Mums love a baby group. We live for them. We often rue half term and other perilously lengthy school holidays because most baby groups don’t run. You know who really does not love a baby group? My baby. Well, tough shit mate, I’ve got us on a one-per-day schedule. On a Monday we do two so you’d really better look alive.
Moo is usually the least interested baby in the field. She occasionally surprises me and goes in for the high octane stuff with disco lights and bubble machines – throw in a whistle and some drugs* and we’ve got ourselves a ’90s rave, kids. But mostly, she’s feeding, asleep or crying. When she cries, I adopt full helicopter mum mode. I feel the need to offer a spiralling running commentary so that the other mums appreciate that I’m trying to resolve the issue, and that the best tool in my arsenal is about to be unveiled. Hi there boobs, hi there. The world hasn’t seen you for at least 60 minutes, what a treat.
I never quite know how actively I should participate in the group while Moo is feeding. Any eye contact is fairly angry (her, not me), because I invariably didn’t stump up the goods quickly enough. Then the oxytocin is released and she’s eye-rolling her way to blissed out milk drunkeness. I’m also momentarily awash with such love and adoration that I think I might cry because she’s so completely perfect. Oh Jesus, hold fire – we’re doing a song with actions. If I just moderately strangle Moo’s torso with a vice grip, I can release one hand and get in amongst the sign language. Huzzah! I throw a cautionary sun sign somewhere near my shoulder to see if I’ve got a captive audience in Moo. Unresponsive.
I persevere regardless, as the class leader says that even if your own baby is ignoring you, you’re probably being eyeballed by one of the other whippersnappers. I take a furtive glance around – nope, no one else is watching me. Which is just as well because I’ve messed up the sign for flowers and I look like I’m trying to give my nose a handjob.
Come on Moo, I silently urge. We’re here for you, not me. There are nice toys and things here that we don’t have at home. There’s a lady singing to you, I can’t sing. There’s some sort of prop with bells and bits of ribbon. This is our time together, solely dedicated to your enjoyment and development and not bamboozled by your sister, or me needing to get some washing in.
Then I realise that this is probably exactly why you’re feeding so contentedly, why you’re reaching out to grasp my finger, why you’re away with the fairies. You know that in these classes, I’m yours and no-one else’s. It’s not the done thing to dick around on my phone, waiting for you to finish up. I can’t reach the leaflets on the signing in table to read them. I don’t really want to stare at other babies. So I look at you. I look at the tiny circle of almost invisible downy hair on your forehead. I look at your gorgeous eyelashes. I look at the little folds of flesh along your arms. I feel your tummy pressed against my tummy taking deep, sleepy breaths.
Actually, I don’t give a shit that I’ve just paid 6 quid to sit in a room and breastfeed you for half an hour, or stand in such a way that you can gaze out of the window over my shoulder and ignore the hubbub in front of you. In three months you probably won’t find me quite so riveting as you do now, your world will expand way beyond me. So let’s keep these moments, when we’re out pretending to be socially active having organised fun, and just enjoy our little party for two.
*Obviously say no to drugs. We’ve all learnt from Grange Hill.
-SJW June 2016