The pink haze is a phrase used by the author Kate Rigby in her gritty novel Down The Tubes. The novel follows the two lives of estranged mother and son, Cheryl and Michael. (You can find my review and a link to the book at the end of this post.) For the character of Cheryl, the pink haze describes that aura of loveliness and addiction that surrounds the newborn child. What a perfect way to describe the near dream like state you exist in after having your first child. Although Cheryl is not exactly mother of the year (you’ll have to read the book to find out why!) I found myself completely understanding this state she found herself existing in during those early newborn days.
A haze indeed. Sleep deprived, foggy headed, surrounded by attention and well wishers and smiling faces. Everyone goes to jelly over newborns. Everyone wants to stop and stare at that rare little piece of perfection. Everyone says enjoy it while it lasts. They soon grow. It doesn’t last for long that haze. Because everything passes to the next stage so quickly. One minute your house is full of chunky baby equipment; baby gyms, and bouncers and car seats. The next moment these items are vanishing one by one. And you start to realise that as they change before your eyes, you cease to become the centre of their world. If you get in their way, they start to peer around you.
The pink haze is an addiction to love and needing and fulfillment. Maybe you have never experienced those things quite so strongly before. Will it ever be enough? It will always be transient and shifting. Like sand slipping through the sand timer, like the earth shifting beneath your feet. None of these moments can be held onto or held still. You are forever forced to chase leaves in the wind. You only get so close, your fingers brushing, before it lifts away again teasingly.
Chasing your next fix. That sweet milky baby smell. When even the waste in the nappy smells good. Inhaling every part of them so that you might contain it forever. No description fits. No words are ever adequate. The smell of their musty sick on your clothes, or the cheese balls that you scrape out from under their chubby chins. The smell of their hair and their scalp and their breath. Sniffing them up, as if that might be a way to capture them. Oh their cries are just for you. Their needs and wants and comforts are delivered by you. You exist in your own hazy bubble bouncing away from the world. Separate and secret.
A secret addiction. When you hold them in your arms and feel the urge from your heart to squeeze them back inside of you. Absorb them back to where they came from so that they might be yours again. Their fat wet drooly cheek pressed up against yours. The smell of their warm neck. The giggles from their lips. The curl and bend and thrust and flop of their changing bodies.
My baby. My baby. No other two words so precious, so beautiful. But every gasp of your love for them is a painful one. Because they grow and change and move away. You feel it is shameful. How you secretly long to keep them small and in love with you, needing you. You, the centre of everything.
Time marches on, though you drag your feet, and those special moments wander and wane. Demands are put upon you. Expectations have been raised. Now you are one of the mothers, sighing and rolling your eyes and rattling your car keys at the school gates. And most days are a rush from one fixed point to another. Breakfast is shovelled in. School bags packed and thrust upon shoulders. Lists are needed so that nothing is forgotten, so that you do not fall short or fail. You miss them and wish they would think of you, but they rarely do. You put the washing on the stairs and you wash out their lunch box at the end of the day. You tell them off and grit your teeth, and everyone is the same, everyone is moaning and whining and saying there is never enough time, a mothers work is never done, I have a lot to do and a short time to do it in!
Sometimes you think about the pink haze. Sometimes you can still feel them kicking inside of you. Sometimes if you close your eyes you can still feel their body in your arms, their head against your shoulder. You can still hear their breath as the snores whistle in and out, and their tiny ribcage moves against your breast. And you can still remember how you never really wanted to put them in the cot. And you never really wanted to move them from the breast. And you never really wanted to say goodbye at the school gates knowing that the pink haze was over.
Like all addictions, you could go back for more. Have another one, and then another. But eventually time will smash this apart too. Eventually mother nature will shake her head.
All you can do is watch them go. All you can do is be there whenever they come back. All you can do is hope that when the day comes that they hold their own newborn in their own arms, and they find themselves surrounded by the pink haze, that then they will know what they meant to you.
This book gets 5 stars from me because it was quite simply everything I look for in a book, and can never seem to find! A brilliant storyline, real characters, real dialogue, gritty, hard-hitting, heartbreaking and touching. I am so pleased the author has written lots of other books! Down The Tubes is a story about two people; Cheryl, who has all but turned her back on her four children in order to have a ‘life’ and is pursuing a career in drug rehabilitation, and her estranged son Michael, who ran away from home aged sixteen. The book brilliantly weaves their two life stories together, in the third person and present tense. Cheryl is such an interesting character, in many ways extremely unlikable, but I could not help be intrigued by her. Married young, she has child after child, seemingly addicted to the ‘pink haze’ that surrounds an innocent young baby. However once they start to walk and talk she sees their innocence fade and starts to lose interest. Michael, on the other hand, having been abused by his father, is such a lost soul that you are immediately drawn to him, instantly rooting for him and hoping he can eventually kick his drug habit. As the narration takes us back and forth between their two lives, the two characters almost cross paths but seem destined to never be reunited. This is such a well written book, and I am so pleased I have found an author who does not shy away from gritty storylines that make you flinch. I was left wanting more