One surprising thing about motherhood, yes I realise there are tonnes of others, but one I never ceased to be amazed by, is the absolute random conversations you strike up with complete strangers who are drawn to you by your baby. You see, as it turns out my baby boy is a complete granny magnet. That kid can attract women-of-a-certain-age at a hundred paces. I’ve seen them literally change course in the middle of their shopping and make a beeline for us, as soon as they get a whiff of his chubby cheeks and big blue eyes. And who could blame them, he is beyond adorable, yes I am biased in the extreme, but he is cuteness personified, as are pretty much all babies. And as it turns out, they are the ultimate conversation starter.
I’m a super shy person by nature, so chatting to randomers I don’t know from Adam is not something I normally do, but since my baby has come along, I literally start telling these besotted strangers my life story. Case in point was last week, when I was in a coffee shop with my baby who was due his bottle. The only available seat where I could fit the pram in was beside two elderly ladies and before I even sat down, I knew we’d be chatting. I got on with getting Thomas’ bottle out of the bag and poured in the formula from my ‘nifty’ dispenser and I could hear the two women’s comments.
‘Oh we never had anything like that in our day.’ One said to the other.
I looked over and smiled and the other woman said to me ‘we just had to make up the bottles in the house, we didn’t have any of those fancy thing-a-majigs.’
I laughed to myself, the ‘fancy’ formula dispenser was just a bog standard, three chambered one you get in Boots. Nothing remarkable about it, but I just loved their genuine fascination with it.
‘I know,’ I said, ‘it’s great the things they have now.’
‘We were told to start feeding the child at six weeks, we’d put baby rice in the bottle, sure it’s all changed now!’ the lady on the right exclaimed.
I laughed, ‘Yes, they keep changing what’s supposed to be the done-thing don’t they?’
We carried on chatting with them asking the usual; how old is he? Is he your first? What’s his name? Thomas of course played along, flashing the gummy grin and delighted in the attention. And then the lady on the left goes to me, calm as you like;
‘I had eight,’
‘Children?’ I almost screamed. No, coffees! Yes children, Niamh you gobshite, I thought to myself.
‘She had six,’ she carried on, motioning to her friend across the table.
‘Jesus, I’m in awe ladies!’ I blurted out loud before I could stop myself.
Here I was making heavy weather of having to look after one baby and these two women were able to raise 14 children between them with probably none of the mod-cons I enjoy today. Those women deserved a medal, I thought. We chatted for a little longer, while the baby finished his bottle and I left, but it got me thinking about all the contraptions and advances I use on a daily basis for my childrearing which they probably didn’t have. I mean okay, their genuine awe over the formula dispenser was a bit quaint and naive, but I thought about all the things I have and take not just for granted, but see as absolute essentials! These two women didn’t have quick, plug-in sterilisers, jumparoos, Sleepyheads, Cocoonababy’s, Trip Trapp’s, car seats, the Wonder Weeks app, baby carriers, video monitors, Little Baby Bum on Netflix, nappy genies, travel systems, Ella’s pouches, bouncers, or a million and one other things, yet they just got on with it.
And it made me realise that, while it’s wonderful to live in a time when you’ve got access to lots of helpful baby inventions and products, I think at times I’ve become a little too reliant on these aids. Take the jumperoo for example, while he adores jumping up and down in it, I’ve think I’ve become too fond of plonking him in there, while I try and get a few jobs done around the house. And take the video monitor as another. We went on our holidays to Kerry last month and I stupidly brought the video monitor part, but left the actual camera part in the baby’s room at home! It was complete panic stations. I was literally wailing like a banshee that the holiday was ruined, etc, and I had to download some baby motioning app on my iPad to try and survive. Of course the Wi-Fi was beyond crap, so the app barely worked, but you know what? We managed. We went up to check on him, we left the door ajar and everything worked out fine.
Okay I’m not saying I’m about to bin the Jumperoo, that thing is a bloody lifesaver, or my ‘nifty’ formula dispenser for that matter, but those two women have certainly given me a new outlook on how good I’ve got it.