Nicky goes out into the world, sans baby.
One lunchtime, as my newborn lay sleeping (a rare occurrence), through the zombie-like haze that now enveloped my once sharp brain, I remembered my mother-in-law telling me about flannel sheets on sale at the nearby eco linen store.
The nights were chilly now that winter had set in, and the idea of falling into warm, snugly sheets instead of icy ones after night-time and early morning feeds, was more than a little appealing. For the few precious hours I actually spent in bed, I figured they may as well be top quality.
After double-checking that my baby was well asleep and asking my husband at least five times if he was able to look after her, I flew out the door for “half an hour, an hour max.”
It was the first time I left her. She was six weeks and two days old.
As I drove up the street I noticed I was breathing very fast and the steering wheel was slippery under my sweaty palms. Just relax, I told myself, she’ll be fine. I took a deep breath and turned left.
There was probably no more traffic than usual for a Tuesday lunchtime, but to me it seemed that Sunday drivers were out in force. When I finally reached my destination after a road rage-filled five minutes, I sprung out of my car, tripping over my feet and flinging the entire contents of my handbag on to the pavement.
I collected everything just in time to miss the lights to cross the road, so stood pressing the pedestrian button incessantly, jiggling my leg like a junkie desperate for a fix. I’d been gone all of eight minutes.
While I waited I called home. “How is she? Is she okay? Is she still asleep?” I think I may have been shouting by the looks people were giving me.
The lights changed and I made a beeline for the linen store. I’d never noticed how slowly people shuffled along (you can’t call that walking!) and how oblivious they are to crazed, sleep deprived mothers on a mission to buy winter sheets.
The shop assistant was helping a customer so I took the opportunity to text my husband, in case things had changed in the minute and a half since we spoke. All quiet. Except for my heart which I’m sure the shop assistant and indecisive customer could hear pounding.
I made my purchase in a flurry and hurried back to my car. Phone call number two made immediately upon exiting the shop confirmed baby girl was still asleep.
As I raced past the bakery, I had a realisation that stopped me in my tracks. The agitation I’d been feeling for the past 20 or so minutes suddenly made sense.
It was the first time in nearly a year that I was without my baby. For 39 weeks I carried her inside me, and for the past six she’d been with me 24/7. I was always relating to her in some way, be it unconsciously rubbing my pregnant belly or singing softly to her as I fed her to sleep. Without her, I felt a gaping hole, like I was missing a part of myself.
And although I’d shopped at these same shops for the past 10 years, in that moment it was like I’d landed on another planet, a rather hostile one. My very being was hyper-sensitive – my eyes pricked with tears from the harsh midday sun, fumes from the passing traffic caught in the back of my throat and the laughter of a passing schoolgirl rang in my ears like a witch’s cackle.
During my pregnancy, the world felt friendlier, people smiled warmly at me, struck up conversations while we waited in queues together. I experienced kindness and connection. Today, all the people I’d walked past that I’d looked at expectantly, and then angrily when they walked on by, had no idea I was a new mum whose life had just changed forever. To them I was simply a harried looking thirty-something, with a bit more of a jelly belly than most, doing my shopping.
But while on the outside I looked more or less the same, inside I felt completely different.
I was a mother, I was responsible for another human being. I felt the magnitude of that responsibility coursing through my veins. I thought constantly about my daughter – is she hungry? Is she tired? Do I need to change her? Does she feel safe? Is she happy?
My life would never be the same. I would never be the same. How could you possibly not see that from the outside?
Grateful for this moment of clarity, I walked (yes, walked) back to my car. One more quick text to hubbie and I headed home, excited with my cuddly new sheets.
And my baby girl woke up as I walked in the door.
Nicky Sandler – First-time Mum
Nicky has worn many hats in her time, but is about to don the most important: becoming a Mum. A nomadic childhood sparked in her an insatiable urge to travel and explore the world. In between adventures (and when she ran out of money) she returned to Australia to build a career in film marketing with stints at SBS’s World Movies Channel, the ABC, Icon Films and Moonlight Cinema. A passion for languages and teaching recently took her down the path of teaching Communications and Management at several universities and English as a Second Language to her fellow itinerants. She’s finally decided to sit still long enough to have a baby (her boldest journey yet) and is excited to have you along for the ride. Nicky can be contacted at: nickysandler[at]gmail[dot]com
Life Balance = Love. Nature. Cups of tea.