Four years ago I was, as the saying goes, large as life and twice as beautiful waiting for the first pangs of labour to kick in and for my daughter to make her way into the world.
As her birthday approaches my emotions seem to be in danger of running away with me. While it seems like she has always, always been in our lives there is a part of me which cannot quite believe my baby is turning four.
There is a part of me which feels like I have blinked and this precious 6lbs 9.5oz baby has grown in a proper little girl, with long curly hair, an obsession with jigsaw puzzles and her very own, witty and crazy personality.
The last year has seen us put away the last vestiges of babyhood. The cotbed is dismantled. Dummies have gone the way of the dodo (no pun intended). Potty training has been completed. The stairgates have come down. Recently I decluttered our cutlery drawer and got rid of the weaning spoons. The sippy cups are no more.
The only thing which remains, as a last marker of the four years which have passed, is the wooden heart shaped sign which hangs in the hall declaring that there is a baby in the house. While beside it hangs another wooden sign declaring the house to be a “Designated be nice to Mummy zone”, there is something about the baby sign which I cannot bear to part with.
It’s as if taking it down I’m packing away my child bearing years in a big box marked “the past” and while I have no desire to become a parent again there is a part of me grieving for the part of me which will never again get to experience the trials and tribulations of new parenthood.
Of course, in the month before the birthday of either of my children, I tend to adopt rose tinted glasses and forget the tough parts. All I choose to remember as the anniversary of their births swing about is the lovely rubbing of my bump while a squirming baby wriggled beneath my skin, the wonderful moment they were laid on my chest for the first time and the delicious newborn snuggles which followed.
What I need - I think - is a reality check. I read an article this week from GQ magazine whereby one of their male reporters agreed to wear a pregnancy suit for nine weeks to try and experience a fraction of what we women experience during pregnancy.
He reported how it was uncomfortable, cumbersome, how it made him sweat and feel heavy and feel as if there was weight permanently on his bladder. He then travelled to Hong Kong where he tried on a new prototype suit which, in the space of 15 minutes, allowed him to experience a more realistic experience of pregnancy (albeit, a 15 minute experience). With simulated kicks, pressure in all the right places and aches where they occur most the 15 minutes was enough for the reporter to declare he could never be a woman.
Perhaps, as my rose tinted glasses are attached so firmly to my face I would need a wee go of that yoke myself? However, I’m not convinced the feeling of a “baby” wriggling in my tummy wouldn’t just add to the longing ten fold.
What I would really need is some nine month long stomach bug which would have me doubled over feeling the need to be sick 10 times a day. And something which gave me chronic heartburn. Which made my hair fall out - except for the hair on my legs which (as I could not easily reach them) grew at five times the normal speed leaving me hairy mammoth like by the end of the experience.
The suit, I doubt, also fails to give a true feeling of just how bone achingly tired pregnancy makes you. It does not require you to proffer your arm to some some blood loving nurse at frequent intervals for tests. Nor does it require you to complete the almost impossible task of gathering urine samples in those tiny jars.
The suit also doesn’t, naturally, have the ability to recreate labour. Perhaps an hour or so in the throws of a heavy contractions would put me off any notion? And if that reporter thought women were tough after 15 minutes in a pregnancy suit, I can only imagine what he would feel like if the pains of delivery were recreated... not to mention the pains of recovery while trying to deal with a very demanding, if cute, newborn?
Thinking on all that, perhaps the glasses come off a little. And if the truth is told I relish the relative freedom which comes after all the baby paraphernalia has gone. The ability to leave the house without a bag full of nappies, wipes, a sling or a pram is glorious. The children who, mostly, sleep through the night is even better.
But still, as the “baby” hurtles towards her birthday part of me will always miss the precious, unforgettable moments when you first get to know and love your child. The truth is, it really does pass much too fast and before you know it the moments you wished away are the ones you want back again.