There are many aspects of raising babies that would pose a challenge to the germaphobic amongst us, but I reckon the age of between six-months and a year are the grimiest of the lot.
I mean to say that while the normal course of tending for young babies leaves one awash in their bodily fluids on a daily basis, the sheer volume and ickiness of the bath we take when the babies are teething, learning to eat solids and wearing through nappies is something else again.
My youngest son is now eight-months-old, and a right little rotter for leaving a trail of saliva from one end of the house to the other as he rolls onto his stomach and tries valiantly to get himself up on his knees and move himself forward, as he knows he should. Instead, he goes backwards a metre and deposits about half-a-cup worth's of saliva on the floor, which is not so bad in itself, but combined with the slime left by our overnight slugs, gives the floor a most revolting sheen.
On the floor isn't so bad I guess - at least there's the option of actually cleaning the floor which, when the stars align, actually can happen. Worse is the baby's habit of using your face like a dummy - sucking on your cheeks and lips, gnawing at your ears, and dribbling down your nose. Combined with the amount of moisture that accumulates around the neckline of any top he's wearing, it's a wonder the child has any liquid left in his body at all.
Naturally he does, and it tends to eventually come out the other end of him. The nappies do a great job, but the teething child is one that likes to be frequently fed, meaning the likelihood of an overload in the pants department is ever-present.
Sometimes the milk doesn't get the chance to get that far, and comes back up - all over his mother or father's back usually. It's frequently at a moment when someone is cooing at the baby - when he's looking his cutest - and then suddenly, a warm jet is deposited between your shoulder blades. Lately, it's not just been a warm jet down your top, but you can actually hear cuploads-full splashing on the floor - the signal that everyone's in for a right dousing.
Like most mothers I find that this can really cause havoc in the clothing department. Eight months away from your pregnancy now - especially it was your last one, like it was mine - and you've moved on from the maternity phase. You'd like to feel a bit more human, so you dare to splash out on a few new clothes. Dispensing with maternity wear, I had also tired of breastfeeding tops, and was in the market for something new.
I'm not sure why I bothered. On my first trip out with a new top my son's nappy leaked down the left flank, he spit up on the back of it, and masticated food smeared all the way down one arm. He also left gummed up toast in my hair, and headbutted my nose (thankfully it wasn't quite as painful as the morning he thumped me in the eyes with a plastic phone rattle, but it still brought tears of pain to my eyes). I swear I washed the damned thing but every time I wore it out subsequently I would look down at a crucial moment to see dried milk crusted over its shoulder or vegemite streaks up the sleeves.
The sheer griminess of the eight month mark is only negated by how darned cute the babies are at this age, as they yabber away non-sensically and flash the broadest smiles. Almost - but not quite - enough to make you forget about the day's fourth nappy explosion, or eighth sour milk spew, or when he sneezes a mouth-load of mango surprise and muesli in your weary face.