I left E for the first time last week. First, for about three hours while I went to my writing group meeting and then for a day while I went to London to watch Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park.
On the tram to the writing meeting I felt a lovely sense of freedom and seriously considered just taking the whole thing to a pub so I could have a pint. (I didn’t, we sat in a tea room and drank tea…) One of the first things I was asked was if I was feeling a maternal pang of guilt at going out. Clearly I wasn’t. E and I have been together constantly since she was born, except one half hour when my mother babysat for us while S and I snuck to have a quick drink. Going out without her gave me a nice sense of normality – this is what organised parents do, right?
Saturday’s outing was no different. Or so I thought. We drove to my mum’s house on Friday. Friday evening E was a right grump and cried a lot, including all over her grandma’s shoulder as she gave her a cuddle. “Do you think you ought to take her back?” she said to me as E screamed on and on. I was a bit perplexed – she’s got more experience in this sort of thing than me, after all, what can I possibly offer to a crying baby to make her stop?
“I’m sure it won’t happen tomorrow,” I explained later to mum and my sister. “She doesn’t often cry that much.”
“Ah but this is the first time that you won’t be with her,” said my sister. “It might make all the difference.” It took me a minute to work out what she meant – I’m E’s mother, I’m what she’s used to and I’m the one she gets comfort from. (Well, as well as S of course.) If I’m not there, will she be upset?
So you may think this is obvious but this was really the first time this struck me. I refer to myself as Mummy when I talk to her but don’t think of myself as any different than before. It’s all very well the magazines telling you that you are currently your baby’s entire world but it doesn’t sink in straight away. You’re too busy just trying to keep up with feeds, nappy bags and meals for yourself that this kind of thing slides right past you.
Of course, as it sunk in, I was overtaken by panic. I am responsible for this person’s wellbeing, health and happiness. At least until she starts rebelling. Who on earth thought this was a good idea? I clearly can’t manage anything of the sort.
Typically of course, she was very well behaved for my mum – sleeping while she ate and did a few chores which she never does for me – and I had no reason to worry. The gig was great fun and no-one seemed bothered by my surreptitious breast pumping on the train there and back. So good news all round. But the sense of panic is still there – so somehow all I have to do now is adjust to it.