I had a bit of a ‘moment’ on Friday morning, as I was driving Matty to the station. I’d woken up feeling irritated, sort of grumpy, a bit dissatisfied like when you’re really, really hungry and the only thing that will suffice is a burger and chips, so you go to a restaurant, and when your order comes, it turns out it’s nouvelle cuisine and your burger is ‘deconstructed’: a few crumbs of dehydrated bread, a sliver of wagyu, a microscopic cube of pickle, and a light sprinkle of microherbs atop an artful smudge of sauce.
Matty reminded me that indeed I had achieved things – not least in the last seven months: birthed a baby and written and edited not one but two magazines.But that wasn’t quite what I meant. I’m not discounting the fact that I’ve managed to create a gorgeous, flame-haired, mini-human whom I love ferociously, or, that frequently, after putting mini-human to bed at 7pm I work happily on aforementioned magazine until midnight or 1am. It’s more a feeling that I don’t have enough space, at the moment. Space to do the things I’d do if I had more time for myself: regularly updating my blog, for example, or painting again once in a while, or practising the piano so I don’t lose my very limited repertoire completely. I have so many ideas for the children’s books I want to write and illustrate and the jewellery I want to make and the sculptures I want to create – but there’s just no space. Not an inch. I feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to do: I have so many phone calls to make, to friends I’ve neglected as weeks have turned into months; there are a million clothes to fold and put away, but no matter how much I do, the mountain of mess gets bigger, not smaller. I’m feeling deafened by so much social media screaming for attention: the Instagram narcissists vying for likes, the Facebook braggers and the oh-my-god-you-have-to-click-on-this-or-life-won’t-be-worth-living clickbaits. (I try not to click! But I do, and then I fall headfirst into a meaningless internet vortex). I’m exhausted. So exhausted. The baby never sleeps, and when she does, it’s in fits and starts. An hour here. Forty minutes there. She wants to be attached to me all the time. I’ve become a half-adult half-baby hybrid. Exhausted. Exhausted.
Even so, a very wise and dear friend recently reminded me that although life with a small baby can be tough, these are the years I’ll look back on as some of the most beautiful of my life. Just like the pain of childbirth, I’ll forget the crosseyed-with-tiredness delirium and the feeling of being suffocated by unfulfilled ambition.
Instead, I’ll remember how precious it was to have a baby yet unable to speak but so hilariously expressive. Who squeals with arm-flapping excitement when I walk into the room. Who has the juiciest, most kissable cheeks and hands you can’t help but squeeze; so small and pudgy, with dimples where her knuckles should be. I’ll wish I could hold her – as I do now – as her eyes flutter shut and she nuzzles into me like the sweetest, warmest, milk-drunk koala. Even for a moment. You see, the thing about moments is that they’re fleeting. They slip from our grasp and tick-tock away no matter how hard we try to hold onto them. So I know what I have to do. I have to lower my expectations of myself. I have to put down my mobile phone. I have to be in the moment with my sweet little baby and remember that one day I’ll look back and wish I could be exactly where I am now. Right here.