My Difficult Baby

Contrary to the uninformed opinion that new born babies are personality-less little blobs, they’re actually all individuals. Take my two, for example. Now that my second baby has been with us for five weeks – long enough to see some of her individuality, not long enough to be numb to it – I figured it was about time I said what she’s like.

She’s an asshole.

Yes, I know, we’re not meant to call our kids that – babies are all moonbeams and unicorns and magic fairy dust. The reality is that some are perfect little bundles of joy who bring light and life to all who see them, like my first daughter was; and some can be whinging, whining, needy little assholes, like my second is now. An asshole with character and spirit, but an asshole nonetheless.

And I love her for it.

I love her for every time I find myself staring into her eyes at four in the morning, saying in an exasperated tone, ‘Why the hell are you so awake? Why won’t you go to sleep?’

I love her for every time I’m bouncing her on my shoulder, crying out, ‘Why are you still screaming!? I’ve fed you, changed you, burped you, cuddled you, massaged your belly, rocked you, taken you for a drive – for God’s sake, what’s the problem?’

And I love her for every time she cries on other people and then immediately stops when they hand her back to me. That’s my girl.

While her sister was a very easy baby and full of the joys of spring, Rosie is demanding, unsettled, noisy and determined. She’s happiest when lying on somebody, and starts to moan the second you try to move her to pram or cot or chair. She’s constantly asking for milk then refuses to drink it, takes the dummy only to spit it across the room, and sleeps only when you’re at your most awake, saving her wakeful times for when your eyes are propped open with matchsticks. She screams on every car journey for the duration of the trip, has a sixth sense for finding and pulling out clumps of your chest hair when you least expect it, and will feed as and when she chooses, even if that’s a single ounce every thirty minutes, thank you very much.

She’s quirky too. From the moment she was born – and I mean literally the moment – she’s been pulling funny faces and making funny noises. She has the Elvis sneer down to a tee and I’m constantly having to check if the cat’s got into the Moses basket, such is the caterwauling she makes – when she’s not snorting like a pig. She just seems to miaow and grunt away to herself while screwing up her mouth and sticking out her tongue, glaring about with one eye wide and the other just a slit like an infant Popeye.

In fact, that’s not such a bad comparison – she’s short and stocky and instead of the feminine grace of her sister, who looks like her mother, Rosie looks like me minus the beard – and I’m hardly a supermodel. That’s not to say she isn’t cute as a button – the other day a lady said she was ‘very bonny for a four-week-old’ – but it’s not an immediately obvious beauty. I mean, I think she’s adorable, but more in the manner of an owl than a falcon – or more like a middleweight boxer than a decathlete. Woe betide anyone who gets in her way when she’s learning to walk!

And that is my baby at five weeks. My adorably difficult, grizzly little bruiser, a perfect little asshole.

I wouldn’t change her for the world.

It’s Harder On the Parents

Izzie has just spent her first night in her cot in her own room. Despite what I’ve said about accepting the passage of time, how it’s natural for a baby to move from one stage to another and instead of losing anything, you’re gaining a deeper understanding and a richer relationship, it’s still an incredibly bittersweet experience to see your daughter move on. Scratch that – it’s a painful, heart-rending, panic-inducing kick to the balls. And it hurts.

All week I’ve been putting off setting up the monitors, as though burying my head in the sand could somehow avert the inevitable. I secretly hoped they wouldn’t work, or I wouldn’t be able to figure out the instructions, or we’d have a power cut or no heating and she’d have to stay in the Moses Basket beside my bed, in my room, with me. Because for all my pontificating and philosophising, I’m just as emotionally insecure as the next parent, and I’m struggling to let go.

And that’s what parenting is all about. Our children do not belong to us – they belong to the Universe. And we are just borrowing them for a time. Each stage of their lives lasts just as long as it’s meant to, and no matter how much we might want to cling to a certain period because it makes us feel good, or important, or validated, we have to learn to let it go, release it emotionally, and move on to the next.

Easier said than done.

We put her in the cot in a grobag and she cried and cried. As we’re not advocates of the ‘cry-it-out’ method, I put my hand on her chest and rocked her gently from side to side until, after adding teething gel and a dummy, she suddenly went out like a light. So I removed the dummy and went next door and felt sick. My stomach tightened into knots, my arms tensed as though I was preparing to box, and my legs jiggled with nervous angst.

Ten minutes of sweating and writhing about in agitation, plagued by guilt, worry, my inability to accept change, and I could bear it no longer. I crept in there to find her still fast asleep, and in the same position I’d left her.

I spent the next hour staring at the monitor, watching the temperature gauge, waiting for it to burst into life – nothing. I woke every couple of hours feeling emotional and panicked. At four, I got up to check on her, and once again she was fast asleep, though in a slightly different position – about ninety-degrees away from straight. But she seemed okay, so I went back to bed, stared at the monitor for an hour, turned up the heating.

I got up at seven but she was still asleep, and it wasn’t until eight that she began to stir. After all my worrying, all of the stress and mental anguish, she slept right through from eleven at night till eight in the morning as though it was nothing.

Admittedly, she was facing the opposite direction to how we’d put her to bed – her feet to the headboard – but it just goes to show: this growing-up lark is far harder on the parents than on the children!