THREE days ago, I cut a vest off my six- week-old baby boy. It was after a particularly heavy duty 'power poo' as himself calls them. It flowed up his back, gushed out the sides and erupted across his belly. We were wiping from the neck down. Unlikely to come out in the wash, we cut him out of it and flung it in the bin. (A wise pal told me to only buy vests in Penneys and Dunnes to throw out when your newborn is firing on all cylinders).
This charming little vignette sums up the last seven weeks of my life. That and when my husband asked me one night if I'd like 'a little drinky', his voice an octave higher than his normal speaking tone.
I'm pretty sure I could work for NASA after figuring out the whole car seat/ pram/chassis combo. I could give Mary and Joseph a run for their money when it comes to swaddling, and my hair and bi-weekly shower is possibly a reminder to my friends with no children, that they made the right lifestyle choice. My new heroes for 2011 are single parents.
This isn't how it was meant to be. I was meant to be sitting on the couch at home for Christmas, my cherubic newborn curled on my lap, cooing and gurgling at his adoring grandparents. I would be tired all right, but it was meant to be that satisfied tiredness, like you'd been up through the night at a terrific party; wrecked but happy.
Since our baby boy came home, I've been plotting how, when he's a teenager, I will get my own back by waking him at weekends when he's begging for sleep, kick him out of the bed and make him make me something to eat at four in the morning, without even a smile of thanks in his direction.
As cliched as it may be, nothing but NOTHING prepares you for a baby. Everything you said you wouldn't do, you do. And other things you wouldn't dream of admitting, lest social services knocked on your door. I was hell-bent on not giving any baby of mine a soother. They're hanging out of me like jail keys now.
I was adamant I wouldn't pander to or mollycoddle any baby, particularly a baby boy, just to be sure to re-enforce some unhealthy gender stereotyping at an early age. (When should a newborn man up? Three weeks, four weeks?) As it happens, my little man has colic, which means inconsolable crying for long stretches. And when that wail starts, there is nothing I wouldn't do to make it stop. If harnessed, the energy from the bawling could power a small republic.
The baby massage classes, osteopath visits, formula changes, health remedies, multiple doctor visits -- I've done them all. I have walked my house a million times with him on my shoulder, pushed and rocked him for hours in the pram.
I even have a sling, having read somewhere that tribes where babies are carried by their mothers are virtually colic free.
Medical opinion is divided on what colic is. Wind and gas are by and large believed to be behind it (excuse the pun). And any parent of a colicky baby will tell you that no matter what their offspring achieves later in life, Nobel Peace Prizes included, there is nothing like the cheering and acclaiming you do when they get a great big, luscious burp up.
It generally follows what seems like decades of winding, rubbing, patting, over the shoulder, on the lap, on your knee, anywhere, anyhow, to get the wind up. (A nurse told me in Holles Street that I was actually squeezing my two-day-old's windpipe, the first time I tried winding. Is it any wonder he has trouble getting the wind up?)
It's customary to end opinion pieces like these with something along the lines of, 'But all the smiles and the coos and gurgles make it all worthwhile'.
Instead I'd like to offer some advice to prospective parents to be. Always, always opt for nappy changing duty as opposed to feeding. No matter how dirty the protest, at least you're not winding ...