Monday 25 November 2013

Newborn Babies and Fading Memories

Yesterday, we had a pregnant visitor. A friend’s sister and her boyfriend who, I think, were looking for some useful advice and protips to keep them covered for childbirth and parenthood. When I was eight months pregnant, we made a similar pilgrimage. After a day of antenatal classes, we drove to Chesterfield to meet some friends and their beautiful three month old son, and hear all about what life with a baby was really like. Our friends were full of advice, they told us how to stop babies crying, how to change nappies, how to cope with the tiredness, and what ‘must have’ products turned out to be a waste of money. When we left, I felt reassured. I learnt more during that brief meeting than I did from all of our antenatal classes.

So, yesterday, when our expectant visitors were on their way round, Laurie and I brainstormed to see what great advice we could share. It soon became apparent that we couldn’t really remember much. We could remember the overwhelming tiredness, and we could remember the mistakes we made. We have a few memories of things that worked, and things that didn’t. Mostly I remember my regrets, the things I wish I had done but didn’t, or the things I wish I hadn’t done. But we had forgotten the day to day things, the things we found useful and those we didn’t, and the tricks of the trade.

When Ebony was born, I thought I would never forget the details of her birth, but even now, less than two years later, my memory is hazy. I’m so glad I wrote it all down. Now that Ebony is a full fledged toddler, it is sort of hard to imagine her as a newborn. I have forgotten the routines we had, the things we did, and what she was like at each stage. I’m so thankful that I kept this blog, so I will always be able to look back on what life was like with a newborn, how terrified I was of her getting hurt, how scary it was to breastfeed in public, and how much I hated receiving unwanted advice.

I’m sure the information is in there somewhere, locked away until another baby, perhaps. I have memories of life as a new parent, of course, but even those memories are packed away, and I rarely have the time to sit and reminisce. But, after talking about newborns yesterday, I lay in bed last night trying to remember what life was like when Ebony first arrived.

I remember the moment when a clay-like newborn baby was thrust into my arms. I remember how terrifying, overwhelming and perfect that moment was. I remember the midwife asking what sex the baby was, and looking down to find the answer covered by the alien-like umbilical cord, I remember saying I didn’t know. I remember someone moving the cord, and announcing it was a girl, and I remember the uncontrollable sobbing that followed, I had never felt emotions so strong before. I remember staying in the pool, holding onto my newborn baby, terrified that I would accidentally drown her.

I remember, a short time later, the midwife taking Ebony from me and passing her to Laurie. I remember his face at that moment, so overwhelmed, eyes filled with tears, a terrified expression on his face, as he held his daughter for the first time.

I remember, after the midwives had gone, and I had showered, lying in bed completely exhausted but unable to sleep. Ebony, so tiny and new, slept next to me in her moses basket, and all I could do was watch her. I was too overwhelmed for sleep, and too terrified to stop looking at her.

I remember the weeks that followed, the breastfeeding, the healing. I remember Laurie looking after us both so well, and feeling so lucky to be a part of this family. I remember feeling amazing from that natural high that follows childbirth and continues with breastfeeding. I remember the days spent on the sofa, cuddling Ebony, as she would stretch her neck to look up at me, like a tortoise peering from its shell. I remember the night feeds, the exhaustion, and the endless nappy changes.

I remember how soft her feet were, completely new, and how tiny her fingers were. I remember the milk spots on her nose, the rise and fall of her delicate chest, and the downy hairs that covered her arms (and my fear that she would have that for life). I remember the night feeds watching New Girl, willing myself to stay awake, and the day feeds on the sofa. I remember the strange deflated bump I had after the birth, how sore I was, and how much time I spent in the bath.

I remember Ebony’s little hand gripping my thumb, I remember how happy I felt when she smiled at me. I remember how much it hurt my heart to see Laurie holding her, so comfortable in his new role as a father. I remember the night she wouldn’t stop crying, and how terrified we both were, and how relieved we felt when finally the tears subsided. I remember the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when I woke after my first eight hour stretch, scared of why she hadn’t cried out for a feed. I remember when she had hiccups at just a few hours old, and how scary it was the first time we bathed her. I remember the fear, the tiredness and my intense need to protect her. But mostly, I remember that love, so strong and all encompassing, unlike anything I had felt before.

And now, as I look at the independent, strong minded toddler in front of me, I can’t believe she was ever that tiny, helpless newborn baby.

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