I can already hear you thinking "oh come on, everyone knows all this stuff already". Well, yes, some of it everyone does know, and everyone blethers on about ad nauseam. All that dewy-eyed stuff about it being a love like nothing else on earth, about being willing to sacrifice anything and everything to protect your child, about falling in love the moment you see your baby. Actually, scrap that last one. It's not really true. Not for everyone. Not for me. Not in a real, meaningful sense of the word "love" anyway. I was instantly and irrevocably prepared to do anything to protect that innocent pink bundle, but I didn't really love LittleBear until he started to be a real person, to respond, interact and be his own self. If I'm honest (and I often am) I'd say it was around the 16 month mark that I actually started to really enjoy being a mother. I'm sure I loved LittleBear before that, but I'm equally sure I love him more now, when he's a talkative, independent, funny little person.
I admit my experience was heavily tainted by post natal depression, but nonetheless I'm fighting a one-woman mission to discredit the really unhelpful propaganda that you fall in love with your baby straight away and that it's fun and wonderful and fluffy and amazing as soon as that scrunched-up pink thing first gazes at you. I felt a complete and utter failure as a human being because I wasn't basking in some glow of adoration. I was tired, and in pain and utterly, utterly bewildered about how the hell I was going to look after this little creature.
Then there's all the other stuff that changed. I can never erase the knowledge of how it feels to have cracked nipples. I now have a stomach that is reminiscent of a map of the tributaries of the Mississippi. I have permanent handles just above my hips. OK, so actually those handles are more due to the cake. And perhaps the gin. But LittleBear is exhausting and I need cake to have the energy to keep up with him. And then he goes to bed, so gin. Ergo the handles are because of the cake, and the cake is a direct consequence of this mothering business, so the handles are a direct result of motherhood. Really they are.
But none of this was what I was setting out to explain. We've all got "things" haven't we? You might think you haven't, but I bet you have. Amongst my colleagues, C has a thing about butter - he really hates it when people scrape the top surface of the butter and don't leave it flat. And M has to have a particular knife and fork. And S always has to sit in the same chair, and D always has to play a particular piece of music when building ion detectors. I used to have a thing, and I only discovered I didn't have it any more when we were comparing our things at work. (That sounds a lot worse than I thought when I started writing it...) Anyway, my thing was that if I went out anywhere, I always had to sit in the corner, or at the least with my back to the wall. I felt exposed, vulnerable and very, very uncomfortable if I had to sit with my back to a room full of people. And now, it doesn't bother me at all. It doesn't even occur to me to consider where I'm sitting. So what does this have to do with the existence of LittleBear?
When LittleBear was a BabyBear, my prime concerns in finding somewhere to sit with him were that there was enough space for me, him, a large bag, several coats, hats, toys, muslins and a pram. Or if not the pram, then enough space to extract a frantic baby from several metres of fabric wrapped about my torso. So about enough space for a family of 6. And then the chair couldn't have arms on it, or if it had arms it had to be VAST so there was space to breastfeed a squirming, kicking bundle without one or both of us being violently ejected from the chair as BabyBear braced his feet against the arm and pushed off. Generally that meant we were lucky to find any place to sit, and I'd be grateful for it. And now that LittleBear rushes in and colonises whichever table strikes him as perfect, while I try to man-handle my bag, his bag, whichever toys he's decided he's too tired to carry, a scooter, a tray of food and drink and a handful of change, I'm basically grateful if I haven't injured any passing strangers or lost LittleBear and getting a chance to sit in any chair is a bonus. (Generally any opportunity to sit in a chair during a day spent with LittleBear is a bonus).
I basically now have so many other things to worry about, that worrying about whether someone is creeping up on me is the least of my problems. I'm looking on the absence of one of my irrational anxieties as a good thing, whatever the reason. And it's definitely thanks to LittleBear. Thank you for giving me