This morning’s walk to work had a sort of a ‘Baby’ theme to it.
But only in my own head.
First off, I saw a friend in the distance who will have her first baby soon. I gave her a wave but she didn’t see me. Then I thought a bit about how people use the word ‘baby’ like it is a cutie-pie thing, particularly people in advertising, and how that seems to annoy me a bit. Then, as I was mulling over that little conundrum and crossing the car park simultaneously, I saw a woman taking her child out of her car, presumably to go to the supermarket to do some shopping. There was another older woman too and my assumption was this this was the Mum’s own Mum. The Granny, if you will.
The Mum, not the Mum’s Mum, then proceeded to do that thing that Mums effortlessly do.
I heard her say, “I just need to check her before we go in,” and, with that, she flipped the baby almost upside down and sniffed her nappy region.
“No,” she said to the Mum’s Mum, “she’s okay,” and off they went towards the shop.
It reminded me of the first moment I saw that routine in action and how shocked and appalled I was at that time. My brother and his wife had recently had their first kid and it was a first kid for all of us. First nephew, first grandson, all of those things. I don’t know what age the baby was when I came home from London to visit but that’s when I first caught the nappy routine. My sister in law, in the middle of a regular conversation, had a noticeable nose-twitch. She grabbed the baby, flipped it a bit, and inhaled deeply of the nappy, nose buried right in there. Whatever she detected there indicated fairly clearly that a nappy change was in order. This was all horrible enough in itself, and totally alien to me, but it was made infinitely worse by her declaiming the immortal words, “Let me smell your bum,” just before she did it.
“Let me smell your bum.”
What planet was this that I had temporarily landed on? What reduction in personal liberty and self-esteem could bring a previously composed and totally together person to the point of smelling bums effortlessly in public and, more than that, loudly declaring to the world a clear intent to do so?
Of course I eventually had to learn this the hard way and learn it I did. While I don’t think I ever got to a cheerful declaration of impending arse-inhaling activity, I too became a parent (twice over) and I too discovered, soon enough, that you couldn’t go around changing expensive nappies on instinct, routine, or timing alone. There had to be the olfactory element.
Bums had to be sniffed.
It’s a microcosm of the whole baby business, this bum sniffing thing. At least I think it is.
When we become parents, we have to learn stuff. Just when we thought we had learned all the stuff there was to know.
As parents we have to cheerfully do things we thought we could never-ever do.
As parents, we embrace… we just embrace stuff.
This doesn’t go directly to explaining why the eternal commercial sing-song pandering of the word ‘baby’ annoys my own arse. Or maybe it does a little bit. It’s late now and I’m not entirely sure of anything anymore.
What I do know – what I think I know – is that the woman I know who is about to have her first baby is not just about to have a baby. It is so much more than that. You don’t just have a baby and then go on to do something else afterward. She is starting a family and, once started, a family doesn’t ever stop.
Doesn’t ever stop.
It changes your life forever. Long after the 'baby-gro's and the soft toys and the bum sniffing have all gone.
My children are grown now. There are no more babies bums to smell. But the thing that started with those babies, well, it continues. That amazing adventure. The pride, the worry, the anxiety, the fear, the pride – did I say pride – well I’ll say it again. The pride.
That’s it, I think. You don’t just have a baby, a cute wriggly baby to have and to hold until it’s not a baby anymore. You don’t just smell its bum and then somehow move on to something else.
It’s not the beginning of something small and cute and finite, as the commercial world might have us believe.
It’s the start of something very very big.
Something that doesn’t ever stop.