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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With All Seriousness

‘You’re a mum now Lou’ my friend informed me as I sat before her, tea in hand, despair draping my face. ‘You’re going to have to learn to deal with it.’

I silently opened a packet of Teddy Bear biscuits as she continued.

‘You’re just won’t be able to be funny anymore. Happens to the best of us. I use to be fucking Conan O’Brien till I had kids. Now everything I say comes across as if I’m giving a speech at the Hague.’

And just like that, she had confirmed my deepest fears – that now I’m a mum, everything I say and do will forever be read and taken with all seriousness.

F**k. For someone that makes a living from writing funny things, this did not bode well. I mean, I’d had a baby, there were bills to pay, a new car I’d bought to live in…

Yet the thing is, I had/have cause for concern. It had already started – the ‘with all seriousness.’

Last week my boyfriend/fiancé’s face flashed up on my phone – ‘F**k, he can’t live without me’ I chuckled to myself as I paused Netflix’s F.B.I Files (‘True stories from the F.B.I.’) ‘I bet he’d kill for me if I asked him….’

‘Yo, waz up?’ I casually enquired with my usual greeting.

‘Is everything ok?’ He blurted out between tears. I sensed something was wrong so I paused the TV. I’m good like that.

‘Why? Should something be wrong?’

‘I just got a text asking if We were ok. Are We ok? Why would We not be ok?’

I thought about it. Were We ok? Perhaps this was my out? Mark Ruffalo had recently landed in the Gold Coast and I had just gotten my legs waxed a month earlier…coincidence?

I decided to give it a go.

‘I don’t know. You tell me. Are we ok?’

‘What?’

‘I mean unless you’ve done something wrong?’

I un-paused the TV. This definitely was a conversation that could continue with background noise.

‘No, no…I mean don’t think so.’

‘Are you sure…?’

He fell silent for a moment, searching his brain for an incident, one where he’d fucked up so much that it would undoubtedly drive me into the arms of The Hulk.

‘Someone from work rang. Said you posted something on Facebook, about our relationship. She was worried.’

I flipped over to a documentary entitled ‘My Time in a Cult’. Winner.

‘And then she said it was something about me no longer being your lover, that I’d become your carer.’

‘Oh, that? It was a joke.’

‘She didn’t think it was a joke.’

‘It was clearly a joke. That’s my thing.’

I scrambled to pull up Facebook on my phone, only to notice 11 unread text messages had popped up, including 3 voicemails and various Facebook notifications.

‘And then my brother left a message asking if it was true –

‘- You are not my carer.’ I assured him from our bed, wearing an adult diaper, pushing 100 kg, wheelchair idling by my side table, power pumping two boobs at a time…

‘All I wrote was…’

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-13-30-17

 

 

 

‘Remember, from the other night when you were reading that SBS article, and I thought it was funny given I’d just wet the bed for the second time that evening and we’d laughed about how we really needed to get around to buying a mattress protector. Remember? It was funny.’

I scrolled through the messages:

Saw your post – it gets better xx

You and JK will be fine xx

I’ve sent you a link to a single mother’s Facebook group. Mostly widows but heaps of great tips. xx

I never liked him. Let’s do coffee soon x

This is just a kindly reminder that your ANZ card payment is now overdue.

I’m on my way over. Bringing chocolate! How could he!!! ☹ ☹ ☹

Did I leave my hairdryer at yours????

The Facebook messages were much the same

‘Thinking of you and the bub during your turbulent time xx’

‘Not you guys!!!’

‘Hi, my name is Kirtia and I like sex and men. Please meet??’

I couldn’t understand what was going on.

It was clearly a joke. I only ever posted funny things. I was the funny girl. What was happening?

And so this was when I called my friend for reassurance, the one who now works for the Hague…

‘Everything you do, write or post about from this point onwards will be met with a degree of earnest belief and genuine concern. Gone are the days of flippant remarks, you’re part of something bigger than yourself- being a mum on social media.’

‘But I’m not just a mum.’

‘As of now Lou, yes, yes you are.’

I took the last remaining Teddy Bear biscuit offering none to my friend.

‘Don’t despair Lou. You can still be funny in private, you know, as long as no one is watching, listening or reading you, but once you post your funny on Facebook, Twitter, Insta, blog about it, or continue to post on that YouTube Channel you made that no one ever watches – it will only be seen as a cry for help, a need for support, a plea for understanding, shit Lou, I mean with any luck you might end up a mummy blogger – purely by default.’

‘You shut your mouth!’ I spat at her.

It was a truth bomb I clearly wasn’t ready to hear.

‘You need to leave’ I said shaking ‘Get out of my house’.

And with that, she was gone.

A few weeks late I took to social media again. This time posting on the hilarious feeder-esque situation I now found myself in.

It was my comeback. A nuanced, funny observation on breastfeeding-


screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-13-29-47

 

 

 

My phone beeped:

‘OMG Lou. Are you ok? Just saw your post. Can I recommend Lanosin for your chafed nipples…’

Beep! Another message…

And just like that, my fate was sealed. My friend had been right. I was f**ked. Chafed and f**ked.

 

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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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Where’s My Murphy Brown?

 

Last week as I wandered the streets looking for purpose, I overheard a woman and her friend bemoan the current state of television.

‘I miss family shows you know? Like, The Cosby Show and Hey Dad.’

Her friend nodded in agreement as if she too had been stuck down a mine shaft with her companion for the last three years…

I watched as they continued on their way, no doubt going home to old VHS recordings of The Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris Variety Hour while eating Subway sandwiches.

Nostalgia can be a powerful thing. It makes us reflect on more ‘wholesome’ times, even if most of the time we are reflecting through rose coloured glasses.

Indeed, when it comes to TV we are particularly susceptible to this, just look at the recent reboots of Fuller House and The Gilmore Girls. We somehow have managed to convince ourselves that these shows were from a better time, you know, when you stayed at home with the family, without a single smartphone screen in site and simply watched families be real families – unlike like the chaos of TV today.

Yet they were from a better time, but for a much better reason – TV was bolder, not always in a good way, but it took chances.

Stay with me on this…

And nothing was bolder than situation comedy…

I can’t cover all the comedy from the 80s through to the 90s, so I’m going with a few that just popped into my head while I thought about this topic.

I’m going to start with Punky Brewster – this is a show you couldn’t pitch today unless it was reworked as a gritty urban drama written by the guy who penned The Wire.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, 7-year old Punky Brewster was a modern-day Annie. Abandoned by her mother, along with her dog Brandon, in a grocery store car park, she finds shelter in an empty apartment, only to be discovered by building manager Henry – a single, older man who lives on his own.  She moves in with this stranger and it all works out happily ever after.

Ok, to recap – abandoned 7-year-old girl, moves into a squat and is discovered by a man, whose other passion aside from building maintenance, is photography. In the 80s this was a ridiculously popular family friendly show. Today, it’s a Law & Order SVU episode.

Like I said, bold.

And let’s not forget The Golden Girls. A bunch of women over the age of 50 (yes, over 50 and on actual television screens) all without the responsibilities of husbands and children (well, with the exception of Sofia, but that’s different) live a wonderful, friendship filled, at times challenging but rewarding life in Miami, with their own storylines and character motivations. They even eat cheesecake at least once a night and they actually look like women who would eat cake. And no, Hot in Cleveland is not the equivalent.  No, this show was groundbreaking and unfortunately one can’t help but feel that after that ground broke we’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years refilling the hole, and filling it with cement…

Let’s see, The Golden Girls tackled important issues such as aging, disability, gay rights, feminism (it was a feminist show full stop), AIDS, aged care, loneliness, death, gun control, reproductive rights – heck, it even covered Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – by using humour and pathos. So a bunch of amazing actresses over 50, on our televisions, being funny, with no fixed lead male characters…our equivalent today is….is….is….is…I’m sure something will come to me…maybe there’s something on Netflix…

Rosanne. There I said it. Weird ending aside, this show was and is to this day still bold TV. Yes, before Mike and Molly, believe it or not we had other large lead characters on our screens – Roseanne and Dan Conner. But being big wasn’t the focus of their show. No, it was about story, family and all the crap we have to get through every day just to survive. It was hilarious, relatable and is the reason I lusted after corkscrew curls for most of my teens.  Our equivalent of a working class family today – The Middle. That is all. I’m just going to leave that there – The Middle.

(P.S. By the way, the fact that real-life Darlene married the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes, makes up for the way the show ended…barely).

And in these days of debate surrounding gender pay gaps, abortion rights, gay and transgender rights and online trolling of women is our god damn Murphy Brown! The only comparison that springs to mind is Press Gang, but even then that show was of the same ilk and time. I can’t help but think our 2016 version of Murphy Brown would be the story of a single working mum trying to have it all, set to a montage backdrop of New York City.

Now I’m not saying that just because a show was bold makes it somehow better. There was definitely a fair share of bold and questionable in the 80s. Just take Perfect Strangers – and the less said about that the better. Much like the questionable set-up of Punky Brewster, Charles in Charge could easily be tainted with the same SUV brush today. Charles, a college-age student moves in with a family who has a teen daughter, as their babysitter and housekeeper. Yep, college student moves in with family, who has a teen daughter…and he becomes in charge of her day, of her life… I’m not saying college-age men can’t babysit 16-year-old girls, but this was the 80s and it was Scott Baio. That’s all I’m saying.

Maybe I just miss Let The Blood Run Free or Doogie Howser MD too much and that’s why I wrote this, but I’m not sure how much I’d like a reboot of a show about a teen genius that would inevitably just make me question the life choices that have lead me to still be a blogger and a renter at 36. Perhaps I don’t need bold TV like that, perhaps I should be content with groundbreaking TV like Modern Family that finally gives much-needed visibility to the older man/ younger woman relationship.

I’ll think about it… while I’m thinking about a TV comedy that stars women over 50 not being predominantly caregivers – sorry, couldn’t resist.

 

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Dream A Little Dream

I’ve always been a firm believer that if someone, even with all the best of intentions, feels the need to unburden last night’s dream on you over coffee, it’s ok to end the friendship there and then. They’ll understand. If not, in time they will. They will.

But being the massive hypocrite I am, I’m now that friend, the one with the dreams, and I just have to talk about it.

The other night I had a dream where I had to mediate the Weasley Twins from Harry Potter as they navigated a polyamorous relationship they were in while identifying as pansexual and admitting an attraction to each other because they’re turned on by the whole being related thing. This ongoing issue was further complicated by the fact that Jon Snow’s alive head had been left in my care and he just wouldn’t go to sleep, no matter how many times I drove him around the block. He also didn’t like being bounced up and down by the knees. It was a nightmare, a literal nightmare.

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Or how about the dream from last night where, after not falling asleep until 4am, Samuel L Jackson, Devon Sawa and myself found a secret castle just of the Burnley Tunnel Richmond exit, where Holly Valance was being held hostage by a guy I knew in high school whose claim to fame was his calf muscles. In order to free her, Samuel and I had to embark on a 15 year career as exotic dancers in Singapore. We were quite the act, but my biggest concern was how I was going to get back to my parents in time for Sunday dinner. I finally made it home from my erotic oddessy only to be disowned by my family, with my father vowing never to speak with me again because he was forced to throw out the lamb due my tardiness. Oh and for some reason Tom Cruise was there and he was mad at me as well.

Now because I’m not an asshole, before I inflicted these dreams on my partner and friends I turned to the internet, mummy blogs and forums to be exact. WTF? What fresh hell are those things?! It’s like someone took all the judgement in the world and gave it a landing page.

Typing in ‘bad pregnancy dreams’ I was met with mixed responses that ranged from:

  • ‘Oh don’t get me started on crazy pregnancy dreams.I had one the other night where tiny angels appeared to me, looking, I kid you not, like Blue Ivy #beyonceforeva and they whispered into my ear as I slept peacefully, the names Ebony and Archer, which is crazy because my husband and I were thinking of naming our twins those exact names. Crazy right?’
  • ‘Bad dreams are a sign your baby will be born with severe communication problems. To learn more about the dangers of vaccination…’
  • ‘I just ate more carrots before bed and they disappeared, now I just dream of acceptance, oh and Peter Rabbit :)’
    DIE ALREADY – yes, I’m judging them..so what? When in Rome…

Nowhere could I find what I was looking for, a kindred, someone who had also dreamed of going to a Beyonce concert at Rod Laver arena only unable to find a carpark had to move to Ireland, join the IRA and live the rest of their life under a new identity (in that dream, I also had to get reconstructive face surgery without anaesthetic). I also was unable to get a refund on my Beyonce tickets. I woke up crying.

So I was forced to turn to a friend. My non-pregnant, gay male friend, but someone I was certain would have a concerned ear I could bend.

‘…and then mum said they wouldn’t pay to get my ears pierced and Hillary Clinton agreed and said she could do it herself but we needed to go to Greensborough to get the equipment and I didn’t have a valid Myki card on me – ‘

I could barely finish the sentence, as a shaking hand gripped my decaf weak long black, with extra water.

‘ – and there was nowhere to recharge it in Australia, so I never got my ears pierced and Hillary was so angry she wouldn’t let me go to Hungry Jacks with her. And she’d promised. She’d promised!’

My disinterested confidant frowned.

‘Are you telling me about your dreams Lou?’

I gulped. Damn my transparent demeanour.

‘I thought we had an agreement about stuff like that.’ He pushed.

‘I thought that was only boring dreams, not horrifying scenarios involving various pop culture icons that will inevitably come true knowing me.’

‘A dreams still a dream Lou. What if I told you about my dreams, how would you like that?’

I feigned interest in the name of self-preservation.

‘I’d love to know about your dreams. I’ve changed. I’m cool with stuff like that now – puppies, potpourri and vision boards, bring it on I say.’

He knew I was lying, but we’re the sort of friends that would never call each other on stuff like that. True friends.

‘Great. So, I had this dream last week where my dad just turned up at my house and we spent the week just hanging out. I even learned to fish.’

Silence.

‘Crazy right?’

‘Yeah…’

‘Cause dad was only here like last week and we talked about going fishing but we never actually got around to doing it.’

‘Crazy…’

‘Yeah, it’s like my subconscious knew what I hoped we’d done and made it a reality for me. Dreams are amazing.’

‘Dreams are amazing like that.’

Silence.

‘That hurt you a little didn’t it Lou, listening to me talk about my dream?’

I paused, letting out a deep breath/burp-fart.

‘Can I be honest?’

‘Of course Lou’

‘I died a little inside.’

‘Oh’

‘Your dream wasn’t even a dream. It was at best a memory, a distorted memory, but, and I say this with the utmost respect, it was no dream.’

He took the barb well, toying with his gluten free pistachio cupcake, for which he no longer had the appetite.

‘We can’t all dream about the universe being constantly disappointed in us.’

‘Is that what you think my dreams are about?’

‘Absolutely, I mean, take the dream about Hillary Clinton not taking you to Hungry Jacks – ‘

The waiter came over, refilling our water.

‘ – are you sure you have time to talk about this?’

My friend adjusted his glasses.

‘Plenty, now back to Hillary and the fact you’ll never reach her heights of success and your own ongoing inadequacies…’

I couldn’t help but smile, maybe talking to friends about dreams wasn’t so bad after all…

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Diary of An Adequate Mother

A few months ago I found out I was pregnant. 

‘How did this happen?’ I asked legs spread atop the toilet seat, testing for the third time that morning.

‘You pretty much did that’ my boyfriend replied smugly, motioning to my legs akimbo.

Now to be perfectly candid, we had talked about having kids for while, even getting a rescue dog at one point and naming it ‘training baby’* but talking is theoretical. I’m the greatest mum in the world, theoretically. A Full House remount is great, theoretically.  The new Milo bar was meant to be great, theoretically! My point is, lots of things are great theoretically, but the actual real thing, that’s a more harrowing prospect.

‘Well too late now’ a friend of mine said to me over daiquiris ‘but look, don’t worry. I think you’re going to be a great mother’. I felt reassured as I ordered another round of soft cheeses ‘or at the very least an adequate mother’ she continued.  

And as I bit into my sushi I knew she was right, I could handle adequate. I was great at being average. Fuck it, I could rock adequate!

But if it was the eighties I don’t think I’d harbour as much doubt in my parenting skills as I currently do. The eighties was a great time to be a parent. Kids entertained themselves, cut themselves, broke themselves, got stung by bees, ate peanut butter and shoplifted copies of Playboy and VideoHits. Broke a bone skateboarding on the street with no parental supervision? No problem, casts were cool. DOCS hasn’t been invented yet. It was a golden time. And we all survived. I was even flown to Queensland to model for Japanese investors at the age of 12 and I survived. Of course that’s not to say that some people didn’t come out unscathed, but for the purpose of this blog post, they’re of no interest to me, as I’m clearly romanticising the era. 

Yep, if it was the eighties I’d be a great mum. Golden Circle would make me mum of the year or something like that for letting me kids use the non-contractor built tree house in the backyard to jump onto the illegal trampoline, using it as a launch to the swimming pool, sans pool gate. Can you say Australian of the Year?

But it’s not the decade that changed the world, it’s the year 2016 and if you’re not in the business of being a responsible parent, you’re not in business full stop. And all this responsibility starts straight away.

At the doctors, I was asked how I wanted to approach my pregnancy. 

‘I want to make sure it gets out’ I responded cautiously, sure it was a trick question.

‘Safely’ my partner interjected ‘we’d like to approach this pregnancy safely.’ Thank god for JK and his folder marked ‘Baby’ he had carefully opened across his lap.

‘Wonderful’ my obstetrician responded ‘but what sort of information would you like?’

See, I knew it was a trick question.

I’d read somewhere that the smarter you are, the more you’re compelled to know about the in’s and out’s of pregnancy, the pros and cons, dangers etc. As I’m smart and suffer from anxiety I decided that ‘knowing things’ would not be the best approach for me, thus I answered accordingly.

‘I’d like to approach this pregnancy, like a teen girl, from the Appalachians, who believes in creationism and virgin birth and who’s only warning she’s pregnant comes when she gives birth in a KFC toilet, mid shift.’

‘OK…’ my ob-gyn managed to say.

‘What she means’ said my partner ‘is that if you want to give us any information, best you give it to me. I’ve got a folder I can put that stuff in.’ Like I said before, thank god for JK and his folder.

And my lack of responsibility only got worse from there. 

A few days later I got an email asking if I’d like to donate my babies’ cord blood. Sounded like a good enough idea. I’m an organ donor. Baby cord blood worked on pretty much the same principal. There might be a family out there waiting for a donation and if I could help in any way it seemed like the right thing to do. Wrong.

‘You opted to donate the blood?’ a mother queried me, in much the same tone I imagine the question ‘you told them where Anne Frank was?’ was asked. 

‘Um, yep, seemed like the responsible thing to do.’ 

‘You didn’t save it for your own baby, in case something goes, god forbid, wrong?’

‘Um..no…’

‘Oh, well I’m sure everything will be fine. I’m sure if, god forbid, something goes wrong, that they’ll be a donor there, just like you.’

‘And if there isn’t?’

‘Well god forbid…’

That night I went home to my partner. He was reading through his well-eared copy of ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.

He looked up, seeing my pale face.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.

‘I think I did something wrong’ I muttered.

He jumped up, enveloping me in a hug.

‘Come here, it can’t be that bad.’

I started to sob.

‘You know how I ticked the donate cord blood option?’ (imagine heavy wheezing at this point)

‘How we chose to donate the cord blood.’

‘Sure…well, there was this woman and she told me that – ‘

‘- what woman?’

‘- the one that runs the café near work.’

‘Ok’

‘  – and she said – what If you’re own baby gets sick, god forbid, and you’ve donated their cord blood to someone else’s baby? And then I started to think, what if that happens right? And I go all determined Sally Field, like ’Not Without My Daughter’ determined and try and track the baby down with our babies cord blood and they reject me JK? Our donor baby rejects me? What then? Oh my god, I’m responsible for this little life in here ( pointing to my stomach) and I’ve already ruined it!’(more sobbing, lots of snot).

‘There, there…’ JK muttered softly ‘its ok. You haven’t destroyed anything. That woman’s an idiot. What did I tell you about listening to unsolicited advice, hey? What’d I tell you?’

(sob, sob) ‘Not to listen to it.’

‘Exactly.’

He stroked my phlegm covered hair.

‘Our baby is going to be fine, cord blood or no cord blood.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yep, I’m sure. Now let me make you some dinner.’

I pulled back, wiping  the tears from my eyes.

‘That’s ok, I’m not hungry. Grabbed a Subway wrap on the way home.’

‘You did what?’ a voice came from him, no longer soothing.

‘Grabbed a wrap.’

‘From Subway. You know you can’t eat anything from an open salad bar. Did you at least get it toasted?’

‘Umm…I got them to put extra chipotle on it…to kill the germs.’

He huffed and went back to his folder and pulled out a sheet listing foods I was now advised not to eat. 

‘I thought we agreed you were going to do all the reading.’

And with that, he went to make dinner, and I was left with an overwhelming burden of responsibility in my hand…

*may or may not be true.

*I write a satirical blog. If you’re not into what I write or about, that’s ok, just go read something else that will make you happy, on someone else’s blog, or start your own 🙂

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How being Confirmed only confirmed I couldn’t be Catholic anymore.

‘The day of my Confirmation arrived and I marked it by wearing a brand new pair of floral culottes and a cream gypsy blouse. I knew how to play the game and had dressed accordingly – as an adult virgin.’

It’s not easy been 12 years old at the best of times but for me in 1991 things were tough. I’d lost out on the school captaincy by one vote because my rival had strategically asked one of the more influential voters of my year out on a date prior to the election, and as such, defeated, I’d been relegated to Vice School Captain. They didn’t have a badge for vice school captain and it had been proving harder then I’d thought it would, wedging my title into day-to-day conversations.

For me though, being at a catholic primary school, aside from my lack of status there was also the religious aspect to contend with. I viewed religious studies as more of a history class to be debated and questioned, than to be understood as blind doctrine and unquestionable truth. Even at such a young age I was aware of the human nature to romanticise and fictionalise our past. The bible – particularly the New Testament, as far as I was concerned was written by Jesus’s frat brothers who weren’t afraid to don slightly smudged glasses when the need arose.  Take Mary Magdalene. The first time I heard of her she was described as a fallen woman – a prostitute who supported Jesus through her own private means AKA private parts. I asked my religious studies teacher if the other male apostles also supported Jesus through their own private means? This was met with a frown and the reminder that the men were apostles and the women in Jesus’s circle were not, they were prostitutes.

‘How do we know that?’ I asked. She carefully explained she knew it because it was written in the bible.

‘By men’ I remarked.

‘I don’t know that has to do with it?’ she replied.

‘You have to consider that don’t you?’ I posed to my teacher. ‘There’s no stories in here written by women.’

‘And?’

‘It’s just they might have offered another perspective that’s all, like they might not have cast themselves as prostitutes in their story.’

retro_50s_ladies_for_womens_womens_pink_tshirt

Detention. Punishment: to read the New Testament and make peace with it’s absolute authority.  When I asked for a highlighter and some paper to make notes they agreed sending me to the naughty corner would be a better use of everyone’s time.

I learnt a few months into Grade 6 that in order to graduate I would need to be Confirmed. Whilst most of most schoolmates got excited at the prospect of a spring garden party I asked the more pertinent question ‘what is Confirmation?’

‘It’s the adult ascension into the church, when you take responsibility for your own faith and destiny. Once Confirmed you will be seen as an adult in the eyes of God.’

12 years old!? An adult? Responsibility?

‘But what if you’re not even sure you believe in a god?’

‘Well you better get on it’ my teacher said ‘No belief. No graduation.’

‘This is bullshit’ I mumbled to a friend as we sat on the back fence throwing rotten eggs at the private boys school passing by. ‘I mean are you tell me that once I’m Confirmed I can be charged as an adult in say a court of law?’

‘I dunno’ my friend responded, trying to be supportive.

‘You don’t understand’ I spat at her ‘you’re a born-again-Christian. You chose to believe in god and all that crap. We Catholic’s are forced to.’

We sat in silence as we worked our way through the rest of our eggs.

Part of Confirmation is that you choose the name that you wish to represent you in your adult life. The only caveat, it has to be a saint’s name.

‘Any saints name?’ I asked.

My teacher paused, knowing that if she lied to me I would undoubtedly uncover the truth and then subject her a reckoning of repercussions.

‘Yes, any saints name Louise. Any.’

My mother was all to happy to drive me to the Australian Catholic University library, after finding my own school library lacking in the way of books on saints name. Of course there were the usual offenders, your Luke’s, Matthews, Mary’s and Anne’s, but I wanted something more. If I were going to have to carry this name around with me through life it would need to mean something. And so it was, in the stacks of a university library I found what, or should I say who I was looking for – St Dymphna.

Her story, putting the incest and murder aside, read like the fairytale Frozen. A young princess in Ireland, who’s father stricken with grief at the death of his wife decides to take the saying ‘to get over someone you need to get under someone else’ to mean his daughter, chases Dymphna and her priest (yes, it’s all sounding very Thornbirds) through the Irish landscape, only to finally capture and behead her because she wouldn’t marry him. Even over 1300 years later I could relate. To add to her allure she was also the patron saint of the mentally ill and victims of abuse. Perhaps I could funnel my disbelief in god into my belief in her? Just till graduation anyway…

Not to boast but I’m one of those kids who was baptised by rock star priest Father Bob Maguire and hold onto your hat, book ended it with now Cardinal George Pell when he was only starting out as a career catholic.  For people like my opus dei loving uncle this was a big deal, like being Confirmed by the hand of god. For me it was an elaborate ruse to graduate Grade 6 by letting a man wearing a dress touch my head.

The day of my Confirmation arrived and I marked it by wearing a brand new pair of floral culottes and a cream gypsy blouse. I knew how to play the game and had dressed accordingly – as an adult virgin.

As I approached the alter I quickly turned around to check for the authorities – for surely given that any moment I would become an adult, it was fair to say I might be charged as an adult for my egg throwing shenanigans. They were yet to arrive…

George recited some prayer and asked me what my chosen name was.

‘Dymphna’ I said.

What was meant to happen next was that he was meant to give it the tick of approval and move me on my way towards a hall filled with cordial and fruitcake but he didn’t. Instead he took a step closer to me and told me that I couldn’t take the name Dymphna and that my name would be Angela. She was a nice saint. A wholesome saint, a less defiled by her father kinda of saint.

‘No’ I said ‘I’ve chosen Dymphna. I was told I could chose whatever saints name I wanted.’

He said nothing. The congregation had started paying attention by now as the line of their own children heading towards the alter came to a grinding halt.

‘Who told you that?’

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my teacher sweating through her own culottes.

‘My teacher.’

‘Oh your teacher’ he smiled ‘but I’m a priest and I’m telling you that’s not true.’

‘I thought you might say that’ I replied ‘that’s why I went to the Australian Catholic University and did some research and no where is it written that I can’t chose my own saints name. I also rang the office of the Archbishop of Melbourne and they said the same thing.’

Silence.

‘Excuse me a moment’ the priest went off leaving me kneeling at the alter, thinking about the reality that might be me repeating Grade 6.

‘Just go with Angela or Mary’ a mother of another classmate hissed at me.

‘She’s the Spaniards daughter’ another remarked under their breath.

The world was turning against me. I had to hold strong.

After about 20 minutes he returned.

‘We’ve discussed it and decided that we will allow you to proceed with the name Dymphna.’

I sighed. I’d have to make do with winning the battle this time and the war; well I’d win that another time. Perhaps after cake.

Garofalo

For the months after my Confirmation and leading up to my graduation I wrote my name in the top right hand of all homework, essays and tuck-shop orders as Louise Marguerite Dymphna Woodruff Sanz (lots of names yes, but as the woman at the Confirmation service pointed out, I am a Spaniards daughter). This resulted in my parents being called in to address this blatant acting out as my teachers saw it.  My mother was confused and rightly so. Surely, this was my new name? Had they, the school not insisted upon it? Was it not a prerequisite for me graduating? Ok, yes it was, they admitted but I wasn’t meant to take it literally.

That was what hit the nail on the head for me. Whilst I was meant to take the bible and it’s archaic and at times prejudiced views of the world literally – like the women of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John being either Madonna’s or whores, when it came to things like becoming an autonomous adult, who was now according to the church equipped to navigate my own faith and destiny, that was to be taken with a grain of salt, be seen as a token act and nothing more. I could bend my idea of being confirmed.  I couldn’t be expected to blindly follow a religion without question and conversation. Wouldn’t it be dangerous? Fanatical? To  just behave?

And there you have it – it was all about behaving. To be a good at any religion, at the root of it, was to behave and to follow. Not to ask questions about supposed virgin births, frankincense and myrrh. Not to challenge issues of gender, sexuality, women’s rights, domestic violence, divorce, worship, faith, reform, fanaticism and terrorism.

There are good things in the bible too, just as there are some good things in Fifty Shades of Grey (if you just ignore a majority of the book) but as a way to live, as a way to practice a life without question I’m afraid it wasn’t for me.

Now look I could be wrong and when I die I find myself in a place called Heaven with a lot of people walking around wearing t-shirts that read ‘Told You So’ and ‘I’m With Stupid’ but either way I think I’ll be ok. I’ll have a whole new identity – Dymphna – patron saint of the mentally ill and victims of abuse – knowing the allegations about the church I doubt I’ll be short of friends up there.

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