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I was disappointed when Katherine realised I was going to propose and immediately stopped me. She said, ‘Ask me again, after the baby is born. I promise to say yes,’ and we kissed, leaving it at that.Three months after the birth and I know the time still isn’t right. I can’t hold back the sigh that escapes, involuntarily. As I pick Leyla up out of the crib I catch a glimpse of our reflections in the mirror. I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards: hair all over the place and bags under my eyes. Leyla looks small and very cute. She has no idea about the confusion and upheaval we are going through, or that our biggest fear is doing something wrong. If you ask me, having your first baby is akin to finding yourself behind the steering wheel of a car when you don’t know how to drive. It is true that each day becomes a little easier in some ways. Then something new happens and you feel you are back to square one. I’d only just mastered the wobbling head thing and now she’s getting sturdier, holding her has become a juggling act. It’s as if she’s trying to jump out of my arms, while I’m desperately trying to hold on. Someone should invent some sort of baby harness, like the climbers wear, that you could sling around your shoulder just in case you drop them. Instead of hitting the floor they’d dangle, safely, in mid-air.
“Come on little lady,” I whisper, “milk time.”No. 4 appears in the doorway and watches us for a while. He’s acting very strangely these days and I wonder if it’s a direct result of feeling his place has been usurped. Obviously, he’s had less attention since the new arrival, because we still don’t have a proper routine. He used to call the shots for meal times, but now he has to make a fuss first, and then one of us will stop whatever we’re doing to sort him out. It can’t be easy for him to understand, that’s for sure, but it’s been a period of adjustment for all of us. Not least the decision for Katherine to give up her house and move in with me, but the garden here is perfect for children. The builders have already laid the foundations for the new extension and work begins in earnest next week. As I’m pondering over whether I should take No. 4 for a quick check-up at the vets, Katherine appears in the doorway. She bends to stroke him and he meows, acknowledging her presence.“I hoped you’d sleep for a few hours more, at least.”CK smiles back at me softly, then her eyes rest on Leyla.
“She didn’t cry before her feed,” she mutters. Her eyes are a little bright, tears are forming.“I timed it right, two more minutes and she would have been wailing,” I add, hoping to reassure her. She forgets that she has Leyla most of the time and if we changed places I simply wouldn’t be able to cope. You need superhuman effort just to stay awake, let alone having to constantly try to calm a very fretful baby. CK patiently walks her up and down for hours on end.“Coffee?” Her voice sounds deflated. I nod and she disappears into the kitchen.When Katherine reappears I can tell there’s something on her mind. She sits down in the chair next to the sofa. There’s a tissue in her hand.
“What’s up, CK? Tell me what’s going on.”
“The publishers have rejected my latest manuscript.” She bravely fights back the tears that continue to well up, despite her determination.