I’m at the kitchen table, the blinds drawn, ready to express the second boob. I look at Vita, squeeze my eyes tight and pray with all my might for her to ‘please take a bottle’. I place the funnel over my udder; whirr, whirr, whirr goes the machine. I can only do one bosom at a time because after moving back from Washington D.C. two years ago, I plugged it into a UK mains socket and it blew up in a cloud of black smoke, frying the adapter. My engineer father, Roger, mended it but it’s never been quite the same since.
I switch to ‘let down’ mode there is a deep whirrrr and then uh-errr, uh-errr, uh-errr, my nipple moves in and out like a piston and the milk starts to trickle into the bottle below. Uh, the humiliation. Men don’t have to blow out their pelvic floors and then be milked by machines or mini people; it’s not bloody fair. Lucky, lucky bastards. Maybe I have penis envy? I must Google that, but now my other boob’s squirting milk across the table. I reach for the kitchen roll behind me.
When I’ve finished I return my tired boobs to their nursing hammocks and pour the milk into an new Aventi bottle, the forth brand I have tried which promises to ‘feel exactly like the real thing’ for baby. “This is the one,” I say. I pick Vita up in my arms, place a nursing pillow on my lap and gently sing ‘Bah, Bah, Black Sheep.’ I slowly put the teet to her mouth and bam! she punches it away so hard it spins across the dirty grey linoleum floor.
I get up to retrieve the bottle and see ‘Daddy’ is still blathering to Doctor Nick outside, which is getting firmly on my tits. God, he’s meant to be watching Sienna (2 ½) but he’s not and now she’s…. No, no no, Simon! This is unforgivable. I want to punch him. I pick Vita up and rush to the front door. How could he be so stupid?! “Simon! Sienna’s on Mandy’s trampoline – with her shoes on!” I bark. My twenty-year old inner-self shudders at what have I become.
Doctor Nick waves. Oh god. I didn’t want him to see me like this: all mental and disgusting. My skin is red and blotchy, my hair scrawped back in an unflattering bun and I’m hiding in vast black pregnancy jeans with an oversized Primark jumper obscuring my muffin-top-cum-gunt. Black is my favourite colour post-children – I am in mourning for my old life. And my body.
The hot doctor is talking to me but I can’t take in what he’s saying because I’m trapped behind the frosted glass of exhaustion. He is incredibly handsome. It’s the salt and pepper hair that does it – I’ve always had a thing for older men. Richard Gere was (still is) my pin-up. Vita suddenly pukes her breakfast over my shoulder.
I return indoors to get us both cleaned up. As I bend over to plonk her in the bouncer Simon suddenly comes behind and starts rubbing his crotch against my bum. I donkey kick him in the shin and turn round to see he is dressed in full lycra, looking like a total pervert. Cycling clogs and all. How does he do it? His costume changes are faster than Wonder Woman (and he’s got that outfit, too). He’s telling me he’s going for a quick haircut and a cycle around Richmond Park but I am having difficulty absorbing this information.
Me: “So you’re leaving me with the kids whilst you go for a nice bike ride and have your hair done? WTAF? (Pause) Do it in the week.
Si: No – I need to get my haircut TODAY. It’s part of my job.
Me: Well, you can take Sienna with you.”
Si: “Don’t be an arse – I can’t take a toddler on my racing bike or to Nickos’s.”
Me: “WHY can’t you?”
Si: “Because it would be a nightmare.”
Me: “I have to take them BOTH everywhere.”
Si: “That’s because you’re amazing. The quicker I go, the quicker I’m back.”
I take a breath to stop myself from crying. “Simon, please don’t go.” My voice wobbles. “I’m trying to get Vita on a bottle, I can’t cope with Sienna too.”
Si: “Granny’s here. 90 minutes tops.”
And off he cycles with Buck Warren speeding after him looking like two giant sperm on wheels. Bastards. So it’s all been pre-planned, which means my BF, Mandy (Warren), has also been left holding her baby and two year old. Even though we live 50 feet away Mandy and I barely see each other these days apart from nursery pick ups and drop offs but we are there for each other, just a Whatsapp message away.
Granny slowly descends the stairs; she’s been having a ‘slow morning’ after the rigors of bell ringing. “I heard Simon leave. What can I do?” I tell her she can look after Sienna, I have GOT to get Vita on a bottle. But Granny needs a coffee first. She can’t do anything without a coffee and she’s now mangling the Nespresso machine because she doesn’t know how all these stupid contraptions work. “Nothing’s coming out.” “That because you haven’t put any bloody water in!” The machine groans.
Granny heads outside with a cup of ‘disappointing froth’ in hand, she and Sienna are wrapped up for an arctic expedition because ‘it’s February’ and I never put enough clothes on my children, apparently. They are doing chalk drawing on the pavement together. (Well, Sienna is, Granny can’t bend down that far). The door closes. Good, now it’s just me and baby Beelzebub.
I re-warm the expressed milk and take Vita into the sitting room. I’ve read you can get them to take a bottle when the telly’s on because they’re distracted. I turn on Cebeebies – it’s Topsy and Tim which makes me rage inside. I loathe the trim, gurning Mum who is, not only the worst actress in the world, but always looks so ruddy happy. There she is smiling inanely again like someone post-lobotomy.
“Come on Vita.” She starts to drink a little milk from the bottle her eyes glued to the TV. “Good girl, that’s it.” And bang! the front door slams open and Sienna runs in. She wants to find her ball. Granny trails after her. “She’s been a little monkey running away to the playground and I can’t keep up I just don’t have the energy with my heart condition. You mustn’t run away from Granny.” Sienna is hooning around outside again with Granny zombie-trotting behind her, out off puff. The door stays open and I can see she’s now on her scooter and heading to the playground at pace. Oh bloody hell. And bam! Vita punches the bottle away. It rolls on the sofa, spraying milk over the cushions.
Granny is shouting at Sienna to come back. She turns and starts shouting for me to ‘do something!’ I rush out with the baby, give her to Granny and dash after my two year old. “Come back!” She’s the other side of the estate when I finally get a hand on her collar. “No! You do not scoot off. Naughty Step for you!” She has a meltdown and lies down in the middle of the road. I drag her to the pavement and say she can bloody stay there. I’ve had enough. Vita is screaming in Granny’s arms – she wants a feed and that’s when Si comes speeding in on his bike, Sienna darts out in front of him but thanks to his Special Forces training he avoids her… by crashing into…ME!
I am under the bike and 13 stone of him. I have a flashback to the London-Paris charity bike ride he signed me up to (and didn’t do) before we got married as my Bride Boot Camp. (And I still said ‘I do’. Doh.) I was powering up a hill on Day Two when a woman we called ‘Rik Parfitt’s Mum’, suddenly put the anchors on, causing me to swerve and hit the deck, taking out five other cyclists, with another seven running me over, the tire marks up my back and bum to prove it.
I burst into tears. Ever since I met Simon he has injured me one way or another. Dr. Nick is now at the scene. Si tries to help me up but I take the doctor’s hand and then hug him tightly. “Help me,” I whisper. I hobble to the front door, taking my screaming bundle from Granny. Everyone is asking if I’m okay because my leg is bleeding but I feel no pain; I’m a Mum and I’ve got a hungry baby to feed … with my breasts.
When I return downstairs Simon is making lunch. His helmet is off and his hair doesn’t look any shorter.
Me: “Have you had a haircut?”
Si: “No,” he says. “Nickos’ was booked up. I’ll do it next week.”