The Husband knows me well. He knows how grumpy I get when I am sleep deprived. For this reason, he wanted to arrange a night nurse well before The Princess’ birth. I resisted. I told him I would manage. I said, “So what if I don’t sleep all night? I have help during the day and I don’t have a job to go to, I’ll sleep during the day.” He begged me to at least get the names and numbers of night nurses before the birth. I refused. And so he got onto it himself while we were in the hospital. He asked around and it turned out that one of the Park Lane nurses worked as a night nurse during her off days. She gave him her number. Still, I resisted. We went home with The Princess and I think I lasted one and a half nights. At 3am on the second night, both delirious with fatigue, emotions and, for me, insomnia and hormones, we had a huge blow-up. So when The Husband said, “NOW, can we get a night nurse?” I relented.
Courtesy of the luxury of having a night nurse, we did “date night” one night some weeks later. I squeezed myself into my jeans, my baby belly bulging over the waistband. I then squashed my swollen feet into a pair of agonisingly tight heels and off we went to a restaurant 250m from home. The restaurant was deserted but for a few drinkers. The hostess was dressed in a white mini-skirt that she couldn’t quite pull off. She was overly obliging, she desperately needed to have her roots done and the food was abominable. Nonetheless, we had an amazing time. It was on this night that we discussed how long we were going to employ a night nurse for. I was thinking three, maybe four month tops, when The Husband announced that he would be prepared to fork out for a night nurse for a year. One year? It sounded totally insane. It was around May 2011 at the time and a night nurse for one year would mean having someone until the end of March 2012. The Princess would already be a year old and I imagined her practically reading to herself by then – one year seemed a lifetime away.
Now, here we are, eight and a half months later and I am as attached to Margie, our night nurse, as The Princess is. And this is despite the fact that, very soon after we met, she asked me what I weighed. I resent being asked that by grown women who buy size 13-14 pants. I know she wears children’s clothes because she told me so – somewhat smugly, if I’m not mistaken. She also asked The Mother Figure how old she was. I was hoping my mom would give her the same response she used to give The Sister and I when we were growing up – “I’m as old as the moon and as young as the stars” but instead I laughed out loud at the audacity of the question, thereby disturbing The Princess who started to cry and so everyone’s attention was diverted from the “how old” question to the baby. And of course, I refused to tell her how much I weighed.
My attachment to my night nurse is even strong enough to withstand the fact that, basically, she thinks I’m not the best mother. Here’s how I know this. We brought her to Cape Town with us last week so we’d have the evenings free to catch up with friends without disrupting The Princess’ night routine. Oh yes, and also so we could sleep all night, as we are so fortunately accustomed to doing. Margie was supposed to be off work all day, only working nights, but by 8:30 one morning, The Princess’ crying and moaning disturbed her sleep and she came downstairs looking concerned, if not a little cross. She wanted to know why The Princess wasn’t yet asleep and offered to put her down herself (because I obviously wasn’t succeeding). This is the exchange that followed:
Me: She just won’t go to sleep. I’m not a bad mother, Margie. (Smiling). (I was totally, totally kidding. I think I’m a great mother).
Total, earth shattering silence.
Me: Margie, I can see she’s exhausted, but she refuses to fall asleep. I tried for ages and ages. Seriously, I’m not a bad mother. (Still smiling).
At this stage, I was fully expecting her to say, “No, no, of course, you’re not a bad mother.” Instead, here’s what she said:
Margie: You know, Natalie, it’s not my place to rank you as a mother. That’s not what I’m employed to do.
Dead, dead silence.
I said nothing. I think I just stared at her with raised eyebrows. I was sort of paralysed somewhere between shock and amusement.
Luckily, I’m pretty thick skinned when it comes to people who look after my child while I get a full night’s sleep so I can’t say I took major offence.
Later that day, I gave Margie some proper ammunition to back up her bad mother theory. The Husband had managed to put The Princess down in the afternoon for the first time ever. He was very proud of himself and declared that we were not allowed to wake her until she woke up herself. “I want her to sleep the full time,” he said. “Sleep is good for her, right?”.
As a result we arrived at The Husband’s brother’s house about an hour late, at 4pm, for The Princess’ first meeting with her three month old cousin. The Princess’ supper time is normally between 5 and 5:30 but somehow, I was feeling super relaxed, we were on holiday and I just went into some sort of zone where baby chores don’t exist.
When we got back from our late tea date, I dashed straight to Woolworths to shop for a dinner party we were hosting that night, while Margie and The Husband bathed The Princess. I was back by about 6:30 and as I walked in the door, The Husband shouted down, slightly annoyed: “Has she had supper?”
I paused… slowly re-entering the zone…Hmmm….Food…The Princess…5pm…supper time…
I forgot to feed her!
Bad, bad, bad mother!
Of course, Margie had noticed that there was something remiss during bath time and wanted to know if she had eaten, given the fact that feeding her would have been her useless mother’s responsibility.
Whilst frantically preparing The Princess’ supper, I tried to make light of my oversight by reminding Margie and The Husband, that very often The Princess refused to eat more than one or two tiny mouthfuls of supper anyway. But of course, Murphy’s Law, on this particular evening, when offered food at 6:45, The Princess ate like a ravenous wild animal. At one stage, she even grabbed the spoon out of my hand because I wasn’t shoveling the food into her little mouth quickly enough.
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad mother!
Now, we’re spending eleven nights in Hermanus without Margie. I am viewing this as training for when her time with us comes to an end on 1 February next year. So far, we’ve sort of survived three nights. The first night was a very rude awakening to night-time parenting. The Princess woke up at midnight for some reason and just wouldn’t go back to sleep until 3:30. We walked, we rocked, we sang, we shushed. We tried everything. We would’ve dosed her with Calpol but we recently discovered that Calpol is like Espresso for her – it totally gives her a buzz. Luckily, the past two nights have only involved a few dummy dashes and she’s slept like a little angel.
Holding thumbs for the next eight nights until we’re re-united with Margie for one more blissful month of sleeping all night…