If you live in a small-ish house, regular clear-outs are mandatory. Without them, you’ll be wading through clutter, detritus and plastic tat for months, and this goes doubly if you have a baby.
Recently, B and I attempted to wrest back some floor space in our small terraced house. We packed up tiny babygros, socks and newborn vests, barely believing that Isola had fit them in the first place. Some of them had hung from her limbs only a few months ago.
Also in the line for the charity shop or for friends were the items we thought we’d never get through. We no longer need a Moses basket, or the co-sleeper, or the newborn bath inset, or the bottle steriliser, or the musical chair that kept her mildly entertained during a frantic shower, or a feverish bout of housework. No, Madam is on the go now; she’s approaching wobbler status and is outgrowing baby stuff quicker than we can add it to the Freecycle Network.
Yet one important question arises, and one that every new parent has to face up to. Are we freecycling the lot . . . or are we hanging on to anything, just in case?
I've asked him to take a quick scoot up again, because I think I've lost an earring near Base Camp 3
It’s a loaded question, and it’s one I put to B as we fold down the co-sleeper (in my case, a little tearfully).
He looks at me like a man who has prepared in advance to climb Everest, climbed up Everest, climbed back down Everest, come off the mountain altogether. And I’ve asked him to take a quick scoot up again, because I think I’ve lost an earring near Base Camp 3.
He glares at me, laughs a little nervously. “I’m still in the middle of processing all this,” he says, waving his arms around, as if wading through old babygros and his own life.
It’s true: we have found our sea legs after eight months of parenting. There are still moments of pure overwhelm, but they come less frequently now, allowing us to catch our breath. Besides, the baby is at peak cuteness now. She is smiling, babbling, showing off her personality, interacting with strangers and being utterly charming. Crucially, she hasn’t discovered walking, tantrums or the cables at the back of the TV yet. Why wouldn’t we want more of this?
I’m in my early 40s, so we don’t really have time to hold the conversation at bay for too long. I’m obviously talking as though I have some sense of agency in the matter, which I may very well not. B is an amazing man, if one of life’s great procrastinators, and it’s very likely he would wake the morning after I turn 50 and say, ‘hey, what about that other baby?’ It’s a conversation we need to have sooner rather than later.
It’s also a conversation people blithely have with new parents. “When number two comes along” or “next time around” are used frequently, as though the idea of stopping at one child is inconceivable.
Two weeks after I gave birth, I turned to B and my GP, in all seriousness, and said I wanted a second child. Clearly, a part of my brain had been scrambled in a rush of hormones to my system (does every woman think like this?). Now, of course, I know how much work is involved in being a parent. Starting all over again seems petrifying, even if you’re supposed to know what you’re doing next time around. Besides, this one baby is more than enough to fill my heart, right into the corners.
I learned a new phrase recently, “one and done”. Some friends use it decisively and I envy their surety at having one child and feeling that their family is complete.
We've waved goodbye to most of Isola's newborn clothes, toys and gadgets
I look at friends of mine who are only children and they’re a strong exhibit in the case against having more children. They are socially astute, well adjusted, loved and they didn’t miss out on anything except scraps with a sibling. They still get to go on expensive holidays with their parents every year. As family models go, I could get used to it.
Also, I must pose the question to anyone who has given birth to two children under two, or even had Irish twins. Where did you even find the time for the old, y’know y’know? Or the energy?
In the end, we’ve waved goodbye to most of Isola’s newborn clothes, toys and gadgets. Watching the musical chair being picked up by its new owner felt like a goodbye not just to the newborn phase, but in some ways, to the very idea of having another child. But no matter. There will be exhaustion and there will be overwhelm, but there are exciting times ahead for just the three of us. And wait until she discovers all those cables.