There’s nothing like a long solo drive on a crisp autumn day to have you indulging in a bit of reflection. I had scooted out of the house at the crack of midday, dropped in at the cake shop to pick up a ridiculous confection that shouted “Happy Birthday!” in caramel sponge and chocolate, swung by the supermarket to stuff bottles of bubbly between ice packs in the chiller bag in my boot (terrible to arrive with warm wine) and headed three hours south to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.
Before becoming a mother, you assume birthdays are all about you. A new bike, a year older, a party with your name in the song, your special day. Quite right – this is exactly how we want you to read it... a joyous celebration of the anniversary of your arrival on the planet.
Secretly, though (and I can’t be alone in this) those of us who were fully sentient at the birth allow our minds to swing back to it. To recall some of it (the bits we liked, mostly, the stuff that went well), and quietly measure the distance between then and now.
Those minutes and hours (also days and years) after your first child is born are when you are most aware that you have no idea how to do the thing you are doing. Raising a new human? Where’s the manual? When will the grown-ups arrive to take over? Then realising with waves of panic that there is no list of instructions and you are the grown-up now, and you are just going to have to work it out.
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