Friday, April 28, 2006

Breast Intentions

So the other day C and I went on our first babycentric shopping venture.

Or at least, preggerscentric.

I’m willing to now admit I’m pregnant but it’s a far larger leap of faith to say there will be a baby when my feet hit the ground. Other pregnant friends are filling their baby rooms with monitors and cots and dingly dangly things. C and I have bought nothing (yet) but we have received a load of hand me downs which have all been hastily stuck in the cupboard where we can’t see them.

Anyhoo, the time seemed right to shop for maternity bras.

I had actually attempted to do this a couple of months back when my bra size changed dramatically but I chickened out at the last minute and settled for a couple of non maternity bras that were a bit bigger than my normal size. These were now right at the end of their row of little hooks and uncomfortably tight.

I am not a well endowed woman, bras have generally only ever really been things to stop my nipples poking out of my teeshirt on cold days. Bra-shopping in the past was a quick and haphazard event based on Colour, Pattern and Is This One On Sale?

It was clear we needed the help of an expert. I had heard the rumour of the necessity for proper fittings and the dire warnings of back strain, wrenched shoulders and milk pudding boobs that would ensue if said Proper Fittings were not had.

C and I wandered into the ‘intimates’ section of a Large Department Store and lingered awkwardly around the maternity section. Row after row of wireless, double clipped, enormous cupped, wide strapped bras dangled from their racks, taunting us.

We looked at them, we took them off the rack, we fingered their odd little fastenings and marveled at their extra hooks and eyes. Then we put them back because those whopping big cups were scaring the bejesus out of us.

Diddly diddly dee went the musack.

A chill wind began to blow and a lone tumbleweed scuttled across the floor.

C and I clutched at each other’s clammy hands. One of us may even have whimpered.

Someone will come, we muttered to ourselves. Someone Who Knows About Pregnant Bosoms.

At one stage a sales assistant did flit past, replacing frilly delicate non-pregnancy things as she went.

Why look! Here is Someone Who Can Help, announced C in his best Actorly Projected Voice.
Yes, I smiled, relieved.

We took our eyes off her for only a second but when we turned back she was gone.

Fuck, we said.

Diddley diddly dee went the musack.

Finally we decided we could work it out together. Were we not grownups?
Had I not received hours of valuable Bionicle Assemblage tuition from the Naughty Nephews?
Had not C once built a house (in a previous relationship yes but the experience still counts) and had he not just spent days laying lovely wooden floors and doing fiddly carpentery bits in the Big House? Well then.

We selected a few bras based on what appeared to be my current size but also on Colour, Pattern and Is This One On Sale?

Then we located the fitting rooms.

Then we entered the fitting room.

Then the Shop Assistant who had done the neat disappearing act early on suddenly appeared in the doorway with a stern look on her face.

Then C was barred from the fitting room on account of him being a loathsome bosom-less man.

Then I bravely entered the fitting room alone.

Then I bared my boobs and attempted to attach the first bra to them.

Then it twisted itself round the wrong way and laughed at my ridiculous attempts to wind it round my body.

Then all the little clips in all the bras suddenly and maliciously sprung apart. An image reared up before me, of me, struggling to survive in my scanty brightly coloured pre-pregnancy bra, now faded and torn with use and held together with pins and bits of sticky tape. I was destined to be bowed down with strained back and wrenched shoulders, shackled to the cold hard earth by the weight of my ginormous Milk Pudding Boobs.

Then my face went red and tears of frustration crept into my eyes.

Then I swiftly redressed, did some deep breathing, and flung the bras down (but neatly) on Disappearing Shop Assistant’s plush padded seat thing as I stormed out the door.

I looked for my husband and wept bitterly because he had wandered off to the electronics section and also because lo the pregnancy hormones was surging through my body and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and odd looks from other customers.

Diddley diddly dee went the musack.

It was all too hideous.

C blew my nose and swiftly administered skim hot chocolate and small evil sweety thing to me and then we went into the Other Large Department Store.

Here we went straight up to the counter and asked for Someone Who Knows About Pregnant Bosoms.

And finally, finally the Someone appeared.

And Yes she knew Pregnant Bosoms and Yes she knew how to wrangle the nasty little clips.

C was once again banished from the fitting room but this time it was ok, I felt safe, I felt nurtured in the arms of wide experience, I was to be saved from back strain and wrenched shoulders (but alas probably not milk pudding boobs). I tried on bra after bra, was instructed on the mysteries of breast enlargement and shrinkage, advised on where my straps should sit, where my hooks should meet and where my nipples should point. She was very nice and very good and I felt much much better.

However after twenty minutes, I realised that I didn’t actually properly fit into any of the maternity bras she brought for me. If it fitted at the back then the cups were too big. If the cups were just right then we were right at the end of the hooks (and I had already been instructed that the bra should at this stage do up in the middle of the hooks).

(My friend Michelle later told me that I could buy a little extension thingy to increase the back of the bra for a few bucks and that would keep me going until I was ready for the next stage.)

Once upon a time, a long time ago, years ago, perhaps six, when C and I were in those first few months (stretching to the first year) of trying to conceive, C did buy something for baby.

It was a handmade patchwork quilt, just big enough to sit on a cot. Coloured frogs and rampant teddy bears were pieced together with boats sailing into clouds and wide eyed geometric cats. It was expensive, indulgent, impractical and beautiful. And perfectly fitting for C’s enthusiastic optimism for our impending offspring.

For years the quilt stayed folded up and hidden away. Once I unwrapped it, a year ago, when I was looking for blankets. It was a shocking reminder of our younger dreams. Instead of frogs and boats and teddies and cats I saw invasive tests and broken hearts and long empty years stitched together with self hatred and failure.

When we packed the flat and prepared to move to the Big House this year I found the quilt again. And the teddies were back and the quilt was beautiful once again.

C and I had decided to meet elsewhere in the department store and I sauntered towards him swinging my black and white shopping bag. C looked at it with interest.

No bra, I quickly told him.
No bra?

It’s a long story, I told him, but basically they don’t fit yet. So I bought a pair of trousers instead. They’re not maternity trousers but they fit comfortably over my tummy.
Also I liked the colour. Also, they were on Sale.

C nodded. It all made perfect sense. We held hands as we wandered out the door.

Behind us, racks of maternity bras jangled their fiddly hooks, waiting patiently for our inevitable return.

And diddly diddly dee went the musack.

Friday, April 14, 2006

One Night In Bed

So I was lying on my back feeling the baby slide around inside me and as it kicked I realised I could see my stomach rippling.

This made me laugh and so then there was more rippling.

And then my belly button bulged and heaved and other parts of my stomach contorted like a miniature earthquake was underway in my gut and I stopped laughing because to tell the truth it looked really quite disturbing and while it was funny before, now, frankly, it was just plain creepy.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Kick Inside

We took the photo we received from the ultrasound up to Newcastle last week to show it off to my family.

My dad guffawed cheerfully when he saw it and my stepmother squealed with delight and told me that the baby had my nose.

Grumpy granddad said he couldn’t see anything but that might be because his spectacles were thickly coated with a yellowish layer of his own scalp tissue which has taken to flaking off in chunks and floating about his shoulders.

And yes I did offer to clean them (glasses, not scalp) and it took me nearly half an hour with the Windex and the paper towels and within a few minutes of my granddad putting them back on and exclaiming with delight at how clearly he could see the tv screen, I noticed the flakes starting to fall and cling to his lenses again.

My God this moving thing is slow.

Well not the actual moving out part, that was reasonably fast because we threw everything into cardboard boxes, and not the actual moving in part because two strong burly Chinese fellows named Johnny and Bob hurled our boxes into their truck and then lugged them up the stairs of the Big House.

The slow part is the unpacking part.

We have a bedroom, a bathroom and a large room for everything else in our cosy upstairs section of the Big House. At the moment this room features a couch, two desks, a dining room table and an enormous mountain of boxes, all full and all needing to be unpacked and sorted and stored.

Most of these boxes are labeled BOOKS or for a change LARGE HEAVY BOOKS. One of the boxes got broken somewhere between Johnny hurling it into the truck and Bob lugging it up the stairs and so a small collection of my childhood reading has been oozing out of the side of the box mountain. I can’t collect all those books together because that would necessitate putting them in a bookshelf which would in turn necessitate deciding where the bookshelves should go because god forbid we double handle things.

So instead I’ve been reading them.

I have gone through the Borrowers series and flirted a little with Anne of Avonlea and dipped extensively into the Little House series, even though I read most of the Laura Ingalls books not too long ago.

My idea of hell is that scene in ‘On The Banks Of Plum Creek’ where Laura Ingalls wickedly leads the hideous Nellie Olson into the part of the creek where the leeches dwell. Within a minute Nellie is covered in the bloodsucking fiends. And boy does she deserve it because she’s a nasty piece of work and a half but even so, it makes me wince.

And this is basically a long and raving introduction(which I blame on pregnancy induced mushbrain) into what I really wanted to say which is that this week was the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death.

My mother was born in a village in the Philippines on the island of Luzon. The country had been occupied by the Japanese army since 1941 and the local people hated and feared them. Within a few hours of my mother’s birth the village received a warning that soldiers were heading their way.

The entire village immediately evacuated and headed into the mountains. They planned to hide in some caves until the soldiers had passed by and then return to the village. There was no time to pack anything more than a few essentials. The tiny brown new born babe that wouold one day be my mother was wrapped in a rice sack.

It took them over an hour walking through forests and crossing a river to reach the caves.

The villagers hid deep within the caves and then one of the scouts told them that the soldiers were close by and they must all stay very quiet.

And then.

My mother began to cry.

The cry of a baby is piercing. Like an alarm or a siren. Or a betrayal. My grandmother tried desperately to feed her, to comfort her, to rock her back to silence but still she screamed.

The other villagers were terrified, they pleaded with my grandparents. The sound would draw the soldiers, they cried, they would all be killed. They had to do something, they had to stop her.

So my grandfather drew his knife and put the blade to the baby’s throat. He hesitated as my grandmother wept and prayed.

And then, just as suddenly, the baby stopped.

The soldiers passed, the villagers left the cave and made their way back down to their village. When they stopped to cross the river, my grandmother moved down to the water’s edge and unwrapped my mother from the rice sack so that she could bathe her in the river water.

And there, she discovered the leech. It must have made its way into the sack when they initially crossed the river. Now, hours later, it was firmly attached to the baby’s heel; black, glossy, swollen with blood and so fat it was as big as her entire foot.

When I imagine this scene, I think about how when my grandfather held back his knife, he spared not only his first born child, but also me, his first born grandchild, and my sisters and our children too. That ol' eggs within eggs thing again.

Today I should be unpacking boxes and writing things and Being Organised but instead I’m thinking about Mum and how much I miss her and love her. I look at the image of my unborn baby(week 21 - size of a banana), with its nose like mine, and its aunties and the grandmother it will only ever know from photographs and stories and the la la la of the one Filipino song I remember her singing.

I feel the familiar squirming deep within as the baby turns and stretches in my abdomen.

And there’s something more. Higher up, that soft pounding against my heart.

It’s been twelve years but I haven’t forgotten that grief kicks too.