Oh, but Violet's baby is the most beautiful, silky little thing. I spent a magical few hours holding him yesterday before it all kicked off and I went on my gigantic self-indulgent crying jag. (I'm fairly certain the two weren't related - he's an utter delight but I'd rather not be spending the night with him). He is still quite wrinkly and pink around the extremities, has the silkiest wisps of hair imaginable and oh, his lovely hot pink legs and tiny tiny feet. He lay with his head on my chest very peacefully, hands clenched in little fists, occasionally giving a snuffle and jerking his head, to settle back to sleep.
Enjoying babies is quite new for me. Before having any of my own I found them alien and fearsome and sometimes slightly disgusting. There is a photo of me holding my newborn sister and I look frankly repulsed by the whole business. I can see in the stiff set of my arms and thunderous expression that I am just waiting until the picture is taken to thrust her back.
As for my own, well. Lashes was a beautiful little thing with lots of dark hair and a delicious olive skin tone but I could barely see him for the all consuming anxiety. I remember standing over him often while he was asleep and seeing how objectively lovely a little creature he was, but being far too concerned about what to do when he woke up or whether I should wake him up, or if he was too hot, or too cold, and whether he would ever sleep again, to enjoy it. It makes me sad, even now, to think of this, though it passed quickly. I remember feeling sad for him at the time too, feeling he had not drawn a particularly good hand in mothering terms. I loved him utterly in those first weeks, but without the sensual delight I later realised could be part of the whole experience. That came later, and it's still there now. I'm blessed with an extraordinarily tactile and delicious seven year old who doesn't bat me away too often yet.
Fingers, in contrast, was not the prettiest of babies, with pouchy eyes, not much hair and an inscrutable stare, but I found him irresistible anyway, soft and warm and feral. I can still remember quite clearly what how if felt to hold him against my shoulder with his wispy hair brushing my cheek, spanning his back with my palm and being able to feel every bubble of milk gurgle around in his tiny belly. It was the absence of fear, I am sure; the knowledge that it would pass, and fast, in a haze of mild tedium and sleeplessness and basic animal satisfaction. Even though my mum had just died, and I was terrified I wouldn't cope, so terrified I warned the midwives in the delivery room I might flake out entirely, my memories of those first weeks after his birth are of a surprising amount of pure euphoria.
And now I love babies, the smaller the better. I like them small and strange and wrinkled, with their eyelashes not yet unfurled. I loved this photo piece I read about over the weekend, which catalogued fifty newborns in their first hour. They are funny and odd and not a little hideous. Let us be clear - I am entirely sure that I do not want any more children of my own. There is no agonising, no ambivalence. I am done. I think that's what makes other people's such a delight. It's an odd mix of memories of my own, and the sheer animal delight of something so new and tiny and vivid. I have turned into one of those women who hungrily snatch newborns from their mothers and inhale them. I feel an odd connection now with my mother's generation, the women, aunts and friends, who came to visit when my babies were tiny and firmly prised them out of my febrile grip. I remember how it never mattered for them if the baby was colicky, or covered in eczema, or vomiting and it's the same for me now. It's the same uncomplicated joy.
So. I am 34 and have become a baby stealing matron. Hmm. I am already planning when I can come back and see Baby F again and we can only pray that I don't start knitting matinee jackets.