When you have a baby your life is supposed to go on hold while you struggle to mother a newborn. Sleepless nights, non-stop feeds and endless nappy changes become de rigueur and mummy turns into a blobby, downtrodden workhorse with giant eye bags and grotty jogging bottoms.
Always keen to challenge such
preconceptions I organised a weekend away to the seaside with two of my best
friends and Felix. Hythe in Kent
was the destination, and I duly booked
a family room for our unorthodox menagerie at the Stade Court
Hotel on Hythe seafront.
We arrived to pouring rain. Proper cats
and dogs rain, the kind that soaks you instantly and thoroughly. No matter, we
retreated to our favourite Nutmeg Cafe where we consumed high levels of carbs
and caffeine. But first off a trip to Aldi to stock up on junk food and
decidedly moderate amounts of booze. With one pregnant and one nursing mother
in our trio it seemed clear that our vodka shot days were over, at least for
the time being. Like a true gypsy I breastfed the baby in the back of the car
whilst the others shopped, thankful for the steamy windows that partially
obscured me from view.
As the sun began to set the weather turned
and the sky lost its leaden coat. We set out along the promenade, the pram
bouncing merrily along the pebbles that the high tide had strewn upon the path.
Soft streaks of pink and rose brushed the horizon where the setting sun met the
sea. Barrel shaped waves launched themselves at the shore, creating a rhythmic
roar as they dragged stones back and forth in the undertow. Keen to give Felix
a proper lungful of sea air we manhandled the pram onto the beach and stood
looking out to sea. Jubilation washed over me in a warm wave.
The next morning dawned bright as a new
penny, and as I sat and breastfed the baby I watched the sun climb out of low
clouds into a faultless blue sky. Ever the modern girl I facebooked a photo of
the rising sun, captioning it 'Good Morning Hythe'. 759am on a Sunday
morning...how things had changed!
After breakfast and a mercifully brief
incident of being locked out of our room, me and Bells headed down to the shore
for a swim clad in wetsuits and wide shit-eating grins. As Monika pushed the
pram along the seafront we entered the November sea, feet frozen instantly,
soles blanching from the pinpricks of sharp stones. We gasped, we grimaced and
we cursed but we got in, and shrieking with adrenaline and gusto we swam
triumphantly back and forth. The sea that morning was as calm and blue as the Mediterranean, the low morning sun pouring honey-golden
light onto its calm expanse. A million points of light glimmered and glittered
in the sun-trail, and I let the buoyancy of the sea and the wetsuit combine and render me almost entirely weightless. Bobbing like a buoy I
turned my face to the sun and closed my eyes, letting the serenity of the sea
wash into me and over me. Heaven.
It was then that the real meaning of the
weekend struck me. I was still me. I was still free. I had survived the ordeal
of his birth and I was alive, more alive than ever. Far from taking away from
my life Felix had merely added another string to my bow. The sweetest and most
melodic sound I ever heard, like an angel singing a lullaby.