What surprised me the most about having a baby is how great it is. It seems obvious in retrospect but when I was pregnant, and even before I started thinking about having a kid, people were very enthusiastic about what I would be missing out on. I had an idea in my head of a wasteland of a year. I wouldn’t sleep, another September 11 could happen and I would be oblivious, cocooned in baby world where I would have lost not only the ability to read, but the interest too. The world would go on without me.
What I had not occurred to me was all of the good bits. The feeling when you walk over to the cot and they look up at you with only sheer delight. It’s you! My favourite person in the world! When he was two days old I was reading the Guardian and I remember thinking “I still know there is nothing worthy going on in our parliament”. I would prop a novel behind his head as he cluster fed and think “I can still read”.
I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy it. The thrilling rediscovery of the world with a newborn when a walk to the park is a delicious outing to be savoured. When a coffee at the café is a treat akin to degustation at a famous restaurant. And the slow return to life as normal but with a tiny human who is completely dependent on you for survival. At first you cannot imagine leaving your baby, even for an hour, and then you find yourself one night having dinner with your friends and for a few minutes, for the first time, you are not thinking about the baby.
When he was 3.5 months old I went to a wedding for the weekend and thought about him the entire time. I thought of other things too, and had fun with my friends, and went out to dinner, and got a manicure, but there was always in the back of my mind, the low hum of my son. I was never not thinking about him, even when I wasn’t thinking of him. I wondered if it was going to be like this my entire life. Probably. I longed to speak to my Granny. She had 10 children. Did she spend her life thinking of her 10 children all of the time? Or did she have to prioritise them in her mind? Forget about the ones that were doing fine for a bit while her children who were on the other side of the world, or were pregnant, or were about to move towns were the low hum in the back of her mind? Was she aware at all times she had 10 children or did she sometimes forget?
Occasionally I will walk into my son’s room and be surprised to find him there. I even jumped once when I realised there was a baby sleeping in the cot.
One of the most comforting things someone said to me in the early months of my baby’s life is: “Babies are boring as shit”.
They are wonderful but I would feel guilty at times, that I couldn’t be fully present with my baby at all times, that my mind would wander, my attention would wander,I would be distracted, that there were 56 other things I would rather be doing sometimes, than having a completely one-sided conversation with my beautiful and boring son.
My friend said it casually in a text message, he is the father of two primary school age girls, “kids are great” he said “but babies are boring as shit”.
I was given permission to be bored by my baby!
I then read Lydia Davis in What You Learn About the Baby.
“You begin to understand paradox: lying on the bed next to him, you are deeply interested, watching his face and holding his hands, and yet at the same time you are deeply bored, wishing you were somewhere else doing something else.”
When I leave my son playing on the floor while I finish the chapter of book, or I read emails while we were on the train together, or I count the minutes to bedtime while I am feeding him or I scroll through Instagram while lying on the couch in the afternoon with him; I cheerfully think to myself “babies are boring as shit!”