By REBECCA SPARROW
How quickly we forget.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Hurrah! Hurrah for the safe arrival of her bald-as-an-egg, chubby-cheeked, smoochalicious son. Hurrah that my friend too is doing well. And hurrah that I have an excuse to go shopping for ALL THE BABY THINGS.
Online shopping for babies is a rabbit-hole down which I happily scamper at 10 o’clock at night.
Squishy fabric rattles shaped like pirates. Exquisite impossibly tiny jumpsuits with ponies and ducklings and rabbits. Maybe I’d buy some beautiful muslin wraps? That first snugly teddy? A copy of Where The Wild Things Are?
Or I could get something for ‘mum’.
Thick luscious hand cream. A French Pear candle. A pretty tin of Camomile tea. A teacup.
I had one hundred ideas all jumbled in my head. All of them waiting to be wrapped in a big blue satin bow and delivered to my friend.
And then the universe decided to point out that I was an idiot; that I needed a refresher course in new motherhood.
Just days later I was taking my son for his 12-month vaccinations at our local baby clinic. I got there early so that I could beat the queues and still make it to school pick-up on time for my 5 year old.
What this meant is that I was alone in the waiting area – well, alone and balancing a squirming pudding of a baby on my lap – when she walked in.
And I recognised her instantly.
She was a new mum; a first time mum holding a tiny six-week old, fractious bundle in her arms.
How did I know she was a first-time mum?
You just know.
She had that shattered, frayed look in her eyes. A look that said she didn’t know if she could do this; if she could get through another night. Another night of walking laps of the lounge room trying to soothe an inconsolable baby. Another night of waking every hour to a baby who just wouldn’t stop crying.
And so I bounced my own baby on my lap and watched out of the corner of my eye as this new mum tried to placate her cantankerous newborn and collect her thoughts and rub her eyes and rifle through her handbag for that baby health book and her Medicare cards and a pen that actually works.
When she looked up, I gave her the smile of a colleague. A sister in arms. One of those, “I hear you sister. How hard is it to hold a baby and fill in a form while sitting at a small plastic table?” looks.
She offered tears in return.
You know what? It took me aback for a moment. In public, we all spend so much time wearing masks. Pretending everything is okay. We so rarely drop the facade with strangers.
But there she was, a new mother, crumbling in the waiting room of a clinic. Boy, did it take me back.
‘Are you okay?” I said.
She looked embarrassed. (“Oh God – do not be embarrassed!” I wanted to cry) and then she said a line that I said myself a thousand times in those early weeks and months: