There is no more powerful creature than a baby. Which adult has ever managed to say with absolute conviction, “I have changed people’s lives for the better”? Yet every baby does this in some sort of way.
A few days ago I was at work, at school, unable to contain my excitement about going to see a friend’s baby for the first time. I had seen pictures of little Barnaby, I had heard from other members of my family how sweet he was, but I felt this almost unbearable need to see him for myself. This was a very strange feeling because I have had many other friends who have had babies in the last few years, yet this one was special. I want to be his Babcia!
So it set me thinking about the power these little helpless creatures can have. Zbyszek, my mother’s second husband, always said a baby was a feeding tube at one end with a lack of responsibility at the other. Unkind – but true. Only up to a point, however.
When my first child was born, the power she exerted over the rest of the family was incredible.
My divorced parents, my mother’s husband, my aunt, neighbours, friends and family all came together to coo and cluck and babysit. Yet until Kasia was actually born my mother was in total denial about being a grandmother. She did not want to be Babcia! She was 51 and therefore much too young for such a state of affairs. She had only just got over the shock of having a baby of her own and I was now 27, for goodness’ sake.
So, although she came to visit me in hospital almost every day whilst I was in with pre-eclampsia for about a month, we never talked about the actual reason I was there – the baby. It didn’t worry me in the slightest. Everyone else was concerned enough, but I blithely succumbed to hospital routine and followed the news of the impending royal wedding with more interest than that warranted, but it was a hot summer, Hammersmith hospital was old fashioned and friendly, and I was having a good time. Loads of attention, lots of visitors, and time to read.
And then the day of no return came. Pain started, my book – The Fourth Protocol– became more and more interesting, and then she was born. I’d put down for a Leboyer birth. Very new and daring at the time. Water, music, darkened room – was what I had asked for. I got a tape of Sinatra doing it his way, arc lights, students wandering in and out, a German doctor sewing me up (my imagination went into overdrive, unfortunately) and then the first person who came to see me was not my mother but Nina, my husband’s aunt. How strange!
Still, the baby was early by two weeks and no one could have expected that. But then my mother arrived.
And my goodness! The effect this baby had.
Not only was she perfect but from that day my mother’s enthusiasm for her knew no bounds. She went shopping. She bought prams and cradles and nappies. She gave up her weekends and bought a cot and a playpen and sterilising equipment so she could enjoy this baby. Not only that, she made sure both her husbands – my father and Zbyszek, enjoy the baby with her. She made them talk to each other and plan and share. It was wonderful. Especially that first Christmas after she was born. We were finally a real family again.