Lucy Mangan meets a friend's new baby

Lucy Mangan on meeting a friend's new baby

Meeting a friend's new baby is an emotional moment, filling Lucy Mangan with gladness, amazement and a touch of sadness

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We have known each other since primary school, this little group – the better part of 40 years. So when one of us has a baby, we tend to get a mass invitation to come round and have, as one of our number puts it, ‘a right good go of it’. The newborn gets handed round to each in turn, a sort of grown-up version of the pass the parcel games we used to play at parties back in the day, only this time you only stop if you need to unwrap a dirty nappy from its little bum-bum.

The mother either joins in the parcelpassing with gusto – still high on hormones or in neurotic vigilance, unable to let the precious bundle out of her sight for a moment – or else she isn’t seen for dust. I for one practically threw my son at Jane as she came through the door, shouting ‘Enjoy!’ over my shoulder as I ran upstairs for my first shower in three days and – God willing – a nap.

This baby belongs to our friend Ed. Her name is Emma, she is three days old and as soon as she is put in my arms I suddenly remember that there’s nothing like it. Babies are so unbelievably, beautifully, frighteningly small. They feel hollowboned, they have no heft – ‘It could be a bird in your arms, couldn’t it?’ I say as I look down at her tiny face. ‘Or a giant gerbil,’ says Jane, who is a lawyer and tends to come down hard on anything that sounds like whimsy.

Ed’s wife Amy has made it very clear that she is taking the shower ’n’ sleep option, so we are free to cuddle Emma and walk around with her and marvel at how easy it is. You can hold her, easily, in one arm. Ed can practically fit her in one hand, although this fact rather freaks him out more than it delights him.

You forget that at this age they haven’t yet discovered their lungs properly – when she wakes a bit, Emma mews like a kitten rather than going straight into the soulshattering roar you remember. And they can be rocked, single-armedly, back to sleep. ‘You don’t even have to put down your coffee!’ says Kate. ‘Amy’s last few weeks as a two-handed person,’ I sigh. ‘Should we tell her, or not?’ Not, we decide.

It’s always an emotional event, visiting a new baby. You think, of course, of the one or ones you’ve had and, maybe, there are ghosts of the second or third that you thought about but never quite… Ah well. But we all bear up pretty well, until someone points out that she is the last ‘first baby’ of our group.

Ed, like the rest of us, is 42 but of course being a man was able to afford to wait a bit longer before he got going on a family. So Emma is our last ‘new’ newborn. It’s ridiculous, but it is enough to set us all crying. There’s the sadness of any last time, but mixed in with it is a strange gladness. All five of us are here, still alive, still friends, to see the last of us produce his contribution to the next generation. A circle is complete. Even Jane discreetly wipes away a tear. Giant gerbils can have that effect on a girl.

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