Learner Dad walked into the loungeroom and tried to stifle a laugh.
I was down on one knee, pushing a hand weight out behind me.
“Don’t you dare laugh at me,” I declared, quite seriously.
I was already feeling self-conscious.
After months of telling people I wouldn’t be going on any fad bride diet, I had succumbed.
To be fair to myself, it wasn’t really a fad diet.
Firstly, I had eight months until the wedding meaning, if I wanted to drop a few kilos, my target would be a breezy single kilo every three months.
And secondly, as someone who puts food up with sleep and music as my three favourite things, I simply don’t do diets.
Besides, I didn’t want to look unlike my regular every day self to Learner Dad.
I had to retain some of the double chin and big boobs he fell in love with.
I was just watching what I ate.
And apparently, doing weights.
“It’s not funny,” I reiterated to Learner Dad. “You should be doing it too.”
Not satisfied with my own pledge for self-improvement, I’d given Learner Dad his orders too.
A kilo every month until the big day.
He’d made a couple of half-hearted starts, but I suspected his real efforts would come in the form of a bunch of Tony Ferguson shakes approximately nine days out from our nuptials.
There are both pitfalls and upsides to getting into shape for your wedding.
One of the obvious benefits is the actual ‘getting into shape’ bit, the eating good healthy stuff and getting out there and doing some exercise.
Another is getting ahead of the photographer, who will jam an extra five kilos on to your frame in every single shot.
But there can be negatives too, especially if you’re taking it very seriously.
I remember going to the cinema with my regular movie buddy in the weeks before her wedding, where she nibbled miserably on carrot and celery sticks while I munched into a choc top.
You don’t want the fun of planning a wedding to be overshadowed by the pain of not eating.
Then there’s the piling the weight back on bit.
How bittersweet to walk into your wedding all Miranda Kerr, only to return from your honeymoon all Kirstie Alley (on a bad day).
As a guest at many weddings, I can say I’ve never seen a bad looking bride.
I’ve seen some who’ve lost staggering amounts of weight.
And even the opposite.
One relative stopped breastfeeding two months out from her wedding and stacked on two dress sizes (fortunately for her she could afford to add weight and looked the better for it).
Others have walked the aisle with the same fabulous physique they carried a year before.
Either way every bride I’ve seen managed to look like herself.
Just her best self.
Now where are those weights?
I glanced at my watch.
Where was he?
He’d said he’d finish late but I’d thought he’d be home by now.
I’d done everything – cooked dinner, bathed Li’l Fatty, read with Master Seven, got both boys ready for bed, all after a full DAY of mothering them as well.
And now Learner Dad wasn’t going to be home in time to do the hardest job of all – get them to actually go to bed!
He was at the cricket.
After working a long stretch, we’d been excited at the prospect of him having six whole days off in a row.
Of course he had radio commitments on three of them and had to present the TV sport on two of them but those things were only an hour or so out of each day.
But then he decided to work one of his days off because the last cricket match of the season had come down to the wire.
And of course nobody could cover it as well as him 🙂
And then, on another day off, he picked up two MC gigs.
They’d basically consume another whole day.
I wasn’t angry.
His strong work ethic was a huge part of what I loved about him.
He enjoyed his work.
And I knew he was trying to keep us financially afloat too.
But I missed him.
And, at times, I was jealous.
Sure, cricket wasn’t my thing but how nice to be paid to sit with your reporter mates and watch a game you love.
To not be consumed by nap times, grocery shopping and excursion dates.
To get about in a sharp suit, be given a nice lunch and to actually chat to adults all day.
And then to go back to the office and write about it.
I love writing.
But instead I was writhing.
On the floor with Li’l Fatty.
And reading books about Brown Bears and Green Sheep.
And pulling mashed banana out of my hair.
And washing school clothes.
And, oh hang on that’s right, I was watching cricket too.
And then home to juggle peas and corn and bubble bath and home readers and sleep suits and toothbrushes…
This was getting ridiculous.
Where was he?
He glanced at his watch.
He probably wasn’t going to see his boys tonight.
He felt stressed.
In many directions.
He’d spent the whole day working at the cricket.
An incredible match, fantastic ending.
Now he was on his way back to the newsroom.
Tired and hungry but still with a whole story to write for tomorrow night.
He didn’t know what to do – go home for an hour or so and then come back?
Or realise family time was over and just stay at work until he got it done?
What would she want him to do?
He’d been busy lately.
He felt guilty.
And worried that his absence was why he’d slipped way back into second place at home.
Master Seven lately met his boy’s time suggestions with a shrug and his own suggestion that ‘mummy play too’.
And Li’l Fatty – well he just watched his mother’s every move and grizzled to go to her the moment she walked into the room.
How could he compete when he was at work all the time?
How could any man?
He thought of his future wife, at home in her pajamas watching My Kitchen Rules after a day of trackpants and TV, strolls in the sunshine, coffee with friends and cuddles with kids.
How nice that must be.
To be able to devote so much time to the baby, sunbake or watch TV during his sleep, and be there to pick Master Seven up from school.
Every single day.
In the end, he went home.
A quick goodnight to his two tired and grumpy sons and a cold bowl of pumpkin soup later, he was headed back to work.
All so he wouldn’t have to leave them again tomorrow.
THERE IS NO MORE IMPORTANT PARTNERSHIP IN LIFE THAN PARENTING.
LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER FOR HIS OR HER CONTRIBUTION TO THE FAMILY, WHATEVER FORM IT TAKES.
YOU’RE DOING A BEAUTIFUL JOB LEARNER DAD x
“Ok so maybe we need to talk about his diet. How often does he have chocolate?”
I was at the dentist.
Did I really have to answer this?
Did I have to answer it honestly?
We were talking about Master Seven.
“Um, well he has choc chip Tiny Teddies in his lunchbox… and then usually a choc chip muesli bar after school,” I replied.
“Ok so…” the dentist began.
“And then a little treat after dinner most nights,” I interrupted him, not finished.
“Chocolate?” he asked.
“Not always,” I reassured him. “Sometimes a lolly or some ice-cream.”
“I see. What about sugary cereals?”
The Nutri Grain had become an almost daily occurrence now.
Although we initially tried to make it a weekend treat, Master Seven was usually first out of bed and hurriedly made his own breakfast before we got up, claiming (through a mouthful of Nutri Grain) that Weetbix was too hard to prepare on his own because he liked it with warm milk.
I admitted the Nutri Grain to the dentist.
“Fruit? Fruit juice?” he asked.
“Oh yes, an apple every day,” I said triumphantly, only to be greeted with a slight shake of the head.
“Fruit’s not great for his teeth either,” he said.
Master Seven’s future lunchbox was suddenly looking very grim.
Despite his penchant for sugar, our little grade two-er has a salad wrap, a carrot and an apple every day.
He gobbles up vegies for dinner and doesn’t drink fizzy cordial.
He hates the effervescence.
I told the dentist this but he was already headed off to his next patient.
“Am I a bad parent?” I asked Learner Dad sadly that night. “Don’t other kids eat this much crap too?”
In my determination to never become a ‘Maccas Family’, I made sure Master Seven rarely had take out at home.
I knew things could be worse.
But I also knew they could be better.
And now Master Seven had to have two fillings, on baby teeth no less.
It provided food for thought.
Having ‘afters’ (or ‘dessert’ to most of you) was how I’d grown up.
A bowl of jelly or a bowl of ice-cream after dinner.
If all else failed, a biscuit.
And so it had been for Master Seven.
I even followed Li’l Fatty’s mashed pumpkin up with mashed apple for ‘afters’.
We decided as a family to give the habit the flick (Master Seven was totally agreeable munching into a Freddo Frog at the time but had changed his mind by the time we finished dinner the next evening).
‘Afters’ was now an occasional affair.
We were going to put true meaning back into the word ‘treat’.
Li’l Fatty would only ever know dessert as something mummy and daddy served up on a special occasion.
But it didn’t end there.
After school snacks would change from muesli bars to cheese sticks.
Honey sandwiches would turn into vegemite ones.
And Nutri Grain (‘Iron Man Food’ – puh-lease) would be permanently replaced with cereal of the Aussie Kid variety.
Without the sprinkle of sugar on top.
But I was drawing the line on the apple.
And the Tiny Teddies.
After all, he does have a sweet tooth.
His name was Chris.
He had grey hair, a beard and kind eyes.
He was my midwife.
Besides Learner Dad, he was the most important person around when Li’l Fatty was born.
I’m not talking about labour.
I went straight from induction to caesarean so the doctor was the only person I really remembered from that experience.
I’m talking about recovery.
Some women can’t get out of hospital fast enough after having a baby.
Others are literally sent packing, dragging their dummies and diapers behind them.
I was kind of in between.
I quite liked being taken care of yet, having been a patient only in the public system (with its shared rooms and average food), I went home a bit sooner than I needed to.
One of my reasons for almost staying was Chris.
You think of midwives, you think of babies.
But, when it comes down to it, the midwife is really there for you.
Baby’s out, baby’s breathing, baby’s fine.
In my experience, the midwife is all about mummy.
When your room is full of visitors, all eyes on bub as he or she is passed around the room, it’s the midwife who is all eyes on you.
He’s the one who can tell you’re in pain.
Or needing to be left alone.
It’s an intimacy unlike any you’ve experienced: not even your own hubby will regularly poke around the pads in your undies checking for blood loss; or help wash your naked, war-torn body in the shower; or regularly remind you you really need to poo.
Then there are the nightingales.
They’re the midwives who glide around your hospital bed at night, gently checking your vital signs while you peek at them through the slits in your eyes.
They lower your bed, slip you painkillers and gently take bub from the crook of your arm to pop back in his crib.
And then, sorry to break the spell here, there’s the early morning midwife bitch.
She’s the one who strolls in and moves the crib (with baby inside) up against the wall, as far away from you as possible.
She’s the one wanting you to get out of bed to get him.
The bitch who’s trying to stop you getting a blood clot.
You’ve heard of the baby blues?
The floods of tears that come three or four days after you’ve delivered your baby?
Mine came the moment I left the hospital.
The moment I stopped being nursed so I could go home and nurse someone else.
Admittedly the tears only lasted the short ride home, whereupon I happily and eagerly re-entered the real world.
A world that now included Li’l Fatty.
But although mine was one of the dozens of tired and teary new mum faces Chris must see every day, I’m not sure I’ll ever forget his.
“I’ve put her up on Facebook already. Is that bad?” I heard someone whisper after the bride had walked down the aisle.
I was shocked.
Dozens, possibly hundreds, of strangers were privy to this poor bride’s photos before she’d seen one herself.
Before she’d even actually got married.
I remember hearing recently of the wedding of a fairly well-known Tasmanian sportsman.
Guests had been instructed not to post photos of any part of the wedding on any social networking sites.
I’d also heard of another wedding where guests were required to hand their phones in until the end of the reception (I can only imagine how that went down!)
Now I’m not sure my soon-to-be hubby and I are that fussed about where our photos end up at this stage.
But it warrants discussion.
I mean, what if someone posted a shocker?
Sure, the page boy might look cute, or the bridesmaid might look hot, but if the bride’s in the background sneaking a ciggie or trying to pluck a wedgie before taking the long walk down the aisle, well is that really fair?
Or, she’s spent all day having her hair and make up done, all year trying to squeeze into the dress, only to be put up on the internet with her damn eyes closed (by the chick standing next to her, who is pretty happy with how hot she herself looks in this particular photo).
And, as for the groom, sure it may be sweet he’s crying but if his tears are accompanied by streams of snot then does anyone really need to see it?
If the marrying couple has invested every shred of time, energy and money into this particular day, then surely copyright must be theirs?
But perhaps there are benefits to having your big day broadcast by all and sundry.
What if a guest has taken a pearler, one of those candid shots your own photographer missed, and one that you’d have shared over and over, perhaps even had printed and framed, if only someone had posted it online?
And, if you’re looking smoking on your big day, then surely a little tag on Facebook, where your exes often linger, can’t be a completely bad thing?
I’m not sure Learner Dad and I will ever really care enough to make a big hoo-haa about it for our wedding.
But then again, I’m not sure we’ll have to worry now.
With most of our guests loyally subscribed to this blog, it’s probably no longer an issue.
“Mum, has anything really bad ever happened to you?”
Master Seven and I were out for an evening walk when he sprang that ever so serious question on me.
He’d been doing that a bit lately.
I wasn’t sure if it meant he was a particularly solemn boy or if it was just part and parcel of being a seven year old.
I wondered what he meant by ‘bad’?
He’d recently told his Nanna he couldn’t stop thinking about a baby that had been thrown from a bridge by its own mother.
I vaguely remembered the news item on TV but couldn’t remember him being there when it was on.
Having two journalists as parents means reading and watching the news is quite the priority in our home.
But it seemed I’d got a little careless.
Or had I?
To what extent should we shield our children from the realities of the world?
When are they old enough to watch the news?
A friend told me she hadn’t been able to reach her TV in time before her eight-year-old son heard about a mass slaughter of kindergarten students in Connecticut last December.
Try explaining that to a boy who’s old enough to understand it’s happened but too young to understand why.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.
I’d often glance out of the corner of my eye at Master Seven when certain news items came on TV.
I’d sigh with relief seeing him completely engrossed in his colouring-in, only to have him ask as soon as it’s over: “Mummy, what’s a homicide?”
I thought about Master Seven’s question as we walked.
Had anything really bad happened to me?
Family deaths, a few teenage brushes with the law (yes, me!) and my share of broken hearts.
But no, I’d actually had a very good life and told him so.
“What about you?” I asked back, curious.
“Weeeeelllll,” he said.
I braced myself.
“I have taken a few tumbles, like this,” he said, doing a slow motion commando role on the nearest lawn.
I laughed, but he just stared back at me seriously.
I was relieved.
My little grown up suddenly sounded seven again.
“Yes but even those haven’t been so bad,” I said. “At least you didn’t break any bones.”
“Oh I broke my leg once,” he said matter-of-factly
“You’ve never broken a bone in your body,” I told him.
“Yes, I did,” he asserted. “I was walking like this, remember” (demonstrates bizarre hobble).
The rest of our walk consisted of safer subjects – school, Super Mario and our favourite desserts.
But I had a feeling I had a way to go in answering all of life’s big questions.
Li’l Fatty rubbed his eyes and put his head on my shoulder.
After a busy morning laughing, bathing, playing and pooing (unfortunately in that order), he was exhausted.
It was time for his morning sleep.
I carried him into the kitchen to look for his dummy.
And then I saw it.
Sitting on the bench, completely out of place at this time of day – Master Seven’s lunchbox.
I desperately tried to call Learner Dad but he wasn’t answering.
I knew he’d be covering the cricket that day anyway and could hardly leave just to deliver his son’s lunchbox.
“Bugger it,” I muttered, grabbing the lunchbox and keys and heading for the car.
“You stay awake,” I ordered Li’l Fatty as I strapped him in.
Every parent knows how important this is.
Keeping your baby awake until you get home for his proper nap.
Should he or she drop off for even five minutes, he or she’ll wake believing sleep time’s over and spend the rest of the day cranky as hell.
We got Master Seven’s lunchbox to school without issue but, by the time we were headed home again, Li’l Fatty was struggling.
“Peekaboo!” I yelled, swinging my head round to look at him.
He smiled tiredly.
So I did it again.
After about five ‘peekaboos’, I checked myself.
What the hell was I doing?
I was playing this game while driving.
How long would my baby stay awake if I crashed head on into a garbage truck?
So I pressed the buttons to open both front windows and cranked the music up.
But it only made him more sleepy.
I was losing him.
I began singing hysterically – The Wiggles, Metallica, One Direction, whatever it took.
Pulled over at a red light, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
I looked over to see a woman in the driver’s seat of the car next to me.
She was waving her arms about like mad and I could hear her yelling as she glanced desperately in the rearview mirror.
I glanced behind her.
Yep, there was a car seat.
She was trying to keep her baby awake too.
As the light turned green, we two mothers lurched forward, doing our crazy driving dances and singing our stupid desperate songs.
Risking our lives and the lives of others on the road, all to keep our babies from dropping off.
I got Li’l Fatty home just in time.
Straight on the boob and out for the count.
What if I’d failed, you ask?
If he’d fallen asleep in the car?
Well that’s easy.
I would have accepted defeat.
And then driven to Launceston.