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I can count on one hand the times I’ve had a child free moment (and by moment, I mean moment) since Sparrow was born. About two weeks ago I was pushing him along Sydney road, and he was crying, and it was spitting and cold and someone walking in front of me lit a cigarette and I got a lungful of chemical and he was crying and I needed a break. Right then. There was nothing to do but keep walking. So we did. Keep walking. And then it passed. Last week it happened again. Walking again, and crying again, and this tearing love in my chest that pins me down and makes me want to run at exactly the same time.
Monkey was fourteen months old before he started childcare. Guilt leached through my pores for weeks, but then there was this lift. A lightness on Tuesdays and Fridays, the anticipation of child free-ness. Sparrow will be eight months old on Monday, and today was his first (half) day in the Joey’s room. He had a donkey and a wrap that smelled like home in his backpack. I handed him over with my brave face and left and closed the door and cried, and felt like I had failed him.
At home. Alone. The Temper Trap. Tea. My laptop. A yellow formica kitchen table. Three phone calls. No wriggling baby on my lap. No Monkey saying “but I’m talking Mama”. Aching breasts. The library homepage. Breast pump. Catalogue search terms: feminist theory body. Eight pages of Butler and Irigaray and Kristeva and Grosz. My left hand pumps, pulling milk out and down, hot and white into the bottle, while my right scrolls and clicks. In twenty uninterrupted minutes I have one hundred and sixty mils of milk and fifty one items on my list. I call the library and discover I can borrow fifty items at a time. There are tiny dots of milk on my laptop screen. I leave them there, and put a library visit into my calendar, and wonder how to carry fifty books, and get my keys and the empty pram, and walk through the park to pick up my baby.
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Sparrow and I had our second visit to uni yesterday. It was another cold day, but clear. We were there so I could meet my supervisor, and to get a desk. The guy in the gatehouse, the controller of cars, gave me a hot tip on a broken ticket machine in car park three, so I saved five dollars. Sparrow was so tired his core muscles were failing and he kept lurching forwards to stare at the ground. I held him on my shoulder while I dragged the pram from the boot. He vomited. White on black. Got him into the pram, found a nappy wipe, scrubbed at the chuck, and headed towards Humanities. Despite the vomit, and Sparrow’s extreme tiredness (this baby will not sleep in the day, well not the way those babies in books do) the afternoon felt smooth, and good, and the cold scrubbed at my cheeks and I found my way without a map.
I met the admin person first, who was lovely. And who gave me a key to a room with a desk in it. More than one desk, but one of those desks is for me. And then she gave me a photocopy code, and a pigeon hole, and showed me to a couch so I could feed Sparrow. So I sat, and Sparrow sucked. He’s stopped biting for now, which is good, but he now likes to pinch the soft skin on the underside of my upper arm as he drinks. I had a moment where I wanted to push him off. I don’t. I moved his hand away from my already bruising skin and held it so he couldn’t keep pinching. His sucking got deeper and slower, his eyes rolled back, and he slept. I took my nipple from his mouth and his little chin moved up and down, as if it were still there. But he stayed asleep. And then he transferred to the pram without waking.
My supervisor arrived and we sat in her book and light filled office and talked. She met my eyes and there were pictures of her children on her notice board and she was serious but lovely and had remembered some things about my project and some of my jelly-legged-there’s-no-way-I-can-do-this-what-was-I-thinking feelings fell away. Sparrow slept through the whole meeting. He woke again at the car. I got him up and out of the pram and he grinned and stroked my face and we stood in the cold, under a gum tree, and listened to hundreds of rosellas singing while the sun went down. With a key in my pocket, and a pigeon hole, and a photocopy code.