Being Mum: ‘The thing about being a new Mammy is, you don’t care what anyone thinks’
‘Without my newborn, strangers can only have mused that I had recently escaped from a cult or was a bachelor farmer lost in the city’
Genevieve and an asleep Louis at Dún Laoghaire pier in Dublin
When teenage me pictured my fabulous life at the peak of adulthood (or clinging on to youth by my fingertips), I didn’t count “leaving the house” as among my major achievements.
Yet, this is my singular goal and greatest triumph every day for the past month since giving birth. And no, 16-year-old me, that isn’t “leaving the house . . . for a last-minute trip to Paris”, or “leaving the house to bring down the Government with a scoop” or even “leaving the house and turning heads as I walk down the street”.
It’s leaving the house . . . for the sleep walk.
This normally happens about 10am. At this stage I have performed all the one-handed tasks I can (buttering toast being the surprisingly trickiest one). I have ignored all the things I can’t do with a baby in my arms or sling (conveniently, most housework). Louis, meanwhile, is refusing to sleep but exhausted from his through-the-night all-you-can-eat buffet. The blood-curdling crying caused by putting him down has become the soundtrack to getting ready. It has the same affect on me as music on an old silent-film character – as I move unnaturally quickly! The results as we enter the open air are instant . . . blissful sleep. Just don’t dare go into a shop or sit in for a coffee. The omnipotent one will know and will instantly wake.
Leaving the house . . . En Famille.
This may conjure up an image of a “perfect” family with little boys in short trousers. The reality is more une grande folie. With a toddler and a newborn it’s the new logistics of one parent per child.
Coats and hats on, we realise the rookie mistake of getting children ready before the adults as the toddler gets too hot and starts to peel off layers. All the while we have to keep guard while the “kind big brother” tries to comfort the now-screaming newborn (despite best intentions his interpretation of the word gentle . . . isn’t). With clock ticking before the next feed, we call in the emergency nanny, Thomas (the tank engine).
Once we’ve crossed the threshold, the activity options for our newly expanded family have altered. Lunch out? Never mind if your food is locally sourced – how many minutes does it take to arrive? Also, restaurateurs, you probably won’t make much money from us as we would never risk having two whole courses while the feeding timer ticks and we will leave a giant circle of toddler cracker crumbs on the floor behind us. Like wild animals. And that is where we found our perfect daytrip in the end – the Zoo. The fresh air sends baby to sleep, picnics are made for messes and it even has a dedicated baby feeding room.
Leaving the house . . . alone.
My big adventure was last Thursday night. It was first time out on my own in four weeks. I would have skipped down the street (if it wasn’t still too sore). And when I say “out”, I mean I walked five minutes to the wine shop (thanks to Dr Google having found enough evidence that a glass of wine is okay while breastfeeding).
My “pretending to be a normal person” bubble burst when I caught my reflection in the shop window. I suddenly felt like a crab which had moulted its shell. I was a Mammy without her excuse . . . for the baggy leggings and the oversized coat (I’m in that charming twilight zone between pregnancy and pre-pregnancy clothes), for the walking boots to contain my puffy feet, and for the stench of vomit (top tip if you want a baby to vomit, put it on your shoulder for just a second without a muslin cloth and make sure you are wearing a handwash only top).
Without my newborn, strangers can only have mused that I had recently escaped from a cult or was a bachelor farmer lost in the city. No Yummy Mummy here. The only clue was my contented new Mammy smile beaming out from behind the straw that is my Worzel Gummidge-style hair.
That’s the thing about being a new Mammy. You don’t care what anyone thinks, even 16-year-old me.
You’ve a whole evening of baby snuggles to get back to.