Two months ago, my life changed immeasurably. A new person joined our family, and we became parents to a tiny Spud. It’s been quite the emotional whirlwind, and I’m not really sure I’m ready to process it yet. But she’s asleep on my chest, and I’ve my laptop balanced precariously on my knees, so here goes.
This is a whole new world for me. I mean, it’s obviously a whole new world for her too – the transition from the comfy, warm, muted womb to the harsh bright world must be a shock. For me there are new perspectives, new feelings, different relationships.
Firstly – new feelings. People say that you don’t really know love until you have a child. Personally, I think that’s bullshit. I think it’s profoundly insulting to assume that my friends who are childless (by choice or not by choice) can never understand love because they haven’t reproduced. I will say that I fell more instantly in love with her than I ever have with anyone, including my husband. Some of that is biology – she is so wholly vulnerable and depending on us that she needs us to love her unconditionally. Particularly at 3am, when we’d really rather be sleeping. I’ll also say that I didn’t really understand fear until Spud came into my life. Although I’ve worked in various caring jobs, I’ve never had someone this dependent on me before (I realise many people will have grown up caring for family members with support needs, but it’s new to me). There’s an inescapable feeling of dread and worry at the back of my mind now, and I’m not sure it’s going away. I worry that she’s not breathing (even when I can see her chest move), or that she’s really genuinely sad and hurt (even when it’s just that she needs a nappy change) – and then I also worry that she won’t make friends, or that she won’t get into a decent school, or that capitalism will have so overwhelmed society by the time she grows up that there won’t be a decent world for her to grow up in. So love? Yes, I love her deeply, and more than I can say. But I also fear for her more viscerally than I ever thought I would.
The plethora of changes has brought new perspectives. I now care passionately for little things – like zips on babygros, the nightlight on my breastpump, and wetness indicators on nappies – that I really didn’t have any thoughts on before. Familiar objects – like mountains of cushions, hand cream, and food you can eat with one hand – have also taken on a new significance. I never knew tiny fingernails could be so sharp, or that I’d be so afraid of cutting them. I need more cotton wool than I’d ever anticipated. Bras are now a great inconvenience to be removed as soon as I enter the house, and I’ve embraced leggings in a whole new way.
Our new roles throw other relationships into sharp relief. Gaining a new title – is it mam, mammy, mummy, momma? – is still something I’m grappling with. Watching my partner becoming her daddy is wonderful – he has a generous and caring nature that I am so pleased she has in her life. Her arrival has changed parents into grandparents, siblings into aunts and uncles, niblings into cousins and even created great-aunts and great-uncles. She even has a great-grandmother. On top of that, our friends have surrounded us with support. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but really it takes a village to help parents learn how to raise a child. She has reminded me how intensely grateful I am to have so many generous souls in my life. The last two months have not been without their trials and tribulations – some typical for recovering from building a person, others less so. Our village has showed up with lasagnes and cake, kind words and shoulders to cry on – we are so lucky, and so grateful.
And in many ways, we’re not lucky – we’re privileged. Becoming a parent has changed a lot of things, but it’s also just made me a lot more angry about our shitty patriarchal capitalist society. But it’s bathtime, so that rant is going to have to wait for another time.