I’m no stranger to bathing young boys, having three on a dairy farm. Now. There was an evening I gave my first bath to a young baby boy that will remain with me forever. We had our first boy in February, 2009. Yes February. I was a home alone farmer’s wife with a new baby as the cows reached their peak in calving taking the brand new Daddy from my side. I knew it was coming this baby bath. The nurse had made it look so easy. And hey, I had travelled the globe alone, mastered languages, taught fourteen year olds the past tense in French, how difficult could it be? All I had to do was put this small, neigh tiny, wriggly, slippery person into warm water and wash him.
I was away from my family home, making my own home without anyone there to supervise me immersing my little person in a bath of water. I had been given several different bath temperature devices to help me find the optimum warm water; Ducks, sticks, they all eluded me. I rang a friend. I can’t do it, I asked her to come out (a twenty mile trip to help me bath a baby), she would have only she had something on and besides I could do it.
The house we rented first was freezing, it was so cold we lived in one room, our bedroom. So I carried the bath of warm water to my bedroom near but not too near the electric heater. Scary stuff. I placed his little towel on the floor, hood up and reread the chapter on bathing a new born infant from What to expect the first year. I undressed him. I remembered how my mother put an elbow in the water to make sure and then did the same. I’m sorry about this I whispered as I placed his tiny little body into the warm water. I sang. He stared intently at me not really seeing me but knowing me, trusting me implicitly. Eeek.
After a ten second dip, he was wrapped in a towel, sang to as tears ran down my face. As I type, he has just run to me for his morning cuddle, so I am assured that he is well adjusted despite his first bath by an overwhelmed mother. I cuddled him that evening to me and whilst covering him in talc powder, put on a nappy, vest and babygro one-handed and then fell asleep with him breathing gently on my chest.
There are three of them now. The youngest is growing out of his bath now and I know I’ll miss these baby baths. This time to run a cloth over their slippery wet skin and take the chance to cuddle them tightly as I take them from the water. And maybe because it’s Sunday morning but more likely because he says it better, I leave you with Seamus Heaney in memory of that first baby bath and let us offer a moment’s thought for the poor daughter-in-laws out there.
Mother of the Groom
What she remembers
Is his glistening back
In the bath, his small boots
In the ring of boots at her feet.
Hands in her voided lap,
She hears a daughter welcomed.
It’s as if he kicked when lifted
And slipped her soapy hold.
Once soap would ease off
The wedding ring
That’s bedded forever now
In her clapping hand.