‘Happy one month birthday darling.’
I was aware that I had reached a significant milestone in my young life, although it was hard to tell with my parents because every day seemed a momentous cause for celebration. On the one week anniversary of my arrival, Father had made a speech which had caused Mother to break down in tears. I was just grateful that no-one else was around to hear Father describe ‘that first sticky poo which I managed to get all over me.’ ‘Do you mind?’ I snapped, annoyed. ‘How would you like it if I talked about you so personally?’ That was bad enough but the two week anniversary had been commemorated with a blow by blow recounting of the 36 hour labour which had been my journey here. The fact that Mother even had photographic evidence to support her story had not gone down well with her visitor who left abruptly afterwards, a little pale in the cheeks. Then, yet again, there had been tears on my three week anniversary. ‘My baby’s growing up,’ Mother had sobbed, pathetically, all because I had successfully managed to tilt my head slightly to one side for the first time. I really hoped they weren’t planning on continuing like this every week; I didn’t think I could cope with the tidal wave of emotion.
Having said that, I did think it was appropriate to mark the occasion of my first month here on earth. But certainly not with the histrionics that my parents clearly favoured. No, I decided to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation of what I had learnt thus far.
And I had to admit that to date, life out of Baby Land had been wildly disappointing. From waiting excessively long for milk, to being put into back to front nappies; from being dressed in the most horrendously mismatched outfits, to having to share crib space with a variety of scary teddy bears; from waking up every few minutes because of someone noisily checking on me, to having to watch the most ridiculous skits that my parents tried to pass off as ‘entertainment….’ I think all of these things would test anyone, even the most patient, most tolerant of babies, and they certainly had pushed me to the limit on more than one occasion and I would find myself shouting at them in frustration. I wasn’t proud of myself but I was entirely provoked, every time.
But, if these 30 days had been testing for me then it was nothing to compare with the impact on my parents. They looked……exhausted. Shattered. And still, constantly bemused, as if they couldn’t quite believe that they had a baby in their house. I’m not sure what they were expecting, and clearly, if the many pregnancy and parenting tomes dotted around the house were to be believed, they had done some research. But, every now and again, I would catch one of them looking at me as if in shock, as if they weren’t expecting me to be there. In fact, one morning, about 4am, Father had jumped in surprise as he passed my crib on the way to the bathroom. And frequently Mother would exclaim: ‘I can’t believe I’ve got a baby. An actual real baby,’ and her eyes would look misty and she would shake her head as if she had never heard such a thing. More than once I wanted to slap her cheek to bring her back to her senses. I once managed to get my hand to her face but I didn’t have quite the strength behind it to make any kind of impression, and besides, Mother misinterpreted the move as: ‘Ahhhh darling, you want me to kiss your hand.’ I then had to put up with her slobbering over my scrunched up fist for the next few minutes. Gross.
To be fair, they clearly had done some preparation ahead of my arrival, and they had all the kit, right down to a thermometer which they used to check my temperature with alarming frequency. ’36.8? Has that gone up or down?’ How it had chance to change in the thirty seconds since that thing was last poked in my ear, I do not know. And the nappy bin. Which was fine, in theory, except neither Mother nor Father ever emptied it, each claiming it was the other’s job. After about a week of regular use, the bin was bulging, and well ready for an emptying. Instead, it was quietly confined to the garage, neither parent quite up to the job of addressing its contents, just yet. And then there was the video monitor, with its futuristic controls, which was lingering in its box gathering dust, its high-tech surveillance clearly not required as either Mother or Father had stuck firmly by my side since my birth. To be honest, their omnipresence was starting to get on my nerves, it was like having a stalker following me round everywhere I went. I knew that they were both rather fond of me but still, it would have been nice to be left alone with my thoughts once in a while. After all, having spent nine months on my own, I was a bit of a loner and Mother constantly peering into my Moses basket was becoming wearing. ‘Oi!’ I would snap at her, on occasion. ‘Go away,’ a scolding she would interpret as an invitation to pick me up and have a cuddle.
As I reflected on my first month, a kaleidoscope of images flashed before my eyes. Sadly, and despite the short time frame, the recollections were predominantly lowlights, such as:
- Mother’s efforts to trim my nails, resulting in a terrifying near miss around the end of my finger. I yelled at her in fury and refused point blank to let the woman continue with her reckless attempt at grooming. Infuriatingly, this then led to the donning of scratch mitts which I hate. I may have made my feelings known for a little longer than necessary, given the exasperated look upon her face;
- Father dressing me for bed, and getting completely befuddled by the popper system to the point that arms ended up where legs should be and vice versa. By the time he had finally worked out what parts of the garment went where, he was a broken man, his shoulders slumped in defeat.
- Mother completely misinterpreting my trapped wind for my first smile, and subsequently dropping everything to take photos, phone family and update my baby book, and her social media accounts. Tears of pride were shed. Meanwhile, I was left to lie in my Moses basket in desperate need of a good burp or trump.
- Both of them – shockingly – staying resolutely silent whilst a very annoying and obnoxious visitor laughingly referred to my ‘chubby arms, like the Michelin man.’ As if their lack of protestation wasn’t bad enough, Mother even nodded and Father chuckled. ‘Hey!’ I shouted. ‘Say something you two!’ But neither did.
I sighed. It hadn’t been anything like I had been expecting when I was back in Baby Land. There had been so many communication breakdowns that I wondered if we would ever be able to understand each other.
But then, just as I was pondering this concern, and contemplating the feasibility of a return to the serene and peaceful Baby Land, Mother picked me up and pulled me close to her. I smelt her familiar scent and I rather liked it. As she pulled me into the crook of her arm, I slotted easily into the gap, as if it had been designed for me. Then, there was a big, rough-skinned hand stroking me head. ‘Hello, beautiful.’ It was Father. His eyes were soft and gentle. I felt safe.
My Mother and Father. They might be complete idiots at times, meandering along, without a clue. They clearly have no idea what they are doing half the time but perhaps I could forgive them their naivety. Sometimes. I realised that I had grown rather fond of them, in spite of the many incidents of faux pas which had peppered our relationship, and no doubt, would continue to do so…