy locks.

Not normal: You develop a widow’s peak.

Normal: You cry at the John Lewis ad.

Not normal: You laugh so hard at the Wheeler Dealers Grease ad that the mere memory of it renders you hysterical for a week.

Normal: You gaze at your sleeping baby.

Not normal: You spend eight solid hours pressing your face up against the cot bars. The baby jumps in alarm when she wakes to see your insane, bloodshot eyes boggling at her.

Normal: You eat one-handed.

Not normal: You eat standing up, over the sink, straight from the pan. Your husband queries your self-respect.

Normal: You change your baby’s nappy.

Not normal: You change your baby’s nappy four times in a row until the bin is overflowing with perfectly good nappies and the confused baby is happily weeing all over the changing mat.

Normal: You push your pram in the park.

Not normal: You get suddenly exhausted and have to call someone to come and push the pram home for you. The pram weighs roughly the same as a large baguette.

Normal: Going out in Bath is a hassle.

Not normal: Going out in Bath feels like trekking Mount Doom. You can no longer recall the taste of strawberries.

So if you’ve recently had a baby (or not!) and you recognise any of these madcap symptoms, don’t be fobbed off with ‘welcome to parenthood teehee’ – you might need a proper check-up.

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True Christmas

true christmas pic

The weather is horrible and I can’t go anywhere because I have to be at home to let my weird kid sleep every 90 minutes. So you know where I get my jollies now? True Christmas, the best channel in the whole world. It runs festive films all day long, and on our massive telly that means cosy fires, candlelight and lovely snowscapes filling my peripheral vision and hypnotising the baby as she sits in her high chair.

Even better, I never have to follow the plot or even turn the volume up, because there are only 5 basic plotlines for low-budget Christmas movies:

Small town smackdown
Big city lady loses job and has to move back to her attractively snowy hometown. Learns the TRUE meaning of Christmas by kissing a widowed lumberjack/turkey farmer/football coach under a lamppost or near a tree. His surly teenage son stops being a goth and the little daughter talks for the first time in five years. She says ‘Merry Christmas’. A snowman winks at a crow.

Unexpected talent
Old people (or homeless people) put on a play (or form a choir) in order to save a theatre (or an old folks’ home) from an evil corporation (or termites). At the dramatic climax, an elderly man throws aside a Zimmer frame and ‘raps’ Joy To The World while a street kid beatboxes.

Tart with a festive heart
She’s a hooker! He’s an uptight lawyer! He, for some reason, has to bring her home for the holidays! Cagney or Lacey is the horrified mother! A blonde woman wears cashmere! This is an actual movie that’s been trailing for days, it looks AMAZING.

Olde timey Christmas
Ladies in frilly dresses sit around in houses waiting for men to come home from war. The townsfolk band together to overcome a snow-related catastrophe then sneer at a family of grubby outcasts who – SURPRISE! – are actually royalty or something. The men come home missing limbs but remain mentally unscathed. The final scene morphs into a picture postcard with ‘Season’s Greetings’ plastered over the top in a swirly font.

I’ll be home for Christmas
No you wont.

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What Ada says and what she really means

Goosh! I am joining in this conversation! What fun! Goosh! Goosh indeed!

N-goy All is suffering, life is pain. Woe. No, don’t even touch me, there is literally nothing I want. Except milk, obviously. And my dummy, yes. Okay, and maybe the weird lullaby machine. Well, goosh, I suppose.

Keechh Daddy is amusing. Let’s make him dance for our entertainment. Dance, man, dance! Now bring my milk or I shall have you all killed.

BAH! I am tired. Lie down next to me. Not there – just there. Now hold my hand THE OTHER WAY ROUND. Now be quiet. Quieter. Quieter. A bit less quiet. Okay. ZzzzSTARTLE!zzzzzzz.

Nnngh Mother, I require new pants.

Wuwuwuwuwuwuuuu! [We have no idea what this one means. Based on context it could be ‘I am on a changing mat’, ‘I am in a pram’, or ‘I have serious concerns about the editorial policies of BBC News 24’.]

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Lazy Fridays with a napless baby

Hi! I'm awake!

Hi! I’m awake!

I’m going to type something that will make you want to kick me square in the face, but it’s been six weeks now and it’s important to address it – our baby sleeps all night. Like, she sacks out between 8 and 9pm, and she gets up at 7am. To be honest, I can’t find much online about babies doing this at such a young age, and sometimes it worries me when she hasn’t eaten in 12 hours or she’s been lying in a wet nappy for 13 hours, but I’ve decided just to roll with it.

Before you kick me in the face, though, you should know that there’s a terrible downside to this, which is that by day she sleeps like a cracked-out meerkat, which is to say hardly at all. If I’m lucky she naps for 30 minutes at a time, getting cranky and overtired as the day goes on, culminating in a bedtime meltdown and all-night babycoma. What fun.

When Chris first started working out of the house on Fridays, I did a few Google searches for ‘home alone with a newborn’ and ‘daily baby routine’ and found heaps of stuff that included phrases like ‘Shower during her morning nap!’ Or ‘Take an hour during her lunchtime sleep to catch up on chores’, which made me tearfully hysterical. Her naps might be just long enough for me to run for a wee, and even then I’d better not flush or breathe or remove my underpants for fear of waking the kraken.

So, for anyone (anyone?) out there with a similarly sleepless-in-the-day baby, here’s how I do a low-effort Friday, including my ‘brilliant’ baby activity ‘ideas’. Please don’t call the baby police.

Nap cycle 1
Baby wakes! Make bottle, feed, change, burp. This is the easiest cycle of all as the baby is all dopey from her all night sleepathon.

Fingers Lie down in bed together. Hold up one hand. Baby holds your fingers and waves them around. First to fall asleep is the winner.

Naptime chore: Get up slowly. Sloooowly. Shhh! Pull on any clothes you can find – it doesn’t matter if you look like Worzel Gummage, no one will see you. Creep to kitchen and make bottle and coffee. Don’t confuse the two. I make my coffee in an insulated lidded cup so it stays hot for a while and I’m less likely to spill it on her HEY-OH ACTUAL USEFUL TIP!

Don’t bother with: Shower. Leave it, mate, it’s not worth it.

Nap cycle 2
Baby wakes! Snuggle her as she struggles in your loving embrace, hahaha baby, there’s no escape! In theory she should now be fed, but our naps are so short that I often have to kill some time before a feed with some activities.

Gym ‘n’ Gollum time! 
Ten minutes getting thoroughly worked-up in the musical baby gym. Everytime the music ends say ‘Let’s have another one, precious!’ like Gollum, until she kicks the music button again.

Parkinson Baby lies on Daddy’s footstool and gurgles like a loon. Act like a sycophantic interviewer and say encouraging things like ‘And then what happened?’ and ‘What would you say was the inspiration for your new album?’

Don’t tell Daddy! Baby throws up on a footstool. Wipe it up and say ‘Don’t tell Daddy!’ Then both laugh until someone throws up again. Usually the baby.

Changing table cereal bar Put the baby on her changing table with a stuffed monkey. Eat a cereal bar and make monkey noises.


Naptime chore:
Lie down and surf the internet. You’re crushing this, soldier! Make next bottle VERY QUIETLY.

Nap cycle 3
Baby wakes! Say hello then run and stick a pan of soup on to heat before she notices you’ve disappeared. Return to bedroom and act casual. Now feed, burp and change.

Activity: Floor blanket! Plop baby on a blanket on the floor. Surround her with soft toys then go and put your soup in a mug. Now you can sit at arms reach and drink
your soup with one hand while playing some fun games with the other like…

Soft toy Sophie’s Choice Present two toys and see which one baby likes best. Kill the other toy (not really).

Reality bites Make toy animals behave like real animals eg. bear tries to eat baby’s face, chicken pecks everything and gets attacked by fox toy. Etc.

When you’ve finished your soup you can play…

Mummy is big Stand over baby and, to her amazement, demonstrate that you have legs and a body and are not, in fact, a disembodied head.

Dance! Whistle a tune badly. Dance badly. Baby will either laugh and try to copy you or stare at you blankly. It’s 50/50 for me.

Mummy’s lie down Lie next to baby and let her punch you in the face. Surprisingly relaxing. Close your eyes or she will scratch your corneas.


Naptime chore: 
Take a laptop into the bedroom and check email or do an online grocery order. Ada’s naps are so short that I can now do a weekly shop in under three minutes. When it arrives, it looks like that bit in Trainspotting when Ewan McGregor buys all the soup and buckets.

Nap cycles 4-6
Baby wakes! If your baby is anything like mine she’ll have been asleep for about 8 minutes, entering you into a world of ever-decreasing wake/sleep periods in which baby gets more and more enraged at her continued existence.

Mix and match these activities as needed…

Pram around the block Our baby doesn’t sleep well in the pram any more but I pop her in anyway and show her the trees that are least likely to drop leaves or conkers in her eyes. Look! Trees! Pretty! Tip – this is a good opportunity to drink another travel flask coffee uninterrupted.

Through the keyhole Carry baby around the house and look at things like windows, pictures, bookshelves and the debris of your former life. Narrate like Loyd Grossman. If you’re lucky, she might fall asleep again (SPOILER, she won’t).

Baby beauty salon Put baby on the changing mat and wash her hands, face and neck. Ada loves to ‘dry’ her hands by waving paper towels in the air. You can also trim nails, brush hair and give her shoulders and tummy a relaxing massage, if you’re feeling enthusiastic.

Rattle! Baby rests on your knees and bats at a rattle. Optional: Baby kicks you in spleen.

Naptime chores:
Prepare for bedtime battle. Are bottles clean? Is crib bedding ready? Are pyjamas prepared? Good. In the minutes and seconds of unconsciousness your baby achieves, down a small alcoholic drink or large piece of chocolate.

Yawn? BEDTIME. Good luck, soldier. Good luck.


  • Never drink hot beverages within flailing distance of a baby. Obviously.
  • Front-load the day with exciting activities and wind-down as the day goes on, otherwise your baby will get hugely overstimulated and want to stay up all night crying and laughing like a 90s acid casualty.
  • If your baby won’t sleep through a wee or shower, put a little chair in the bathroom and let her watch you. If you’re thinking ‘My bladder is too shy to wee while someone stares at me and smiles weirdly’, I can assure you this is less of a problem once you’ve given birth.
  • The Baby Whisperer has some good stuff on sleep that’s got Ada napping a little bit better. The EASY (eat, activity, sleep, your time) routine for us is more like EASASAEAAARGGGHWTF though.
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13 weeks today!

The magnificent Phinling is three months old this week, huzzah! We have graduated from being parents of a newborn which is partly great because, um, we don’t have to parent a newborn, and partly dreadful because everyone now expects us to have our shit together when we still really don’t. The world is now less accepting of me disappearing every two hours to draw a pentagram on the bedroom floor and pray to the nap gods.

But! To mark the end of Ada’s 12th week, here are 12 scraps of info I’d send back in time to pregnant-me if I could…

Four things I wish I’d known

Breastfeeding is really hard
Midwives will tell you it’s tricky to begin with and that it soon gets easier, but this is a massive understatement designed to encourage fragile pregnant women. What it actually encourages is a massive feeling of confusion and failure when it turns out to be difficult and uncomfortable and OF COURSE IT IS, A PERSON WITH LITERALLY NO CONTROL OVER THEIR BODY IS MANICALLY CHOMPING AT YOUR BOOBS ROUND THE CLOCK WTF

Bottlefeeding is science-y
Related to the above; I had to learn everything about bottlefeeding on the hoof, sometimes as a hungry baby was crying in my face. What kind of bottles should we buy? How do you store breastmilk? How do you heat breastmilk? Which is the best formula? How sterile is sterile? I wish I’d learned just a little bit more than ‘Formula is expensive!’ before Ada was born.

Nature hates women
As a previously healthy person, I was shocked at just how much conception, pregnancy and birth made my body crumble like an overcooked meringue. I’m covered in cannula scars and stitches, my hair’s falling out in clumps and I have a permanently raised risk of nasty illnesses thanks to months and months of fertility drugs. Wow, being female really is super sexy funtimes!

Absolutely anything about babies
Newborns eat, sleep and poo. It’s simple! Exhaustingly simple! I should’ve spent way less time learning about that short phase and more time reading up on what happens when they wake up one day and stare at you expectantly. I had literally no idea what to do with her for a while. Uhh, do you like jazz??

Four things I wish I’d never heard

What baby needs most is a happy mummy 
Said to me by multiple health visitors and midwives – roughly translates as ‘although it goes against official guidelines, I tacitly agree that it’s fine to formula feed/cosleep/drink wine/develop a mum-and-baby ventriloquist act and head to Vegas’. However, as a naturally dour person, I have this ringing in my ears every time I look or feel less than 100% thrilled with daily life as servant to a tiny slobbery dictator. What Ada needs most is a clean bum, a full tummy and a healthy respect for fire and large ocean predators. Parental happiness is incidental.

Get on with it
‘In my day we just had to get on with it’
‘When you have a second you just have to get on with it’
‘Soon you’ll just get on with it’
I honestly have no idea what this means, but I’ve heard it loads of times and find it hard not to be offended and mystified. I… am getting on with it! I got up at 3am and put a binky in a crying face! Yesterday I washed poo off a towel! I’m writing this one handed on my phone, on a bed with a crashed-out baby and a plate of abandoned sausage rolls! I think it possibly means ‘Don’t worry so much’, which is why it’s always said by those of a pre-Google generation.

A mother will never turn her back on a sleeping child
A midwife said this in a parenting class, to convince us that cosleeping was probably fine. The problem is that I am now guiltridden every time I turn away from the crib, those words haunt me in slow motion  – a mother never tuuuurrrrrns. Neverrrr tuuuurns, and I feel like a terrible monster. A monster with an achy neck, a numb arm and a weird gutter-dent in my mattress.

Sleep when the baby sleeps! 
This is great advice if you never want to shower, eat, shop, email or talk to another human being ever again. Otherwise just stay up and… get on with it? Is that what that means? Okay!

Four great things my baby has taught me

This too shall pass
Sleepless nights? Over (mostly) within two months. Constant arm flailing? Over in three. That week when she’d only nap on my shoulder and my spine almost fused? Long gone. Everything passes frighteningly quickly, you just have to ride it out. Which is good advice for life in general.

Babies are funny
Breaking wind in the middle of intense marital disputes! Licking everyone’s shoulders as a form of relaxation! Sleeping with her legs in the air, like a shelf bracket! Our baby is surprisingly hilarious.

Satisfying stretches 
When she wakes up, Ada puts her hands behind her head and stretches so far backwards that she arches her back right off the bed, a move we call ‘the croissant’. I copied her once for a laugh but the joke was on me because it was SO SATISFYING.

Everything is awesome
Lampshades? Awesome. Trees? Awesome. Dancing? Awesome. Everything is awesome when you’re a baby, except vaccinations and the John Lewis perfume counter.

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!


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Being Ada

A few people have asked if our baby is named after Ada Lovelace, so here’s a thing I wrote about her name. Wow, I am fascinating, I know…

Ada was meant to be called Edith, for years and years. We love lots of Ediths, from Piaf to Crawley, and I liked the look of it written down. But as my due date got closer, Chris started floating the name Ada and, slowly, it grew on me.

At first I thought it was too short, and I was weirded out by the two ‘A’ sounds in quick succession. I made the mistake of checking the threads on Mumsnet where mean commenters thought it looked like ‘Asda’ or said it was frumpy.

But when she was born, it was obvious that she was Ada. Chic and to the point. Unusual but not weird. Retro but modern. Little and big. A prime minister or a gardener or anything she likes. Ada Margaret Gray, like a time-travelling swashbuckling lady.

She’s not named after Lovelace, but we really like her as a namesake. She’s not named after anyone, really, she’s just herself. Of course she is.

autumn ada


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Ace gift ideas for new parents

We have been totally overwhelmed with beautiful gifts for Ada and for us; from friends and family, and even from people we’ve never met. We’re so grateful, thank you everyone for your kindness.

Some of the gifts we’ve received (and have bought ourselves!) have been so useful or clever that I thought I’d note them here in case you’re ever stuck for a present for a frazzled new parent…

Time capsule
A few weeks before Ada was due, Chris gave friend, colleague and all-round dude Matt twenty quid and asked him to buy a newspaper on the day she was born, plus anything else she might find interesting/culturally humorous when she’s older. Matt did not disappoint (and spent way more than £20; sorry Matt, we owe you!)

Here’s Matt’s (and girlfriend Katerina’s) amazing August 2015 Culture Capsule for Ada:

baby gift idea

That’s a selfie stick, by the way – brilliant!

Everyone’s lovely to a new parent! But no one gives a crap about parents of a two-month-old! Except Ildiko, who showed up at our door with some lovely homemade dinners and vanished again, like a fairy godmother. Such a classy and thoughtful gift, I could have cried, but I was too busy shoving pasta bake down my mouth-hole.

Perfect Prep machine
My mum bought this second hand for us, even though I initially refused the offer (‘Oh no, she’ll be exclusively breastfed’, I said, like a moron.) When we eventually switched to formula, this machine became our favourite thing ever – no faffing about with kettles and cooled boiled water, this little beauty pours a shot of hot water to sterilise the powder, then tops up with cooler water to the desired volume. Warm milk ready in 2 minutes? Shut up and take my (mum’s) money! We call them babyccinos, because we are HIGH-LARIOUS.

Formula measuring flasky thing
Related to the above, this is a present I bought myself, because it’s difficult to count scoops of formula when you’re shouting ‘Mummy’s just coming!’ in cheery-frantic tones at a screaming infant who’s attempting to launch herself out of a bouncy chair. Now I just screw off the flask top and dump in the powder, stick it under the prep machine and shove a stack of Crunch Creams in my face with the extra seconds I’ve saved. Mummy is CRUSHING IT.

Kimono jacket
My lovely in-laws gave me a Monsoon gift voucher when I was pregnant, and I impulse-bought a trendy kimono jacket as it was the only thing that even vaguely fitted me. It sat neglected for ages until I brought Ada home, now I wear it all the time. Its main advantages are:

  • Makes me feel glam even when I have baby puke down my shoulder.
  • Big pattern hides the baby puke down my shoulder.
  • Huge pockets – I’ve checked just now and they currently contain my phone, a dummy, a muslin and a tiny pair of gloves. Possibly also baby puke.
  • It was also good for hiding my boobs a bit when feeding in public, but those days are mercifully behind me.

Wipe warmer
Imagine the scene: You are a warm and cosy baby, happily pooing in your sleep while snuggled in your lovely crib. Then! A cruel parent peels your clothes off and exposes your tiny bottom to the night air, swabbing it all over with a cold wet wipe! Who among us wouldn’t cry, hm? We got Ada this luxurious wipe warmer, and it makes early morning and late night changes way less traumatic for everyone.

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