When The Bird was a newborn, as I’ve noted, I was kind of obsessed with what you were and weren’t Allowed To Do with babies. Part of the problem was that I’d just fallen out of a world where I got to think of myself as an expert — I was a boss lady, and a technical author to boot, writing the user instructions for some particularly fiddly and “inside baseball” software packages — and into one where the lack of clue I had was written all over my eye-bagged, un-made-up face. Everywhere I looked were humans who had somehow been coaxed, cajoled, or dragged through childhood; many of them were even performing this feat on children of their own. Weirdest of all, most of those were managing to do this without noticeably melting down, and without their children melting down. And there was me, with my perma-weeping baby, and no damn idea what I was doing. (I’m using the past tense here, like this was a state of affairs that subsequently changed: spoiler alert, but: no.) How long was the baby allowed to be in its car seat for? You were supposed to offer both breasts at each feed, but if you really needed to pee were you allowed to take a toilet break in the middle? How often could I bathe the baby, and if she wasn’t dirty did I have to bathe her at all? Babies were supposed to sleep in the same room as their parents until six months of age: if they were napping in the sitting room, was it still okay to pop to the kitchen? How long were you allowed to be gone for? And so on.
It all kind of came to a head when The Bird was ten days old and we decided to exploit the gorgeous late-summer weather and the dwindling freedom offered by The Bloke’s last days of paternity leave, taking a trip to Thetford Forest. It was a forty-minute drive, The Bird’s longest voyage yet, and we were kind of smugly self-congratulatory at having got her peacefully into her car seat and ferried her across Breckland. Then we arrived, with our well-laden changing bag and all our clothes on the right way out, and realized we had forgotten to bring anything we could use to transport her.
Now, for many modern families, the acquisition of baby transportation kit is the defining feature of impending first-time parenthood. You take a trip to a giant babyporium like Kiddicare and test-drive dozens of strollers, prams, buggies, travel systems, tandems and in-lines. You weigh up front packs and back carriers. You learn the different categories of car seat, and discover the joys and mysteries of isofix. You think you’re being all progressive in looking at a BabyBjorn (it sounds Scandinavian! That’s got to mean it’s good!), until the babywearing cognoscenti stare down their noses and tell you that you need to spend at least five times as much as a Bjorn costs to call yourself a fit parent. (More on that theme to come.) You make spreadsheets about this crap. And somewhere amid the tide of all this research and marketing literature, the idea takes root that moving a baby around necessarily calls for a lot of technical expertise. Thus, in the forest, we stood and looked at each other in dismay. Could it possibly be, in a world where we owned a “travel system” that cost twice as much as any piece of furniture we had ever bought, and more than half as much as our car, that we could schlep the baby about in … well … in our arms?
I’m here to tell you, dear reader, that we got away with it. Rural Norfolk must be off the beat of the baby transportation police, because we carried that tiny girl around the forest for a couple of hours. Just snuggled up in our arms, or cuddled against our shoulders. She slept most of the time, or fed, and soaked in the tree-filtered rays of the last of the sun. We had a glorious time.
And never went out without a buggy or a carrier again.