Heavily pregnant and blissfully ignorant, I sat chatting to my Mum about the practicalities, as I saw them, of having a baby. I was very clued up you see, having browsed several forums, read some pamphlets and flicked through a baby book. I blithely explained, ‘You see, Mum, nowadays babies must sleep in the same room as you at all times, so I will carry him or her around in its bouncer while I do jobs and watch TV, or in its pram while I’m out and about. That way the baby will sleep better anyway, being used to every day sounds and noises and I can just get on with what I’m doing.’ I had it all sussed.
BlogHome / Blog
Put simply, babies are experts in attacking their parents from day dot. Mums in particular seem to bear the brunt of their aggression, having their appetites, energy levels, bladders and stomach muscles used and abused before we’ve even met them. But, like vampires, we invited them in so really can’t complain. They were just doing their thing and we were generally, pretty happy to accommodate.
As newborns, the attacks may become less direct, but are still at large. Their marks can be clearly evidenced under and around the eyes of all new parents – again, Mums especially.
Today you screamed and shouted until I sat you on my knee
I only wanted to use the toilet, by myself, for 40 seconds
I think you expect me to ignore my basic bodily functions
It’s quite hard to wee with a climbing 1 year old attached, by the way
Well, as long as you’re happy, I told you
The look you gave me said, obviously.
I was terrified of the day my baby would start crawling. Our house, which, prior to having a baby seemed a perfectly reasonable place to reside, now resembled a Field of Danger and Bad Things and I couldn’t imagine any other way of keeping him safe than camping out in the garden.
I responsibly consulted my baby book, nearly fainted with shock and anxiety at just how lethal the average home appeared to be, tried to throw away our plants (poisonous, who knew?), and was eventually told by my husband to calm the hell down; so instead, I hid the bleach, bought a couple of stair gates, and crossed my fingers.
So, to speak truthfully, I’ve had moments of wishing my baby was a bit more chill, and a bit less feral. You know, the kind of baby who will lay contentedly kicking away in Mum and Baby yoga, before peacefully dosing off in time for me to do my post natal stretches and take a moment for myself. Not so much the kind of baby that leaves me to attempt said stretches stood on one foot whilst simultaneously rocking, feeding and trying to remember if I turned the hob off.
This week, Jamelia, the woman who sang a few pop songs 14 years ago, told the nation, or at least, anyone watching Loose Women, that people who choose not to breastfeed were selfish, and that it should be made compulsory. Putting aside, like she obviously did, feeding problems, the Mother’s health and social and family pressures; Jamelia’s comments are of course just silly words, by a silly ego, that thankfully have no chance of being implemented. But, they are out there now. They are in the news, on the radio station, being written about (like now for example!) and it’s another judgment, another slap in the face to people – for whatever reason, who aren’t breastfeeding. Another lecture, another nudge, to let you know, in case you didn’t already, that, according to them, you’re not getting it quite right.
You – You arrive home from hospital happy, terrified and scared to wee. You are euphoric. You have a baby! You gave birth! Look what you made! You realise you don’t know your arse from your elbow. You receive lovely cards, lovely gifts, and lovely messages. Visitors bring you sandwiches and tell you how brilliant you are. You stay up watching your baby sleep. Not because he is beautiful (although he is) but because he wakes screaming every time you put him down. You take it in turns with your partner and each begin the never-ending battle to prove that you are the most tired. Your baby books are used to tilt the crib from underneath and you spend any time not feeding stood at the extractor fan singing Twinkle, Twinkle.
I started this in the midst of a very Bad Mum Day. The kind when, despite best intentions, nothing gets done, everything goes wrong and the baby senses your stress and uses it to destroy your spirit. It seems the more I try to achieve some days, the less I manage. I woke with a long To Do list – FYI, To Do lists only make you feel like a failure; and a determination to make my son an amazing cake for his Birthday the following day. By 6 p.m. I had a questionable sponge with toxic green icing (I’d attempted baby blue), and hadn’t crossed one thing off my silly, over ambitious list. I’m not sure why writing a poem about it seemed a sensible option, but it was apparently too early for gin.
Can you believe I am almost one? Time flies, apparently. I wouldn’t know, having no concept of clichéd expressions or indeed of flying and time, but I heard you say it to the lady in the Post Office and it sounded nice.
I feel so grown up compared to 12 months ago and I’m sure you would say the same. OK, I heard you say that in the Post Office too, but I had thought it first. When I was born, I didn’t really know my front from my back and if I’m being honest, Mummy, I wasn’t all that keen on things. It was too loud, it was too bright, and I felt hungry and grouchy a lot of the time, as I’m sure you well remember.
I have found having a baby HARD. And that is not to say I don’t love it. I enjoy the time with my son far, far more than any day at work, mostly. And I feel so very lucky to be in this position. But it isn’t easy.
I have sometimes felt, especially in the early days though, that I was being a bit lightweight and lame about the whole thing. People had babies all the time right? And life went on. People went back to work WEEKS after giving birth, whilst I was still struggling to get dressed. Was I the only one who found it difficult? Was it me? Was it my baby? Mostly, our days were a whirl of feeding (him), sleeping (him), crying (both), and attempting and failing to complete basic tasks that in hindsight were probably still too ambitious (me).