38 weeks pregnant and you can't swing a cat without whacking a shocking baby news story in your appalled face. Last week we had the report that a nurse had 'taped' a dummy to a baby's mouth in a hospital - and this week we had the story of a baby that was blown into the sea (complete with pram) as the child's mother went for a walk down the pier. Both babies, you'll be pleased to know, are safe and well. But it is news stories like this that were literally written for (and sometimes I think 'by') my mother.
As if the precautionary list of what to 'be careful of' wasn't long enough - you can now add walking down piers and letting nurses look after your baby to it. I have grown up, for 30 years, with the constant doom and gloom warnings from my mother like a constant stream of piss on my various parades.
As I would leave for my daily train journey she would warmly wave me off, suggest I have a good day - and finish it off with a flurry of "Don't walk too close to the track darling in case a gust of wind blows you onto the track and you are flattened by an oncoming train." As I went on dates with boyfriends she would tell me I look wonderful, kiss me goodbye and see me off with "If you break up with him dear, make sure you do it in a public place with lots of witnesses, there was a girl somewhere, Manchester I think it was, where the boy chopped her up and stuffed her under the sofa when she broke up with him." If I wanted to book a holiday I would be met with "Oh no, you can't go to that country dear, only the other day a woman there was sold for Camels and she wasn't found for ten years."
Tonight she called me and asked if I was alright and if I was warm. She is obsessed with my body temperature. I explained that I was very warm and cosy and had the candles on the mantelpiece going. "Brilliant darling, so glad, keep warm sweetie, just make sure you don't fall asleep with those candles on dear and burn to death". My mother - the foreteller of demise. It's a wonder she doesn't carry a Scythe in her handbag.
She came to visit last weekend and took me shopping. We were in the open air at a large shopping complex and two men walked past us puffing away on cigarettes. "DON'T BREATHE IN THAT SMOKE DARLING!" she hollered as we walked past the two shell shocked looking men. The subtext being "You are killing my Grandson you Bastards!"
And regarding my cat "Don't leave the baby alone dear anywhere incase the cat jumps on to the baby's face and goes to sleep and smothers the baby". The news in the UK is littered with 'Cat smothering stories" of course - honestly, if I have to hear about one more feline related baby tragedy...
I have only ever seen my mother played in a film once - when I saw Aunt Josephine from Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' played by the wonderful Meryl Streep. As she showed her child guests around her house she warned them of the various hazards:
- "This is the couch, Please, do not go anywhere near it. If it falls, it'll crush you flat."
- "This is the telephone, It should only be used in emergencies because it could electrocute someone."
- "When you open this door, just push the wood here. Never use the doorknob. I'm afraid that it might shatter into a million pieces, and that one of them will hit my eye."
- "Not that quickly! You could trip over the welcome mat and decapitate yourselves!
I fear when the baby is here this can only get worse. We already know that, according to her, my cat is a ticking time bomb. She has already called me to tell me that I shouldn't use Talcum Powder as the baby will breathe it in and choke. She has warned us that we can't walk the baby home in a pram because he will breathe in the freezing air. We are not to make our house too cold for the baby - but of course it shouldn't be too hot.
She asked me quite seriously "Are you going to be careful when you walk down the stairs with the baby darling? And will you use the banister?" We told her that we would be as careless as possible and slide the baby down the said banister so that it lands in a laundry basket placed at the bottom. Hopefully the cat will then curl up on top of him, thinking he is washing.
She also warned us of the perils of leaving the baby alone for one second with any nurse at the hospital - however nice they appear to be and regaled the story of 'The Baby Killer' nurse, asking my partner "Do you remember her dear? Beverley Allitt? The Angel of Death? So please don't let any of the nurses look after the baby"; rendering the nurses basically redundant - and turning us both into gibbering wrecks.
There is no one in this world who is more excited at the prospect of protecting my baby from the myriad of daily threats to come - than my mother. And I know she will be a wonderful Nan. However, I don't think these warnings will ever truly cease - and I am sure they are set to get worse and worse and more far fetched with each passing birthday and each novel news story rolling across the bottom of the 24 hour news screen.
For now all my partner and I can do is look on the bright side. If anything - I will definitely feel safe leaving my baby in her care when my partner and I want some time away, which I sense, might be sooner rather than later.
15 days . . . .