I am absolutely exhausted, whacked out, on my knees, yawning loudly and frequently. If ever there was a reason not to go all wobbly legged and dewey eyed at a pair of teeny tiny socks in Mothercare then I spent all day with it yesterday. Oh, Scarlett is cute to look at, a dream when she smiles (“It’s not wind, she’s smiling”) and her giggle is enchanting. It’s the bloody screaming I couldn’t cope with. It started innocently enough. Janey has embraced motherhood extremely well and, just over a month after her precious girl was born, she took one look in the mirror and “damn well nearly fainted”. Janey is, at best, very image conscious, at worst, extremely vain. “My roots are three inches long, my nails are all different lengths and I’m the colour of SMA. No wonder Darren’s taken to staring at me with a funny expression on his face.” So she was spending the day at “Top to Toe” being plucked, waxed, bronzed and blonded while I look after her precious baby “it’s okay” she said “I trust you.”
Certainly, the woman I saw scurrying up the path complete with baby, pram, nappy bags, holdalls and changing mat was very different to the euphoric woman I last saw in the hospital proudly proclaiming “the midwife wanted to know what colour my nail varnish was!”. She had her hair scurfed back into a pony tail and a baseball cap jammed on top, baggy jeans and a grubby T-shirt under a ankle length cardigan in shocking pink. Once inside she revealed the full horror to me. Her hair was indeed carrying a three inch root line of mousey brown, she was paler than I could ever remember her being and her nails were unvarnished, chipped and all different lengths. “That’s without me legs, me pits and me Minnie” she revealed. And I’m glad to say that’s all she revealed on that particular subject.
Details of Scarlett’s feeding times, the exact position she liked to be in for winding, how she had to have Kippy the Koala when she went to sleep AND her comforter (terry nappy that Auntie Ivy foolishly thought Janey would use instead of disposables) were given, a quick hug for me and a prolonged smooching session with Scarlett and she was off at twenty to ten with a promise to return by two “at the latest”.
I just love the way babies just are. In their own little world, wondering what the hell all these inept adults are doing with them. I remember when we first took Mackenzie home from the hospital. We just sat there looking at him in his carry cot and he was looking back at us, almost as if he were saying “Right, he’s the experienced one, but you haven’t got a clue have you?”
David had, of course, already been through all of this and so was invaluable in those early days. I have a tendency to panic (no, really?) and used to keep waking Mac up if I’d thought he’d slept for too long. As a result, Mac got tetchy and used to view me with suspicion every time I came near him, David lost count of the amount of times he hold me to “leave him alone” and I felt about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
The first baby I’d been in sole charge of since Mac was the same age opened her eyes at five past ten, looked around, realised that Mummy was not on the, let’s face it, unknown premises and started mewing. Foolishly thinking I could stop the squall before it reached gale force, I picked her up for a cuddle, first covering my front with her comforter. That was my second mistake. My first was saying “Of course I’ll have her!” on Wednesday night when Janey rang to ask.
The mewing turned to yowling, the yowling soon becoming full blown screaming. I then started dancing around with her in my arms, singing loudly – “she likes Kylie” – and making all of those ridiculous noises that people make when they’re trying to stop babies screaming. None of it worked, not even my brilliant version of this. Still holding her, I flicked through the music channels. Great, a surplus of Westlife and the Foo Fighters with a bit Kanye West thrown in but no sign of Kylie. All of my Kylie CDs are in the car – David has an aversion to the pint sized pop princess that borders on the irrational – and I didn’t dare leave her to run over the road for a quick rifle through my glove compartment.
Putting her down was a no-no anyway – the minute I did she thrashed and kicked and screamed and the pram rocked alarmingly from side to side. The carry cot, with a wriggling Scarlett in it, slid along the laminate flooring which caused Junior Dog to flee upstairs in fright. Senior and Middle Dog had already retired to the top landing, all three were peering down at me through the banisters. “Come on little one” I soothed at a deafening level “you were in this house before you were born, your mummy lay on that sofa for hours at a time!”. She wasn’t having any of it, her face was puce and her voice raw. Then the doorbell rang.
“My my my!” said Marjorie Stewart as she bustled her way into the house “I thought you were murdering kittens!” she guffawed, plucking Scarlett from me, despite my protestations. The treacherous little terror immediately stopped screaming and stared, unblinkingly at Marjorie’s powdered face. Her tiny body wracked with sobs she whimpered, safe in the knowledge that she was in the hands of a professional. I felt like I felt when Mac was a baby and would just not stop crying: useless, hopeless and about 100 years old. “They just need to know who’s in charge” Marjorie said firmly as she shimmied around the room with Scarlett openly sobbing in her arms but gradually she calmed down with no recourse to singing Kylie. I was feeling a bit tearful myself and inhaled shakily several times. “There now!” Marjorie said as she handed Scarlett back to me. “Shall I put the kettle on?”
I took advantage of the fact that I had a co-pilot and ran out to the car to get my Kylie CD’s. “Mine liked Neil Diamond” Marjorie revealed as she dunked her fifth custard cream. “Mac preferred The Beatles but I blame David for playing Yellow Submarine to my bump every day for the last two months of my pregnancy - he said it had a story-book feel to it.” I added, cocky enough now to lie Scarlett down while I warmed her bottle. The saucy little minx gazed up at me sweetly as she galloped her way through the bottle and didn’t even whinge when I got the “over your left shoulder, one hand supporting just her bottom, one hand rubbing between her should blades” routine slightly wrong. Although the dribble of milky vomit might have been a fair comment.
2pm came and went with no sign of Janey. Marjorie had left at just gone 12 “to put Frank’s faggots in the oven” and I had Kylie on low in the background. By 3pm I decided that I’d best get everything ready to go and collect Mac. Nappy changed (I can never get over the fact that it’s, for the most part, green!) I bundled her in the pram and set off for a jaunty walk. Strangers stopped to coo and Mac greeted me with “When did you have that baby mummy?” which caused a stir at the gates. As did the almost life sized Valentine’s card he’d made me – “he just kept adding sheets of paper with sellotape” Miss Phipps the playground assistant told me. He does like a bit of sellotape, I will admit.
Back by ten to four and still no sign of Janey. Had she drowned in bleach? Been waxed to death? Tanned to within an inch of her life? Scarlett decided that she’d had enough of the rank amateur and wanted that nice woman from next door back and started yelping. I paraded Kippy the Koala and her comforter in front of her, turned Kylie on full blast and Mac and I did a rather funky routine to this. She raised a little smile and thought better of letting rip. Thanks to my rather foolish decision to give up both chocolate and coffee for Lent I was left with a cup of builders tea and a custard cream to keep me going. My day had started so well too, a lovely card and the promise that David would cook dinner and Mac was “making the pudding mummy”.
Janey finally returned at five o’clock. Gone was the mousey haired pale woman with out of control eyebrows – in her place was a bronzed, glossy blonde with eyebrows so sharply defined they shrieked cutting edge. That Scarlett obviously didn’t recognise. She bellowed from the bottom of boots as a perfectly coiffed and taloned up woman appeared over her carry cot and cooed “have you had a good day sweetheart?”.
As I said to Janey as I bundled them all down the path at speed and with a fair bit of force, she obviously doesn’t recognise her new Yummy Mummy.