x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

A year of wonder - and so little sleep

The congratulations due to Mummy on the occasion of Baby's first birthday are for a totally different reason: I'm still alive.

It is three o'clock in the morning, and my baby is having a conversation with me. "Baa baa," she coos, punctuating her babbling with a huge smile, showing off her six teeny teeth. "Buda buda, nyumee nyumee," she continues, cute but incomprehensible.

I'm actually in a haze, my head throbbing. I'm thinking of the warm duvet and soft pillow I have left for the third time tonight to deal with hysterics, tears and now chatting. I pat her on the head. "Go to sleep sweetie, it's night-time." She thinks this is funny and starts giggling.

Baby has turned one this week. Congratulations, little one! Since appearing like a kissable fluffy cloud last January, you've learnt to eat, roll, smile, laugh, sit up, crawl, babble endlessly, understand conversation and follow commands, nod when asked a question, and very nearly walk. Aren't you a clever baby!

The congratulations due to Mummy on the occasion of Baby's first birthday are for a totally different reason: I'm still alive.

Baby is a delicious little person, and my inclination is to rattle on in this column about how delightful, cute and edible she is. But you will vomit, and that isn't really how it is most of the time. If that's what you are after, there are already plenty of schmaltzy columns about the joys of motherhood. I know, I've written some of them.

So here is my take - one year on - of the two main challenges of life's daily realities. First, completing tedious basic tasks: feeding, nappy changing, cleaning. The second, to remain within the vicinity of being sane in the face of the Groundhog Day of aforementioned baby routine.

Frankly, with this backdrop my main pleasures during this first year have been small in scope. Baby's cuteness is the main joy. One major downside is she requires her pungent bottom to be cleaned on a regular basis.

I can fit into (most) of my pre-pregnancy clothes. However, it's not muffin tops I suffer from but an all-round doughnut spillage over the top of my trousers.

I've finally joined the "club" of mothers, a club that you can never fully understand or be welcomed into until you have a baby. However, the club is also like Hotel California: you can never leave.

I still engage in the interesting work I did before baby was born. I'm fortunate to work from home. However, it takes three times longer to get out of the house to any meeting. And why does she always need the big nappy change just as we're at the door?

I have a cute accessory to dress up and take to parties. But the accessory thinks my shirts are napkins for her dirty hands and mouth.

Husband thinks I'm flipping marvellous and has named me SuperMummy. However, SuperMummy has every minute packed with baby activities and forgets she is not just a Mummy, but is also a woman.

As a new mum, one of my greatest pleasures is to talk about my baby all day. Then I realise that all I do is talk about my baby all day. I'm a self-confessed conversation bore.

But so what? Being a mum is the single toughest thing I've ever done. It is, literally, awesome. So I feel entitled to talk about it endlessly. Nappies and night-waking might be dull to discuss, but how about the wonder of watching a small human being say her first words, recognise those who love her, or stand for the first time? Little people are amazing creatures. How blessed I am to have one.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk