We had a baby massage lesson this week. A local health-worker came round to our house to teach us how to massage our babies in order to keep them calm and relaxed. In preparation for this event I was despatched to get some rapeseed oil from the supermarket. Although I am pretty handy round an Aldi (it’s my favourite shop, truth be told. I even have the app’ on my mobile), I’m totally out of my depth in a Tesco. I get panicky and I don’t know what I am looking at and everything starts to look the same. I was in the oils department and couldn’t find the exact type of oil I was sent out for. I even started to ponder if Crisp ‘n’ Dry or Frylite would work. They wouldn’t, apparently. Nor would peanut, castor, garlic and lemon infused olive or Castrol GTX oils. We even had a guest round to join in with this massage; an older lady of 20 weeks, some ten weeks senior to Henry and Arthur. And how did Henry and Arthur set out to impress this young lady? They cried like a pair of wet arsed jessies. Arthur just wouldn’t have any of it and Mrs Aitchworld abandoned all notion of completing that massage, got him dressed and put him in his bouncer so he could observe what he was missing. I held my ground with Henry and he got his baby massage whether he liked it or not. Not, seemed to be the general consensus. Baby Scarlet enjoyed herself immensely, but our boys both howled the house down. Calm and relaxed it wasn’t.
They’ve done a lot of howling of late and we couldn’t work out why. I thought it was because they were having a growth spurt and were always hungry. While we are predominantly feeding with breast milk, we are doing the odd top up with formula. Genius here had seen a type of formula in Tesco while buying the massage oil. Two and two were added together and as well as a large bottle of oil, I wandered across the supermarket car park the proud owner of two very large bottles of Hungry Baby Milk. “The boys will love me for this”, were my over-riding thoughts as I left the supermarket. How wrong can one person be?
At first, the boys did love me for it. Oh how they lapped it up. They couldn’t get enough of it, which was odd because it was supposed to be filling them up. But we kept feeding it to them over the next couple of days at random intervals. But far from being happy content babies, Henry in particular was as grouchy as a puppet in a dustbin. It was only after a couple of days and comparing nappy notes with Mrs Aitchworld that we realised that neither of us had changed a nappy that had contained any poo; nary a skid-mark. I understood that this was entirely possible, but so far the boys had been pretty regular in this respect. Now I know I said I was trying to avoid telling stories of defecation and going into great detail and although there are probably a few other things I could write about, and I will get round to doing so, babies don’t do a lot else at ten weeks old. And Henry hadn’t even been doing that for a few days, so it was building up to be something epic. And on the third day it happened…
He was sitting on my lap at the time. For once he wasn’t having a cry or even so much as a whinge, but I noticed a look of concentration on his face. He suddenly looked very determined, then a red glow descended upon his face and his body tensed. Poo face; that’s what it looks like! And then, just as quick as it happened, he let out a gentle smile and grinned the grin of a baby that was thinking, “Deal with that, Daddy”. I could feel the warmth emanate downwards, the heat somehow radiating right through a nappy and into my lap. I knew at once what was happening and gingerly got up, not wanting to disturb the nappy too much and risk a repeat of Poomageddon, and once up I bolted for the changing table. Once there, with the boy stripped back, I was ready to remove the nappy. Armed with a fresh new packet of baby wipes, I believed I was prepared.
Oh. My. Good. God. I did not expect what I saw, or what was to follow. When the nappy was taken off and unfolded, there was a pool of what appeared to be brown liquid, with much the consistency of self-levelling concrete before it sets. There was also a thick layer of it smeared around Henry’s bottom, but I had wedged a pile of baby wipes under it so that I could remove the nappy and its contents and get it out of the way of his flailing feet before he kicked it everywhere. I carefully wrapped it up and just as I was about to dispose of it in the bin, I noticed that Henry hadn’t finished. Not by a long way. And this stuff was coming out thick and fast and I made it over to him in time to put a baby wipe or two underneath the torrent in order to try and catch it. To make matters worse, the lid of the bin got wedged and I couldn’t get the used nappy in so had to keep hold of it. I was trying to stem the brown tide, or at the very least contain it, one-handed.
I was minded of a scene in the Jacques Tati film Mon Oncle, in which the lead character operates a plastic pipe extruder and breaks something. The pipe keeps coming out of the machine and can’t be stopped, continuously emerging from the machine and ending up snaking all around the factory and into the car park. I expected this to go the same way; it was a Psoonami; it just didn’t stop. Contrary to expectation, the longer Henry was squeezing this brown behemoth out, the thicker in consistency it got. By the end of it, the scene resembled a Play Doh Mega Fun Factory, although there was no fun being had here, at least not by me. The look of relief on Henry’s face told a different story though.
I had managed to pull the pile of baby wipes away from Henry slightly but all that did was make the poo pile up like a Mr Whippy ice cream. It was all coiled up with like a snake. Aptly, the name of the pipe that snake charmers used is called a pungi, and if anyone had entered the room playing one of these I swear this coil would have sprung out and lunged at me. Henry didn’t care – he was having a whale of a time, waving his arms and then, the worst thing that could possibly happen, kicking his feet in it. And the kicker, literally, was that he seemed to enjoy this bit the most. I managed to get the bin lid freed and scooped everything up and shoved it in there. And once the entire pack of baby wipes was all used up, shower number two in his short life beckoned for Henry…
We are getting out and about more all the time. When we first started doing this it was a mammoth effort and we were arriving for lunch engagements at about three in the afternoon, but we are getting far better at it. Changing bags are prepared well in advance and the big double pushchair is set up with blankets and muffs and anything else required to keep the boys toasty warm. It sits in one of the living rooms as it is too big to go anywhere else. It could go in one of the garages but the roof that covers both of them leaks like a colander. For years we have scrimped and saved and put money into the roof fund, and finally we have enough money to get them fixed but I don’t have the time to do it. This is exacerbated by the fact the downstairs toilet also needs fixing and the need for getting that working again far exceeds the need for a dry garage.
Last weekend was a bank holiday so as well as risking IKEA on the Sunday, on the Monday I also wanted to have some “me and the boys” time, which would also serve to give Mrs Aitchworld a break. It is only fair – she has them all to herself all week, so I wanted me some of that. The weather wasn’t brilliant, but it was dry, so I decided to wrap up the boys and take them to a classic car show. I have an old Ford Sierra and I do like to take it to the odd show as you tend to get discounted entry into them if you are exhibiting a car. I thought I had best get the boys used to it. This particular show was held on a sloping field in the grounds of a local stately home, which meant that the off road pushchair was needed. This thing is a bit of a Tardis. It looks narrow enough to wheel round a supermarket and indeed it is, and it is light to push, handles well with wheels with pneumatic tyres that could have come straight from a bicycle. It should be a veritable joy to own. But I hate it because when it is folded, it isn’t really any smaller than when it is in its usable state. When it isn’t on its wheels it weighs a metric f*cktonne (technical term) and it is a hassle getting it into any vehicle smaller than a long wheel based Mercedes Sprinter.
I started getting ready, chucking things I would need into the Sierra, double checking that the rear seatbelts worked as I’ve only had it a few months and never carried anyone in the back, especially something as valuable as an off-road pushchair… And that’s when it dawned on me, although I could get the boys in the back of the car safely, I couldn’t get the pushchair in as well. It’s an effort of Krypton Factor magnitude getting the damn thing in the boot of an X1, only just fits in the boot of a 5-series touring with gritted teeth and swearing, so getting it into the boot of a Sierra Sapphire just wasn’t going to happen. The only pushchair I could get in would be one that wouldn’t work on a sloping field. And so it was that, despite owning a classic car, we went off to a classic car show without it.
In spite of the disappointment of not showing off my car, I enjoyed the show. I think it was when an old lady said to me that I looked proud to be showing off my boys more than my car that I realised I probably was. I was stopped quite a bit and asked all the usual questions, to which I hurriedly answered, “No they aren’t”, “both boys” and “Henry is eight years old but just really, really small and hasn’t developed well”. I still get this a lot – our road is no more than one hundred metres in length and is a quiet side street, yet I was stopped three times before I got to the end of it the other day.
After I had had a good old mosey round the show and started packing the boys into the car to leave, as I was packing the pushchair into the boot of the car I noticed we had picked up a puncture somewhere around the field. I had used some gunk stuff in the past to seal bicycle tyres and it prevents further punctures from occurring, so we stopped off in Halfords on the way home in order to pick some up. It is fluorescent orange in colour and it was only when I was filling the pushchair tyres that I noticed the consistency of it and felt a sense of déjà vu all over again. I have a new business plan as a result. As soon as I have time, I am looking on eBay for some orange dye and then I’m off to the supermarket to get some more Hungry Baby Milk. Boys, you’re going into production. This time next year…