A short(er) post to make up for the excessively long one last time. With pictures as a bonus at the end.
Ten things to be grateful for when I’m too tired to think, typed with a (mercifully!) sleeping baby on my chest, and my God does she smell good when she’s been tucked under my husband’s chin for a while and has residual aftershave smell on her:
1. I have a nice husband who cleans. But also, if I’m holding the baby and we’re both at home and hungry (this doesn’t happen often), he cooks, even though he’s not especially comfortable with cooking. We’ve shuffled ourselves into pretty clearly delineated roles in our marriage: I cook, he cleans – I love doing laundry; he loves putting sheets on beds (or at least he hates it less than I do). A wonderful friend sent us one of those boxes with pre-sorted ingredients and recipes, so even though we ate lunch at 5pm today, it was an overall win, because it was easy and healthy and delicious. We’re about to have dinner now, at 7.45pm, from the same glorious box. Two dinners close together is no bad thing.
2. Bojan (see above) found a dead bird on Sunday, just before Beatrice’s godparents came over for lunch. It was under the dining room table; he dealt with it before I noticed it was there. The crucial part is that he found it before I did, thus averting a wifely nervous breakdown. I’d rather deal with something that’s alive, no matter how disgusting or large or dangerous, than pick up a tiny dead bird – or anything dead. Their sad little folded wings!
3. On Saturday I took Beatrice to London on my own, where she was valiantly babysat during the rehearsal and concert by the other of her godmothers (Eleanor), and then we had dinner together for a whole twenty, maybe thirty minutes before she started screaming. I got her back to Oxford by myself because B was also doing a concert that night. I got home at 11.30pm. He got home at 1am. She cried for an hour and a half on the Oxford Tube, and I thought I was going to die of exhaustion and backache and embarrassment, but I didn’t. Going to the shops with her now seems like child’s play by comparison. Things get easier (she’s more interactive; we begin to get something back) and harder (she gets heavier; she’s more vigilant about being put down; she’s stronger and can scream louder than ever; the sleep deprivation is building and building). But we cope.
4. The Blenheim Singers had a photoshoot today. It was outdoors at Blenheim Palace in freezing rain, but everybody was in tails and ballgowns and nobody was screaming, so it felt like a holiday. I was shocked to discover that I do still fit into my red dress. This is because Beatrice eats like a starved lion, and I lost all the baby weight about two weeks postpartum (which is probably too fast), putting me back at a pleasantly plump happy place in which most of my clothes fit again, creating a reassuring sense of normalcy. I’m eating pretty well in the brief gaps when she’s not screaming, but (don’t be too worried) sometimes I’m too upset or tired to eat. I usually make up for it the next day. Speaking of which:
5. Is there anybody else out there who was ambivalent about chocolate, even maybe had a mild dislike of it, and then had a baby and suddenly wanted to eat it all the time? It’s a whole new world of chocolatey fun.
6. Although babies exhaust you in new and gruelling ways, and possibly turn you into someone who snaps and is impatient during conversations about THE FUTURE (because THE PRESENT is so all-consuming), it’s possible to get a few hours’ sleep and feel better even if you genuinely thought your life was over the night before. What remains, for us at least, even during the worst moments, is that we love each other (and the baby, even when she shrieks). I can hold fast to that in the dark moments, thank God.
7. Breastfeeding is now easy. It has been for a few weeks, but the transition from “excruciating” to “enjoyable” happened so slowly that I’ve only just noticed.
8. The book The Wonder Weeks has helped a lot. I now understand that neurological and developmental leaps make babies miserable. They have a growth spurt, during which the circumference of their heads suddenly increases, and they wail and grizzle and behave appallingly for a few days; then their brain catches up and they start showing off their new skills.
And this is delightful. They look at you instead of just seeing you; they make new sounds, little chirps and chirrups and coos that are fascinating and fill you with hope (and extravagant, unwarranted pride). They suddenly learn to cry in five different ways instead of one, and you learn to read their cues and give them what they need – food, a hug, a change, a walk around the house, a chat. It’s weird and fascinating and reassuring. I met an eleven-week-old baby at Blenheim today, and his dad told me that he’s just started being able to grab things – he now knows he has hands, whereas last week he didn’t. Beatrice doesn’t know that she has hands yet. It’s amazing to think that watching her figure that out will be a major memory for me, and I have it to look forward to.
9. FRIENDS, NEIGHBOURS, RELATIVES. They visit you, they bring you food and make you beautiful quilts, they admire your progeny, they listen to your completely horrifying/boring stories about birth, baby poo, and brain development and smile indulgently and tell you you’re doing a great job. I’m very lucky.
10. Beatrice laughs in her sleep. When she’s awake, and delighted, she just smiles and makes funny little squeaks and coos, but when she’s asleep she does this sophisticated, smug little chuckle – smiling with one side of her mouth and going “heh, heh, heh, heh” like someone hearing a vicious bit of gossip. It makes me think she might be the reincarnation of Dorothy Parker. Where did she learn to do this? Why does she only do it in her sleep? Is it some half-buried memory that she’ll lose as she gets older and forgets the things she learned in the Vault of Souls? The Vault of Souls, I should explain, is a place I’ve invented to account for her vivid personality, which at seven and a half weeks is so distinct that I can only conclude she was someone else in a previous life; and then, obviously, she hung out at a very colourful cocktail party in the sky, a velvet-upholstered waiting room with Aviations and 1930s jazz being played a little too loudly in the background, before being reassigned to me. It’s ridiculous (and completely blasphemous), but for now I’m going with it.