I am writing this from a small island of calm amidst the chaos that is an indoor soft play centre for kids. The noise is immense but I managed to secure ‘My Sofa’ as soon as we walked in meaning that today is a Good Day and that all is right with the world.
The fact that I would have been hard pressed to choose anywhere more noisy and yet am feeling remarkably calm (in-between the visits from my two little people to tell me they have banged heads or fallen over) got me thinking about kids, parenthood and how the addition of little people in your lives changes you.
As most of you know, I’m not a great fan of noise. In stark contrast to my hubby who will happily play a game on the computer whilst listening to music through his headphones AND have the TV on in the background, I’m quite happy with only the noise in my head for company. At risk of sounding mildly schizophrenic, all that external noise interrupts the noise in my head you see. Whether this is precisely WHY hubby craves noise is a question for another time.
Of course silence and kids just don’t go together, and therefore having kids was probably even more of a shock to my system than it is for others. Hubby is one of five kids – he grew up with the resultant noise level. I was an only child. I grew up with my nose in a book. One has had to learn to ‘adapt’.
Oddly, the noise factor isn’t one that often features in guides for new parents. You ‘know’ you are going to have sleepless nights; you ‘know’ you are going to be vomited on and have conversations with other mums about the contents of nappies; you ‘know’ babies cry a lot but actually you know absolutely jack until being a parent is a reality because despite ‘knowing’ all these things, every parent secretly hopes/believes that their baby will be different. The first time around at least. Second time around you expect the worst case scenario and are pleasantly surprised when it isn’t as bad as you were expecting it to be.
Nothing can really prepare you for that first time. Nothing, I tell you! The preparation in parenting guides is great for practical advice but everything else is rather like ‘knowing’ that the earth revolves around the sun or that Brad Pitt is married to Angelina Jolie – interesting but with very little bearing on your day to day life.
As you may expect, I approached the whole being-pregnant thing as only a true book-geek can. I read everything and I do mean everything that I could lay my hands on. It wasn’t until quite late on in my pregnancy that I realised nearly everything I’d read revolved around being pregnant, with a few labour stories thrown in. Advice on actually what happens post-birth, you know, what being a mother actually involves was much harder to come by. That’s probably because no book CAN tell you what to expect – you can only really learn by living it.
Despite not being perhaps the most naturally ‘maternal’ person ever, I had always wanted children and, rather unusually these days, both our children were planned. Even more unusually and extremely luckily, both were conceived within 8 weeks of deciding to start trying.
In the main I enjoyed both pregnancies. I was never sick, despite feeling it for the first few weeks and a slight brush with SPD (severe pelvic pain) put a dampener on pregnancy number two when it meant I had to ditch my beloved heels at 28 weeks, but other than that I was extremely lucky.
Even labour was fine. Long, at least the first time, but fine. I had my first daughter at home with only a birth pool for pain relief. It turned out that I was carrying Group B Strep and as a result there were some rather serious complications after the birth but the labour itself was fine. Honestly.
Second time round was quick, in hospital (with drugs to combat the GBS risk), just gas and air and complication-free. Daughter number two was so determined to be born she needed little assistance from me and the Midwife commented that she’d pretty much birthed herself – hurrah for productive contractions! Afterwards the same Midwife thanked me for a text-book delivery. I don’t know if I remembered to smile. I felt a little like I’d been hit by a truck, but it least it was over quickly.
Our experiences have taught me to be extremely thankful. I know of couples who have tried for years to conceive and who are still trying. I know people who have lost babies at various stages of pregnancy, and after birth (including from Group B Strep), and others whose babies are born still perfect, but needing some extra help of some kind. We have been so very lucky.
That’s not to say they don’t drive me mad at times though. Boy, do they. My own personal ‘noisy’ favourites include:
1) Both daughters singing different songs at the top of their voices, at the same time. They get louder and louder to try and ‘out-sing’ the other. This often happens in the car. Whilst I have my own music on. So that’s THREE different songs then. Deep breath…
2) The ability of a 3 and 5 year old to watch the same film over and over and over and over again. When this particular film happens to be Mama Mia, it is also often combined with number 1 above. I’m now sick to death of Abba.
3) The word ‘mum’. Ah, for those of you still anxiously awaiting the first time your little bundle of joy says this believe me, the novelty does wear off. At what age do children realize that if they’ve got your attention 2 seconds previously by saying ‘mum’, it isn’t necessary to start the very next sentence with it? And the next. And the next. My eldest is obviously sensing my frustration with this now because she’s mixing it up a bit. I’ve suddenly become Mama (or maybe this is linked to point 2 above).
4) The ‘why’ questions. These come from my youngest and are rarely questions I can / want to / should answer. They are therefore extremely frustrating. For example, ‘why is that a building?’ and, related to point 2 above, ‘why doesn’t Sophie know who her daddy is?’
As you can probably tell, so far neither of our daughters shows any sign of relishing the quiet like their mum but actually, I’m glad of it. I find I want them to be noisy (although maybe not all the time), boisterous and happy; I want them to experience and embrace everything first hand; I want them to have the confidence to try new things, make mistakes and try again.
So for the time being, whilst my life is full of noise, I’ll do my best to relish it – or else employ the ability you learn very quickly as a parent – that of being able to shut out the noise to such an extent that it becomes a kind of background buzz. Because I know I’ll miss it dreadfully when it’s gone.