Monday, February 25, 2008

Starbucks and other observations

Julia, 11 weeks

I took Julia for a walk to Starbucks the other day. I thought it a good idea to get her started on places of cultural interest from a young age. As I struggled with the heavy glass door (a complicated maneuver involving my generously proportioned butt to secure it while attempting to get the pram up the small step), the people inside simply stared at me without offering to assist. It was as though I were a strange 'one-person and her pram' circus performance specifically designed for their entertainment.

I'm beginning to wonder if, by having a pram, I'm now viewed in the same category as the metal detector people you see in parks and along beaches. They're usually dressed in trench coats, wear large ear phones, and have funny little hats on. You kind of make a wide birth when you encounter them, afraid your belt buckle or tooth fillings might excite them.

I was in Pret the other day (you're seeing a pattern here right?) buying a couple of coffees. The guy behind the counter, a particularly ill-tempered camp Spaniard who knows me as a regular, assumed I had paid. I corrected him and made a joke to the effect of, "Damn, I shouldn't have said anything and I would have got a free coffee," to which he responded by making them on the house, amidst my embarrassed protestations. Moments later he chased a hungry homeless man out for trying to steal a sandwich.

I used to watch shows like Oprah where they give the stay at home moms a makeover and would think to myself that those women just lacked imagination and effort. I mean, there's a hell of a lot you can do with a hairdryer and some rouge right? Well my judgment has come back to haunt me. I'm seriously thinking of sleeping fully-clothed. That way when people come to the house at two in the afternoon, a time I've usually still failed to bathe, brush my teeth, and dress, I'll look as though I'm on top of things.

Yep, time. It's taken on a whole new meaning for me. When Julia sleeps I wash bottles, make bottles up and stick them in the fridge, have a quick shower, eat a piece of toast standing at the kitchen counter, go through the post, and check my email. The latter doesn't take long because I don't get many these days. I mean you've got to send them to get them right? My friend Jeff wrote and asked me if I was pissed off with him because I've been failing hopelessly at my side of our correspondence.

And when I'm not being a lousy friend, I'm stomping up and down Regent's Park like a maniac, along with all the other mother's and their prams. We all have vacant glassy--eyed looks, as though we inhabit a surreal subterranean world somewhere between sleeping and waking, where everything happens in 3-4 hour repetitive cycles.

Even my dreams, which I used to take an interest in analysing, are now completely fragmented thanks to the 30 or 40 minute sleep bites I get per hour. Instead of one long Freudian epic, they now resemble disjointed montages, as though a bored teenager is channel surfing in my head. Whoever said, 'Sleep when the baby sleeps' didn't have a baby. Or rather, wasn't a new mom who stirs at every little peep her baby makes.

And yet, and yet, despite being a badly groomed zombie, I'm also quite enjoying this mothering thing, albeit in a dazed kind of way. Julia is now communicating her needs in sounds other than crying, which is a baby's usual form of communication. She's also eating a whole lot more milk in a sitting and is growing bigger before our eyes. And her hand-eye coordination is progressing in leaps and bounds with her now reaching out for and gripping her toys. These things sound very basic, but I've watched her progress from a tiny little baby that had little acknowledgment of and interaction with the external world, into a smiley little girl that gets a thrill out of embracing a toy panda that's as big as her.

In their journey through this new world these little people make such enormous progress even from one day to the next, and it makes me feel incredibly fortunate and exited to be along for the ride. The unshaved legs and relentless exhaustion become worthy sacrifices, or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

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