Monday, 6 July 2009

Baby sated

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.

10 comments:

Nicola said...

You have managed to put into words exactly how I felt/feel. Except for the passing inclination to potentially start knitting baby clothes anyway. Phew. Maybe I'm not so barking after all.

Iheartfashion said...

I'm 39 and still waiting for that baby-love to kick in. Of course I adored (and still do) my own, but other people's babies I prefer at a distance. When I see a newborn, all I feel is relief to be past that stage with my sanity (somewhat) intact.

Metropolitan Mum said...

The pictures are brilliant. Although slightly creepy. My daughter looked creepy as well - somehow the phenomen of thinking of your child as the most beautiful in the world just didn't kick in. She was sweet and I loved her from the start, but she looked like an alien.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Mine is in the Teen Terrorist Phase (TM), so I adore other people's malleable babies... Id I sense one with colic, I want to wrest it from it's mother's arms to comfort it immediately...

So with you on this, JW... So I wallow in babies... (I wailing is to be done, the shower is best for drowning out the sorrow of grief, I find, but I have sobbed (wholly ignored) in a very public (transport) place... Love to you x

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Oh, and our Teens' blog - Perhaps you could join us occasionally, as Fingers and Lashes grow (as they are wont to!), is at Mad Manic Mamas... Mojitos and Maltesers all round chaps and chapesses!

mysterycreature said...

hehe, me and a number of my friends are baby stealers too! Only in a god way, of course, not in an illeagal nasty way!

My favourite bit is babies sleeping - so cute and soo beautiful even if they are ugly little ogres sometimes!

(Very) Lost in France said...

I'm with Iheartfashion. I adored my own babies but other people's? No thanks. DS was nearly 11lbs so never looked newborn and wrinkly. He came out like a perfectly formed 3 month old, completely recognisable from his scan photo and totally scrumptious. DD, on the other hand was very creepy and I spent the entire time in hospital waiting for them to say she had some dreadful congenital disease but in a weeks she was totally beautiful and still is today.

Z said...

I was broody for 20 years after my last child was born, but now I'm a grandmother I don't need to be any more. It is completely satisfying.

Laura Jane said...

Ah, well you know how I feel about babies...and I get em as fresh as you can get, but it is frowned upon to steal em and sniff to my hearts content at that stage. Attachment, bonding, all that stuff y'know.

You know that newborn baby smell? Its amniotic fluid. The smell of a newborn is amnitoic fluid, I swear.

Love it.

And Its a strangely satisfying thing to KNOW that one is done with childbearing in the first person, isn't it? Doesn't mean we stop appreciating them, we just never want to get up to them at night anymore.

LANCE said...

This was so beautifully written, I could have gone on reading it for hours. Thankyou!