Worlds Best Parent. Ever. Full Stop.

I have to admit I was riding high, thinking I was the best new mum in the world when I went to my second maternal health check. Sure we didn’t have it all figured out, but from where I stood, we were smashing it –  bub was still alive, we were yet to drop him (on a very hard surface) and I’d started vacuuming our carpet at least once a month in anticipation that he might, you know, one day crawl and the last thing I wanted was him choking on the remnants of a truffle flavoured potato crisp from our earlier, decadent child-free days. There was no hiding it, we were nailing this parenting shit.

So you can imagine my surprise when I met Kathleen. My new maternal health nurse, complete with a nifty fanny pack around her waist because she liked to keep everything she needed close to her as she wasn’t a fan ‘of reaching for things.’

As was usual I’d gone to this ‘not mandatory but strongly advised’ appointment with our sex trophies’ co-creator, his father, which doesn’t seem so odd until I point out that it would have been just as useful to bring a potted plant along, given Kathleen chose not to even acknowledge his existence.

‘These appointments aren’t for the father’ she pointed out. ‘There to see how your son is developing both emotionally and physically with you as a mother.’

‘Detrimentally’ I joked. She did not laugh. Kathleen never laughed.

‘The thing is’ I pointed out ‘Kathleen, I can call you Kathleen right? Both JK and I are around all our son all the time. We’ve both taken time off, together, to be with him and I think it’s important to –

‘- it says here you had a c-section’

‘Um, yep – but as I was saying, it’s important we acknowledge the father-’

‘If that’s the case you shouldn’t be sitting like that…with your legs crossed.’

‘Crossed? It’s fine.’ I said ‘my physio said it’s fine.’

‘Oh well, feel free to take someone else’s advice, that’s your choice pet, but I’m saying I don’t think it’ a good idea.’

‘My doctor also said it was ok.’

‘Well if your doctor said it was ok, and they are a doctor and I’m just a -’

‘Nurse?’

‘Huh! Maternal Health Specialist Nurse deary –

‘ – it wasn’t meant to insult you’

‘ – no insult was taken. If you want to believe your doctor that’s your call but if I were you and I’d had a c-section I wouldn’t sit like that, not if I wanted to have another child in the future, just saying.’

I kept my legs crossed in silent protest. Her eyes flaring up, my defiance noted.

‘Are you breastfeeding?’

‘Yes’

Exclusively?

‘No. He’s been combination fed since he was born.’

‘Was there a reason?’

‘He was early. It should all be written there. We did discuss this last time we came in.’

She sighed, rubbing her temple as if the fate of every child rested on her shoulders.

‘Louise, is telling me your child’s health history an inconvenience to you, because please let me know if it is and I’ll take some time now to read up on him?’

I crossed my legs a little further.

She continued.

‘So you bottle feed?’

‘Yep, about once a day. It’s good, it allows JK to be part of  the feeding process and lets me get a little sleep.’

‘Formula?’

Yes.

‘Hmmm,’ she scribbled something down for effect.

‘And what’s the reason for that?’

‘Like I said, I get a little sleep, JK can bond –

‘- well it is your choice. Sleep is very important…’

I couldn’t hold back.

‘But?’

‘It’s just if I was you and I could breastfeed, well the literature says to breastfeed exclusively, but that’s just me, and the literature.’

‘I’m not very literary,’ I said ‘I’ll continue to give him a bottle then.’

And then to my astonishment, she mumbled under her breath ‘You do what you want, don’t mind me. I’m just the maternal health specialist.’

I turned to my pot-plant for support but he was focused on distracting our sex trophy from his mother’s demise.

‘Ok’ Kathleen jumped up.

‘Lets get him undressed and weighed.’

JK stood up, starting to get bub ready, when Kathleen turned to me.

‘I’d like to see the mother get him ready’

‘I’m assuming I’m the mother in this scenario’ I sparked back.

She did not smile.

‘I’ll let you get on with it then.’

The colour drained from my face. JK was the master of getting bub’s t-shirts off quickly without squashing his head. I was not. My strong suit up until this point had been keeping bub alive with my boobs, but even that seemed to hold no sway at this point in time.

Fumbling as I got him undressed, under the vengeful eye of Kathleen I suddenly became concerned that as his jumper stuck around his head, and his little arms flailed about that I might lose custody of him just for being a bad baby un-dresser. I wasn’t smashing this parenting thing. I’d deluded myself. Maybe he was better off being raised by a woman who didn’t cross her legs?

Finally, his little head came free and he smiled as if to say ‘I only lost a little oxygen mum.’

I nodded my thanks back.

‘Turn him over’ barked Kathleen.

‘Now I have to tell you…Baby is dry’ she said.

Finally, I smiled. Something I got right. ‘Yeah, I dried him after his bath this morning. I was pretty thorough -’

‘ – no, I mean his skin is too dry. Do you moisturise?’

‘Um yes, daily.’

‘It should be forty times a day!’ (*slight exaggeration in the retelling but you get the idea…)

‘Ok’

‘And what do you use?’

‘Mineral oil – just like we were told’

‘No! Edible oils only’

And that’s when I cracked it.

‘Really? Because last time we were here- ’

‘ – Yes we!’ JK shouted out. Thanks, babe…

‘We were told there was new research and edible oils could lead to skin conditions when he’s older’

‘Then you were told the wrong information.’

‘By two of your colleagues, the other midwife-’

‘We are not midwives. We are maternal health specialists and we’re here to help you be better parents. You need to listen to me for the sake of your son. You need to know I have his best interests at heart before you continue to have a go at me.’

My hands curled up in anger.

‘Me, have a go at you? You’ve done nothing but make me feel like a barely adequate parent, no, a barely adequate human being since I’ve been here and -’

I stopped. Suddenly Kathleen’s face distorted. Her tongue recoiling back into her face with horror as urine sprayed out at her care of my son’s well aiming and meaning penis.

Squad goals.

And then just like that, any concerns I had about being a bad mum have washed away. He’d done me proud. He’d done every mother and or father being told they’re doing a bad job proud. He was my hero.

And so without finishing the appointment we grabbed our naked, still peeing son and left.

JK making a point to say we would be making a formal complaint against Kathleen because he was concerned she would upset other parents, what with her fanny-pack full of judgement. I watched him go to bat for me, I couldn’t help but smile as urine continued to run down my leg and into my shoe because we’d left the spare nappy at home…that wasn’t important right now. Being righteous parents was.

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Best Birth-Day Ever

By the time I reached 36 weeks, I think it’s fair to say, I was not the poster girl for pregnancy. I was the pregnant woman anyone thinking of getting pregnant needed to avoid at all costs. There was no glow. No increased libido. No ethereal photoshoot by the seaside with my partner’s arms wrapped around my naked belly. Wheelchair-bound thanks to crippling back pain, vaginal spasms (yes, yes it’s completely ok to be aroused by my writing of ‘vaginal spasms’’), a 35 kilo weight gain and a constant flow of discharge – I looked like and felt like a creature you’d find living under a bridge, picking at an abscess in between scaring townsfolk and eating children.

 
And so with that in mind, it was far to say I suspected the actual birth of my son would be like that scene from Alien, you know alien bursts out the guy’s gut, blood, horror etc but in my case, I imagined my baby would simultaneously punch out of my boobs, mouth, head and vag, as if he had been wearing me as a human skin suit for 9 months…

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We arrived at the hospital bang on 6am. I was scheduled for a C-section, so I knew by lunch I’d be a mum and that I’d be out of my wheelchair and the last 9 months would finally be over. I was so excited by the idea that I had never thought for a minute that I would actually enjoy a day of abdominal surgery, spinal injections and stark realities – I was going to be a mum. You can’t give them back when you’re the mum…but I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it a lot, thanks in no small part to drugs.

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And boy when they kicked in, nothing could dampen my vibe. Even when I was being told off for trying to high-five the other women in the ward “Fuck we’re having a baby ladies!! We made babies, ladies!!! – it rhymes! I’m a genius…’ (you get the picture). Turns out you’re not meant to do that… “Not everyone is as excited as you Lou,” the less angry-than-the-other-midwife said to me as I lamented everyone else’s lack of enthusiasm.

 
‘But we made humans’ I mumbled under my breath.

 
‘Not yet you haven’t…’ the midwife corrected me, ‘Gotta get it out first.’

 
Buzzkill.

 
Wheeled into the operating theatre and helped to the table, it was explained to me that someone was going to stick a needle into my spine. Right. Into. My. Spine.

 
Five minutes later, after four failed escape attempts thanks to my spasming vagina, I was resolved to my fate and let someone called an ‘Anaesthetist’, who claimed he was a ‘professional’, paralyse me from the waist down.

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From what I remember the surgery was simple enough. A screen went up and a few moments later a baby was presented to me scrotum-first. Thus my first interaction with my son was to be me beaming up at his huge gonads, which would no doubt bode well for our future relationship.

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It’s from that point on things get blurry. The only thing I clearly remember was giving a lot of double thumbs to various other drugged-out new-mums, extolling to all who would listen to my very strong opinions on bathroom bins and telling the flurry of midwives that crossed my path that we should call this whole C-section surgery affair a ‘Macduffin’. Could have been the drugs talking…maybe…

 
Finally, my son was presented to me, not a scrotum in site and with no time for a more proper introduction, he was attached to my boob – to further cement our already Oedipal-esque relationship. Now while in the past someone attaching themselves to my boobs, no questions asked, was not something I’d be cool with, when it came to this little guy I was ok it…

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By the time I wheeled up to my room, I thought to myself how nice a day I’d had. What a great birth experience it had been and how lucky I was. It was a nice thought that lasted all of 4 minutes before the pain meds started to wear off…

 

Chapter 2. The Pain.

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‘I’m not your pimp mum; ask dad’ and other things I can envisage being said to me one day…

At a BBQ on the weekend, a friend of mine after checking I was single, over my slight thing for sexually ambiguous and in some cases ambitious men, wasn’t a little bit gay as was the current rumour of the day or celibate, declared to me that she had found me the perfect guy  – her son.

‘He’s good looking’

‘All mother’s say that.’

‘Yes, but I can appreciate his good looks not only as a mother, but also as a woman.’

‘This is how Norman Bates got started…’

‘No, you’re wrong there – maybe if Mrs Bates had appreciated her sons beauty then he wouldn’t have done the horrid things he did.’

‘I think you’re wrong. I think it was her ‘appreciation’ of her son that started all the ‘troubles’.

‘Well my son is not Norman Bates, Louise.’

‘I think someone doth protest too much…’

‘Anyway’…choosing to ignore me…’He’s not only good looking, but he’s also funny, smart, well read and likes strong woman.’

‘I just don’t think so…’ I mumbled back as I played with an ingrown hair on my leg.

‘So, he’s got a girlfriend – I’m sure a woman like you Lou can work around that.’

I watched as my piece of cheese fell into the make shift ashtray of a coffee cup – perhaps I could invoke the 10 second rule – it began to felt into the tar and ash – perhaps not.

‘I don’t do mistress very well – it’s got something to do with a level of self respect I’ve built up over the years – both a blessing and a curse, I know.’

My friend adjusted her skirt, so her undies were no longer visible.

‘No, no, you wouldn’t be his mistress, you’d be his girlfriend and then you’d get married and I’d become your mother-in-law – oh it’s almost too perfect Lou.’

As I reached for a handful of potato chips I was confronted with the sudden realisation that perhaps I’d forgotten to put deodorant on that morning…and then suddenly the penny dropped.

‘You want me to break them up?’

My friend grabbed for the wine bottle, but it was empty – a half drunk, slightly warmed crownie would have to do. She lit another cigarette.

‘Yes, yes – fundamentally your role would be to break them up, but you would have other activities to fill your days with.’

I now felt like a character in a Bronte novel, sent away to act as Governess to three wayward daughters, but always knowing that the true meaning behind my employment was to give the Lord of the house the heir he always wanted and the heir his now barren (after an episode of Typhoid), frigid wife could not give him.

‘He needs an older woman to show him the ways.’

‘Older?’

‘Yes, an older woman to take control of the situation so to speak.’

‘He’s got a girlfriend, I’m sure he’s coping just fine.’

‘To be honest, I’m not sure he’s ever bought her to orgasm, and that concerns me Lou, as a mother that concerns me.’

‘Drugs, as a mother drugs should be a concern – maybe he takes drugs?’

‘And if he did Lou I’d have no control of it – you know what teenagers are like these days.’

‘Teenagers?’

‘Well he’s almost 18, so I guess we can’t really call him a teenager anymore!’

She popped the cork on another bottle and offered me a glass – in a state of befuddlement I accepted.

‘I think you’ll find you can call him a teenager a lot longer– because he is one! – What the hell!’

‘Don’t be like that Lou, I’m totally cool with you dating my son, it’s not exactly illegal – I mean he’s 17!’

‘And I’m almost 30.’

‘Exactly – that’s why it will work.’

To be fair, with the exception of his age he sounded great and it wasn’t like I’d be scraping the barrel on this one, I mean the fact he didn’t have a drivers license had never been an obstacle before, the fact he didn’t have full time employment (fuck Lou! when did you start demanding the world!) and the fact he hadn’t finished high school …well you see where I’m going with this…

‘Come on Lou, you know you’d be perfect together.’

‘He’s a child – I don’t want children.’

‘It’s not like you gave birth to him.’ She spat out as she ashed her cigarette on my dissolving bit of cheese.

‘…Oh well when you put it like that, it doesn’t seem nearly as wrong as society would dictate.’

‘I’m just saying Lou, I understand now why some fathers send their sons to older prostitutes…like in France.’

I put my wine down and considered for a moment what she was saying…it didn’t take nearly as long as I’m making out.

‘I’m not a prostitute.’

‘And you’re not French either…don’t split hairs Lou.’

‘I don’t really see it as splitting hairs, more as a much needed clarification it would seem.’

‘Well if I were you Lou, I’d take it as a compliment – the French are a very sophisticated people.’

‘Ok  – so why not send your son to France, may be on a high school exchange program? – You know, under the guise of getting an education, but really what he’s getting is an education…but then he finds out he’s barren….’

‘What – my son isn’t barren.’

‘That’s not what he told me the other night when he couldn’t find a condom.’ I joked to lighten the mood, in retrospect it was ill timed.

‘That’s not funny Lou. Nothing to joke about.’

‘I know – I’m sorry.’

Grabbing her car keys I watched my friend as she busied herself to leave.

‘You know what Lou, on second thought I think you should stay away from my son – I thought an older woman would be good because of the maturity you’d bring to the situation, but once again you’ve proved me wrong.’

‘It was a joke.’

And then my friend Tom came over to introduce me to whom I could only guess was his new girlfriend and her 12-year-old son –

‘Hey Lou’ he yelled.

‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere – there’s some special people I’d like you to meet.’ He tussled the 12 year olds hair, as if they were about to toss a ball around.

And before I could respond my friend turned to me with a kindly reminder, just before she was to storm away from me…

‘Sex with teenage boys is nothing to laugh about Lou’

Suddenly everyone stopped and stared.

‘Stay away from my son – it would do you good to remember that.’

And with that she left.

I turned around to my friend Tom and his newfound family.

‘Who wants to play a bit of football?’ I asked Tom’s proxy son.

‘I don’t think so.’ Tom replied on his behalf.

‘Yeah…I thought as much…’ I replied.

It was time to leave the BBQ – the Mister Whippy van had arrived and I felt a lynching on the horizon.

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