Dependence on Power

In Praise of Mothers, Part 2, was going to arrive Thursday night, and is due to follow. However, as with anything baby related, and as I have mentioned before, the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley (whatever that means). Birthdays, flu jabs, Halloween (150-odd trick or treaters is too many!) and the final of the Rugby World Cup all managed to hinder the writing of this blog, as did a baby currently incapable of lasting five minutes without crying over her painful teething. But none were so disruptive as Thursday.

Lizzie was out shopping and I was getting Izzie ready for bed. I changed her nappy in the nursery, put her in a sleepsuit, and all that was left was a final goodnight bottle, so I started to carry her downstairs.

And halfway down, the world turned black.

We live in a village on the edge of the New Forest, so when it’s dark, it’s dark, and when there’s a power cut, it’s darker than that. I stepped on the cat (who’s black), the dog (who’s black and white), and must have bumped into every obstacle that fills a house with young children (you know the stuff – bouncers, play mats, chairs, your missing sense of sanity) before locating the carrycot so I could put Izzie down safely.

My torch lives by the back door in the kitchen, but it was hidden behind the Perfect Prep bottle-preparing machine and the steriliser, and wrapped in the wires coming out the back of them, so getting to it was a struggle. But otherwise, we were all good.

Except the baby was now crying because she wanted her bottle.

The Perfect Prep machine, as you might imagine, works on electricity. So does the kettle. But that’s okay, I figured, I’ll boil some water on the stove, because that’s gas – only the ignition button is powered by electricity, and I couldn’t find any matches (damn our non-smoking healthy living!). I could keep her warm though, because we have gas central heating – only the controller for that is electrical too, so no heating. I’d best ring my parents and tell them to expect some visitors for the night.

Thing is, we live in a mobile signal black spot so rely on the house phone to communicate. But it’s a house mobile, so when there’s no power, the handset can’t connect with the base unit and thus we can’t make any calls. In fact, the only thing that worked was Izzie’s baby monitor. I remember installing it a few weeks ago and wondering why I had to put batteries in something that was plugged into the mains. It was, clearly, for just this situation. But as Izzie was in the same room with me, it wasn’t exactly useful.

Eventually, Lizzie returned and looked after Izzie while I went up the street with the bottle machine until I found a house with lights on and borrowed a plug socket. We put a now milk-drunk baby to bed and then sat in the dark for another couple of hours, feeling surprisingly vulnerable, until the lights flicked on and Izzie started screaming, because her light was turned up full and she woke with a start.

It’s only when you have a power cut that you realise how dependant we’ve become on a single source of energy. All our gas appliances are controlled by electricity. Until I found the house that still had power, I seriously considered making a fire in the garden to boil some water – but that wouldn’t have worked either, because I had nothing to light it with!

So all parents, take note: make your home power-cut-ready. This involves:

  • Torches scattered throughout the house, especially in the nursery.
  • Matches, matches, matches. Or one of those oven-lighter things.
  • Candles.
  • A phone that plugs directly into the phone line.
  • Sterilised water – always keep a spare; don’t make it as you go.
  • A baby monitor with batteries, not just mains.
  • Plenty of blankets to keep warm.

And if the power cut comes midway through the nappy change, instead of immediately after, I have no advice to give. Just pray it never happens to you.

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