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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Sanz Surprise Birthday by Lou Sanz

 

It’s my birthday tomorrow and what I’m doing for it is a surprise. Yep, I’ve been told to just wear something that makes me feel good.

‘So I can wear my new fluoro pink tracksuit then?’ I asked.

‘Sure.’ My boyfriend replied.

‘Really?’

‘Yes, but understand, you’ll be more embarrassed than me.’

Well played, well played sir.

The first surprise birthday I ever had was when my sister was born, the day before my 8th birthday. As such my party and life as I knew it was cancelled – SURPRISE!

This naturally brings me to the second surprise ever thrown for me. In an effort to make up for their below par parenting towards me proceeding my sister’s arrival, my mother took me for a birthday breakfast at Denny’s (yep, in the 80s the Nepean Highway was littered with American icons…Sizzler, The Keg..did I mention we had a f**king Sizzler!). As we walked into the completely empty shrine to the pancake and hope, a 16 year-old girl called ‘Becky’ greeted us at the door. Aside from a real name the only other thing Becky lacked was an adequate education in hospitality. From the moment I met her, Becky’s lack of professionalism appalled me.

“Hi, welcome to…’ she glanced at the menu for clarification ‘…Denny’s?’

Brilliant. Happy 9th Birthday to me.

My mother only made things worse.

‘We have a booking under Sanz, but not a birthday booking just to be clear *wink wink*, just a regular breakfast booking. Yep, I’m just a mum taking her kids out for a pancake breakfast for no particular reason.’ *wink wink.

We waited while Becky took some reading and basic comprehension classes and finally she found our name on the otherwise blank reservations page.

‘Yes, for 14?’ Mum glared at her – you’re letting the team down her eyes seemed to say. Becky’s eyes on the other hand seemed to say ‘don’t be surprised to find me on the side of a milk carton one day.’

‘Um, well look if you don’t have a smaller table, we’ll happily take the table for 14 – after all we are only here for an impromptu breakfast, but not a birthday party, absolutely not a birthday party.’ *wink wink.

My mother continued on with her charade even as we stood only metres away from a table of 14 made up for a birthday party, complete with birthday banner that read ‘Happy Surprise Birthday Louise’.

But for Becky, well the tipping point had finally come.

‘So you want to have a breakfast on a table for 3 and then go to the birthday party?’

My mother’s eye’s narrowed.

‘Look given there’s a table made up for 14 already, we’ll just sit there. No problems.’ She snatched the menus from Becky and led my brother and I over to the table. Looking back at Becky coming to terms with life, I wanted to say something like ‘kill yourself now’ you know, in an act of sisterly solidarity but it was my birthday and so it was important I focus on myself, at least for one day. It was the right thing to do.

‘Well look at this’…you had to admire the woman ‘…a party for another Louise on your birthday and we’ve been sat her table! I mean what a coincidence!’.

I looked over at my brother, my only ally in this farce, but ravaged by hunger he had taken to sating his appetite with snot. I suddenly felt very alone.

Of course the only thing that could make this surprise birthday party more surprisy would be if, say we were seated right next to the car-park, you know, just so I could see my friends arriving armed with gifts and listen to my mother proclaim over and over again ‘oh the coincidence, oh the coincidence’ – made more coincidental by the fact most came clutching the invitation my mother had sent them – oh the coincidence.

I’d like to say the surprises in my life got better, but you know me by now, we’re all friends…let’s push on.

My 16th Birthday party.

‘Come meet us at the Pancake Parlour Lou’…giggle giggle.

I hung up my landline telephone chuffed. I had friends, they were awesome, they’d organised a surprise party at the Pancake Parlour and sure it was another fast food family fine dining experience, but I’d grown, we’d grown – my friends liked me and now was their chance to prove it. Life was awesome. Their life was awesome cause they were friends with me.

Finally pancakes would redeem themselves. I was glad I was about to give them the opportunity to do so.

But then the bill came, after the pancakes and my friends firmly cemented themselves as dicks. Not one of them had bought enough money to pay the bill, let alone my serving of ‘All You Can Eat Maple Pancakes’.

‘Yeah I guess in 1954 pancakes were a lot cheaper. Inflations a bitch.’ I found myself saying in attempt to emphasise with my friend Gavin, who stood before me clutching 20c and a hard-on.

‘Well if you hadn’t had the extra side of butter Lou.’

‘Totally’ I said ‘you’re right, far call. If I’d known you were working to a budget…’

I couldn’t blame it entirely on them – I had low self-esteem , I’d been the one to settle for them. Slow clap Sanz, slow clap…

Thank god the money I’d gotten for my birthday to buy a bra that did up at the front was enough to cover the shortfall. Oh the coincidence.

 

 

 

 

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A girls guide to having an origami (well a rough estimate)

For years my relationship with my self-esteem has been fraught with friction, none of it helped by my self-esteems amazing ability to fuck off when I quite obviously need it the most.  Such famous incidences include:

1.    The time that in the middle of sex a guy told me he fancied someone else and without the guidance of ‘self-esteem’ I thought what the hell ‘let’s finish what we started, I mean he had to like me to get this far.’

2.    The time I set my boyfriend up with my friend because she was blonde because as he told me ‘come on Lou, you know this isn’t going to work out, like I don’t even like you much, well not as much as I like your friend – come on help a fella out.’ And with my self-esteem nowhere in sight I did.

3.    The time I closed my eyes and let an old boyfriend of mine pretend I was a man, my self-esteem more then likely watched from a gallery seat.

4.    The time I got back together with an ex based on this conversation ‘so I was in San Fran trying to tap… well, let’s just call them someone, and… let’s just say their tits weren’t real and then I thought ‘you know what… Lou’s tits are real’ and so then I thought about it some more and thought ‘yeah, I quite like Lou’s tits’, so deep down in my subconscious that meant that some part of me was attracted to you, and is probably still attracted to you – so what do you say we give it another shot? – and I did.

Now I’m not sure what when my self-esteem decided to leave me, but if I had to guestimate I’d say it was around the time I needed to get my first bra. I was about 14 and after my mothers comments of ‘I can see your crumpets’ and ‘someone’s been invited to party at bolder mountain!’ I agreed to go and get fitted for a bra. As my mum grabbed the car keys and rounded up my father and younger brother for another Sanz family adventure I excused myself to the bathroom only to discover that to coincide with ‘Lou gets her first bra’ I also had been visited for the first time by ‘Aunt Flo’.

Now. I’m not sure how most of you purchase your feminine hygiene products, but on that day my mother decided we should stop into ‘Campbell’s Cash’n’Carry’ to stock up; but she didn’t come in with me, couldn’t find a car park – no she sent my dad and I in together and just before we stepped inside the building she wound the window down and shouted ‘get super  – I’ve run out of mattress protectors.’

The department store wasn’t much better, as mum had ordered my brother to walk behind me on ‘spot patrol’. A lovely woman named Irene approached us to help out – I think she saw the large jumper tied around my waste as a sign that perhaps this was the first time out of the house without my polio support unit. She offered my mother one of those bras that does up at the front – my mother was not impressed ‘gotta make the boys or girls work for their crumpet – hey Lou? Hey? Hi five!’ I watched in horror as my mother and Irene shared skin.

Finally I convinced my mum that the dignity of a changing room was much needed, especially after that cute Xavier boy walked past me as my mother fitted a bra on the outside of my Sportsgirl t-shirt and just as he was in ear shot spoke the irretrievable words ‘and smells like someone’s going need deodorant too – this is a big day for you Lou – if you’re lucky it’ll be boys next.’ Following that remark I knew I was going to be lucky to be fingered by a cousin in later years.

Now it’s rather hard to hang yourself in a department store change room, but fuck I gave it a right go and if you look at the little stool they give you to rest your clothes on as your jumping off point then you’re well on your way to success, that is until your little brother crawls under the door but only enough to see you putting a bra around your neck and screams out ‘mum, dad! Lou’s doing that thing that Michael Hutchinson did to have an origami!’.

Suddenly the door burst open, my father hurtling towards me before I could jump off the stool and my mother sternly standing in front me taking the scene in – me in my undies and a bra around my neck, my brother still lying on the floor and all she could think to do was offer up more advice ‘now is not the time to start a life of self pleasure Lou – first things first let’s get you some supportive underwear and then what you do behind the privacy of closed doors is up to you.’ She then turned to my brother ‘now who wants milkshakes?’ and then to my father ‘I think your daughter might like your opinion on the whole front or back clasp debate Michael.’

I didn’t think it could get much worse but as the years went on my self-esteem became more of absence in my life rather than an active participant – such as last Friday night when I ended up at Billboard nightclub.

I could end this story on that above line alone but then I wouldn’t get to the bit where inside the nightclub and with my friend telling me I looked like a mother searching for her wayward daughter and almost being overwhelmed by the amount of pussy that one can glance based entirely on the knowledge that Friday nights at Billboard appear to be underwear free nights, I had a man approach me – ‘a man of the one eyebrow, I sweat a lot and probably chaff variety’- and what happened next was entirely my self-esteems fault – rather than think I was too good for him, what went through my mind was this ‘that guy looked around this nightclub spotted me and thought I can tap that – oh my god he thought I was achievable; I have become achievable for men who fit the profile of a sex offender – fuck me, does this mean I’ve finally decided on a type?

My friends laughed at me, pointing out that maybe tonight I could find if sex-offenders spooned after that act and so I escaped off into the bathroom hoping to just take a moment to find my confidence in the bottom of my handbag when I walked in on two girls helping each other adjust their g-strings and in the middle of a conversation entitled ‘if you don’t get Brazilian waxes you shouldn’t be allowed to have sex.’

It was then I realised I couldn’t hate my self-esteem – because unlike those two girls in that bathroom that night, well at least I knew what self-esteem was (well that’s what I told myself as I removed the toilet paper from the bottom of my shoe that both girls were kind enough to point out – they could probably tell I was one of those girls now banned from sex according to their new rules) – Score one for Lou! Hi-five….anyone?…anyone?…anyone at all….

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The girl doesn’t eat potato.

My dad was making dinner the other night when suddenly he stopped mid chop, ‘are you eating potatoes these days? It’s just your mother and I were discussing earlier that I might make a nice potato based side tonight, but if you’re not eating potato’s then there isn’t much point’.

Curiously I replied yes to the potato question, hesitating only to pick up the TV Guide.

‘It’s just your mother said that you might not be eating potato, so I was just making sure.’ ‘I don’t think I’ve ever given up potato before dad. It’s really not a problem.’ But he’d seized all chopping now and moved closer to the couch as my mother emerged from the decking, glass of wine in hand, binoculars in the other. ‘No, what I said Michael….’ I watched as my mother sat herself on the chaise lounge, helping herself to a handful of wasabi peas ‘…was that Louise shouldn’t eat potato.’

I reminded myself that track suits pants have elastic waistbands because it’s part of their design and that I was wearing them because I planned on going for a nice brisk walk later on and not because there was no other option now that my girth couldn’t possibly support a zipper or button pant like garment. I was certain an eating disorder lay dormant in me and that maybe this conversation was the catalyst for its release. At 28 and with my self esteem back on track it seemed only right it should rear its ugly head now. I could do with the drama.

‘Now does that include sweet potato?’ my father enquired as he rummaged through this secret potato sack he kept hidden away under the sink. A few months earlier my mother had requested that all carbs be not seen in the house, and that is how I explained the cereal packets in the bathroom cupboard to visitors. No one ever seemed surprised by this after seeing my mother attempt to eat vegemite on toast blind folded – ‘if you’re body can’t see it, then it can’t really be food’. My argument about fat blind people was not welcomed.

‘You know what darling, I’m not sure if it does include sweet potato. I’d have to look it up on the Weight Watcher’s site.’ As my mother pulled out her Blackberry I dreamed of a time when I didn’t live with my parents, but as tears welled in my eyes I thought best not think about what might’ve been.

‘Ok, according to them, she can have half a steamed normal potato or one full steamed sweet potato. I guess it just comes down to how hungry she is. How hungry are you?’ Her eyes burnt into my elasticised waist.

‘Really, I’m not that hungry.’

‘Oh here we go. We’re not having a go at you Louise, so don’t get all victim on us. It’s just that we as your parents are interested in knowing what you put in your mouth.’

It would only fall on deaf ears explaining to my mother and father that at 28 years of age neither of them had any control over what I put in my mouth. It was a brutal truth that an ex boyfriend of mine had learnt the hard way and sometimes I found myself wondering how he explained that scar to all the other girls since me. I’m almost certain all of his encounters since that fateful Christmas night opened with the line ‘sorry bout that’.

‘I think we should have beans as a side this evening, until we work out where we stand as a family on potatoes’, my father proclaimed as he poured himself another glass of wine. ‘Only if you use the fresh olive oil to drizzle them with, otherwise they taste to green’ my mother lamented.

I decided not to self harm that day. I’d save it for a special occasion, or maybe I’d save it for Mother’s Day. I’m still undecided.

 

 

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