When my son was born 18 years ago, it was compulsory for every single well-wisher to say: ‘Enjoy every moment! It goes so fast!’ I hated them.
At the start, it wasn’t that easy to enjoy any moments and their words were a constant reminder of that.
Fit, healthy me had assumed I’d be terrific at giving birth. I was an efficient and capable young woman. I was good at lots of things, goddammit. But no. Pushing out babies was not one of them. The birth was a sh*t show and my distressed little guy was born by emergency caesarean while I was knocked out under a general.
Thus emerged the persistent inner voice that has accompanied me through much of motherhood: ‘Um excuse me, but really? This can’t be right.’
Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.
On my second day in hospital I whined to the midwife that my tea had gone cold while I was trying to breastfeed. “Welcome to the world,” she said wearily. She had zero f***s to give about my cold tea and fair enough too. I mean I guess sustaining the baby’s life should be a new mother’s first priority. Still though.
During prenatal class a few weeks and a whole other life earlier, we had done a ‘newborn calendar’ exercise. It was about coming to terms with how much your daily routine changes with a baby. Every fourth hour was blocked out for feeding the baby and you had to work out how you were going to fit in your other activities. Like feeding yourself. And sleeping. I was appalled.
After taking the baby home, I thought back on that oversized cardboard planner longingly. If only I had three out of four hours without my vampire baby attached to me. Was it possible I was feeding him for five hours out of every four? Usually while hissing at my husband not to blink too loudly in case he startled the baby.
Um, excuse me, can this be right? How was I meant to be enjoying every moment exactly?
For a dance that’s been happening since time immemorial, the first baby-new mum routine sure can be an awkward, inelegant fumble. At least it was for this pair of anxious and fretful novices.
But we found our groove in time. The moments of bliss I’d worried weren’t for me crept up. Leisurely breastfeeding while I watched Dr Phil, hearing him wake from his nap excited to see him again, deciphering the secret language of his first words, stacking little plastic pegs over and over and over in wonder at his growing dexterity. And slowly, slowly, feeling on top of things more often than not.
As I fussed about the right time to give him a sibling a wise friend said “why don’t you just wait until you want another baby?” and lo and behold, the time came when I actually, really did.