I’m living in a parallel universe. Klaxon: You Have Entered the World of Baby. Ah, to be that small again. This week I had to check my little one was putting on enough beef. Or, as I like to call it, The Great British Baby Weigh Off.
Adopting my official role of Maternal Collector Gatherer, I round up the thousands of items required for venturing outdoors, get Tom in the car and set off to our nearby children’s centre. It’s worth noting this process takes approximately ten hours.
Having only just started to drive again, I realise I’ve lost my ability to park. To be fair I never had it in the first place. Therein follows ten minutes (ok, maybe fifteen) of reversing, straightening up, reversing, swearing, sweating and a hairy encounter with the kerb.
Parking: Done. Out of car, boot open, pram frame heaved onto pavement. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have bought a belter of a transport system. A velociraptor. And this bitch can bite. It should display a warning that trying to put the wheels back on is likely to result in the loss of digits. Right. The dinosaur is primed. Return to car. Press release button on car seat base and lug out car seat complete with son. Try to place car seat on frame. Fail. Curse under breath and look around slyly to make sure no-one’s watching me. Shoogle car seat around until eventually it clips on. Baby wakes up with a jolt and looks at me, doe-eyed and suspicious.
Getting there and parking was an achievement. What I hadn’t considered was how to best manouvere The Beast (the buggy, not the baby) through the door. Consequently I push, shove and barge our way in, a smorgasbord of arms, legs and wheels. As I wipe sweat off my brow, I’m greeted by a bemused looking receptionist and a waiting room full of pregnant women, no doubt taking one look at me and wondering what the hell they’ve let themselves in for.
“Oh, you should have left the frame outside in the parking bay”, says the receptionist, sizing me up through tilted specs. “But don’t worry about it now, just unclip him and bring him through in the car seat.”
Well that’s easier said than done love. I struggle to remove the car seat from the bloody frame, resulting in the receptionist having to come round and help me. Tom promptly wakes up and starts crying. An Audience with a Stressed Out Mummy.
Finally, we’re free and good to go. I’m given a ticket, number 14, and told to go into another room. There’s a lot going on in here. Babies are wailing, giggling and girning, toddlers are running around wreaking havoc. Well least if I’m a shambles I’m not alone.
We have a long wait, during which Tom alternates between crying (please don’t cry, please don’t cry) and smiling (good boy! what a clever boy! please don’t cry, please don’t cry). Eventually our number is called and I carry him through. “Oh, you should have left the car seat in the other room”, the health visitor informs me. Right… Oh well, onwards and upwards. “Now, we need everything off, so we can weigh him.” “Including his nappy?” “Yes, then just pop him in the bowl.”
To my left is a row of baby changing stations. I place down Tom who by now is looking a tad concerned. Clothes come off (please don’t pee or poo, please don’t pee or poo), and we’re good to go.
I always think there’s something slightly amusing about seeing babies in a bowl. Surely they should be used for butter and flour and eggs and stuff, not human beings. I’m half expecting Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood to walk in for an assessment. “He’s not quite crunchy enough.” “Needs more flavour.” “More salt please.”
Tom looks up at me arms akimbo, fingers splayed, and a quivering bottom lip. Uh-oh. “That’s fine, thanks, you can take him now.”
Back to Baby Changing Station no 115. Tom’s started grinning, and I’m so relieved we haven’t had a wee accident. That’s my boy, I think. I’ve clearly been worrying about nothing. When I look back down he’s crying. How can he have gone from smiling to crying so quickly? Weird. Then I realise it’s not tears, it’s urine. He’s peed. And he’s done it so spectacularly it’s all over his face. And in his hair. And a little bit on the changing station housing another infant. Oh shit. Another little grin appears on my cheeky rascal’s face. Oh God. Now I’ll have to activate Operation Do A Runner Before Anyone Notices. But I have to await the results of The Great British Baby Weigh Off… I desperately try to wipe the pee off his face while sheepishly glancing around to make sure I’ve not been busted.
“He’s 12lbs.” The health visitor is striding towards me. “Between the 50th and 75th percentile.” I have no idea what this means. It sounds very scientific. But they seem happy enough with him. #Win.
“Oh dear,” she exclaims in a very loud voice. “Has he peed everywhere? I need to clean that up right now as we’ve another mum coming in.”
I’m now moving my half naked, pee-stained-but-still-smiling-babe whilst trying to unzip a bulging changing bag to extricate a changing mat the size of a hankie.
Eventually I lie him down and manage to get him fully changed and clothed. Tom’s nonplussed and it’s time for a sharp exit. I need a coffee. No, make that a tequila. Now where did I put that car seat? I turn round to see hundreds of identical ones … The Great British Baby Weigh Off may be over. But The Great Journey Home and Beyond has just begun. Starting tomorrow with Tom’s first swimming lesson…