Welcome to my latest little grand-daughter, Silver Lily – this post is for your wonderful mummy who came into my life thirty years ago and changed my world forever – now it is your turn! …
As a vision-impaired and inexperienced mother, I was petrified that I would accidentally hurt my new born baby - especially when changing her cloth nappies with sharp pins (disposables were not an affordable option in those distant days). I had to feel my way slowly into motherhood. The first six weeks were horrendous, as any new parent can testify: sleep deprivation driving one to utter despair.
I felt so inadequate when my baby daughter continued to cry in spite of all my well intended efforts to comfort her. Can’t she at least stop crying when her own mother is doing her best to settle her? When sleep was completely absent after five days in a row, I collapsed in the back of our Bedford van parked in the drive way, desperate for sleep. I had to escape her constant screams and gave her father the opportunity to do his best for a few hours - just so I could smile again.
My husband bought me a lovely old rocking chair that worked a treat to breastfeed our new baby in comfort which seemed to calm her at least. However, my mother-in-law, with whom we wer sharing the same house at the time, did not approve of demand feeding. In her old fashioned view, this was a ridiculous modern method : she had followed the advice of baby-expert, Truby King. He advocated a strict feeding regime in the 1940’s, where feeding a baby was recommended at four hour intervals, not a minute sooner. Well, my little Claire had not heard of the Truby King approach so we had to sneak away to the bedroom every two and a half hours to demand feed my unsettled baby - praying her grandmother would not come looking for us. In these divine moments of rare contentment, Claire clung to me like a sweet angel as we rocked in the warmth of motherhood.
Despite fumbling through the first few months, inadequacy was replaced by confidence, anxiety became acceptance, chaos transformed to welcome routine – but the need for sleep was, still, the need for sleep!
Claire’s crying settled more and more as she grew older, giving her father and I the confidence to attempt going out for a family meal like real adults. On one memorable occasion, we were enjoying our dinner with Claire sitting between us, upright in a portable high chair. I was feeding her little portions from my plate, locating her mouth with my finger as my eyes. All of a sudden, her father leans towards me saying calmly,
‘You know you are putting the potato salad in her ear?’
‘What? Don’t be stupid.’ Then I hesitate. Struck with horror, I check Claire’s face and almost die of embarrassment – it was true! She had turned her head just at the crucial moment of inserting the food and I had mistaken her little ear for her petite mouth. Who else in the restaurant had noticed? ‘Oh God, you do it.’ I snap, thrusting the spoon into her father’s hand. All I wanted to do at that very moment was to slink quietly under the table to die of shame.
If at first you don’t succeed –
find out why! Anon