Day eleven. 1.17pm. Baby propped. Bottle cocked. And here was I, a big fat shadow of my former self, barely recognisable to the world. And still in my pyjamas. I pitied the postman, I really did. Poor guy had more than he bargained for behind the door at number 88. A sleep-deprived bag of a woman, screaming baby in one hand, mobile phone pinging in the other. WHAT THE HELL TIME DO YOU CALL THIS? I wept. His non-smile said it all. He’d seen me in my smalls [or not so small lately] on far too many occasions. Miserable bastard.
So this was the emerging pattern. There was no pattern. Just a very disorderly chaos. Nights rolled into days and days into weeks. Breakfast became caffeine shots and cereal at midnight. Familiar faces morphed into interfering intruders with “any-time” visiting passes. Smiles turned into tears, irrational and irrepressible. Abnormality became reality. And that’s when my love affair with R began.
It didn’t happen overnight. It was a well-considered, much ado about everything move on my part. Selfish perhaps? No, this was for the good of us all. With the decision made, there was to be no looking back – forget what was was right, wrong, or whether it would work or fail. Resolute and steadfast, before long life became simply unimaginable without R.
Sadly there was nothing remotely racy or risqué about this relationship.
R was reciprocal, reliable and reassuring. And R was quite simply everything I wasn’t…..rational, reasonable and resolved. This “R” was to be my pure and simple, unadulterated recovery. This “R” was indeed my fabulously faithful…ROUTINE.
Bravo Zulu! I had a contingency plan. The gauntlet was laid down and the tactics drawn up. No longer was I playing at being the new mum on the block. I had ricocheted up the ranks to Sergeant Major Mum. Sleep times, milk times, walk times, bath times, play times and even poo times were set with remarkable military precision. [For baby and mum, might I add.] Baby cried. Sergeant Major consoled, milked, rocked and pacified. Baby slept. Sergeant Major organised, cleaned, pureed and sterilised. Charlie.Lima.Bravo! I had myself a Contented Little Baby. And I had myself a life back.
But pretty soon, this revolutionary life change had swallowed me whole. I had become a Routine Robot, robbed of any sense of impulse. And robbed of a pulse. I was mechanical in my motions, going through each day ticking the boxes and filling in the gaps. A minute out of place and I transmuted into a panic-stricken, compulsive, automated wreck. [Baby will comply. Baby will comply.] This had gone way beyond the typical throes of a regular routine. This was rigorous, relentless and downright rude at times. This was Baby Bootcamp.
And four years on, second time round, therein lies the problem. Reality still just doesn’t fit neatly into an excel spreadsheet.
I’m slave to the routine, stifled by a self-made security blanket. Envious of my baby-whispering, laissez-faire friends, I pop a pretend tranquilliser and count down the minutes until nap time. Day trips are moulded around bottle stops and dinner dates are cut short in favour of dream feeds [and yes, that’s about as exciting as night time gets]. Life is all about baby can do, baby can’t do.
But can baby do choice? With no say in the matter, my routinely behaviour has become my babies’ normality. If Sergeant Major can’t cope when her Routine App crashes, how on earth will her babies cope when they grow old enough to know better?
It’s a worry.
(Dedicated to Helen)