Whether it's because of the EastEnders (UK soap) storyline at the moment, which centres around a cot death and a baby swap (two together could only happen on TV, right?) or then Daughter’s really, really growing up fast (she’s only twenty, you see - a mere baby), but we’ve been talking a lot about how it is to be a new mother. I’ve tried to explain to her how I was utterly happy and at the same time completely petrified when I carried my precious bundle out of the hospital. I remember wondering how the midwife could possibly allow me to take the baby home with me - surely she could see I was totally incapable?
The drive home with our Son in the back seat was the scariest I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve been in a few hairy taxi rides as well as wintry rally ones since). The Englishman must have driven all of 15 miles per hour the whole way home, not daring to overtake anyone, waiting ages for his turn at roundabouts.
Then at home when I started to nurse my baby; the first time I allowed myself to sleep without fearing the worst would happen to the baby - both massive milestones in my and my first child’s life. Or even in the subsequent one's. When Daughter was born three and a half years later, I kept thinking, I’ve been lucky once, surely I can’t have the same fortune fall upon me twice?
I know I may have been a little more frantic than most new mothers; I was after all on my own with a new baby in a strange country without family or husband (who after two days’ leave had to go back to sea). Even my in-laws lived too far for frequent visits, though my lovely mother-in-law did visit during that lonely year, as did my own mother. But they weren’t there day in, day out, when my new baby would just cry, never sleep and want feeding 24 hours a day. Luckily I had a few very good friends who could go shopping and relieve me from a daily diet of take-away pizzas. (You know who you are and I thank you.)
Today Daughter and I were shopping in Bloomsbury, close to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. As we passed the famous place, talk inevitably turned to sick children. Daughter said how sorry she felt for any parents who go through a child’s serious illness.
I thanked my lucky stars.
I thanked my lucky stars.
Later when we were having lunch in a restaurant a mother and her young son came and sat next to us. The mother ordered carefully for the son, no pasta, just meat and vegetables. Looking at the boy, we both had the sense that this was not about a fussy eater. Later on we overheard a conversation about hospital visits, about nurses and treatments. It was obvious where the pair had just come from.
I looked at my grown-up Daughter and thanked (again) whatever God there is that she's twenty, healthy and beautiful.
It was another of those days when I asked myself why, when I'm so lucky, do I sometimes feel so full of unexplained sadness. Why at times I think I've done nothing with my life? Looking at Daughter today I realised that I've actually already achieved quite a lot. Even if I just sit on my laurels for the rest of my life and watch my two children get on with theirs, I’ve already done what I was put on this planet to do.
Thankfully all of these maudlin thoughts were ended later on the way home when Daughter spotted the famous Band of Brothers actor, Damian Lewis on the tube. We giggled - OK, I giggled - like a little girl until the poor guy got off the train. I couldn’t contain myself because the man was even more handsome in real life than he is on the screen. It took all of my willpower not to dash out of the tube after him. If Daughter had not been there I actually might have done it...(don’t tell her that).
Isn't he lovely?