You might be forgiven for thinking after that last post that having a baby was all kittens and butterflies. Um, it wasn't.
And so to the tough aftermath I alluded to. Man, having a baby is hard. It demanded a total readjustment of the way I thought. It reminded me of doing the Coast to Coast (well, a bit of it) last summer and having to have a word with myself about the fact that all I had to do every day was walk. That was it. After a busy summer term at work my mind struggled with that comedown from firing on all cylinders (IB MADNESS! BOOK WEEK! SCHOOL MAGAZINE!)' to 'Oooo....pretty mountain...and another...and another...' And in those crazy early days after five weeks of babyless maternity leave, I needed to have a similar mental pep talk with myself, i.e. "ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TODAY IS LOOK AFTER A BABY." That's it. Anything else achieved - reading a page of that heavy grief memoir, a shower, standing up for a period longer than five minutes - is a bonus.
And so to Belgian hospitals, which are feckin marvellous in my humble opinion. OK, there were a few weird bits (the leg massage from the physio the day after giving birth was a touch awkward, and the baby photoshoot on the day we went home - "Does 'ee 'av a leetle teddy? Does 'ee 'av a pyjama weeth a leetle beet of colour?"- was on another level of surreal Belgian comedy). But I also remember looking at the clock 12 hours after delivery thinking 'If I was in the UK, I'd be home by now.' Sobering stuff. I mean, I didn't feel dreadful but by God I didn't exactly feel wonderful either and the thought of going home and NOT having a big red shiny button to press to summon a jolly trilingual midwife wasn't a particularly pleasant one.
Because breastfeeding? Jesus, of all the hard things in the world (PhDs in Chemical Engineering, understanding income tax, scrubbing dried-on porridge offov a bowl) it was the hardest man. Even with the phalanx of midwives and the big red shiny button. Too hard, as it turns out. Big baby = super-hungry baby, and that + a tongue tie + conflicting advice from midwives + there-are-different-types-of-NIPPLES-in-this-world?! shock revelation + mastitis + 40 degree fever + antibiotics depleting my already crappy milk supply (see 'conflicting advice from midwives' for further details) = no more BF for me. I've made my peace with it I suppose, although I would like to say to those over-ardent Advocates Of Breastfeeding that every time you cheerily say, 'Well, never mind, you can always try again with the next one!' to a woman who's given up with a heavy heart all she hears for the BILLIONTH time is 'Breast is best!' And, actually, she doesn't have to look very far for that message - it's projected from every parenting manual and every desperate Google search that the aforementioned poor sod of a mother is scouring at 3 o'clock in the morning for some kind of reassurance that formula isn't going to turn her baby into an obese allergy-ridden dolt while the aforementioned hangry (not a typo) baby screams and screams. What might be more sensitive is, 'Formula is fine, you know. It's not poison. It exists for women who choose not to breastfeed, but also for those like yourself who struggle with feeding, or who have to go back to work very quickly or have a baby with a medical issue.' Or 'You managed x days/weeks/months with a hell of a lot of obstacles - bravo.' Or something. THAT'S the message she's struggling to find in a book or on an online forum and could really do with hearing.*
Or perhaps I was just so miserable and hormonal and therefore so prone to taking massive offence that nothing anyone said would have suited me.
ANYHOO. Onwards and upwards. 'Life is a roller coaster,' as a wise man once mused, 'just gotta ride it.' Baby update, yeah? Well, apologies to the women of the world, but I Got The Best Baby. And now that he's smiling, oh, my heart is BURSTING every time I wake him up (and he smiles!) or put him down to sleep (and he smiles!) or I shove my face into his and sing a stupid song about his burps (and he smiles!) And when he looks across at us through the bars of his cot with a little dribble of milky sick escaping from one side of his mouth and I reach out to wipe it I feel like I've uncovered the Meaning of Life. It's this. This is what it's All About.
And I can't decide whether I should laugh or weep a little bit. This is what parenthood has done to me (and, to a lesser extent, Adam, although he still has to function at work and think about things other than baby vomit like, umm, electronic sheep tagging). I'm losing my mind over baby vomit and sending him photos with comments verging on 'OMG he is SOOO SUPER-GORGE look at his ICKLE FACE! LOLZ' Jesus.
OK, a tiny bit more of babybabybaby and then I'll rein it in (for a bit). As well as smiling and sleeping like a pro he's growing like a beaut. Since he was tinywee old women of Belgium were peering into the pram to compliment him and saying things like, 'Il est trop mignon!' (oui, oui, merci!) and then 'Trois mois?' Err, non. When he was born he was like a skinned rabbit (even though then people were still saying 'he's HUGE') whereas now he IS actually huge, like a seal pup - all lovely big eyes and lashes and ponderous weight. Oh, his thighs. His little wrists. His fat hamster cheeks.
To. Die. For.
Now that the feeding issue is sorted and I can take him places (as opposed to sitting stripped to the waist in my front room with the lights down low and Elliott Smith playing wanting to die - is listening to Elliott Smith and wanting to die actually the same thing?) we've been travelling all over fair Bruxelles. We've been into school to show him off. We've been to cafes and parks. We've run the gauntlet of teeth-sucking harridan disapproval in Pain Quotidien. The other day I took him to Zara and managed to TRY ON and then BUY some clothes which was rather exciting. I also took him to the physiotherapist (who was very nice if a bit stern and said that she could tell my abdominal muscles were still 1cm separated - what voodoo is this? All she did was feel my gut for a nanosecond! - and I should NOT be running yet, oopsy) and he charmed the pants off everyone in the waiting room.
And to wrap up here is a darkly funny photo I took in the hospital on my way to the physio room:
Full marks for forward planning, that architect.
I'll try not to become a massive baby bore (try - can't promise owt). Back soon to bang on about some stuff what I have read (possibly) and my new pink coat (definitely).
* Disclaimer: I did get that message, eventually, from a couple of lovely souls who very generously offered up their time and expertise to speak to me at length and tell me repeatedly that Everything Was Going To Be OK. Big love, people.