When I found out I was expecting my daughter, I bought two pregnancy guides: a humorous one and a sensible one. I read them both and quickly sold the humorous one to buy the parenting guide that went with the serious one. I’ve always been one for reading up on a subject and being a mum was the perfect thing to get my teeth into. It’s a good job that my daughter actually was a text-book baby; the book covered her every milestone and guided me through every tooth, the surprise bout of chicken-pox and the momentary epsisode of separation anxiety.
When I found out I was expecting the baby, I dug out the same book. And then he happened. All of a sudden, the serious parenting guide which had been indispensable was a useless pile of papers collected together in a cover featuring an impossibly smiling ‘mother’. There were no chapters on how to cope if your baby only slept for twenty minutes at a time and you were a gibbering mess. Where was the section on resenting everyone around you that was unable to breastfeed your baby for ther twelvth time in an evening? Oh, and what happened to the chapter on what to do if you genuinely wanted to run away and leave the whole sorry mess of parenting behind you?
My stepdad ordered your book for me and gave it to me when the baby was one month old. I devoured your every word, initially only because my motto had become ‘anything is worth a try’. I even found old episodes of your programme on Dicovery Health and your forum online. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I had found a way to love my baby.
There is a lot of ‘parent manual bashing’ around these days and I have to say that I agree totally with those that say parenting cannot be taught. But it can be guided. I know that now.
The baby was not- is not- a text-book baby. In fact, I think my daughter was slightly abnormal in her freaky sleeping through at five weeks old and smiling all the time. The baby required new rules, and so did I. I needed to know that it was ok to stay with my baby, stroking his head for hours at a time in an attempt to get him to go to sleep independently. I needed to know that it was ok to be there for him when he cried and to pick him up, cuddle him, love him. I needed to know that I could fall in love with my baby, because that’s what you taught me.
If there is nothing else that I learnt from your book, it’s that my baby is a unique human being who needs me. Needs me. This woman who was broken and bruised and living a life that was never meant to be hers. This woman who wanted to leave her baby at the hospital. This woman who wanted a different baby; one that slept and never cried. A different baby. You helped me realise that I wanted this baby. You helped me.
It may not be cool these days to admit that a ‘celebrity’ parenting expert helped you in any way, but you did. Because all of those long lonely nights that I spent by my baby’s cot, I spent watching him. Listening to him. Touching his face. Learning his every twitch and his every sigh. I spent so long by his side that there was nothing else I could do, but fall in love with him.
So thankyou, BW.