“Gina causes most problems,” she starts off. It’s a slap on the cheek as I mumble, “My baby is… umm… kinda… sorta a Gina-Ford baby.” It’s time I shut up and get out my pen. I’ve booked a session with the infamously never-stressed-out baby-encyclopedia guru, Cecile de Scally. She has credentials coming out the wazoo as a qualified nurse and midwife with nearly 25 years’ experience, 18 of which are in Dubai.
Cecile handles babies like a pro and she certainly is, but Dubai buzzes about her for much more than that. Go into any pregnant soon-to-be mama’s phone or just-delivered of mom of 1, 2, 3 or 4 and you’ll be sure to find her mobile number stored under CECILE FAIRY GODMOTHER EMERGENCY CONTACT. She has this contagiously calming effect; when faced with any problem she tackles it head on like a mathematical equation where it is only a matter of time before the solution is identified and used to your advantage, because after all, she is a great believer that “You need to take care of you too” and that anything can happen with the right doses of “consistency and persistency.”
It is that overly logical yet motherly calming vibe that has clients coming back and messaging her, Skyping her and sending her baskets of cookies to thank her for giving them their nights back. I loved it. I loved it all. The comfy couches, the free somehow amazingly tasting cappuccinos and the personal feel of it and more importantly her and the whole damn thing.
Switching from being a trauma nurse where she started in 1983 in South Africa to becoming a midwife, little did she know that when she stepped off the plane in Dubai in July 1997 at 10 pm into 38-degree scorching heat that she’d still be here 18 years later. She’s honest (as she is with every word that comes out of her mouth) in telling me the major difference she found in both professions was the happiness. Making the shift from “Sorry for your loss” to congratulations on your new “bubba” as she lovingly refers to newborns, she found her calling and we are all thankful to have her.
She’s very military like and tough when it comes to “You taking care of you too” bit, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that when you first meet her all you want to do is lay your head in her lap and have her tell you everything is going to be all right. Or, “Ahhh right” as she says in her soothing South African accent.
She qualifies her Gina comment by advising me to interpret Gina for my lifestyle when I ask her why my son keeps waking up screaming. Ah, maybe my ‘lifestyle’ is ‘colicky baby’ right now.
She dives in with spot-on advice, not because time is money, but more because she knows the attention span of a mom is that of a goldfish. Or worse. A mama goldfish. She has one of those twirly calendars I so desperately want, not to use it, but because it looks so professional, wise, and educated when looking up… umm what it is that they look up on those things? Whatever, it looks cool.
The quality and aura of her office made me want to exaggerate how well my kids slept. I’m not sure why, but I wanted to impress her. But the questions she bombarded me with soon showed the cracks in my parenting. All two years of it so far.
Yes, yes, I could remember from my first child that a 4 week old should be sleeping 12 hours a night and 4 hours a day when in reality it felt like a total of 2 hours not 16. She said, “Absolutely amazing.” Meaning that it was amazing I remembered that? Or amazing that I could lie and not even flinch?
Talking her through my day she called 6:00 pm “Crazy town.” I called it, “Bitch hour in the witch house.” I wanted her to move in with us to fix all my problems. Marriage included. Oh, and I also had this recurring ingrown toenail that really hurts. Could she fix that, too?
The epitome of focus and love-with-boundaries, she said things very fast like, “Diaper-feed-diaper” and “HAT.” No, no not hat as in sunhat or cute sexy floppy beach hat. HAT is “Happy awake time.” Note to self.
When I explained that I get up, change his diaper and then make his milk she assured me that the milk could be prepared beforehand and wouldn’t spoil before the feed because we live in AC… not in Ethiopia and that I wouldn’t have the World Health Organization at my door at 3am. I’d have a baby who drifts back to sleep.
It got beautiful. It got philosophical. Phrases volleyed such as, “Building a house breaking it down room by room…Get rid of terrible time. Learn the value of crying. Cue check. Consistency and persistence.” I left her office with “4am feed shrink, 11 increase” etched in pen up my forearm. I wish I’d had a recording device. She promised me an email follow-up to discuss the difference between gas and overtiredness. I had both and ran home to get the AC filters cleaned.
Cecile clearly reads individual families; not spouting by-the-book one-size-fits-all solutions because “Magic… magic things are better.” I can’t tell you what that means. I’ve forgotten. But it works, damnit.
She made me go home and do Mommy Homework: “Thinking Spot – Stand on It.” No, it wasn’t a new yoga pose. It was these revolutionary words that rang in my ears as I made a Reward Chart for my toddler and pre-brewed the dream feed for my two month old: “It is not bad to use emotional blackmail on a child if it is for her benefit.” Key gems like that and so many others, “Take care of you” and “Consistency and persistency” rattled off her tongue as I struggled to jot them down while maintaining eye contact with her piercing blue very fairy godmotherly eyes.
This turned my thinking about mommyhood inside out. Why make it a battle when you can use a tool – show pictures, dish out a gold star, or say, “Hey, what’s that out the window?” to distract and help you win a situation. Because parenting is a whole bunch of situations and we lose so many of them, it’s nice to feel like we are allowed to win sometimes.
I think Cecile may have even given me a gold star on her secret Reward Chart for Mommies hidden under her twirly calendar thingy. I’m not sure, but who cares, she hugged me when I left her office and that made me feel like I’m doing “Just faine.”
Baby Senses officially opened their doors June 12, 2015 and has been widely received as a haven for moms to chat, relax, hide out and compare notes while taking notes on anything and everything Cecile says. It is the much-needed mommy bomb shelter that Dubai has been waiting for and I for one will be packing my bags and making my way there and perhaps staying for a while. In addition, they run a weekly Mommy’s corner where a variety of subjects are addressed every Tuesday morning between 9-11– it’s a popular scene. With topics ranging from incontinence to first aid to bra-fitting, the options are endless, as is her time in helping out overwhelmed moms. Or so she makes it appear as so. That is the magic that Cecile and Baby Senses brings: hope, some excellent advice and more importantly endless Olaf-esque warm hugs.