Archive for August, 2010

The Strawberry Saga

As you may have gathered, Leila has a strawberry birthmark on her forehead. It wasn’t there when she was born, appeared as a tiny red dot when she was three weeks old, and then grew quite rapidly. Cue much wailing, gnashing of teeth, ill-advised googling and general melodrama from me, along the lines of: “my baby is not perfect! But wait! How horrible am I to think she’s not perfect because of this?! Am bad mother! Oh but other people won’t think she’s perfect!!! What if she gets teased?! What if it takes over her face and her body and MY SANITY WAAAAAAAH!!”

These days, I am at peace with the strawberry. I even quite like it. It’s Leila’s trademark, and maybe I’ll be a little wistful when it disappears. Maybe. I can honestly say that I don’t wish, as I did before, that she didn’t have it. Granted, it seems to have stopped growing at a reasonably bijou size, the doctor says it is showing signs of regression already, and it hasn’t crept towards her eyes or obscured any of her features etc etc. It is, in effect, an oversized bindi. And, well, she’s still outrageously cute, with or without the strawb. So perhaps I give myself too much credit in believing I’ve come over all zen about it- turns out there wasn’t that much to be upset about after all. If it started growing again perhaps I’d fling myself to the ground in a fit of the screaming dibdabs.

But Leila’s strawberry, though fairly small,  is very noticeable. It also sticks out- a tiny little horn, like a unicorn. We have run the full gamut of comments from “oh! Can’t they zap it?” (because cosmetic surgery for babies is cool) to “but she’s a giiiiirl!” (er…), to “makes them sleep better when you drop them on their heads doesn’t it?” (Ha. Ha.) . Sometimes I clock people- especially very new mums, who are probably imagining if their baby grew one- looking ever so slightly aghast. So perhaps I should give myself a modicum of credit for overcoming my wibbles.

And alongside the tactless nincompoops, there are also people who make lovely comments like “ooh, you’ve got a little cherry on top!” or rush over to tell me that their child had one and it was gone before they were three years old. The fact that it has elicited kindness as well as annoyingness, and the fact that it has taught me not to be so shallow- both of these things are perks of the strawberry.

The point of this post is to reassure any feverishly googling new parents of a babe-with-a- strawberry-birthmark that it is all going to be fine. Really really fine. Not only do they disappear eventually, but they are really not that big of a deal (complications withstanding) whilst they stick around.

In fact there’s only one thing that bothers me about Leila’s birthmark now. Like most people, I try to avoid regrets, but I do regret the time I spent sobbing and worry-warting over this inconsequential and actually rather attractive little splodge (the  birthmark, not the baby). It was a waste of time. Time that should have been spent doing more things like this:



Golden eras usually take on their Midas hue once they are firmly in the past- whether it’s the boingy slenderness of one’s teenage figure (which at the time you thought was porky), the black and white films or early modern paintings which gather acclaim long after their stars and creators are dead, or school days which are the “best of your life” (though I’ve never been down with this one, personally) . Generally the cliche is true: we don’t know what we’ve got til it’s gone. As the passing of time clears away the everyday detritus of life, our memories become distilled and we recognise a golden age as being just that, all the more poignant because we never realised at the time what lay in our hands. That’s why they invented nostalgia.

I’ve written more here recently about the hard bits of having a baby than I have about the gorgeous bits. But, though I melt down at some point almost daily (usually around naptime, and nb: she’s had two freakishly long naps this week, and what did I do with the beautiful free time? Checked she was breathing, and stood in the middle of my bedroom listening for stirrings from the nursery, frightened of breaking the spell, mostly), the storm clouds are dark yet usually pass quickly.

These moments aside, I’m experiencing something I never have before, something which makes me want to skip among the chimney pots: I’m acutely aware that this is a golden time in my life, and I’m not taking it for granted in the way that it’s so easy to do with golden eras. Sometimes when I look at Leila, my vision is almost sepia-tinted; it’s as though I’m already looking back at this time, I’m nostalgic for it though I’m smack bang in the middle of it. I look at her and I know: this is it. This is what I was looking for.

I’m finding it hard to express what I’m trying to say. I suppose the thing is, she’s making me live in the moment, whether that moment is hilarious or heart-melting or frustrating or covered in sweet potato mush, expelled unceremoniously courtesy of a hearty mid-dinner raspberry (G thinks she’s a sensible girl, to realise so early that sweet potato is all kinds of wrong).

I’ve never, truly,  lived in the moment before. My mind has always analysed the past or riddled away anxiously at the future. I’ve always found myself wondering- is it enough? Am I enough?

These days, it’s enough. Smelling her fuzzypeg head is enough. A wacky open-mouthed smile is enough. Bawling as I wonder out loud why I don’t know what on earth I’m doing, even that is enough to keep me in the moment. I know what I’ve got. And it’s golden.