Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mother in the hood

That first week with a newborn is rather like the start of a torrid love affair - dazed grin, chafing nipples, pillow perm - with the obvious differentation that should your object of lust require their nappy changing six times daily, it may well dampen the ardour. Walking around (or in my case, doing a John Wayne) in a bubble of love, overwhelmed by the presence of this new little dude in our lives. Beaming smugly as the compliments started to flood in, nodding vehemently at every affirmation of his cuteness and general loveliness, on top of the world like a Carpenters song.
Once the shock of his presence had started to wear off, however, I started to run the whole gamut of emotions (I used to think 'gamut' was a slutty Audrey Hepburn, but apparently not) - checking the rise and fall of his chest every time he slept, fretting over milk production, and bursting into tears at the thought of being responsible for something so perfect, with Philip Larkin's most famous words constantly ringing in my ears. Would I fuck him up, however honourable my intentions? Then back to happy happy joy joy, then oh shit how will we afford the school fees, then suddenly he's 17 and demanding expensive footwear, and then I'm weeping over a nappy spillage like stain remover was never invented. But, god - not wanting to change anything, so overwhelmingly amazing becoming a parent is. No wonder Kensal Rise was overrun with them - it really knocks spots off the office.
My hormones went into overdrive (and it didn't help that the magic shrinkage of my belly ceased around day 6, just as I started to believe in the power of the cheesecake diet). Having always been something of a weeper, I now had to avoid nature documentaries in case of encountering cruelty to baby animals (the leopard seal bit in Life, where he kills the baby penguin, was worse than the Exorcist in the horror stakes), tiptoe around emotive language (when a friend, not known for her subtlety, turned up in week 2 and started a casual convo re cot death, it unleashed a storm of upset which lasted an entire evening - this made me feel a bit stupid until another friend, also a mother, confessed she couldn't even say the 'C' word), and try and rein in my overactive imagination (empathy is both a blessing and a curse). It was a wibbly wobbly time. The first time he really cried, cross at having his nappy changed on day 3, I stared fascinatedly at his red face, little tongue protruding, all the effort he put into showing displeasure. He was a sentient being, not some offshoot of our vanity, and this the most overwhelming thing of all.