In one of lifestyle blogger Emily Norris’s YouTube videos, her four month old son Jackson shows all the signs of needing a nap: rubbing his eyes and ears, making little crooning mogwai noises like Gizmo from Gremlins, etc. So what his mum does is take him to his cot whilst he’s nice and sleepy, lay him down inside it, and simply leave him to fall asleep on his own.
At four and a half months, our Mary has never managed this astonishing feat, and we have to essentially trick our baby into bed. I can breastfeed her to sleep, while Andrew has to rock her to oblivion while playing Billy Joel. Then, when she’s in a deep slumber, we slip her into bed and tiptoe out. If Mary wakes and we’re not there, she cries hot salty tears of anguish and wails as if we’ve abandoned her in the Kalahari desert.
Must we ‘sleep train’ our girl, leave her to cry and break all three of our hearts in doing so? Or will this situation resolve itself like the Era of the Binky did? (We were told we’d have to ‘wean’ Mary off her binky/dummy/pacifier, but at three months she simply removed it from her mouth with her own chubby paw and never wanted it again.)
Strangely, Mary is actually a good wee sleeper, snoozing for eight hour chunks in her bedside cot, and can fall fast asleep during wacky baby classes, on her playmat, along my outstretched legs, and even when she watches TV upside down, back arched over my lap (don’t ask).
So we’re going to give it to six months, and pray to the baby gods that she learns to view our bedroom as a dreamy paradise, rather than a wasteland where babies are left to perish.
Books have been my saviour since I was a shy child holed up in my bedroom reading Brian Jacques, Robin Jarvis, J K Rowling, E Nesbitt, Philip Pullman et al, and now that I’m a new mum they’re proving to be as much of a lifeline as they ever were.
So here are the books that have been a balm to my frazzled soul, from pregnancy to post-partum delirium…
The Old Friends
In the later stages of pregnancy, when I was waddling from couch to fridge and crying over butter commericals, I needed ease and familiarity, and so I reached for some old friends. The Adrian Mole diaries by Sue Townsend. Poirot murder mysteries by Agatha Christie. The Sally Lockart quartet by Philip Pullman. The Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin. Jeeves and Wooster stories by P G Wodehouse. Bridget Jones’s diaries by Helen Fielding. Revisiting these perennial faves reminded me that, even though my life was about to change forever, I would always have these old pals to comfort and console me.
As hilarious as Bertie Wooster is, he’s never going to help me deal with cracked nipples, so I’ve turned to a few baby manuals for advice.
Your Baby Week by Week by Caroline Fertleman and Simone Cave takes you through the first six months of your baby’s life, and covers all the basics, from sleep patterns to how many dirty nappies you can expect to change daily. Whilst I’ve laughed heartily at some of the book’s suggestions (at three months my baby should, apparently, have been feeding only once every three hours – HAHAHAHAHA!) there’s a lot of sage advice on offer here and it’s put my mind at ease on many occasions.
You’ve Got It In You by Emma Pickett is a lovely, down-to-earth guide to breastfeeding and has helped me no end with the surprisingly tricky art of getting milk from nip to lip. Happy Mum Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher is a gorgeous account of the joys and mania of new motherhood and made me feel both normal and less alone in the twilight hours.
As great as these books are, sometimes, after a long day of reading nursery rhymes in increasingly daft voices, pretending to be Piglet and giving a running commentary of every banal task I do so that my baby knows I’m nearby, what I need is pure escapism. This is where fantasy books come in. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss are two of the best books of their genre and I cannot wait for the third and final installment of The Kingkiller Chronicles. Next I’ll be re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin. Hot bubble bath + cup of tea + a chapter of a nice chunky fantasy = the most relaxing half hour of my day.
Knowledge to Stop Brainrot
Finally, I think it’s a good idea for me to keep learning new things so that my brain doesn’t melt into a big pink gooey mess, so I’m currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. Brusatte’s writing style is witty, engaging and entertaining, and the subject matter is so exciting that the book is actually giving me goosebumps.
As for the books I read with wee Mary? That’s a whole other post, and a whole other source of joy for a bookworm mum.
The thing about trying to get poems published is that the sheer bloody admin involved is practically a full-time job in itself. The deadlines, the rules, the formatting, the online submissions, the stamps and self-addressed envelopes… I had to create a spreadsheet just to keep tabs on where I’d submitted what to and when, and if there’s one thing I loathe in this life it is spreadsheets.
So, with a newborn at home and a big old chunk of maternity leave ahead of me, I’ve made the liberating decision to take a year off from poetry submissions. Instead, I want to use what’s left of my free time to write about what it’s like to be a new mum, from the vomit-clogged horror of those early weeks of pregnancy to the curious joy of hearing your baby fart in her sleep.
No meticulous editing or re-drafting or trying to find the perfect words – just a frank account of what it’s like to be a bookworm mum, beginning with the books that have helped me through the wee small hours…