How can anyone who has never had children truly understand the idiosyncrasies of having a child? The profound difference in a person’s life that has children versus the person’s life who has none. The incredible naivety of the childless. The selfishness of the childless. I should know – I was that naïve, self-absorbed, career-climbing girl.
The following interchange will demonstrate what I mean. I was visiting my family in Yorkshire, North of England for a few days. One of my best friends and bridesmaids had just had her first baby. I had decided to swing on up to Yorkshire to meet the new baby, drop off a gift and to lend my support to my close friend. So, a few hours after arriving I gave her a quick call. “Hey Rachel, its Jacqui.” “Hey Jacqui,” she sounded quite strained.
“How’s it all going?”
“Well, you know. It’s pretty tiring. I’m shattered actually and she won’t stop crying,” she said.
“Oh. Well anyway, do you fancy coming out for a quick drink?” Silence followed this question, and what sounded like a sob, followed by: “Jacqui, Ellen is just 5 days old.”
“Right,” I didn’t know quite what to say to this. Did this mean that she didn’t want to come out for a drink? I would have thought more than ever that she would have wanted to come out for a drink – a stiff one – after what she had just said. “Why don’t you come here instead?” she asked.
“OK. What time suits?” I asked.
“Well, I try to get Ellen down to bed around 7.”
“OK, I’ll come around 7.30pm then.”
“I meant to come earlier than 7 – so you can meet her,” Rachel said, clearly exasperated.
“Right, right, yes of course. I’ll be there around 6.30,” I announced. When I turned up with a bottle of nice red wine it was clearly chaos in the new baby house. The place was a tip, clothes strewn everywhere, the bed hadn’t been made, dirty dishes piled up, dirty laundry stuffed into corner of the living room, the heating was on full so the room was almost stifling, not-to-mention a strange sweet mustardy type smell that I couldn’t quite place. Rachel, my normally glamorous friend was a sight. She looked as though she hadn’t slept in days. Her hair was greasy, she had not a scrap of make-up on and she was wearing a pair of old grey baggy pyjama bottoms with an old too-large for her T-shirt and (it seemed) no bra. I was taken aback.
“Erm, hi. You look, erm..nice,” I said, thrusting the bottle of wine into her hand. She sighed and gave me back the bottle.
“I can’t drink,” she stated. “Breast-feeding. Help yourself to a glass in the kitchen.” She turned away and walked into the lounge. I scooted into the kitchen to collect a glass before following her into the lounge, which looked as though she had just been camped out in for the last few days. “Not even one glass?” I asked. She shot me a withering look. “Right, OK,” I said. It was then I noticed the tiny bundle in the corner of the sofa. I almost sat on it. It seemed to be asleep.
“Oaah, you must be Ellen,” I said delightedly picking her up immediately and clearly startling her. She made a little coughing type noise before screwing up her face into a tiny tight red ball and crying. The crying was horrible. A high-pitched loud cry that pierced your very soul. Rachel looked like she too was about to burst into tears. She pulled her hand through her hair. Her nerves seemed on edge.
“Erm, she’s crying,” I said holding her out towards Rachel. I had absolutely no idea what to do with a crying baby and had no desire to learn then.
“You don’t say,” Rachel shot back before putting her face into her hands and crying herself. Faced with a crying infant with whom no amount of rocking and shssing would stop plus a crying Rachel sat opposite me, I was lost. This wasn’t quite the night out with my best friend I had planned. “She just won’t stop,” Rachel sobbed. “She doesn’t stop crying ALL NIGHT LONG. I can’t do this”.
I didn’t know what to say. “Are you sure you don’t want a glass of wine?” I asked.
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