I’ve learnt that life with a baby is basically about damage control. Some days in particular I seem to ricochet from one minor disaster to another. When one if these days occurs I can’t help but feel like a bad parent. I repeat to myself ‘if only I was a little better prepared’.
Yesterday was one of those days. It was the last day of Nell’s first proper holiday away and we were, as usual, running behind. We weren’t quite late yet but the pressure was on. I was frantically trying to pack up the cot while tidying while putting Nell’s clothes for the day out while wishing I was an octopus. The extra arms would come in handy. I was I admit slightly grumpy. I hadn’t had anything to drink and Hubs had made me some toast to go. I kept listing all the things that needed to be done in the next couple of minutes if not earlier, which was helpful to everyone around me. Hubs kept telling me to relax, we had plenty of time. However I did not feel that this was helpful or an efficient use of the ‘plenty’ of time we had.
Nell then did a spectacular poo during breakfast with Hubs. He didn’t notice this and it leaked out of her nappy, through her vest and onto the high chair. She then proceeded to draw in it, spreading it liberally over the high chair, table and on her food. I noticed when I came in to clean her up after breakfast and wondered what the nuclear yellow substance she was playing with was. She had to be bathed immediately, everything needed soaking but as we needed to leave it couldn’t be washed properly. Her whole outfit then went into nappy bags whilst damp for a proper wash at home. The table and high chair then needed to be cleaned and disinfected. Surprisingly this did not help to improve my mood much. We did manage to drop the keys back at the lettings company with five minutes to spare so although the boot was filled with dirty, damp clothes this counted as a win. Nell had also promptly fallen asleep in the car and we were hoping that she would stay that way for the majority of the journey. More than once a journey has ended in tears for both Nell and I when she has woken up in a traffic jam and started crying and there was nothing I could do to help whilst stuck in the front seat.
We managed to drive a paltry twelve miles from Lyme Regis when Hubs spotted a couple of antiques shops worthy of investigation and so we stopped. I was craving a cup of tea (plus giant cake) at this point following the mad dash out of the holiday house earlier. It was a sunny day, the town was very picturesque and the probability of acquiring Dorset Apple Cake in the near future seemed high. We parked up and then made our first parenting error of the day.
I had been carrying Nell in the sling a lot during the week as it is very convenient manoeuvrability wise when out and about and she seems to prefer it. Once again rather than unpacking the pushchair I put her into the sling. The only disadvantage of this is that someone then has to carry the nappy bag, which regardless of its contents seems to feel like it contains several bricks. Hubs hates carrying the nappy bag, even though I replaced my brilliant Cath Kidston floral one with an equally brilliant black Babymel one more appropriate (less embarrassing) for him to carry. As I was carrying Nell it was up to Hubs to carry the bag. Instead we decided that we rarely needed anything from the bag and we were only going to be half an hour or an hour at most. Nell had just been changed and fed just before we left the cottage. It wasn’t lunchtime and I would change her nappy on return to the car. We reasoned that the car park wasn’t that far away if we desperately needed anything.
So we walked around the town, looked round the 15th century church and went into the first of three antiques shops. They had some cool vintage baby clothes. I was just browsing through these when I noticed an unpleasant smell emanating from Nell’s vicinity. Oh no, I thought, maybe the earlier poo was a sign of things to come. She had been in contact (read: tried to eat/put in her mouth) a variety of new things on holiday. Perhaps she’d picked up a bug? I couldn’t think of anything worse than a four hour journey with a baby with diarrhoea. Also I currently had no nappies, the bag being in the car. I brought Hubs over to see if he could smell something. Nell stoically put up with both of her parents sniffing at her bottom. Life is dignified when you have/are a baby. He couldn’t smell anything and so we hoped it was wind. We decided instead of walking back to the car we would buy new nappies and wipes from Boots as we where short on both. Additionally Pampers have a better record anti-leakage wise than the Aldi bought Mamia ones she was currently in.
We rushed round to Boots and then on to some horrible public loos wherein we discovered it was just wind. I was incredibly relieved not to have to do a full scale clean up operation with just a pack of wipes and no fresh clothes.
Finally we found a cafe! My excitement knew no bounds! By now it was almost lunchtime and the cafe had a children’s menu so we ordered a cheese sandwich for Nell. Then, once again, I noticed an unpleasant smell…..only this time she really did need a change. The cafe, despite having a children’s menu and providing high chairs, did not have a changing table. I had picked Nell up and could fell a wetness around her bottom area through her tights. The situation was urgent. Luckily she had already been stripped down to her vest and tights for lunch as part of my plan to keep her as clean as possible. The cafe owner suggested I change her on some sofas at the back of the cafe. I imagined how much of a disaster this would be and how many angry stares we would get from other patrons and decided to walk back to the public loos five minutes away, with a baby whose nappy i believed to be leaking quite considerably. This was quite tricky as I didn’t want to get any on my own clothes.
My worst fears were confirmed once we reached the changing room. Her nappy had leaked, her tights and vest were ruined and I had nothing to change her into. There was another lady in the loos and I was trying to place myself in her line of vision so she couldn’t see the poor poo covered Nell. There was a lot of bad language said in the privacy of my head. Of course you only desperately need the bag when you are without it. It’s some kind of baby variation on Sod’s Law. So I had to strip her in the loos and then carry her back to the cafe to put on the clothes I had taken off to keep clean whilst she ate lunch. I now had two extra nappy bags of dirty clothes to add to those already in the car, but it was okay. She was clean and clothed again. Lunch could proceed.
On my return to the cafe I sat down and Hubs then announced that the car parking was about to expire. He ran off to remedy this and I ate lunch alone with Nell. Typical, so much for a nice last meal of the holiday! At least he brought back the bag and a change of clothes though. Nell was enjoying lunch in the way she knows best, by smearing cheese onto herself and every nearby surface. In the confusion I had forgotten to put a bib on her and another change of clothes was going to be necessary. At this point I believe she was up to outfit three of the day but at least I’d cheered up again watching Nell smiling at everyone and trying to give them pieces of her sandwich.
Finally I sat down to drink my tea, but Nell had other ideas. By now she had finished eating and wanted to be cleaned up. I changed her clothes on my lap. She was finally in totally clean clothes! A feeling of tranquillity descended on me and all was finally right with the world. I’m not good with mess. I’d jokingly discussed with a friend whether we could feed our babies while standing over a bath for easy clean up. We decided that this wouldn’t work to our advantage when our children were socialising with others and informed them that they normally ate in the bath…..
The calm moment lasted approximately thirty seconds. Nell grabbed my (thank God) cold tea and poured it all over herself and me. I’m laughing about it now but I was not best pleased at the time. Complete parenting fail :(. Another outfit was needed for her and I looked like I’d wet myself. I had a massive damp patch on one leg of my jeans and quite soggy pants. All in all I was quickly starting to feel rather unpleasant. The tea was abandoned, I’d had one mouthful. Back we went to the car but not before I’d loudly announced to Hubs:-
‘I’ve got soaking wet pants’
Much to the consternation of the elderly man leaving the coffee shop behind me, who obviously was unaware of the baby/tea incident. As far as he knew I actually had just wet myself in public. Naturally Hubs found this hilarious. I didn’t even realise what I’d said until Hubs cheerfully told me on the walk back to the car. I then had to change Nell again in the car park after retrieving another outfit for both of us from the boot and face the challenge of changing my trousers and pants in a car seat without anyone seeing. Which Hubs also found hilarious. At least one of us was having a good time.
We then got stuck in traffic for three hours on the way back. Nell was not impressed. All in all a successful day. However I have (finally) learnt to always be prepared for every eventuality. So if you see someone out and about in Colchester with a baby and one of those giant backpacks people use on their gap years that’ll be me.