Sickness bug update, part 2

When I said the tummy bug was over, I was speaking prematurely. We’ve had vomit every day since Thursday – acres and oodles of vomit including this evening, when I was cuddling Izzie close to my chest. Five days of my clothing being drenched in sudden, unexpected barf.

I have run out of trousers to change into!

As milk seemed to trigger bouts of vomiting, we switched to soya milk. That helped us get more fluid into her, because it didn’t seem to upset her. The next couple of days, the vomiting was caused by biscuits, porridge and fruit. But tonight it was caused by the soya milk. So we’re back to square one.

There’s no logic to it. You give her something for breakfast, she wolfs it down – the same thing for lunch, it’s Exorcist time. One minute she’s happy and playing and laughing, the next she’s spewing as though there’s no end to it. I just don’t get it.

Luckily, Lizzie is feeling a little better. I think it’s clear she had viral gastroenteritis/stomach flu/norovirus, which is pretty much all the same thing and lasts a couple of days. It’s highly infectious, so we are truly a plague house. Quite a wonder that I haven’t got it.

I have, however, come down with a heavy cold. My muscles and joints all ache and my head has been spinning for three days. Worse, as a result of the stress throughout the day Saturday, I had such bad indigestion/acid reflux all night, I felt like I was having a heart attack. Since then my chest has felt like I’ve torn every muscle surrounding my heart. But that’s what it means to be a dad – you dig deep and you carry on.

For how much longer – that’s the real question.

Sickness bug update

Somehow, things have become worse. Not for Izzie – provided we don’t give her any milk, she seems right as ninepence – but for her long-suffering parents.

The last few months I’ve been donating platelets at my local blood centre. I’ve been a blood donor for years, but after Izzie’s traumatic birth, I wanted to do more to help people in similar circumstances. Platelets are given to people with leukaemia, those undergoing chemotherapy, and trauma cases who lose a lot of blood. Unlike blood donation, which averages three times a year, you can donate platelets every three to four weeks, so it gives me a chance to put my feet up and relax as my blood is sucked from my body, run through a centrifuge to filter out the butterscotch-yellow platelets, and pumped back in.

Trouble is, not everyone can be a platelet donor as you need an excess of platelets and good strong veins. For every 100 blood donors there is only one platelet donor, and platelets only last seven days so are in constant demand. What’s good about platelet donation, however, is that one 90-minute donation can save three adults or up to twelve children. Last time, my platelets were sent to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, so I can feel good about that.

Anyway, I was due to go in Thursday afternoon. However, after being submerged in Izzie’s vomit, I thought I’d better check to see if they still wanted me or if it was too risky. The consensus was that I had been ‘compromised’ and it was better to err on the side of caution and cancel – I wouldn’t want to pass on a vomiting bug to already sick kids. Though I was asymptomatic, I might come down with it myself. So I gritted my teeth and braced myself for a bout of diarrhoea and vomiting.

If you’ve guessed where this is going, it’s my job to disappoint you. I’m fine. Lizzie, on the other hand, spent all night writhing and moaning, clutching her belly, until at six this morning she tried to make it to the bathroom, failed, and vomited all over the landing. Carpet, doors, walls, the works. So I’m getting to be a dab hand at mopping up sick. Especially as a couple of hours later she vomited all over the bathroom floor.

Today, I am therefore a single dad with two sick children. Here’s hoping I don’t get struck down by the same ailment or I don’t know what we’ll do!

Don’t panic! It’s just a tummy bug.

I’ve mentioned vomit before on this blog, and it’s always been described rather casually. ‘Ha-ha, she threw up over me,’ and suchlike. ‘What a great dad I am: I get puked on and take it in my stride. Yay me!’

Those were purer, more innocent times, the halcyon days before the fall. The fact is, I had no idea what vomiting truly was. The couple of tablespoons of white, milk-like up-chuck, even when tinged with mucus, are nothing – nothing – compared to the end-of-the-world style vomiting of a stomach bug. And having now experienced that, I will never be casual about vomit again.

When Izzie woke crying at four o’clock Thursday morning, her bed sopping wet with sick, my instincts told me something was wrong. She’s not a sicky baby and vomiting overnight is certainly unusual for her. It was, however, just the beginning.

I picked her up, made her some milk, fed it to her, sat her down, and watched as the Gates of Hell opened and spewed forth an ocean of vomit. In all honesty, it was frightening seeing so much liquid propelled so widely from something so small. It formed puddles in her lap and on the carpet, was so bad that even Lizzie got up (unheard of before half-seven) to help change clothing and bedding and mop it off the floor.

After settling Izzie onto newly-clean sheets, I spent the next two hours on the internet becoming an expert on all aspects of childhood vomiting. The main stipulation of the sites I visited was: don’t panic! It’s only vomit. Keep her hydrated, be gentle with her belly, and stop being such a wuss.

Now, being an overprotective (read: hypochondriac) dad, I’ve had to develop a hard and fast rule on baby illness so I don’t turn her into a medical guinea pig that gets rushed to the doctor every two minutes: if she’s happy, playful and eating, and has no obvious signs of illness such as a temperature, blood coming from her ears, or buboes, she’s probably okay. So in the morning when Izzie seemed bright and breezy, we got on as normal. Lots of water to rehydrate her, and oodles of bland milky porridge and a banana to settle her empty stomach.

Slightly neurotic about her dying of thirst, and the ensuing inquest where we’re deemed to have been neglectful parents followed by a media witch hunt that hounds us out of the country, I sat her on my lap on the sofa to give her a top-up of milk. And two minutes later, with a little feminine toss of her head, she exploded all over me.

When I say exploded, I mean that stuff just flew everywhere. I was wearing T-shirt, shirt, trousers, boxer shorts and socks, and the only thing I didn’t have to change were my glasses. The last time I was covered in hot, smelly sick, I was nine years old, wearing blue and white striped pyjamas, and I remember feeling unclean and ashamed. In an instant, I was that child again and unable to move.

I shouted for help, which is what I’d done as a nine-year-old. Unfortunately, Lizzie chose that moment to have one of her autistic episodes – overwhelmed by the knowledge that she couldn’t go to baby group and would have to change her plans, she became angry and overwhelmed, so had to go and have a time-out to calm down. Gee, thanks, honey. It’s not like it’s soaking through to my skin and dripping from my fingertips!

Luckily there was a support worker present, who definitely earned her pay and saw more of me than she probably liked as I peeled off soiled clothing layer by layer then dealt with the baby in just my underwear.

Water was the order of the day. Sips of water, the websites say. No food for about six hours, then small amounts of bland stuff to settle her.

Izzie didn’t act ill, not at all – she was playing with her toys, standing against the furniture and getting up to her usual high-jinks. So mid-afternoon, when she was clearly hungry, I gave her the blandest porridge in the cupboard, which went down a treat, followed by fromage frais and then half a biscotti. She seemed happy as Larry, so I made some milk, sat her on my lap on the sofa and –

Instead of describing in graphic detail what I’ve already covered before (explosion, ‘help!’, oh god it’s so warm and smelly), minus Lizzie’s time-out but including the ‘assistance’ of Ozzie the dog in clearing up, here’s a picture of Izzie with bunny ears:

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Cute

While I was changing into my third set of clothes for the day, Lizzie’s cousin texted us to say her little one had had a similar thing earlier in the week, a 24-hour vomiting bug. Provided you can endure and make sure she drinks plenty, it passes. So armed with this knowledge, we tried to force dioralyte down her throat to rehydrate her (see above about hypochondria), which was a horrible failure, switched back to water, which was a success, and put her to bed.

Today, she seems much better (touch wood), but since the three vomiting episodes were triggered by milk, we’ve avoided risking giving her anything but water. I’ve discovered from my research that babies can develop lactose intolerance from tummy bugs like viral gastroenteritis, meaning milk makes them vomit and you need to give them lactose-free milk for up to four weeks until the gut recovers. Gosh darn it, why do babies always get ill on four-day weekends and bank holidays?

What I’ve learnt from this experience is just how frightening it can be for a parent when their baby keeps vomiting. I mean, at one point I seriously expected her head to rotate three-sixty degrees and Latin phrases to start bursting from her lips. You think it’s going to go on forever, that every drop of water or morsel of food will come back with added force. But it passes. Thank God it passes!

It’s also an eye-opener how vulnerable you can feel when covered in someone else’s vomit. Forget waterboarding, try a baby with a vomiting bug! But on the plus side, there are far fewer poopy nappies to deal with.

One thing’s for certain: I will never be nonchalant about sick ever again!

The pleasures of toys (not that sort!)

Prior to the arrival of our little bundle of joy, I’d see those parents with a wicker basket of handcrafted wooden toys for their children – ‘we don’t believe in consumerism’ – and I’d think: ‘what a bunch of bloody hippies. Go back to smoking roll-ups and drinking herbal tea, the grown-ups are talking.’

In hindsight I think they’re geniuses and I really wish we’d had a rule about toys long before Izzie was born.

The problem is that without a clear idea of what you want, toys have a tendency to multiply. My lounge has turned into a multicoloured mayhem of shapes, materials and textures. It’s like living inside a Disney cartoon, complete with jaunty music, flashing lights, and twee sing-songs.

You see, Lizzie is obsessed with trawling around charity shops and baby jumble sales and returning with endless bargains in pink plastic and green felt. Bargains that ring and chime and jangle, and aren’t really bargains at all when you can’t walk from one side of the lounge to the other without stepping on something that squeaks, or dances, or blinks at you.

Most of the noisy toys are from a company called Vtech, and I have nothing against them. Individually. My problem comes from the fact that when the table is singing, and the walker joins in, the toy TV controller sings its song, and the toy phone starts to warble, it creates a cacophony so unholy it can summon Satan.

Worse, they seem to have used the same woman to voice all of them. ‘Watch some TV with some friends,’ she says, along with ‘can you find the duck,’ ‘ring home,’ ‘who’s calling,’ ‘now I know my abc,’ all at the same time. The voices never stop. These things are meant to teach kids, not make them schizophrenic.

And that’s just the start of it.

I’m not sure the lessons are as productive as they might think. Apparently, rabbits go ‘boing’. Never heard that myself. And one toy from Fisher Price sings, ‘five little cookies make a yummy snack.’ Really? I’d have thought five little cookies make a baby fat!

And thanks to it being in the public domain, every single one of them plays Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. That song’s always bewildered me, even as a kid. ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.’ It’s a freaking’ STAR! The answer’s in the question. Okay, when Jane Taylor wrote it way back in 1800-and-whatever, she probably thought they were ‘God lights’ or ‘angel smiles’, or something, but damn, can’t we change it to reflect current understanding?

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, you’re a ball of hot gases undergoing nuclear fusion, that’s what you are.

Better?

The ABC song, which I’ve noticed has the exact same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, and which all the toys also play, is driving me utterly insane. In American English it work fine: ‘T U Vee, W X, Y and Zee.’ But the toys have all been recorded in British English, so she sings: ‘T U Vee, W X, Y and Zed.’ It doesn’t seem to bother Lizzie, but every time the song starts up I cringe, waiting for that awful, jarring non-rhyme. The only way I can cope is to sing along with it, substituting  Zee for Zed. And doing that fifty times a day isn’t relaxing.

I think there’s a reason the musical drum Lizzie brought home a few weeks back was so cheap, because if you ever want to torture someone, this thing was designed by the Marquis de Sade. Every time you tap it, it plays a note. The notes it plays seem to unite to create ‘The Wheels On the Bus.’ But it doesn’t play ‘The Wheels On the Bus.’ There are extra notes crammed in there at random, and others arbitrarily removed. If you were to sing along to it in your head, as you do automatically, it would go like this: ‘The wheels on round and round, round and round round, round and round, the wheels on the round and round, all all day day long.’

‘Just turn them off!’ I hear you scream.

I fully agree. But you clearly don’t appreciate the depth of my problem. Turning them off isn’t as easy as you might think. You find a switch and flip it, move onto the next one, only to discover you haven’t turned it off at all – you’ve simply switched it from ‘annoying tune’ to ‘annoying song’, or increased the volume, or switched on the lights so you can enjoy your own disco/epilepsy. One of them even rolls around the room, forcing you to chase it, and once you’ve caught it, it spins a chicken over the top of the off-switch, as if laughing at you: ‘ha, the only way you can reach this switch is with lightning reactions, or else you break it!’

Funnily enough, despite all the bells and whistles she can choose from, Izzie’s fallen in love with a little cuddly green dog that has become something of a security blanket. Well, not the dog, actually – the bone attached to the dog by a little blue cord. She’s only happy when she’s clutching this blue cord, the bone on top, the dog dangling down under her feet. She drags the dog around behind her, trips over it, gets it stuck on things. Instead of using two hands to pull herself to her feet, she only has one free nowadays.

It’s made dressing her, or changing her nappy, or strapping her into the car seat or high chair, an absolute nightmare. Because she has to let go of it so you can put her arm through the sleeve or the strap, or avoid getting poo on it, and letting go of it is not something she’s going to do without a fight, followed by excessive amounts of screaming.

She even sleeps with it now, and I have to admit, I’m happy to let her if it keeps her quiet.

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She’s asleep, we have fifteen minutes to turn off all the toys!

So here’s to the hippy parents with the handcrafted wooden toys, roll-up cigarettes and herbal tea – I take mine with milk and a sweetener, thanks. See you at the commune!

Interest in People

In the past week, Izzie has decided that faces are awesome (I said faces! I was quite clear about that). Whether pulling faces or, indeed, pulling faces, those things that go together to make up the human face have become inescapably fascinating (and not just human faces either; I have to give a shout out to Ozzie the cocker spaniel, who sits patiently while the baby pulls on his eyelids).

As fascinating as faces are to her, it’s equally fascinating for me to watch how she’s learning what faces mean, and that the things attached to them – people – are just as cool.

Amazingly, she seems to recognise the difference between adults and children, boys and girls – and she’s definitely more interested in those who can one day grow facial hair. At the pub on Mother’s Day she spent the whole meal turning in her seat so she could watch the boy at the table behind us. When he left with his parents, she smiled at him and waved – she’s eight-months old, for crying out loud!

Children elicit a different response to adults. When she sees a grown-up, Izzie watches them, before slowly smiling and then waving – when I took her on a journey around the pub the other night, she made sure to wave at every adult in there until I was sure her arm would fall off. But at least they tend to smile and wave back.

When she sees children, she shouts at them. A loud cry like she can’t contain her excitement at recognising a kindred spirit. She even does it when she sees a baby on TV – she sits in silence, ignoring the noisy idiot box in the corner, until an advert for Pampers or Aptamil or Cow & Gate comes on, and suddenly you jump out of your skin as the baby on your lap roars at the screen. Crazy smart!

Along with waving, she’s learned to point, but only with her right hand. If you point your finger back at her she slowly extends her arm until she touches your fingertip, just like God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And this’ll sound really syrupy, but it’s the most adorable thing ever.

Except, perhaps, when you see her practicing her Jedi skills. She reaches for things that are way out of reach – like fifteen feet out of reach – and keeps on reaching, staring at it intently as though she can use the Force to draw it to her. She also sweeps her palm from one side to the other in front of your face from time to time as if doing the Jedi Mind Trick – ‘You will bring me milk and cookies. None of that broccoli shit.’

She’s been so drawn to the TV of late we’ve had to fence it off. She wants to touch it all the time. At first, we thought she was looking at herself in the reflection, but then this happened:

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What’s an Aneurysm, daddy?

[As an aside, I showed this picture to an acquaintance and she thought the person on the screen was Lady Gaga. When I told her it was one Kurt Donald Cobain, she replied, ‘Oh yeah, he was in Thin Lizzy!’ For those of you unsure why that’s so, so wrong, look up Smells Like Teen Spirit, and you’re welcome.]

Because she loves her reflection. If she’s screaming her head off, you just need to hold her up in front of a mirror and she stops instantly, to laugh, and giggle, and reach for the baby in the glass. If you give her a small mirror, she can’t help kissing her reflection like a tiny Narcissus.

And that’s the problem: her fascination with faces isn’t satisfied just by looking. She’s constantly trying to pull your mouth open, twist your lips, ram her chubby little fist down your throat. As she’s so strong, you can easily get hurt along the way. I had no idea a baby could gouge a chunk of flesh out of your cheek:

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That’s going to leave a scar…

This need to pull at faces is teaching her about life and death, or rather, the difference between animate and inanimate. At baby group the other day she picked up a doll for the first time (she normally prefers to play with things she’s not allowed, like TV remotes, phones, i-pads, drinks cans, nunchuks). The first thing she did was try to open its mouth by prising apart its solid plastic lips, and struggled to work out exactly why this was a non-starter. Since it seemed to be ignoring her, and was confusing, she went to the old fall back of giving its hair a good solid yank.

And – ohmygod – it didn’t react. She looked around, confused, perplexed – when she pulls daddy’s hair, especially the hair on his belly, you can bet your bottom dollar it provokes a reaction. You could see her trying to fathom out why this thing that looked like a person wasn’t behaving like a person. It’s like watching a leap up the evolutionary ladder, the moment a monkey first realised it could use a stick to beat the crap out of other monkeys. I’m not entirely sure the penny dropped – there was no ‘ah, I get it – it’s a doll’ moment – but then she has plenty of time to work out that dolls are not real (for one thing, they don’t wake you up at three in the morning, and for another, you don’t have to worry about them one day coming home and telling you they’re pregnant but that it’s okay, he’s a rock musician and one day his band is going to be really big – ‘Well, you did let me listen to Nirvana when I was a baby, dad, so what did you expect?’).

Other than this confused, befuddled, all-is-not-well-with-the-world expression, she’s picked up a couple more. There’s the shocked, split-second oh-my-god-I’ve-lost-my-balance-and-I’m-going-to-fall expression, which she’s become rather adept at as it happens every few minutes. But far scarier is what I call the I’m-a-grown-up-girl-and-I-know-what-I-want-and-how-to-get-it expression. In this second expression, I can see the face she’s going to grow into: self-assurance in the set of her mouth and wisdom in her eyes far beyond her years (months?).

It’s the face of someone who’s going to be strong, and smart, and determined. And quite probably a precocious know-it-all who can cry on cue as she fights tooth and nail to get her own way with everything.

In all honesty, that’s not a face I’m ready to see yet. I provide it here for posterity. Look upon the future and tremble!

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*Gasp!* Magnum!

 

AS, Anxiety and Baby Safety

It is rare to meet someone with AS who doesn’t have some kind of anxiety problem, and yet anxiety is not part of Asperger’s Syndrome. Rather, it seems the symptoms of Asperger’s – the social confusion, difficulties with understanding, need for routine and inability to cope with change – often lead us into situations we can’t cope with and encourage others to tease us, humiliate us and bully us, and it is a lifetime of such occurrences, repeatedly falling on our arses, that causes the anxiety.

Even then, some of us can be bigger worriers than others.

It turns out that I have a reputation amongst the NCT crowd of being something of a worrier and rather overprotective (shocking, I know!). As I’ve said before, in order to cope with our anxieties, people with Asperger’s plan their lives to avoid risk and the unpredictable. Having a baby means that you don’t just have to plan to keep yourself safe – you have to think of the baby too. And your anxieties about yourself pale into insignificance alongside your need to protect your baby.

Now eight-and-a-half months old, Izzie has reached that stage where she wants to be involved with everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. She wants to know what you’re doing, what your partner’s doing, what the dog’s doing, what the cat’s doing, what the people out the window are doing, what’s behind that sofa, what’s in that cupboard, can I open this drawer, why can’t I wear that hat, your glasses would look better if I bent them, what happens if I empty out your bag, and everything in between. And keeping her safe has become a nightmare.

The house is starting to resemble a fortress. There are barred gates across every doorway, a wooden fence blocking access to the TV, a hexagonal playpen that looks like a cage-fighting arena taking up half the lounge, and foam corner protectors uglying up most of the furniture. We’ve put down a soft mat as the floor was (probably) too hard, and I’ve even relented about bumpers and put protectors around each slat of the cot because she keeps falling and cracking her head against the bars. Every single night.

But it’s all to no avail. She’s determined to stand and walk before she’s ready, which means she falls often and falls hard. Worse, she doesn’t seem to care – if she’s standing up against the sofa and wants to get to the other, she throws herself down like an unemployed stuntman so she can crawl; if she has a toy, she thrashes it about until she’s knocked herself almost senseless; and within a few seconds of putting her in her cot you’ll hear an awful, heavy thud as she drives her head into the wood, deliberately and repeatedly, as if that’s how the cool kids get to sleep these days.

I’ve had to come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to safeguard her entirely. I can chase her around the room as she waddles about, and catch her if she falls backwards – I can’t stop those face-planting forward falls that squish her nose and knock her teeth back into her gums. Nor can I stop her crawling over her wooden blocks, getting her fingers caught when she bashes two toys together, headbutting my knees or suddenly slamming her face into my forehead – no matter what precautions you take, she’s got you.

I was sitting on the sofa the other day when the lamp started sliding across the sideboard all by itself. Did we have a ghost? I jumped up to find Izzie had pulled herself to her feet, squeezed into the gap down the side of the dresser, reached up to the top and, even though it was out of sight, found the lead with her fingertips and was slowly preparing to pull the whole, heavy ceramic base of the lamp down on her head. This is just one example out of a hundred. Unless we have no phones, lights, chairs, sideboards, tables, floors, people in the room – anything, in fact – we will never eliminate risk.

All of this means the bruise above her eye the size and shape of a thumbprint has been joined by two on her temple the size of peanuts and one right in the middle of her forehead as big as an egg. And she’s into scratching herself too. We take her out in public, all black and blue and red, I’m terrified we’re going to get arrested for using her as a football. ‘It happened when she fell,’ I tell family and friends, and even I think I sound guilty.

The same is true of weaning. I freaking hate feeding her these days. Before, it was milk – pure, wholesome, liquidy milk. Now, it’s all kinds of food, food with bits, with lumps, with chunks. It’s bread, it’s meat, it’s pasta, it’s fruit. So at least once a meal she’ll laugh, or try to talk, or simply swallow something too big, and she’ll start to choke. Totally normal, apparently, totally natural, since she’s learning new textures and tastes, but as her face turns purple and her eyes bulge and tears spurt out of them, I have to fight down the panic because I don’t want to alarm her any more than she already is. So I’m a nervous wreck before we even begin, waiting for that unexpected moment she’ll suddenly start choking, and – something particularly hard for me – there is nothing I can do to prevent it. We can’t keep her on yoghurt and soup all her life, but good gosh I wish we could!

It’s a hard reality to accept but one that I guess all parents eventually have to – we cannot protect our children from the world or from themselves. We can try our best to ensure they’re kept safe, in a protected environment that minimises the risk factors, and be there to pick them back up, but ultimately they’re going to get bumps and bruises, fall out of trees, start dating that boy you don’t like just to piss you off – the trick is not to make a big deal out of it and hope that the damage is never too great. Otherwise you’ll make them neurotic and yourself a basket case, or worse – you’ll turn them into you.

Funny ha-ha and funny weird

Thanks to that funny thing called life (along with a chemical imbalance called ‘my brain’), I’ve been rather down of late, so I thought I’d cheer myself up (and others?) by recording those funny and weird things my daughter’s been doing. Because really, when you’re circling the abyss and getting ready to fall, there’s no better lifeline than a child’s laughter to pull you back from the edge (disclaimer: a child’s laughter is no substitute for a lifeline. Always use a rope from an accredited climbing centre when circling abysses.)

I discovered this last night while dancing about to John Denver as I was cooking dinner. It was, apparently, the funniest thing Izzie had ever seen. I’ve never heard her laugh so much. And nice laughter too. I guess in a few years, the laughter will come for a different reason, but for now she thinks I move like Justin freakin’ Timberlake, so that’s a boost to the self-esteem.

Of course, a slight blow comes from the fact I just realised yesterday that instead of singing about his lover, a hillbilly strumpet named Country Rose, John Denver was actually singing about ‘country roads’. So I’ve been singing it wrong for twenty years. Yikes! A bit like Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy…’

Which brings me neatly to sounds. Izzie has learnt two new sounds. The first isn’t so bad. It’s a loud, drawn out roar that combines hello, how are you, I’m Izzie, do you want to be friends and let’s play. A little weird when you’re pushing her round the village and she roars at everyone you walk past, but survivable.

The second sound is drawn from the depths of hell.

She’s discovered she can make a noise on the in-breath as well as the out-breath, but this  in-breath noise is enough to make you shudder. It’s a gasping, choking hiss, like she’s being strangled or some strange demon creature has possessed her and wants to summon serpent warriors from a netherworld. It’s worst when you’re settling down to sleep and this freaky, banshee shriek comes through the monitor, sending a chill down your spine. You leap out of bed because it sounds like she’s having an asthma attack, but no, she smiles up at you, innocent eyes all aglow. And then roars at you in greeting. Creepy.

Actually, night time has become altogether weird. Three a.m. I’ll hear a noise and get up to check on the baby. I stand outside the door to listen, but there’s silence. I gently, oh so gently, push open the door, and then I see…it. This figure, dressed in white, bathed in the white glow of the baby monitor, standing up, motionless, just staring at the wall two inches from her nose. Just standing there. Not moving, not making noise. Staring at the wall. It’s like something out of Poltergeist.

Then she slowly turns her head to look at you. Ye gads, at three in the morning that’s enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies!

They're Hee-eeere!
They’re Hee-eeere!

Even weirder are the sounds from the monitor. A few weeks back it started playing piano music for a few seconds. There was nothing in her room that plays a tune. I looked at Lizzie, she looked at me. ‘Did you just hear -?’ ‘Yes, that was weird.’ Checked on Izzie and she was fast asleep.

A couple of nights back I jerked awake as I was sure I heard a man’s voice shouting profanities right in my ear, right through the monitor. But the baby was sound asleep.

And speaking of sound asleep, because she’s so active during the day, Izzie has started sleeping like a log. Or perhaps a better way of saying it would be that she sleeps the sleep of the dead. Half a dozen times in the past fortnight I’ve gone to check on her and she’s so still, so quiet, I’ve momentarily thought she’s dead. I watch for the rise and fall of her chest – nothing. I put my hand by her mouth to feel her breath – nothing. It then takes a huge effort of will to reach for her wrist and check her pulse, because I dread feeling cold skin beneath my fingertips. But she’s never been dead so far, so that’s good!

She’s developed a fascination with Grandpa’s cans of cider too. There’s this thing called object permanence – basically, once something’s out of their sight, babies don’t realise it still exists so won’t look for it, whereas later they realise things exist even if they can’t see them. Well, Izzie’s cracked that one – no matter where he puts it, where he hides it, she continues to look for it, crawling all over him like an alcoholic spidermonkey. Gives new meaning to the expression ‘monkey on my back’.

Her level of activity is astonishing. If I need the toilet during the day, I pop her down in her cot and go sit on the loo with the door open as it faces the nursery. Within seconds, a little hand will appear on the top of the headboard, then another, before the top of the head, eyes and nose come straining to get a look. She’s like that graffiti motif Kilroy Was Here. Watching me take a crap. Thanks honey.

It extends to nappy changes. You put her on her back on the changing mat and she immediately rolls onto her front and crawls away because she knows what’s coming. You manage to grab her by the ankles, drag her kicking and screaming back, take off her tights – she crawls away again. You hold her by the ankles, lift them up in the air, but she twists so her upper half is facing the opposite direction to the lower. In that odd, contorted position, you take off her nappy, clean her up. You let go for a split second, look away, look back to see a little naked bottom disappearing behind the sofa. At which point you think, ‘Sod it!’ and let her keep on half-dressed. Although it’s a bit like Russian Roulette – peace right now weighed up against the risk of having to clean poo out of the carpet. Sometimes peace right now is worth any amount of future scrubbing.

 

 

And since she’s just vomited yellow stuff all down my trousers, I’m going to sign off here. Like I’ve said before, you need a sense of humour to be a parent – otherwise, it’s just tragic!