19 May 2009

Behind the scenes

This afternoon my friend’s nine-month-old daughter may or may not have swallowed a thumbnail-sized sunglasses detail she may or may not have chewed off the arm of a pair of sunglasses. The point is, the mother was up like a shot, banging her kid’s head against the rug in a frenzied attempt to determine if she was choking, then hanging her upside-down whilst gagging her with a finger to try and bring up the offending ornament as she screamed like a baby that was probably going to shit out a foreign object sometime in the next 24 hours.

Then on the phone to a friend with five children of her own: I mean, what do I do – do I take her to the doctor, get her x-rayed, have them open her up, what? By then the child is breastfeeding calmly and Hartley has stopped crying because he’s back to being the centre of my universe. We’re all waiting for an answer because none of us have been through this before, though we’ve definitely reached an unspoken consensus that probably she is fine, and anyway, the friend’s children have never swallowed anything they’re not supposed to.

This past week has been difficult. There are many things about being a new parent that I simply cannot think about too much or I would spend the bulk of my time crying instead of inventing new games for him to play and trying to remember the words to picture books so that I don’t have to keep turning them away from him to read what they say.

The bond I formed with him in order to survive the experience is the very thing that now makes it impossible to even fathom being away from him for more than an hour at a time. Every first-time mother goes through it I guess, but I don’t trust the world or anyone in it at the moment, not with Hartley, and if I could spend the next eighteen years with him strapped to my front without being crippled by the weight of him, well. Don’t tempt me.

Next week Bruce and I are celebrating our second-year anniversary and will leave Hartley with someone else while we catch a film and go out for an early dinner. This woman has known Bruce for a very long time, is practically like a second mother to him and has two children of her own. She was the first person outside the family to meet Hartley, having driven us home from hospital after everyone else resigned themselves to the fact that we were probably never getting out. She will make a very good babysitter, and will not call us to come home early at the first sign of trouble.

No, the point is, everyone keeps trying to get me to feed Hartley a breadstick, a baby cookie, you know, whatever. Leave him for an evening, a night, a whole weekend – take a break! These are just suggestions, and what’s the harm in a bit of food? It’s symbolic, see. I not only feel obliged to intercept the offer – sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who would. And I simply cannot follow Hartley around for his entire life fending off the well-meaning gestures of others.

I don’t want a break, or a breadstick, or to reclaim my life. I just want to stop feeling so afraid.


pk said...

Here is one example of how to be less afraid, even if, as is my way, a trivial one: when you are reading a picture book to Hartley and don't want to turn it round, bear in mind this fact:

.....he can't read......so just embroider, and soon you will reach the stage where you can read a whole story of quite involved prose while simultaneously composing the shopping list, thinking about what to watch on telly later, or other momentous mental efforts.

If you aren't there and she feeds him a cookie ,it doesn't count: tree falling in forest etc.
Enjoy your night out. Betty commands it.

Friday said...

Thanks Betty. I am actually really looking forward to it now, and am even loosening my vice-like grip on Hartley so that Bruce can take him into work tomorrow (Trafalgar Square oh god oh hell *bites nails to the quick*) and I can have three glorious hours to myself. I will probably spend those hours sleeping in the bath, the pages of a bloated book floating around me.

But I will drop-kick the person who gives my son a cookie.

Been loving your serial affairs, btw.