The following day, Mummy is dispatched from the hospital armed with her new plan and a misplaced sense of optimism. The Baby has improved greatly now she is no longer starving, which gives Mummy hope that she may even be quite likeable in the long run. En route home, Daddy stops at Boots to purchase the necessary equipment, for Daddy does so love to shop for technology. Mummy, on the other hand, is overwhelmed by the choice of bottles and pumping apparatus, unaccustomed as she is to having to make a purchasing decision without first spending three weeks researching online.
“Here!” says Daddy, “This bottle says it is the closest thing to a natural breast and eliminates nipple confusion!”
“My nipples are not at all confused,” says Mummy, “and that bottle is nothing like the shape of a real breast.”
The bottle boasts a good inch and a half of bulbous, protruding rubber teat and Mummy considers that if indeed this is what a natural breast is supposed to look like, it is no wonder hers are inadequate.
“They have 50% off,” observes Daddy, which makes all other criteria irrelevant.
The milk pumps in Boots look nothing like the ones in the hospital, but a compact little hand-held device promises to do the same job for twenty quid with double Advantage Card points. Result.
Less than twenty four hours after purchasing said device, Mummy is developing RSI in both hands and demands Daddy orders an electric pump for a gazillion pounds on Amazon Prime immediately. Thankfully, Daddy is only too happy to oblige. He is a big believer in solving problems by throwing money at them. “Happy wife, happy life,” says Daddy.
Mummy takes great joy in downloading an app to track milk input and output and becomes dangerously obsessed with it. She is a slave to the two-hourly alarm and develops complex systems all over the house for equipment rotation and sterilisation, milk monitoring and bottle management… and barks at anyone who touches or interferes with them. It is an unmitigated joy when output increases if only by a few millilitres, and a crushing disappointment when it doesn’t. Mummy makes a graph to monitor the daily trends, which she scrutinises like a woman possessed, trying to identify any influential variables. She drinks herbal tea and eats numerous bananas, enjoying neither.
“We can just bottle feed her if this is all too much,” says Daddy as he begins to fear that the obsession is slowly taking over Mummy’s life.
“NO!” snaps Mummy. “I have a system! The system will work! Do not question the system!” The problem with the system is that it does not take into account anything else at all that is happening in the world, beyond the production of milk to feed The Baby.
Visitors come and stay, and Mummy is forced to hide in the bedroom attached to the milking machine like a semi-naked recluse, while Daddy and The Baby entertain guests in her absence. Appointments are scheduled and missed, because they do not align with the system. Mummy loses all sense of night and day, and relies solely on reruns of The Big Bang Theory to keep her awake and functioning. Daddy is trying very hard to help, but has taken to keeping a safe distance and approaching only with Häagen-Dazs or offers of housework.
Before long, Mummy becomes concerned that her nipples are so badly bleeding and damaged that The Baby is drinking more blood than milk, and that the one on the left might actually fall off.
“I think The Baby is a vampire,” says Mummy as she pops painkillers like candy, “this is not good for her at all.”
“No, no,” says Mrs Health Visitor at the feeding clinic, “this is totally normal. Just grit your teeth and count to ten when she starts feeding – it only hurts for the first ten seconds.”
Mummy grits her teeth and counts to a hundred before mentally punching Mrs Health Visitor in the face. It very much grates on Mummy that Mrs Health Visitor does not actually do any visiting, and that Mummy has to drag herself out of bed and put on actual clothes and a proper bra – which rubs on her bleeding nipples – to go to the feeding clinic each week. It strikes Mummy that Mrs Health Visitor is in fact Mrs Health Visitee – no doubt due to NHS cuts again. She briefly considers reaching over and changing the job title on her NHS name badge with a Sharpie.
“See, isn’t that better?” smiles Mrs Health Visitee once The Baby is in full swing. The problem with feeding The Baby more is that she has started to grow… as has her appetite. It is a vicious cycle.
“No,” says Mummy, “It is not at all better. Pass the painkillers please so I can overdose.”
Mrs Health Visitee watches The Baby feeding for a while. “Ho… hum…” she says, tapping her pen and fiddling with her inaccurate name badge, “your baby is not feeding properly.” Mummy enquires as to how exactly The Baby should be feeding, given that next to no milk is coming out and the whole thing feels like a ridiculous charade. In reply, Mrs Health Visitee makes an observation which Mummy cannot unhear. An observation which would later make Daddy snort tea out of his nose. An observation which goes down in The Baby’s notes, forever immortalised in royal blue ink beside her little graph of accelerating weight gain.
“Your daughter,” says Mrs Health Visitee thoughtfully, “is a fluttery mouth sucker, not a deep throat swallower.”
Mummy takes a moment to compose her response.
“Ah, I see,” says Mummy. “And what exactly do we do about that?”
TO BE CONTINUED