An account of a weekend with Phoebe who had just learned to crawl, climb and stand in the space of 2 days.
The Brief: to contain an adventurous 7 month old for 3 nights whilst still managing to eat, shower and function as human beings.
Babyproofing: I had kidded myself that my home was relatively child-friendly – I didn’t have much clutter and no stairs so was confident this was nothing to worry about. That is, until I started to take a proper look and realised that it was probably the most dangerous place on earth. The fire, the brick hearth, the logs, the coffee table, the doors, the drawers, the dogs, the hard floor, the step, the blinds, the toilet, the oven, ……..
Everything that could be moved, was moved. The dogs were relegated to sleeping in the hall, rooms were shut off and drawers were stuffed full of anything remotely dangerous. Bottles were made, the travel cot was up, the changing box was full, the toys were out and Cbeebies was on.
We were ready. I was feeling strong, in control and confident I could handle anything. I mean, just how difficult was it going to be? She is only a baby and there’s two of us, and we have done this before, right? I mean we were parents 3 times over – it will be no problem. We will hardly notice that she’s here.
My Granddaughter’s arrival is always an excitable event. The dogs are jumping and getting under our feet, my daughter is unloading half of her house into mine, I’m trying to get the baby out of the car seat so I can smother her in kisses and Michael is trying to calm everything down. Within a matter of a couple of minutes, the kitchen is full of bags – of nappies, clothes, food, blankets and toys. We received our instructions on feeding and when to give her the last bottle to ensure a good nights’ sleep. Before we had a chance to say anything else, Michaela was waving goodbye and skipping down the drive.
After the hour and half drive to get to us, and spending most of that asleep, I thought we should go and play. Despite numerous videos, I hadn’t actually witnessed her crawling and was impatient to do so. My lounge looked like a nursery school. I have every toy imaginable, that all claim to stimulate, teach, engage and entertain babies of this age. We have music, we have lights, we have talking, crawling bears, cats, dogs, rattles, phones, books, dolls, …. The list goes on. But what did she want to play with? What, out of all of these wonderful, colourful objects took her eye?
The single strand of cotton on an old sleeping bag, used to cover up the hearth.
And so our little game began. We would place her in the furthest corner of the room, and almost as if we said, on your marks, get ready, go, she crawled straight for the straggly cotton and the adventure of attempting to climb up the log burner. Of course, dragging her back by her ankles, just added to the fun as she laughed her head off. I cut off the straggly strand. IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE.
‘It must be time for a bottle’ I said, and sure enough, she took it willingly, for at least a minute. Then, something caught her eye; the TV, the dogs or me, and she began talking and laughing and pushing the bottle away. No more milk then. Not interested. Wriggling to get down, she was on the floor and off we went again.
Sleep eluded her for many, MANY hours. 8 o’clock came and went. As did 9. Michael got her to sleep. Put her to bed. We sat down, too exhausted to even high 5, and let out a sigh. Then there was a cry. We didn’t exchange glances straight away – as if we pretended we hadn’t heard it, then it wasn’t happening. The cries got louder. We got up. She was on all fours in the cot, sobbing like it was the end of the world. I felt like joining in with her. Cue Grandad with his amazing cuddling skills. He stayed with her for an undeterminable time and when he came back, minus the baby he was clearly feeling pleased with himself. Time for bed.
‘Let’s go out today,’ Michael said, casually.
OUT??!!! WITH A BABY!!!! Had he lost his mind? The idea was ridiculous, impossible, laughable, and far too stressful to even contemplate.
Cue Granddad. Before I knew it, the baby was dressed, fed, in her car seat and waiting for me. We needed to go to the supermarket. I suggested that one of us goes and the other stays at home with the baby. No, Louise we are all going out. What about the trolley? Will she be safe? Will she be able to climb out? We mustn’t leave her for a single second. Anything could happen…What if she has a tantrum (at 7 months?), or fills her nappy (we have the changing bag), or is hungry (she’s just been fed).
My protests fell on deaf ears. We were in the car and on our way.
To my utter amazement, it was a breeze, apart from Phoebe helping herself to anything she could reach on the shelves. She smiled and laughed whilst I stressed about her doing some sort of Ninja move and jumping out of the trolley and crawling her way to freedom. Whilst on a roll, we went to another couple of shops and when we came home I felt much more positive.
The rest of the day was spent with Michael being climbed all over and engaging in what can only be described as a wrestling match when it came to changing nappies and clothes. She would start off on the bed and after numerous protests I would go and offer my support and another pair of hands to see her crawling away from him, with her clothes at various stages of undress. The dogs sulked in the hall and I ran around, feeding all of us, and thinking of every possible scenario that would result in the baby hurting herself. Bedtime went smoothly and we all achieved a solid few hours sleep.
Just as well.
A very early start. She was talking in her cot. Michael suggested that we leave her because she was content just talking to herself. As if I was going to do that.
It was a difficult morning. By 10 0’clock we were all struggling. The baby was getting grumpy, I was already grumpy, every room looked like a disaster zone, and Michael looked like he had aged 20 years. We had run out of bottles, I can’t remember if we had eaten, or the last time I had had a shower.
‘I know! I’ll take her out for a walk! The fresh air will do me good, and the baby will go to sleep. I can then come back and get some chores done whilst she is asleep.
Feeling confident, I bundled her up in the buggy and we headed for the beach. She was asleep in minutes. I thought I would do one more lap, just to be sure, before venturing back home to tackle the disaster that was formerly my kitchen.
The early morning had clearly taken it’s toll. She slept for 2 ½ hours. Fantastic. I had all that time to get myself organised, showered, fed and enjoy a cup of tea in peace.
But what did I actually do?
I sat, on the edge of the sofa, not wanting to move and make a noise. I couldn’t risk waking her up. I couldn’t clean the kitchen, because she was in the kitchen. I couldn’t move her because she might wake up then I wouldn’t be able to clean the kitchen. I couldn’t get in the shower because she might wake up and I might not hear her. I couldn’t make a cup of tea because the noise of the kettle might wake her up…….
Early afternoon and we were in the car, taking her back. Feeling worn out, I thought back to when my own children were babies. Christopher had just turned 4, Callum was 18 months old and Michaela was less than 2 weeks old. How on earth did I get anything done? Christopher was at nursery, we were both working and yet somehow we managed the basics. I have absolutely no idea how. Here I was, with one sleeping baby and I couldn’t even manage a cup of tea!
Early evening, after dinner and a much needed shower. All traces of the chaos removed. The dogs were back in the lounge. The fire was on, Cbeebies was off. Back to normality. I was thinking about the weekend. I looked over to the sofa where Michael was snoozing. I called over to him.
‘I miss her already. Can we have her again soon?’
He smiled. ‘Of course. Just let me have some sleep first.’