It’ll be Cardiff Carnival this Saturday. The streets will be a riot of colourful costumes, sequins and feathers, dancing and drumming. The Carnival is in its 26th year, but I’ve only managed to catch the one, two years ago. Arianwen was about two months old.
It feels both like five minutes ago and forever ago. It’s a day that still sticks in my mind as being one when new motherhood felt completely overwhelming and I wondered what we’d let ourselves in for. A simple trip into town seemed so complicated and I wasn’t sure that life would ever feel ‘normal’ again.
Distracted by the parade going by, I made the mistake of missing some of the little one’s hunger cues. No worries, I thought. I’ll leave Andy in town with friends and I’ll take Arianwen home on the bus and feed her at home.
Except getting the bus is not that easy with a tank-like pushchair and a howling baby. Everyone was staring at me. Every last eye was on me (this is probably untrue but by God it felt like it at the time). I lasted all of one stop before I got off again.
Ok, I’ll stop off at the baby feeding room in the shopping centre I thought. Except the parade was still taking place, and a merry band of carnivallers blocked the route to my destination, all the while Arianwen screamed louder and louder for boob. I remember hopping there impatiently, waiting for a break in the crowd, before dashing in front of a brass band.
Finally I got to the dingy feeding room and started to feed. And got all of a few minutes in before some impatient knocking on the door. “Um, I won’t be long” I called, willing Ari to hurry up, knowing it didn’t really work like that. More knocking. And some more. Then someone unlocked the door and barged in. “Oh, I was just checking you weren’t a young couple having sex. They do that in here you know”, said the security guard and off she went.
Wriggly distraught baby was not up for latching on by this point. So I gave up and headed for home on foot, both of us crying by this point. I was willing everyone who passed us to make some sort of comment that “baby was hungry” just so I could let them know how I felt.
That day and those feelings still feel so clear to me. I wasn’t sure how things could ever be normal again if I couldn’t handle a trip into town. This baby seemed to be speaking a completely different language to me and I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d ever comprehend. But of course we worked it out together, and it’s amazing how different things feel two years on. We’re still working things out together of course, and I definitely still have days where the simple tasks of getting dressed and out the house on time seem to be beyond my grasp, but I don’t feel so raw and vulnerable any more. Like any big life change, it was all about finding that’new’ normal.
One thing I do remember from that day is how much fun it looked like to be in the parade, and I decided I would make it my mission to be in next year’s. I didn’t make it last year but all being well I should be parading tomorrow! Last summer I joined the dancers of our local community samba band and it’s been so much fun. You can see Ari watching them, looking somewhat unimpressed, below.
These days she enjoys watching the “bam-bams” a bit more luckily, as she’s had to spend a fair few weekends doing so!