Doing research for this parenting lark, I often come across message threads lauding the joy of co-bathing. On a post on Facebook, one mother was extolling the amazingness of a bath with her child – there had been candles, breastfeeding in the bath and a symphony of relaxation and contentment. This sounded quite fun – perhaps not the candles bit and breastfeeding while bathing might be a bit beyond my breastfeeding skills, but lots of skin to skin would be amazing for bonding right?
When Elphie was littler I had considered it as Maria said that she and Harold had done it and that it was by far the most convenient way to bath him, but I thought Elphie was too fragile – I was afraid I would drop her slippery body into the water. Also an episode of House I had seen involved a mother having a bath with her infant and having a fit, with not so good consequences for the baby, so that had traumatised me too.
But Elphie was bigger now and my confidence in holding her without breaking her was higher, and she loved her baby bath and being in the big bath in shallow water (as she is at Grandmama’s) and had coped with swimming, so why not give it a go?
I think the level of success of the exercise can be judged by the fact that Fred came up as we were getting out to ask what all the screaming had been about.
It started off ok, not a celebration of skin to skin spiritual bonding but she wasn’t screaming.
First of all I tried sitting her up, but my arms got tired. Then lying her so she was floating on her back – she didn’t like that. Then leaning her against my leg or with her back to my front between my legs. The last two were the most successful but it was hardly comfortable for me – sat bolt upright in the bath trying to keep her from drowning.
I tried laying her on my chest, but then she wasn’t submerged so I had to keep scooping water over her.
Through all of these (except the floating), rather than having an expression of pure joy for the wonderful mummy-daughter bonding that was going on, instead she looked rather worried. The happy bouncing baby I usually encountered when she was in her baby bath or even leaning against her penguin bath pillow in the big bath at Grandmama’s was not present. There was no kicking and splashing, just a frown.
I knew what the problem was – not enough water, it needed to be lovely and deep so she could lie immersed when on my front. So I reached for the controls, ready to test the water coming out of the taps for temperature.
Except it all went wrong. Unfamiliar with the control knobs from below, I had selected the wrong ones, and down came a torrent of cold water from the shower straight onto Elphie’s head.
She was no amused.
Full on red scrunched up face and tears while I struggled to keep hold of her and turn the bloody shower off (now even more unsure of how the controls worked).
It really didn’t improve from then on out. I tried to fill up the bath, but she was consistently squawking by that point and after filling it up a bit I gave up.
Then I had a new quandry – how to wash myself? I didn’t want all the nasty adult shower gel to sully her beautiful newborn skin. But what to do with her?
Ah I had a cunning plan – pop her in her baby bath into the bath, thus leaving her with unsullied water and leave me with some water to wash with. Genius.
So her favourite, the Tippitoes Mini Bath was deployed, filled with some of the water from the main bath and Elphie plonked in it.
This did not appease her. Too much water was still in the bath, and Elphie did not appreciate the new rocking sensation she was getting from the mini bath bobbing about. Neither was she enjoying the waves of water entering her bath over the sides on occasion as the bath listed from port to starboard.
Additional water was removed from the bath to improve stability.
Then there wasn’t enough water to wash with – plus I wasn’t sure there weren’t any dubious particles swimming around in it. So with the cries increasing in volume, the mini bath was moved to the end of the bath and I had a quick shower. Much to Elphie’s concern and confusion, now entirely mistrusting the shower.
Finally the ordeal was over. Long term damage had been done – Elphie has not been so joyful in her mini bath the past couple of nights since the incident. I hope she will recover.
I do think the mistakes I made were not making the bath deep enough to begin with and, er, giving her a cold shower instead. I would really like to get this right but I think I’ll give co-bathing a miss for a few months more. Maybe when she can sit up by herself then we can try it again. Hopefully she’ll have forgotten the trauma by then…