THE MUMMY TRAP

Stand alone

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Full-time cynic Gisele Howard has no illusions about the vegetative state of her marriage or the reason for that state: two tiny humans, a caring but clueless husband and a selectively deaf dog with bladder control issues make for easy pickings when trying to find a scapegoat. But better a decrepit union than the custodial battle her cousin is waging.

That is, until her mother-in-law shares a picture of her vagina online, her social media account invites her to become friends with her husband’s new sexbomb intern and an old flame makes her wonder if maybe, just maybe, there should be more to love than checking sex and affection off the ‘chores’ list.
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Excerpt from THE MUMMY TRAP

01 — Sorry, long post

When you become a mother you have two options. Accept that you will hate your husband forever after. Or divorce.

If you’re offended by strong language, references to bodily fluids, improper use of the term moist and the idea that a woman has to have children to ‘get it’ this book is not for you. Neither is parenthood, but I guess you already knew that, so skip the pro forma howling in protest and listen.

I’m not going to tell you to get excited about mums-only clubs or that you should get knocked up by the next available dick.

If you keep insisting that motherhood doesn’t equal womanhood. Guess, what? You’re right!

There is nothing glamorous about spending your days sans makeup and smelling of baby-vomit. There is nothing sexy about lacy lingerie, when a toddler has squeezed in between you and dear husband because he got chased into your bedroom by a scary dream.

It’s one of life’s biggest jokes that we’re never more a woman than when we give birth, yet we never feel less like one.

“But baby cuddles!” you may say in protest if you’re deluded into thinking that motherhood is still in your destiny. You just wait. Mothers don’t have time to dream. Mothers are up at three a.m. changing a diaper of curdy, yellow poop while baby projectile vomits all over the freshly laundered sheets. Cuddle that, smiley pants!

So, when I say that only mothers get it, I know what I’m talking about. I’m not discriminating against the maternally disinclined of this world. I’m stating a fact. A reality. My reality.

Motherhood sucks. It sucks the life right out of any healthy marriage.

If you don't believe me, ask your parents.

Are they still together? Condolences, you have lived the daily madness that is married life with kids. Are they divorced? I'll take my counselling fee now, thank you very much.

My point? Marriage is hard. Marriage with kids is near impossible. This from someone who prides herself on having both feet firmly planted on the commitment side of things.

Six years ago, I married my best friend and the love of my life. Today, there is no denying that most days the grass looks a lot greener on the other side, despite me shadow-living my cousin Natalie’s bitter divorce, her lengthy custody battle and regular updates on how difficult life is as a single mum.

The way I see it she’s pretty lucky. Not only does she have one contender less for the most obnoxious behaviour of the day. She also gets a lot more action in the passion department, if you know what I mean.

I may have someone to fix the leaky pipe in our bathroom, but she gets to call out the plumber and live the fantasy.

It's the age-old problem of wanting what you can't have and one of the reasons I haven't called it quits on my marriage. Yet.

The other: the little nugget in my belly and her big brother need their daddy.

The good news: over the last three years, since Jordan was born, Greg and I have formed a tenuous agreement. We may no longer be the lovey-dovey couple of times long past, neither are we at each other's throats on a daily basis.

Most days we share a house, a bed and a washing machine with admirable success. (My doing.) Occasionally we fuck each other's brains out. (Greg’s doing.)

Some people (Natalie) may think that sticking with my man ‘despite’ instead of ‘because’ is a big eff-you to female emancipation. I think it’s a small price to pay to spare my kids from the fucked up reality that are irreconcilable differences.

Because my children come first. Forever and always since the day I stopped being a daughter and became a Mummy! Exclamation mark included.

My name is Gisele Howard but my cousin calls me a doormat. My friends call me on Saturdays. Jennifer from third grade calls me a bitch.

The most succinctly comprehensive description of my life, however, you’ll find online where every mother(-to-be) timestamps their posts with the consistency of their cervical mucus and every father(-to-be) is a baby-wearing defender of attachment parenting.

In this world of obscure truths and unfiltered abbreviations I’m a scrunchy (half silky, half crunchy) SAHM (stay at home mum) with a LO (little one) on the way. DH (dear husband) is stoked, because US (ultrasound) at 143 DPO (days post ovulation) confirmed that we’re getting our perfect pigeon pair with DS (dear son) eagerly awaiting DD’s (dear daughter’s) debut. My  breasts, have been leaking colostrum for the last two weeks—sorry, TMI (too much information)—and the fact that I had my bloody show for the last two days, should mean that DD (dear daughter) will be born before her actual DD (due date) and feeding from my DD’s (holy motherfucker, I have boobs) much earlier than expected.

If you got all of this, congratulations. You’re officially mummy-trapped. Hold on to your overextended stomach muscles and don’t forget to strap in for the ride. Shit is about to get real. Because the most important thing, the most critical piece of information that requires immediate attention:

“Greg, leave that pipe alone. I've sprung a leak!”

“Shit, another one? Where?”

*Bump*

*Bump*

WTF is *bump*?

02 — My social vagina

By the time my in-laws arrive at our doorstep my contractions have kicked in and the pain has gone from damn that hurts to don’t you dare fucking touch me if you value the use of your limbs.

Miranda, my mother-in-law, must not see the half insane look in my eyes, because she keeps kneading my protruding belly, as if she personally wants to deliver the baby.

“Are you sure you don't need an extra set of hands? I took this doula course once. Manny could stay here to look after Jordan.”

Manny is my father-in-law and probably the least capable person taking care of anyone much less a hard-headed toddler.

“We’ll be alright. But thank you.” I pry Miranda’s fingers away from my bump, patting her hand in what I hope feels like gratitude when really…Seriously, woman? Have you forgotten what it was like to have a mother-in-law? Are you fucking nuts to even suggest I have you in the birthing suite?

I press my lips together to keep from voicing any of my inner monologue. I may at times have a dirty mind, but what comes out of my mouth is usually squeaky clean. Why? I'm decent like that. Also, I have a three-year-old who not only remembers everything I say, but has a tendency to repeat the remembered at the most inopportune moment. (You aren't really an annoying nag, great-aunt Susan. Pinky swear.)

More to the point, foul-mouthing your husband's second most important woman on the planet is the quickest way to turn a marriage on the rocks into an I’m outta here situation. Not my intention with the arrival of our little one just around the corner.

Speaking of which, I look around to give last instructions to my pre-schooler. “Behave Jordan.”

But Jordan has already seen the pack of biccies Miranda brought along as bribery and is off without another word. Even at his tender age he knows my in-laws will never tell on him.

I sigh, rubbing my back, and turn back to my mother-in-law, who still looks like she wants to argue.

Yeah, not going to happen, when I can feel my stomach cramping with another wave of ‘get this baby underway’ thank you very much.

I give her a forced smile. “I'm sure there is plenty of staff at the hospital and Jordan's been so looking forward to spending time with his nanna. Greg will be with me every step of the way. I'm in good hands.”

I pick up the hospital bag in the universal sign of ‘this pregnant mama needs to get to the hospital stat’ and Greg—after a nudge and a theatrical moan from my end—follows suit.

“We need to get going, Mum. Once this baby wants out driving will be a bitch. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sure, sure. You look after them.” Miranda pats Greg's cheek, who allows the touch with only the slightest sign of impatience. “But tell them that there’s a drop in barometric pressure happening later tonight,” Miranda yells after us.

Whatever that means.

The roads to the hospital are thankfully clear this late at night and Greg, conscious that his life may be in danger if he makes me walk more than the minimum required amount pulls the car to a stop in front of the entrance twenty minutes later.

“I'll let them know we're here.”

Unnecessary, considering half the staff probably heard me effing and blinding my way out of the car seat. But hey, far be it from me to undermine Greg's important role on this special day. Also, it seems way too much effort to explain, well, pretty much anything, considering my moaning is no longer as theatrical but steadily rising in volume.

Greg re-joins me a few minutes later as I crab-walk the stairs to the birthing suite—anything to get this process moving faster.

“Come in, doll. We'll get you settled in no time. Let's see if we can't make you more comfortable.”

“…my ass.”

The perfectly comfortable double bed looks as inviting as a walk to the gallows. Pain does that to a person.

“Ahh, a colourful one.” Midwife Claudia—I read her tag just so I can curse her to everlasting hell—seems unruffled by my use of expletives. Contrary to my husband.

“She's not usually this…expressive.”

“Hypocrite.” I glare at Greg. I have the best reason to swear. It doesn’t matter that in principle he's right. “…called driving a bitch.”

Claudia laughs at Greg's expression. “I've heard worse. From both parents. Let's see if you can top them, eh?”

I'm not entering a competition, not when another contraction grips my body and twists. And twists.

Love fucking hurts. It’s the cold hard truth. Especially if you’re dumb enough to refuse an epidural on grounds of trust issues. No way am I letting anyone close to my spine with a needle. Two words. Lifelong paralysis.

Even if I recover the use of my lower limbs. I heard that the migraines are worse than the contractions. Although, few things can be worse than trying to squeeze a watermelon through a hole the size of a peach. And that’s a generous estimate of my vagina. That’s right. Praise kegels and all that shit.

As for the V-word. Vagina should be what you’re thinking. No woman in their right mind, (or their attending significant other if he has any sense) is calling it a pussy when she’s about to push a baby out.

It doth screech like a cat, though, when Claudia shoves her fingers up my V to check the dilation of my cervix.

“Well done, doll. You're almost ten centimetres already.” She pats my hand as if I had any conscious input into what’s been going on down there for the last few hours. Yeah, not likely.

“You can push now, when you feel the urge.”

A whoop of delight from the door of the birthing suite has my head turning in the direction and there is something after all that can distract me from the pain that has been likened to fracturing twenty bones at once.

It’s my mother-in-law, Miranda, giving me a cheeky double thumbs up while I'm trying to birth a tiny human.

“You’re here.”

“Barometric pressure,” she mouths at me.

“Who let her in?” Panting, I glare at my husband who shrugs his shoulders, refusing to take responsibility.  

“You put her name on the birth plan,” he says.

As our emergency contact. Not someone who should be making intimate acquaintance with my soon-to-be gaping vagina. Was I not clear enough on that before we left?

“Camel. Needle,” I gasp, huffing when hubby dearest scrunches up his forehead in an attempt to decipher the metaphor. I mean, come on, is it that hard?

I suck in a breath. “Watermelon. Peach?”

He lifts his shoulders, shooting me an apologetic look.

I drop my forehead against the metal frame of the hospital bed. I love the man, but right now I'm a club away from hitting him over the head.

How much conversation does he reasonably expect, while my body is torn apart from the inside?

When we met, we were one of those annoyingly loved-up couples who could complete each other’s sentences without thinking.

Nothing breaks down communication faster than a marriage and a couple of kids.

Not only have we stopped finishing each other’s thoughts, half the time we can’t even understand what the other person is saying. Out loud. In plain English.

I get temporarily distracted from the fact that my husband isn't quite the mind reader I need him to be when my body starts bearing down and a guttural sound reverberates from my throat. I'm whaling, and I’m a big blue motherfucker.

When the pain ebbs I slump on the bed to see Miranda has found her phone and…Is she live-texting the entire family my progress?

“Get her out,” I growl, trying to prepare for the next wave of pain that's about to hit.  

“But, honey—”

I slash my hand through the air. Don't even think about it.

But my husband, who should know from the birth of our son that ‘but, honey’ isn’t an appropriate address to use during the birthing process, ever, continues the conversation because, of course he does. It’s not like it’s him lying on a hospital bed, poop squeezing out of his rectum as my mother watches on.

Feeling my body wind up like a spring to bear down again, I try to speed up the eviction process by addressing my mother-in-law directly. “Miranda—” I say, when the next contractions barrels into me and… “Fuuuck.” The pain has my teeth snapping together, as my sweet, sweet baby, annoyed by all the jostling delivers a last roundhouse kick to my lungs.  “Oof.”

I hear the surprised gasp from the door, but my vision blurs and I stop thinking altogether.

Over the next few minutes all I can do is hold on as my body alternately bucks like a horse and slumps on the bed.

“You’re doing great.” Claudia’s calm voice is the only constant in a sea of pain, and I wonder if I was too harsh cursing her to eternal damnation.

I feel foreign fingers at the eye of the needle. A watermelon baby tunnelling towards my ring of fire, stretching, burning.

“I have her.”

Our daughter’s first choked cries fill the room.

My surroundings slide back into focus by the time Claudia guides Greg to cut the cord and places the newborn at my breast. The awe-inspired expression on my husband’s face as he looks down at our daughter makes my insides go all mushy.

I want to bottle the moment and keep it for later. For times when we're both sleep deprived and at each other's throats.

I touch his hand and and wait until his eyes meet mine.

“We made a baby.”

Forgotten are the last nine months of war and peace. At least for now.

Greg swallows hard and nods. “I know.” He kisses my forehead. “She's perfect. You made her perfectly.”

Yes, I want to bottle this moment too.

I stare at the tiny bundle trembling in my arms and touch a finger to her nose. She's healthy, and pink, and my heart is so full it feels like it's going to burst. “I'm in love.”

I’m also a lot more pragmatic than I was with my first, I realise as she continues to pee on me half a dozen times in the next half hour. It doesn't feel so much like a miracle this time to get covered in baby-urine.

Nevertheless, I continue to exist in my afterglow bubble right up until the moment Claudia throws my placenta onto the exam table next to me and proceeds to share her admiration for the vascular structure by explaining every vessel and membrane, manipulating the bloody lump until I feel my stomach churn.

“Can she keep it?” I almost forgot Miranda was still in the room. Almost. “I heard it's a superfood.” She tries to poke at the afterbirth with a curious finger but Claudia’s a ninja and moves it out of reach.

“They make it into little pills now to take with your morning coffee.” Miranda is undeterred.

I'm going to be sick. Looking around I'm surprised how hard it is to get someone to take the baby off me, considering there are three adults watching my face turn green. In the end I pretty much throw the little bundle at Greg before hobbling toward the ensuite.

“Congratulations.” Miranda is suddenly in front of me, wrapping me in a bear hug, while blood continues to pour down my legs.

“Ahh,—” I try to get my sluggish brain to come up with a suitable way to extract myself, when I remember I. Just. Gave. Birth! I don't need a fucking excuse. I try to break the embrace. “Sorry, I really need to—”

“Don’t apologise.” Miranda pulls back just enough to smile at my face. “I didn't take it personally.”

What?…“What?”

“You know that you told me—” Miranda waves her perfumed hand in the air and my stomach gives another lurch. “You told me to fuck off,” she whispers, when my brain refuses to make the connection.

“I didn't say—”

“I know you didn't.” She pats my hand in a very similar fashion to what I did, just a few hours ago. The lying-through-your-teeth-fashion. “The baby made you say it.”

Yes, it really did, but not in the way Miranda's implying.

She huffs a laugh. “I probably shouldn’t have barged in the way I did.”

No shit.

“Only, you left so quickly, and I remembered that Greg said you didn't have a birth photographer. You want to keep these memories. But to send in a stranger when I couldn't talk to you first because you were already in labour? It didn't seem right.”

Wait. What? “Hold on.”

It's an indication of my birth-addled mind and the fact that some of the nausea is still lingering from when I was contemplating placenta with my Sunday morning brunch that I need clarification on this.

“You took photos? Of me? While I was giving birth? Tell me you didn't share them with anyone.”

“Only Greg. Look.” She squints at the screen of her phone and her mouth forms a silent, disbelieving ‘Oh!’ “I think something went wrong.”

She hands me her phone and…forget throwing up, I'll have a heart attack because my mother-in-law just flushed the last shreds of my dignity down the drain.

Not only did she share my birth experience with entire World Wide Web, because tech-savvy Miranda doesn’t have a private account on social media, she’s also an amateur with her phone camera. And waddayaknow, she captured the entire charade on video, including my screaming for her to fuck off, the first wail of my daughter and, lovely, that’s my ripped open vagina in the background and a comment from singleslivebetter: Looks like the watermelon won. *Ouch*


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