Sunday, May 17, 2009
How Not to Look After a Baby
What could be simpler than looking after a baby? Mothers have it so easy: they take six months off work and all they have to do is stick a bottle into an open mouth every few hours, change the occasional nappy, and devour all the fashion magazines as baby sleeps. So why does Jo keep saying she’s exhausted and never has time for herself? I think I now know the answer.
It was her Mother's Day present. Now I know that we in Britain have ours in March, but Jo is American, and perversely the U.S. honored (sic!) its mothers last week. So I took Jo and Izzy for a short break to my favourite hotel, which has just been proclaimed Britain’s Best Spa by Tatler magazine.
Babington House in Somerset is not only the most comfortable hotel I know, it’s also the most child friendly. We booked a family room, which in most hotels spells a bunk bed in the corner. Our suite had a large bedroom with a giant four poster, a sunken bath big enough for a football team, a luxurious sitting room with an enormous flatscreen TV and a separate room for baby with full changing facilities. As soon as we arrived, Jo headed to the spa for some pampering. Meanwhile I looked forward to a cold beer from the fridge, a good laugh at the latest MPs’ expense claims on the BBC News, and some quality time with my daughter. That was the plan, anyway.
As the door closed, Izzy looked at me and beamed. I stuck out my tongue and she giggled. This will be a piece of cake, I thought; time for a quick drink before the six o’clock bottle. As I opened the minibar, the smile inverted to a pout. A wail reverberated round the room. "Sshh...", I went. "Hang on a minute Izzy". Sadly there’s no reasoning with a four-month-old. Her face turned purple and a piercing scream shook the hotel’s foundations. "OK, you win".
The process of decanting a carton of Cow & Gate baby milk seems simple enough. Nestling on my elbow, Izzy chewed impatiently on a dummy as she watched me attempt to perform it one-handed. When the dummy fell on the floor as I tried to read the instructions for the bottle warmer, the screams rang out with such desperation I feared staff would suspect a murder.
Eight ounces later, an uneasy calm resumed. I switched on the TV and began the burping process. Suddenly she exploded. A cascade of warm milk flowed down my cashmere jumper onto my new loafers. As we rushed, too late, for the bib, another dollop landed on the sofa.
Then, just as some TV pundit was discussing the rank smell of corruption emanating from the House of Commons, Izzy’s body arched and the air turned foul. "Oh no, not now; please wait till Mummy gets back", I pleaded. Izzy giggled as a volcano erupted inside her. The entire room stank of rotting baby. As we rushed to the changing table, her smiling end projected a white trail of curdled milk onto the plush grey carpet.
No cotton pad invented could cope with what lay beneath her designer outfit. The Pampers had leaked. Casting her clothes into two piles on the floor – one for the barely salvageable, the other for those beyond redemption – I did my best with an entire packet of wet wipes, then headed for the bathroom. There was a big showerhead in the middle of the ceiling and a Victorian hipbath in the corner; I couldn't work out how to turn either into a baby bath so we made do with the sink. Then I realised I’d forgotten the baby shampoo. I squeezed some hotel shower gel into the water and hoped her skin wouldn’t wrinkle up. The foam went everywhere; Izzy excitedly splashed it round the room.
On the television they were showing the aftermath of some Iraqi car bomb. The scene resembled our hotel suite. I was still clearing up an hour later as Jo walked through the door. “How was it?” she asked. I slumped onto the sofa to hide the damp patch. “Fine – no problems.”
So I’m converted. Jo can have as many luxury breaks as she likes. Working’s easier than babies any day.