My husband waves goodbye and closes the front door behind him. I look down at my delicious two-week-old, his head folded under my chin. “It’s just you and me, buddy,” I tell him. He doesn’t respond. That newborns aren’t great conversationalists is one of the many insights I’ve gained since we brought him home.
It’s my husband’s first day back at work after paternity leave and my first full day alone with our baby. I have nowhere to be and everything to do.
My son is feeding, propped up on his “Milk Bar”, a jellybean-shaped breastfeeding pillow which was far more expensive than a normal pillow but which has no discernible difference in function. I check the app I diligently downloaded to track my baby’s feeding and sleeping and realise I’ve diligently put him on the wrong boob. As a result, I’m Dolly Parton on one side, Kate Moss on the other.
Because this physical anomaly is the highlight of my morning, I reach for my phone to text my husband – then drop my precious link to the outside world on the ground. I’ve played this game before, the trying-to-get-up-with-baby-still-attached-awkward-squat to retrieve the phone, and it rarely ends well. Or without doing a hammy. It’s tough, but I decide to let the phone go.
After a delicate transfer mission from Kate to Dolly, I find the remote and switch on morning television. I’m slightly alarmed to discover that I can now recite the Genie Bra infomercial verbatim – a talent, I suspect, that will impress no one.
When he’s sleeping soundly, I place my milk-drunk son into the fancy swinging contraption that’s more specced out than our car, then accidentally flick on one of the 27 switches. Music starts up, lights flash and I flap about trying to turn it off without waking him. Crisis averted.
Afterwards, it’s My Kingdom For A Coffee – a proper one, though, with a side of adult conversation, a task which requires putting on a shirt and actually leaving the house. According to my app, I have about 45 minutes until my son requires a refill. I can do this.
I find the pram collapsed flat by the front door, panicking momentarily when I realise I’ve never actually put it up on my own. I twiddle the various levers and buttons. Nothing. It remains stubbornly closed for business. “You are a competent, educated woman,” I tell myself. “You can do this.” Evidently, though, I can’t.
I do what I really didn’t want to do: I call my husband at work. He laughs gently and attempts to talk me through it, telling me it’s not rocket science, that I’ve seen him do it before and that the whole reason we bought this particular pram was because it was so user-friendly. I tell him it clearly is rocket science because otherwise it wouldn’t be so hard. When I still can’t get it working, he suggests I google the brand and see if they have a how-to video.
They do, of course. A woman with a soothing voice takes me through the steps, making it all sound so easy. And it is. I was simply pressing the wrong button. The pram leaps to attention, ready for service. I’m so exhausted I almost abandon the mission in favour of a lie down. But no. Coffee.
Later, with a delicious caffeinated beverage in one hand, a shiny, fully functional pram in the other, I discover that navigating while trying to drink said delicious beverage, is – much like riding a bike with no hands – a skill that needs to be mastered. As I struggle to drink and drive, a woman pushing a pram with a cup holder walks past effortlessly, inducing a moment of intense pram envy.
Compromising, I collapse onto the nearest bench to enjoy my now lukewarm coffee. I haven’t even taken a sip when my son starts wailing. It’s soft at first, that little newborn bleat, but he’s been around long enough for me to know where it’s going. And it’s nowhere good. “Okay buddy, feed time,” I say, getting up to turn the pram around and stride towards the house.
While my son reacquaints himself with Dolly, I inhale a muffin over his head, dropping crumbs all through his hair. The remote control is out of reach (rookie error #1) and I left my phone in my bag (rookie error #2) so I find myself trying to follow the plot line of The Young and the Restless while de-crumbing my baby’s hair, all in an attempt to stay awake.
When he’s finally asleep, I look at the washing and the half-filled birth registration form I’ve been trying to complete for days, and before you can say “sleep while the baby sleeps” I’m out cold.
Early evening, and my app tells me that we’re back to Kate Moss. I defrost another of the curries my brother and sister-in-law made us in bulk, hoping my husband is too tired (and too smart) to point out that we ate the same thing last night.
The key turns in the door and I practically weep with joy. I’m exhausted. But we did it. “I’m having a shower,” I say, “he’s all yours.”
And my husband, who’s just had his first day away from his beautiful little boy, couldn’t look more pleased.