When my daughter was first placed into my arms, I didn’t know what to do. Partly because I was off my face on a combination of Pethidine and Nitrous Oxide, but even more so due to the fact that I had never really held a newborn before. At least, not held one without being able to hand them back when they started screaming, or when I felt too uncomfortable to hold them. The latter always came first.
I had nobody to pass this baby onto. I learned this more than ever when, at 1am on a lonely yet incredibly muggy Mother & Baby ward 7 hours after birth, the cries wouldn’t stop – and I was clueless on what to do. I hobbled to the front desk and told the midwives I needed to sleep but couldn’t calm the baby down. They stared blankly back at me before slowly explaining that I needed to learn how to cope, and that she – the baby – will tell me what to do; I just needed to listen.
I was taken aback. I needed to learn? I don’t need to learn anything! I had always found everything so easy throughout my life, could blag my way through any exam, yet here I was with something so small and defenceless in my arms and I didn’t know where the hell to start. Clearly it was her problem, not mine, and they needed to sort it out ASAP. ‘Needed to learn’. Pfft. They must have been confused.
Three years later, and I think I’m finally getting to grips with this form of further education. I’m keeping an open mind to my learning abilities and realising that there’s no amount of blagging that I can do to convince somebody that I’m doing a good job; the evidence stands right in front of me, now multiplied by two, and they can tell no lies (seriously, have you ever tried getting a kid in for free to an attraction by lying about their age? They’ll catch you out – they’re three years old and damn proud of it, sir!).
I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but these little people are guiding me. I try to do what I think is right and often get rebuked; a cry of “No, Mummy, that’s not fair!” or “I can do it myself now!”, perhaps even a “He doesn’t like that – I know what will stop him crying and it’s not what you’re doing!”. All things which stop me in my tracks and make me think about this little girl in front of me and what she’s saying. And then I flick back to what the midwife said, the anti-christ in my eyes at the time, who was right all along.
She’ll tell me what I need to do. I just need to listen.
I have learned to cope; I have learned so much more than to cope. I have learned to love like I have never loved before. I have learned that breakfast for dinner sometimes isn’t such a bad thing, and neither is dinner for breakfast – because “it’s all going to the same place anyway”. I’ve learned songs I’ve never sang before, dances with moves I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve learned more compassion, empathy, how to laugh at something that would have made me angry previously because, in the whole scheme of things, what is it to me? What would have seemed like my everything before is now my nothing, because these little people, they are my everything – a terrifying thought yet an exceedingly simple concept. I’m never too uncomfortable to hold them and only wish that the cuddles could go on. And hey, I’ve become a great listener to the ones who deserve to be listened to. It just took me a little bit of learning to find that out.