The six week milestone was this weekend and to celebrate, E has started doing stuff. By stuff I mean she’s started smiling and laughing properly, she’s started making talking noises (y’know, ooh and ahh type things) and she’s started reacting to things. For example, yesterday I sat her in a supermarket trolley with a baby seat on it and pushed it over those bumpy bits they put down to help blind people. (Incidentally, why do they only put baby seats on the most enormous trolleys? I only wanted a paper, some sunflower seeds and some raisins and was pushing a trolley the size of my house – ridiculous.) She was jolted about all over the place and her arms shot out as if to steady herself, eyes wide open and head wobbling about. It was quite funny, or would have been if she hadn’t then started to cry.
What I’m saying is that now she’s suddenly become a person. Maybe it’s just me but the hardest thing about the first few weeks is that your life constantly revolves around something that takes milk from you and gives you poo in return and that’s it. I’m not the kind of person who coos at babies as a matter of course so it wasn’t quite enough to have her there and think “Oh that’s cute,” to myself. So even though the above doesn’t seem like much of an achievement, it’s a lot easier to bond with someone who smiles when they see you.
It’s also easier now to reply to people who ask “How are you finding being a mum?” It’s a bloody stupid question at the best of times but to ask it of someone who is as shellshocked by the parenting process as I am, there’s no answer. Every time someone asked me that I looked bewildered and mumbled “I don’t really know,” which probably wasn’t what they were expecting. You’re supposed to bang on about how much you love the baby and how wonderful it all is. But in the first few weeks being a mum is more of an abstract concept. It’s defintely better now that she’s displaying more characteristics and, dare I say it, now that we have a bedtime routine. I have a bit of time to myself in the evenings and may even go out without her next week.
What I’ve also found intriguing is how many people have told me how calm and patient I am with her. Anyone who knows me will know I’m not the most calm or patient of people so this is a surprise. I certainly haven’t felt calm or patient (S will testify to the times I’ve thrust her in his arms as he’s walked in the door from work saying “Take her, I need a break”). But since more than one person has told me I am, then I’m happy to take their word for it. One of my concerns before she was born was that I would lose my temper with her and do something stupid. I take after my dad in character and he wasn’t naturally paternal. I don’t think I’m naturally maternal. So the comments about being calm and patient are reassuring; if I’m not calm with her then I become everything I’m scared of.
And I’ve got enough to be scared of – the dreams are continuing. I’ve had the same dream practically every night since we brought her home. At some point during the night, usually the small hours feed (2am or so) I wake and think “I’ve let the baby sleep in our bed, she’s suffocated!” and then start looking for her body to make sure she’s alright. I sit in bed, patting down lumps of duvet that, in the dim light, look like a tiny body, trying to find her. At the same time, my mind is trying to deal with working out when I last held her, trying to remember putting her down and wondering how the light got switched off. And all the while I can hear her snuffling in her moses basket where she’s actually lying safe and sound. Every night the same dream and every night the same reaction. There have only been three nights where I haven’t had that dream and on one of those nights I dreamt instead that she’d drowned in the bath while I turned to pick up her wash mitt.
It’s just as well she’s started smiling at me or I’d be well on the way to being driven mad by my subconscious…
(The title of this post is taken from an anonymous quote: I am not a human being, I am a human becoming.)