Following my post about what a tough first year I had with Duckling, I have been feeling a bit bad that I made motherhood sound like such an unmitigated crap fest. Though I have absolutely no regrets about having him, it doesn't come naturally to adulate my little boy or extol the virtues of parenthood, in part because it really has been hard, but also because I’m a typical understated Brit and don’t really like to be effusive about anything. Plus having had two miscarriages myself and a friend who recently lost her baby at 39 weeks, I am wary of being too shiny happy and in your face about how wonderful it is to be a Mum. Although I suppose whinging about it is just as crass. Anyway, I felt it might be nice to offer a counterpoint to my previous post by discussing some of the nicer stuff about having Duckling around - particularly the bits I wasn't really aware would be so much fun.
Starting at the beginning, the first really lovely thing I remember from the blur of early days bewilderment was sitting in our rocking chair with an uncharacteristically calm Duckling on my lap, his little hands and feet lost in an oversized sleepsuit, eyes perpetually drawn to something just over my shoulder (never did discover what) and little mouth doing that funny goldfish thing that newborns do. It didn't last long, but in that moment he was happy, so I was happy and all was right with the world.
Once some of our early tongue tie and weight gain issues had been ironed out (I will be eternally grateful to my sister for donating some of her breast milk), there was also a certain satisfaction to be gained from my body’s magical ability to sustain another human simply by recycling my breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the 33 years before Duckling arrived, my body had never even had to think about making breast milk (or squeezing out an 8lb 14oz baby for that matter), yet somehow it knew exactly what to do. I still find that incredible. Though not as incredible as the extra 500 kcal that breastfeeding uses up every day... Chocolate Digestives have become a religion.
It's a bit of a cliché but first smiles are another big plus in the early weeks. Duckling used to be particularly gurney first thing in the morning, when I was generally at my least amused; a deliberate ploy I suspect to help me forgive him for the shattered night's sleep I'd just had. Equally cliched but no less lovely is the wonder of watching your baby discover the world around him: first his own hands and feet, then your hands and facial features, then toys, then every bloody dangerous object within a 100m radius. Almost on a par though is the invention of amusing nicknames. Baron Von Criesalot (Poopsalot / Snotsalot / Parpsalot...), Dribbley Bob, The Lord Fricking Mayor (so called for his insistence on being carted about facing forwards so he could address his subjects with noisy wails), Pumpkin Munchkin, Squealy Joe (THAT was a fun phase), Grumpalicious, Terror Tot... I could continue but I don't want to reinforce the Mean Mummy label which I have no doubt just acquired.
More recently, considerable hilarity has been derived from the odd obsessions that Duckling has developed. Yesterday he wouldn't go anywhere without an empty pot of Vicks Vaporub and a flannel. This evening it was a pencil and a sock (always two things...). Posting is a big obsession too - everything must be slotted, dropped or squashed into something else at the moment. I was taking a shower this morning, when suddenly a red foam letter 't' appeared in the bath from behind the shower curtain, shortly followed by an 'e', 'c', 'g' and 'a'. By the time I'd finished, a quarter the alphabet was floating about around my feet and together we'd put together the words 'enamel', 'climate' and 'artisan'. Plus a few ruder ones I won't repeat. I'd like to think this letter fetish indicates Duckling is a going to be some kind of child genius, but his subsequent obsessive chewing of the letter 'i' suggests maybe he's not ready for Countdown just yet.
Duckling can be so entertaining that I will admit to occasionally letting him make a massive mess or investigate something he probably shouldn't just because it makes me laugh. Drake gets very annoyed that I keep letting him go off with the TV remotes (one ended up in the kitchen bin last week) but Duckling's delight when he gets hold of them is so charming, I don't have the heart to stop him (plus they keep him quiet for 5 minutes). Mind you, I'm not the one who keeps having the football switched off during penalties or MTV turned up to volume level 99.
From a social perspective, having a baby grants you access to a circle of friends you would never have met otherwise. This new club meets on weekday afternoons (imagine!), doesn't require any formal dress code beyond "vaguely clean" and isn't going to shun you if you have to leave a gathering 10 mins after you arrived due to infant melt down. I honestly don't know what I would have done without my lovely nct friends and the many opportunities they've given me to laugh and gripe about the lunacy of the whole baby enterprise. I am also extremely lucky to have a sister who had her first child, Gosling, just a month after I had Duckling. Gosling and Duckling are utterly delightful when they play together. They're chalk and cheese personality wise, but somehow this seems to work perfectly. Gosling is incredibly laid back and keen to watch and take in the world around her, while Duckling is intent on charging about, shouting at everything and leaving mayhem in his wake wherever he goes. Duckling entertains Gosling with all his protestations, then she takes the time to teach him the things (like crawling) that he's been too busy fighting to properly master. It's brilliant.
The last thing on my list is without a doubt the very best bit about being a Mum, but probably also the root of the very worst bit: love. The unconditional love I feel for Duckling is completely amazing, but it's so strong it often terrifies me. Just the thought of him getting injured or worse fills me with unspeakable dread. I've had to stop watching “Call The Midwife” because the remotest hint of a Mum losing her baby leaves me traumatised for the rest of the day. Drake thinks it's hilarious that I've become such a sap, but then as much as he loves Duckling (and he absolutely dotes on him), he's not imbued with quite the same fierce hormonal bond that I am (see my Fear of the Tiger post for more on the evolutionary roots of the nurturing instinct). Love is what gets us through all the crying and nappies and exhaustion and snot and trouser leg clinging. It's also what causes us to sacrifice our iPhones under the wheels of a car in our desperation to get our tricycle-mounted tot out of its path (as my colleague did this week - her third broken work phone in a month). Love is also, weirdly, what has made going back to work bearable. Though I miss him during the day, the excitement I feel going to pick Duckling up from his childminder in the evening always reminds me of how I used to feel on meeting Drake at the airport after one of his stints abroad. Except without the need to don uncomfortably frilly knickers and do something creative with my hair. It doesn't matter how fractious he's been in the morning or how knackered I am, by 17.30, I can't wait to see my little Terror Tot and give him a massive hug. Everyone says working makes you appreciate your child more, but it really is true. In fact, I think it’s the single best thing about being back.
So there you have it. Good stuff about being a Mum. Next week - 17 fun things to do with a pencil and a sock.