Lips are for Lovers

“So,” a friend told me, “My friend was told off by a French lady for kissing her baby on the lips. Apparently, ‘lips are for lovers’”.

We were not sure whether to laugh or scoff, so we did both.

I came home and told Mr S this, laughing. He replied, laughing, “Well, it’s true.”

Mr S has a great sense of humour. It’s the sort where the recipient of the joke is often offended, or everyone sitting around the table laughs politely, if he’s lucky, while casting sideways glances at their neighbours, the air heavy with, “Is he serious, or is that a joke?”

Of course, he was joking, I’d seen him kissing Chicklet on the lips before. Just to be sure, over the next few days I checked him kissing Chicklet. I suddenly realised that the Gaelic nose acts a screen when it comes to pinpointing the “kissing spot”. After a few days of surrepticiously observing, so as to not change the subject’s behaviour (hey, I’m not an amateur anthropologist for nothing), I concluded that this latest joke, was indeed not a joke.

“Kiss him on the lips.” I suggested playfully.

“Nope. We don’t do that,” “We”, you understand, is French People, “And Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong.” That’s the name of a good, but irritatingly titled, oft-cited, book.

“Breastfeeding.” I replied, “Breastfeeding was unfashionable until recently, because of the French argument that ‘breasts are for lovers’ and look now, everybody’s talking about and doing it.”

He was stumped (a good moment in Franco-British relations). It seems I may have proven that Sixty Million Frenchmen can, sometimes, be Wrong.

And there is, sometimes, a grain of delight in at winning the small battles. As for Chicklet’s  lips, he’ll just have to make do with millions of kisses from Mama instead.



Ramps, electric doors and parting with cash

I’ve developed rather an affinity for ramps: if a shop has one, I will enter, solely for the reason of showing that it entices the pusher of a poussette in. Similarly, if a shop has an internal elevator, I will use it, regardless of whether it takes me to the prettiest dresses, or the grottiest of men’s underwear, solely to show that customers need it.

If a shop has a high step, I will not enter it. Unless, and this has rarely proved to be the case, a shop assistant spots me outside and voluntarily opens the door. Then I’ll enter, and most likely buy something too (luckily I don’t live near Hermes…).

If a shop has a level entrance, and, wait while I calm myself, electric doors, I will be a regular.

What will f*** it up though, are internal security who follow me around. I know I look a little dishevelled these days, especially for gay paree, but I.MADE. IT. OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. WITH. CLOTHES. ON. Okay, that little mustard coloured spot on my cardigan isn’t exactly mustard, but I’m in proper adult attire and the big basket on my oversized pram does not make me a shoplifter. Truly it doesn’t. Not even a tiny bit. It does show the potential space I have for goods in your store – that I will pay for, in full, at the checkout. Like normal people.

Cos, I’m normal, right?*

*Smoothes hair back, pats pinny down and surreptitiously rubs at a little spot of “mustard”…

Not a birth story

I can’t decide if I want to put my birth story online. On one hand it is such a major part of my life, I want to put it out there. On the other, it was a deeply personal experience, I’m not sure I want to share it with you, when in all likelihood, you won’t be sharing something as personal with me! So, I’m undecided for now.

However, what I will share is that it was not, absolutely not a nightmare, it left me able to see how orgasming through childbirth could be possible (I didn’t really get it before) and I’m really, truly looking forward to being in labour again.

What was a nightmare was being 42 weeks pregnant. That was really awful – for me. The fear of an induction was haunting. The 15, yes F-I-F-T-E-E-N times a day, during weeks 40, 41 and 42 either verbally or by email, I was asked if I’d a) had the baby. I hadn’t, obviously (well, I thought it was obvious, because I had I’d have probably, somehow let people know? Just perhaps?) or b) if I was feeling any contractions. I wasn’t and even if I was, it doesn’t mean baby is about to appear any second. And then there was c). We can’t forget c) did I know when the baby was coming? Unfortunately, my comp-uterine system had had to reboot and I’d missed that particular email.

Let’s not forget the advice:

- eat pineapple (didn’t they realise the markets in Paris had sold out of pineapple? That was me. I ate it all – and can never look at another pineapple again)
- eat curry (curry isn’t what you mean, it’s chili and for what it’s worth, I was adding hot chili sauce to almost every meal)
- walk (I was very much trying, but with legs the size and weight of sequoia trunks, it was rather difficult, not to mention painful)
- raspberry leaf tea (I was doing that, thanks very much)
- evening primsrose oil capsules applied to cervix (done)
-  jumping (yup, did that when I felt able and it wasn’t too painful)
- sitting on the toilet for hours, because it ‘opens everything up’ (thanks for that well meaning piece of advice offered freely in public, and with the best of intentions, I know, but there are some reasons that that is NOT a good idea, if you know why, you know and if you don’t, lucky you!).

There were more, I’ve just forgotten them.

But let’s not forget the best bit: the congratulations! Yes, I received a message along the lines of, “Wow, TG, I haven’t heard from you and it’s ages since your due date so you must have had Chicklet by now, so CONGRATULATIONS!”. Lovely, except I hadn’t.

I think that the last two weeks passed, and I’m not joking here, in inverse warp speed. Minutes and hours have never taken so long to tick. I’d fill my days with distractions, I’d do fun things and laugh with friends in the late summer days, but time just did not seem to move.

And the most infuriating part of it all though? Every single person who got in touch to ask me or offer advice (or their congratulations!), did it with the best of intentions. Nobody wanted to make me feel bad and I knew it at the time. I was just fed up, hormonal and maybe just a little, little bit emotional!

As for the passage of time, inverse warp speed has been replaced with “Full speed ahead!” – in a blink of an eye, it’s next week. This side of birth is definitely more fun!

Being Mama Grouse

It’s funny, we talk about parents and “their children”. We hear parents say, “my son” or “my daughter”.

I thought I couldn’t get used to refering to Chicklet as “my son” because it was surreal: I have a son!

And, quite honestly it is – in the most perfect of ways.

But that’s not why the words trip uneasily off my tongue. If someone were to ask me if I thought that Chicklet came from inside me, or if he was delivered by a stork, despite the fact that I’m still recovering from the pregnancy, labour and birth, I would have to say that I find the latter more plausible.

I don’t feel he is “mine”.

I feel he is his – and I’m just the luckiest person to be given guardianship of him.

Feeding Chicklet

Baby grouse has arrived. He’s gorgeous. He’s nearly three weeks old and has already a beautiful personality. I’ve no idea what people find boring about newborns, this one at least is cute to the nth..according to his parents!

I was just reading Girls Gone Child’s 2006 post about her boobs. It’s a funny old thing, as she points out, because those who have them, generally don’t want them and those who don’t, do. Until we finish school and then more important things in life take over. Except, if you have really big boobs, like around a G cup with a 30 inch band, they never really leave you alone.

I had mine reduced in Egypt by a lovely surgeon, Dr Galil Greis. Not only was he a gentleman to deal with, he was also skillful with the knife. He cautioned me beforehand that there was a chance I would not be able to breastfeed and that if I could, there was no guarantee of the quantity. Well read-up on the surgical technique he was going to use, I understood the risks. Having had my neck in a collar a few months previously, following 10 years of funding the annual holidays of various chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, physiotherapists and getting back muscles a bodybuilder could be proud of (unfortunately not their same lean body mass..), I had had enough and me, with a phobia of hospitals, went under the knife.

Waking up was the best feeling ever. The recovery was fairly straightforward, painful, but straightforward and I have not regretted it for a second. I didn’t actually know that there were men, other than the odd few, who REALLY DID look at women in the eyes before checking out their chest. It slowly dawned on me too that perhaps not every girl grew up with boys at school groping them. I discovered that when breasts were a more ‘normal’ size, there are less comments in the street (I don’t just mean in Egypt) and that they are considered ‘yours’ rather than there for general discussion or for random men, drunk or otherwise, to cop a feel of. I also became less of a ‘threat’ for some women who, it appeared, thought my boobs were out to take their man. Seriously. None of those realisations are reasons why I had the surgery: when you are used to being treated a certain way from the time you become womanly, whatever the age, how are you supposed to really believe that it’s not socially acceptable and not ‘normal’ for all these things to happen?! So, not the reasons behind the decision, but fab outcomes!

Fast forward a few years. I’ve now had my precious Chicklet. And he needs breastfeeding. Everybody has problems with breastfeeding: sore breasts, cracked nipples, delayed milk coming in, too much milk etc. It’s not easy for anybody and that’s before healing from a major physical experience and hormones are factored in. The breast reduction adds another layer to that: how do you know if you can or are making enough milk?

My poor chick suffered a fair bit when he was born. It was touch and go if we’d be able to take him home with us when we left because he was losing too much weight and fast. One night when he’d been screaming (note, not crying) the clinic down for about 5 hours we were told that he was so hungry and dehydrated that there was serious risk of his organs shutting down unless we gave him something. That something was, my mind held out the crossbones, formula.

Lying in bed, unable to get out, watching my little boy’s body being held by a plethora of nurses, sitting up on the big padded changing table in our room and my husband beside, feeding him 10ml of formula with a syringe at about 4am was utterly, utterly heartbreaking. I could barely see through my silent tears, but I couldn’t possibly look away and leave him. His little body was too precious and too young to have artificial stuff put in, especially by an artificial method (not that I know of a natural method!). It was for The Best, I was reassured. Even The Best didn’t reassure me. My baby didn’t feel reassured afterwards either; he screamed bloody murder for hours. It turned out, he was so much in need of food, that 10ml was effectively a mise en bouche. We had ‘opened his stomach’ as my husband put it.

In the morning a few more people who knew a thing or two about feeding after breast reduction were brought in and were shocked at how quickly he’d deteriorated. Even the La Leche League lady advised to “give him as much formula as he wants, don’t stop, just keep feeding him formula until he stops”. You know when LLL say something like that, you’ve got to do it!

Eventually, after a nerve wracking wait for the paediatrician on our last day, Chicklet had finally, finally gained some weight and we could take him home! Yay!

Then the fun and games really started. Chicklet needs me to make as much milk as possible AND make sure he’s getting enough calories, so he has formula to supplement breast milk. In order to maximise production, (aside from me eating fennel, drinking breastfeeding teas, taking homeopathic remedies, eating a lot of good stuff and taking it SUPER easy) Chicklet needs to be on the breast, sucking, as much as possible. It’s also best that he’s not fed from a bottle to avoid nipple confusion. That’s where the Lact-Aid comes in. This is what it looks like in the pack:

Taken from

 Sexy, eh?

And this is what it looks like on:

Taken from

So sexy, I wonder if I’ll ever be having children with my husband again…

Now, that pipe that goes to the nipple is very, very flexible. Imagine putting a wet strand of spaghetti in your baby’s mouth – and it has to go in straight. Then imagine doing it at night with minimal lighting, severely myopic and unable to find glasses with baby just wanting to EAT, MAMA! Remember, a wet strand of spaghetti… There have been a few f-bombs in our room at night. Of course, someone has to do the nighttime run to make the Lact-Aid up in the first place and the lactation consultant cleverly/kindly showed Papa how to do that..not Mama! “Making the Lact-Aid up” involves cleaning that slippery pipe…

I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to breastfeed in public with it, especially in Paris where breastfeeding is still not socially all that acceptable, never mind with a plastic sack of milk around your neck and a pipe feeding the baby. Add in that it’s nearly impossible to do it without fully exposing the boob because of the spaghetti-pipe. Anyway, Chicklet is currently getting some natural milk alongside the not-so-natural stuff and so far is doing very well.

And that makes Mama Grouse very, very happy.

And that makes the House of Grouse a very relaxed place to be!