Tuesday 1 October 2013

Born Free....Soy and Dairy Free....

So the first eight weeks of having a baby were a little bit bumpy. Thing is, even if you KNOW in your heart of hearts that something isn't right, it's very difficult to get anybody to listen to you  when you've got your pants on back to front and haven't brushed your hair since April. "Is this your first baby? AH! All babies cry! They do! Yes, a lot! Babies wake up in the night! Yes, a lot! He will grow out of it! Don't worry your silly head." SUBTEXT - stupid first time mother, go home and man up.

On some days E would cry for more hours than he slept. In the end I videoed him screaming inconsolably (he invariably shut up the second we went into the doctor's surgery) and kept a log of his behaviour. It still took a fifth opinion before a GP suggested it might be a lactose issue, which lead me to do my own research and start wondering if it might be a cow's milk protein intolerance.

I dropped dairy and soy from my diet. Within a few days there was improvement, by ten days my baby was noticeably more settled. By two weeks it was like somebody had swapped him for a different baby altogether. He jumped from the 25th to the 50th centile on his growth chart.

I think you get into a sort of blitz mentality when you have a newborn. You just do whatever you need to do to get through. Looking back I realise how I swallowed a lot of the guilt and emotion that came along with all this, and that it keeps popping up in odd places every now and again.

I recognise now that I still feel angry with myself for inadvertently hurting my tiny, helpless baby. Look, I know it wasn't my fault, and that I fixed it, but it's hardwired in me to protect him and for those first few vulnerable weeks, unknowingly, I did quite the opposite. I wondered if I'd been selfish to carry on breastfeeding - especially when the GP recommended giving him formula to ensure he had a food source that was allergen free. I've been strict with myself, but even now when he has a bad night, I wonder if it was something I've eaten unknowingly. The couple of times I've slipped up - although they have served to prove that soy and dairy are the issues - have been unbearable. And now the second I'm taken out of control of the food I'm eating, I get horribly paranoid. Is that sauce really dairy free? Do those vegetables really not have butter on them? They're kind of shiny.... I'll always go without rather than risk it. I know it's not forever, but for now, it is often challenging.

Luckily at home we're used to fussy diets. My husband is a vegan, so I'm already well-versed in products that sneak whey in where you're least expecting it. He gets his protein from soy though, so most nights I make two versions of the same meal so we don't drop apart from malnutrition. Not ideal when you have a newborn, but has made me the world's fastest cook. And I have so many recipes that you can put sausages in at the end. Also -Boot's chewable calcium supplements. They taste like vanilla sweets. Amazing.

So now we're coming up to 19 weeks, with a happy, healthy, energetic little boy. The diet thing can definitely be done, although I'm still taking each day as it comes. I wish there had been more information out there for me in those early weeks - as many as 2% of babies experience some form of dairy intolerance, and a lot of those go undiagnosed for months. I can't imagine how I would feel now if I'd listened to those doctors and gone home and put up with it. For weeks I felt on the verge of depression - convinced I was imagining everything and that motherhood was a joyless, murderous trudge that everyone else was able to just get on with. As it turned out, there actually was a happy baby underneath it all.

Monday 19 August 2013


Argh what is it with those pesky socks? Yet again I have a drawer full of singles long divorced from their partners. Tacky lovehearts and inappropriate Christmas penguins just lolling about lonely with no hope or ambition of ever being reunited by their mate. I really think the cats pinch them and put them in other people's houses when we're out.

It was bad enough in the days PB (Pre-Baby) when I would have at least 20 seconds to ruminate on their whereabouts before stealing a pair of my husband's. Now I am regularly sweaty and sockless in my shoes. This is because I am regularly forced to choose between locating a matching pair of socks and brushing my teeth/putting on my pants/having a poo or some other highly essential daily ablution. The socks always lose.

The worst thing is so many mum and baby activities require you to take off your shoes in order to participate (due, I'm guessing, to softly blanketed flooring and that general not-wanting-people-to-tread-dog-poo-near-babies thing). I'm trying to make new friends here with a vintage Primarni-loveheart-with-hole-in-heel on one foot and that bloody Christmas penguin on the other. THIS IS WHY I HAVE NO MUM FRIENDS.

In desperation I have spent late nights on eBay accumlating a raft of over-the-knee numbers in various colours and stripes, all large and bright enough not to lose. I am now in the process of throwing away ALL my old socks, ALL of them, even those black ones that ALMOST match goddamnit, and replacing them with these ludicrous great danglers. I may now resemble a deliberately quirky wanker or a teenage goth, but HOLY SHIT it'll look like I'm actually trying.

Friday 16 August 2013

Growing Things

Whilst I have been growing skin, bones, teeth and organs, Sam has been growing what can only be described as triffids. I always thought that things like chillis and tomatoes were challenging for the amateur gardener (especially those without a garden) but these great green mutants are slowly consuming the front of our house. Outdoors, tomato plants have spilled out of their raised beds. They've throttled the basil and the garlic, and are now slowly wending a path across the yard to our front door. Tendrils are curling ominously, as if they're preparing to make a fist and knock. Meanwhile inside, rampaging chilli plants dangle obscene, bulging fruit. Leaves cover the front window like a rainforest canopy, concealing my modesty as I roll around the house with my boobs accidentally hanging out more or less all the time. We have put it all down to our "magic" south facing window and the totally tropical summer. We can't cook enough curry to keep up with the chillis, so if you want some do let me know. No fruit on the tomato plants yet though. Think we have to prune them or something. Don't ask me, I'm growing the baby instead.

While some things are growing, I am more concerned with shrinking back to something approaching a size that will fit into things I own. I have become quite accustomed to my pregnancy chub and will feel genuinely sad to see it go. It has wrapped around me like a lovely blanket and made me feel all round and homely and like a proper mum. Unfortunately it is not designed for teaching aerobics comfortably, and so must go much sooner than I would like it to. It has been quite strange having a very substantial arse for the first time in my life (my weight normally goes everywhere but bum-wards, giving the impression that fat only accumulates on my front and sides. If fat was spray-tan, it'd look like I'd been standing with my back against the spray-fat-booth wall). Let me tell you, big botties make small toilet cubicles very difficult to manoeuvre around. I have learned that it is possible to sit on the loo seat and the sanitary bin simultaneously. I have learned other things through pregnancy, it's true, but I feel this in particular is a moment that will really stay with me. Ladies and gents, I had a few minutes there where I really thought I might have to stay in that cubicle forever.

Now there is a small person here with us and there are even more exciting (often toilet-based) lessons to learn. I may talk more about those, and other, unrelated things, when I have another minute kicking around that I should probably be spending asleep.