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Bury St Edmunds columnist Nicola Miller has a new found admiration for babies after having to learn to crawl again

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I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions; they trigger Oppositional Defiance Disorder in me, but nonetheless I have managed to start 2020 with a fresh perspective on life-that of a nine-month-old baby.

A few days ago, I broke my leg and have resorted to crawling and butt-shuffling my way around a house which is, quite frankly, unsuitable for crutches.

Despite the fact that the fracture I have is common in paratroopers (which I thought was quite glamorous), mine involved a muddy bank in the middle of nowhere (seriously, my only option had I not been able to mobilise would have been the air ambulance) and a painful two-mile hobble back to civilisation, hoping that bits would not drop off in the process.

Nicola Miller (26315432)
Nicola Miller (26315432)

My admiration for babies holds no bounds now because crawling is tough on the knees and hands. My knuckles are dry and split, my knees are sore, and I am covered in fluff. How do babies manage to crawl and maintain such peachy-soft skin? I don’t recall my own babies developing knees with a hide resembling that of an elephant.

On the upside, I have rediscovered all manner of books that have lingered for too long on the bottom shelves of bookcases as I lumber past and a new talent for interpretative dance although this might be an overly flattering way of describing what I look like when trying to move on to one leg from a kneeling position. More the
tortured moves of the birth scene in Danny Boyle’s Frank-enstein as opposed to Isadora Duncan’s graceful unfurling.

When I was a kid, I read the What Katy Did series by Susan M Coolidge. Illness and injury because of ‘social wrongness’ are central to the first book in the series when Katy defies her housekeeper and falls off a swing because she is too impatient to wait until it is fixed. Katy has always walked to the beat of her own drum until injury brings her to heel and it takes Cousin Helen (who is also disabled) to help her find her way back to a state of grace which invariably involved becoming the family’s housekeeper and refraining from climbing sheds, running wild in the woods and lots of other activities Victorian novelists deemed unladylike.

Childhood me found Cousin Helen as insufferable as I did Pollyanna; the latter, with her incessant chatter about being ‘glad’, no matter how dreadful her life was, would have lasted one week in my house before being packed off to the orphanage. Middle-aged me is a bit more tolerant of such outlooks, especially as I face a few months of severely restricted activities (I am someone who tries to walk at least four miles a day for the sheer aimless, ambling pleasure of it).

I might be a bit of a neophyte when it comes to my new circumstances and it’s fairly certain that in two months’ time, the novelty of having to problem-solve my way around a house that has turned itself into an obstacle course will have worn off. But I do feel a little bit like a baby in respect of the fact that I am seeing old things anew, am having to accept there are things that I cannot yet do, and whilst I am not exactly glad about it, there are advantages to being reminded of how wonderful a fully working body and mind is. I shall not take being bipedal for granted again.

PS: Thank you to the brilliant Stephanie, Emergency Department Nurse Practitioner at the West Suffolk Hospital.