22. The Guilt Game

At 2am last night I took a moment to ponder this latest role of mine. Once upon a time I would be unlocking the front door about now, my ears still ringing with music and my heart still skipping with joys of the night just passed. But tonight I am clutching Freddie with one arm whilst frantically Googling ‘infant insomnia’ with the other. My right foot is waving manically in front of the nightlight to create shadows that might just entertain him for a minute whilst my left foot thumps blindly at Ewan the Dream Sheep to kick-start his sheepish beat. I’ve been ‘shhing’ and rocking with limbs flailing for two hours now, like a possessed one-man-band, and I’m thirsty but my glass is out of reach – that’s ok, I think, I’ll just drink next week. Everything is fine. Freddie is fine. I am fine. This is Motherhood.

This is motherhood and it is more than fine – it is beautiful and bewildering. For the most part it’s joyful and for moments it can be devastating. It’s almost always exhausting and exhilarating and sometimes, it’s just a bit boring. It’s tiptoeing like a ninja at nap time, and singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ 52 times. It’s poo up to your elbows and wee in your eye. It’s hilarious and hapless and a thousand kisses before lunch. It is a bubbling hotpot of love. ‘Oh look, he’s just blown a raspberry!’ Love in abundance. ‘Oh wow, he grabbed the brown bear!’ Love beyond compare. ‘Incredible, he rolled over! Our boy rolled over!’ Love X Infinity2. Our home is now home to an orgy of lashings of love because we’re just so damn pleased with who we created. I had three hours sleep last night but who cares?! Let’s all sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ again! Hooray!

But alongside the warmth of lovely Love comes its mean spirited cousin, Guilt. Guilt seeps into the generous open pores that Love has created and breeds bile under the surface, like acne. Yes, guilt is like acne on a Disney princess. And right now, an abundance of guilt plagues me in a way I’ve never known before, despite my Catholic school training.

I feel guilty for co-sleeping and subsequent sleepless nights. For failing to set a routine, setting a routine and failing at said routine. Guilty for longing to go to Sainsbury’s on my own, and losing myself in the condiments isle to buy more time. Guilty for air pollution. Guilty for not knowing the real words to any nursery rhyme and having to wing it in Baby Sensory class. Guilty for not signing up to more classes. Guilty for Freddie’s boob addiction, bottle phobia and that second glass of wine. Guilty for putting on Peppa Pig so I can go to the loo. Guilty for the donut crumbs on his head. Guilty for counting down the minutes until bed then scooping him up too readily when he stirs. Guilty for the sirens that wake him. Guilty that Saint Luke gets up with Freddie at 6am and guilty for resenting Saint Luke who sleeps through the night. Guilty there’s only a few months left until I’m back at work and guilty for uttering the words ‘child’ and ‘minder’. Guilty Freddie has a cough. Guilty for dressing in the morning, pretending I can’t see the faint splatter of sick on my jeans. Guilty for not brushing my hair. Guilty for not being as glam as the ‘Mum’s Who Can’ on Instagram. Guilty he’s too hot or too cold, he’s bored or overstimulated. Guilty I haven’t made the most of my maternity leave and written a book. Guilty I haven’t had time to make the bed. Guilty I forgot to ask Saint Luke how his day was. Guilty for daydreaming about the holiday we’ll be able to take in eighteen years once Freddie’s left home. And guilty for never ever wanting him to grow older, grow up and away from me. Guilty for writing that bit before about it being a little bit boring. Guilty for never wanting to sing ‘The Wheels on the Bloody Bus’ ever EVER again. Guilty for not feeling guilty enough!

And breath.

I don’t suppose I’m the only parent who’s dabbled in the guilt game and maybe that’s not a bad thing? Perhaps we’re guilty just because we care? Because we’re learning and we’re trying our very best and maybe if we stopped feeling guilty then we’ve stopped interrogating what is and isn’t best for our babes? So if you see me traipsing naked down Clapham High Street, thrashing whips across my back, shouting ‘shame, shame, shame’- it’s probably because I forgot Freddie’s hat. And that’s ok! I’m not sleeping at night anyway.

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I’m guilty as a girl can be.

8. Insomnia and a Kidney Beret

I don’t care what Instagram says, healthy eating isn’t fun and it certainly isn’t sexy. The truth is, ‘come to bed eyes’ should be more aptly named ‘sauvignon eyes’ because let’s face it, no romance ever blossomed over a wind-inspiring Green Smoothie. No babies were ever made after a playful evening of carrot batons and Wheatgrass shots. No dalliance into debauchery ever concluded with kale. No life-loving, adventure-seeking being ever said ‘hey, you know what’s really fun? Broccoli.’ (Unless of course, the broccoli is attached to the end of a bungee rope, or Snickers bar.) That’s not to say I haven’t tried to be green and lean. Every January I successfully detox for a week, and celebrate with a vat of Pinot Noir and a Chinese Takeaway for four, for one. But for the first time, I’ve got a legitimate reason to try, and I can’t find a legitimate reason not to. And so my foray into eating clean began with a hint of cynicism, a dollop of dismay and four sleepless nights.

The Super Doc (Doctor Lanham at the London Lupus Centre) suggested it was time to stop taking Tramadol because after three months, the stuff was doing nothing for my mojo. He also gave me a trial prescription for steroids in the hope they might encourage my immune system to perk up. Concerned that five days on the ‘roids would inspire immediate beard growth, an appetite for Call of Duty and a penchant wolf whistling, I decided that I should counteract chemicals with pure goodly goodness. I raided Amazon for books with (smug) pretty girls on the cover – they all seemed to be holding a yoga pose and green juice concurrently. Multi-tasking majesties. And their faces (smug faces) shone with the dew of their early morning Pilates, and their eyes sparkled, and their teeth twinkled and their plentiful hair curled like magnificent Unicorn manes. They glowed from their insides out, with livers exquisite enough to be worn as broaches and glistening clean colons that would make the most delightful necklaces. I didn’t just want to look like them, I wanted to be them (or at least wear their shiny organs as jewellery.) And as my salubrious sisters sang to me from their recipe book covers, I realised I shouldn’t have come off the Tramadol quite so quickly.

For FOUR NIGHTS I lay awake, counting sheep until there were none left. My body ached with exhaustion, but how could I possibly sleep when I was so busy re-enacting scenes from Trainspotting? The Tramadol had taken more of a hold than I had thought and the ‘roids were preparing me for a wild night out I was never going to go on. A sleepless haze distorted my days but I was determined to carry on regardless. Getting dressed felt like participating in the Iron Man finals. Commuting to work was a mission to the underworld with Hades on my back. Eating was essential in order to take my pills, but it’s ever so tricky to fry an egg white omelette from foetal position. Life seemed to be getting harder and curly kale wasn’t helping. Narcotics and healthy eating is a juxtaposition Irvine Walsh obviously hadn’t considered when he was writing Trainspotting, which is a shame because I could have done with a point of reference and the glowing girls weren’t helping.

When I found myself waking up on Regent’s Street having fainted amidst indifferent tourists, it was time to head back to Super Doc (with an awesome new recipe for sweet potato brownies.)

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Nothing says FUN like celery! (said no one ever)