Saturday, 4 June 2011
Leaving the House
6.04am. I get roughly one centimetre into my cup of tea before I hear the baby stirring on the monitor. I get back into bed with her, snuggle up, and nurse her for a few minutes. She sits up, grins and starts babbling. She blows some raspberries on my exposed belly. We share the joke. She bites my arm in excitement. I tell her off, I feel bad, I kiss her, I take her downstairs. I start to unload the dishwasher and set things up for breakfast with her on my hip. She gets heavy so I put her on the floor. She climbs into the dishwasher and starts to pull out the cutlery. I pick her up again.
6.42am. The three year old appears. She talks away like a living Python sketch while I mix her porridge, one handed. She makes her usual Mariah Carey style demands for several separate spoons for each different breakfasting function. I lay them out, wearily, and then place a line of blueberries and grapes in front of the baby. She drops them, one by one, on the floor, laughing as they are eaten by the dog. I sit down and try to start my cereal. The three year old needs a drink. I fetch it and sit down again. I eat another spoonful. The three year old spills her drink and starts yelling. I get up, comfort, mop up. I sit down and try to finish my food whilst offering spoons of yoghurt to the baby. She cries and pushes my hand away and splatters me in Petit Filou. I rub it in to my dressing gown with a tea towel while I microwave my tea.
7.38am. We move on to the bath phase. I get in first, and start washing my hair, but just after I get the soap on I have to leap out again because the baby is playing with the loo seat and slams it shut on her fingers. I get back in, rinse, then they both get in with me and we have some time pouring water into pots and playing with flannels. I enjoying lying back and just watching them, except when I have to intervene to break up fights or prevent drowning. Reluctantly, because it means the end of being still for the rest of the day, I get out and get the baby out and dried while the three year old plays. Then the three year old doesn't want to get out. I tell her we can pretend she is a baby and that I'll wrap her in a towel and rock her and sing Mama's gonna buy you a Mockingbird. She loves this. We do it, and the real baby looks on jealously. I worry she feels left out, so I do it for her as well. The three year old sulks.
8.12am. Now to get them dressed. The three year old insists that they must first 'boing' on my bed. She bounces away and the baby is beside herself with laughter. Any attempts of mine to interrupt this game are met with violent protest. I try to be stern. I count to three. Wriggle, giggle, bounce. The trousers are on. I kneel on the bed, holding out the top and pleading. She ignores me. I grab her, tickle her and force it over her head. She struggles, half giggling, half crying. She soon bounces off, and I dress the baby, who also protests fiercely. I find my own clothes from yesterday on the floor and decide they'll do. I try to whack on a layer of mascara. I get one eye done, and hear the sound of vomiting behind me. Too much bouncing and giggling has made the baby slightly sick. I rush to her, make sure she's ok, and change her top. I return to my eye make up, only to find that in the commotion I have mislaid my mascara. I can't find another one, so I have to paint the lashes on my other eye with a rather ancient liquid liner I find lurking at the bottom of my make up bag.
8.41am. We assemble in the living room. I put 'Beebies' on while I frantically shove nappies, wipes, and other paraphernalia into a bag. It seems like we're nearly ready. The girls seem fairly contented. I need the loo, so I decide to risk it. I'm half way through when there is a crash and the cry goes up. My expertly trained ear tells me an injury has occurred, but that it is not life threatening. I scrabble for the loo roll whilst frantically shouting, "I'm coming, I'm coming". I dash to the rescue. They have both fallen off the sofa, and in the process bumped each others heads. I do my best to cuddle them simultaneously. The furore dies down. I load the car. I think we might be ready to leave. I glance at the baby, who is strangely quiet. She meets my gaze, her eyes look like they are appealing for help, and slowly her face is turning deep red. She is doing a poo.
8.57am. I take her back upstairs and lay her down to change her. She won't keep still and is wriggling all over the place. I grab a wipe, and try to gently pin her to the floor whilst singing and flipping my wet hair around animatedly. She falls for it briefly, but then just at the wrong moment she suddenly rolls over and makes a break for freedom, leaving an unmistakable stripe across the knee of my jeans. Cursing, I finish the job, and lug her to the bedroom, where I plonk her in front of the full length mirror while I dig around for a clean pair of trousers. All I can find is a pair of drawstring tracksuit bottoms I bought during a brief yoga phase in the late nineties. I put them on.
9.09am. As I pick her up to leave I catch a brief glimpse of myself. My hair is wet and unbrushed, my make-up looks plain weird, and my Carry On Breastfeeding boobs bulge ridiculously under an ill-fitting and ill-judged shirt already smeared with yoghurt and snot. The trakkies complete the look, and I amuse myself slightly by the thought, The best I can hope for these days is a good Gokking. I used to watch that show and feel sorry for his teary eyed, saggy old subjects; now I not only relate, but I find myself thinking, "Those elasticated trousers look practical, I wonder where they're from". I heave her up again, make time to snuffle her hair, and then race towards the stairs.
9.10am. I meet my partner on the stairs. He is heading back to his office with a coffee and a chocolate biscuit. I once read somewhere that new mothers, exhaustedly feeding their babies in the dark small hours, are often shocked by a sudden and unexpected desire to murder their sleeping partners. I can fully believe this, and frankly, it's just the tip of a bloody big iceberg. I am constantly jealous of him as he shuts his office door and I hear the sigh of his chair as he sinks into it. He is constantly jealous of me as I disappear off to sunny parks with his girls. We are forever having 'my-grass-is-not-as-green-as-your-grass' debates / arguments. I think the answer is probably that my grass is greener, but that he gets to sit down on his.
9.12am. We are running late, but finally heading towards the door. The three year old has taken her shoes off again, and is felt-tipping her feet. I tell her she can have a piece of chocolate if she gets in her seat right now, and it works. I load in the baby. I return to the living room for a final check. I survey the scene of total chaos and run a hand through my damp and knotted hair. Nearly three and a half hours since I woke up, we are ready to leave the house. It makes sense really. It used to take an hour when there was just one of me. Now there are three times that many, and at least one of us is incontinent.