There’s a pram in the hall.
Well, really there are three prams in the hall. One actual pram and two buggies, which we’ve been meaning to put into storage and yet somehow haven’t. Also, because we live in London, it’s not a hall so much as a space by the front door.
This may not be especially coherent. Two weeks ago today, I had a baby.
Fourteen days old and he’s tiny, still curled, his legs bandy from being inside me. Sometimes, when he kicks underneath his blanket, I can put my hand on my stomach and remember when only I felt him moving. Experience tells me that I’ll forget it soon, that precise memory, maybe in the next few days. Right now, it’s still there. Just.
The other night, I was crying, for some reason (you cry a lot when you have a baby) and my husband put his arms around me and held me close and patted my back, long and slow. We both realised in the same moment that he was burping me.
Mostly, we sit on the sofa, which means TV. Only, given my thrumming brain, there’s very little I can stand to watch. Off the menu is: anything with death, pain, tension, strong emotions, weak emotions, any emotions, animals, children and babies. Eventually, I discover a documentary on Netflix about pizza. When I watch it, I find its poignancy almost unbearable.
Four days ago (three? Five?) I went to the doctor, absolutely dragged myself and sat down in the chair, more slumped, really, and said, ‘I’ve just had a baby and I’m not well, I’m not well’. The doctor was kind and asked what, exactly, was the problem. I told him and he said, ‘Well, yes. You’ve just had a baby.’ I nodded, because of course, that explained everything. Also, I was surprised. I’d just had a baby!
I keep remembering him, which must mean I keep forgetting him.
Who forgets they’ve just had a baby?
We were in hospital four nights, and all I wanted was to come home. Then I came home and all I wanted was to be pretty much anywhere else. Days seven, eight and nine, I longed to run up mountains, get on a plane, go to a museum. Sitting in the same room, counting muslins and rotating bottles, I was frantic to fill my mind with something, anything. An exhibition, maybe. If I could just get up and walk to the tube, I could go to an exhibition and learn something! In reality I could barely make it to the front door. I explaining to a friend who’d come to visit, saying every night as I lay down my mind kept flitting between the emptiness of the day that had just passed, and its ultimate triumph. All I’ve done is keep the baby alive/ I’ve kept the baby alive. He told me the German word for precisely that Escher-like shift in perspective, and I was pleased, because on that particular day I’d kept the baby alive and I’d learned something.
I’ve forgotten it now.
People keep texting, asking, ‘How are you? How was the birth?’ I have answers lined up ready (like bottles, everything’s like fucking bottles) but I can’t tell them, not really. I don’t allow myself to think about it much. The other afternoon, trying to nap, I remembered how blue he’d been when they put him on my chest, and how he’d stayed blue as the minutes passed, and the moment they’d taken him away, and the midwife who said, ‘He’s a fighter, he’ll be fine’. I remembered thinking, how the hell do you know he’s a fighter? How do you know anything about him at all? He’s five minutes old. I remembered that, and how he had been inside me and then how he was far away, whole hospital floors away, and as I remembered a drop of breast milk, an opaque tear, ran down my stomach. I watched it in a detached kind of way, thinking that it was really a bit obvious that the milk should look so precisely like a tear drop. A bit much.
I know I’ve said it already but he is very small, unbearably small.
Because I had a C section and so can’t have a bath, and mainly because I’m tired, and busy not answering texts and lining up bottles, my body is still covered with patches of glue where they placed God knows what on me during the operation. Every now and then I find a new drift of grey gunge, on my shoulder or my inner thigh, and try to think whether I remember a sensor being stuck there. Two weeks in and I really ought to rub it all off. Maybe tomorrow. Or in a year, or something.
I‘ve been told to keep calm, even though our baby is so little and not gaining as much weight as he should, and outside it’s a hundred million degrees and the newspapers say that when Brexit comes we may run out of food and the world could be ending and is, at the very least, on fire. A midwife comes over and asks how I am. I tell her that I’m suffering badly with anxiety. She nods and says, ‘That can happen. Now, let’s talk about cot death’.
When the panic comes, sometimes seeping in and sometimes with a smack, I look at him and think of the stillbirths and the miscarriages and the babies that will never be children and I can’t breathe.
It’ll all seem easier soon, they tell me. We’ll be okay. He’s only been here two weeks.