My smell receptors couldn’t have possibly realised what a sad and pathetic existence they had prior to parenthood. They lived an existence of frivolity drawing in scents such as cut grass, doughnut stalls and fairground rides. They occasionally inhaled the warm fumes from a meal that had been prepared by someone called a chef in a place known as a restaurant. The little cells fluttering with excitement as I lost myself in a perfectly scented neck or the bouquet of a boozy kiss. Even enjoying the wafts of hot air filling my nostrils with the spicy aroma of Chai tea as I walked briskly to work. The only thing in existence that occasionally offended my little nostril natives was the putrid smell of a public lavatoire. Oh, and the intermittent armpit sniff of a jumper to see whether it worthy of another days wear.
My little olfactory friends were basically contract workers, regularly being laid off due to the lack of required service, occasionally brought back into action when the taste receptors were unable to fully identify the mystery splodge down the front of a top worn on a care-free, mildly debauched night out. Garlic mayo, just in case you were wondering.
Babies change that. You quickly learn that tasting before smelling is a rookie mistake as bodily excretions plant themselves in unsuspecting areas. Twice I have been caught out by the stickiness of newborn poo on the side of my hand.
The armpit sniff-test from a single jumper turns into the Olympic sport of sorting out the dirty washing off of your bedroom floor as washed and unwashed becomes a tsunami of textiles sweeping across the carpet making it impossible to determine where the dirty ends and the clean begins.
Bathroom towels that were once warm, fluffy and wafted eau de fragrance, are depressingly replaced with towels that smell of eau de Vagrants. Note to self: It’s always best to remember which towel you used to soak up the wee accidents before using them to dry off from your fortnightly shower.
Baby clothing makes it difficult to determine whether there is a pooey present waiting for you, as they’re poppered up from head to toe. Just shoving your nose directly in the a-hole area doesn’t always come up trumps. Resolving this requires digging your nose right into the gusset, whilst swinging the baby from side to side to see which side gives the game away. Toddlers wearing tights or trousers are just dragged, from whatever activity they’re involved in, by the waistband to peer directly into the abyss. If nothing is sighted, you send the nose in just for final clearance of negatory poo status; recommence play.
There is one smelly scenario that has to be my favourite and where the olfactory system is being used simultaneously for an optimal outcome: A gossip of mothers talking busily, complaining about how their husbands dared to say they were tired and how it’s impossible to sleep when the baby sleeps. The noise level resembles the deafening chatter of seabirds nesting on a cliff side when one mother stops and says, “I think one of them has done a poo.” All the mothers stop. Silence ensues. They begin inspecting their infants’ behinds to see whether a bulge gives anything away. They all sniff the air like a skulk of vixens trying to catch the scent of their enemy in the breeze. A few automatically claim, “no, not mine. Doesn’t smell like mine.” Whilst others, with military precision, start to hunt down their young to pendulum them from side to side whilst violently sniffing or hoick the nappies from their backs to get a visual on the offending article. “Yes, it’s mine,” a mother exclaims and in an instant, normality is restored.
I wouldn’t change anything about parenthood, but every now and then, I really long for a Chai tea.