I remember, as a teenager, watching a television show with my mother. It was called "Who Lives In A House Like This?" and the show's host would poke around a celebrity's home and then invite a panel to guess who the celebrity was. You could usually get quite a lot of information about the house's inhabitants from the interior, including their ages.
In our flat, it is abundantly clear that one of the people who lives here is a baby.
The baby furniture is a dead giveaway of course - the garish play gym in the corner of the living room, the playpen in the dining room, the heirloom cradle in the bedroom that was designed and built by my father. But there's more to it than that - it's as though a layer of small items has been laid over our house, a veritable patina of babyness.
There are clean bottles lined up by the kettle, dirty ones clustered by the sink. If you were to open the microwave, you would find the sterilizer that has taken up semi-permanent residence within.
The clothes horse in the boxroom is strewn with white babygros, blue muslin squares, pastel flannel blankets. Our own clothes are relegated to drip-drying on hangers because there just isn't room for them any more. I congratulate myself on my decision to forgo the environmentally-friendly but washing-intensive cloth nappies.
Our bedroom chest of drawers is piled with clothes that are too big for the baby yet, but I haven't found a place to store them. A box nearby is full of tiny clothes that he has already outgrown, and I will vacuum-pack them and store them for future siblings or cousins. Some day.
My husband's side of the bed is littered with very small clothes that smell of sunshine, dumped there this morning when I needed the clothesbasket for a load of towels. At the rate this child goes through clothes, sometimes there doesn't seem to be much point in putting them back in the drawers...
Right now the bathroom looks like a bomb exploded in it - the aftermath of the nightly bath. The plastic bathtub is lying on the floor instead of on top of the washing-machine where it belongs, because after serving as a bath-stand, the washine-machine must then do double duty as a changing table, since I am loath to take my naked baby out of the nice warm bathroom and into the cold dining-room where the official changing table resides.
There are dirty baby clothes on the floor where I dropped them next to the used nappy, and both of the other available surfaces contain the clean clothes that I changed my mind about putting on him. The baby soap bottle is on the shelf over the sink, and the bath thermometer in the form of a purple octopus is sitting on the toilet cistern, although there is a place for both of them in the box of baby bath stuff - also currently on the floor. There is a small, wet, green towel on the box. One corner of it has been sewn into a hood, decorated to look like a monster's head. There are few things cuter than a freshly-bathed baby boy wearing a green monster hood.
The rest of the bathroom floor is taken up by a baby bouncer, that boon of parents and a great help when one is attempting to bathe and change a baby single-handedly. As with so many other daily tasks, I managed to accomplish bathtime, but at the end of it I had an armful of baby demanding that I do something else other than tidy up. I will sort this all out first thing tomorrow, if for no other reason than it is currently impossible to get to the shower.
Our study is in the process of being transformed into the baby's room - a project we have deferred since he will be sleeping in the cradle in our room for a few more months. Even so, once again it is clear that a baby is in residence. The dresser boasts a row of baby books, the genesis of a nursery library, while inside it are boxes of shoes and toys, waiting for him to be old enough for them. Our computer and desk are still in there, beside the dresser. The back of the desk holds a row of books on ethnography, but the rest of the desk features a tube of teething gel, a cloth baby book, and a brightly-coloured teether toy, too new to show any signs of wear from being enthusiastically gummed all day.
The desk also features two baby items that are often to be found on my bedside table, on the living room coffee table, and indeed on any flat surface in our home - a bowl of water (for cooling down bottles) and large muslin square (used for wiping up spit-up and dribble).
While I was in the process of mentally formulating this post, it occurred to me that there remained one place in our flat that did not feature any babyness - the two cupboards by the front door that we use to dump junkmail and bills and bags and miscellaneous flotsam on.
But wait, I was wrong.
Sure enough, on one of the cupboards there sits a tin of baby formula, a gift from Santa Claus, delivered to my parents' house by that jolly old soul but not yet placed on the shelf of the pantry where I keep the unopened formula, nappies and baby wipes.
We hope that siblings will follow in the coming years, which I imagine will lead to even more children's stuff. I wonder how many times I will have to bite back a shout when I tread, barefoot at midnight, on a stray piece of lego, or how many times I will fish crayons from underneath various items of furniture. It seems that a tidying-up policy, properly enforced, will be vital.
I surprisingly enjoy the feeling that the baby has occupied, in some way, every room of the house. It is, after all, a reflection of how our daily lives are now dominated by his needs. Later I will probably feel the need to claw back some part of the flat for myself, perhaps turn the master bedroom into a child-free sanctuary once the baby is installed in his own bedroom, but for now I am happy to see that we have assimilated this new member of our family.