They start off in piles, in boxes under the bed, or in bags behind the sofa. Gradually they find a home, neatly stacked in drawers and trunks: tiny vests and tiny trousers along side all-in-ones decorated with animals driving cars or bows and balloons.
Folding vest after vest, it’s impossible to imagine anything other than a doll in such clothes. The idea that a baby will ever be able to wear such items is both laughable and terrifying.
And yet, that very first time you negotiate paper-thin hands through impossible sleeves, the material goes on and on and those hands seem lost forever.
From then on, folding ensues. Sleeves go over and over again, so that tiny fingers are free to grasp Dad’s thumb. Trouser legs go over once, twice, maybe three times so that newly purchased socks can be seen, so that feet the length of a finger are free to explore the world.
Seeing a tiny body lost in amongst the cotton, wriggling between layers of fabric covered in stars and moons, it’s hard to know what to do next. Vulnerable and dependant, a moment when you won’t be needed impossible, you’re tasked with meeting each need that arises; a clear but far from simple job.
And so, once or twice a day, you unfold the layers and re-bundle your precious one in yet another oversized vest, another jacket in which he seems lost, all the while disbelieving that he is too small for these already miniature clothes. That yellow stripey vest you love so hangs loose around his legs. That Star Wars vest you were desperate to see him in seemingly has room for two. Hats droop over his eyes. Socks fall off. He is delicate and fragile in his wardrobe of clothes that are all too big.
The days pass. A week or two tick over in a blur of visitors, sleepless nights, and celebrations of the tiniest hints of progress: eyes open, a smile that’s probably gas, or the first public outing. Then one day things feel a bit different. The poppers start to get a little tighter. You need to pull just a touch more to make the jacket buttons meet. Zips need more persuasion to close. Those yellow stripes are bent to a wiggle by a squidgy tummy ripe for tickling. The Yoda vest, now duly photographed and giggled at, is distorted, stretched out of shape by legs that are getting longer and longer by the day.
Then one day that beloved space-ship covered suit fits no more. Legs, once lost in material, are exposed to the calf. The buttons won’t do up and it’s clear that this outfit, carefully picked for the ride home from hospital, will be forever too small, will never be worn again.
He’s big now, holding up his head and looking around. The socks that fell from tiny feet cling to heels desperately, holding on for dear life. The vests the hung low strain to stay closed. There are moments now when you are not needed. He can occupy himself, pulling at his socks or admiring his hands. He sits on your knee in trousers no longer folded at the ends. He plays with toys in jumpers with sleeves just the perfect length.
They won’t be the perfect length for long, of course. Soon it will be time to pick out some pants that are too big again. It will be time to fold and manipulate again, for a while at least. Too big will too soon be just right. Just right will soon be too small. And it will all go faster than you’d like as milestones pass with every new vest.