I was told a few years ago by someone who knew about babies (my NCT teacher perhaps?) that newborn babies have a perfect sense of smell because they’ve been grown in a bag of saline for so many months. I have happily repeated that fact many times, adding that I assume newborns must love the smell of their own shit, as they are so happy to lie in it even when eating.
Anyone from a large family will also know being a sibling means you can smell blood, from miles away, and eagerly pile in on one of your number if necessary.
I continue to find it eerie though, my sons and their heightened senses and superior hooters. They can smell out fear, like dogs. A chocolate button from miles away. And they have both, from the day of birth, been able to differentiate between food cooking and hot food on a plate – the first an aggravation, the second a definite call to arms and occasion for a massive and immediate feed.
They also have an uncanny ability to sniffle out important days and times of stress like piglets after truffles. We are due to go on holiday so, so soon and they bloody well know it. It isn’t the piles of packing which alert them, they ignore anything on the landing which isn’t obviously not theirs or likely to taste of chocolate or get me or Mr thatwoman fired if they break it. It is the hope from me and my husband that things will be uncomplicated, the whiff of fingers crossed which sets them twitchy. Their usual response? To get ill.
We’ve had two terrible ‘first’ Christmases plagued with illness, hospital stays and out of hour doctor visits. And many a week or, damn us, long weekend away spent trawling hills and dales for late night chemists.
Now I’m a sympathetic parent, and a painfully wussy bleeding-heart. And all the usual caveats about how safe and well I want them and ill I love them just the same apply. But God Almighty they pick their moments. Newborn is now on medications, so many potions and puffers that our GP has written a letter in case we get stopped by our budget airline at check-in.
He is fairly hearty and still mostly smiley with it. Has his usual all or nothing disposition which is either cheerily content or screaming with fury: no middle ground; no compromise; no prisoners. And mostly, thankfully for us, he remains the former beaming away as long as no-one approaches him with a tissue or inhaler mask.
I can’t really complain as they get it from me. I too get colds the second I sort out my ‘out of office’. As our road trip tips this side of the horizon my pelvis has collapsed. Again. Not as spectacularly as in pregnancy but enough to warrant crutches, or when I have the kids alone, one crutch and a buggy to steady my gait. It is all a bit Return To Oz though, if truth be told, and my hand-luggage is rattling with painkillers.
If you’d told me in my initial mega excitement over our family holiday, I confess I would have been very upset. Certainly if something similar had happened when Spider-boy was little I would have cried and snapped for days. I’ve certainly been a little glum in passing, and not terribly Zen about the fabled ‘packing light’ or the prospect of wearing bloody Crocs, with NO NAIL POLISH (I can’t reach down) on my glamorous family away break in Italy.
It isn’t all bad though. Newborn is improving as he loves the pink stuff and tolerates all but his nose drops with only minimal and quickly sated fury. My little 5 month old junkie, cradling the syringe of medicine sugar, experimenting with a pincer grip as he grabs and sucks furiously, screaming at any fool who tries to move it. He gets this from me too: my mum tells me on my notes in the post-natal ward a midwife wrote ‘good little sucker’.
Crucially though, he’s on the mend. Fit for travel and still charming my socks off. And me? I have a fold up walking cane and my NHS crutches (if Ryanair allows them). I have Spider-boy who calls those crutches my crunches, which is good for puns if nothing else. And I have Mr Thatwoman who is prepared to carry the loads I can’t or pay for cabs. I’m not a cup half-fuller by any means, but after hearing a proper blood-freezing horror story this week, about the unthinkable death of a small child, I am at least chastened enough to be stoical. I type this as I once again rejoice that I am this woman, with only snotty holiday snaps to really worry about. For all else there’s ibuprofen (or Calpol).