Her uncanny ability to create the biggest mess juuuuust after you’ve slid the soiled diaper away, and before you’ve had the chance to jam the fresh one under.
The fights before sleep time.
The clumsiness, hand-in-hand with baby stubbornness.
The house in perpetual mess.
The fact that it takes 50% longer now to do everything you’ve done before – like leave the house for a walk or a drive, for example.
The fact that you have 90% less time to do things that used to be important to you before – like brushing your hair and matching your clothes.
I mean, all this is true. And it requires patience. But the patience for such things comes naturally, ungrudgingly. With little grumbling or complaint. Effortless.
No. The kind of patience I’m talking about – the kind of patience that needs to be wrung out of me – is patience for others.
Because until I had Arddun, I hadn’t realised how stupid and inconvenient people and things around me can be.
BECAUSE it takes such effort to cart a baby around, BECAUSE she is vulnerable and defenceless, I’ve turned into a grouchy mother bear. It is a fight every day not to growl at strangers for being obtuse to the needs of my poor defenceless baby and her struggling mother with the pram and the 21 other things hanging off it.
Things that threaten to set me off include:
Competitive, selfish, boorish, impatient drivers who delight in cutting you off, who turn every roundabout into a drag race and/or come within a hair’s breadth of dinting the side of your car where the baby is seated. RAAAWR!
Big Fat Cars parked willy-nilly beside you so you can’t open your car door to get baby in or out.
Mothers who don’t wipe down baby chairs after they’re done.
Smokers near entrances and exits so when you walk through, it’s like entering the Vortex of Baby Lung-Blackening Hell
Customer service with Attitude (I’m already growing my own teenager. I don’t need your angst or sarcasm. Especially if you’re paid to help.)
Shopping trolleys left inside the last convenient parking lot, so you and 38 other cars before you were deprived of the one good lot nearest to the lifts (near lift = less time with pram on road with impatient drivers)
And sometimes, it’s manageable. Sometimes, you just grit your teeth and soldier on. But other times, you just want to freeze everything around you so you can get to that selfish stranger (with your crying baby on your hip), and with your free hand, grab that selfish stranger’s neck and shake it so hard you can hear his or her teeth rattle, while yelling,
“You see this shopping cart? You know where it goes? THERE! WHERE THE OTHER SHOPPING CARTS LIVE! GROW A BRAIN AND A HEART AND TAKE A SHORT WALK AND PUSH IT INTO THE SHOPPING CART BAY SO THE REST OF US CAN USE THIS LOT, YOU SELFISH, LAZY, UNTHINKING DONG-KAY!”
And while things like that used to bug me before, THEY REALLY BUG ME NOW. Because I have more to lose. Because I’m her protector. Because it’s harder and because I have less time. Because Arddun doesn’t understand, doesn’t read a clock, and doesn’t have patience.
And yes, I am aware of the irony – that while I’m jumping up and down about the supreme selfishness of such acts, I am in fact making it all about ME. I have, in fact, grown a huge entitlement complex. It came free with the stretch marks and permanently widened hips.
And so I try not to take things personally, because that’s half the issue. I’m not suddenly special because I’m a mother, and I’m not suddenly a target because I’m a mother. I’m just a mother.
And so I try to slow down. Do one less thing while multi-tasking. Bear to be late for events. Give 4WDs, Utes, taxis and Audi drivers a wide berth. Smile at rude sales staff after they’ve insulted me, and let them think I’m simple. Because the cure for impatience isn’t patience – it’s submission. I am not in control of everything or everyone and never have been. The universe is large and my troubles, on balance, are trivial.
If we’re having a bad day, pull over and hug the baby. Both of us might feel better after the time out.
Okay. So we’re almost at the half-year mark, which means we’ve waded through all the baby paraphernalia we’ve received as generous gifts, or gone and bought ourselves. So here’s my low-down on what we’ve found Very Very Useful.
Duh, right? But to elaborate, we’ve found our Mamas & Papas Urbo gor-geous to use and look at. For one thing, it’s dead easy to assemble and collapse. For another, it’s got a basket you can actually use and easily access. It’s also really compact – tight turning circle, narrow frame, and perfect for zipping around shopping aisles and squeezy restaurants. And did I mention that it’s a rather handsome beast? Every time I see another Urbo, I think to myself, “Corr! That’s a good-lookin’ pram. Oh waitaminute… I HAVE THAT PRAM! Hoo-ah!” Seriously.
NOT one for bush-bashing, though. And definitely not a jogger. But it handles long walks around the lake and even longer walks around the shopping mall just fine. Which fits me to a tee.
Also another obvious one for the modern mommy, but I’ll explain – we didn’t get a crib/bassinet/cradle. Since Day 1 at home, Arddun’s been sleeping in her own cot. Seems cruel perhaps, and the SIDS people will probably have something to say about that, but we’ve been careful with blankets and swaddles, and monitor her sounds like a hawk. (Lindam Baby Monitor is therefore part of what we find Very Very Useful.)
As a result, Arddun’s always understood that the cot is her Zzz-Zzz land, and we haven’t had to read her the nursery immigration policy come Bassinet Emigration stage. Many trudges to and from our bedroom in the early days, though. But at least one of us (Tony!) got to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
3. Breastfeeding cover
Possibly the most used travel accessory for us – yes, both Tony and I. I’ve really enjoyed the ability to hide in plain sight when feeding Arddun, since I’m still not comfortable enough with my body to whip ’em ladies out in front of perfect strangers. (“You don’t know me, but hey! Here’s my bits.”) For Tony, it’s proven useful to wear so that Arddun will focus on the other important task at hand – falling asleep in a crowded room with many distractions. LOOOOVE my breastfeeding cover. Thank you, thank you ElilyMommy!
4. Change table
In Singapore, we used to place a rubber mat on the cot mattress and change the baby on it. While it’s space-saving and practical, it can fast turn into back-breaking work – especially when both parents are blessed with height and a rather *regular* baby. I thought it unnecessary at first and tolerated it, only because it came free with our second-hand cot. Now I’m so thankful we’ve got it.
Specifically, the Ergo. Got the Performance version, and really like it. True, it’s no Bjorn so Arddun can’t face front and take everything in… but in many ways, I’m thankful for that because I usually use the Ergo to get Arddun to fall asleep when we’re out and about. The last thing I want then is for her to have too much to look at. Also, the Ergo has a built-in hood so it’s a quick and easy sun or rain block, and it keeps Arddun’s head from lolling about when she finally does fall asleep. Which she almost invariably does in the Ergo.
PLUS, the weight of the baby falls on the hips and not the back so provided I haven’t put the straps on wrong, I can have her sleeping in the pouch while I do the grocery shop without breaking a sweat. The real test will be when she starts putting on the pounds as she gets older, but I have no complaints for now.
Borrowed a Safe n Sound baby safety capsule from ElilyMommy, who bought hers second hand. Oh my word! I know the initial outlay for a brand new baby capsule seems extravagant, considering you can only use it till bub grows to 70cm or weighs 9kg or turns 6 months old, whichever comes first. But it turned out to be ridiculously convenient for us. Fewer trips to and from the house, as we threw nappy wallet, handbag and toys into the capsule along with baby… make-shift cradle for when Arddun fell asleep outdoors… Also, Arddun – like many babies, would fall asleep in the car, so taking her back into the house without waking her was a huge bonus. Now that she’s out of the capsule and in a Safe n Sound Meridian (veeery cushy), I spend a lot of time sitting in parking lots and garages, waiting for her nap to end. I miss the capsule hugely – you cannot imagine how much of a time saver it is.
If I could do things over, I would get a Maxi Cosi to click straight into our Urbo. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hoisted her around in that capsule when it would have been so much easier to slide her out of the car and click her straight into the pram. You know what they say – don’t ever wake a sleeping baby. Amen to that.
7. Baby play gym mat
If you’re trying your darndest not to let Thomas the Tank Engine or The Wiggles be your child’s babysitter, then please run out and get yourself some play gyms. I got myself 3 to rotate Arddun, just to stretch things out a little.
They cost heaps, however. Upward of $80 easy, so a few of them will put you out of pocket by a few hundred quid. We got all of ours through second-hand places, ranging from $5 to $20. But I tell you what – absolute life saver for when you need to cook and clean but baby ain’t mobile yet, which means she gets bored super-easily. Also, GREAT for Mother’s Group and entertaining Arddun’s little friends.
Preferably one with apps. I’ve read countless library books, read the bible, played too many Boggle and Monopoly rounds, chinwagged on Facebook, blogged, learnt baby sign language, and done the Christmas shopping – all while breastfeeding and/or waiting for Arddun to wake up in the car. Time moves slowly rather quickly in Mommyland. It’s a paradox, but it’s true. If you get to do three things outside your routine, it’s been a good day because man, the day slips by you lightning fast. Most times, you’re just biding your time in the name of providing excellent care for your offspring. It helps to keep in touch with the outside world through one free hand, at least.
It was especially crucial and comforting in the early days. You want answers fast, when your newborn baby is screaming her tiny lungs out all hours of the morning and you don’t know why or what’s triggered it. The number of hours Tony and I have spent sitting in our respective armchairs in Arddun’s nursery and frantically Googling baby websites on our iTouch and iPhone respectively… Don’t know how parents did it BC (before computers).
9. Nappy wallet
Or as I call it, Nappy Bag Lite. As much as I love life’s safety nets, I live dangerously close to the edge now and then by packing only the bare necessities in a nappy wallet – 2 diapers, small tube of nappy cream, 1 onesie, 1 face cloth, 1 small pack of baby wipes, 5 nappy plastic bags, and my breastfeeding cover. And I just throw this nappy wallet under the pram and saunter off to the shops or around the lake. More often than not, that’s all I really need.
If I really want to push this whole Minimalist Mama thing, I leave the handbag at home and chuck credit cards, mobile phone and cash in a stroller caddy. Wild, huh.
10. Muslin wrap
This is like the Mother’s Spit of all baby linens – it helps everything!
Need to settle your child to sleep? Swaddle your baby! Need to block off the world for a sleepy baby? Throw this over the pram! Settling the girl/boy confusion? Make sure it’s a hot-pink one!
It also makes a great emergency spit cloth, rain cover, sun shade and blanket. But get the big ones (120cm by 120cm) – you’ll get a lot more mileage out of them. I keep one in my pram basket always.
Another gem. If you’re like me and will notoriously walk into a shopping mall, only to do the Baa Baa Black Sheep (three bags full)… then this is most helpful. Provided you don’t overload your pram and have it tip over backwards from the baggage of your retail therapy. Also great for when you’re grocery shopping and run out of trolley space once your groceries are in green bags. I also use mine to hang my handbag off the table when I’m out to lunch.
If your pram or baby seat/capsule is still a little too roomy for your baby, we recommend getting one of these. We used one when Arddun was brand new, so she didn’t look so tiny and lost inside her capsule. We’re still using one for her Urbo. Not only does it keep her snug and comfortable in her capsule or pram, it helps keep her secure with the safety harnesses on, AND helps keep the mess away from the actual seat because it’s washable. We liked it so much, we went and got two Snuzzlers.
And there you have it – twelve baby essentials. List by no means exhaustive – didn’t even get into the baby bottle bonanza. But at least it’s a start. :)
Sorry for the radio silence, but Arddun and I have been having too much fun, you see.
A few things have changed since Arddun turned 2.5 months.
She learnt how to go to sleep on her own.
She found her voice and started chatting in Baby to everyone and everything.
She started fitting into all the super-cute clothes everyone bought her at the baby shower.
This, combined with the fact that I’ve gotten friendly with individuals in my all-new, all-lovely Mother’s Group (thank you ACT Health) and that Canberra weather has, on occasion, remembered that it’s now Spring, has practically formed an imperative for the two of us to spend almost every afternoon painting a satellite town red.
My daughter, I am pleased to say, is turning out to be great company.
Whether it’s a day out alone at Floriade or a movie with the ladies-and-babies from Mother’s Group, we generally have a ball. There’s the occasional tetchy afternoon of course, but nothing insurmountable. Nothing that a quick jiggle in the pram or Ergo wouldn’t fix – mostly because she’s agitating for a nap.
And I have to say that as much as I understand that breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, it is SO CONVENIENT to be a walking milk bar. Because ’em boobs? They are baby whisperers, man. They calm heartache and soothe tired brows and salve baby hurts and quench tiny thirsts and sate rumbly tum-tums. I don’t know that we’d be quite this outdoorsy without the boob factor.
Which is why I blog now, because I have a hunch that this glorious phase is about to be interrupted for a little while. Tony and I suspect that Arddun’s teething. I know, I know… babies are supposed to teeth, on average, at 6 months. But if that’s an average, then it suggests some sort of bell curve where perhaps some babies could be early. And while nothing’s poking through, I think there’s some furniture-dragging in her little gums, the poor munchkin. I say this with lots of mumsy sympathy now because she’s currently asleep and not latched on. Because her latest party trick is to latch on, and then GNAW.
When that happens, my yelps tend not to be mumsy and sympathetic.
So while she’s generally good-natured and gurgles like a brook, she’s now also getting all over the place with her sleeps and her feeds. I caved in the other week, and finally bought into the Manhatten Mommy’s Must-have – I got Arddun a Sophie. Straight from France, too. Didn’t see what the big deal was, apart from the all-natural food colouring and the fact that it has a very loud squeak… until Arddun grabbed its little legs and shoved that giraffe’s nobbly head into her mouth and there was an appreciative silence, except for the systematic sounds of a baby chewing that head for all its worth. (Which would be $34.99 if you buy from Babies R Us, $29 from Baby Bunting, and $19.90 from France on ebay. For a friggin’ rubber giraffe!)
With teeth also comes the imminent weaning stage and while she’s only coming 4 months now, I’m already looking into the most efficient yet healthy way of producing baby food. Suddenly, spur-of-the-moment outings look a little less likely in the foreseeable future. My zippy little Skiphop nappy bag will probably have to be replaced with one of those Giant Mumsy Bags of Eternal Abyss. You drop a baby spoon in there, and it free-falls for days but man, it holds EVERYTHING.
And so perhaps I am mourning the impending temporary loss of easy-breezy outings with Arddun, precisely because I’ve fallen in love with her company and all our little gallivants of late. But as with everything else, I’m sure we’ll figure out a new rhythm and the beat will go on.
And while I could dedicate an entire post to how wimpy that sounds (“Her baby weighs 11 pounds and she puts her back out! Pffft!”), I’d like to talk about how terrifying it all was for the millisecond I realised I couldn’t be there for my baby.
By “there”, I mean functioning 100%. You need your back to take the pram in and out of the car. To twist and negotiate the baby capsule in and out of its pod without flinging its contents (i.e. baby and blanket) onto the backseat or oncoming traffic. To carry baby out of the cot and to NOT drop your baby to sleep quite literally.
The day I put my back out, Arddun’s sleeping and eating patterns took a turn for the funny. Mostly because as soon as she was near dropping off to la-la-land, I’d try and lower her back in her cot or any flat surface and end up dropping her instead.
I’d like to say it was funny har-har. But no one was laughing that day.
Here’s the rub: while I have, in the last 7 years, a heightened measure of self-preservation because I’m now answerable to myself AND a man who loves me, having Arddun has completely upped the ante. Because no mommy = no honey. For once in my life, I have someone who really needs me. Who literally cannot stand up without my help. And that means that I need to think seriously about how I take care of myself.
Where once I’d turned a half-deaf ear to all the safety training on box-lifting at work, I’m now paying attention. I’m eating a little better. I’m praying more fervently. I’m driving a little less like a stereotypical Asian woman (heh!). Where once I had scoffed at fuel-guzzling soccer-mum cars, I now see the huge appeal. HUGE being very much the operative word. Between my car and another in a road accident, I’d like us to emerge with not so much as a scratch on our foreheads. If the turning circle didn’t take after the moon, if it came in prettier colours AND if it wasn’t such a doozy to park in Canberra Centre, the Manic Mommy in me would like to get a humvee, thankyouverymuch. Anything that could secure our safety just that little bit more.
There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Dylan McDermott’s character comes home from work to find his infant son screaming blue murder and his Julia Roberts wife sprawled on the back porch, unconscious. That scene terrifies me now. It’s the reason I don’t climb ladders alone in the house, for fear of losing my balance (the klutz that I am) and either landing on Arddun or bashing my head on the carpet and Tony only realising this when he walks through the back door at the day’s end. Paranoia. I think we’re all allowed some kind of neurosis now and then. This one’s mine.
I think I’m starting to understand what it feels like to live for someone else. Whoa!
As predicted, I am proving to be a fickle, fickle woman when it comes to the pram. After waxing lyrical about my love for the Mylo, I ventured starry-eyed once more into 2 baby boutiques (Babies Direct and Baby Bunting) to have another play.
Except this time, it was the eve of New Year’s Eve, I had just done a full day’s work, and I was feeling quite knackered and bloated and unattractive and hot while lugging a handbag all over the place that seemed to slip off my slim shoulder if so much as a breeze overtook me.
Suddenly, everything that didn’t weigh like a feather and wasn’t idiot-proof seemed insuperable.
First contender was the Urbo (Babies Direct didn’t have any floor stock of the Mylo). It requires you to grab both sides of the pram and lift a latch on one side while pressing a button and lifting the latch with the other. The entire pram is then supposed to sink to the ground like a ballerina and catch on the side, and voila. One folded pram.
Except my bag kept slipping off my shoulders, didn’t it. And while Tony made it look so effortless, I was as uncoordinated as a drunk reverse-chimpanzee with short arms. By the 4th go, I was starting to form a blister on my right thumb and my mood was far from chirpy. I had visions of myself shaking the thing like a dog with a doll while a bus driver sits there waiting with thinly veiled irritation and pity, until finally I hurl the offensive pram into the field behind me like a bogan with a shopping trolley, and stalk off with bub on my hip wailing its head off.
So yes. Two-handed fold with a handbag on one arm? Not so good for me.
By the time I got to Baby Bunting, I was starting to doubt my Top 5 list. And true enough, the Stokke looked like a Droid now, and seemed ginormous when folded, and required 6 arms. As for my beloved Mylo… it folded in one wrist-twist with the seat on alright, but then it weighed upward of 12kg and became fat and bulky. Suddenly, pretty colours and flexible everything didn’t seem so crash hot when you’re irritable and tired. And Yummy Mummy is this close to becoming Potty-Mouthed Mummy.
So I hit Facebook and did a grumble. And then the Singaporean contingent responded.
Combi. It’s a Japanese brand, and it’s only been in Australia for 3 years even though it’s been around the UK for heaps longer, and in Asia for decades. Its walkers are really 70% stroller, 30% pram.
At first, I was horrified when we did an initial sleuth and learnt that the Urban Walker Groove comes in highlighter pink and scream-at-me blue. (But don’t worry, there’s a neutral colour. A punch-my-eye-out orange.)
It has reversible handles that always ensure front steering because the wheels automatically lock, depending on the direction of the handle.
All wheels have suspension.
It reclines to 170 degrees so it’s “suitable for newborns”.
It has a huge canopy.
It does not look hideous.
Am I in love? Not really. This is the practical mother’s choice. Yummy Mummy with the brain engaged. But it ticks all the important boxes and folds like a dream. Tony and I test drove it today, and the folding really is as simple as all that. You lift two catches at the handle with one arm and give the stroller a flick, and ta-da! And then for the final fold, just push both sides in. And then sling it on your shoulder, like a set of golf clubs.
The biggest drawback: both of us kept kicking the wheels because we each have a long stride, and the wheels are set narrower than the rest of the prams we looked at. But then again, you’re always going to get that with a stroller.
We’re still thinking about it. But it seems like the wiser, more measured choice.
I’m beginning to think that every new mother has an Achilles heel.
I could try and summarise the types of new mothers out there – and as with anything, there is a spectrum – but if I were to deftly and broadly do so now, I’d say there is
The Bargain Hunter: Got everything on ebay and overseas for super cheap or second-hand. Will rather gleefully beat any sale price you got by 20% (but probably spent over $2,000 in labour hours doing the sleuthing.)
The Big Spender: Got the Rolls Royce version of everything you can think of, and even more that you haven’t. Has the latest gizmos money can buy. Her nursery makes Martha Stewart’s magazine look like the Kmart catalogue.
The Accidental Splurger: Goes middle of the road for most things, until she trips over the most ridiculously-priced [insert contraption that baby will grow out of in 2 years], falls fatally in love, and squishes the cerebral while the heart screams “GET IT NOW! WHILE STOCKS LAST!”
And there are shades in between, of course. I suspect many of us secretly aspire to be the first or the second. But I have to say that most mothers I know seem to fit into the last category. They will try to be sensible. Look for the cost-savings. Be thankful and gracious for hand-me-downs.
Until they see this heart-stoppingly beautiful baby whoop-dee-doo, and all reason flies out the nursery window.
Some mothers do it with nursery furniture. Matchy-matchy everything. I’ve long given up trying to match ANY of the woods in my house, so my only criteria had been that our nursery furniture is clean, meets the latest safety standards, serves the child longer than the life of a hamster, and doesn’t come in a colour that makes me gag.
No, my kryptonite is the lowly pram.
Except I don’t want a lowly pram. I want to pimp my ride, so to speak. I want rims on the wheels, and a dashing silhouette that breaks hearts and makes burly men grunt, “Dang. That is HAWT.” I want the ability to swop and change colours. Actually, I want the ability to swop and change everything. Height. Handlebars. Front facing. Back facing. Hood. Bassinet. Umbrella. Conversion into makeshift bed or high chair. For newborns. For toddlers. For winter. For summer. In sunshine. In rain. To love and cherish till grown child do us part.
And oh yes. I want it to fit in our boot. And not break my back or my nails. And close in a single, elegant, one-handed move. And glide like a dream.
Which means our shortlist reads a little like this:
In truth, only the Mylo and the Urbo fit most if not all the criteria. The Bugaboos have been a hot favourite with many mothers for years, but after wrestling with both in the shops for a good half an hour, I think they’d drive me crazy.
The Xplory we love, because the Xplory is tall. And it’s a handsome urban-chic pram, once you get past the office-chair legs. But it’s not the easiest when it comes to collapsing and stowing (there’s no safety catch when it’s folded, so putting it away in the backseat may be a small ordeal). And it’s a whopping $1,800. Without the “optional extras”. We found it online for $1,500, but still…
And then I met the Mylo. At first, I thought it looked like a spider. But then as we got better acquainted, I noticed how much taller it is than the average pram (though not as tall as Xplory). How the price included the bassinet. How clever it was that the bassinet apron used magnets instead of velcro.
Then the sales lady placed the bassinet on the ground and gently rocked it, and I was intrigued.
Then she folded the entire thing in a single wrist-twist, and I was besotted.
I don’t honestly know why. There are heaps of other prams that fold easily. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The Urbo seems to be Tony’s favourite because of its price tag and the fact that it’s lightweight. But I can’t decide if it’s industrial grunge or just resembles a shopping trolley. And it’s black, which years of living in Singapore tells me can get really warm. Not to mention the lovely juxtaposition of milk spittle. Ew.
We shall see. Another long weekend looms upon us, and I have yet to change my fickle, fickle mind.
Like a cork suddenly released from a bottle of bubbly, our entrance into the second trimester has given Tony the boost he needs to Suddenly Take Charge.
With the shopping.
You have to understand my husband, to understand why this is so endearing. Because the man abhors the shops. He is The Most unmaterialistic person I’ve ever met, who will gladly trade mopping the floor using his tongue with an hour at the shops. While most men in Singapore profess boredom with shopping, at least they’ve grown up with it as the national sport. In Australia, ANY sport is the national sport. Except shopping.
Which is why his whole-hearted embrace of the world of baby paraphernalia shocks and awes – in that I profess to moments of stunned silence, followed by a definite and melting “naaaaawwwww”. Yesterday, we spent a total of six hours baby shopping – at his instigation. We bought a dryer in 15 minutes flat. Then we spent two hours test driving five ridiculously-cute prams. Then we went tallboy window-shopping, which was indirectly related to the baby shopping.
Today, he continued the hunt. Alone. He got the dryer installed. Braved Babies R Us and their ambivalent customer service. Checked out the pram deals at the Babies Direct shop. Test-drove prams in a manly man way. (Today’s mission was primarily to suss out the Urbo. More on that later.)
He also made an appointment to view a bunch of second-hand baby furniture. We ended the day as proud owners of a second-hand 3-in-1 cot, mattress, change table, and baby bath – for the feather-lite price of $235. Sure, the cot has teeth marks on one end. I say it gives it character. Like notches on a bedpost, only… not.
At the rate he’s going, we’re going to have the nursery done by Chinese New Year. I’m loving the energy.
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