Part of me feels slightly embarrassed about writing this post. Some of my readers may be wondering why I’m making such an issue of scenarios they experience on a daily basis. And for this, I apologise. But motherhood is new to me…I mean I’m not a mum. I only became one last week, for 9 hours. But this was no ordinary babysitting assignment. I approached it with complete conviction; going about my every day life with a baby in tow. Which involved manoeuvring London buses, tubes and trains, meeting friends for lunch, attempting to do some writing, going for my regular beautician appointment, getting the shopping done… and all this while having the responsibility of a 9 month old.
The cutey pie in question is little Ada who normally resides in the US but was holidaying in Londinium, home of her birth, for a couple of weeks. I literally jumped at the opportunity to look after her while Real Mum went to work. I’d never done anything like it before. I’ve looked after my nieces and nephews at home for a few hours but that was ages ago and they are no longer carted around in push chairs.We arranged to meet at London Bridge at 8.30am. Ada didn’t suspect a thing as we switched hands on the buggy and I took over from Real Mummy. First task: getting her up the escalator. Luckily it was a short one. Going up escalators proved to be fine, but I didn’t risk going down any.
When we boarded the train I turned Ada around to face me. I had been warned she would burst into tears and scream for 10 minutes but she simply looked at me very calmy and luckily, didn’t seem too traumatised that her mum had literally vanished and morphed into me.
First stop: Lewisham. It’s a hive of pigeon activity and being in London is was only fair Ada bonded with the city’s least respected residents.
We didn’t have any bread to feed them but she seemed interested enough.
One thing I learn't from my nieces and nephews is toys are unnecessary; household objects are far more desirable and this pack of cable ties kept Ada intrigued for the majority of the day. She briefly held an elephant and book, but the cable ties had greater appeal.
I ticking off my to-do list including getting my eyebrows tweeked (sorry Real Mum and Dad if I’ve exposed your child to vanity at such a young age.) As I lay back and got plucked, a gaggle of beauticians watched over her.
You know how when you go to public loos they have posters up saying ‘Do you plan your shopping trips around going to the toilet..this is not normal - you may have bladder weakness?’ Well those are aimed at me, not because of bladder weakness, I just need to know where the nearest loo is at all times. Yet on this occasion I found myself all eyes on the look out for ‘baby changing’….of which you realise there are far fewer than you expect. Then I remembered that Lewisham Library has the most spacious baby changing I’ve ever seen, so I took Ada there for a nappy swap. The room is part of the children’s library which sits adjacent to people working away on their laptops so I had to be really conscious of screaming….not that she cried, there were just a few whimpers. After which Ada was set loose around the library to crawl to her hearts content. It struck me then that a baby’s life is split into hours. Every hour is a new challenge and that’s how the rest of our day spanned out. One activity per hour.
Thankfully she wasn't swallowed up by The Gruffalo.
We caught the bus home. Luckily there were no other buggies to contend with, in time for lunch, where she unexpectedly drank two bottles of milk and had some pureed veg. After that, she showed me how to send an email.
|Nap time on the tube|
Normally I munch my way through breakfast and elevenses but with my all time consumed by ensuring she was still alive, not a morsel hit my lips until we got to Noodle King in Bethnal Green at 1.30 where some of my friends were celebrating a birthday lunch.
Ada chilled with baby Mia while the rest of us feasted on dumplings and tofu. There wasn’t a peep out of Ada, just a constant huge smile and frequent cheeky giggles that captivated all the waitresses.
While Mia tucked into nibbles, Ada calmy drank her milk.
I assumed it was time for a nappy change and with the Museum of Childhood only a short walk away, I decided to take her there to 'proper' baby changing facilities, rather than the floor of a take-away loo.
Underneath the innocent face (which fooled me as there wasn’t any bad smells) was a huge poohey mess (probably because I hadn’t put her nappy on properly after her morning wee.) The leak had spread up her tummy, through her jump suit and her jeans and as I attempted to undress her, it spread to her back and neck too…oh dear. Naked baby on my hands and NO CLOTHES to dress her in. She came with a spare set but I managed to spill an entire bottle of water inside the bag they were in, so they were soaked through. I spent five minutes in a stunned silence. Ada looked at me, I looked at her….at least one of us was smiling. It seems nothing can get this girl down. I eventually got a grip. Put her in a fresh nappy and wrapped her in my jacket. It was a cold and darkening November afternoon in an area I didn’t know, but thankfully, after a short walk up the high street, saviour came in the form of a charity shop. And there in amidst the abandoned children’s clothing was a bright orange PJ suit, size 6-9 months, price £1.50.
By now it was rush hour so we headed back to London Bridge where Real Mummy joined us at the spot we first parted, bemused by her new outfit.
I’m yet to experience the urge to want children but some how I seemed to cope fine with a baby. Perhaps if she’d had a screaming fit in public things would have been different, but then again, I did feel like the worst mother in the world taking her out naked with nothing but my coat.
I’m committed to trying new things and that’s why I put my hand up and said I’d babysit. I wanted to experience what life might be like if I did have a baby. All day I had a strange sensation that I was a mum, and certainly any one who saw me out and about wouldn’t have thought otherwise. Do 16 year old school girls still get given fake babies to take home and look after as practise? Because adult women should be given the chance to do what I did. Real mums say that you loose your selfishness when you have a child and having an insight into that was pretty special. So non-mums, (and non-dads) next time an opportunity arises to babysit, I say embrace it; there’s nothing else like it. And as for if I would do it again…yes ...only this time I’d show her the Docklands Light Railway and take her on a Thames Clipper boat trip too, so she could properly experience getting out and about in the Big Smoke.