Well Baby B, twelve months isn’t very long but looking back to March 2014 feels like a lifetime ago. This time last year I got the text I’d been waiting nervously for and walked out of the office, off to become a dad.
I sat on the train with adrenalin pumping through me, so much that I felt I could have picked up the train and run all the way to the hospital. Ironically, it was another 48 hours until our little boy finally came into the world.
For the next two nights I trudged back and forth to Kings College Hospital in Camberwell, and spent two fitful nights at home alone, unable to sleep. I sat and wrote my first blog post about the long wait. The waiting was much harder for Mrs B of course and a hell of a lot more uncomfortable. I didn’t write about the actual birth at the time because, like many births, it didn’t go to plan and we were both left feeling angry, upset, confused, which took the edge off the joy if I’m honest.
I’ll probably go into this more another time because I think there’s probably something of value for parents to be and a year on I can be objective about it.
The main thing is that we got through it together and now I just always want to remember the amazing moment when we met Baby B, our son, for the first time. Mrs B was drugged up to her eyeballs and says she can’t remember much about it, which is again not that uncommon.
I was very lucid, riding a wave of endorphins and happy to be distracted by the chaos that had just happened by staring at him and saying his name. We only had one name in mind and when we saw him we knew it was perfect.
As Mrs B wasn’t very well I was left alone with him for about an hour, maybe more, just sitting in the now silent delivery room (makes it sound like a post office doesn’t it) holding this tiny (6lb 6oz) bundle, with a towel over my head and rocking us both, telling him it was all going to be alright; an attempt to get some privacy and maybe recreate a womb like environment I think. He seemed to like it anyway.
When we got home at last after another two nights in hospital we put him in his cot (after trying to build it like a couple of drunks at 11pm) and then we collapsed into a blur of feeds, sleepless nights, endless nappy changes (debating every poo he did) and feeling generally like we just weren’t qualified to be parents.
I know now that’s how every parent feels, especially if like us you don’t have any family on the doorstep to rally round. We made it up as we went along, taking our cues from our baby and mixing it up with whatever advice we liked the sound of.
The first twelve weeks felt like they would never end but looking back it was no time at all before he was getting the hang of sleeping and chatting to us in his baby babble way, and little by little he was turning into a little person.
It seems crazy now to think that we worried he would never smile, never give us any sign that he was in there.
He seemed generally unhappy and we think he may have suffered some head or neck trauma from the assisted delivery that left him uncomfortable. For the first two months he wouldn’t turn his head to the side, and we ended up going to a cranial osteopath. I was always sceptical about this kind of thing but coincidence or not he gradually got better.
Then the magical day came – I remember getting this photo of him on the way to work one day. It was his first smile, at around eight weeks, and we’ve had plenty more smiles and giggles since then!
Spring turned into summer and we ventured outside where he lay on his playmat and gurgled at the tree branches waving in the breeze. He looked pretty cool in his sun hat.
After the first four months time speeded up and before we had time to notice he was rolling over, crawling, pulling himself up onto the furniture, and suddenly he was one!
Let’s have a quick look back at his first twelve months…
So here we are. It’s his party today and as usual we are running around trying to get ourselves sorted for family and friends descending. It’s going to be fun. He won’t remember it of course but we’ll have some great photos to show him when he’s older.
As I don’t have a lot of time and a long list of jobs to do I am going to have a quick think about what I love about the way Baby B is now.
The ten best things about a one year old baby:
1. He knows who we are. This might sound odd but I am sure for a long time we were interchangeable with whoever was holding him, or a cuddly panda, or his friend the hoover. When babies are tiny they might look cute and cuddly but their world is basically them. They don’t have a concept of other people as separate beings, everything is an extension of their inner life. A bit like being part of a connected universal consciousness. So when they start noticing you leave the room it’s a nice feeling, despite the wailing. Recently I’ve stopped worrying about being a pop up dad because Baby B definitely knows I’m different to his mum, or the cats. He now calls all of us “dadda” but we’re working on that.
2. He loves food. Weaning must be one of the most potentially stressful things in the first year. You’ve managed to get into a routine of feeds, whether that’s breast or formula or like us a bit of both doesn’t matter, the main thing is your baby is healthy and growing. Then comes that tentative first taste of actual food. We started with pureed apple and carrot. There’s a whole other post to be written about this. Yes, there was some spitting out. And later some hurling of food in disgust. But in general he seem to love food and in the past six months we’ve graduated to a veritable a la carte menu of delicious creations. OK. When we’re tired we do fall back on sure fire favourites like fish fingers. But I’ve seen him eat broccoli, only when he thinks we’re not watching.
3. He’s a chatterbox. Everyone loves a bit of baby-talk, for about five minutes. What nobody likes is the range and volume of a baby’s cries. So many ways to wake us up, so many ear-splitting variations but always managing to find that particular frequency that is like nails down a blackboard. I’m sure it breaks all the guidelines on safe decibel levels, new parents should probably wear ear protectors. Of course, this is survival, it’s the only way a baby can communicate his needs. And as time went by the 3am screaming subsided and a gentler stream of noises began to appear. I still miss strangled penguin – “Archarcharcharch” – who was with us from around seven months until last month. But nothing beats that first time he said ‘Dadda” clearly. Then he said it again, and again, and again, and again… We’re waiting for the next word, which will hopefully be “Mamma” but may be “Cat!” (which was my first word).
4. His sense of humour. That first smile is of course wind but the first laugh is something magical. Laughter is such a human reaction, and no one really knows why we do it, so when Baby B first giggled at around seven months, it transformed him from what sometimes felt like looking after another pet, into the personality he’s still growing into. As we all know it’s pretty easy to make a baby laugh. Right? Wrong. Baby B is a discerning aficionado of comedy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still need to get just the right expression if I’m pretending not to notice him, or peeping around a door, before he will give me a chuckle. And even then I think he’s doing it out of pity for his idiot savant carer. I think he’s going to be more of a Stewart Lee fan than Lee Evans. Still likes being tickled mind you.
5. He’s starting to play. What I mean is spend more than twenty seconds handling any given object before hurling it away. Because that’s pretty much what Baby B used to do until I’d say the last two months. He seemed to have a vert short attention span and I’ll be honest, there were times I was a bit worried when I saw other babies sitting nicely playing with stacking cups. I think he is simply a VERY physical, active boy. He loves going to Tumble Tots and generally races around the house. But I can now get him to sit on my knee and look at a book for five minutes. And recently I saw him sit on the floor and carefully take all the little people out of his wooden bus and put them back in again. He did then hurl the bus across the floor but it was progress. There was a spark of imagination and concentration there. I intend to nurture that!
6. He can sleep through the night! No. I didn’t say that. Please don’t hate me. Oh and what if the fickle, cruel Gods of Snoozehalla unleash a curse of sleep regression. I’m truly sorry to have mentioned it. We’ll say no more about it.
7. He can walk (a bit). Yes, last week he did this…
Which was amazing! I found it more exciting than when he crawled for the first time. You know it’s going to happen, but for some reason it still seems like a miracle. And then you realise it’s terrifying. It was bad enough when he started crawling and we realised the house was a deathtrap dungeon. You’ll have noticed I have never written about baby-proofing the house? Yeah, we sort of forgot. It’s ok you don’t need to call social services, we’ve moved all the really super dangerous stuff out of harm’s way. But now he can reach even higher. What do other people do – move everything to special high shelves and use ladders like the ones in old university libraries? Of course, soon he won’t want to go in his pushchair but will only walk three steps before getting tired. And we should probably get some reins…
8. He is sooooooooooooooooo cute. Look! He’s the handsomest baby in the world. (It’s ok – just replace the photo below with a snapshot of your baby. See, now you agree with me.)
9. He’s getting easier to look after. I never thought I’d say that. I wish someone had said when he was really small and needed round the clock care, that in a year or so we would actually be able to sit down and watch TV sometimes, or write a blog. If you look at my archives you’ll see I didn’t really write anything until he was six months old. There was a reason for this. We were both exhausted. I am in awe of anyone who finds any time to do anything apart from keep the baby and themselves alive in those early months. Then they were gone and one day we didn’t look like extras from 28 Days Later anymore. So if we have another one I will try to remember. It. Does. Get. Easier. Eventually.
10. He’s becoming…someone. I don’t know who he is yet but day by day he is less of a baby and more the little boy he will be, the young man he will be, the adult. Just writing that makes my eyes go damp. Must be my contact lens. No. He’s not going to grow up. Not for ages and ages. I want this year to go by in less of a blur. I’d like to press pause sometimes. One day he’ll turn and ask us a question. There’s a lot to tell him. I’ve been storing it all up all my life for him.
This year is going to be brilliant.