The house is being demolished at the end of the month and we’re several weeks into packing all our belongings for storage. There’s no denying it’s been hard. The house has been a jungle of cardboard boxes, every room has been turned inside out, and navigating the usual work and family commitments has been more complicated and tiring than ever. Throughout it all, however, Reservoir Mum and myself have remained upbeat and I can only attribute this to the fact that I’ve been doing most of my late night packing in a leopard g-string.
The boys are out jumping on the trampoline and I find Reservoir Mum sitting in the middle of the ensuite next to an empty cardboard box. She seems confused. She’s all dusty. Her hair is tied back in a lazy pony tail. She’s wearing tracksuit pants and I can’t help but notice that the bulge of her belly is barely contained within her plain grey hoodie jumper. She’s simultaneously cute and sexy, like Susanah Hoffs from The Bangles.
‘You look so cute,’ I say to her.
‘I thought I had more maternity pads than this,’ she replies, holding up one pad.
‘Shazam!’ I say.
‘And I have no breast pads. I thought I had a whole box… you realize Rick Astley will be born while we’re at Mum and Dad’s house?’
‘I do realize,’ I say, ‘but we’ll have weeks to get that sort of stuff sorted, won’t we?’
‘I want to work right up until my waters break so I’d rather not be getting all that crap in the last month or so. I might head to Coles and buy some supplies.’
The bedside clock radio is on and the song playing is Why by Bronski Beat. The head-bopping rhythm combines with the visual of Reservoir Mum to work me up into a commitment frenzy. ‘You and me together,’ I say, pointing at her and banging my hips rhythmically to the right, ‘Fighting for our love.’
Bronski Beat’s lyrics are still in my head as I hear myself whisper, ‘ I’ll go buy your sanitary napkins.’
‘Breast pads,’ she says.
‘Oh yes… I’ll go get those then.’
She pauses and smiles before saying, ‘You hate buying that sort of stuff… remember when you last got me some tampons? You came back with the wrong brand and some…’
‘I didn’t want the check out lady to think I was just there to buy tampons…’ I say, interrupting her.
‘… dog biscuits?’
‘We needed them. It’s not so strange,’ I reply. On the outside I maintain the façade of assurance that I have carried on for several years, but on the inside I am once again acknowledging the absurd combination of products and remembering the check-out lady’s expression when I threw them on the counter and said, We need these for our dog.
‘This time will be different,’ I say. ‘I’m going in prepared.’
‘Okay then…’ she says, ‘just get me Swisspers disposable pads. Nothing special or expensive. Okay? Breast pads.’
‘Just leave it to me,’ I reply, before saying, ‘I’ll be back soon.’
I’m standing in front of an aisle full of feminine hygiene products in the local My Chemist. The last time I made a trip like this I was a fumbling, embarrassed idiot but I know why – I hadn’t researched the product or its application. I was simply underprepared. But how the tables have turned! I have just spent two full hours Googling breast pads and I’m oozing confidence.
As I run my finger across the brands on the shelves I am referencing a solid base of information. Words such as thin, absorbent, self-adhesive and confident leap out at me as I keep the shape of Reservoir Mum’s breasts and the flow of her milk in the previous three pregnancies at the forefront of my mind. I am aware of everything. Even the shape and weight of each box tells me something. I am a cocky Andrew Bolt crossed with an assured Al Gore. I have a high opinion of myself. And I know my subject well.
Even before the chemist’s assistant says, ‘Do you need some help?’ I know she’s there. When I turn to see she’s young, blonde and inexperienced I am not surprised. I perceived it minutes before.
‘I’m looking for breast pads,’ I say to her, tilting my head and holding up a packet of Dove Swisspers. ‘My wife thinks that a cheap disposable breast pad’s the go, but I’m not so sure.’
‘So… she’s used them before?’ she asks, nervously.
‘Yes… silly,’ I chuckle, replacing the Swisspers and pulling out some Pigeon Premiums, ‘Now, these come highly recommended. The double tape patches keep them in place and they’re individually wrapped for hygiene….’
‘If they seem thin to you it’s because they are – they’re one of the thinnest on the market. But you shouldn’t look so concerned because they’re also super absorbent. Unless you’re experiencing major leakage, you can get away with changing them once a day. You could do much, much worse than Pigeon.’
When I hand the box to her she takes it and looks hesitantly towards the counter.
‘Ahh Lanowool,’ I say picking up the packet and turning it over several times, ‘for the environmentally conscious. These can be washed and re-used but they don’t cope with a fast let down… they’ve also been known to cause visible wet spots – quite embarrassing in certain social groups… but they do individualize to comfortably suit every breast and are almost invisible under even the most revealing evening dress.’
I am alight. The place I find myself in is timeless, weightless, euphoric. I want for nothing. All information – and all the avenues of expression needed to reveal it – is available to me. When I hear, ‘Sir, have you made a decision yet?’ I become aware of the solid floor beneath my feet again and see that the Chemist’s assistant has been replaced by a burlier, hairier man Chemist. I regain my bearings before noticing I’m holding another packet of breast pads.
‘Lilypadz. These are non-absorbent and self-adhesive. You can wear them with strapless dresses… and they’re great for making the more prominently sized nipples less obvious,’ I say, pointing at his chest. ‘You can go to bed without wearing a bra and even go swimming at your local pool without leaving milk clouds. I can’t recommend these enough.’
With several boxes under one arm he takes a step back and says, ‘So they’re the ones you want then?’
‘I’ll take all of them thanks,’ I say.
‘How’d you go?’ Reservoir Mum asks, as I make my way up the stairs to our bedroom with my bag full of goodies.
‘Great,’ I reply. ‘Really great. I just have a tiny bit more research to do. Just give me a few minutes… I need to know which brand is more comfortable.’
As I close the door I stop for a minute. I know Reservoir Mum’s sense of humor too well. ‘Don’t come up here,’ I yell through the crack. ‘I won’t be long.’