Last night the journey home from my parents’ house was the setting for another first for The Baby. Recently we have bought The Baby’s first pair of shoes, and we’ve listened in amazement as she has told us that a cat says “Maow”, a sheep says “Baa”, and a cow says “Mmmm” (I assume the “oo” will come in time) and drinks of water have been happily consumed via a plastic cup.
Yet last night’s First has been the most special of all, and I have sort of struggled to understand why, until now. The Baby, The Boyfriend and I had been for dinner at my parents’ house. As is normal most days, The Baby had refused sleep for the entire day. Her level of tiredness following dinner was, to be honest, insane. She just didn’t really know what to do with herself, and screamed in protest at having to have her nappy changed and pyjamas forced on her.
Having completed the mammoth five-minute drive from my folks’ to ours, I turned off the engine, turned around to The Baby and was met with the sight of a deeply-sleeping child.
Shit shit shit. Why now? Why couldn’t you have waited just another five minutes?
Taking her out of the car would wake her. By the time I had walked up the road and into the house and got her into her Gro-bag, she would be wide awake and it would take another bottle of warm milk, fighting against her struggles to run full-pelt around the house, and at least another half an hour of attempting to wind her down before she would actually sleep. Shit shit shit.
I trudged around the car, heavy-hearted and playing the expected scenario over in my head as I lifted the sleepy bundle out of her seat. Nothing. Not a peep, not a stir, not a whimper. She stayed asleep.
And suddenly it was me who was the sleepy little bundle being carried down the street. All those memories of being carried from car to home, from living room to bedroom, asleep but not unaware of what was blurrily happening. Memories of being safe in a parent’s arms, being held close and being tucked into bed. The little legs flopping against my legs, were my legs flopping against my mum’s legs. The arms loosely gripping my neck were my arms draped around the neck of my dad.
This, I now realise, is why this particular First is so special, so close to my heart. Early childhood memories have managed to stay with me, despite my rapidly deteriorating short-term memory, or nappy-head as I like to call it. I was a bad sleeper. I hated being alone when I fell to sleep, so I would fall to sleep on the sofa and would be carried up to bed when it came time for the grown-ups to go to bed. Each Saturday night we would spend having dinner with my aunty and uncle. As I got older, I would stay the night at their house, but while still very little, the short car ride home would be enough to send me to sleep, and would necessitate my carriage from car to bed. These memories are a part of me. It is something I never thought I would see through the eyes of a mum. The Baby hates sleep, has always hated sleep, and is a light sleeper. If she ever gives in to the call of the Sandman while being ferried from place to place in the back of the car, each touch of the brakes, each red light, brings about her wakefulness. Never have I made it back home with a still-sleeping Baby in the back.
Last night, I carried my still-sleeping Baby from car to house, I put her in her sleeping bag, and carried her upstairs to her cot, where I lay her dreamful, beautiful body down.
I felt how my parents must have felt. And I hoped that the hazy memories of being carried in safe, loving arms to bed, manage to somehow stay with her, as they have stayed with me.