The months of late nights, hitting the bottle and mopping up sick. The pounding headache in the day. Early twenties? Or…Welcome to motherhood!
If you are missing those nights out, well life is strangely similar!
Our baby girl has just turned a year old, and predictably, it has been one whirlwind of a year! It’s funny how cliché but true it all is…basically you are schizophrenic towards your own child.
I remember when she was first born, being filled with that gooey feeling and overwhelming love. Yet also feeling shell-shocked, it was all just bizarre. Amazing, exhilarating, … but just completely bonkers. That the squirming, perfect tiny human being had just been that huge belly I’d been loafing around for nine months? Anyway.
Then of course there are the inevitable moments (without fail linked to sleepless nights) when you think “Why”, you picture friends (at those moments, all your friends, anyone connected to the golden years of your photoshopped past, are sitting on yachts somewhere in the sun, knocking back margaritas on a Tuesday afternoon) enjoying baby free lives. You feel stripped of personality, name and power; reduced to a milk producing, nappy changing machine, on sleep-deprived autopilot.
But all it takes is one gummy grin, one cheeky cackle, one squeal of delight on the swing…and those first euphoric feelings come flooding back.
Anyway, it has literally taken me 19 months and 24 days to write the above, so let me crack on before it’s all about the first two years!
I just wanted to sum up, for parents, broody buddies or most likely just my own memory bank book, the highlights of the first year. The pace will be whistle-stop and the order sporadic.
Can I get a shout out for the tiny mole stage? When they are just these little dolls. They weigh about the same as a pack of tissues. Sometimes you fear you have just picked up a bundle of clothes and forgotten that there was a teeny baby inside! And those blissful moments when she would fall asleep on one of our chests (mostly her dad’s. My milk mountains would get in the way) and lie there, mouth agape and tiny fists all curled up.
The newborn stage is truly special. Not only will you achieve superhuman levels of activity on dangerous lack of sleep, but you will also feel that primal pride at protecting a tiny and vulnerable mole. Some of my favourite moments where the (contradictory) ones. The times when I would be walking her down the Rambla de Poblenou in Barcelona where we had our little Atico flat. All babies look like dolls (I’m sure it’s that way around, not like dolls were modelled on babies or anything!) but I have to say Mary was especially doll-like. The combination of her dad’s cupid red lips, big blue eyes and skin that took more of the Irish-English ivory look than any Zimbabwean heritage made her look just like a porcelain doll. As we walked down the leafy pedestrian street she would attract a chorus of coos and gooey eyed attention. Everyone to hardened bartenders lurking behind a lamppost for a morning cigarette, to eldery abuelas stopping and leaning on their walking stick to give her cheeks a pinch and legs a squeeze. “Que jamonitas!” (what little hams – referring to her ample thighs). Inevitably the angelic Mary baby would respond with a resounding fart or burb, and we would walk on. Tiny bundles of windy joy.
She loved bobbling about in the sling. For the first few months she was pretty much attached to one of us the whole day. A happy limpet peeking out from our chest at the busy Barcelona around her. I think the sling was actually our saving grace that allowed us to bypass the Flat Head Syndrome. These days babies are put to sleep on their backs. And newborns spend so much time in this position, lying on their soft, still-forming skulls, that they often develop strangely flat backs of their heads.
The next milestone that I remember was the slow batting with curled up fists. Trying to hit one dangling toy. Missing over and over again and stoically lobbing once more, like an ageing boxer. From here she learned to roll, in one direction then the other. Then she spent what seemed like a painful age trying to sit up, doing desperate sit ups or yogic sun salutations.
During this time we watched the entire …. Of Modern Family, series 1 to x. Was I a Gloria type mum? I wondered. Smothering with love, a lioness protecting her cub. Or more like Mitch? Insecure and neurotic. I suppose we are chameleon parents throughout the day. Stern over the highchair. Soft and tender for bedtime stories. A watchful Meertkat Mom in the playground.
The first tooth! Or did solid food come before? I can’t even remember. The first year flies by in such a blink of a sleep-deprived eyelid. The theatrics of those early meals were very entertaining. Grimaces and pursed lips at bitter fruits, round-eyed surprise at a new flavour.
Everything goes in the mouth. Everything. (Apart from the jars of laboriously cooked baby food which are stolidly rejected). Keys, phones, makeup, old toys, the corner of a shoe – much more appealing.
The same goes for toys. The shiny, expensive and lovingly bought or gifted toys. Wooden giraffes. Special squeaky books that double up as educational images and a teething ring. I think Mary was not alone in displaying zero interest. By far the favourite toys of the first year were keys (the older and more bacteria ridden the better), shiny spoons (although her little paws were always reaching hopefully for shiny forks and knives) and of course the tiny shiny black rectangles her parents were so obsessed with.
For such an all-consuming “unforgettable” year, the memories are already hazy! I also recall lots of standing. Always wanting to bounce on chubby pins, on our lap, or in her doorway swing. The transition to crawling began as a “wounded soldier” dragging her body with one dead leg around the room. Then the table surfing began, and she would patiently make her way all around (“all” around our vast 20m squared flat!) the coffee table, sofa and any ledges she could reach.
Top activities of this time were anything involving suspense. Peek-a-boo, or anything with a suddenly disappearing and reappearing toy were met with squeals of delight. Sitting in the middle of the bed while I was making it and seeing her whole world change to the bright orange of the bedspread when it came sailing down. The “Grand National” where she would race (to inevitable glory each time) on our knees. A tiny narcissist always instantly absorbed by photos of herself or her reflection. Perhaps she thought of it as her little friend who lived in the bathroom mirror or lift door?
Habits we found less endearing were an obsession with eating the soil from our resident plant, and practicing her DJ skills by twirling the volume knob on the speakers.
The other day I blinked for too long and she became a toddler. A tiny person toddling about with great purpose in no particular direction. I was dreading this stage. I feel no waves of love or endearment toward the other toddlers I have met in my life, in playgrounds, baby cafes and narrow supermarket aisles. They seemed obstinate, overly-entitled and utterly exhausting. Mary does sometimes tick these boxes, but she is just so entertaining, enchanting and ever-enthusiastic all is always forgiven! Toddlers may keep you on your toes in both senses, but they are like human cocker spaniels. Full of wide-eyed surprise and delight at things like a bubble or a balloon. The tiny hands meeting in applause of approval for snacks as naughty as a plain rice cake. That infectious and delicious laughter. I love her to the moon and back, looking forward to the next year!
P.S. As always, dear imaginary reader of my blog, if you enjoyed this post please share/like/retweet all those magic social media beans that could somehow one day buy a glass of cava in Barcelona! Much love xxx