A Diary of Motherhood: Week Twenty-Two

This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travelwritingfreelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.

Dear Baby Bird,

This week you experienced Christmas for the first time. With a lapsed Catholic mother and an atheist father of Jewish descent it's fair to say this feast is more about family, food and yes, strike us down, gift-giving than it is anything else. However, that doesn't mean it's not a significant event and I hope that in the future when you read these, you've come to see Christmas as a time to be shared and cherished with those you care about.

As a result of both planning and circumstance you spent your first Christmas at home in Amsterdam with just your father and I. Because you will have no recollection of the day I thought I'd take a little time to write up some of the highlights.

It began the night before as we adopted a new tradition I'd read about some time ago, that of gifting a pair of pyjamas and a book to each member of the family. The result then being that you spend the night wearing one (guess which one!?) and reading the other. It's apparently what Icelandic families do and seeing as you have an Amma and an Afi who will soon be living in Iceland it seemed fitting to give this one a go. We also ate macaroni cheese (well your father and I did) and that was like the cheesy icing on the cake of my perfect evening.

That night followed much like every night. You slept fairly well until midnight and then despite two dream feeds you spent much of the early hours awake, calling for me, nursing on me, wanting to be held, wanting to play. Thank goodness I had already slept from nine (leaving your father armed with two bottles) or our Christmas would have been much less merry. 

I can't remember what time you finally went to sleep but you woke for morning just before seven o'clock and when I went to you, you'd already clawed your way out of your swaddle and you were chewing part of it. With your other hand you were reaching out to try and touch the bars on the side of your cot. That was until you saw me at which point your legs started dancing, your arms flapped up and down as if trying to fly, and your mouth exploded into a grin. I swear these early morning smiles are nature's way of making parents forget how hard the previous night of broken sleep was, even if just for a second or two.

I wished you a Merry Christmas and kissed you on both cheeks. Then I picked you up and spotted my first present; a small yellow-brown patch on your sheet. I sighed. Not again. I changed you into another pair of suitably festive pyjamas (as I had every intention of staying in PJs until midday myself) and then we went about your usual morning routine. You on your mat playing; me in the kitchen expressing milk and eating cereal. As I did so I read through all the recipes I wanted to not mess up that day.

Much to my surprise your father woke up before 8am. This is only a surprise because he stayed up til gone 2am to give you your first middle of the night feed, but he was keen to get the lamb in the oven (yes another untraditional tradition) and to spend your first Christmas morning with you. 

We spent much of the following hours lying or sitting around playing and slowly opening a few gifts each. As anybody could have predicted, you were far more interested in the wrapping paper than the presents themselves and it quickly became a very real challenge to stop you eating most of it. This prompted me to start boiling some carrots and an hour later we were watching to see how you would take to your first taste of solids. The result? Distinctly unimpressed and orange splodges all over your clothes and mine. Ah well, we'll try again another day.

Your dad was charged with keeping an eye on you for the hours leading up to lunch as I got the vegetables, stuffing and potatoes ready - no small feat as I'd never prepared any kind of roast dinner on my own and really wanted to do a good job.

Other highlights included your dad taking almost ten minutes to open the present from his mum as it was so securely wrapped. Even you grew bored of watching him. 

And when it came to us eating our dinner you were generous enough to sit in your bouncy chair and watch Aladdin very happily and with hindsight, a little too quietly. Just as your father helped himself to seconds he said to me "He must be pooing or something to stay this quiet for this long,". Sadly he was absolutely correct. Cue your second outfit change of the day (of three!).

Once the dishes were tidied away, we spent a lot of time online chatting to friends and family all over the world on Skype. It's funny to think you'll grow up believing that seeing a person's face on a screen and talking to it is a perfectly normal thing.

You also napped especially well, including a one and a half hour afternoon nap lying next to me, possibly the best Christmas gift you could have given me.

As your first Christmas came to a close and we gave you a bath - your new rubber duck family floating around next to you - I couldn't help but marvel at how different next year will be and then the year after that once you are even more aware of what's going on. I know you won't remember Christmas this year or maybe even the next few years', but you should know that I will. I will remember how weird and different and bizarre it felt to be a mother on a day when I've always felt like a child - yes, even in my thirties! I will also remember how much easier it was to make an effort with you around. (This was the first year your father and I have even bothered with a tree!) Of course, I'll try to forget the fact that you poo-ed yourself no fewer than three times. But I'll never forget how warm I felt inside spending your first Christmas day with you and your father. That and how good my first batch of roast potatoes were.

Your stuffed-as-a-turkey, happy-as-punch, exhausted-as-Father-Christmas-on-Christmas-morning, crazy-in-love mother.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before settling down with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
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