I am being held hostage. My captor has tied me to a kitchen chair, he has broken my throne, and cut my hair, and from my lips he has drawn…wait, wait, wait. I’m blatantly plagiarising Leonard Cohen here.
But his song just gels with me right now. The events I have described (granted they are lyrics from Hallelujah) are all true. In any other jurisdiction they would amount to an indictable offence, but the jurisdiction is our home and my captor is my four-week-old boy. His sole demand is that the milk bar stay open. Guys, meet my baby boy, the Milky Bar Kid. Fortunately for my captor I’ve got Stockholm Syndrome. Big time.
Mercilessly, the Milky Bar Kid wants all 31 flavours and when they run out he lets out ear splitting, gummy mouthed wails. The gummy mouthed wails are always preceded by two hacking coughs, two angry flailing balled up fists, and two tugs of the hair. Nothing can put the Milky Bar Kid’s wrath asunder. This occurrence is often repeated every second ad break. My husband came home from work early the other day and was horrified to see that I had succumbed to watching DAY TIME TV. Quelle horreur. I admitted to the blasphemy with a broken, barely audible “It’s all I can manage at the moment”. Gone is my time spent reading the National Geographic, Ralston-Saul or de Botton, perusing old copies of Punch, listening to the dulcet tones of Ira Glass, Reverend Graham Long or Richard Fiedler, and writing musings which I will one day narrate at The Moth.
“Forgive me spouse for I have sinned … I pleaded with him to shut the f*ck up last night.”
At night when the Milky Bar Kid has run out of protestations and is in a state of serene silent slumber, my husband and I hold confession. Forgive me spouse for I have sinned. I pleaded with him to shut the f*ck up last night, I sternly told him to shut up this morning, I clapped at him with vigour admonishing him that enough was enough this afternoon. I don’t think he got the messages regardless of the manner in which they were delivered.
Let’s back track here and work out how I found myself watching encores of Married at First Sight (poor Cheryl) and confessing to using the F-word at a four week old.
About 30 days ago, my water broke. While we were having dessert with dinner guests. I was sitting on our couch when I felt a pop low down in my you know what followed by a gush of water. I put it down to doing 12 laps of the local pool so played it cool (great rhyming scheme). Playing it cool lasted a whole 25 seconds until I felt as though a major dam was breached with a wall of water flooding on out and everyone down below being told to EVACUATE, EVACUATE.
We drove to the hospital and following some preliminary checks were given the choice of either staying in the birthing suite or going home, waiting for contractions, and returning at 10am the following day. We elected to go home because there were dishes, pots, pans and baking trays to be stacked. I also had to send out a very important email.
“I was hoping for an all natural birth because I wanted to experience the full breadth of what life has to offer. I wanted to feel bonded to billions of women past and present who have gone before me and given birth drug-free … Oh how quickly I ate my words and sucked down that happy, happy gas.”
As I crossed the threshold into our house, I started to reel from an immense pain in my lower back. I edited my email while my husband stacked the dishwasher and when I could no longer type I asked him to take over as I paced around dictating/yelling nonsensical words between aching cramps and taking in deep gulps of air. We sent the email and tried to go to bed. In bed, my pain sky-rocketed and when my husband asked me to rate the pain on a scale of one to 10, I screamed “TEN!”. Having been in a few birthing rooms and having delivered a couple of babies himself, my husband looked at me knowingly and asked me to reassess. In response, I screamed “FINE, EIGHT!”. We decided to head back to the hospital.
On the way to the hospital, about three hours after we had just casually popped in for some preliminary tests, my pain/contractions hit TEN. Definitely TEN. Every two minutes and 45 seconds, I felt as though someone had taken an axe to my lower spine and with each unreserved hack an electric shock was simultaneously sent surging down my legs. I fell asleep between contractions and missed my husband running over a possum. In the lift up to the maternity ward I started to make a lot of noise. In fact, I couldn’t shut up. We met the midwives and when my husband went to park the car I assertively requested/demanded an epidural. When he returned, I told him I had requested/demanded an epidural. He asked me whether I was certain. I responded with a curt yes. For those who don’t know, I was hoping for an all natural birth because I wanted to experience the full breadth of what life has to offer. I wanted to feel bonded to billions of women past and present who have gone before me and given birth drug-free. I wanted to feel connected to my mother, my grandmother, and her mother before her. Really, it’s only one day in 30 something years of your whole entire life, right?. Oh how quickly I ate my words, sucked down that happy, happy gas and impatiently waited for Dr White to administer my epidural.
Drugs and me don’t get along. So as I sucked on the gas like it was nobody’s business, I spiralled further and further into a haze of fixation, repetition, and unrestrained truth-speaking. Is Dr White here yet? Where is Dr White? I think I need to do a poo. Is Dr White here yet? Where is Dr White? I think I need to do a poo. Oh Dr White is here. Dr White are you done yet? Dr White are you done yet? I think I need to do a poo. Dr White responded that he was going as fast as he could.
“Gone is my time spent reading the National Geographic, Ralston-Saul or de Botton, perusing old copies of Punch, listening to the dulcet tones of Ira Glass, Reverend Graham Long or Richard Fiedler.”
In the short space of time that we were at the hospital my cervix dilated from three centimetres to nine centimetres and everyone in the room was pumped about meeting baby boy sooner rather than later. My husband and I looked at each other in utter amazement thinking that baby boy would arrive earth-side without much pomp and circumstance. That it would be smooth. That it would be fast.
Out of nowhere all the toys were thrown out of the cot. Baby boy’s heart rate dropped, my contractions slowed down and I found myself not being able to breathe as the epidural had found its way up to my chest and throat. An oxygen mask was shoved in my face. Dr Orange, a night registrar, came to sort me out. I can’t recall what transpired but the miasma lifted. Everyone around me told me to sleep so I could muster the energy to push. I couldn’t fall asleep. I would nod off for about two minutes and be jolted awake because I thought I was skipping breaths. I kept asking my husband to count my breaths. To please count my breaths. He assured me that I was breathing just fine and to sleep. Then like the parting of the Red Sea, my OB, Dr Blonde, sailed in. I felt comforted by her mere presence. She gave me a shot of synthetic oxytocin to get my contractions going again and we waited for two hours to pass.
Two hours passed and after about a million contractions with baby boy trying really hard to exit, my cervix was static at nine centimetres. My kidney began to bleed. I looked my husband in the eye and asked him whether he was worried. He shook his head and with a straight face replied “nup”. That was the second time in our decade-long relationship that he had lied to me. Dr Blonde called an emergency C. I cried. I blamed myself for putting baby boy at risk by asking for an epidural. Every single person in that birthing suite allayed my concerns. They were brilliant.
On the operating table, the curtain was drawn and Dr Blonde now accompanied by Doctors Pink and Blue were all ready to go, when I decided to puke. Again. That whole thing with me and drugs. I puked all over my face and hair. I couldn’t sit up because of what was on the other side of the curtain. I grabbed my husband’s forearm and told him I was choking between bringing up mouthfuls of last night’s elaborate dinner. After well and truly emptying the contents of my stomach, Doctor Blonde and Pink entered the dragon. My body became a sock drawer as they rummaged around searching for that one missing sock. Dr Blue was monitoring my vital signs and administering my anaesthetics and I told him at every opportunity that I felt cold. And at every opportunity, Dr Blue patted my arm and told me that it was normal.
“His burps, while somewhat ill-mannered are the most celebrated burps in the whole entire solar system.”
When it seemed like they had found the other sock, a sense of release hit me like a backhander to the head. I looked over at my husband, who I’ll now refer to as Dr Brown for the sake of completing my Reservoir Dogs reference, and excitedly told him that we were going to meet our baby boy so very soon. I heard a small cry. Dr Brown was beaming. I managed to prop myself up to assess baby boy and thought to myself that he had an ape-like forehead. Later, I learned it was because he had tried so hard to exit the dragon and had about as much difficulty as Bruce Lee had. Dr Brown was called away to cut baby boy’s umbilical cord and I was left alone to be sewn up. At that point I felt quite alone so asked a random nurse to hold my hand. Eventually, Dr Brown returned with a very special package. He placed that package on my chest and I cried the happiest of tears. I held baby boy so tightly and shook his little hand to offer him a warm handshake welcoming him into this world.
We later learned that baby boy had a true knot in his umbilical cord and had we not gone down the path of a C section it was possible he could have suffered a brain injury if the knot tightened upon his exit via the canal. He made the knot in utero when he was less than 25 weeks young. It would seem that everything happens for some reason or other. So, a day after he was born we threw our list of names out the window and gave him a brand new moniker which also happens to mean ‘the lucky one’.
It was one heck of a hairy ride. But, all is forgiven and long forgotten because the Milky Bar Kid is so ridiculously good looking that we think he should be in print, particularly with a feature on his fabulous hair and its blonde highlights, he is curious and alert in a way that makes us conclude he must be wise beyond his 0.082 years. Genius in fact. And his burps, while somewhat ill-mannered are the most celebrated burps in the whole entire solar system. He is our sun and his gravitational pull is so strong we orbit him like Venus and Mars orbit the giant, blazing, gaseous ball in the sky.
You can follow Helen’s adventures at her website or via her Instagram account @hlac.photographist