To those who have never been on it, maternity leave is a glorious, self-indulgent holiday. To those who have, (I am on my third bout) it is an intense period of extremely hard home-working which seems to involve a large amount of exhausting lolling around.
Yes, I am in a cafe reading the i newspaper - but my little 14-week-old time bomb will go off any second, demanding me to perform a mini-striptease in a public place.
Yes, I am lying on my back on the rug working on my abs, but with every leg-lift I have to remember the next verse of the Sleeping Bunnies song.
And yes, that is me going for a pleasant suburban stroll in the evening crepuscule. But if I stop to look at a house or tree, or to marvel at the squirrels as they leap across the top of the wheeleybins, I will have 30 decibels of baby fed directly into my ear.
A large amount of time seems to be spent on the sofa, which is slowly becoming encrusted with breastmilk. She snorts and sucks wildly as I stare at the TV remote, so far across the other side of the room. I gaze into the walls for inspiration as the oxytocin washes over me and I forget which way is up, which way is down, and why we are here at all.
So, this period of intense child-rearing - a mere prelude to the reality of ‘going back to work’ and THE REST OF YOUR LIFE- is both a wonderful gift and a hideous prison. Irritations drip one by one onto my forehead until I beg for mercy.
But, as I am clearly a glutton for this glorious form of punishment, there are clearly upsides. For me, it is all in the little details, that keep you going through the sleepless nights and frustrating days, where minutes last an hour and months last a second.
Here are my 10 consolations of early motherhood:
1. The way the baby’s nose-breath cools your hot, gnawed nipple after it slips from her mouth - a much underrated design feature.
2. Wearing your favourite slippers on the school run.
3. The chance to marvel at the multi-purpose nature of one’s body parts.
4. Incredible bicep and deltoid development.
5. Popping into the office seems like a short holiday.
6. Looking into the poppet’s dark, black eyes - which remind me of a baby seal as it looks up at a hunter with a club - and sensing she might love me as much as I love her.
7. The three weeks after the birth, when you feel you are wheeling a miniature celebrity around the neighbourhood.
8. Seeing the sun is out and going outside immediately.
9. Admiring a washing line covered in clean drying nappies (I don’t like admitting this one...)
10. Spending an hour staring out across the garden, hoping for the robin to drop in.