Hit Me Baby One More Rhyme

Maternity leave. One day you’re a fully-functioning member of society, heading up meetings at work and studying Stylist magazine for your next fashion splurge; the next you’re watching Homes Under The Hammer in crumpled pyjamas with two-day-old baby sick in your hair. It’s frightening how quickly the descent can happen.

Fortunately, there’s no end to the amount of baby-orientated pursuits your days can be filled with: baby bonding, baby sensory, baby rap, baby massage, baby yoga, baby bungee.

Okay, so I made the last one up. But it’s got ‘baby’ in front of it so mums would probably pay good money to come anyway.

And if the tag line said something along the lines of: ‘Baby bungee has been proven to strengthen your little one’s core muscles; the increased blood flow to their head created by dangling upside down encourages accelerated brain development, while providing a unique mother and baby bonding experience…’, well, they’d be queuing out the door.


But first up, how about something just for the moms…

Baby cinema

My first thought on hearing about ‘baby cinema’ was that it sounded horrendous. Why would I want to watch a film with hordes of rugrats crying in the background?

So it was with some trepidation that I headed down to Everyman cinema on Tuesday morning.

However, it wasn’t half as hellish as I’d thought. Everyman, in case you haven’t been, is a great cinema – all fancy furnishings and sink-into sofas (perfect for clandestine nappy changes). Coffee and cake is brought to your seat (Yep, more cake. I take issue with the fact that people feel the need to constantly feed women on maternity leave cake. It’s incredibly patronising, as if they’ve thought, ‘hmm, what can we give these frumpy mums? Yes, let’s feed them cake – that’ll keep ’em happy’. But still, I’m not one to pass up a slice of lemon drizzle…).

The only slightly unnerving part of baby cinema is the amount of interest the baby takes in the film. My own little pudding is absolutely transfixed and sometimes I feel like I should be shielding her eyes from certain Cert. 18. scenes. Forget Peppa Pig… She’s far more interested in seeing Leonardo DiCaprio get mauled by a bear in The Revenant and Tilda Swinton’s legs akimbo in The Bigger Splash.


It’s the stuff of nightmares. But boy does she love it.

Then I figured that as our daughter had spent her early days being raised on back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones, what’s a bit more gratuitous sex and violence during her formative months.

Baby sensory

I’ve yet to be convinced by baby sensory. Like all of these structured classes, the baby has to be actually in the mood for said sensory experience. This is tricky. If you sign up for a regular class like this, there’s a high chance the baby will be otherwise engaged in one of their main activities, namely feeding, sleeping or pooing. In the early days, the window of opportunity for any level of entertainment is preposterously small.

Baby sensory starts with a cheesy ‘Say Hello to the Sun’ song. It’s the kind of event that if – as a non-parent – you happened to stumble across it you’d probably run for the hills. I feel like fleeing the minute we sing, ‘I love the flowers because they gladden me’. Then I remember I’m actually here of my own free will. And not only that, I actually parted with money. I must have lost my mind. I probably HAVE lost my mind.

But there’s no time to dwell on that now. The pace is fast; the activities relentless. One minute you’re attempting to keep up with ‘Tommy Thumb, Tommy Thumb, where are you…’, the next you could be crinkling foil, blowing bubbles and learning the sign language for ‘milk’ – all at the same time.

Despite the baby lying on a mat right in front of you (part of the bonding experience), the reality is they’re always far more interested in the person next to you. Otherwise, they spend most of the session gazing gormlessly out of the window or strangely fascinated by the ceiling lights. Basically, doing anything that does not involve participating in whatever activity your £6.50 has paid for.

Still, I shouldn’t complain. Since our six-week sensory course, the baby has really excelled at chewing on her own foot.


Baby rhymetime

Not set foot in your local library in the last decade? Nope, I hadn’t either. Now I’m in there several times a week. I’m pleased to report the slightly musty smell remains, the librarians are still largely sporting beards and Birkenstocks, and there’s the usual strange, greasy-haired people surfing the Internet for hours at a time.

The reason for my frequent visits is the library’s free ‘rhymetime’ sessions. Yes, note the ‘free’. You’ll be pleased to know your taxes are providing half an hour of light relief for frazzled mums across the country.

Rhymetime is like baby sensory but without the surcharge and none of the fanfare. Actually, what am I saying… it’s not like baby sensory at all. But the free part means scores of parents descend on the library every Thursday morning.

You’d think with this level of interest, the library would pull out all the stops – perhaps getting their best and most entertaining employee to lead the sing-along.

I’m afraid this isn’t the case. What we do get is a rather weary librarian, clutching a sad-looking teddy bear. She leads a few mono-tonal renditions of ‘Alice the Camel’ and ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ and then she looks in desperation at the assembled throng of mums and babies and feebly asks for requests. Someone usually pipes up with ‘Wind The Bobbin Up’ and then off we go again.

Now don’t get me wrong: I like a hearty rendition of The Wheels On The Bus at the best of times. And I’m not suggesting for one minute that the librarians are in any way trained in children’s entertainment but the half an hour rhyme time can often be a little, well, unimaginative.

That is until the Gruffalo came to town.

The Gruffalo made a guest appearance at the library three weeks ago and he was absolutely brilliant. He’s a theatrical 40-something year old with boundless energy and bags of songs up his sleeve. I have no idea where the city council found him.

He charged around the room booming out, ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Chocolate Bar’, occasionally tooting on his orange trumpet, and releasing bubbles from his special bubble machine.

Next up, he donned bunny ears and bounced on one leg for a round of, ‘Hop Little Bunny, hop hop hop…’

And at the end of all this giddy fun, he announced he would be coming back again next week. Hurray!

Who needs baby sensory when the Gruffalo’s in town?!

The following week he had a lot to live up to but he didn’t disappoint. Week 2 saw him lose his Gruffalo disguise and pad around in giant panda slippers, singing, ‘I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor’. Out of his special prop bag appeared a furry pink and yellow puppet called Rhubarb And Custard, which occasionally pecked people, à la Emu.

This was supposed to be his last week covering for his weary predecessor but then he announced he was coming back again for a third time… (goodness knows what’s happened to the original librarian – maybe the boa constrictor ate her!).

By week 3, news of the best library rhymetime in the country had begun to spread across Leeds.

The library was full to the rafters as the artist formerly known as the Gruffalo bounded around in a tiger onesie, complete with oversized spectacles.


We sang ‘Wind The Bobbin Up’ really, really fast and then again but this time really s-l-o-w-l-y. He pranced around in a floppy hat for ‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’, led an uplifting rendition of ‘The Woman Who Swallowed A Fly’. before he announced he’s going to be back for one final hurrah next week (the final week again? Talk about dangling the carrot!).

Talking of carrots, he’s actually coming dressed as a carrot for the next session. No, really. It’s going to be the highlight of my week.

Now pass me some cake.

Baby Love

So the blog’s had to take a bit of a backseat for a while. Images of sipping a latte in Caffe Nero – baby in one hand, laptop in the other – haven’t quite materialised.

Turns out, having a baby is a quite a time-consuming business after all. Who knew?!

But here I am three months into parenthood: somewhat haggard, a tad greyer but willing to bore the socks off anyone who asks about our awesome little girl.


Of course I still want to blog about nuisance neighbours, my peculiar parents and the local coffee shop crazies

But given that my life for the last 15 weeks has been dominated by our new addition, here’s my lowdown on the highs and low of parenthood…

1. It’s A Game Of Survival

There’s many different types of mums out there: attachment parents, Gina Ford militants, and breast-feeding evangelists – to name a few. Here’s my advice: avoid advice at all costs and just do what you need to survive.

Take the dummy for example. Before I had a baby, I’d never really given the pros and cons of using a dummy any consideration. Yes, ideally I would rather my daughter didn’t toddle around with a piece of plastic hanging out of her mouth (look what a hoo-ha it caused with Harper Beckham). Dummies, apparently, can cause problems with teeth and speech. And let’s be honest, no one wants a child with Ken Dodd gnashers and a Chris Eubank lisp.

But parenthood isn’t an ideal world. It’s a world of survival, where future dental plans count for nothing and all that matters is getting through the next hour.

When you bring the baby home from the hospital, they sleep a lot. You have 24 hours of feeling quite smug. They feed a bit and then sleep for several hours. Heck, you might even manage to settle down to an episode of Homeland while silently patting yourself on the back and commending yourself for producing an ‘easy’ baby.

But soon, I’m afraid, the beast will awaken. And in our case on the fourth night, our beast decided to reign merry hell. It was 1am in the morning. She was fully fed, changed and it had been several hours since her last sleep. Her screams had reached fever pitch, while we sat rocking hysterically in the corner. What could she possible want?

‘I’ll tell you what she wants’, said the husband. ‘She wants to suck.’

I stuck my finger in the crib to test out his theory and she nearly sucked it off. The suck was so strong that I was terrified she was going to suck my nail polish off (not least because I had no idea when I’d be able to get my nails done again). There was only one thing for it: time to reach for the ‘dodi’. The transformation from screaming to sleeping was instantaneous.

From that night on, we vowed only to use the dummy in emergencies, when all other methods of placation have been exhausted.

Let’s just say, we’ve had quite a few emergencies…


2. Your Home Is Overrun With Stuff

If you’ve got a minimalist apartment and happen to be a tidy freak like me, from Day 1 you will begin an all-out war with stuff. There’s no getting away from it: babies need stuff. Great bulky, cumbersome amounts of it. You try and conceal it behind the sofa, cram it under the bed, shoehorn it into every available cupboard.

My previously show home-tidy lounge is currently strewn with: a vibrating chair (soothing essential), an activity mat (eyed with suspicion), a Moses basket (daytime napping necessity), and a spare changing mat (for emergency poo-namis – see below for details).

And the kitchen is another sorry story: a Tommee Tippee prep machine (the dream machine for any bottle feeders out there) has replaced the stylish Kitchen Aid mixer (because let’s face it, rustling up a batch of cupcakes is the last thing on your mind) and a sterilising unit is currently clogging up my microwave.

You can just about cope with the necessary stuff but it’s the unknown stuff that makes it even more stressful. When you arrive home with the baby, an avalanche of gifts descend. And not just from friends and family… Everyone buys you presents – from long lost Aunties to your mum’s next door neighbour’s cousin. People are incredibly generous and it’s a little overwhelming.

Right now, I’ve got 27 stuffed toys in various shapes and sizes taunting me from a box wedged under my bed. We’re not quite sure what to do with them.


3. Your Brain Turns To Babied Mush.

Harbouring an ambition to one day plough through War and Peace? Forget it. These days even half an hour of EastEnders is too taxing on the brain. The husband and I settled down to watch Inherent Vice the other night. The film didn’t start well as I kept anxiously listening out to check the beast was asleep. (Sometimes you’re convinced you can hear them crying, yet it’s just a figment of your imagination).

However, my eyes kept flicking to the piles of laundry languishing in the corner and the myriad bottles waiting to be washed. On the screen, Joaquin Phoenix was mumbling inaudibly. After about 10 minutes, I glanced at the husband, lolling on the sofa in his favourite David Gandy pants (see previous blog here). Was he asleep?

‘I have absolutely no idea what is going on.’ I said, poking him. ‘I can’t tell a word old Wack-in’s saying.’

‘This is too taxing for our sleep-addled brains,’ said the heavy-lidded husband.

‘Shall we just watch The Undateables instead?’

4. Your Social Life Takes A Nose Dive 

Before I had a baby, I thought I might become one of those cool parents, who would continue drinking cocktails with the baby attached to my hip. You soon realise this is completely impractical; bars and babies are not a good combination.

Instead, you find yourself cracking open a bottle of wine with frightening regularity. Friday nights involve inviting a friend round and drinking wine in the dark while shushing the baby to sleep.

And if the baby’s catching zzs by 7pm and you’ve somehow found half an hour to read Grazia magazine in the bath, well that’s as good as it gets.

5. You Will Check The Baby Is Breathing

You seem to spend half your time trying to get the baby to sleep, deploying a variety of methods: Ewan the white noise sheep, the YouTube hoover sound, the Tomy Light Show… When they are finally asleep, they usually make cute little grunts and snorty piggy sounds.

But just occasionally, they sleep so silently that you actually wonder, ‘are they still breathing?’ Your rational brain knows they must be but still, you find yourself crawling on your hands and knees into the darkened nursery and listening intently at the cot for signs of life.

And if they miraculously sleep through (‘sleeping through’ is the ultimate aim in early days’ parenting – it’s all new mums talk about), then you wake at around 5am panic-stricken as to why they are still asleep and ruing the fact that you’re now awake when you could be catching up on some much-needed slumber.

6. You Will Use An Inordinate Amount Of Nappies

There’s a malodorous whiff in the air. It can only mean one thing: the baby needs changing. Down on the mat she goes and off come the nappy. Bingo. There’s a poo – scrambled egg in both colour and consistency. There’s something strangely reassuring about the sight of a newborn’s poo – it signifies a ‘healthy baby’. Better still, daytime poos means there’s less chance of a nighttime poo-nami (nightmare incident where a tsunami of runny poo travels up their back, requiring a full clothing change, one hell of a mess and an inevitable torrent of 2am tears).

As you’re wiping up this eggy mess and strategically placing a new nappy in position, there’s always an outside chance she will choose that precise moment to do a wee. Best case, the new nappy will have contained this unexpected gush; worst case, it will travel in rivulets all up her back, soaking both her babygro and vest, requiring yet another full outfit.

Change complete, you’re just lowering the baby into the pram ready to depart, when there’s a loud parp… followed by familiar odour. Drat! Repeat all of the above.

If you’re lucky, you may be rewarded with a wry smile.


And suddenly, all is forgiven…

7. I Never Knew How Much Fun It Would Be.

And here comes the cheesy bit… You brace yourself for the sleepless nights, the numerous nappy changes and the fact you can never really leave the house post-7pm. But you never realise just what a little personality they would have from so early on.

From Day 1, the baby regarded us with the utmost suspicion. She would suck away hungrily, while all the time peering suspiciously at us with one half-opened eye. It was as if to say, ‘Who are you? And what do you know about parenting?’

She treats bathtimes with bewilderment, observes her surroundings in wide-eyed wonderment and seems to wear an expression of perpetual shock.


Our inquisitive little meerkat has developed a dislike of hats and reserves a special cry (the hat cry!) if you attempt to wrestle one onto her bonce. And if it falls over her eyes, well, all hell breaks loose.

She chortles at funny faces, frowns at silly toys and studies books with serious intrigue.


And when you lean over the cot in the morning, she beams back at you like you’re the most important person in the world.

The husband and I now spend our evenings talking solely about the baby. We coo over pictures of her and gush about her latest achievements.

When we got out for dinner, we actually have to wrack our brains to remember what we talked about pre-baby.

We’ve basically become THOSE parents: fully signed-up, unapologetic baby bores.

Oh help…

Don’t Call Me Baby

Okay, so you’ve grappled with the eye-wateringly expensive pram, practised manoeuvring the cumbersome car seat into the car, washed and ironed all the brand new baby clothes (for reasons you still can’t quite fathom). And now there’s just one job left…. 

What are you going to name the baby?


If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about baby names over the years, it is this: Don’t, whatever you do, tell anyone the name you are planning on calling your baby. Names are hugely personal and everyone has an opinion. This includes close family members, well-meaning friends – and even the woman who serves you coffee at Starbucks. 

Even if your mother-in-law attempts to keep her opinion to herself, a raised eyebrow is all it takes. So keep mum until the baby is born.

If you and your partner like the name, that’s all that matters.

Golden rule number two: you are not just naming a baby; you are naming a child, a teenager, an adult and a grandparent. Ask yourself, ‘does the name pass the board room test?’.

Take Don, for example. Don was our frontrunner for a boy for quite some time. Don Doherty…. I love it. It’s got all the sophistication of Mad Men’s most debonair character Don Draper (favourite-ever TV series). 

The reality is that no baby should really be called Don, hence our reluctant vetoing of it. But Don does pass the board room test. 

‘Let me introduce you to… Don Doherty, CEO of the company.’

‘And the head boy for this school year is… Don Doherty.’

‘Captaining the Yorkshire Cricket team this year is… Don Doherty.’

Competitive mum? Moi? Anyway, you get the idea.

And I still haven’t fully ruled out D’artagnan (quelle horreur!)… I’m a sucker for an alliterative name.

Don aside, here’s my list of favourite names for boys:

Bertie – Bertie has been my go-to boy name for years. I love Bertie. I even love Bert. If only the husband could be convinced. Still, I honestly believe that if we have a son, I’ll probably call him Bertie regardless of his actual name. Sorry, hubster. Similar favourites: Boris, Pip, Buzz, Claude.

Roscoe – This is a cool name. If the husband was a bearded musician and I was a fashion-forward PR girl, we’d probably go for something hipster like Roscoe. Is it a bit try-hard? Probably. Is it the name of a dog? Possibly. I still quite like Roscoe though. It’s edgy and a bit quirky. Similar favourites: Rafe, Remy, Raffy, Quinn, Jude.

Stanley – Part of a band of vintage ‘Grandad’ names that have recently come back in vogue. Stanley’s a great name but I’m not so sure about the shortened ‘Stan’. Still, who didn’t love Stanley Lambchops, star of the Flat Stanley books, when they were growing up? One word of caution: the popularity of Stanley is on the rise. Old Lambchops was number 80 in the charts last year. Similar favourites: Alfred, Arthur, Archie, Wilfred.

Frank – You can’t mess with a Frank. Strong and enduring, and with a definite whiff of war hero about it. There was once a boy in my class called Frank. He was a handsome little chap, captain of the football team and his popularity knew know bounds. Enough said. Similar favourites: Max, Fred, Tom, Ned.

Fabien – An exotic take on a boy’s name – very French, perhaps, dare I say, slightly effeminate. But who wouldn’t want a son with Parisian chic? Similar favourites: Yves, Etienne, Emery, Emile, Leon.

And for the girls:

Beatrice – Classy, beautiful and with a touch of royalty to it, Beatrice has swiftly become a firm favourite. It’s perhaps becoming a little too popular with the Waitrose mums. But I still love it. I had a Great Auntie Beattie, who lived til 94, and she was quite the character. The good thing about Beatrice is that all of its derivatives – Bea, Beattie, Bee – work well. Similar favourites: Charlotte, Mary (touted here as the ‘ultimate’ name), Emily, Isabel, Evelyn, Harriet.

Anna – I’m strangely drawn to the name Anna, (not least because it’s the name of one of my most fabulous friends). I don’t absolutely love the name but I feel it garners a certain level of respect. You know where you stand with Anna; it can’t be shortened or messed with. Like your Helens, Rachels, Lisas and Emmas, there’s plenty of Annas around now but there won’t be by 2050. At this point, I believe Anna will take on a vintage – almost ethereal – elegance.

Wren – My friend called her daughter Wren. I’ve got to hand it to her. It’s a genius name: unusual yet classic, strong, not too girly and can’t be shortened. It’s everything Anna is… and more. I love it. Similar favourites: Augusta, Brooke, Jasmine.

Georgie – Firstly, banish all thoughts of Georgie Porgie. Georgie is a fun name for a girl. It’s playful in a tomboy-ish, Enid Blyton kind of way but hopefully unusual enough for her to be the only Georgie in her class. In my mind, it’s a good alternative for the ubiquitous but eternally-elegant Grace or Gracie. Similar favourites – Edie, Audrey, Evie, Maisie, Janie. 

Marais – I’m not sure this is strictly a name but the husband and I came up with this while we were trotting around this cool little area of Paris. I like Marais. It has a cosmopolitan, slightly-exotic feel. I’m almost certain there won’t be another Marais at the toddler group. Perhaps for good reason? Similar favourites: Mariella, Mallory, Lucia, Vivetta.

Still not convinced? There’s a whole band of names reportedly teetering on the brink of extinction… so if it’s uniqueness you’re after, why not snap up one of these gems?

For the girls: Maud, Marjorie, Gertrude, Gladys, Hilda, Edna…

Or for the boys: Norman, Horis, Humphrey, Willie, Elmo, Cecil, Rowland…

At least you will be safe in the knowledge that little Willie will be the only Willie in the village.

Speaking of which, I think Humphrey Doherty has quite a ring to it, don’t you?