Parenting: the art of forgetting selectively
Why do baby clothes have to be so stupidly adorable?
I pondered this as I started to go through the first of six bin bags of clothes the Popple had outgrown. The little animals on the bums of little onesies. The teeny tiny hats. The doll-like dresses. They were too stinkin’ cute and it wasn’t fair, because I needed to get rid of most of them.
I blame our small(ish) flat. Our bedroom closet (pretty much the only storage space in the flat) was almost entirely full of clothes that the Popple had outgrown. Every time I opened it, I was faced with a growing avalanche of bin bags.
We needed to do something about it.
“But what if you have another baby?” people asked when I mentioned Operation Baby Clothes Clean-Out. And we might have another baby – but we might not. Or we might have another baby but not for another five years, and we can’t spend the next five years accumulating piles of Popple clothes. Our flat would be stuffed to the ceiling with little tights stained with spaghetti bolognese and cat-print pyjamas. So we made a plan:
- Get a big plastic tub.
- Sort through all the baby stuff and choose our favourite items to go into said tub.
- Donate the rest to Birth, Baby & Beyond, the amazing Glasgow-based charity that puts together baby starter packs for underprivileged families.
- Look at the back of our closet for the first time in over a year.
As we went through the clothes, we discovered something surprising – everything that we picked up had good memories associated with it. Especially the newborn stuff. We both know that the newborn weeks/months were super hard. We barely slept. My boobs were killing me. The Popple cried non-stop, and I was basically terrified of her. But all that went away when I saw a little pair of lavender trousers with BEAR FACES ON THE FEET.
We pulled out the zebra-striped sleepsuit she wore in hospital after she was born, the giant snowsuit that made the tiny Popple look even tinier, and a shirt and trouser set decorated with vegetables, the first outfit that Adrian picked out for her himself. The lump in my throat grew bigger with each item.
“This must be why people have more than one baby,” I said to Adrian. Because on the face of it, having more than one baby is insane. They are wonderful little things, but good God, they are hard work. No mother with a newborn semi-permanently attached to her boob who hasn’t slept in weeks thinks and is covered in spit-up thinks, “You know what I want to do again? This.”
But here’s the secret to the growing human population: we forget.
It’s a weird kind of forgetting, because we don’t exactly deny that the bad stuff happened. We know the baby didn’t sleep through the night for a full year. We know they screamed from 6pm-11pm every night like clockwork for three months. We know they regularly peed all over themselves when we changed them. But it feels distant somehow, like it happened to someone else.
Even our memories of labour, the worst pain that many of us had ever experienced, fade away. I know that I was convinced that my labour was going to kill me, but I can’t remember how it felt, exactly. Bad, I’m sure, but not so bad that I wouldn’t consider doing it again. Maybe. In theory.
Right now, my life is full enough with a Popple and a cat to look after, plus a husband, an almost full-time job and an almost full-time hobby (thank you, blog, you time-thieving bastard). But you never know – maybe someday I’ll be glad I kept those bear-face trousers.