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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Warning: Toilet Humour (or How I Learnt To P** Again)

I read once that a guy was so constipated that he took a hot shower, bent over and tried to spoon himself out. It was a success and that spoon is supposedly still in circulation today. A true hero’s journey.

Why do I mention this?

Because I too once thought the idea of removing a shit with a spoon was beneath me, that is until five days after having my son, I found myself hunkered over a hospital toilet, toothbrush in hand, contemplating a similar fate.

Here’s the thing. No one tells you that your first shit after having a baby is going to quite possibly be a worse pain than actually birthing said baby. No one says you become so consumed by the painful and never ending reluctant evacuation that you can barely focus on your new child, let alone name them. No one tells you that the downside of being pumped so full of painkillers is the cementing of your intestinal tract, much like that of a heroin addict.

And absolutely no one tells you that you might end up squatted over a toilet, crying, staring at sign warning against ‘anal strain’ and considering, just considering…

‘JK – are you there?’ I shouted out through the slightly ajar toilet door, into my hospital suite.

‘Yeah, babe. Any movement at the station?’ he asked kindly.

Yep, this is what our relationship had now come to. With the intimacy of childbirth a distant memory, our joint focus had turned to whether or not I would ever be able to provide a stool sample again.

‘No’ I whimpered. ‘The trains still delayed.’

‘Oh, babe. Sorry.’

Pause.

‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

Pause. I looked at my toothbrush.

Dare I ask?

Could I ask?

Should I ask?

I mean he had just seen a human ripped out my intestinal lining (did I mention I failed biology in high school?) and that had, I was in no doubt, brought us closer together, so I mean surely a request to bend me over and scoop poo out of me would only bring even more intimacy and meaning to our relationship?

Or…

Well…

There was always the possibility that it would destroy our relationship.

But here’s the thing – for a fleeting moment, as I saw my strained reflection in the mirror (yep, great place to put a mirror btw) I thought that it might be actually worth ruining my marriage for. I mean I could always meet someone else…

‘Lou, everything alright in there?’

He’d picked up on my silence. My contemplation.

‘Um…is there a spoon out there?’

‘Um…I don’t think so. Why? Do you want me to ask the nurse for one?’

‘Um…’

‘Lou?’

Pause.

‘Are you going to ask me to scoop you out?’

Silence.

We had reached this point. If I said yes, that could be the end of us. If he said no it could be the end of us. 

I took a deep breath, ready to give me answer –

BANG!

The door flew open.

‘And how are we going today?! Still no movement at the station I see!’

A nurse beamed down at me.

‘Nup’ I replied. A sudden wave of relief washing over me.

‘Best we get you some laxatives.’

Laxatives!

‘To help move things along. Can’t have you doing all the hard work on ya own.’

Fuck! That was right! Laxatives! Other drugs! How had I not thought of that?

‘That would be great’ I said, beaming like an idiot, as JK cried tears of joy in the other room.

‘No worries, I’ll go grab some right now.’

She paused. Turned back.

‘What’s with the toothbrush?’

THE END.

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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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Hello Leakage, my new friend.

Date night.

  1. Soft candles – check
  2. Billy Joel love-making soundtrack – check
  3. Dog locked out – check
  4. Temperature just right – check
  5. Billy Joel love-making soundtrack destroyed in mysterious house fire – check
  6. Incense…lots of incense…because we can’t quite seem to shake the smell of –

‘Urine’ my partner confirmed. ‘The whole room smells like urine.’

Then he sniffed me.

‘It’s you. You smell like wee.’

‘That’s ok’ I cooed ‘it’s just a little leak, we can push through.’

I burped – ‘wasn’t me’ I giggled ‘it’s the baby. They must be awake.’

And with that, my partner rolled off me.

‘You really smell like wee, it’s quite intense.’

I heaved myself up onto my new, yet-to-be colostrum stained U-Pillow.

‘You’ll need to get changed’ he stated ‘and wash.’

‘What are we talking?’ I asked ‘Flannel wash? Laundry trough dip or are you suggesting full shower?’

He took another sniff.

‘Shower. I’ll be needing the trough to soak your pyjamas.’

Since getting pregnant my body has been full of surprises – finding ingrown hairs under my boobs – where no hair had lived before; something I like to call Circular Vomiting much like circular breathing, except, vomit forms in my stomach, comes out through my nose into my mouth and because I’m driving and can’t pull over, I’m forced to swallow it back into my lungs and nearly die. REPEAT. Then there’s hair that grows across your stomach giving the illusion of a moustached man being trapped inside you. And though there are many others wonderful #miracles I’ve been experiencing none have thwarted me as much as the leakage.

The constant leakage.

I was at Pilates (because I’m one those really fit pregnant woman – see pic) getting my leg extensions on when I felt a warm liquid start running down my grey leggings. It was also at that exact moment I saw the horror in the other members of the class who for some reason were positioned opposite to me, as they too saw the amber liquid trickle down my leg.

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‘Lou’ my instructor quietly said ‘do you want to go get yourself cleaned up?’

I raised my leg in defiance, displaying the full-scale saturation that had engulfed my crutch

‘Nup, I’m good, still got two more sets to go.’

And with that I squeezed, maintaining eye contact with everyone the whole time.

But even I knew as acted out urine soaked vengeance on my Pilates class that I couldn’t go on like this forever. That at some point I would need to concede that I had a bladder problem, albeit a temporary one, but a problem just the same and I needed to face up to it.

Driving home that night I pulled into a pharmacy and found myself standing in front of the incontinence shelf. Based on the amount of incontinence ads I’d seen on midday TV I guess I was expecting more of an entire aisle dedicated to leakage, but alas, I’d make do with just a shelf. Now, at 28 weeks pregnant I needed to decide what sort of leaker I was, a decision, if I was being honest, I wouldn’t have thought I’d needed to make at least until I was 60 years old, at least.

Was I A Sneezer-Leaker?

A Giggle-Leaker?

A Dog Walking-Leaker?

A Making-Just-An-F**kin-Cup-of-Tea Leaker?

Or was I…

A Just-Being-Alive Leaker?

An Everyday Saturator?

A Cold-Drip Urinator?

Answer – I was all of the above. I am all of the above. I’m an All-Day, Every-Day Leaker. Feel my moistness!

Arriving home I told my partner about my latest self-realisation. He hugged me,let me know it was all going to be ok. That this was only temporary and that there was nothing I could do that would turn him away from me. It was a relief to hear.

‘Lou’ JK whispered as he hugged me close.

‘Yes?’ I cooed back.

‘Did you just wee on me?’

‘Yes, yes I did.’

He started to cry.

‘There, there…’I comforted him.

‘It’s nothing a shower won’t fix.’

 

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Teaching Your Lover to Drive by Lou Sanz

 

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Over the last few months I’ve been teaching my boyfriend to drive. Life got in his way and he never got around to getting it. I’ve learnt to accept this excuse as an ingrained narrative of how his life has played out thus far. Relationships I’ve learnt, for the most part are a lot about letting things slide. I’m good like that.

The first thing you’ll realise when teaching a lover as opposed to a child to drive is that deep down you still have a need for them to not leave you and to like you, really like you. You also have to make sure their self-esteem is propped up at all times, regardless of your own personal safety and reassure them that everyone nearly runs over a pedestrian from to time.

Also as you’re not a parent to your lover, well hopefully you’re not, you can’t say the following:

‘Sharpen up’

‘You nearly killed someone’

‘You nearly killed that whole school bus’

‘Stop being an idiot’

‘What do you mean you don’t know how to reverse park/ do a 3 point term/ merge…’

‘Get out of my car’

‘Fine! Walk home!’

‘You wanna drive an automatic? And I guess you wanna get your legs waxed after we finish?’

‘This car is worth more than it was to raise you, remember that.’

‘Stop!’

‘For the love of god stop!!!!’

‘Shit we’re going to die’

‘Merge…merge, merge, merge, MERGE!!!!’

‘Have you put your seat bell on?’

‘Hand brake! Hand brake!’

‘Do that again and you’re grounded!’

‘There’s still so much I want to do with my life!’

When you’re teaching a lover to drive it’s all about wanting to say those things and finding other ways to say it.

‘Hey babe, maybe the cars not turning on because you haven’t put the key in the ignition? Must have been a really tough day at work. Here, let me turn the car on for you. Love you.’

‘Hey babe, I know technically you’re in the right and that pedestrian shouldn’t have j-walked but remember regardless that you’re in a car and as such you have to be the more responsible one. Yes, they were definitely in the wrong. Yes,  I reckon they got quite the fright. Yes, you were right and they were wrong. Love you.’

‘Hey babe due to a traffic incident happening right now we’re about 10 seconds away from impending death if you don’t stop right this minute…or whatever makes you comfortable. Love you.’

‘Hey babe there’s a park…there’s one there and there and there and there…that’s ok, we’ll find another…there’s one…and there’s one and another one, and another one…nup you’re right, let’s circle the block and see if we have any luck next time.’

‘You look very handsome today, have you done something with your hair? No? Oh you’re sitting in the drivers seat, that’s what it is. Makes you look all sexy and full of authority. Wanna drop me at work? Sure you’ll have to leave the car there and catch a tram home but I’ve got a real hankering to be your passenger, sexy driving man.’

‘No babe,  I only grab the door like that when we get really close to trucks going 110 on the Hume Hwy because I’m working through my own stuff right now. Love you.’

‘Indicators are cars ways of expressing their feelings and intentions to each other and sometimes even when they don’t feel like talking to each other, they have to.’

‘Hey babe,  you’ve got to understand that sometimes when I tell you do something, it’s not as your girlfriend beating her man down, but as a woman who has over 16 years of driving experience and a responsibility to other people on the roads telling you not to do something. Love you.’

Teaching your partner to drive can either cement your relationship or tear it apart limb by limb, leaving a rotting carcass by the road side with nothing but a smear of blood; your only reminder that once you deeply cared for each other.

At the time of writing this blog we’re still together.

 

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