Why the dishcloth photo, Emma, I hear you cry in your ones, and possibly twos. That's no dishcloth, internet. It's my dressing gown.
Why your dressing gown, Emma? I hear the other, er, none of you reply.
Because I love my dressing gown.
I bought it from Liberty in spring 2002, when I thought that childbirth would be all rose petals and kittens and unicorns. It is (was) pale blue and made of the lightest Indian cotton. I bought soft pale blue leather slippers from Penhaligons too and had fond visions of sitting in a cloud of, what's that bonding hormone? I want to say OxyContin, but I think that's wishful thinking. Whatever. Anyway, sitting in a cloud of happy hormones and flowers and tiny muffins with my new baby.
Anyone who has ever experienced, or seen childbirth in even the smallest of mammals will already be snickering at how deluded I was. Sure, I got the natural birth I was so insanely fixated on. Though I might query whether there's anything natural about having to sit on one of those kidney shaped dishes on top of the bed for two hours trying to expel a placenta. Passons. The whole business was protracted and messy and frankly, kind of revolting as the CFO's ashen face testified. Not to mention that the first thing the beautiful infant Lashes did was to shit all over me. The ward was more revolting still, with snail trails of unidentified body fluid snaking around the grey green linoleum. The dressing gown remained in my bag with the pretty suede bottomed slippers, untainted by five varieties of amniotic fluid as I grappled through the night with the terrible realisation that noone was going to DO anything about this screaming infant but me.
The dressing gown came out after a couple of days at home, when I remembered about it, and I never really took it off. It was my constant companion from 4 to 7 am when, hypervigilant and unable to sleep, I would sit in the sofa of our top floor flat and watch the dawn. Those early weeks with a newborn can feel like Isabella and the pot of basil, as the new mother fades away in a sea of tears plopping softly on the baby's head as it gnaws tirelessly on her bleeding nipple, and the infant grows and unfurls, gets more beautiful and demanding. Ok, the analogy breaks down without a severed head, but you see where I'm going. The dressing gown came to feel like a tiny shred of the 'before' me. A sign that I was still in there, somewhere. The person who loved beautiful, elegant things she couldn't really afford, nice face creams and mountains of books. It became very hard to believe I would ever emerge from the fog of fatigue and anxiety and not really caring what I looked like or ate, or being too edgy and tired to read a book. But the dressing gown helped me believe it.
(I am making motherhood sound like the Vietnam war. I always do this. I am ridiculous. But young, cosseted and selfish; used to being in control, it came as an awful shock to me. I was a mess - anxious, resentful and bewildered. I loved my son enormously, but I had fuck all idea how to cope with the long, formless days of early motherhood in the West End, completely alone. I spent a lot of time wandering round department stores, crying )
I've worn, and loved it ever since. It's covered in tea stains and I'm not sure where the belt is. My two pots of basil are huge and beautiful and robust. I haven't broken them yet. I still love beautiful things, nice face creams and mountains of books. I'm still here, somewhere.