Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Coming of Age

Seven years old today!

That's the age of Little J, the defender of my bin. It's his birthday today and it's such a special time. When I think about it, it doesn't seem that long since he was born.

I remember it so well, as though it were yesterday. He was born at 35 weeks into the pregnancy, which was classed as a "borderline" premature delivery.

On the morning after his birth, I remember lying on my hospital bed sobbing as quietly as I could so nobody would hear me. I was just coming around from a very hard labour, having experienced an emergency caesarean at some bleak hour in the night.

Mr A had gone home to rest after an intense 48 hours in the hospital, leaving me with our new baby at my bedside. The drugs from the caesarean had made me woozy and I was only half-aware of the nursing staff sneaking my baby away into the darkness of the night, gently whispering that they needed to check him over. When I woke in the morning I panicked because he was still gone.

The pain prevented me from getting up. So I desperately rang the bell for the nurse. She came and told me my baby's blood sugar had dropped, so he'd been taken to Special Care. It was only when Mr A returned to the ward a couple of hours later did we go down and welcome him properly into the family, with kisses, cuddles and his first feeds. The interim wait felt like agony.

He remained in SCBU for two very long weeks. While I, after 8 days in hospital, returned home without him, feeling emotionally fraught about our temporary separation and not knowing when we would bring him home.

As I said, I remember it well.

But why share this story on such a happy celebratory day? I hadn't planned to reminisce. I was going to tell you all about the very average birthday tea we're planning for this afternoon, with a handful of children from school. An event with few frills, but lots of good old-fashioned fun and jolly celebrations.

But thinking back to the birth and the early upset, has brought back a number of other memories, including the panic over buying emergency nappies. I suppose sharing the story now provides a backdrop for a confession as well as a contextual setting for understanding human nature.

You see, I'd planned on using washable nappies. I'd been working right up to the 34th week of my pregnancy and was looking forward to spending some time before the birth to decide on which nappy system to use. With a pregnancy-addled brain, it had all looked too complicated to consider whilst still juggling my professional duties.

But no-one expected the 35 week drop, so to speak.

So reusable nappies dropped too, right off the list, as I coped with the emotion of an early arrival, the painful caesarean, a separated baby, followed by troubles with feeding as well as painful colic that lasted three whole months.

From a new mum's perspective, you really do know that you should use washables, but the urgency of life with your new baby takes priority over the urgency of landfill, which lies in a distant hole far far away from home.

And as habits formed, with the convenience of disposables, new issues arose such as teething, weaning and so on, until it was time for potty training, when at last I breathed a huge sigh of relief and an even bigger sigh of regret that I hadn't been brave enough to switch nappies earlier. The guilt of landfill loomed large and the savings I could have made seemed enormous. So I shrugged my shoulders with the promise of next time.

And when the secondary pregnancy arrived, almost three years after the first, I rushed off to our local baby store, bought a washable nappy system, including a bucket! I felt as pleased as punch that at last I was actually doing the right thing.

Little T was born, on time, but again by an emergency caesarean. We were soon whisked home and he donned his washable nappies with an air of success.

For three weeks I was as ecstatic as a mother can be. The baby was comfortable. The nappies were easy to wash and the stains came out brilliantly too.

Success you might think.

But if only it had been so easy.

He started being sick about four times a day, vomiting over himself, over me and over the sofa or at least the towels covering it. After a number of medical checks, and a huge backlog of washing, he was deemed to have something called Reflux which continued for almost nine whole months!

And this is where this confessional ends, as I hold my head up high and say that second time round I failed miserably too. The nappies were like the straw that broke the camel's back. With a very sick baby, there was only so much washing a woman could do without moving permanently into a launderette.

At least by then the scope of my failures was lessened by the emergence of Nature Boy & Girl nappies, made from cornstarch.

So to all new mums out there who may be struggling to live up to the same expectations, with the same guilt that follows, I just want to say "I understand". I know what it's like in a "been there, done that" kind of way.

So don't feel guilty.

But don't be like me either.

I got into my routines, I got used to my habits and I stopped thinking outside the box.

So if you've still got the urge and if you've still got time, check out the alternatives while you've got a chance to try something new. I lost my chance a long time ago and am now responsible for burying about 9,000 nappies in landfill.

Just think, it won't be long until your baby's potty trained and out of nappies and very soon you'll be celebrating their seventh birthday. They'll even have teeth falling out all over the place. Such joy!

On that note, I've remembered I've got a birthday to celebrate and I can't wait. So I'm off to join in the fun! Perhaps I should apologise for the shop-bought cake before I go. But nah...that's one thing that won't be zero waste!

Now where did I put last year's candles..........?


**** For a guide to reusable nappies, visit The real nappy campaign. ****



Mrs Green said...

Wow - what an incredibly moving post. It's so easy to to judge others when we do not understand their circumstances.
I hope you have a wonderful day today, enjoying the 'simple stuff' in life because that is what memories are made from.

Mrs G x

Maisie said...

Happy birthday to both mum and son.

I know exactly where you are coming from with the nappies; I too had 2 C-sections, had the terry nappies all in place, did use them for so long but couldn't find the "rubbers" big enough for my 2s botts so the terries gave way to disposables and became kitchen towels when DS2 was 18 months old (he's now 10½) which I am proud to say I am still using, even though they have been on the go for 13½ years now since DS1 was born, albeit with a gap between DS1 & DS2.

Baba said...

Happy Birthday little J!!! Can't believe its really 7 years, and as soon as I read the blog it all came flooding back - I'd forgotten how traumatic it had been for you all! Hope today was lovely XXX

just Gai said...

Dear Mrs A
I'm sure none of us need to dig too far into our pasts to discover some dark deed that would make us hang our heads in shame. What matters is what we do from here on in.

GreenOfficeBlog said...

Happy birthday to your son! I really enjoyed reading this post, especially because the plastic in disposable nappies is so harmful to the environment. The sheer volume of them makes them a huge hazard. My mother used washable nappies with my brother and I when we were babies, but for parents with too much laundry to do, biodegradable products work just as well.

esther said...

I sawed washable nappies for the second one....and yes, sometimes, I realy, really wanted, or needed disposable ones...and, I found compostable ones. great for traveling or when the child needs to sleep outdoors (other people don't really like washables) but they do cost much more than regular disposable....still, they end up in my own compost (and I've seen that they do compost, I might've even fed some plants with the ones of last year already, lol)

here's the link: or:


Hi Mrs G - It almost brought a tear to my eye as I was remembering the distress of this birth and the months that followed. It also reminded me how much I've learned and how much I've changed too. One thing that I have discovered about parenting is never to judge unless you've walked a mile in someone's shoes. I can't remember who said it, but it's had a profound effect. :-D

Hi Maisie - LOL - shows how long you can still use them for doesn't it! You've reminded me that I should finally get mine down from the loft and find another use. :-D

Hi Baba - it has flown by hasn't it. Can you remember the pink pig you and Mr Baba bought? It's one of the few cuddly toys we still have. It still looks cute in a "I've been battered around the house" kind of way. I must post up a photo one day ;-D

Hi Just Gai - LOL, thank you. I wonder what might be revealed from my teenage years. Must think more on that one day ;-D

Hi Greenofficeblog - Yes, you're right, it's a huge problem as well as the methane from their contents. I was brought up with terry towel nappies too, or napkins as my mum calls them. I am just glad I can't remember the experience either way. ;-D

Hi Esther - thanks so much for the links. That's a great resource. It sounds as though you've managed it so well. What's great is there are so many different products on the market these days, there's a lot of choice for people to pick something that suits their own lifestyle. Not sure I've said this already but I really love that photo of you with the chicken by the way ;-D

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