It seems to have been one of those particularly eventful weeks in the world of baby mishaps. The kind that is marked by regular low level events that are just enough to have the adrenaline pumping and cause a little flutter of panic but turn out to not necessitate any further action. The standard for the week was set with the ingestion of artificial coal from the fireplace and subsequent black face, dungerees and carpet, a finger sweep around the mouth that inevitably led to a full volume expression of significant displeasure from the Little One, and a swift google search of ‘is it dangerous to eat artificial coal?’ (NB, essentially the answer is ‘no’: breathe a sigh of relief and confine said coals to a plastic bag in a cupboard for the foreseeable future).
Between scrubbing black handprints off the carpets, dealing with projectile poo (the down the leg and up to the shoulder blade variety, a whole new level of messiness in a wriggly crawler compared to what now seems like the manageable stranded turtle position of a newborn), and removing wheetabix from its concreted position on the white walls where the Little One has been practising her newfound skill at throwing, there’s been little chance for reflection. But indulging in a little reflection is a prerequisite this week, for it marks a year since I started my mat leave. And somehow that feels like a pretty big landmark.
My first diary entry on mat leave oozes an overwhelming sense of excitement, hopes and aspirations for the year ahead, but I was slightly disappointed to read my acknowledgement that I had no idea of what was coming. It would have been good for a laugh. I also did a sarcastic snort when I read that I was finding it difficult to enjoy some days to myself, having vented to my friend only this morning that I NEVER GET TIME TO MYSELF.
And so, one year on, which realities of maternity leave would I definitely not have predicted? Well, here is my shortlist:
1) Naps will rule your year. A good day is simply defined by naps of appropriate lengths at appropriate times with minimal fuss. A bad day involves short naps, no naps, crying, walking endlessly around the block. Naps are a total head fuck: you think you’re getting some time to do those jobs? You’ve got another thing coming!
2) You are never more than 30 minutes away from either a nap or a feed. Once weaned, that 30 minutes is filled with mopping the floor.
3) You will crave sugar for at least 6 months; coffee and cake will become an essential component of the day, no longer considered a treat.
4) In hindsight, the first year will have flown by. But at the same time the days that fill it will often feel like the longest days of your life (and may well literally be).
5) Poo will become a topic of much fascination. There is more to say about it than you could possibly imagine. And you won’t be able to resist the lure of a close examination once weaning is underway to identify which undigested fruit skin has re-presented itself to you this time.
6) Google will become your night-time best friend for all questions relating to sleep and feeding, both of which you will become obsessed with.
But for now, without further ado, I’m unashamedly off to indulge in a little more ‘this time last year’ nostalgia. In hindsight, our last weekend, last night, last meal at home before going to hospital have become very fond memories (less so the birth bit; carefully glossing over those hours). Maybe it’s knowing what a wonderful time lay ahead for us. Maybe it’s looking back fondly at a pair of enthusiastic and naïve new parents. For it’s been a rollercoaster for sure (cringe, amongst other things, at the memory of telling my husband it was ok for him as he could ‘swan off to work’ each day), but the deep emotional highs, the bond, the little things day-to-day, are all the bits you really and truly can’t imagine and can only understand by experiencing it. What a wonderful and fulfilling year it has been, and all thanks to the Little One.