You may think this is trivial but trust me, if you were me you too would be sobbing as hard as I am right now on the kitchen floor. Oh yes, you too would be letting the snot, the tears, the saliva dribble freely, as the cool stone presses hard into your hands and knees, and the milk creeps like lava into the crevices.
It didn’t look like much in the bottle. But on the floor, it seems more worthy of the forty-five minutes I’d spent squeezing it from my swollen breast, my nipples cracked and bleeding and hard lumps illuminating the dreaded blocked duct. I could have been sleeping in that time. I could have washed my hair.
I force myself to take a deep soothing breath, just as a kind telephone counsellor had once told me to. Simply breathing is a great way to get yourself off the floor and back to it.
“Muuuum!!” Mollie hollers from upstairs. There’s another way. No time to wallow in self pity when there’s kids around. Feet thunder down the stairs and she bursts in, her hair stacked high in rollers and a dress in her arms. She stops short as she sees me on the floor. Her eyes go to the milk and then back to my wet face. “Do you know where the iron is?”
I shake my head and wonder at what point I missed the lesson in teaching empathy, I chalk it down with the other parenting fails, and pull myself off the floor, sniffling the sadness away. In one fluid movement I extract the cleaning spray, cloth and iron from the cupboard, and hand her the latter.
‘The ironing board is set up in my room.’ I say, as I bend to clean up the mess.
‘Can’t you do it?’
I employ the look, and she huffs back upstairs.
‘You know it wouldn’t hurt to…’ I call after her, but then realise it’s pointless. I’ll talk to her later. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just sleep. Sleep it all away. On cue, I hear the baby stirring in her Moses basket in the front room. My hand goes to my breast instinctively. I finish wiping up the spill and mentally prepare myself for the toe-curling latch. I know feeding is the only way to clear the blockage, but a break would have been nice, had I not dropped the bottle. Another deep breath.
The weight of Grace in my arms is comforting, all curled up and toasty, like the wheat bag I used to put in the microwave to soothe the monthly cramps. I stroke her tiny cheek and she turns her head to me, mouth wide and searching. As she clamps down and suckles furiously, I imagine the tears are squirting from my eyes, like one of those crazy cartoon figures who has just hit their thumb with a hammer. I’ve near bitten through my lips in an attempt to not cry out, but the initial sting begins to lessen, and I feel everything uncurl. Another deep breath.
I stroke the soft blond tufts of hair on her perfectly round head and lose myself in her face – my last baby. They’d all been special in their own way, even Mollie who had been born with attitude had captured my heart irrevocably, but knowing Grace would give me all my mothering lasts gave her a special edge. So far anyway. Perhaps that will change once she learns to roll her eyes. I smile knowing it won’t.
I glance at the time on the DVD player – 3:05pm – shit. ‘Mollie!’ I shout in a panic. Grace jumps in my arms, unlatching with a pop and I yelp in agony – shit. She begins to wail as I leap from the couch and rush to the stairs.
‘Mollie! I need you to go get Jack and Nell from school!’
She appears at the top of the stairs in a towel, hair dripping. Shit.
‘You’ve already washed your hair today!’ I jiggle Grace in a bid to settle her.
‘It went wrong, I had to -‘
‘Oh, forget it,’ I interrupt, ‘come down here and watch your sister.’
‘What? No! I’ve got to…’ I employ the look. One day it will fail me, thankfully it’s not today. She grabs her dressing gown and stomps down the stairs.
Five minutes later I’m charging up the road in my flip flops – in the rain. I don’t actually realise this until I’m tearing across the empty playground towards the horrified faces of my seven-year-old twins. Mr Evans stands between them, his cheeks red. I know I’m an embarrassment to my kids, but I’ve no idea what’s wrong with his gob. Then I feel it. Swinging freely in the breeze. My wonderfully round milk-filled mammary. Shit. Another deep breath.
Well, at least my nipple got a little air.
This is another story written for my writing group, that’s been tucked away on my Macbook. I’ve held on to it thinking I might offer it up to be published elsewhere, but actually I’d just like to share it now.
Inspired by mothering life…again 🙂