|The Feral Five. Campbell, Ella, Grace, Lily & Scarlett. All at 19 months.|
Ella was different. I was fearful of nappy rash, so I changed her often. I didn't breast feed, but felt the guilt. Breast is best. Breast is best. It was promoted on large posters in feeding rooms at the shopping centres. It was even written on the formula tin. When she sneezed, I didn't just think she was getting a cold, she was getting a cold because I didn't breast feed. Even today, a part of me believes her allergies, asthma and eczema are because I didn't put her on the boob. But she's alive, and I'm alive. And that good, right?
Then, the Wondertwins. Yeah, we sterilised things for a bit. For a few months, we even sterilised the dummies, but once we saw them grab the other's dummy we gave up on that one. Did the cat lick that one? Just run it under the tap. Nappy down to the knees? Maybe time to change them. A comfort bottle of milk at bedtime? Will they go to sleep? Yes? Then a comfort bottle of milk it will be.
Along came Scarlett.
I tried breast feeding. I got through 9 motherfucking days! 9! I think it was the sleep deprivation that ended it. That and the pain. And the big boob thing, trying not to suffocate her in the process. The first bottle of formula introduced us all to the first full night's sleep. I don't wanna brag, but I will. Since she was about 2 weeks old, she has been a perfect sleeper for 98% of the time. But the mere mention of that will now make her wake screaming every night from now on. My trick is to give her the evil bottle of warmed milk, followed by a dummy or two (one for the mouth, one for the hand), lie next to her and let her fall asleep in my bed. It's peaceful and relaxing and calming for both of us and I like it. The books say a big HELL NO to that practice, and I'm not having much luck with the putting-her-in-her-cot-while-she's-awake biz. Not that I've tried all that often. And I know I'm just making an enormous rod for my already fucked up back, but it works for me. I move her to her cot and we both sleep like husbands until the alarm bleeps at 7:45am. I'm not complaining about that.
The books say Scarlett should be self-settling by now. Dummies should not be cleaned by the cat's tongue. Scraps of food and crumbs should not be eaten from the swept up dust pile in the corner of the room. The dog does not make a good babysitter. Older siblings should not put a leash on her and pretend she's their puppy. She should be saying a few words by now. She's 19 months. She can say 'Mumma' when prompted. And 'Dadda'. And we can hear the vowels & syllables in her attempts to say her sisters' and brother's names when prompted. But she will not initiate speech, except for shouting "Maaaahhhhh!" throughout the house as she looks for me. She can meow like a cat, quack like a duck, pant like a dog, can understand practically everything I say, has a good vocabulary of signs and an even better grasp of the grunt.
Oh, that fucking grunt.
Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh. UGH UGH UGH MAAAAAHHHHH!! Ugh ugh ugh (signs 'more') ugh ugh (points to banana) UGH UGH UGH! I model the spoken word, she signs it. Don't get me wrong - I love that she knows words in sign language! But I want her to stop that fecking ugh ugh ugh grunt before I go out of my ugh ugh ugh bloody (signs 'mind').
I'm slightly nervous and already pissed off based on the conversation I've already had in my head of what the maternal nurse will say about her language development. I do that sometimes - get angry with things that haven't yet happened and very well may not happen. At the Wondertwins' 18 month old check up, we discussed their language, or rather their lack of the 'English' language. Gracie expressed herself with a few Auslan signs and Lily could count to five in Spanish and say various other words learned from Dora The Explorer. The discussion then turned to the amount of television a toddler should watch, and that Gracie needs a 'real' language - oh no you di'int...
Confession time. The Wondertwins, at age 4, can't break the dummy habit. They are entering dangerous Suri Cruise territory. I have tried everything that the books say to do, that Elmo says to do, and even things the books says not to do, such as bribery and anger. They will - yes they WILL dammit - be leaving these wretched things for good ol' Saint Nick in a few week's time. So suck on that girls.
By the sixth kid I should be a pro. Right?
Sixth kid? Not on your nelly.