Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Everyday as I stroll down the high street or through the park with Felix in his pram I am struck by the fact that I have joined the formidable force that is the Chiswick Motherhood. Sometimes I feel I am but a tiny wave in a fathomless sea of strollers, a pawn in an army of prams.  

How do I feel about joining the buggy brigade of W4? At first I felt I had assumed an identity I was not ready for, as if I was wearing a mask. Due to the nature of my delivery I was not able to ride my bike for six weeks, and I ached for my more familiar wheels. If the bike is the hare; agile, efficient and speedy, the pram is the tortoise; cumbersome, trundling, slow. How heavy I felt the first time I stepped out with the pram. Used as I am to the nippy nature of my 'everywhere in five minutes' bike, the pram felt like a brace; holding me back. Ballast to my balloon. I longed to throw off the extra weight and sail off in a blaze of glory...

Six weeks passed and I have the all clear to ride my bike, and the first time I did I felt as if I was flying. Such speed, such efficiency, such ease of motion!!! And yet my daily pram walk is a firm fixture in the daily routine of motherhood and I have grown to love it. Gradually I have adjusted to pram pace. Nevertheless, I long for the day when I can secure Felix in his bike seat and ride off with him, the two of us united in our need for speed. Make no mistake; this is a baby who has already travelled a great distance 'in utero'. Being as I cycled each and every day of my pregnancy, until the very last afternoon, I have calculated that together we covered at least five hundred and fifty miles. Felix was the foetal eqivalent of Bradley Wiggins, and I'm sure that when the big day arrives he will feel it all strangely familiar, like a baby bird that flies the nest and finds that it knows exactly how to use its wings.

My musings regarding buggies have resulted in a strange phenomenon induced by constant close contact with a multitude of stylish strollers. I have nicknamed this 'pram envy'. I push a respectable Mamas and Papas pramette in light blue and grey, and I used to be perfectly content with it. However when faced with a confection of strollers in tempting ice cream shades - lemon sorbet, pistachio, raspberry ripple - something stirs in me. A monster with gleaming green eyes rears its head. All those shining Silvercrosses and Bugaboos with their matching livery of bags and accessories make me feel inadequate. Have I really started to envy other mothers buggies? Is this who I am ?


Less disturbingly, the other day London experienced a proper pea souper, a
truly foggy day when the mists barely thinned all day long. I loved every second. I have always adored fog; its photographic qualities, its mysterious nature, its ability to render the familiar unfamiliar. Just like its more boisterous cousin snow, fog is transformative. Ethereal. Transcendent. This being Felix's first fog I took the chance to have a really long walk. We took the river path, only to find the water utterly obfuscated by thick blue mists that swirled alluringly. A heron loomed out of nowwhere like an apparition, while ghostly boats slid along the white wafting water like the vessel in the Phantom of the Opera. All was muffled and wonderful and magical.

And then a phrase popped unbidden into my mind. Pram Face. A cruel and ugly expression from my school days, used to describe the kind of girl who leaves school early and seems immediately to be pregnant. Thereafter she produces a succession of raucous, squalling infants, each seemingly more unruly than the last. The poor girl is deemed to be a Pram Face due to the premature aging associated with having children when you are still a child yourself, and the copious cigarettes and cheap alcopops she consumes in order to bear her burden. So goes the theory anyway. It’s a mean and horrid little phrase and is terribly unfashionable and unPC – rightly so – but there it was, lodged in my mind like an annoying stone in the bottom of your shoe that refuses to budge.

So I decided on the spur of the moment to reclaim Pram Face, to resurrect her as an icon of motherhood. My name is Kat Kowalewska and I am a Pram Face. All of us pushing our buggies, whether they be box fresh and glossy or second hand and slightly down at heel, we are all Pram Faces. For every mother has her story, every mother has the right to hold her head high and say ‘I bear the burden of being a mother. I surf the dizzy heights and suffer the crushing lows of motherhood. Let us unite! For who am I to judge when is the right time to have a child, and who is the right person? Let she who is without sin cast the first stone. Pram Face and Proud'. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Writing this latest blog has been a real strugge. Nearly a fortnight has passed during which I have half composed several entries but scrapped every one. Nothing has felt right. The words have refused to flow. A touch of writers block perhaps? 

I tried listing my daily itinerary and scaffolding some observations of daily life on top. This merely came over as a pathetic 'poor me' bleat, for it is impossible to convey the fullness of a day spent in the company of your nine week old baby. It may be an impressively repetitive list of tasks but it is the spaces between the tasks that are so difficult to convey. The niggling cry that interrupts the morning nap and which effectively ensures you can't get anything done. The extensive burping session after a tricky feed that bleeds into two hours. The afternoon walk that you left too late and which ends in you running the half mile home with a bawling banshee in the pram.   

So I have decided to come clean about how I'm really feeling at the moment. Crushingly, brutally tired. The cumulative effect of never sleeping more than four hours at any time is starting to take its toll. I worry that I haven’t had proper REM sleep for weeks, and that the exhaustion is drying up my creative juices like a drought in the desert. Until now I have powered through, refusing to surrender to the despotic routine of the baby. The tiny tyrant who dictates the ebb and flow of each day and night. Whose needs are so vast and so urgent, whose moods are so unpredictable. 

What have I learnt in the past ten days that I can communicate to you, my dear reader? I have learnt that motherhood is relentless. Overwhelming. It demands 100% and nothing less; for you cannot half feed your baby. You cannot half comfort them or half dress them or half love them. It is all-consuming, impenetrable, stifling, and yet wonderful, rewarding and incomparable. It is unique and cannot be explained, cannot be taught. It can only be learnt through cold hard experience and trial and error. You earn your mothering stripes through graft alone, and though you can be supported no one else can do the job for you. You alone are the mother. You are the centre of your baby’s universe and therefore must be their sun and their moon. There is no shortcut, no substitute, no 30 day return policy. There is simply a long and sometimes cruel road, one with plenty of blind corners and hairpin bends that test the mettle of even the most diligent driver. There are potholes aplenty and never a hard shoulder to pull onto when you really need one. There are sheer drops and excruciating hills and endless irritating bumps. And yet the views are magnificent. Life-affirming. Unsurpassed. Only a mother sees the whole view, and in her heart of hearts she nurses the secret truth; that she would never exchange the journey for anything else the world can offer.