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In the beginning…..

Part 1

It is Saturday night, and a woman is celebrating her birthday at a pub in South London. She is surrounded by friends, who, much like herself, have no real responsibilities or worries. Her only real burden in life right now is making sure she pays the rent on time, well on time ish. After that, she just needs to make sure she has enough money left for beer, hair dye and gigs.  

In many ways, this woman is just like everyone else. She goes out to work, reads the odd book, cooks, cleans – well, sometimes cleans – visits her family, and goes out with her friends. But all that is about to change as something extraordinary is about to happen to this woman, something which will transform her life forever…  

In three weeks (a little earlier than expected), this woman will squeeze a small, chubby and slippery baby out of her vagina – a boy, it turns out. And for the next 18 years (to begin with), she will feed and clothe him, nurture him, care for him and sometimes bollock him.  

She will lie with him all night when he is ill, she will congratulate him when he learns to say, Mummy, she will listen to his problems. She will forgive him when he is vile, and she will protect him even when he grows taller and stronger than her. She will try to instil in him a strong moral compass, confidence, and a desire to be kind and helpful to others. And even though she will sometimes tell him he’s a cocky little sod, she will love him, and she will do all this without question because she is a mother.  

But alongside all these mushy feeling of love and wholeness and pureness, she will also experience something else– blind panic. Shortly after giving birth, she will realise that, in reality, she knows absolutely bloody nothing about looking after a tiny but needy ball of flesh, Jack shit. Terror will enter her soul. What was she thinking? Why didn’t she read the books her mum gave her? Why didn’t she listen to other people’s boring stories about their babies? There were leaflets, she was sure there were leaflets. Then there was the midwife, why hadn’t she written down what the bloody midwife had told her? Maybe she had, perhaps she’d made notes. Maybe they were hidden under the dirty nappies, the piles of clothes, the dirty plates or the clean nappies, God only knows.  

Then she will feel fear, real, deep down, white knuckle fear. This fear forms as she slowly realises she needs to know everything there is to know about babies, and she needs to know it immediately. Oh, God, but she is so tired, too tired to learn anything  

But a baby waits for no one, and the training begins immediately, starting with a short introduction to leaky breasts and maternity bras. Before she knows it, she will be on the next level and learning how to work various baby contraptions, like breast pumps (electric and handheld). If she’s really lucky, she will also become knowledgeable in postnatal depression, piles, and engorged nipples.  

But she will get through it. The Mother will learn how to breastfeed her baby while ordering the groceries online. She will master speaking to the council on the phone at length while also cooking dinner. She will learn how to hold a baby safely while washing baby sick out of the carpet. She will be able to read a book while rocking a Moses basket with her foot. And she will learn how to fold up a pushchair while simultaneously arguing with a bus driver. She will do things that she never thought possible, like fitting a child seat into a car without biting her partners head off when he asks,  

“Are you OK?”  

After just a few weeks being a mother, she will master getting a cardigan over small, unruly arms, arms that refuse to bend and trousers on legs that will not stay still. Then one Friday night when everyone else is enjoying themselves in the pub she’ll skilfully compose a never-ending song about a red bus that goes to Peckham to buy some bananas. She will sing the song from the end of CBBC Bedtime Hour until the News at Ten when her baby finally falls asleep.  

After several months, she will learn how to wake up on time for work again, when she has had just three hours of sleep. And believe it or not, she is going to be able to learn to look at her body again without grimacing.  

Yes, she doesn’t know it yet, but from that fateful day when she produced a child, she is going to embark on an arduous and as it turns out very expensive journey. It will be a journey that puts untold demands on her. From then on, she will have to juggle her family, work, money, and something vaguely resembling a social life with the responsibilities of being a parent. And she will have to do this for a very, very long time.  

So, the Mother had better make the most of her half a shandy, drink it slowly and enjoy every sip because a tsunami is coming, and there is no turning back now.   

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