Cor… Hello, there! S’been a while, ain’t it? So there I was, with a newborn, worrying about when would be the next time I’d do the hoovering, and that was, like, FOUR WEEKS AGO. And here I am, with a newborn, worrying about the next time I’ll be able to do the hoovering. It’s been a long month.
And I’m typing at a million miles an hour because he’s napping, she’s napping, the other half is out, and I’ve got about 3 minutes before it all goes stupid. The only reason she’s napping, by the way, is because the next door neighbours have had a power cut, and they’ve got an industrial generator going in the front garden which is a couple of decibels short of a pneumatic drill and just as calming. However, for a four-week old baby it’s akin to a heavenly choir whispering a spot of Brahms while one is rocked on a cloud of cotton wool. She’s an odd fish.
The point of this one is that the whole process of childbirth and beyond has made me think about humans and animals and how, at this incredible, traumatic, life-changing event in one’s life, the two become indistinguishable. And it’s really very disturbing.
I’ve never really thought of myself as an animal before, but the noises you make during labour are nothing short of bestial. Aside from the very specific “Oh my god, give me an epidural NOW” ones. I don’t think animals know that one yet. Dolphins might, obviously.
With Felix, the noises that emerged from me were these low-down, deep, gutteral things. I’m not sure I could repeat them if I tried. And so loud, so repetitive – and weirdly so helpful while you’re in the thick of it. I remember concentrating as hard on making the noises as I did listening to the noises that were emanating from me. “Grooooaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmm” Something like that. For about a minute each time. The day after, it took me a few minutes to work out why my throat was killing me. I could sit down, I could pick things up, my recovery was awesome – but god, my throat.
And when it got to the really pointy bit, I largely had my eyes closed – just concentrating on the pain, the gas and air, and the noises. I closed myself right off from everything around me – it was a peculiar, animalistic, cave-like experience. I remember it now – now that the pain has faded a little – and I remember feeling fantastic in that moment, every time a contraction subsided, that I’d worked through it and achieved it and wasn’t stabbing anyone in the process. And overwhelmed that I was doing all of this on my own.
Yes all right, there might have been a whiff of entonox, and Dave and the midwife were chivvying me along obviously, and yes, well, there was the tiniest drop of morphine, but besides all that, it was all down to me, in my cave, bellowing. I closed my eyes and groooaaaarrrrmmmmed my way through it, and felt the most mammal-like I’ve ever felt. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a mammal before. But there you go. At those moments, I wouldn’t have been any more surprised had I sprouted a thick pelt, grown hooves and shouted “MOO”.
And then there’s the other thing. The boobs thing. If I hear another baby crying, I get a sudden feeling as though a tap has been turned on at my shoulders – this is what’s known as letdown, when your boobs prep themselves for feeding your baby. I get it when I see another baby, when I talk about Felix, when I talk to people about the weird sensation that is letting down, and right now, goddamit. (And every single bloody time I’ve forgotten to put breast pads in. Every. Single. Time. Ooh! What are breast pads, I hear you cry eagerly? If you don’t know, it’s probably best you don’t find out about circular sanitary pads you put in bras to stop your woman-milk leaking out, it might make you feel a bit unnecessary.) It’s the oddest sensation, and one which is so difficult to explain, but suddenly makes you completely aware that you are a mere step away from the animal kingdom – not even a step; a shuffle, a heartbeat. Me, cats, cows, dolphins… All simultaneously leaking milk whenever we hear small things cry.
So yes, there we go – I have more in common with astonishingly good 80s TV shows than I thought. There I was hoping I’d turn out like Cagney & Lacey (YES, both of them, they each had their plus points) or at the very least Hawkeye, but it turns out I’m Manimal.*
*You really have to be my vintage to appreciate just how fabulous I am to remember this often-maligned but truly wonderful series. You see, it was a MAN who transformed into ANIMALS. Hence, MANIMAL. Okay, he was a little limited, I think he only did panther and eagle – I can’t remember a vole or a meerkat, for instance, but I’m sure he had it in him. There was an episode once where a beautiful ladyfriend thought he’d turned into an elephant, but he hadn’t really, it was just for the purposes of the hahaha ending credit bit. So. No elephants. But panthers! PANTHERS! God it was good. I think it was on just before Knightrider. Saturday afternoons in 1983 truly were the BOMB.