Mother. What does the word conjure up to you? Before I became one, I would have envisaged an eminently sensible, supremely efficient multitasker, dispensing equal measures of cuddles, Calpol and discipline to her growing brood, or a beatific, bosomy earth mother, suckling an infant on one side while pureeing kale and carrots on the other.
Whatever hackneyed image of motherhood sprang to my mind, I can safely say I wouldn't have imagined me in a million years. While I always wanted to be a parent, reconciling my pre-baby self with the responsibility that comes with keeping a small, angry human alive has been no mean feat.
Before the baby, I could be as self-absorbed, immature, active and (mostly) lazy as I liked, whether I was careering between cocktails and cheesy music in late-night London, or enjoying a lie-in before a languid Sunday chez sofa. Before the baby, my responsibilities beyond my career extended little further than paying rent on a shabby Camden one-bed and remembering to return my parents' calls once in a while.
It's all a distant memory now that darling daughter is here, after a tense pregnancy punctuated by anxious waits and hospital stays. When my husband and I heard her shrill squawk for the first time when she was pulled from me during an emergency c section, and were presented shortly afterwards with a cross and scrawny (4 lb 11) being swaddled in a towel, we felt that unique mix of love, terror and helplessness all new parents can relate to.
We also felt that resounding kick up the arse we needed to accept that we were no longer alone in the world, that our family unit had been expanded with a beautiful, helpless and flatulent little person who we had to feed, clothe and nurture for the rest of our lives.
The first few weeks passed in a fug of sleeplessness, hopelessness and emotional overhaul, as we stumbled blindly into the feed-change-sleep-cry (but enough about me) cycle. Each time we thought we'd turned a corner, whether it was mastering nappy changing, giving her a bath without all hell breaking loose or managing to get dressed once in a while (even venture outside, eventually), we'd find ourselves on a new straight fraught with colic, crankiness and a bottomless laundry basket.
At ten weeks in, I know that there are many more challenges to come. I also know that I wouldn't change my lot for the world. That 'mother' can mean 'me'.