Sunday, March 27, 2011


As I pushed the pram over the rough ground, I breathed in deeply and smiled to myself. This is what I had imagined, those days last year when the belly was pushing at my waistband and my feet were swelling. The sky was blue, the sun was shining down on us and a smattering of t-shirt clad youths were spread over the grass, making the most of the beautiful weather. Elsie let out a sudden cry and I frowned. That wasn't in my hazy daydream of spring. I looked round the pram hood and saw her looking out, big eyes taking in the springlike scene, thumb hovering ready for when her eyelids grew too heavy. She was ok.

I carried on, zigzagging along the park's many paths, trying to slow my legs to the pace of someone who has nowhere to go. This doesn't come naturally. I always walk as if I'm on my way to work, or late for a meeting. A man stood, juggling five balls and I watched as he kept them all airbound. I noticed the other mums, and dads, silently pushing prams or chatting in pairs, and wondered about their charges. The sun had brought a crowd of lunchtime sunseekers out around the fountain and I snuck a look at them as we circled the water. There were schoolkids, sharing headphones and snickering in small groups. Couples were lying on the warm grass, entwined in their own private bubbles. Colleagues chewed on sandwiches, ties loosened and jackets folded neatly next to them.

Elsie's eyes were drooping as I peeked around the pram hood, but her hands were neatly resting in front of her, her thumb nowhere near her mouth. I continued through the grand arch, and down the paths through the trees. The parrots' squawking and the distant cries of children kicking a ball around almost covered the faint sounds of traffic. I trudged on, round flowerbeds full of colourful bulbs, behind statues, through pathways lined with benches and under enormous horse chestnut trees, buds close to bursting.

The next time I checked, Elsie's eyes were closed and I was struck, as I am each time I see it, by just how peaceful she looks when she sleeps. My job done, I paused briefly on a bench, rocking the pram with my foot and looking around at the scenes around me. Her first spring is getting off to a good start.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Little Hands

Dear Elsie,

Before you were born I had this idea that I'd mutate into a full-blown mummy blogger; unable to contain myself, documenting every little change and development that my darling child went through. You are five months old, and that just hasn't happened. There are countless photos and a youtube channel, but very few blog posts have gone up with you as the star. One reason is that there just hasn't been time. It's incredible how days disappear in minutes, weeks merge into each other and before we know it, you've notched up another month. The other reason is that I don't feel up to the task. Everyone knows that blogging about your offspring is dull, unless it is done with considerable skill and wit. That is daunting. You are the most precious thing I have, and I don't want to do you a disservice by reducing your magic to tired cliches.

Having said that I'm afraid that the months and years will pass and we'll forget the little things that make us smile, shrug and tear our hair out with incomprehension. So, forgive my incompetence and I'll give this mummy-blogging a go.

Your little hands have led the way through these past months. They have evolved from another unpredictable part of what life throws at you to fully recognised and controlled parts of your body. Gone are the days when they would spring up and hit you in the face making you jump in surprise, and often cry out. We have even passed the stage where you would use them to vaguely bat at objects within reach. Now, you reach out and explore with your little hands. When I put you in our bed to feed, you turn towards me, arms outstretched and mouth open and ready.

During feeds you seek out my hand, take a finger in each of your little hands and pull and push them around as if they were a stress toy. Other times, you grab my flesh in your little fists and twist it with amazing strength. When you're really sleepy, I just get the odd stroke, or a little hand resting on mine. Your hands show no mercy for your dry skin, which we treat as gently as we can. While we massage in cream, bathe you in oily water and avoid soap, you scratch at your skin, leaving red marks, and occasionally bloody traces. The skin around your right thumb is red and bumpy - the result of repeated sucking, and your nails are kept as short as possible, to save your skin. Your daddy cuts your nails as you feed. It used to go unnoticed, but now you pause and stare. Wide eyes take in the nail clippers and your dad's concentration.

Last week I had you on my hip as I took an apple from the fruit bowl. You reached out and touched the fruit, an eyebrow raised and the curiosity evident on your face. As I took a crunchy bite, you stared at me and then cautiously smiled. After watching me very carefully, and continuing to reach out, I let you touch what was left. You brought the apple core close to your mouth and gave it a tentative lick. After a disgusted face, familiar from our recent attempts with carrot and apple purees, you had another go. A few more licks and you were done. You gave me a last unimpressed look and stuck your thumb in your mouth.

You use your hands to explore, although your mouth takes over that task from time to time. If I hold out a favourite toy, you reach out to take it from me, but inevitably the next place it ends up is in your mouth. This evening your Daddy was holding you as you spotted the plant on top of the fridge. Out came the hand and you touched the ends of the spiny fronds, open-mouthed. After a while you gave the branch a tentative tug, and then another, firmer. Your confidence strong, you pulled it towards you and in the direction of your mouth. Your curiosity made us laugh out loud.

If you sit on my lap, your little hands rest on mine. When you're tired and your thumb is firmly stuck in your mouth, head on my shoulder, I hold your other little hand. I cover it in mine to stop you scratching at your skin, but more importantly, I just hold your little hand.