Bang and the dirt is gone - the magical words every pregnant woman wants to hear

Ellen and family

Ellen and family - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup, 2.4 Children columnist, has started nesting.

It was when my husband got up in the middle of the night and almost knocked himself out that he completely lost his patience with me.

Totally disoriented by the ever-shifting furniture in the corridor space next to our bedroom, he had walked into a wall unit that, earlier, hadn’t been there.

He let out a string of expletives that had the dog blushing before rounding on me as I sniggered beneath the duvet.

“I knew it was only a matter of time,” he complained. “It’s a compulsion. An obsession. It’s enough to break a man.”

I yawned and turned my back on him.

I feel for him. I really do. But the thing is I can’t help it.

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There are plenty of pregnancy phenomena, legend and folklore I find questionable.

If you’re suffering from sickness, it will be a girl. If you carry low it will be a boy. That elusive pregnancy glow which, let’s be honest, is really just a polite way of saying “there is now a fully formed bump and you’ve stopped just looking fat”.

Cocoa butter does not prevent stretchmarks. You can’t eat for two - unfortunately.

There are, however, other documented pregnancy quirks which are amusingly accurate.

Baby brain is one and cravings are another (I am dipping cheddar cheese straws into chocolate spread as we speak).

The other undeniable pregnancy-induced behaviour is nesting.

For some women this crazed cleaning phase starts towards the end of the 40 week gestation period.

For others it can occur anytime in the second trimester.

And for me, it comes in waves of frenzied activity from the moment I find out I am expecting and is generally accompanied by emotional meltdowns.

My husband is often on the receiving end of these outbursts.

Now I am no clean freak. In fact, you will not find good housekeeping anywhere near the top of my list of personal strengths. That is why I employ my wonderful cleaning lady Lynda.

But these days it’s another story.

The word “nesting” is misleading.

It conjures up images of knitting baby booties and sewing quilts, decorating a nursery with the stencils of ABC and arranging teddy bears.

What it actually means is pulling out the fridge to bleach behind it armed solely with a toothbrush.

Which of course, you should ask your partner to do for you. After all folic acid cannot protect you from the combination of heavy lifting and noxious cleaning products.

But when you are pregnant and in a nesting frenzy, nobody will meet your exacting standards or move in a suitably urgent fashion.

Everything has to be done “right now”. There is no time to waste.

My best friends these days are Cif Cream, Flash kitchen and Windowlene.

And don’t get me started on the limescale remover.

Barry Scott’s declaration of “Bang! And the dirt is gone!” is currently my biggest turn on.

So far I have taken six loads of junk to the tip.

I’ve emptied the cupboards, washed all the dishes and ran every piece of cutlery through the dishwasher on the most laborious cycle. Twice.

I have washed the windows, bleached the skirting boards, waxed the kitchen table and steam cleaned the rugs.

I have even polished the knobs on the cooker using dental floss alone.

My children’s mess is making my head hurt but all I can do about it is fantasize about digging a huge hole in our back garden, shoving the chaos into it, and covering up the evidence.

My husband went on a business trip earlier this week and came back to find that I had moved the desk out of his office and into the space by the back door where the coats used to hang.

“What is going on?” he asked.

“You can’t work in there anymore,” I told him pointing at the now empty space. “That’s the baby’s room.”

“But the baby isn’t due for another five months,” he replied exasperated.

“I have to clean it,” I replied shortly, rolling my eyes.

Surely he should realise creating a nursery was going to be my primary objective moving forwards?

On Wednesday he found me lugging boxes out of the garden shed.

“What on Earth are you doing now?” he admonished. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

“We need to hoover in here,” I replied crossly. “There is dust everywhere and too many cobwebs for me to cope with.”

“I thought the baby was sleeping in the office,” he replied jovially, trying to see the humour in my latest irrationally. “I don’t think it’s really appropriate to stick a newborn in the shed.”

At which point I burst into tears and threw my hands up in despair.

“I haven’t washed all the cushion covers yet,” I hiccupped hysterically as he led me back inside. “I can’t bring new life into a house with unwashed cushion covers.”

The nesting instinct is an overwhelming and, possibly, certifiable form of madness.

I am a biologically propelled, maniacally efficient machine.

But a study of nesting in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior claims that we mums-to-be simply can’t help ourselves – it’s the a result of a mechanism that clicks in to protect and prepare for the unborn baby.

Back when there were caves to be readied with soft moss and animal skins, back when wild predators could outrun a pregnant woman should she stray too far from home, this was nature’s way of telling us it was time to ready the roost.

And that basic instinct remains with us even today.

We continue to thrive on that desire to clean, organise and order.

All I can promise my weary husband is that once the baby arrives, these urges will stop.

This is probably because the triggering hormones recede.

But it is more likely because the post-partum mummy is just too busy and tired to clean anything with a toothbrush and dental floss - often including her own teeth.

@EllenWiddupSee more from Ellen here