London - When I had my first child, I once took her to hospital because she was asleep. You may laugh, but there is a special form of insanity that strikes in the first few weeks of motherhood. She was six weeks old and had been snoozing for three hours. She never normally slept for longer than 20 minutes, so my new-found maternal alarm bell rang.
And as those emotionally destabilising breast-feeding hormones raced through my veins and six weeks of no sleep took its toll, I bundled her off to the maternity unit where she had been born.
“There’s something wrong with my baby,” I wailed.
A comforting midwife looked at me patiently, with a knowing expression.
“My dear,” she said slowly. “There is nothing wrong with this sleeping baby. Take her home and get some sleep yourself.”
Mr Candy and I have come a long way as parents in the decade since I took a sleeping baby to hospital, the days when I had NHS Direct on speed dial and I often sat nervously by the cot in the middle of the night making sure she was breathing.
Now our children need to have limbs missing to warrant a trip to the GP.
“Not unless you can see the bone,” I say in answer to their endless demands for plasters.
But now I wonder if perhaps I’ve gone too far the other way. Maybe the balance of experience versus hysterical fear of imminent disaster settles around the right level at baby number three.
I’m worried that baby number four tips you into a laissez-faire attitude to safety that mirrors that of a Ukrainian theme park.
This week, baby Mabel, aged one, has had nappy rash. All babies get this, and it comes and goes regularly (like Mr Candy’s selective hearing).
So, I’ve been ignoring it, slapping on the Sudocrem and letting her have a few hours here and there minus the nappy (a true test of mother love if there ever was one).
It wasn’t until a childless friend winced and crossed her own legs as I changed Mabel in front of her that I thought I’d better take the smallest Candy to the doctor.
She was prescribed a soothing cream which, oddly, we already have in the fridge for the dog’s itchy ear (if only I’d married a doctor).
I went home feeling guilty that I’d not acted sooner. “Don’t feel guilty,” my friend said when I reported that Mabel’s nether regions were on the mend thanks to her concern. “At least you didn’t leave her in the pub on her own.”
Mr Candy and I raised an eyebrow over my friend’s head. No one needs to know where we’ve left our children by accident, because unless you’ve had them, it’s difficult to explain how easy it is to lose them, especially if you have more than one (with four, every outing is like a badly organised school trip).
Though I will admit I once set off for a quick visit to the supermarket with an empty buggy and two toddlers in tow.
I’d left baby number three on the floor in the lounge in his coat, having forgotten to put him in the pushchair.
There are other tales I cannot tell because I believe it should be an unwritten rule among all parents that no one speaks of such things - like the rock band motto: ‘What goes on tour, stays on tour.’
And as we all know, sleep deprivation is not only a form of torture; it’s at the root of many mothering misdemeanours.
Anyway, with the nappy rash dilemma resolved (a sentence I never thought I’d write before I had children), we moved on to our next parenting challenge: how late can a nearly ten-year-old stay up at a birthday party?
I thought 11pm, but it was nearly midnight when my eldest was returned from a concert at Wembley by an exhausted mom who’d taken four of them.
The next morning it seemed she’d grown up overnight. Whether it was being within shouting distance of The Wanted or simply staying up later than her mom that changed her, I don’t know.
But on that Saturday, the invisible umbilical cord was cut and she was breaking free.
She’s fine about this, of course, but I’m a mess, thanks for asking. If you need me I’ll be sat by Mabel’s cot checking she’s breathing and clinging on to her babyhood for dear life. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.