I was lied to. In fairness, I must have looked like a woman trapped in a blizzard of my own making, so a little lie was probably necessary.
“The first few months are the hardest,” people told me. “It definitely gets a lot easier after the first six months.”
I spent much of those first few months of motherhood looking ahead to a time when things would indeed feel less hectic. There will come a point, I was assured, when the baby will be able to feed herself. She won’t need winding. She will sleep longer. We won’t need to sterilise everything she comes into contact with.
All of these things are true of course, but what people tended to leave out is that you swap out one type of “hard” for another. New parents expend so much energy making sure every surface is germ-free and that the sleep conditions are safe. They wear themselves out ensuring that the risks of infection, choking hazards, overheating or discomfort are kept to a minimum. Look on any parenting messageboard: we fret about the tog value of sleep sacks, the potential hazards in preparing bottles, and the meaning of small rashes.
Little do we know that we’ll be googling “is baby poo poisonous to a baby?” within the year.
Now that Isola is nearly one year old, many of the anxieties that were there for her few months have ebbed away.
Which is ironic, because now that she is up and crawling, she’s more of a risk to herself than ever.
I was on the second last step of the return leg when I heard the thud
I didn’t think parenthood could get more exhausting. And then, once Isola learned to discover a world beyond her cot, it just did. Now, I am in constant reactive mode. Putting out fires with “don’t do that”, a dozen times a day.
A couple of weeks ago, we had our first significant fall off the bed. We were getting ready for bedtime, and all of the soothers were at large. I’d have to go downstairs and find one there.
A quick run up and down the stairs would take no more than 10 seconds, right?
I bunched the duvet around the baby. “Don’t move, okay?” I intoned, which in retrospect is a bit like telling a dog not to run after a stick.
The whole trip took no longer than 15 seconds. I was on the second last step of the return leg when I heard the thud. A few seconds of nothing, and then came the wail. If you’ve never heard the sound of a baby expending every breath in their body so that they can take a good run at a proper, hysterical cry, you’re a lucky person.
I checked her over – nothing broken, nothing bruised, nothing bloody – and after a few minutes, the crying ebbed away and she was back to herself. The only problem now was that the episode had worn her out so much that she feel asleep more quickly than usual. This kickstarted a whole other crisis – was she sleepy or concussed or losing consciousness? I spent the night googling baby injuries, and as you might guess I was not the better for it.
One friend admitted that her baby accidentally fell out of a first-floor window. "I win," she noted
Luckily, some friends on social media assured me that this was par for the parenting course. It could happen to a bishop, they said (or at least, any bishop with a kid).
One friend admitted that her baby accidentally fell out of a first-floor window. “I win,” she noted.
Slightly wizened by the experience, we are now knee-deep in Operation Babyproof. Paintings arranged on the floor are going into storage, shelves are getting secured to the wall, bottles of detergent are being transferred out of reach. Pals have told me that their myriad babyproofing efforts are often no match for a baby keen on discovery. Cupboards of pots and pans have been emptied. Fireplaces have been investigated, resulting in soot and ash all over the walls. Boxes of Ready Brek have become toys, meaning that the kitchen is dusted with a light coating of breakfast.
Welcome to your new and chaotic life, they seem to say with a slightly resigned smile.