I don’t know if this is true of all parents, but since having Ebony I have developed a one track mind. All information processed by my poor exhausted brain travels along the but what about the children track. It’s as though my pre-Ebony brain has withered and died.
I can’t remember what I used to think about pre-Ebony, or what I used to talk to strangers about. I mean, these days all of my time is filled with Ebony. Perhaps it’s because I’m on maternity leave, maybe when I return to the world of work I will have other things to say. Right now, from the moment my head is slapped violently in the morning, to the moment I collapse from debilitating tiredness at night, I spend every minute with Ebony.
When I brush my teeth in a morning, she is next to me chewing her toothbrush. When I choose my clothes in a morning, she is at my feet throwing shoes around and upturning the bin. When I answer the door to the postman, she is in my arms squealing with delight. She is always there.
I was ill a few weeks ago and as I was being sick into the toilet, Ebony was climbing up my back and slapping me on the head. There really is no escape, not that I’m looking for one.
All my plans have to be Ebony-friendly. I’m not ready to leave her with a babysitter yet, so everywhere I go, she goes. That means no nights out, it means no raging hangovers, and it means no chance to switch off.
It also means a distinct lack of interesting conversation on my part. I mean, does the average person really care whether Ebony slept well last night? Do people want to hear me rant about rear facing car seats? Do they want to hear my impassioned love for baby carriers? Probably not. But that is literally all that there is inside my head at the moment.
My head is a bit like my house you see. It has the makings of a decent space, and there are some nice fittings. If you look carefully, you can see proof that adults once inhabited it. There are photographs around that hint at a care-free life. There are books belonging to a person with time to read. There are other things too: knitting needles and tennis shoes, things that imply the house is occupied by people with time; time to spend as they wish. But all of those things are hard to see now, you have to look hard because they are hidden. Now all you can see are the telltale signs of a baby.
The dining room that once housed drunken friends for dinner parties, now features a banana encrusted high chair. In years gone by, you would find us enjoying wine in front of the TV, now you would struggle to find us because the living room is filled from floor to ceiling with all of Ebony’s things. Squeaky toys, rattling toys, soft toys, noisy toys and books pour out across the floor from the mouth of her toy box. I spend my days tidying the toys, and Ebony spends her days releasing them. The wine is no longer enjoyed, it is depended upon.
In my mind, life before Ebony is liked a faded photograph. I have a vague picture of it, but I can’t remember any of the details. What did I used to do with all my time? What did I think about when I wasn’t worrying about running out of cloth nappies?
I speak to friends on the phone, and they tell me about their lives. The dramas, the drunken mishaps, the fun. They ask what I’ve been doing, and I tell them about how Ebony has just learned to stand unaided, how she refuses to say Mummy, and how she has formed a delinquent baby club with her friend Daisy... and then I realise that this is probably very boring to listen to. That before I had Ebony there was a limit of how much baby news I could listen to, and that I’ve probably gone way over that with my detailed description of that morning’s Rhythm & Rhyme session. And then I don’t know what to say.
Because Ebony is all I do at the moment, and as such she is all I have to talk about. Even conversations about films or current affairs are stunted these days, because I never really get to concentrate on anything. I am always half watching the TV, half listening to the conversation, half keeping an eye on Ebony, half trying to preempt when she might next need feeding or changing.
Last night I met a wildlife photographer. If I’d met her two years ago, I would probably have asked her all kinds of questions about her job. Was it ever scary? How close does she get to the animals? Did she have a favourite animal to photograph? How do the wild animals react to her?
But, because I had Ebony in my arms at the time, instead we talked about babies. How they develop, how they change and we discussed childcare. I asked if she found it hard to leave her children and go on shoots. So I don’t know what life is like for a wildlife photographer, and I don’t know how close she was to the lion, and I don’t know whether she has ever found herself in danger doing a shoot, but I do know her husband looks after the kids when she goes away.
I hate my one track mind.
I may never know anything interesting ever again.