Friday, 19 September 2014

Slutty cake pops

I've been made aware recently of a sector of my peers I never knew existed until a few weeks ago: couples who are trying, but failing, to have a baby.

My family are hopeless in many ways, we can none of us barely hold down a job or remember each other's birthdays, but one thing we are super at is getting up the duff. Sometimes by accident! Sometimes we don't even know we are in the family way for weeks on end! Sometimes the pregnancies are not viable, but often they are. Then we ring each other, slapping ourselves on the forehead going: "Pregnant agaaaaaiiinnnn".

There are 7 grandchildren, soon to be 8. If my mother had her way, there would be 20. When I got married, next-eldest said to me darkly "Just mind out how quickly you have a baby." I didn't listen and Kitty was born 9 months after my wedding day.

So it has never crossed my mind that some couples I know don't have children because they can't, rather than not wanting to.

The worst thing about people knowing that you're finding it difficult to have a baby must be the sympathy. No wait, not the sympathy - the pity. The Oh Poor You. Especially if you are having IVF. I don't know the full horrors of the process but I know at the very least you have to have injections all the time. And then there is this endless waiting. And the disappointment. Or what if you keep having miscarriages!?! Awful. Just awful! No wonder no-one wants to talk about it.

I'd rather, probably, if it was me, just let people assume that I simply didn't want kids. Or didn't want them right now. I'd rather people thought that I was just too glamorous, successful, independent and fulfilled emotionally and intellectually to spend 2, 3, 4? years in the nappy wilderness.

And, also, there might be lurking there that feeling of Oh Fuck It let's give up. Let's just get a fucking puppy and say yes to every bastard who asks me to be godmother. Because it's not like there aren't plenty of opportunities to see what a mind-boggling fucking shambles your life becomes, or can become, or will be at times, if you have kids. Observing your peers - rich or poor, organised or chaotic, relaxed or neurotic - disappear into the same quicksand as you calmly pick out tasteful outfits and holiday in Barbados must make the actual tangible desire for a family tricky to hold on to. Because you're not a bloody idiot, you know what babies mean.

Some people aren't broody. Like me! I can confidently say I've never felt broody. I had to ask Giles, the broodiest man in the world, the other day what it meant, what it felt like. "It's like winterlust - really, really wanting winter to come so you can wear sweaters and have fires. You forget that it's just dark and depressing and rains all the time. Or it's like really wanting any of that shite you buy on the internet that comes in the boxes that I have to jam into the recycling."

Not everyone longs and longs for a baby and just knows that it's right and it will complete you and all that cobblers. And if you're not broody at all, but hypothetically think you want a family and believe you would enjoy family life - if you then have a hard time having a baby you might think O God maybe it's a SIGN?! I would have thought that instantly. I would have thought, if it had taken a long time to get pregnant, that it was a sign saying: "Don't have kids because you are not broody so it means you'll be shit at it."

Lining up for IVF, heading down another path of possibly yet another miscarriage in order to get a baby, which may or may not complete you or may or may not just totally ruin your life and bring you to your knees physically, emotionally and financially must be confusing.

And then!! (And this is the worst bit - well, it would be for me -) when you actually do get the baby you would feel like you could never complain about it!

HA! What a fucking nightmare, to have worked so hard for this child that you then feel like you can't ever just throw your hands in the air and say FUCK THIS SHIT because you sacrificed so much for it.

Having a baby is such a choice these days. It's - do I want this kind of life, or that kind of life? There are options, having a child is not just a biological imperitive. And thanks to the wonder of private medicine, you can spend a limitless amount of cash on having a baby: where do you stop? At what point do you say - "I don't want to have a child that much"?

Even thinking about it just for the length of writing this piece - without even talking to someone in the middle of IVF - makes me feel depressed and anxious.

And who would talk to me about not being able to have a baby?? It's no wonder these people are invisible to me. I would just hiss "Count your fucking blessings. Babies are awful. Sam has been sent here on a mission from someone who hates me to fuck my life up."

Because that it what it feels like at the moment. Don't get me wrong! I find Sam cute and winning. But he is also a shrieking, dementing hell toddler. Although he's not bloody toddling! Bloody 16 months and no sign of walking, though his crawling is amazing. Dr Mike my paediatrician said "Yes, some way off walking yet," cheerfully - the bastard - but "there's nothing wrong with him". "Looks like a very happy chap!" he added, as Sam pointed at Dr Mike's stethoscope, looked at me and said "Dis?" meaning "Pass me this thing so that I can break it or hurt someone with it."

He's also having too much milk, said Dr Mike. Yes thanks, I know that Sam the ravening Avent bottle fiend is having too much milk. Two nights ago, when he was feeling particularly troublesome and arseholish Sam demanded 4 bottles in one night. I lay awake in bed for two hours racked with anxiety. What have I done? How have I allowed this to happen? What. Have. I. Done?

I haven't felt so panicked and incompetent as I have in the last few weeks since Kitty was roughly the same age. I feel like I have arrived home to find that my house has been bombed and the only tools I have with which to clear it up are a dustpan and brush.

(Note, please that I am working hard now to correct this awful state of events, though it's hard because Sam has not much else in his life except for his bottle, his "bobo" - he can't walk, can barely talk, doesn't suck his thumb, have a dummy, breastfeed, have a blankie or a rabbit. It's just his bobo, that is his only comfort.)

I have let things slide because Kitty is my evidence that problems during years 1-3 just work themselves out eventually. They all do something awful - I mean, it's all relative but there's always a problem - but by the time they're 3 even the worst habits have subsided.

And by 5 years old, I see from observing other children, they're almost always passable as human beings. That's why there is a thing in this country about the Under-5s. You're either under 5 and therefore a frightening, unpredictable lunatic, or you're over 5 and reasonably manageable.

So I have brushed off Sam's various manias as passing phases, as we are always encouraged to do - but his bottle mania needs correction. I won't go into details. I can feel your eyes glazing over as it is.

Let's turn, now, to cake pops, which I have always avoided because I don't like "trends" in food and because performance bakery takes time and patience that I just don't have.

But the other day while I was in Brent Cross (where else?) I went into Lakeland and my hands, as if with a life of their own, reached out for a pink silicon cake pop mould and purchased it with my husband's credit card.

I took it home and made, in 1 hour, some cake pops for Kitty's nursery bake sale. They were properly shoddy but the kids didn't care. They went freaking mental for them.

So here's how I did it.

Slutty cake pops
makes loads - about 20

2 eggs - weigh them (shells on)
then the same amount of
self-raising flour
caster sugar
a drop of vanilla essence if you like (I don't)

icing sugar and decorations

Preheat your oven to 180

1 Cream the butter and sugar together, then whisk in the eggs one by one and fold in the flour. You might need to add some milk to the mixture to loosen it up

2 Either grease your silicon cake pop mould with butter or spray with a baking spray (I use Lurpak, it's brilliant - get it from Waitrose!)

3 Fill your mould with cake mixture to just below half-way, then fit the top half on and press down well round all the little spheres so the mixture doesn't leak out as it rises.

4 Bake for 12 mins. Let the little cakes cool in the mould if you've got time. I didn't.

5 Make up your icing with icing sugar and water. Not too much water, only a tablespoon or so and much more icing sugar than you think - about 5 tablespoons to one of water. Don't forget to SIEVE your icing sugar, this is so so important or you'll get lumps.

5 Dip your cake pop sticks into the icing sugar and then skewer each cake pop and leave to harden. Again, I didn't do this, but it works well if you have the time to.

6 Dip the pops into the icing (you can add colour or flavour to it if you like) and then roll in decorations. If you don't have a cake pop stand a lump of old, brown mashed-up Play-Doh in the bottom of some sort of cup works very well.

There are entire blogs and websites dedicated to cake pops - mostly about how to cover them in chocolate, if that's a thing you want to do. Me? I can't be arsed with it, especially as kids don't care. They just want some crazy lollipop cake-thing covered in neon decorations. Also I have only ever, at most, got an hour to spare. You can blame Sam for that.


  1. I saw the conversation on twitter that has obviously prompted you to write this. As someone who has been TTC for 5 years and has had two years of hellish NHS IVF I think I'm qualified to comment. At no point during these 5 years have I ever begrudged anyone the right to talk/moan about their kids. How ridiculous! Just because I can't get knocked up after a night on the booze and a quick fumble it doesn't make me some holier than thou creature that must be protected from the reality that bringing up kids is hard. And if at any point I'm feeling miserable and don't want to hear about kids on my twitter feed it is very easily within my power to temporarily or permanently unfollow people who regularly talk about their kids. I would never expect anyone to modify their behaviour to save my feelings. You were completely right to say that you can't be expected to think of all the types of people who might be reading your feed and ensure you're not going to upset anyone. Sorry, but this whole thing REALLY annoyed me! P.S. love your work

    1. Thanks Anonymous! Actually I wrote this a long time ago, the Twitter conversation was a total coincidence. But I'm glad it moved you to comment. I hope it has brought you some relief, I usually find having a good old TYPE makes me feel better x

    2. Hi, I have responded to your stuff before, on account of its greatness, but this time, for obv reasons, anonymously. I had 15 IVF attempts. Total fucking nightmare. I have the two most wondrous girls on earth as a result - totally fucking heartbreakingly gorgeous. Neither walked until 18 months old. Both had a freakish resistance to being 'potty trained' (like they were EVER going to do anything on a potty). Both are, though I say so myself, bonkersly clever and funy and, now, all over all things toilet and movement, at the ages of 8 and 11. My husband left me in the thick of it all - when they were 2 and 5. I had a massive nervous breakdown which he used to take them away from me, so that he and his girlfriend could pretend that they are the parents. (The courts are frickin' terrified of even the murmur of 'mental illness' ). I barely see my girls now. it is beyond pain. And the only thing which works for me is a good old type. It is my drug. Thanks for it all as usual

    3. What an absolutely totally dreadful story. Shall I kill your ex? I have a car. I could run him over, no-one would suspect a thing. So hang on, hang on - are you trying to get pregnant again now? Or have I misunderstood

    4. fuck no, to the getting pregnant again bit and yes, (but when??) to running him over. He is a merciless cunt. Sorry to be a frickin' bore. Woudl have the meeja all over it (and him - he has a very slight 'profile') were it not for the girls now being cogniscent of such shit…

    5. I once did a lot of research for a piece exactly about mothers in your position. The mag never commissioned it in the end and I was secretly grateful because after 2 or 3 interviews, honestly, I couldn't take it.

      who is he? email me I will ruin him. subtly.

  2. What a brilliant post and one that has only made me not want children more than I didn't in the first place! I'm sure they have their benefits, just none for me. Good luck with the bobo and Sam

    Rosie x

  3. Your writing is like champagne. Oh, how it sparkles and bubbles! I love the unpredictability of not knowing what any given post will really be about – like taking a sip of fizz and discovering that someone has flavoured it with, say, star anise. At the first taste I wanted to binge on it; whenever I have some it stops me from doing anything else (I’ve got work to do, y’know). And despite the intoxication, it never gives me a headache afterwards.

    All that saves me is that I skip over most of the cookery stuff, which you may think is your raisin d’etre, but meh, see Elmore Leonard’s rules. You have another secondary demographic: foulness and the kids and “me me me”, please

    Your my noo bess mate U R.

  4. It's not just children, either...

    The same problem crops up anytime you get frustrated about a stressful job (which is, you're also aware, well-paid or on a track to being well-paid or prestigious or interesting or just basically a job period, when many are unemployed). Or a difficult academic program, or a relationship with a family member when other people's have died, or so so many things...

    On the one hand, you don't want to be knowingly hurting someone who happens to be going through something difficult. Or to forget to be grateful for the basic good fortunes inherent in your situation... So sure, there's some balance and it's good to every now and then remind oneself.

    But on the other hand I don't think it's helpful to just feel like it's not OK to talk about your own life, including its struggles, as long as there is someone in the world worse off than you! Or that frustrations and struggles that are in some way a side-effect of good fortune aren't still _frustrating_ and _stressful_ and sometimes need to be talked about.

    Short version: I have always deeply deeply despised the phrase 'first-world problem'.

  5. And curse every single childless (by choice or not) person who criticises your parenting. "Oooh, shouldn't he be doing this/stopped doing that by now?" they coo, certain that nobody else could have possibly suggested such a thing before. Smug in the knowledge that when/if they have children, they will do it THE RIGHT WAY.
    There should be a club for mothers of vexatious toddlers. We could call it the gin club. We would be happy there.

  6. My son didn't walk until just after 18 months. Nothing, not even pulling himself up on furniture. Then, one day for no reason, he stood up, took a huge heaving breath and RAN. He never toddled. He just ran. Started a whole host of new problems but it did wear him out and he did sleep better. Fingers crossed for you and Sam.

  7. My 18 month old only started walking 2 months ago. She was INSANELY grizzly up until then. It did my head in. I wondered what I'd done to deserve such an unhappy child. But she is so much happier now she's walking. We still get our fair share of hideous days, but on the whole, she is a much happier child. I hope the same happens for you with Sam. Oh and she sleeps SO much better now she's walking. Back to a solid 12 hours at night thank goodness.

  8. Oh, the bloody bottle... We missed the moment, and my daughter held on tightly to her bottle until she was 3. She would only go to bed after 2 bottles (400 ml), or at particularly bad nights - a pint of milk... At the end the last teat disintegrated and she threw the bottle in the bin herself. I swear I am throwing her brother's bottles in the bin on his first birthday! or so i say now... good luck!

  9. Great piece. So true. I've seen both sides of the fertility game - When both my daughters were conceived first time how smug did I feel! But now ten years down the line and wanting another (I know -  I must be totally insane - its a long story) I am not having a whole lot of luck. 

    And I often ask myself, when cramming another negative test in the bin, why am I putting myself through this when I, unlike most first time mothers, actually know what's going to happen if I do by some miracle succeed? 

    But right now i can only seem to focus on the fluffiness - that great feeling when you do the test and it's positive:  the congratulations and attention you get while being pregnant (altho not the pregnancy itself - I didn't like that): and then that moment when all the pain and the pushing is over (blocked that bit out too) and you relax and are handed this amazing sqaushed but cute potato- like thing and you smile at your partner and they smile back as I'd to say "aren't we clever? Isn't everything perfect now?"

     But I already know the truth: that there now follows a 3 to 5 year period of monotonous,  exhausting, relationship changing, soul sucking, hard labour where you sacrifice the very essence of self just so you can function. And yes this is interspersed with the odd day where they smile or pass some important milestone when it all seems worth it but still most of it is just HARD WORK.

    But still here I am,  trying to get pregnant again. Bizarre....

    (And in response to the post from the person not wanting kids - good for you! I've overheard so many people (usually women unfortunately) berating those who don't want kids - trying to make them feel as if that choice  in some way makes them selfish or abnormal or hard hearted. Well they aren't - they're just bloody sensible! )

    P.s my daughter got a cake pop maker for her birthday (like a breville sandwich toaster for cake pops) which was fabulous!

  10. So much of this post is resonating. I'm 28 and trying to have a baby, as are many of my friends and it's like a fucking lottery!

    We spent our entire teenage years and early twenties doing absolutely anything not to get pregnant under any circumstances AT ALL, and now can't do it for love nor money!


  11. I spent five years trying to get pregnant - and then five years saying be careful what you wish for. I had twins, and no fertility help in the end!!! Mind you, they are now 24 and it's a whole different situation.
    What I couldn't stand was people trying to avoid the subject of babies during the five years of trying.

  12. Just a suggestion on the bottle front - my sensible, lovely midwife friend who is a mother of twins gave hers bottles of water if they insisted on bottles in the night and it totally worked.. they lost interest. Good luck.

    1. Thank you very much for this. I have tried that and he went absolutely apeshit. But what I haven't tried is cutting his milk with water - increasing the water every night until the milk is too watery to be interesting. So that is certainly worth giving a go! xx

  13. Going slightly off tangent, but - the icing-sugar dipping. as well as icing dipping? why? (am both curious and lazy).

    1. I've clearly been confusing... there's only one dip into the icing and then a dip into decorations... 1 x icing 1 x icing sugar WOULD be overkill!

  14. "And then!! (And this is the worst bit - well, it would be for me -) when you actually do get the baby you would feel like you could never complain about it!

    HA! What a fucking nightmare, to have worked so hard for this child that you then feel like you can't ever just throw your hands in the air and say FUCK THIS SHIT because you sacrificed so much for it."

    THIS!! I love it.


  15. Every single word of this post is MAGIC. Except the cake pops, I hate 'em. BUT YOUR WRITING IS MAGICAL! I don't know why I'm yelling. MAAAAAGIC!

  16. Thank you for pointing out that you don't have to be broody to try for a baby...I thought I was weird and maybe shouldn't have kids because I didn't have the mad, all-consuming passion that caused some infertile friends to have screaming tantrums at their lack of success (they were successful in the end, BTW, and I totally respect their right to tantrum, I just didn't feel the same). But, as you say, I hypothetically wanted a family. I even felt guilty, as the NHS paid for my IVF, that I wasn't broody enough!

    There's a questionnaire you have to fill in for IVF that basically asks 'are you a child murderer'. I used to think they could save the NHS money by inserting the first question, 'Essentially, all things considered, would you be happy with just a puppy?' Anyone who answered yes would get a free spaniel, thus saving £5000 a pop.

    Anyway, I got pregnant first time on IVF and am enjoying the 'people fussing over you because you're pregnant' phase. Last laugh will be on me when I actually have the little bugger.