I rush to the toilet, slide the door open, and pull down my pants. I sigh with relief and relax into the seat as I get down to business. My daughter, who I thought was being entertained by a riveting episode of Bananas in Pajamas, pokes her head around the wall. She steps into the cramped bathroom but isn’t satisfied with watching me, or playing with the tap. No. She needs to be right in my lap, right now. Annoyed, I pick her up.
We turn to the mirror and she squeals with delight when she sees our faces side- by-side. I laugh at my ‘pee face’ and then make a funny face. I’m rewarded with an adorable laugh. I finish up, put her down and go to wipe. Just as I’m thinking, ‘lucky it wasn’t a number 2’ I notice the cat has joined us too.
I wonder if I’ll ever pee on my own again.
My back is drenched with sweat as I go to collect my daughter. The carer at gym crèche tells me that I should bathe her as soon as I get home because, “She had a big explosion and needs a wash!”
So into the bath she goes when we get home. Then she’s hungry and the cat is winding herself around my legs meowing, so I go out and feed her too, and clean her litter.
In the living room I take a look at the clock: 1:30pm. Both Emi and the cat have eaten breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks. I even made lunch for my husband this morning. Emi’s had a bath and three nappy changes. The cat’s litter is spotless. The house, tidy. I’m sweaty, freezing cold, and aching to sit down on the couch with a family sized pizza. I look at the clock again: 1:32. I want a beer too, but it’s too early.
I plonk Emi down with her toys and decide to take a hot shower while she’s distracted. As I’m pondering whether to shave my armpits, my daughter’s happy face appears on the other side of the shower screen. She’s holding a crayon and drawing on any surface she can reach. I see a dark shape in the corner of my eye and turn my head towards the doorway. The cat has arrived. I wonder if I’ll ever shower alone again.
The monitor blinks its green light at me and I stop in my tracks. ‘What the hell?’ I think to myself. I take a few deep breaths and walk into her room. She’s sitting up in her cot, crying. I grab a dummy, pop it into her mouth, hand her her comforter and say firmly, “It’s sleepy time,” before laying her back down and walking out of the room.
I barely make it back to my own room when I hear her scream again. I step through the doorway to my bedroom and try not to look at the bed, doona and laptop. I check the monitor and sure enough – she’s up again – screaming at the top of her lungs. I contemplate calling my husband and telling him to come and take over. I don’t want to mom today.
On my way into her room for the fifth time I stop outside her door and stare hard at the E and K initials I had hung there a few short weeks ago. I force myself to focus on the happy princess faces. The sparkling glitter. The stars and flowers – anything but my daughter’s crying. But I can’t block it out. I take a few deep breaths and fight very hard not to punch a hole in the wall.
Then I walk in.
She’s sitting up in her cot, holding her comforter and her dummy’s in her mouth. I pick her up and sit down in our rocking chair. She nestles her head into my chest and falls asleep almost instantly. Her deep, even breaths lull me into a trance and I feel myself relax. I forget about my room, laptop, bed, and much-needed solitude, and instead remind myself that these days, though they might seem long, will fly by.
One day my daughter will not need me to fall asleep. She will be old enough to feel embarrassed about watching me pee. She will become adult enough to leave this house, our home, and live elsewhere. One day I will do grocery shopping, drink coffees, and cook dinner without her clinging to my leg like a small koala.
But not today. Today I sit on the couch tapping away at my laptop while she sits, curled up into my side, watching Thomas the Tank Engine. When Toby appears on the screen she whimpers and climbs into my lap, hiding her face. She’s scared of Toby. I hold her tight and tell her that mommy’s got her back. She’s not alone.
The warmth of her small body against mine reminds me that neither am I; and I feel a slight sadness that it won’t be this way forever.