At the weekend an old friend met Zee for only the second time, and as we chatted about life with a baby in general, he asked, essentially, how do you know what to do, how do you get used to the responsibility of this little person? I answered truthfully; You Don’t. Babies don’t come with a manual when they’re born, though goodness knows there’s an abundance of information out there to help point you in vaguely the right direction.
Today is Zee’s seven month birthday; he can sit up, he’s weaning, he has one and a half teeth, he is currently trying to eat a piece of a wooden farmyard puzzle and getting nowhere fast. In seven months he’s gone from zero to little hero. He is utterly delightful, good-natured, smiley, curious, funny. Since moving back, we’ve been away loads and over this busy summer he’s spent more time in a travel cot than his own cot and he’s taken it all in his stride. I still lose hours just gazing at him, but now it’s whilst interacting as he plays instead of sleeping entire days away. He is healthy and seems happy, yet always, always, in the back of my mind, a tiny voice whispers ‘Am I good enough? Am I doing everything ‘properly’?’ – though I don’t know what the definition of ‘properly’ is when it comes to bringing up a baby.
A couple of months ago I found myself at a retail park in Croydon. This is not the stuff dreams are made of. It is, however, where our nearest Kiddicare is and I was in need of the aforementioned travel cot. It brought back memories of my first trip to Kiddicare at the end of last year, when I’d got myself so worked up about what we needed for Zee’s little nursery that I did the only sensible thing I could think of. I arranged a visit to Kiddicare with my mum, because she would know what to do. And as we sat having a coffee I remember looking around wide-eyed at this enormous store and welling up, I was overwhelmed with all this stuff, how would I ever know what, where, why and when it was all for? My mum reassured me yet again that it would all be okay and when my baby arrived, I would just know what to do. I couldn’t fathom how.
Several friends had also passed on this advice, but when heavily pregnant I only envisaged endless sleepless nights and what if the baby had colic? Or reflux? Surely teething would be a nightmare? And how would I ever work out how to express milk, and store it safely, and and and . . .
But of course you get to know what your baby’s cry means, and when they are hungry or sleepy or just need to be held. You realise that leaving the house with a child is exactly as Michael McIntyre described and you accept that no matter how much you hate early mornings, when your baby beams at you as if you’re the best thing in the whole world, 5.30am is surprisingly okay. And even though I’m glad I read as much as I did and the NCT classes brought great knowledge as well as great friends, I wish I’d paid better attention to the advice ‘trust your instincts.’ That and ‘buy a blackout blind’ are the two best pieces of advice we had. Oh and starting him on a bottle early and combination feeding, but that’s a very personal choice.
It’s true though that there is so much information out there and you must cut through it and adapt to what works for you, and also realise you can’t do everything all of the time. I sent myself into a tailspin earlier when I Googled again ‘Things to do in London with a baby.’ Suddenly I was clicking on all these links for gym classes and musical workshops and museums and galleries and swimming pools. I must do this all At Once! I must pack a bag and rush Zee to the nearest Monkey Music class! I’m letting him down because we are In Our PJ’s and not A Library!
And then I clicked on a link for the Electric Scream; film screenings for mums and babies at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill. Interesting. And so we went, in the pouring rain, on two tubes and a walk down Portobello Road, to try it out. And it was brilliant. Big comfy armchairs, a cheesy Richard Curtis fest and two hours of cuddling Zee as he cooed and shrieked in glee and was fascinated by the big screen. And when babies around us cried it didn’t matter, we’re all used to screaming babies now and the size of the cinema absorbed any noise anyway. Subtitles help too. Maybe Zee’s not in every class going, but he is going swimming, soon he’ll be learning to sing and sign and he goes out and about all the time. H and I talk and sing to him constantly, we tell him how much we love him, we take him adventuring all over, he’s had his first taste of ice cream.
So perhaps the answer to my question is yes. And there’s no need to worry or feel guilty all of the time. And that it’s okay after a full-on day of baby entertaining on interrupted sleep, to breathe a sigh of relief that the baby is in bed and this and a comfy armchair awaits. These days it’s all about the simple pleasures. And that’s good enough for me.