I am sitting in a Caffe Nero while Athena is in a meeting a few blocks away. This place is abuzz with yuppie mums (and a few "Mr. Moms"). Their strollers look like spaceships and have probably been through as many shock absorption and collision tests as any sedan to roll out of Detroit. One dad subtly defends the validity of his Man Card by stowing a sack of wood logs in the basket under his daughter's stroller seat. He is sharing a cookie with her and braiding her hair, but by George, he's got firewood.
The children all have names like Poppy and Freddie and Arthur and Gemma and look like they've just stepped out of a Hanna Anderson catalog. The mums with toddlers generally seem pretty happy and contented; I think they're now used to the constant note of mild, happy mayhem that their offspring have introduced to their lives. It's the new mums I watch with the most interest. They sit quietly but their eyes say so very much the moment their babies finally, miraculously fall asleep. Briefly the harried, hunted look almost vanishes from their faces and they take long, relishing sips of their lattes; they scarf down muffins that they don't have to share; they send entire text messages to friends without a single interruption. They look lonely, body- and soul-hungry. This is their brief respite from Baby Schedule, perhaps the only venture into the outside world that they'll have today. They look almost relaxed, but not entirely - constantly glancing toward the sighing bundle in the pram, praying that it stays asleep and quiet just a little bit longer. A ringing phone or the grinding of coffee beans are suddenly offensive noises, enemies that murder Personal Time.
One mum nearby is quiet, but her body language screams exhaustion,
bewilderment. I don't know what she is thinking about, but she is
feeding a bottle to her tiny one and appears to be on the brink of
tears. She looks into her daughter's face and I can tell that she feels
nothing. She is numb. I want to tell her it will all be okay. She'll get sleep back, and time to herself, and time with friends, too. And her daughter will be the richer for having been loved well in these early days.
The woman sitting next to me is round with child. I wonder what she thinks as she sits in this cafe and observes the things to come. I hope she sees beyond the tired. I hope she is excited, when all is said and done. I hope her little George or Jemima gets to come here on coffee dates with mum (and obliges by sleeping for a few minutes, too).
My only literal sketch of the day is this man, who sits across from me and doesn't appear to think much of the news.