Monday, September 25, 2006

Attack of the Screaming Tomato


Have just managed to clear head from total brain fog after three nights of hellish Screaming Tomato every hour on the hour from 2am….

Amazing how with just an uninterrupted block of 4 hours sleep a person can go from feeling like maniacal non-coping Mother of Screaming Tomato to calm, slightly bemused, coping-well-enough mother of dear little Current Bun-head boy. Can wash hair. Can wash clothes. Can even tend to blog. Will now stop writing like a demented Helen Fielding character.

Last week C and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary (which is 12 years of being a couple – we enjoyed a long engagement) with a posh dinner out.

Yes! Dinner! Out! Sans Tricky, who was looked after by his Blessed Aunty N.

At 7.30 I mooched up to her with the baby.

What are you doing still here? she hissed, in a quite good impression of Gandalf clinging by his fingernails to the edge of a Morian mine chasm with a Balrog dangling from his knees while the rest of the Fellowship milled about aimlessly, wringing their hands.
He’s been fed, burped and changed. And had a top up. Quickly! Fly you fools. Fly!

And so we did as if all the orcs in Middle earth were at our heels. I left my cruddy maternity jeans on (the only pants that still fit me) but swiftly popped a fresh, slightly fancy top over my less than fresh maternity bra.

In a few seconds I had gathered up my hair in one of those fashionable ‘bed head’ type pony tails and slung on an enormous beaded pendant necklace that would draw the eye down from my dark circled eyes. In the car I applied some lipstick I found at the bottom of the handbag I never use anymore because it’s too small to hold disposable nappies, wipes and a warm hat.

And lo I was set!

C proclaimed me beautiful and after a large glass of wine, so did I.

We tried very hard to not talk about Tricky and we almost succeeded. I told C how my sister AJ had explained when I would know I was a proper mother. The moment would occur when I sat down for a couple of moments peace in front of the telly and suddenly realize I had baby poo under my fingernails. Instead of leaping up in disgust and rushing to the bathroom I would casually pick it out and wipe it on my jeans.

First anniversary is paper, said C in an effort to steer the conversation back to adult topics. What is the second? Wood?

No. First anniversary is paper but second anniversary is diamonds, I explained.

We ate French entrée thingys and salmon and something else that was delicious but too much of a stretch to recall at this point. And desserts. Oh la. The most delicious chocolate cake ever and a rhubarb and ginger cream mille feulle (spelt wrong I believe but too knackered to google).

It was fabulous and too expensive even though a little man did come forth and shave our tablecloth free of crumbs which is always a nice thing to have happen.

The week continued in fine style with Tricky’s 8 week immunization which I believe is for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Hep B, Polio, Poor Fashion Sense and Misuse of Apostrophes.

At the GP’s I asked if I could have breastfeed the baby while she gave him the injections.

She looked at me, confused.
I don’t think that’s necessary, she said.
I think it will help, I explained.
Well, she said. In my experience all babies cry but sure if you want to, go ahead.

So I did.

It is a horrible thing to see an enormous needle plunging into your baby’s thigh. He stopped sucking and opened his mouth wide to scream…and then instantly went back to sucking. There were two tears at most. It was as if he’d been half way through a mouthful of the most delicious, if poorly spelt, rhubarb and ginger cream mille feulle ever ...and suddenly seen the bill. But then without thinking he had shoved another mouthful of rhubarb and ginger cream in, and the bill was miraculously torn up and scattered to the wind.

If the GP was impressed she didn’t show it but I like to think she may have learned something at that moment. I felt vindicated. I had successfully comforted my baby.

Even with clean fingernails I felt like a proper mother.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake

C had to go to Canberra this morning.

Canberra is a strange cold wet fish of a city where trees grow in strict formation and politicians come out to play. There are certain laws binding the rest of our sweet nation and ensuring our moral and physical safety that need not apply in this city - it’s that special and magical.

I am insanely jealous of course, not because of the Canberra thing but because C is there for two days and thus guaranteed at least one night of uninterrupted sleep. That is, unless he succumbs to Canberra’s unique charms and spends the wee hours trawling the streets for Xrated porn and firecrackers.

Something I read, or maybe someone told me, or possibly an angel visited me in a dream and proclaimed it so, was that having a baby often makes bad relationships worse and good relationships pretty much stay the same.

C and I are best mates and have been together for many years, laughing at each others crap jokes and taking it in turns to make the porridge (except when C discovered a new and vastly superior porridge making method and then do you think I was allowed to go within two metres of a rolled oat?).

And certainly when I had to do that Will I Kill My Baby? Test they make you do after 6 weeks or so, I ticked all the right boxes (although I paused over the Are You Ever Afraid Of Your Partner box when I recalled his frightening obsession with the porridge).

But still, the truth is things have been getting a wee bit snappy around here of late.

We’re both tired and there have been more terse words and less cuddles than say 8 weeks ago. And there’s been little or no Special GrownUp Naked Time, not for want of trying. It is oddly difficult to get down and dirty when the other hand is occupied with rocking a cradle. A slight soiling is all we’ve really managed.

The other day we decided to go out for lunch with the baby.

Naturally in the car there were tears and the screaming tomato face but this time it wasn’t Tricky. We tried to talk in an adult fashion about the snappiness and the grumpiness and the Too Busy for Special GrownUp Naked Time.

I miss you, I cried.
I miss you too said C. It’s like we’ve both fallen in love with someone else.
Someone tiny, brown and incontinent.

When we got out of the car we stood in the street and kissed.
And said how much we loved each other.
And how sexy we were, even with spew on our clothes and poochy tummies.
And then, in lieu of Special GrownUp Naked Time we decided to eat cakes even though we knew it was bad and would add to general poochiness.

We wanted to go to our favourite bakery and eat their cakes but several thousand Sydneysiders had decided to do exactly the same thing and it was packed. This saddened us. But across the street was another café, a café that had been the height of grooviness and brimming with popularity until the coming of the bakery. Now it was nearly empty and looked lonely and sullen.

I felt a stab of sympathy. This café knew only too well the bitter taste of rejection.

Let’s go there, I said. At least they’ll be happy to see us.

I waited outside the ex-groovy café, rocking the pram as I watched the bakery queue across the road go round the corner and down the street. After a moment C came out with a face like a slapped arse.

They said no, he told me.

No? I repeated, confused.

No, he said more loudly, they said we couldn’t bring the pram inside and I’M NEVER COMING BACK TO THIS SHIT HOLE AGAIN.

I looked at C’s outraged face and in at the once groovy near empty café that wasn’t into prams and I started to laugh. Then we crossed back over the road and found a couple of orange milkcrates outside the bakery. I sat on my crate on the footpath while C joined the queue. When an old woman, passing by exclaimed that Tricky was like a beautiful apricot I smiled and agreed.

A few minutes later I held a Styrofoam cup of Belgian hot chocolate in one hand and a strawberry and chocolate tart in the other. My beautiful apricot baby lay in the pram to my right and my sexy funny porridge-fascist husband sat on an orange milk crate to my left.

And the traffic zoomed by, and the sun shone, and satisfied customers walked past with fragrant loaves wrapped in brown paper under their arms…

And life was good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


When I was 4, I lived with my family in Penang and on one memorable day I nearly died there too when I happily flung myself into the Grownups Pool at the Chinese Swimming Pools.

My parents and little sisters were eating lunch by the fountain. No one saw me run off in my kiddy brown skirted swimming costume with my Hiawatha rubber ring under one arm and by the time they realised I was gone I was hovering, suspended in greenish water, eyes boggling, lips firmly pressed together, marveling at the way the filtered sunlight played against the tiles.

In this moment there was no panic, more a sort of curious calm.

The world’s volume was suddenly switched down, reduced to the faint gush of the distant fountain, the rush of water in my ears and my own heartbeat. After what seemed like years I looked up to see a Brown Man in Batik Togs squatting on the edge of the pool, watching me.

I raised my arm and he lifted me out and that was that.

It’s been nearly 8 weeks since Tricky was born and that means I’m nearly all out of Ecstatic Birthing Hormones. This is the good stuff, the stuff that makes you ignore the tiredness and the ravenous hunger and the rectocele (yeah, go on, google that, I dare you) and the sore back and the flabby belly because you’re floating happily on your Hiawatha rubber ring inflated with pure motherly doting goodness.

It’s not that I’m out of the Motherly Doting Goodness, because I’m not, I’m reeking with the damn stuff – it’s splattered all over my bedroom floor, it’s just the other bits are starting to catch up with me.

On Thursday night the short film I wrote last year had a screening at a local cinema and I was there with C and Tricky and most of my family and a whole bunch of other people too and my face nearly fell apart with all the smiling and my head nearly exploded with all the convivial social chatting.

Because with the tiredness comes the shrunken vocabulary and the inability to focus.

I hear the voices, the questions, the conversations, but they seem oddly filtered, like through smoke or water.

Also, when standing about, I have a tendency now to rock, not in a groovy frayed denim and electric guitar kind of way, but in a bobbing boat kind of way – even when I’m not holding the baby. I noticed this for the first time when C took Tricky for a walk around the park and I stood holding the pram and after a few minutes noticed that I was rocking my handbag to sleep. (My friend Michelle tells me that I will find myself rocking the empty shopping trolley next.)

And then also there’s the soft haze of incredulity, the lordy lordy, My Whockety cloud of astonishment each morning when I wake (after two hours or perhaps three and once or twice five!) and see that lovely rounded currant bun face and those blue/brown eyes (colour yet to be finalized) and that worried wrinkled brow.

In the first week I could see my baby’s face everywhere, in the shadows on the blinds, the rolled up sheets on my bed. I saw his almond eyes in the grain of the wooden chest of drawers, the ceiling beams and in the whorled skin on my own fingertips. It was like being perpetually stoned on joy. In this state I can forgive all my shortcomings, the baby vomit on my cardigan, the breast milk drips on the bedroom floor, the failure to respond to text messages and emails.

Or, maybe, I just forget.

I have taken to carrying a notebook around with me because finally I got way too embarrassed to ask my dad for the tenth time when he was going in to have his knee operated on and what Grumpy Grandad’s new address was at the retirement village. I’ve still got a script deadline in October (and one in December and one in February) and it’s like squeezing blood out of a stone (or any number of constipated scenes, see previous posts) trying to get these written with my fuzzy blurry brain.

Eight weeks since I jumped into this wide wet pool of motherhood and my head is still below water.

I am still marveling, still mostly calm and curious, the light is still captivating, but those outside voices are getting louder.

Quite soon I will need to lift up my head and breathe.

I can’t wait to rejoin the land of the living, recover my brain and my body too, but I’ll also mourn the loss of this hovering underwater place, this soft focus, warm haze, babylove world.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The First Father's Day

Dear Daddy

Today is Father's Day. Woo hoo!

Wasn’t that excellent this morning when we went to the Bourke St Bakery and you sat outside on a milkcrate holding me while Mummy was inside buying croissants and then all those people stopped to wish you Happy Father’s Day?

It’s odd the way people in this city don’t generally like to make contact with strangers but when you’re carrying me in your arms they often smile and stop to chat. I did think that it was because of me but when we went through the park the other day I noticed people doing exactly the same thing except with dogs.

You don’t seem to swaddle me as much anymore which I’m frankly a little relieved about.

If you could have a word with Mummy I’d appreciate it because she has become a complete swaddle fiend. Sometimes I like to wave my hands in the air, you know, to express my masculinity and also to poke myself in the eye. And if I’m feeling a little peckish I like to suck on my fists. It’s very difficult when they’re lashed to my sides.

By the way, I also like it when you play your guitar for me.

You used to play guitar all the time for Mummy, in your courting days, and she really loves those three songs. I like them too but if we could extend the playlist I think that would be good. Sometimes when I’ve been “restless” and Mummy says in slightly strained tones Go To Daddy Now, you pop me on your lap and start to strum your guitar and I think that’s just lovely.


When I make those screaming noises it’s actually me trying to jam along. For instance I like to throw a bit of seemingly hysterical hiccupping in now and then for a syncopated rhythm effect and that abrupt puking noise is my version of the famous gated drum sound as used so prominently on Phil Collins’ anthem In The Air Tonight and subsequently in much of the recorded pop drum sound of the 1980s.

I’m six weeks and five days old today and just this weekend I’ve started to really focus on your faces and also make little burbling gurgly noises now and then, as if I’m thinking about how much I love being your baby or else impersonating a teeny tiny drainpipe.

My farting is still cause for amusement and I’m trying to perfect a sort of lilting trumpet that could come in handy for those guitar/hiccup jam sessions.

I’m looking forward to growing up and playing with you and learning from you. Hey, won’t it be fun when I’m bigger and we gang up on Mummy together! Hee hee! What a cak. Ooh do you think she knows? Let’s not tell her, let’s just think of heaps of hilarious tricks we can play on her. Won’t she be surprised?

I knew we would be great friends the very first time you held me. It was just after I was born and I was lying on top of Mummy’s tummy. She gave me a little cuddle and then asked you to pick me up.

And you did, you held me and sniffed my head and loved me. And I stared up at you with my bright blue grey eyes and wrinkled my forehead and scowled and loved you right back.

I didn't make you a card due to my current lack of fine motor skills. I hope you're not disappointed. (Although Mummy did think of tying some paint brushes to my arms, propping me up against some thick paper and activating my startle reflex to create something bright and original.)

Still, it won't be long. In a couple of years I’ll be able to make you a Father’s Day card with funny stick figure drawings and wobbly handwriting.

I might even accidentally write Happy Farters Day like you did, in all innocence, to your own father when you were just a little boy.

But instead, this year, I made you a Father.

Happy First Father's Day Daddy.

I love you.

Your Son