The Pea Princess

So many blogs I’ve read are by women in their thirties, who have a young first child. And it’s a no-brainer to sort out why these mum bloggers (or more often, mommybloggers) have multiplied.

Apart from the internet access, education levels and other resource matters, there’s the glorious first child obsession that, if only it could be chemically synthesised and sent through a pipeline, could power the winter heating needs of a small Australian city.

Your first is your first is your first at everything. Your miracle, your lab rat, your test, your failure, your joy, your terror, your hope, your despair, your wonder.

Yet, while your first is all those things to you, the most amazing thing most of us find out about our first is that they are so little of you and so much of, well, them. This is what gets you gazing into their sleeping cot when you should be in your own bed. Who is this little person? How did you manage this creature from that bump. All the abstraction of pregnancy is overwhelmingly manifested in this individual.

They cut more than the cord when you gave birth; they set free a new human into the world when all along you thought you were just getting a baby.

I wish I’d had blogging when the Pea Princess was a baby. I was living in a new town, with a useless baby health nurse who couldn’t understand how isolated I felt because all the other mothers she saw had grown up in the town and had ready-made mothers’ groups.

Instead, I found an email group of pregnant women from around the world who were due to have their babies in March 1998, and eight years later some of us are still chatting online and while we’ve collectively had many more kids since, we still focus on those March babies who brought us together. That’s the first baby bond.

Somewhere I have print-outs of the hundreds of posts I sent to the group in the first couple of years. It’s the diary I should have kept and it’s probably not too different in content from a lot of the mumblogs online today.

If our babies were just like us, it would be easy. We’d quickly work out how they felt, we’d easily understand what was important to them, we’d find it simple to anticipate their needs.

And if our babies were completely unlike us it would be easier, too. We’d know not to try to predict their motives, we wouldn’t attempt understanding when we could just accept instead.

But our babies are such a set of similarities and contradictions. Just when I think I’ve nutted out the things that separate me from the Princess, she does or says something that is exactly what I did or said to my mother and I have to start all over again.

I so.don’t.get.her.sock.issues. But I totally understand how she hates having tight necked shirts. I’m not at all surprised she likes capers, anchovies and garlic, but the aversion to avocado, tomato and onion still has me baffled.

I think this juggling of the me-not-me gets easier with other children in the house, no matter whether you’ve given birth to them or married their dad, or semi-adopted them because of your friendship bond with their parents, or see them weekly at playgroup, or won them in a raffle.

People say you shouldn’t compare your children. People presumably mean you shouldn’t selectively condemn or favour your children, otherwise people must just be dumb. If people are just dumb I say to hell with them because comparing my children is my favourite game in the whole world. I am, after all, the (bad) mother who brought you The Evil Twin.

On the serious side, comparing your children, constantly and creatively, gives you a handle on them as individuals. The Pea Princess used to just be called the Princess, back in the bad old days when we had screaming rows every winter morning because of her Sock Issues. But now we have other children who don’t melt down when the seam at the end of the sock hits their toes, who reef their ankle socks to thigh height because they’re TOO SHORT, who strangely enough have no interest in whether the flower patterns are twisted or straight. The other two have their own weirdnesses, they just don’t include preferring to get chillblains rather than wear a sock that Doesn’t Feel Good.

So now, because we can compare, we know she’s not just A Princess, she’s The Pea Princess, the real deal. Hide a pea under 17 goosedown mattresses and this kid will wake up needing intensive care.

And now, because I can compare, because I know the extent of her difference and I’m not chasing empathy that will never come, I can accept that I have birthed the Pea Princess and ignore her happily blue legs mid-winter.

I’m not sure where this has come to – blogwise – but I think it is something like this:

  • I adore and obsess over my first just as much as I did in my first blog-less years, but I have less time to write about it
  • After years of doubts, exhaustion and misery I can see that the babies who’ve come since have completed our family in a way that I could not have imagined when adoring and obsessing over just one
  • Princesses do come with a user manual, you just have to make sure you’ve found the fairytale that fits.