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.

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.

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.