Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Making a boob of myself

Do you think it's weird that the 70 year old mechanic in my street asked me if I'm breastfeeding? Welcome to Italy. Your breasts are no longer your own once you have a baby here. People I've never met before (male and female) just stick their heads in the pram, wipe their hands all over Izzy's fingers and face and demand to know whether she gets bottle or boob. I can see their brains ticking over, she's foreign, they think, I'm sure she gives her child nasty formula milk. Call me an uptight English prude, but I don't like my boobs being bandied about in the Post Office, supermarket, local bakery or any other public place, thank you very much. And mind your own business.

Of course, according to the Granny Brigade I also have the most under-dressed baby in the country. I speed up if I see a couple of old ladies on a bench or waiting to cross the road because I just know what they're going to say.
'What a beautiful baby!' they coo. Come on nonna, cut to the chase, I think. 'And your mummy brings you out in this weather, so small to be outside!' Then they usually start adjusting Izzy's hat and jacket so she's basically suffocating. Suffocating but warm. I normally smile and say nothing but once I snapped and rounded on a woman, asking her if she thought it would be healthier to keep my baby in the house for the first six months of her life. She kind of stammered and scuttled away on her skinny granny legs. I won't even start on the comments I get for using my Baby Bjorn baby carrier. Suffice to say, you'd think I was carrying the baby around by her toe nails. Naked.

Then there's the dummy situation. Italy loves dummies. Not only do all the Italian mothers I know insist that their child uses a dummy until they're old enough to apply for their driving licence, but they also feel it's their duty to list to you the reasons why your own baby desperately needs one. Now, let's get one thing clear: there's a lot of literature on both dummies and thumb sucking and there are some convincing arguments on both sides. I happen to prefer Isabel sucking her thumb, mainly because that way she can learn to self-soothe and also because I think there might be a reason why dummies are called dummies. However, I would NEVER tell a friend, let alone a stranger, that they were somehow damaging their child by giving them a dummy. I must just look like an easy target. The other day I was walking with Izzy in the pram, sucking her thumb and just dozing off quite contentedly. I stopped to say hello to the mechanic, knowing what a close interest he takes in both my baby and my breasts and, incredibly, he leant into the pram with his great greasy paws and pulled Izzy's thumb from her mouth.

'You'll have to put a stop to that!' he chirped, oblivious to the fact that I was frozen in shock and utterly speechless. Next time I see him smoking I'm going to take the cigarette out of his mouth, put it out and give him a lecture about really bad habits.

Read more!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Urgent telegraph

The chick is out of the basket and in the big cot STOP
The chick looks v small STOP
Repeat: the chick looks v small STOP
Mother hen is hovering STOP
Cluck STOP
Read more!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Freshly squeezed (do NOT read if pregnant)

Only in Italy can you find yourself in the middle of labour, writhing in agony in the delivery room, and have your husband comment on how pretty all the midwives are. The worst thing is that he was right: they were a bunch of dewy skinned, bright eyed, twenty-something, SKINNY bitches. For those of you who've not had the experience of giving birth, you don't exactly feel at your best. You're naked for all the world to see and smeared in just about every bodily fluid you can possibly imagine. Quentin Tarantino eat your heart out, it's real-life splatter with added number ones and twos just for fun. And they say it's natural.

Also, in Italy, pain relief during labour is for pansies. They like you to sweat it out for a few hours/days/felt like weeks, before taking a look and saying,
'Opps, it seems that you're too far along for the epidural now Signora, time to start pushing!'
I was hoping to be sucking on air and gas as I had heard about back home but alas, Italian pain relief is all or nothing. Epidural, or controlled breathing. Controlled breathing. Count to five breathing in, count to five breathing out. Now, I was all in favour of doing it the natural way, but that was because I have never been trampled by a herd of stampeeding elephants and so I had absolutely no idea of how painful it was going to be. Controlled breathing only just about covers it if you stub your toe. During the last four or five hours, I would have accecpted ANY drug on offer. Sod going natural, sod potential side effects and to be perfectly frank, sod what it'll do to the baby. I even tried to secretly convince my other half to bash me on a head with a chair while the sexy nurses turned the other way with a swish of their glossy hair.

We did manage one little English interlude during the early stages: just before things started to get really serious, we had some cheese sandwiches and a cup of strong tea which we'd prepared at home and brought with us in a thermos flask. It was the oddest picnic I've ever had, but that cup of tea may have been the only thing that kept me from gorging my own eyes out later on.

In the end, she came flying out after a night and a day of contractions and five horrifically long hours of pushing in every position except hanging from the light fittings. Little Isabel just didn't want to leave. To be honest, if someone told me I had to squeeze through a cat-flap in order to get a drink then I'd probably just tell them to hold the milk, thank you very much.

My other half managed to survive this whole experience WITHOUT ONE CIGARETTE which is nothing short of a miracle. He probaby suffered as much as me. Even more impressive, he also cut the umbilical cord. This is the man who has to sit down and put his head between his knees if I accidently show him the little plaster where I've had a blood test. Now he's become a very modern father, changing nappies and fully tolerant of my baby poo obsession.

So there you go, a very Italian beginning. There's so much more to say, but for now I'd better go before I get started on baby poo...

Read more!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

I have a baby!

So after 300 hours of pushing, my little Isabel Florence was born on 27th August! No time for blogging as I am now a walking milk bar. Baby is an absolute stunner, obviously incredibly intelligent and alert as well as utterly beautiful (although that's not what I'd tell you at 4am in the middle of a five hour screaming session or when she's just done such a mega-galatic poo that it's all over my lap...). Will eventually write more about such subjects as the joys of labour, health checks and the many fascinating varieties of baby poo.
Read more!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

To freeze cryogenically or not to freeze cryogenically, that is the question

I swear to God, if I have to make one more decision during this preganacy, I'm going to go crazy. I'm a bit of an elephant when it comes to making choices, just the colour of the baby's room would have done me for the whole nine months. But no. Now we have to decide whether or not to save the blood and tissue (yum) from the baby's umbilical cord. Turns out that we can't simply donate it to the Italian national cord blood bank because I might have Mad Cow disease. Seriously. This pregnancy is turning me into a mad cow, I know that much. Anyone who lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 is considered at risk of having BSE and so can't donate. I wanted to tell the nice lady on the phone that I was vegetarian for a lot of that time, but knowing my luck I'm one of those people who caught it from a Digestive biscuit.

So we've been looking into saving the cord blood privately. Italy doesn't really allow this, but friends recommended a Dutch company that does (just don't tell the Pope). It's expensive, but sadly not so much to have us running for the hills. Not that I've run anywhere recently, I would more likely waddle for the hills, stopping to take a breath every couple of paces.

Saving the cord blood privately has a whole range of amazing benefits, and goodness only knows what they'll be able to do in a few years' time. It just feels weird and selfish to do it privately, even though the public bank has shut the door in our faces. Also, leaving the ethical minefield to one side, there's the fact that I now feel that we HAVE to do it. How would I feel further down the line if my little panino-in-the-oven developped leucemia or something (touch wood, tocca ferro etc etc) and no match could be found? Like I said before, too many choices. I thought the Downs Syndrome screening was bad enough. I'm just a normal girl, not God.

The bureaucratic process of applying for this private service will also potentially keep me busy for at least the next month (and also involves more blood tests; my arms are starting to look like those of a heroin addict). The company sends you a special 'kit' where the medical staff in the hospital put the cord immediately after the birth and which you then have to send to Holland to be frozen. I have visions of standing in the Post Office with a bloody jiffy bag asking about the fastest European postal service and being arrested on the spot.

So you'll excuse me now if I leave you and go and switch off my brain for an hour and watch some trash TV. I'm not sure whether I'd prefer a nice cup of tea or if a fresh juice would be better. That's my kind of decision.

Read more!

Toothpaste and TVs

I just saw an advert on TV for an anti-ageing toothpaste. Is it possible that we now have to worry about our teeth ageing?? Isn't it traumatic enough to have to prepare ourselves for sagging wrinkly bottoms, bingo wings and chicken necks? (Not to mention the horrific - sorry, marvellous - things pregnancy does to your body. More on that later).
I saw this toothpaste ad on our new TV - the purchase of which aged me considerably. Have you bought a TV recently? No? Well, let me tell you, they're not box-shaped anymore. You also need a degree in techno-bullshit to understand if you're buying a TV or a fully staffed multi-screen cinema. The price tags are about the same. The funny thing is that no matter how much you spend, or how much your TV looks like a prop from Star Trek, it will give all your DVDs the same image quality of Prisoner Cell Block H. This is apparently called 'progress'. And by the way, hands up if you can actually tell the difference between normal and HD. Thought not.

On my first day home alone with the new TV I discovered another thing. It doesn't have an on/off switch. Now, I must explain that not only am I seven months pregnant, but also that we have just temporarily moved from Florence to Milan. I NEED to be able to watch TV in order to distract myself from the nightmare that is living surrounded by unpacked boxes and the never-ending bureaucratic procedures involved in getting myself registered in a different region's health system. Not fun. So there I was that first day, all excited about the new TV (the old one couldn't take the pressure of moving house and committed suicide) but I couldn't turn the stupid thing on. I pressed every button on the remote and felt all around the screen for some kind of switch. I read the manual in English, Italian and French. Nothing. If only I'd paid more attention in my German lessons, I cursed. Sighing, and just as I was about to give up on the idea of seeing Murder She Wrote, I noticed that the TV was, in fact, unplugged. Opps. Blame it on the pregnancy hormones.
G will be rolling his eyes as he reads this. I didn't tell him as I thought it might cross the line between endearingly stupid and cronically dumb. What I really need isn't a toothpaste to stop my teeth from ageing but something to stop my brain from ageing.

Read more!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Seven Month Itch

Seven Month Itch
'Well Signora, 10 kilos is quite a significant weight gain I'm afraid,' frowned the nurse. I couldn't help glaring at the sweaty rolls of flesh jiggling on her arms as she fiddled with the weights on the scales.
'I'm seven months pregnant fatty, what's your excuse?' I replied. Of course, I said no such thing - but I wanted too. Bloody cheek.
Then the gynaecologist did a quick examination and, being ridiculously ticklish, all his prodding of my tummy made me giggle. Talk about a total loss of dignity. My friend the nurse was highly amused by the whole scene. There's nothing like total strangers laughing at you when you don't have any underpants on.
The gyny confirmed that baby is head down and apparently doing very well. I have just 3 or 4 hundred more blood and various other tests left to do now. Thank God you gain a couple of litres of blood in pregnancy otherwise I wouldn't have any left. In fact, between the blood tests and the mosquitoes, I seem to have the most sought after blood in the land.
Anyway, this week I've been looking through the list of necessary items for the hospital bag and I have to say that it's slightly disconcerting. A nightdress with wide sleeves to wear during labour? Maybe I've misunderstood something about where the baby comes out from - probably wasn't paying enough attention in my antenatal class that day. G looked through the list with me and rather predictably liked the sound of the paper (or mesh) (??) knickers. He spotted 'intimate soap' and said,
'Now Mel, don't forget this and show yourself up as a typical English girl who never uses the bidet.' Ha Ha.
'Millions of English people can't even spell bidet and still somehow have miraculously clean bottoms,' I smiled through gritted teeth. My hormones are making me so sensitive that I'm even ready to defend wall-to-wall carpets in the bathroom and tagliatelle with a side order of chips these days.
The only thing I've bought so far from the list are the maternity sanitary towels, which are quite frankly terrifying. At the bottom of the list it says that it's not necessary to bring a 'guaina' or a 'pancera', which is good as I have no idea what they are. There's so much to learn in pregnancy and learning it all in a foreign language is pretty exhausting.
In the meantime, I'm just enjoying the Italian summer: 35 degrees in the shade and tarmac melting into soup in the street, lovely. Fortunately, being pregnant in Italy doesn't mean just blood tests and paper knickers, it also means you can walk around flapping a fan and wearing a silly sun hat and get away with it. If that chubby nurse wore my sun hat she'd just look daft.

Read more!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The World Cup for girls

Why is watching England play football like spending 90 minutes slowly peeling a plaster off your arm? At one point during Sunday's match, Germany had so many goals that they just seemed a bit embarrased, not sure whether to score again or just kick the ball around amonst themselves.

Lampard's disallowed goal might have turned things around, after all, nothing gets us Brits going more than a bit of hard-done-by under-dog spirit. We was robbed! (I started having headline flashes). Honest Albion cheated of victory by sneaky Swiss ref! Neutral country? Pah.

In the end however, the fact remains that England played like a lot of sulky woosies and the Germans played like, well, Germans. I wanted to yell at the big screen that my unborn child was kicking more than the England team.
'She's not kicking, she's dancing,' chortled G, 'we all know she's going to support Italy when she grows up.'
We clearly still have a few parenting issues to work out.

Ever since Italy went out, G has done nothing but remind me that if England do well then it'll all be thanks to an Italian. Well, dearest, that particular theory works both ways. Today, Mr Cartoon Face is ina lotta trubol. Sadly, there are no prizes for best dressed manager. Otherwise, Capello's waistcoat would have won first place for England hands down. As for the German manager, I have only three words: Just For Men.
Read more!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

I'm back!

I'd like to say that I've become older and wiser since my last post, but that just wouldn't be true. What has happened and what has kept me away from my blog is that I am pregnant. Yup, I'm in the club, got a panino in the oven, in the family way, or, as they are so fond of saying here in Italy, I'm in an 'interesting' state.
The first few months were not, however, particularly interesting, which is why I wasn't blogging. Twenty-four hour nausea, more gas than the North Sea and more saliva than the maddest camel lugging fat tourists round the pyramids. You might be expecting a lily pad but what you get is bloating, puking and spitting.

Forget food cravings, for the first three and a half months I didn't want to eat anything and the only thing I craved was to always have someplace close to hand to be sick. I couldn't even stomach my beloved Marmite and went into a kind of Marmite mourning. The thought that I might never be able to eat it again was almost more than I could bear. I also discovered pregnancy hormones which make you cry at TV ads with puppies in them and the kind of news stories shown on Studio Aperto. (For non-Italians, Studio Aperto is a pseudo-news programme where the main stories are set to weepy music and all seem to involve either family members murdering each other or cats getting stuck in trees) (with a large side order of breasts, obviously).

Now, I'm feeling much better as I am in the hallowed second trimester, the eye of the pregnancy storm as it were. I can eat and drink without gagging which is nice and, more importantly, I can't get enough Marmite again. Phew. Bring on my mum's homemade imported pickled onions and spicy apple and raisin chutney!

It's a little girl, by the way.

Read more!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A wooly night time incident

Don't be fooled into thinking that it's always hot and sunny in Tuscany; it's been raining for so long here that the plants in my garden are actually rotting. Walking across my lawn is like walking on a three foot deep muddy sponge and my neighbour has a pump going 24/7 to try to clear our flooded cellar. It's also pretty chilly and I've got into the very old lady habit of always taking a hot water bottle to bed. Hot water bottles rock in the winter. Especially if you're as tight-fisted as I am about turning on the heating.

I got into knitting last year and the first thing I knitted (apart from a predictable succession of scarves) was a nice wooly hot water bottle cover. It's red and I even experimented with the knit and purl stitches to create a kind of chequered effect. Very nice. I didn't know how to close it around the top so I just stitched it in and now if I ever want to take it off I'll have to cut it. My Other Half is terrified that if I knit him a jumper, I'll just knit him into it and he'll have to wear it forever like the poor hot water bottle. In his worst nightmares he wakes up to find that I've knitted him into a wooly straight-jacket.

The other night, I was snuggling down in bed with a book and my trusty hot water bottle when my Other Half trundled into the bedroom. He clambered into bed, causing the usual freezing drafts as he flapped the duvet around for no reason, before finally settling down and starting to read. Out of the blue and without moving a muscle above the duvet, he stole the hot water bottle from around my ankles with his great knobbly size 46 feet. I was flabbergasted. He didn't even look at me as he commited this most heinous of bedtime crimes. I looked at him. Nothing. Fuming, but not sure what to say, I stared blankly at the pages of my book. After a couple of minutes he glanced at me innocently and said,
'No hot water bottle tonight?'
I stared at him. Was this a trick question?
'Er, yes, and you stole it from me as soon as you got into bed.' Ha, you can wipe that innocent look off your face buddy.
'What?' He replied, suddenly fidgeting his feet around at the bottom of the bed. 'Oh,' he said, reddening, 'I thought that was your foot.'
He had mistaken the wooly and boiling hot water bottle for my foot. What's a girl to do?

Read more!