We were clearing out the spare room (soon-to-be-nursery) and I’d just come across a little keepsake box from oldest sons’ first weeks of babyhood. Inside, lovingly preserved, was the onsie he wore when he came home from hospital, his tiny wrist and ankle ID bands, some grainy scan pictures, a pair of minute, grandma-crotched booties, a baby-curl – and the object of my husband’s revulsion; my firstborns’ mummified cord stump.
‘What?’ I exclaimed innocently, twiddling it in front of him between two fingers in wonder. It was black-brown in colour, scab-like and rock-hard, with the white plastic clamp still attached. ‘There’s nothing horrid about it at all,’ I continued, knowing full well I was making him queasy, but launching into outraged, sentimental protestations anyway.
‘It’s the very last tiny thing that connected us physically – and nurtured him for months inside me!’ I gushed alarmingly.
‘I know exactly what it is,’ sniffed DH, looking away. ‘And it resembles a piece of out-of-date biltong.’
Hmmmm… Irked that my maternal sentiments were not echoed by my usually soft-hearted husband, I hastily returned said stump to the box with the rest of my precious memorabilia, and put it back in the secure bottom drawer, like a drug-addict hiding my secret stash.
Surely keeping it wasn’t that weird – was it? It was hardly like I was storing a dismembered digit – right?
Sometime later, I was heartily reassured when my favourite newspaper (the good old Daily Mail) ran a story about the unusual things mothers keep to remind themselves of their child’s babyhood and birth. Apparently, treasuring the cord stump is something a whopping 32 percent of mothers in the UK do too. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2134998/Babys-dirty-nappy-positive-pregnancy-tests–The-bizarre-keepsakes-new-mothers-cherish-forever.html
The article went on to say that ‘stump collection’ was far from unusual – and that some mothers even preserve their child’s first dirty nappy….
While I’d personally struggle to find nostalgia nestled in the depths of a Pampers full of muconiam, I can understand where they are coming from. Because the sad (or beautiful, depending on where you’re coming from) fact is, there is not one single, disgusting thing to a mother when it comes to her own baby…
That’s right. While anybody else’s secretions – even in tiny amounts, can make us gag uncontrollably, the most squeamish amongst us mums can happily mop up, examine and discuss in great detail, the generous excretions of our own young. And while we don’t go as far as licking them clean, like other mammals do, we are pretty much immune to revulsion when it comes to their bodily functions.
In fact, a quick ‘ask around’ the Dubai school mums, made me realise my little cord compulsion was nothing – absolutely nothing, in the grand scheme of things, to worry about.
Alpha mum, jiggling fashionable baby number four on her slender, lycra-clad hip, happily revealed that not only had she kept her babies’ cord stumps, first nail clippings and nappies, but that she’d also sent her placentas off to, ‘my marvellous midwife in the UK,’ to have them freeze-dried and made into supplement capsules.
‘I got 300 out of Tabitha’s placenta this time – that’s more than I ever got with Jocasta’s, Astalas’ or Winnifreds’, and I’m still taking them eight months on,’ she wittered proudly, adding that she was convinced it was why her breast milk was always so abundant – and how she’d managed to almost instantly shed the seven kilos she’d gained in total, ‘while preggers with nombro quatre.’
Fashionista mum had a slightly more surreal take on things, admitting that she had obsessively collected, polished and stored every single one of her daughter’s first teeth. ‘I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them – perhaps make a bracelet or a necklace?’ she mused with alarming seriousness.
‘Perhaps you could use them to decorate your pregnant belly-cast wall hanging,’ I suggested, tongue firmly in cheek as I referred to the ‘breasts and all’ plaster of Paris body mold that took pride of place in her sitting room.
‘Derek [the pilot husband] already suggested that – and I did consider it,’ she replied in all honesty, ‘but some of my friends think it might look a bit macabre…’
Moving swiftly on….
Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, never one to mince her words, declared my ‘cord stump keeping’ as ‘Eeuuw!’ However, she did admit to storing all ‘six’ of her pregnancy test sticks when she discovered she was expecting for the first time. ‘I’m going to keep them forever and make a picture out of them for my princess,’ she declared, with no inkling of how absolutely bonkers this made her sound….
Mother-in-law however, had no room for such fripperies and thought us all rather silly. ‘I think it’s a very ‘modern’ way of doing things,’ she declared, a tad witheringly. ‘I only kept the hospital bands and birth records of my babies – what more do you need?’
But I know very well that when our daughter is born this summer, I will be just as sentimentally ‘daft’ as I was with our first two babies. What’s more, I will be sure to take extra special care of those tiny items this time around. And it isn’t just because I very much suspect she will be our last child, but because I know how easily the items can go astray.
For example, I also stored youngest son’s ‘birth bits’ very carefully, but one day, while cooing over them in a sentimental fashion when he was oh, about two, I accidentally dropped his tiny piece of cord on the floor. Quick as a flash, with absolutely no remorse – or respect for my distress, our food-addict Labrador had snaffled it up and my ‘little, physical connection to my baby boy,’ was gone forever…
DH thought it was hilarious – and still laughs about it today…
As for me, well, I’m far too hormonal to be rational at the moment, so I’ll leave it up to you lot to decide….