The Diving Bell and the Firefly


I am not still pregnant. If I had been you would have read about me in the Daily Mail by now. Left to my own devices though, there is every possibility I would still be pregnant, my body showed absolutely no desire to expel the inner-child. In the end, the good people of the Rotunda dragged him out kicking and screaming. I will spare you the details. I’ve mostly blocked them out anyway.

Someone recently referred to the reality of childbirth as the greatest secret ever kept. I suppose it’s a deeply ingrained protection mechanism to ensure the continuity of the species. What I found intensely puzzling in the first few weeks after labour is that women often have more than one baby. It seemed unthinkable, but as the weeks pass, the memories in my head seem less like a cross between The Exorcist and Full Metal Jacket and start to be overlaid by cheerful flute music and scenes from Bambi. I can see how it happens - how you might forget childbirth and consider the possibility that it might be fun to do it again. I feel like I’m being brainwashed by my genetic code.

It was deeply shocking to me that the end result of pregnancy was a baby. Even after 50 hours of contractions, I still wasn’t entirely convinced that there would be a baby at the end of it. Imagine my surprise when there was not only a baby but some sort of implication that I would take him home with me…unsupervised. There had been no course, no exam, no certificate. The entire thing seemed like gross negligence on the part of the Irish healthcare system. How did they know I would be a responsible mother and take good care of him? I didn’t even know that. I feel there should have been more rigorous screening.

I did let him roll off the sofa when he was six weeks old (I was trying to multi-task motherhood and potato peeling). He landed face down on a pile of blankets and was very annoyed with me for a few minutes but appeared otherwise unharmed. Other than that I’ve been very careful not to break him. He is somehow aware of my fears and likes to make choking noises when I’m out of the room to see how fast I can run. Then he grins when I arrive panicked at his side seconds later to find his airways free and his countenance content.

I have been monitoring his milestones intently to make sure that he is developing normally. At three weeks he cried a lot which was apparently a good sign. At six weeks he smiled. At eight weeks he could hit things held in front of him and at twelve weeks he was supposed to laugh for the first time. I had been waiting all week for the first laugh so that I could tick it off the list. I played games with him - I spoke in silly voices - I even made Freddie the Firefly dance Gangnam Style. Lots of smiles, some squeals, no laughs. Then one night last week he was sitting in his bouncer chair silently as Mr Oh and I pottered about the place. Suddenly from the quiet corner came a low ‘mwah-ha-ha-ha’. My baby laughed! Well, he cackled like a villain in an old movie but I’m not going to split hairs. I’ve crossed ‘laughing’ off my list and Eoghan is actively embracing the fact that his son is a vampire from the 1930s. As I type this, he has his gums clamped intently around Freddie’s neck and with his hands appears to be attempting to rip Freddie’s wings off. Life is hard as a developmental stuffed firefly forced to submit to the whims of a neurotic mother and a mildly despotic 3 month old baby. Poor Freddie.

Now that Baby A has cracked the laughing thing (albeit with menace), I feel I no longer need to give him every single second of my attention. He amuses himself quite well talking to stuffed toys he thinks are people and likes a bit of freedom to play and plot in peace (I’m starting to think the ‘fall’ from the sofa was a failed escape attempt made to look like an accident). Eoghan has been encouraging me to return to writing the blog. He has wisely failed to add ‘with all that time you have during the day when I’m at work’. The challenge is finding a stretch of time when Baby A does not need to be held, fed, amused or soothed. Eoghan has suggested that I compose the blog entry in my head during the day like the author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and then he’ll hold the baby when he comes home from work so I can type it out. I suspect he thinks that without a release for my thoughts and musings, I may lose my marbles being home all day in Belgium with a baby. I cannot work out whether it is being home with the baby that is likely to push me over the edge or the fact that I live in Belgium. As I type this now, the baby is sitting on my lap chewing Freddie’s antennae things. My hands reach past him to the keyboard. It’s awkward but do-able. My first post-baby entry is coming to an end. Baby threw up on Freddie’s head.

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