I'm sure those who know me will be shocked to the core by this (ha!), but I was not even a little bit organised when my first baby was born. I had a good excuse – she unexpectedly came four weeks early.
The things we had managed to buy weren't even unwrapped by the time I was in a most unflattering position having my waters broken by a rather patient (swore at him twice) obstetrician.
But I was even more unprepared for the change that occurred within me, triggered by the emotion hitting me a like a freight train the first time I set eyes on Ava. In an instant, everything I thought I knew had changed. Every silly priority was washed away. Every moral I had, I knew I would abandon if that was what it took to protect my daughter. Where Ava had snuggled in my belly, now roared a lioness – and she's there to this day.
As lovely and poetic as that all sounds, it isn't half stressful in the beginning. Your desire to take your baby out and show her to the world is met head on by your unwillingness to let the world too close. But after a few days or a week, the time will come to go Outside.
As I had neither completed a course in mechanical engineering, nor invented a Mary Poppins style buggy that erected itself when I asked it nicely to do so, Outside represented a fairly serious amount of stress.
Every time I tried to put the buggy up it was wonky and I felt sure it would collapse and kill Ava. Luckily, Dan (who was not suffering from a torrent of hormones) was less prone to crying and (uncharacteristically, actually) read the instructions to help us master pulling up the handles and pushing down the bottom, while ensuring a precise balance of force on either side. I really think buggy manufacturers should be more considerate of the frail emotional states of new mummies when they design these mechanisms.
Anyway, mechanics mastered (for that day at least), I still had a quiet, tortuous mental battle to fight: Outside! Yay, outside! Hang on. OutSIDE?! But there are CARS outside. And, you know... dogs! Big savage dogs. People riding bikes on pavements (inconsiderate swines). Murderers! Bad weather. Traffic fumes. Loud noises...
It is a shock when every normal thing becomes something to be wary of, a potential threat to your baby's safety (or comfort) – not least because it makes you feel like a lunatic. I'm pleased to report that Dan felt it too. He tutted at a particularly noisy lorry as it eased along the road and lifted the buggy in its entirety over high kerbs and cobbles. When the sun went in and the temperature dropped a little, he said: "Right, that's it! We're going home."
Ava snoozed through it all of course. It was some time before we were content that she could sleep through Armageddon and it was warmer than a womb inside that buggy baby nest.
By the time Dan went back to work, I thought I had it all figured out. All I needed to take my baby out, by myself, was to be super organised and ensure I had everything with me. Boobs? Check. Baby bag (nappies x 5, wipes, cotton wool, changing mat, Sudocrem, nappy sacks, muslin squares, spare vest, spare romper suit, spare cardigan, hat, mittens, extra blanket, rattle)? Check. All sorted! I felt pleased.
Until I walked to the front door and realised I didn't have the actual baby. Ava, who had until this point been carried to the door by her daddy, was in her coat, blissfully unaware of my near abandonment, sleeping on her mat.
Oh, the torment! What if I had actually stepped outside and closed the door (I hadn't)? What if I had also forgotten my keys (I hadn't) and then couldn't get back in?! OMG! What if, during my absence, as I simultaneously tried to call a locksmith and smash the door in with my bare hands, Ava learned to crawl (this was highly unlikely at less than a month old) and fell down the stairs?! I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE ANY STAIRGATES!!!
You see? Lunatic. I know mummies who forgot to engage the buggy brake on a tiny slope in the park (the horror on their faces!) and daddies who forgot the formula or the bottles – sleep deprived parents who felt like a failure just for that day.
It can feel hard at the beginning, going from thinking for one to thinking for two. But the buggy, the clobber, remembering the baby – you know, all those little things that make for a nice day out – it all becomes second nature soon enough. And with each successful outing, the world becomes less of a threat to your little pink person...
Until they start walking. But that's a different story.
More:Baby's First Year
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