Don’t shake the baby

I was talking with a friend about the things you unintentionally do with children the other day. The fun things, and the more difficult ones. She mentioned how, before having children, she could never imagine how anyone could hit or hurt a child, but afterwards you can see how it happens. This is so, so true.

The number of times I nearly shook E out of sheer frustration is horrifying in retrospect. But it’s so easy to do when you’re frustrated, which, if you’ve never been woken every two hours to try to feed a baby who refuses to eat off you but insists she’s starving and won’t stop screaming, you might not understand. Your hands literally (not a word I like using, btw), literally shake with rage and exhaustion, and you want to fling this useless, noisy, ungrateful, unresponsive animal away from you. I haven’t yet talked to a parent, especially a mum, who hasn’t felt this at least once. At least.

There was a news story about this in Oxford recently, about a chap shaking his kid. And I felt so bad, because it’s something he’ll have to live with, in jail, for a very long time. And all it takes is a moment of weakness, being so worn down that you simply can’t cope.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for all the people who drilled into me not to do that. Everything I read, and everyone I talked to, was very explicit: never shake the baby. Do something else. Put it down, walk away, get your partner to take it away from you, whatever you have to do. But do not shake the baby. There’s this really interesting thing, too, because in the depths of that time, when you could easily give her a good shake or wallop, you simply don’t. You’ve been trained not to, and your conscious brain is overriding your angry inner animal. Somehow you can have an inner dialogue, where you’re simultaneously raging and reminding yourself of all the horrible things that will happen if you shake or hit her, and that you really do love her when you’re not completely stinking bonkers. And you don’t shake the baby. Thank god for that.

Here are some things I also never thought I would do:

· Kiss her feet, her belly, and her food-covered face with total abandon

· Get obsessive about washable nappies (they’re awesome sauce)

· Sing non-stop for an hour, just to stop her from crying from the pain in her teeth

· Make thbbbb and ra-ra-rarararara noises to her to make her laugh. Repeatedly.

· Say ‘kick, kick, kick’ with 20 other parents in the baby pool, whilst the babies float about obliviously

· Talk seriously about a bedtime routine

· Carefully customise the lyrics to a surprising variety of songs

How can you not love them. They have elephants on them. Freakin’ elephants!
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