I have worn the donut-shaped breast pillow for months; when I wash the faux-denim cover, the foam still girdles me. I can’t manage to transfer a dozing Mister Baby to his bed, so he fusses for a half hour in my cramped arms before nursing, again. I loathe the Otha Mothas who tell me: “I have to wake her up to feed her after 6 hours, I worry she’s not eating enough!” Why didn’t I get a sleepy baby or at least one I could put down for 5 minutes? “She just loves the bouncy chair,” and “the swing saved our lives,” they brag.
We’re moving to London and while we pack up our own belongings we seem to be amassing heaps of baby stuff. We’re running out of room so instead of the swing, we buy a flat-packed bouncy chair. This is going to be great, I think, this will change everything. And it does, for precisely fifteen minutes. Long enough for me to wash my hair but not remove any of the dreadlocks that formed in the week since I last bathed. I sing to Mister Baby, I croon desperately and ultimately join his howling as I tear at the conditioner-globbed tangles. I’m sure the Otha Mothas would abandon their baths but after seven smelly days, I cannot.
I strapped him into the Baby Bjorn pouch for the first 3 months and went out for lunch, covering his sleeping head with a napkin. He’s big enough to face out now but there’s 20 pounds of him cliff hanging off my chest, wriggling like a worm on a hook; and he will not tolerate the Baby Bjorn inside. At home, I have resorted to pumping Dexter in my arms on my pilates ball, dizzying myself in an effort to get him to sleep. This has proved no more effective than standing and rocking him but at least it saves my back. For added value, I feel my legs getting stronger by the bounce.
But last night a miracle occurred: Mister Baby slept for 5, yes, 5 hours! And I have had coffee and to top it all off, my brand new baby sling has arrived. I pop Dexter in the sling and with my two free hands I make a phone call and a bottle.
“All you have to do is survive for the first four months,” I tell Lynn over the phone in London. Her first baby, Petal, is perfect: she sleeps on cue and feeds like a dream. I ignore Mister Baby kicking and punching my breast.
“Hearing your baby cry is doing funny things to my breasts,” she says. Why is it that half a day away, on another continent, she lactates when Mister Baby cries and I have ‘supply issues?’
Never mind, I have the sling and Mister Baby has finally fallen asleep; we chat until Petal wakes up, politely mewing for milk. I’m itching for adventure with Mister Baby still asleep and slip on some flip flops. I am going to get a pedicure! I still can’t see my feet but other people can; I consider it a public service.
I trip lightly down the stairs into the gorgeous, breezy Brooklyn sunshine, Mister Baby’s head tucked beneath my wing. The Baby Bjorn is common amongst the Otha Mothas but it’s your more hippy moms that cradle the babies in the comforting fetal position of their pre-born lives.
Getting a pedicure seems a little at odds with the hippy look but then I spy Mother Nature herself with a massive one-year old dangling from her paisley, raglan sling. She bellies up to the pedicure bar right behind me. I ease myself into the big comfy chair and dunk my feet into the soapy water, sighing with pleasure as I shift Mister Baby’s weight onto my middle. I push the button to start the chair’s rhythmic massage. I grab a magazine but can’t focus. He’s asleep, he’s asleep, he’s asleep, I chant and rock to the massaging chair.
I have found my savior in the sling. I turn to Mother Nature next to me. Her daughter has nursed to sleep in her raglan nest, milk oozing from her open mouth.
“I just love the sling, don’t you?” I ask with conspiratorial smugness.