It started as soon as friends found out I was pregnant. "Oh you'll have to get rid of the wood-burner," one of them confidently said. What, the main heat source for the whole house? "And the dogs will have to probably live in the cellar until she's walking," another said, in all seriousness, "and you should think about getting carpets".
When you have a baby, apparently you have to relinquish every single hallmark of habitation or at least cover it in curved plastic.
Well, not me. We brought the baby (now eight months old) home from the hospital, let the dogs thoroughly investigate her, upon which they immediately tired of her and went off to find some food. All the while she was stationary we didn't worry about the cellar stairs leading out to the garden (very steep and a brilliant deterrent to infirm family members) or the red-hot stove, or the kitchen units (just high enough to fit a small dog or a wriggling baby under).
"We'll worry about that when the time arises," we thought.
The time has arisen and, guess what, we're still not worrying. The very expression "baby proofing" is a horrid one.
I don't want to baby proof my house. I want my baby to live in our house, alongside us. For this reason, I do not intend to get plastic edge covers, I don't think we will be getting stair gates (here's an idea; shut the door...).
We haven't yet needed to put up a fireguard (so call social services) as the hearth gets so hot that she'd have to be made of asbestos to even try and get close to the fire. And, call me naïve but I can't imagine a time when she's crawling round near us when we won't have at least half an eye on her anyway.
We're not really in the habit of leaving the baby to her own devices and going off to have a bath.
Of course I'm not advocating placing knives in front of your child or encouraging them to play with matches. Booze is on a high shelf, cleaning products are tucked away in the cellar and delicate glass items are (mainly because they already were) out of my reach, let alone a crawling baby's.
But do we really need to go to such extreme lengths to protect our babies from finding out about the world?
I'm not alone in this at all. My friend Dan is father to two children, aged five and seven. "We didn't bother doing anything as far as I recall," he says, "and we didn't need to. As far as I can remember neither of ours ever sustained a head injury from walking into a table. They might have banged their head once and learned never to do it again but that's what life's all about isn't it?"
Another friend of mine, Sarah, says she baby-proofed everything she could get her hands on. "I don't think it made much difference," she laughs, "Charlie still managed to get her fingers into everything. That's just what children do. We put locks on all the cupboards, we had about three stair gates, we bought cable tidies, corner protectors and cushions and socket protectors.
We stopped short of buying a helmet but I probably would have gladly used one. I was so neurotic. But if she wanted to pull the books down off the bookshelves she still did...
I'm pretty sure my baby is too fat to flush herself down the u-bend, yet I am surprised to discover you can buy a toilet seat lock (does anyone really ever balance their baby on the toilet while they have a wash?). And as far as I am aware we are not in the habit of harbouring smallpox in our refrigerator, but if I was so inclined I could be duped into purchasing a fridge lock.
Ask me again in three years whether I have executed a complete about turn but for now, at least, I intend to share my house with my baby on equal terms.
What do you think?
Did your baby proof your home or just keep your baby within grabbing distance?
Did you change your views once your child started speed crawling and walking?