I graduated. One year. One amazing, exhilarating, emotionally debilitating, utterly exhausting year that changed my life forever. Now, before I get all crazy, drink one too many glasses of frixy in celebration and convince myself that if we survived one why not have another...I have to take a moment betwixt the giddiness and remember. Just remember. Of course, it's easy to say that the year flew by if you conveniently forget those long days and the longer nights in those first few weeks. The nights where you would just pray for the sun to come up because somehow it was easier in the day. Time wasn't flying as the teething began and the laundry pile grew. Time stood still as the silent debate raged as to whose turn it was to get up for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night. The days when you wouldn't get to shower, might get to brush your teeth. When you would look at the clock and see just how many hours you had left before the cavalry arrived and you could thrust your child into your husband's arms. When you would look at your child and amidst all that love you silently wondered, will my life ever be the same again? The weeks where the George Michael designer stubble became a full grown Barry Gibb beard on your legs. When your eyes would sting. When your breasts would ache. If you were wet you didn't know which body part was leaking. When your hemorrhoids would act as a plectrum on your G-string. No, no, no, time didn't just fly. As the very wise, Dr. Bernie Russell, medicine woman, once said, "parenthood - long days, short years."
Of course, as I look back I am forcing myself to remember it this way. The truth is that the rose tinted glasses are firmly on and things are so rosy I hot flash my way around town. I see babies on the street and I hear my ovaries clicking. I gravitate towards pregnant women and (I know, I know) I have even found myself striking up conversation with perfect strangers pushing pink babies - desperate to share that I too, have a daughter at home. Pre-baby I would finish work and do 1 of 2 things: hit happy hour or nap. Sometimes both. Yesterday, I raced home, stripped off work clothes, strapped Olive on and raced to the park. I cannot describe the sheer joy I experienced in watching her explore the play frame, the slide, the swing. Despite an uncomfortably close proximity to nature, I felt like every ounce of me was being poured into her.
Yet the journey wasn't smooth - I was terrified about becoming a mother, I was devastated to struggle with breastfeeding, I was disappointed that my depression returned after giving birth. I didn't understand a lot of things, I still don't. I'm learning every day. I only know that motherhood is an incredibly levelling experience. I love wholeheartedly and am fiercely protective of my family. (Insert sunburned bald headed Mancunian at Alicante airport "I'd serve time if anyone touched my child" here).
So, upon graduation, I would like to transport myself back to February 2009, about a week before Olive was born, when inbetween gobbling pineapple curry and forcing my husband to mount me, I would pontificate as to what sort of parent I was going to be. As the ghost of parenthood yet to come, I would jangle my chains and offer the following pearl of wisdom...
Dear (you have no idea what tired is) Paula,
You may think you'll never have an epidural. You'll never give your child a pacifier. You will make your own organic baby food. You think you'll never bottle feed. You will absolutely never share a bed. You think a smack bottom will be easy and letting them cry it out a breeze. You will never go away and leave your child with anyone else.
Nobody likes a smug new parent, so never say never....except for never judging another parent.
Your much more tired and even more wrinkled self.
Of course, as the graduate of parenting 101, I now embark on a new course and am still welcoming any and all crib notes. I am completely in awe of those on the accelerated course with more than one child.
However, as I hear the faint strumming from the inside of the back of my pants I am reminded that it will take another couple of 'short years' before I can forget enough to return to those 'long nights'.