I am sweating from pores I didn't know I had, leaking breast milk from sore, cracked nipples and bleeding lochia from below. My whole body creeks like a barnicled galleon under the weight of too much cargo.
The midwife's body odour is stifling and her office is tiny, taken up mainly by a towering library of unborrowed parenting books and an over-sized futon, on which I am perched, trying to look composed despite the mid-August heat. Her desk is clumsily plopped in the centre of the room, unwanted by any wall. Its sense of unbelonging bothers me deeply. I want desperately to tidy it away or at least square it with the axis of the room, but my powers of telekinesis fail me.
The midwife pushes her heavy spectacles back up the bridge of her glistening nose every few seconds, like an involuntary tick. The discomfort of this moment is overshadowed only by the burdens of my new life as a Supermum of two. Any problems, Lauren? she probes.
A simple enough question, but inside I am seething with sarcasm. No, life is just peachy! Why would I have any problems? I have a four-week-old baby and a seventeen-month-old toddler who just learned to walk and now wants to walk EVERYWHERE - except where I say! We're in the middle of an intolerable heat wave and I never see my husband because his employer has stolen him from me! How could I possibly have any problems?
But I dont want to cause alarm and end up with another recommendation for counselling, so I just stick to the medical stuff. Well, my left milk ducts are a bit blocked and painful and I feel like Im getting a cold all the time. Apparently I should nurse more frequently, but she sleeps so long - maybe due to the heat? - and I can't wake her up to feed. And anyway, I have to take Scarlett out twice a day to occupy her, otherwise she's just... my defensive rambling is curtailed by the choking of my larynx.
I am silenced by a flick book of tantrum-filled freeze-frames from the last six months. I cough to cover the welling of sorrow and clear my throat, ...wild. She looks at me blankly, blinking like a school mistress expecting an explanation for my behaviour. I feel a child-like urge to submit to her authority. I suppose I've been doing a lot to keep her entertained, walking about with the double stroller in the heat - you know, maybe lose a bit of weight! - playing with her and breast-feeding at the same time. My mum went home last week, my nanny is away and Darren's been working a lot, so I don't have much help.
I stop abruptly, suddenly feeling the need to lighten the mood. I attempt a joke of sorts, Sometimes we cross paths at three in the morning when I'm getting up to feed Morgan and he's coming in from work! Heh!
She doesn't get it. She finally rests the bothersome spectacles on the afterthought desk and her face softens. Lauren, you need to rest. Go to bed with your baby, all day, and nurse as often as you can. Drink lots of water and sleep whenever possible. You could be on the road to mastitis if you're not careful. The M word stops me in my tracks. But... Scarlett... is all I can muster before stormwater breaches my lower lids and my desperation flows free at last.
*** Two days later, Scarlett started at day care and my nanny enjoyed an influx of extra cash. I filed away my Supermum fantasy under Fiction, along with Hollywood Actress and International Rock Star.
And instead, I stayed in bed and nursed my baby.
Winner of the Voices of Motherhood Writing Contest