It’s a mystery to me how I ended up with three children. I don’t mean the birds and the bees part obviously, but it’s a mystery to me as to why I started and why I continued having children – finally stopping at baby number three. One could be classed as youthful naivety, two as a momentary lapse of reason or even perhaps carelessness, but three? That takes determination, persistence and a whole heap of planning.
Now I know that I am blessed to have children, but if I’m honest, I have not found motherhood easy. I love my children to the moon and back, and (without sounding too dramatic) would kill and die for them, but I am most certainly not Mother Earth. And as my children get older, I would rather they wait for some considerable time before they make me a grandmother and although I love my gorgeous nephews dearly, I am always pleased and slightly relieved when I hand them back to my sister!
So how did I react when my daughter came home with a baby?
It’s OK. Don’t panic. We’re not talking gym-slip motherhood here. We’re talking a pretend, mechanical doll with amazingly sophisticated software being brought home by E for her Child Development GCSE.
E had decided to call her baby Leonard, despite being given a girl and it being dressed from head to toe in pink (she always likes to shake things up a bit!). It looked pretty life-like, felt as heavy as a 7lb newborn and had a floppy head. I felt that it needed droopy arms and legs to be spot on and it could have done with a clean. Anyway, it was activated at 6pm on Friday evening and would be active until 6pm on the Sunday. Bring it on!
To help E cope with her first night of ‘motherhood’ she enlisted the help of a friend to get her through. The word on the street was that the first night was the hardest/longest so I was duly dispatched to the shop to buy all manner of energy enhancing supplies; I came home suitably laden and was relieved of my bounty immediately. They spent most of the evening up in Ella’s bedroom, shrieking every time Leonard made a noise and eating the sugary treats that I had provided. Luckily, the girls chose to sleep in the lounge. I believe Leonard woke up 3 times that first night but I was blissfully unaware …. And remained fast asleep for the entire night.
The following day E’s friend went home and Leonard was all hers. However, as the day progressed (and I guess the novelty wore off), E tutted, ignored, sighed and even shouted at Leonard when he cried and needed attention. She was an angry, impatient and thoroughly unfit ‘mother’. And to my surprise, her cold and un-loving attitude towards Leonard upset me.
So what was going on? How could this piece of plastic have made such a huge impact on me? Leonard wasn’t real and he wasn’t my grandchild. Then it dawned on me … I belonged to some sort of maternal instinct ‘sleeper’ cell …. I had just been merrily going about my day to day life, assuming that my yummy mummy days were well and truly over, when BAM! All of a sudden, I had been ‘activated’. Now I’m not saying that I immediately went out and bought a leopard skin print changing bag, a three wheeler jogging buggy, designer breast pump and a nursing bra. I just mean that every time Leonard cried, I my heart pounded a little bit faster. Every time he squeaked I rushed to hold him in my arms. And every time he sounded distressed I gently rocked him from side to side, in the obligatory ‘I’m a holding a baby’ mode.
I continued to find myself picking Leonard up if E ignored, and I fed him, changed his nappy and cuddled him for just a little bit longer than I actually needed to. And when we visited my mum, she felt compelled to do the same.
However, as the weekend continued, E became more tolerant of Leonard. She started to recognize the different types of crying and could more easily identify his needs which meant less crying for Leonard and more peace and quiet for us.
Leonard was due to be de-activated at 6pm on the Sunday, and as the time drew closer E told me that she didn’t to hand him back. And I could understand why. In such a short time Leonard had become part of the family, part of our routine and just that little bit real for us.
So has it made me super broody? Has it made me desperate to start trying for child number four? Well, I’ve often said I married my 4th child (sounds wrong I know, but it is also true!) and without either the help of a skilled surgeon, divine intervention or an extra-marital affair, number 4 is NEVER going to happen! But what it did show me was that perhaps, with the passage of time, I could be a loving grandmother when the time comes.
Give me another 35 years and I might just be ready …..
Love and blue skies
Words: Louise Bowditch
Photography: BlueCloud Photography