I’m not sure if it was the pregnant bellies, the tiny pink gumboots filled with pink flowers or the realisation my ‘baby’ is now 20 months old and I can no longer squish his entire long body into my lap at once. So help me, I was CLUCKY.
Standing at my sister’s baby shower, watching my nearly-4-year-old help her unwrap presents for her soon-to-be baby girl and jiggling a friend’s 14 month old on my hip, my arms were feeling just a teeny bit achy.
I’d felt that ache before: the first time I was separated from Son #1. He was just 3 weeks old and Mum took us out to the supermarket. Instead of dragging my sore post-caesarean body around the aisles searching for milk, bread and nappies, Mum made me sit on the bench seat out the front of the checkouts for ‘just a few minutes’.
She didn’t actually vocalise that she was going to take the pram and baby with her but I didn’t protest. As I watched her roll the little chap away I started to feel a little ill. Then I started to panic. Just a bit. But she was too far away to hear me yell, I knew I was being silly and I could still barely walk thanks to the lingering pain of a 24 hour labour and emergency caesarean.
My arms started to feel empty. Of course, they were empty. But they felt as though they shouldn’t be. I tried crossing my arms over my chest, hugging myself. It didn’t help.
How long had Mum been away with the baby? Was it long enough to get the groceries? Shouldn’t she be back by now?
I started peering at the checkouts to see if she was in a queue yet.
I checked my mobile to make sure it was on, just in case she needed to call me.
Tick, tick, tick.
What if something had happened? What if someone had kidnapped the baby? Oh, don’t be so ridiculous.
Tick, tick, tick.
Someone’s kidnapped the baby. Mum’s lost him in the supermarket, she’s spoken to the manager but they’re hoping they’ll find the baby before they admit to me that they’ve lost the baby because they don’t want to worry me.
I had already started tapping the passcode into my mobile to call Mum, just to check, when I saw her wave at me from the queue at checkout 3, pram in hand.
I’ve always said I’m not really the ‘baby type’. I think babies are gorgeous and I loved my own babies very much but I always breathe a little sigh of relief when they reach the toddler stage (although this may partially be because neither of my two boys EVER slept through the night – not even once – before they were about 18 months old).
A few weeks ago I sold the highchair and double pram on Gumtree. We have so much more floor space, it’s wonderful.
With a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye I parcelled old baby clothes and toys into boxes and bags to bring to this very baby shower. A box of blue clothes for my cousin, heavily pregnant with her first boy. A box of toys for my sister, for her baby girl to play with. Ah, the extra cupboard space. No need to store them any longer in nappy boxes marked ‘0’ and garbage bags marked ‘1’, confusing the 000’s with 00’s and putting the 1’s with the 0’s.
But I gazed at my sister’s growing belly and remembered the magical feeling of baby squirming inside; rolling slowly and jarring suddenly. Frightening colleagues during meetings by taking a good swift kick and wobbling my whole tummy. Re-run of Alien, anyone? I remembered the endless infant cuddles on the couch, the impossibly tiny fingers, the little contented sighs and the complete floppiness of the post-feed baby body.
I wondered maybe… just maybe.
My nearly-4-year-old sidled up next to me: ‘Mum, I want go home now’. This after he’d been a complete angel for nearly 5 hours through set up, pre-drinks and the baby shower itself. ‘Soon, honey, soon. We need to wait until Aunty Ange has finished opening her presents.’ His patient face fell. It rearranged itself into the face of a shattered preschooler who has trusted that because he has asked for nothing all day he will be granted this one wish. Immediately. ‘Nooooooo!!! I want to go home NOW!!!’
And then it all came flooding back to me. The sleep deprivation, the endless crying (mine and his) for no apparent reason, the need to carry him everywhere, his complete and utter dependency, the need to spoon feed him when he started solids, having to schedule our whole lives around when he may or may not sleep (never any longer than 40 minutes), being unable to go out to dinner with friends for more than an hour or so for fear he would wake up and not go back to sleep (he never took a bottle).
I handed the 14-month-old back to her Mum, bent down and said ‘Ok, sweetheart, let’s head home now and see what Daddy and your brother have cooked us for dinner.’ I gathered up my bag, hugged my sister, patted her belly and said, ‘I’m soooo looking forward to cuddling my new niece in a few months!’ and headed off.
Yes, babies are gorgeous. Especially a niece because I’ll be able to hand her back to her Mum.