Welcome to parenthood…that’s the last hot meal you’ll be eating for a very long time!


I think I’m finally allowed to reveal that my best friend has just given birth to wonderfully healthy, adorable, scrumptious little twins.
A boy and a girl.
Hurrah to these delightful, beautiful little babies and a massive well done and huge congratulations to my gorgeous friend and her husband who created two such perfect, miniature, 6lb human beings.

Here they are, captured in a moment of pure and utter calm and serenity.
(Naturally, I obtained my friends’ permission to use this picture)

Absolute Perfection!

I can’t tell you how hard it has been not mentioning it for the last several months, I was sure it would slip out in a blog somehow but it didn’t. Clever me! There must be an active filter at work somewhere, buried just underneath the surface of the constant need to honestly, accurately and directly express myself at all times!

The lingering, undisclosed knowledge and sheer excitement of her imminent motherhood, however, did make me more acutely aware of other pregnant ladies and newborn babies in my periphery.

They are literally everywhere! Who knew?

On one of our many recent jaunts, my husband and I were sat in a restaurant enjoying a glass of wine and some olives and chatting about our day whilst we waited for our first course to arrive, when my baby radar pinged loudly and I was distracted by a large group on a table a bit further away. I guess they were all mid-twenties. Some looked like carefree singles, some were in couples and one couple, in particular, had a little baby that couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old.

Tiny, adorable little thing it was just peeping out the top of a blanket in an egg-shaped cocoon in a buggy.

Well, as you can imagine, this adorable little baby slept quite peacefully until the moment the food arrived for the entire table and then found its lungs, which for such a tiny, wee thing seemed to be pretty powerful.

Cue, mother and father desperately trying to determine what their tiny offspring’s needs were that were not being met at that precise moment in time. Nappy change? Bottle? Dummy? Nope, nope, nope.
Ahhhhhh…. A little cuddle that seems to have done the trick. Ok Mummy can hold her for a while whilst Daddy eats some food and then they can swap, nope, the baby seems to have other ideas, and has started screaming again. The sort of scream that makes your fillings rattle.

My husband and I swapped patient, sympathetic, understanding and reassuring smiles with the parents and then tried not to stare so as not to put them under even more pressure but some of the looks coming from their own table were less than tolerant. Lots of rolling of eyes with looks that suggested thoughts such as “WTF did we invite them for?” and “Enough! Leave the room already”.

The parents did dutifully leave the restaurant after another few minutes of top quality screaming, no doubt both in social humiliation and also to make every attempt possible to calm their now blood-curdling screeching little girl. A process which probably included walking up and down, lightly bouncing the baby and cooing gently to her, attempting another feed, rocking her within the safe and comfortable confines of the pram, going for a walk around the block in the hope that she would drop off and perhaps when they were at their very wit’s end as to what else they could possibly do, maybe, just like that, she finally abruptly stopped crying, leaving them completely clueless as to what the magical solution had been.

All I know is they were gone for a long time.

A very long time.

  

The parents untouched meals slowly became more congealed and unappetizing, meanwhile their friends had now long finished their food, and simply continued drinking the wine and chatting animatedly amongst themselves, perhaps oblivious to the fact that two of their party were entirely absent or just thankful that the young parents were no longer blighting their otherwise sociable, adult evening.

At one point, I thought perhaps the couple with the baby had given up entirely and gone home but then I spotted the baby bag still on the table.

After what must have been over an hour, for we had eaten three courses by now, the parents finally returned with a somewhat more settled baby, though still in her mother’s arms and not yet back in the pram.

The young father sat down and resignedly began to eat his now cold plate of food. I saw the young mother look longingly at her completely untouched and once delicious meal and I thought to myself, I wonder what daft notion went through their minds when they had accepted this invitation?

Was it a desperate need for a night out?
Was it a need to remain relevant with their friends?
Was it perhaps a massive, misguided misjudgement that a few reasonable nights prior meant an already established routine and that they had now well and truly licked this parenting lark into shape?

Whatever their reason, it now seemed very clear to me, the outside observer, that there was a huge separation between them and their friends, whom they had probably had plenty in common with before they had recently become parents.  I daresay they wouldn’t be accepting any such invitation again, any time soon and perhaps the invitation would not even be forthcoming in any case such was the glaring disparity between them now.

I remember looking at that poor frayed couple who could have been any one of us (though most people our age have already been there a long time ago) and thinking,

Do yourselves a favour and next time you are tempted to have a night out, be sure to enlist the services of a willing and trusted babysitter, by which I obviously mean a close friend or family member. Or better still, organise the babysitter anyway and have a takeaway and an early night. Bliss!

The point is, when you become a parent for the first time, life is so much harder than you ever expect it to be.
No matter how grown up or prepared you are.
No matter how brilliant and organised a parent you are.
No matter that you have cleverly managed to invent another ten hours in the day in order to get everything done.

I guess the lesson is, don’t make life even tougher for yourself by trying to carry on as normal to boot. It’s never going to happen, accept the inevitable, embrace the enormous change and suspend the belief, even if only temporarily, that you are still the magnificent, happening party couple that you used to be.

Your real and genuine friends will be there for you throughout it ALL; when you are having to drag yourself through endless sleepless nights, when you have phoned them in tears because you are at your wits end, when you have worn nothing but pyjamas for two weeks solid, when you have missed every social event on the calendar for at least 18 months, when you have inadvertently forgotten peoples birthdays and anniversaries because you are a sleep-deprived husk of your former self, when every conversation you have started in two years sounds like some kind of excuse because you really just don’t know where the time goes.
Furthermore, they will STILL be there for you, waiting patiently on the other side to have fun times with you again when you have finally made it through those first few incredibly hard years of parenthood and are ready and available to be sociable again.

And what of all those people that were nowhere to be seen on your social media feed or recent call list when you were struggling, new parents?

Well, put it this way….. we never really lose friends, we just find out who our real ones are and once you have a family, real friends are the only friends you have time for in your life.

So, to my fabulous best friend, I pledge to do whatever it takes, now and always.

The Virtual Recluse

P.S. Just as well it’s salad season!

The only meal that can be enjoyed as it should be, by any new parent.