Slow down baby, slow down baby (Snoop Dogg)

As a fully-grown adult, knocking on the door of the big 4-0 no less, sometimes it can feel like I have seen it all before. And even if something new does come along, I am far too BUSY and IMPORTANT to stop and care about it. I have EMAILS to send. EMAILS.  So what is amazing about raising Bella is that it has forced me to cast aside my frenetic, commute-hardened fuck-off attitude and slow down to experience those first times with her.  Because babies have seen nothing before and everything is brand new.

Bella’s young life is a series of firsts, from first sip of water (deeply underwhelmed), to first taste of avocado (deeply overwhelmed, in fact she can’t get enough, that’s my nice middle class baby; I didn’t have avocado til my mid-30s. Growing up in Blackpool in the nineties I didn’t even have pasta til I got to university, unless you count Alphabetti Spaghetti), to first roll over (incandescent because she couldn’t get back the other way), to first adult poo (easy to clean up but by god the straining, the straining).   And now we have another first. We took Bella to the playground and she had her first go on the swings.   After trying to gum the chain (natch), the look of amazement and sheer joy on her face as she took that virgin swing was just lovely to behold. Babies really do remind you to stop and relish those fleeting moments that make up life. They are simultaneously feverishly exhausting and an exercise in mindfulness. For someone who used to sprint across London from meeting to meeting whilst bashing emails out on my iPhone and somehow also doing Skype calls, this is a much-needed different perspective on life.

 

So seeing all these freshly minted moments with Bella got me thinking about MY most memorable firsts. And warning, not all of these are baby related.

 

First Memory Ever: My first memory is of my little brother. He must have been under one year old as he was in the pram bassinet, and I must have been about three. We were in the park and I was putting grass in his mouth. Grass. From the ground. My mum also remembers this, less fondly than I do. My second memory is of building a castle out of old cigarettes that I found in the garden. I was clearly a rank and offensive child.

 

First Kiss: Sorry if this is a bit Mizz magazine, but this HAD to go in the list. My first snog was fuelled by a gallon of Diamond White, that infamous destroyer of 90s livers. It was at a young farmers ball (that’s how we rolled in Blackpool). This sounds faintly glam but was actually just a big room with sticky carpet, sodden with the secrets of events past, more sick, alco-pop detritus and fag butts than shag-pile. I vaguely remember kissing some boy with slicked forward hair who smelt of Cool Waters and had a Kappa shirt on, before I proceeded to vomit in EVERY corner of the ballroom. I think my friends just moved me round to avoid detection but I left a trail of vom behind me like a cider-powered slug. Classy. Very classy.

out out
Oh yes, I was just FLY….

First time away from home: We had an 18-30 (does that even still exist anymore?) holiday to Magaluf in the late 1990s. We were three teen girls released from the parental shackles, free to down Archers and Malibu til we could no longer see. This sunny jaunt was EVERY stereotype you could imagine and more. Lineker’s bars, miming sex positions to win shots of rancid liquor, fry up breakfasts where the hash browns were 90% oil, and Union Jack towels on beach loungers at 8am. On day two I fell off a banana boat, got kicked by a fat man and ended up in hospital with a broken arm. So a raging success then.

 

First Moment with Bella: I will never forget the moment the midwife put her on my chest for the first time, as I lay there covered in ALL of the bodily fluids, so tired I was seeing double. As mentioned in my birth story I did not expect her to come out with full 1980s, eastern-bloc mullet, and the sight of a mini Bjorn Borg (let’s keep going with the old school tennis player references) nestling into me is one that will be imprinted on my memory forever.

 

First Nappy Change: This was in the maternity ward in the middle of the night and I had NO idea what I was doing, convinced that nappy changing was THE most fiendish task in existence. Bella screamed as I took her freshly christened bodysuit off, screamed as I took her nappy off, screamed as I cleaned her, screamed as I put a new nappy on (which obviously took ten minutes) and screamed as I re-dressed her. I was traumatised. Then all the other babies in the ward started wailing and I could hear their mums tutting in disgust at the squalling banshee who started it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin (House of Pain)

It has been over five months since Bella was born. I am not going to be a birth-bore and go on and on about the labour, but it is the beginning of our story. It was all in all a very positive experience and compared to some other stories I have heard I consider myself lucky. But the memories of THAT pain still linger, a fading residue round the edges of my consciousness. They say at some point you forget it all; nature’s way of ensuring we continue to procreate. I haven’t yet.

Nothing you read or get told can prepare you for the birth. The only way to describe it is feral. Bella was a surprise breech and we only found out she was the wrong way round when I was 8cm dilated and swearing like a ship-wrecked sailor. The more dilated I got was in direct relationship to the number of c-bombs dropped. I was not composed or graceful in labour, I basically turned into Ray Winstone.

My waters broke at home and it was less movie scene gush, more long leak. For the first five minutes I thought I might just be peeing myself, this being an all too common pregnancy occurrence. But ten minutes later it was clear something was amiss. So we went into hospital, only to be sent home after being told it might take a day or so to kick in. No. One episode of Made in Chelsea later (guilty) I was rollicking round the flat biting on the furniture and dropping class-A swear words like they were HOT. So back to the hospital we went, contracting in the back of an Uber whilst shocking the driver with my unladylike language.

birth belinski
Bella in frog mode

I didn’t know whether or not I would want drugs before I went into labour, but by the time we got back to hospital I was clear – yes please, all of them, now please. Gas and air, although I am sure fun for a night out, did not touch the sides. I was planning to stay in the birthing suite, which sounded like somewhere you might go for a nice week away, with a double bed, spa music and a pool. But the need for immediate relief and the fact that there was an arse where a head should be meant I waddled like a writhing John Wayne downstairs to the labour ward. There we waited for the man with the drugs. His aggressively long epidural needle gave Phil what my mum would call a “turn”. He went green. The midwives then hastily constructed “Phil’s corner” next to my bed, with a crash mat in case he fainted, a blanket, glass of icy water and a cold compress to mop his brow. I said nothing.

Because she was bum-down, we had to decide whether to go for a C-section or vaginal delivery. I started to get fearful. Labour is such an all-encompassing experience and I was so IN it that I wasn’t really feeling any emotions beyond “get it out” and this was the first time I felt properly scared. If we opted for a C-section Phil would not be allowed in because there was no room in the theatre for him to faint. At this point we both started to cry.

Luckily I then hit 10cm and the decision was made for us. Breech vaginal deliveries are apparently a bit unusual, so as I got ready to push, a gaggle of junior doctors filed into my room to have a butchers at the specimen in action. Despite being barely clothed and on all fours, being British I of course attempted polite conversation whilst ten complete strangers stared at my vagina. “This is Lindsey”…”Hi guys, how are you? Going anywhere nice on your holidays?” Phil stayed at the top of the bed at all times, for which I am grateful. Some things cannot be unseen. My friend’s husband described being at the business end as akin to watching his favourite pub burn down.

The pushing bit only took about twenty minutes and then Bella arrived into this world, bum first whilst simultaneously pooing and pissing (that’s my gal.) We deliberately didn’t know what flavour we were having so the first order of business was “it’s a girl!” Then she was deposited in my arms and immediately mewled her way towards my breast, fully confident in what she was doing even if I wasn’t. She was born with a full on mullet, looking every inch the late 1980s tennis player. I didn’t expect to look down and see a (very) young Andre Agassi sucking at my nip.

That first skin to skin was the most amazing moment of my life so far…beyond knackered, covered in every bodily fluid imaginable, high on ALL of the drugs and just staring, staring at this tiny creature that we had made. And so at 10.15am on the 7th of November, our story began….

birth phil
Phil does skin to skin

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