This was the moment I became a parent. It was 32 degrees and I was trapped in a stifling Amsterdam apartment. I was crying, a 3-week-old Mae was hollering – the sort of squawking that has Social Services perking up – and Douglas our dog was whimpering about his life choices.
Hyperventilating, I called my mate down the road who was bed-bound after a tricky birth and she simply said: “grab something [booze-based], anything, and get your pillowy ass over here.” This was the photo I What’s Apped her as I headed over for a bosomy maternal squidge. I remember thinking, it’s not going to be easy, this parental thing but there will always be a way forward. (Even if it’s not what Bugaboo’s brand team had in mind.)
And that was it. I stopped trying to be a “Yummy Mummy”, a “Mombie”, a “Mum even; anything I was supposed to be. I put the tomes down, I eased myself off the Netmums forums and reasoned in that snot-embellished moment that I wasn’t going to be one of those lucky ones wafting about in a white kaftan, however much I ferociously pinned to my lacklustre Pinterest board.
I’d find myself ricocheting between Gina Ford-championing capable mothership one minute and screaming irrational mangled undercarriage-toting banshee the next. Every day was a hormonal roller coaster with a wobbly lower lip always lurking, ready to go full codfish.
Whether you’re a lean, green, eco warrior machine, strapping that life burden to you as you Downward Dog the madness away or a manic cupcake baker, hoping that each pastel-hued confection baked will piece together a little of your mind, the only thing I (and Fred Astaire rather astutely) know is, there is only one way: yours.
This isn’t school where you are duty bound to buy a Pog (Google it if you’re under 30), the minute cool girl Nicky smugly brandishes one about. This isn’t University or college where you feel the need to do uncouth things like funnel a vat of cider, beer and blackcurrant, resulting, often in demeaning results (and, quote often, errant relationship decisions with Dean from Abbey National). This isn’t work where there’s an Excel spreadsheet to navigate and potential stresses of being the fire safety steward.
This is a level playing field.
A place where you can walk into Tesco, sweat gathering on your upper lip (when you weren’t even aware you had the beginnings of a tasche), child resembling a Ribena berry and making a noise akin to pterodactyl in a tumbledryer, with one escapee grape rolling away into the tinned goods aisle and there’s someone among a bunch of strangers who gets it.
There’s those who slap Mac’s Lady Danger lipstick on, detracting from the blood shot eyes and pneumatic eye twitch. There’s others who pretend their lives haven’t changed a jot but are a veritable weeping mess behind the scenes – complete with spiky hair regrowth; that cruel, ever-so wily mistress. (The former is my preferred survival route). Then there’s the turbo maternal ones who try and help everyone else before helping themselves because they are part Mother Theresa, part Fem Bot.
But once the ebb and flow of gifts and flowers eases off and the attention disappears post-splash down, you really are just a girl standing in front of a mewling infant wanting it to love her – or in darker moments, wanting to love it.
How you go forward at that moment is yours for the taking.
Mine’s a bottle of Campo Viejo Reserva 2011.