The elemental repercussions of having a baby
So then, back in the game after nearly 6 months! Although I say back in the game with some reluctance. I feel a bit like a boxer who once had a great right hook but lost his hand. Or the drummer from Def Leppard. I’m as skeptical as you are about this return. Can the former queen of date balls still roll with the best? Or are we going to see a succession of date splats?
Since having a baby, I’ve exchanged my quest for nutritional balance in all things for hastily grabbed toast, often dry bovrilled with one hand (I’ve got more in common with Drummer One Arm that you’d think). I’ve left healthy cooking experiments in the dust and turned to good old fashioned convenience food, like Jolly Jammers and chicken nuggets. I feel like I wouldn’t know cacao if it smacked me round the quinoa. The shame.
But guys, this is what having a baby does to you, at least temporarily. Anyone who thinks they can just carry on as usual with a newborn is either smoking some good shit or they’re pleasantly ignorant, most likely aided by delusions of grandeur (finger pointed firmly at myself here). Take my pre-baby plans, for example. I had 4 months of maternity leave. I made a deal to work 30% of my hours for 30% of my pay – South African maternity law does you totally dry, so you don’t have much choice if, like me, you want to keep your house. So I agreed to two hours a day. But that was no big deal, I thought. Two hours a day? Piece of cake. In addition to that, I was also going to care full time for my child, naturally. And I was going to start my health food business, a project that’s been on the horizon for a while. And blog, of course – at least once a day.
And here we are 6 months on and….well, I’m happy to report that said child is alive and thriving. As for me? I barely managed to work my hours. I forgot all about my health food business and I didn’t even look at my blog. I also drank more cups of coffee in 24 hours than I previously did in a year, and more wine in 4 months than in my entire life up til now (after breastfeeding, for the purists out there). So, massive success then!
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last 6 months, it’s that it’s ok to let things go. So you can’t get the washing done because your baby won’t stop crying? Stop stressing and wipe the milk vom off your shirt – it’s good for one more day.
Before I venture back into the world of healthy cooking – because let me tell you, you are going to see some questionable posts in the next couple of months – I’d like to share a few pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up on this epic ride. There’s nothing like bringing new life into the world for a lesson in humility, courage and learning to laugh at yourself (although that sometimes still requires half a bottle of wine)…
- Sleep deprivation turns you into Kermit the frog from the Me/Also Me meme. One moment you are a rational human being making decisions based on logic and compassion; the next you are a raging psychopath contemplating using your baby as football. Yes, I really did think that. No, I did not do it (if you’re actually going to do it, call someone. Jeez bro).
- Once you’ve stopped breastfeeding, you will embrace wine like a long lost lover with whom you haven’t had sex in years. You will guzzle it and hoard it. You will fall under its spell like Gollum with the Ring. Your previously bereft life will once again feel complete. Until you wake with a motherfucker of a hangover and have to feed your screaming baby. Every 2 hours. You will swear never to do that again. You will do it again.
- You will have to abandon your shopping at least once because your baby has an epic meltdown in the middle of Foodlovers. People will stare. They will try to ‘help’. In your harassed and flustered state, you will curse the day they were born and storm out of the shop. You will go home and eat buttered toast for dinner because you have no other food, but you would rather die than make another attempt. You will laugh about this eventually (give it 3 months).
- You will have a throw down fight with your partner – possibly more than one. Maybe many. You will accuse each other of not understanding where the other one is coming from. You will both be wrong – you’re simply under the greatest stress that a couple can go through. Having a baby to ‘fix’ a relationship? I’ve never heard such bollocks in my life! Having a baby is one of the greatest tests you will ever face. You will each curl up in a corner to lick your wounds. And you will tiptoe back to each other, trying to find that elusive common ground. Don’t give up – it’s there. It never went away; it’s just playing hide and seek under the baby.
- You will fall in love like you never believed possible. Maybe not at first…not everyone holds their bloody newborn and gets the feels. Maybe not even 2 months later, when you haven’t slept in years, your house resembles an episode of Britain’s Biggest Hoarders and your not-so-beloved baby screams blue murder every moment she’s awake (take videos to remember these times, so that one day when you’re telling yourself it wasn’t so bad and you’re planning your next one, you can take a pause…and make good decisions). Maybe not then. Maybe not even when the worst is over, but you’re still not sure what this non-contributor is supposed to bring to your life, which – let’s be honest – was far easier and way more enjoyable before. But slowly, almost without you noticing, your miniature tyrant becomes a little person. She smiles at you for the first time and it’s like a lightning bolt. Her laugh is better than that song that makes you and your mates rush to the dancefloor. Her personality starts to show and you realise you’re not just caring for your baby, you’re getting to know her. And you suddenly want to trot out every single parenting cliché in the book, because being cool about this doesn’t matter anymore – you just fell totally, head over heels in love. You are Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch.
That’s what I’ve learnt so far and we’re just short of 6 months in. I know I have plenty more soundbites to come over the next 18 or so years…I’m half elated and half terrified. But I’m good with that – sometimes life should be a little scary. If nothing else, it should make for some awkwardly honest blogs! Watch this space…