I CAN DO THIS.
I can get Vita on a bottle. It has now become my obsession. A bottle means help from Simon (he and Granny headed back to Swindon last night), it means freedom, it means getting my life back.
I tear open the Amazon packaging and look at the Minbie, which frankly looks bloody rude. The teat is a mould of a wonky nipple the size of a lorry wheel nut. It’s grotesque and outrageously expensive at £25, but after trying six bottle brands I know THIS IS THE ONE.
I put Vita in the buggy and let Sienna scoot the short journey to her nursery. She goes there for three hours, three times a week and this time is golden. Miss Julie opens the door and says, “Morning Sienna” in her loud Sowff London voice. I hand her Sienna’s snack and say, “Can I have a kiss?”
Quick as lightning Miss Julie says, “Well, it’s not company policy but go on then.” She gives me a smacker on the lips. I am astonished and hug her laughing. I kiss her again and kiss Sienna who is looking slightly confused.
Miss Julie is one of my favourite people after my best friend Mandy Warren, who almost runs me over as she speeds through the gates, her buggy on two wheels. “F***! We’re so f***ing late. This one had a s*** and kicked it everywhere. It’s all over the carpet and Arthur’s been a c*** all morning. Come on Arthur! Hurry up!”
I wait for her to drop little Arthur off. His is a ritual of morning meltdowns, followed by cuddles, more tears and finally a biscuit. Every time he does this a tiny part of Mandy dies. I feel her pain.
I wait for her at the gates. We hug – a proper no messing around hug. We break apart knowing we are only seconds away from sobbing into each other’s hoods. I take a breath and look at my mate, we are both dressed in down-at-heel Uggs, duvet coats patterned with muddy welly marks and snail trails and our hair scrawped back in unflattering buns. We used to be glamorous; we are not anymore.
Me: “Can you come to me I’m trying Vita with the Minbie?”
Mandy: “Urgh, Mia needs her nap. (beat) Oh sod it, she can wait.”
I make some frothy coffees, warm up the expressed milk and we take our babies into the sitting room. I am armed with the Minbie. Mandy looks at me: “Are your boobs completely empty?” I nod. This is the kind of stuff we say to each other now, before children we used to be very British and uptight but now we all flop our udders out and ask how each other’s vaginas are.
I place the Minbie teat in Vita’s mouth, whispering sweet nothings. She takes it and then spits it out along with the milk into my own face. It’s beyond insulting to have your own breast milk spat at you, especially after sitting at the kitchen table until 11.30 at night pumping my boobs within an inch of their existence.
“Let me have a go,” says Mandy and we swap babies. She tries but Vita screams and pushes the bottle and her away.
“Do you think she’s evil?” I ask. I can’t get the idea she might have taken after Si’s Aunty Edna out of my mind, who according to Si’s father had icy blue eyes and a grip of steel.
Mandy: “NO! Of course not, she’s beautiful. Perfect. (Pause) I did think Mia might be possessed when she used to scream all bloody night. It’s the sleep deprivation, Hun. She just wants Mummy’s boobs not a plastic thing made in China, can’t blame her really, it’s like blowjobs, much better skin to skin.”
Me: “God, I wish we could just get drunk together.”
I muddle through lunch without shouting at the children. Sienna picks EVERY tiny remnant of onion out of her bolognaise and Vita blows green puree at me; my clean kitchen yet again destroyed in minutes.
Sienna settles down to do a puzzle, whilst I put Vita for a nap. I will try another bottle. I have a good stash of breast milk in the freezer but the fact she’s wasting this liquid gold is breaking me. I make up the rude Minbie bottle. Sienna promises me that she’ll stay downstairs – she wants the jelly babies that I am dangling over her head.
I breast feed Vita and then let her have a little time sucking her dummy. When I think she’s nicely relaxed I quickly do a ‘switcheroo’, slip the bottle in AND she starts to take it. She is drinking quite a lot, almost asleep… This is happening, this is really happening and that’s when the door bursts open and Sienna enters, her whole head and hands COVERED in Sudocreme. “Wooohhhoooo – I’m a ghost.” Vita startles and pushes the bottle away.
“Go away Sienna. Stand in the bath,” I hiss. But she won’t leave, she wants to give Vita a kiss, she starts climbing onto my lap smearing her face against my legs and the chair. “Get off!” She drops down and bursts into tears applying more cream to the carpet like a paint-roller. Urgh. I know it’s futile, but I try one last time with the bottle. Vita hates it now – if it were the last drink on earth she wouldn’t want it. I put her down for a nap but she’s not sleepy either and howls and howls all the time I am showering the Sudacreme off my satanic toddler. It’s in her hair, up her nose, inside her ears and now in her eyes. She’s screaming and I’m having to put loads of soap on because this magical cream is so frickin’ magical it doesn’t wash off. At All.
I growl at Sienna. “You are a very naughty little girl!” Vita’s high-pitched screaming finally penetrates the chinks in my armour and suddenly I am losing it, crying uncontrollably as I hose Sienna down. I wrap her in a towel, not that one, she wants the duck towel – fine have the bloody duck towel. I take her into her room. Vita is now raging with all her might. Sienna starts whinging refusing to let me dry her.
I slump down by the changing table and sob. The remaining part of my rational brain calls from the distance. ‘You’re just tired. You were up three times in the night.’ But another voice is saying ‘you are totally and utterly mental Vanessa Wilde’. I picture Mandy also in this seventh circle of hell, shuttling back and forth from extreme joy to despair. I am not alone. Mandy and I are in this together. I take a breath and get a grip.
Sienna doesn’t like me blubbing. I hug her tightly and she hugs me back. She asks if I’m crying. “No,” I say. “I just got shampoo in my eyes like you.” She laughs and says, “Sorry Mummy.” I love her to death and cover her in kisses, get her dressed and go to attend to Vita who is now fast asleep, having perfumed her room with a ‘rat of death’ poo in her nappy.
Jesus! Imagine being a ‘nose’ with children, your scent receptors would be overwhelmed, your rare talents, well, buggered.
Three nappy changes, one more meal, three loads of washing, one floor mop, one dishwasher unload and reload, two puzzles, two brick towers and an hour of Cebeebies later, it’s bedtime. It’s hell doing two on your own at first, but you adjust and soon I have my babies in bed sleeping like the proverbial.
Around 8pm I pad downstairs and make myself a large Gin and Tonic. I am going to watch TV and chill. But 24 hours in A & E is particularly harrowing this evening, I pop to the fridge and take out a cheap bottle of Asda Gavi, heartburn guaranteed or your money back. I pour a large glass and suddenly the rather neat irony of my present situation dawns on me.
I can’t get my daughter on the bottle but she’s got me firmly back on it.
I polish off the bottle of wine and now have my Dr. Dre speakers blaring out Basement Jaxx classics. I am jumping on the sofa, jumping around the sitting room, singing in the mirror. I am ME again and I am having a great time at my crazy Party for One. When, argh! A face appears at the window in the back garden. Why is someone in the back garden at 11.30pm?! I turn the lights off and hide behind the sofa. I’m about to be burgled, I have a walking sword stick in the spare room and a dagger under the bed but where did Simon hide the pickaxe handles? Bastard didn’t tell me. I suddenly notice The Prodigy is still blaring out – I turn it off. Now I can hear a distant woman’s voice. I peep at the window, the face has gone, but I can hear this strange voice. It’s coming from the letterbox. Oh God. What do they want from me?
And then I realise it’s much worse than a burglar, it’s my neighbour Fiona Smith. Bugger, I’ve done it again, I’ve forgotten I live in a semi.
“Vanessa, I know you are in there. Open the door!”
She is married to General Jez Smith, Si’s boss and the most scary woman I have ever met. In fact they are the weirdest family on the planet.
I open the door.
Fiona: “Are your children not awake? How they can sleep through that racket is beyond me.”
Me: “I drug them first.”
Fiona: “Are you on your own?”
Me: “No? No, I have a friend over.”
Me: “Look, it’s late…” She looks at me with one killer eyebrow raised. “They’re on the loo,” I mumble. “Got diarreah.”
Fiona: “Your cooking?”
Fiona: “Right get your phone out. 21st Feb.” She swipes my iCal for me. “Good you’re free. Dinner at ours, finally.”
She turns to go and then throws her final dagger.
“And to make up for tonight – you can have Basil tomorrow.”
“Of course,” I say unable to think of how to say ‘sod off’ politely.
Great, Basil-the-incontinent-dachshund – just what I need.