Part 15: Adventures of Mumbot & Beanbot

Life had begun to open out an inch, to climb sluggishly from canon-deep sofa grooves, wriggle gracelessly from firm-set arse prints and detour from the jaded triangle of fridge to kettle to TV, the X almost scratched cleanly from the PlayStation remote.

On Monday 19th October I drove to meet a friend at Westfields in Stratford, after a six-to-seven-year hiatus on getting behind the wheel (one of the last times I had driven was when I experienced a full-blown panic attack on the Elephant and Castle roundabout.) On Sunday 1st November I chased every drink with a tequila shot and hopped about security, dancing “at our table” while Frank snoozed twenty miles away, having been put happily to bed by my mum. Small sounding incidents, these were some BIG DEALS. Big Life-affirming Deals. And not just things for me but I was getting out and about with Frank too, as he grew bigger so did the world. But that was before shit got out of hand, again.

The name Beanbot comes from Nugbot, derived from Nugget. Other names include; Babybot, Softbot, Playbot, Poobot, you get the idea. My name, Mumbot, is intended with endearment but sometimes feels like it serves to validate a robotic tedium of never-ending chores. I Am Mumbot, programmed to care/love/serve.

We call him Marcus Rashbot on account of the edgy pink designs dotted like territories across a pale, delicate sea. I push keys furiously into the blue square of the doctor’s website, a steady flow of questions I’ve already answered, attaching impossibly blurry photos, spiting out my mantra, “I just want to see my GP.” Dust Sprites, scratching between my ears and sneaking across my pillow, keep me restless. Paranoid, I wash all the towels and sheets on a super-searing fire wash, tangle myself stupid in debates over the safest, most suitable washing lotions, soaps, laundry detergent. I used only fabric softener for an inordinate amount of time in my twenties before I realised it wasn’t actually washing powder (my mum pointed it out.) This and other idiotically blonde moments contribute to the secret idea that I should never have been left in charge of another human’s health. I beat myself up about residing in a life-long accustomed and now blind-to level of filth. Marcus Rashbot displays no other symptoms of discomfort though, no irritation or change from his general demeanour of cheek and smiling silliness. I know there is no rational (ha) reason to panic.

Restrictions retighten. The news gets worse. Marcus Rashbot has caught a slice of the old separation anxiety. Locked down again, and who can blame him? I scrape back some forgotten freedom and our relationship moves into a new state of independence, only to be slammed down a peg. We move on in leaps with the grandparents only to be separated and reverse. We have our support bubbles now, something that wasn’t a thing before (if you’re talking to me about having a baby in lockdown 2 or 3 all I can say is you don’t know about having a baby in the original lockdown! – you weren’t there, man!).

Life is a tad scrambled. Becoming a new mum in 2020 has been confusing. I find it difficult to separate what has changed because of the pandemic and what has shifted indefinitely. Connections to my old life, so important post-birth, have been snatched away in a more radical fashion, exposing something raw beneath that feels way more extreme. No wonder post-natal depression is at a high, and most commonly at the moment in men. Becoming a parent is hard. What new parents need is the chance to let off steam, a few precious moments away for themselves, a beer with supporting friends. Don’t we all.

It is important to still feel like you. You lose yourself completely to another being. You are no longer the centre of your own universe. Most people hold fragments of themselves in the things they do, stored in the places they go and with the people they spend time with. We are told to find the real happiness within, in simple and unmoving pleasures like a crisp, frosty sunrise with a steaming hot coffee – to realise we are enough. But honestly, this involves one very healthy relationship with yourself (easier for some than others), to still be okay devoid of all the daily distractions often put in place to keep us outside our own heads.

All my insecurities sit around not being a real person. A shadow that morphs into different personas depending on the background, a shapeshifter. There is constant rhetoric around women having babies and “not knowing who they are anymore”. A past relationship weathered parts of my personality down to a fine powder, leaving me hyper aware and anxious about The Big Existential Qu. Would my baby remove parts of me as had happened before? Would Mumbot override other settings, become default and render previous qualities no longer operational?

The all-consuming, never-ending exhausting lifestyle of not having enough time to brush your teeth or take a shower, let alone stop and do something for yourself, something that contributes to who you really are. Because who are you otherwise except a string of actions? Mumbot programmed to serve. Actions that are just reactions to the needs of another. Do some mothers suffer this feeling of lost identity because there just wasn’t enough there before? I would have talked myself right out of having a baby, if there’d been any debate.

Luckily, this introspection fucked me up a lot more before having a baby than it does now. Maybe because I’m aware of it, almost waiting for it, like with the depression. Maybe because once your baby’s around you’re in love. You can’t compare them to any past relationship or abusive ex. I do feel a temporary disconnect from who I am because I can’t do some of the things I feel contribute to that. But I also feel its transitionary nature. We’re all trying to make the best of the current situation. It’s fucking hard for everyone. Every morning Softbot makes us smile as the world beyond our walls gets madder. I remember that nothing lasts forever and I hold him tightly because when all this is over he won’t be so small anymore.