Missing, In Action
‘It means he’s sad,’ I told her. ‘It’s a metaphor. Why do you think he’s sad?’
‘I think it’s because he misses his mummy and his sister and his brother,’ she said. May Blossom is quite concerned with missing people at the moment. When I leave her, which is rarely, she frets about it beforehand, telling me she will miss me ‘so, so much’. But I’m not sure it’s really me she misses. Recently I went out without her for about five hours, and took Garnet with me. Their reunion upon our return was on a scale that a hostage returning home after years in captivity could only dream of.
Anyway, I’m not sure quite what there is for her to miss. I’m a bit lost right now. A bit missing, but still in action. A lot of it comes down to being in the thick of parenting a toddler who rarely pauses for breath from six am to eight pm, and an almost-five-month-old who, while a freakishly cheerful person, is also a person who prefers to have a boob in his mouth about eighty per cent of the time, including most of the night. It’s taken us a lot longer, but we have managed to establish the same dreadful sleep habits in Garnet as we did in May Blossom. I have consistently chosen rest, and thus survival, over discipline, and so now I have a baby who sleeps in bed with us and breastfeeds all night. I feel like six kinds of crap.
We’ve also just bought a house. A big house, on a hill. With a garden and a back lane and it’s all terribly grown up and shit, how did this happen? We aren’t grownups. Whose children are these? Whose purchase contract is that? How can we owe that much money? How do you buy a fence?
I’m trying to relax and ride the wave of all this wonderful fortune but I am struggling. Coping with change is not my strong point.
I’m not the only newish mother who feels like this, I suspect. Actually, I know it for a fact. On Saturday I went to the city with one of my best friends. We left our toddlers and took Garnet in on the bus, in order to shop for clothes we couldn’t justify spending money on, to fit bodies we no longer recognise. We wandered through the shops like two confused old ladies who have been left behind by the retirement home bus. We were invisible to the teenaged shop assistants, befuddled by the styles. I had no idea what size I needed in anything, except that it would need to be disappointingly bigger than before. At one stage I declared that it would definitely help if we nailed down a title for the look we were after. After some deliberation I decided my look this season will be ‘fashion no-no meets Play School host’. The low point of the day was when I cried in the changing room at Zara, and showed my friend my tummy. She teared up and showed me her tummy too.
My shopping list read ‘clothes that make me feel like me again, inc. a dress that makes me look hot’. I came home with flannel pyjama pants, a pair of jeans, some socks, a plain yellow cardigan and a red jumper. I shall team them with a pair of the most beaten-up gold ballet flats you’ve ever seen. They look like I have been working on the railroad in them, all the live-long day. I know they are dreadful, but I will not stop wearing them every day. They are comfortable. They are comforting. I need that.
My friend is slightly lost too. She has different things going on, but we’re both struggling to locate some skerrick of our old selves within these mothers we have become. Neither of us has managed, yet to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of our former selves into something glorious and triumphantly, defiantly new. We’re too knackered for that. All we can do is drink an Aperol spritz together, at 10 am on a Saturday in an empty city cocktail bar, and quietly reassure each other that it will all change again. It will get better. We’ll be back. The people we were are somewhere, still, under the layers of mummy pudge and the wrinkles of fatigue* and dehydration and constant, exhausting concern for these new little people we’re responsible for.
*Said friend at her tiredest and most down is still, objectively, one of the best looking people around. All the luck: she has it.
PS. We’ve been without internet for a while, due to our internet service provider being less of a provider and more of a denier. Long story; involves shouting on the phone a lot, speaking to supervisors’ supervisors, and generally getting nowhere. There will be more, and more cheerful blogs soon, I promise.