I wanted children when I was a child, by the time I hit my twenties I knew it was a bad idea. I had a plant once that I called Robert, because that was the best name I could come up with. It was a cactus and it died from lack of watering.
I used to buy huge tins of cat food and dump it all in a bowl so the cat could eat all week because I honestly thought that's how you feed cats. Then I got pregnant. My greatest fear wasn't gaining weight or losing weight, it was feeding the poor child. I invested in packs and packs of Post-It notes so I could leave reminders to myself each night to feed the baby the next day.
There was nothing natural about it for me. I really was a fish out of water. At the time five other women I worked with became pregnant. Week by week they gave updates on how they loved being pregnant, how they glowed, how healthy they were eating. I hated being pregnant. I felt like an alien was growing inside me. I never glowed, my hair fell out by the handfuls in the shower, my face broke out like I was going through adolescence all over again and feet turned into flippers. My longings were for cold spaghetti out of a tin and salsa. I never craved for apples or lettuce. Why would the good Lord pick me to give life?
The first year was hard, I had post-partum depression and my son was colic. I don't know who cried more. At the time Martha Steward had her weekly "Living" show on TV and monthly magazines. I watched her religiously trying to be the perfect wife and mother. I stopped watching her the night she cooked salmon over lemon tree branches that she had cut down from her garden that afternoon. I knew the bar was set to high. I would just have do my best. I tried to breast feed but the well was dry. I just couldn't produce enough to keep him fed. The public health nurse kept telling me "Your milk will come in. Just keep trying. Good mothers breast feed!" Not me. My milk stopped and the baby stopped growing so my doctor said go to the supermarket and buy a case of Similac. Which I did. I also stopped going to the public health nurse.
My son was born in January and I was determined to get my life back. When Valentine's Day rolled around in February, I demanded my husband and I go out as we always did. I dressed up in a silk dress and we went to our favourite Mexican restaurant. Shortly after they delivered the appetizers my husband said "Did you spill something on yourself?" I looked down, my shirt was soaking. I ran to the bathroom. I thought I had sprung a leak. I unbutton the top of my dress and pulled my boobs out of my bra. The milk had come in! I looked like the Old Faithfull giser. Two steady streams of milk were hitting the cubical door and splashing on the floor. I didn't know how to turn it off. So I folded wads and wads of toilet paper and did something I haven't had to do in years. I stuffed my bra! I folded my arms over my chest and ran through the restaurant. Our food was just arriving. "We're taking this home with us. Please pack it up!" I told the waiter to his confusion. "I'll be in the car" I told my husband. That night, I sat in my rocking chair eating a burrito while I fed my son gallons of fresh milk. We both had gas the next day.
I remember one time the TV remote went missing for days. I tore the house up looking for it. When you have post-partum depression, you're one step away from losing it every second of everyday. I blamed my husband for hiding it. (Why I thought he would do that I don't know). I cursed and swore for days threatening to throw the TV out the window if someone didn't cough up the remote. Then one afternoon, while paying for my groceries, I reached in the diaper bag for my wallet, only to find the remote. I don't know how it go there. I laid it back on the coffee table. No one said anything. They were all too afraid.
My husband worked twelve hour shifts back then and I spent a lot of nights alone. One night when my son was about 18 months old I gave him a bath. I laid him on the floor in my bedroom and put on his diaper. Before I had a chance to get him in his sleepers my mother called. I was only on the phone with her for about five minutes when it struck me that he was too quiet. I hung up the phone and peeked at the bottom of the bed. He had gotten in to my purse.
At that time my husband was still a police officer and no one could accuse me of marrying him for his money, I was on maternity leave making only 60% of my small salary from working in radio. A new baby put a lot of pressure on the budget so I had to watch every cent we spent. I had our monthly bills in my purse with the cash tucked into each envelope. I planned to pay them the next day. This was before you could pay bills by phone or over the internet. Back then you had to drive to the utility companies.
He had taken the money out of each envelope and was taking great pleasure in tearing each bill into pieces. Not just ripping them in half. He was making dime size pieces of each bill. I screamed and gave him such a fright he burst into tears. I grabbed him off the floor and put him in his room then went back to mine and with tears hitting the carpet, tried to tape the money back together. It must have taken me a good 20 minutes to find all the pieces. I almost had all the money put back together when my son waddled into the door in his diaper saying "I pretty Mommy. Look at me." I looked at him in shock. He had found a blue pen and started drawing on his little fat belly, then continued down his legs and arms, onto his face and up into his scalp. I thought I was going to have a breakdown. I had to put him back in the tub and scrub till he almost bled. I am pretty sure I cried more than him that night.
I always went to my mother for advice in the beginning. I figured after raising ten kids she had learned a trick or two. I dropped the baby off to her one afternoon so I could get the groceries in peace. She asked about his colic and I told her he was constipated and in pain at times but the doctor told me he would get over it when he started to eat more. He was also teething at this point. So all around he was going to be a joy to baby sit. I left the baby and diaper bag with enough provisions for a month (just in case I didn't come back) and went on my way.
When I got back an hour later my mother told me she had trouble with the Pampers I had left her. She never used them before and couldn't figure it out. So she did what she knew best. She took a small towel, folded it like an old time cloth diaper and put it on him with two big safety pins. It was kind of funny when I looked at him sleeping in his car seat. Then it struck me. He's sleeping! "How long has he been sleeping?" I asked. "Oh, about a half hour." Bewildered, I asked how she got him to sleep. "Just an old trick from back home. You said he was teething so I rubbed his gums with brandy and he fell off shortly after that."
"You gave my baby brandy?" "Don't be so foolish, that's what you're supposed to do with teething babies." Disgusted I left her house to drive home with my baby passed out in his car seat. I was no more than two minutes away from her house when I got the smell. It was pure sewer! Then I heard this loud gurgling noise and the smell filled the car. "Did I walk in dog crap" I thought. Then I heard the sound of a fart a grown man would be proud of and I looked in the rear-view mirror. He was still asleep but he was smiling. By the time I got home my eyes were burning.
I opened the back door and released him from the safety harness. He had diarrhea. The car seat was full of it. It was down his legs and the cloth diaper did nothing to hold it in. It dripped over the car seat and on the floor. I had to hold him by the arm pits at arms length to carry him. I forgot to take the house key out of my pocket so I had to hold him with one arm while trying to unlock and open the house door. It was then another loud fart hit and a liter of diarrhea flowed down his leg onto my hip and down my leg. By the time I got to the bathroom we were both covered from head to toe with liquid shit! I had to take everything he and I were wearing off and throw it in the garbage. Then we both got in the shower.
When we got out I laid him on a towel on the floor while I tried to dry myself. I heard another big fart so I grabbed him and held him over the toilet. I spent the next half hour sitting naked on the bathroom floor holding my naked son over the toilet thinking each time, "There can't possibly be more!"
I finally got him in a real diaper and both of us dressed. I phoned my mother and told her off for giving him brandy. "That wasn't the brandy" she informs me, "That was the prunes. I fed him a great big jar of baby food prunes to cure his constipation." For the next two days, I couldn't leave the house and he lost about five pounds.
The one thing I learned through it all is, don't sweat the small stuff. I was on my way to work one morning when I noticed chocolate around a fingernail. While maneuvering through early morning traffic I licked it off. Then thought, "I hope it was chocolate." I ran through my agenda that morning: fed the baby, changed the baby, got dressed and left the house. Don't remember eating chocolate. Oh well.