I’ve gone through a few changes of perspective over the past few years. Maybe it’s just been in the past year. It’s certainly been more concentrated in the past year. “Everyone seems to be having babies and getting married and settling down.” That’s been a thing for a while, and, as I’m in my mid-twenties, I’m sure it’ll continue to be a thing for a while yet.
About eighteen months ago when my youngest brother was born, I held him in my arms for a few hours and had a huge cry. A big fat, ‘Where is my life going?’ kind of cry. I wasn’t thinking about the funeral we were going to that day, or much else in any kind of structured way really. Rather, the feeling of sitting there, quietly, spending time just looking at something small and delicate, breathing, just blew me open. My whole body heaved out a release of emotion with no real instantaneous cue. I felt aghast at my own reaction.
I think there was a lot of pent-up confusion inside me then, which was possibly just a time bomb waiting to go off at the slightest sneak of a smile from something that didn’t yet know politeness, like a puppy or a baby. Some hint of pure, unguided affection. But the baby did eke it out.
These days I feel a lot more relaxed around babies. I don’t need to be around them. Don’t get me wrong, your baby is adorable, and fascinating, and I will more than happily babysit, but first, I came here for you.
There is a silent tragedy playing out in the lives of a lot of new young mums. People make a bee-line for the baby and tend to forget about the mother. They stare at the little one, desperate for cuddles. Desperate to assert their stamp of maternal maturity. People who had no interest in the mum before are suddenly clamouring to see them on a regular basis; good friends forget about them and get that Christmassy level of excitement about spending time with Baby. They forget about what would really display an expert level of maternal understanding – knowing what’s best for the mum, and for the baby. When to entertain and when to be calm, when to give baby back. I’ve noticed that some people don’t really get this. They think that, in ‘wow’ing over the children, they are flattering the parents, and to a certain extent I’m sure that’s often true. But I see a lot of parents slipping into the audience when Baby takes centre-stage. It’s interesting to notice the look of someone who is not being watched.
It’s understandable, when you see this, that a lot of mums get jealous, or depressed, in the early days of motherhood. Or, indeed, the later days of it.
I’m here to tell you that I love your baby because it’s yours and I love you, but that’s as far as it goes. I understand the need for adult conversations, reality, and down time. Yesterday I caught up with a friend who has a one-year old daughter, and we ended up chatting for ten and a half hours straight. Ten. How often do you get that kind of time? It was uninterrupted fun. Her daughter was there, sure, and we had a few cooey moments, no one was ever ignored, but it was ultimately about us. Which was fantastic.
Life goes on, babies grow up, and this fascinating and captivating thing about tiny little people is a transient phase. And that’s fine. Because I came here for you. You may be a mummy now, but you’re still my good old friend.
What are your thoughts or experiences of introducing new babies into families and friendship circles?