I have my hand on Reservoir Mum‘s tummy as we lay on the couch watching No Strings Attached and although I have found the movie mostly funny, it’s building up to the predictable emotional crescendo where the hero and heroine reunite and declare their eternal love through a hailstorm of spittle and tears. I prepare myself to sigh, shift disinterestedly and make the occasional sex-based joke but am overwhelmed by an internal rising that has been alarmingly common of late. Before I can raise my hand to my mouth to prevent it, I say, about an anguished Natalie Portman, ‘She wants love but she’s afraid…’
‘Go RD?! Reservoir Mum says with a giggle. ‘You usually hate these movies.’
My lack of response causes her to turn and study me more closely. ‘Are you crying?’
‘No,’ I say, wiping away a tear, ‘quit your crazy talk.’
‘You are!’ she says, stifling another giggle. ‘What’s going on with you lately?’
‘Exactly!’ I say pointing at her with one hand and taking a few seconds to bite down on a knuckle from the other. ‘What is happening to me?’
She picks up the remote control and pauses the movie on Natalie’s tear-stricken face. ‘Okay,’ she says. ‘Go.’
Although I am initially determined to bottle up, the drama of Natalie and Ashton Kutcher‘s on again/off again relationship has rubbed off on me and before I can get a handle on myself I have thrown myself headlong into an emotional rant.
‘Archie came to me today with his horse teddy and it had a hole in it and when he asked me if I l knew how to sew, and I looked into his moist little brown eyes knowing… knowing full well… that I couldn’t sew… not even a thread… I just ran.’
‘What? The bathroom or something, I don’t know. The point is… something fricken strange is happening to me. On the way to pick up Lewis from Kinder yesterday Elton John was singing Nikita on the radio and I saw an old woman standing by herself at a bus stop and she looked so lonely and I thought about her going to pick up her own child from kinder all those years ago and then, when I got to kinder, Lewis had drawn a picture and I said, ‘Wow, that’s a great cake and look at the candles,’ and he said, ‘ No, it’s a house and they are the people,’ and there was a mother there and when she looked at me my lower lip wobbled… I’m pretty sure she noticed… my lip. I’m almost certain of it.’
Reservoir Mum puts her hand on my thigh and says, ‘Are you saying you’re feeling more emotional?’
To allow more time for a considered response I leap from the couch and pace the lounge room. ‘I think we’re synchronizing or something… with the pregnancy,’ I say, lifting my jumper and pinching some of the skin bulging over the top of my jeans, ‘Look, sympathy bloating. I’ve got a fricking muffin top!’
Reservoir Mum’s attempt to control her laughter only spurs me on. ‘And yesterday my nipples felt sore and so, in a panic, I Googled “lactating men” and there were thousands of papers explaining that it does happen, that under the right circumstances men can lactate, and that there may have been a time in our evolutionary history where our children could have had a choice between four nipples instead of two. And so, when I was finally convinced that my sore nipples are a sign that…’ I purse my lips and stare at her from the corner of my eye.
‘It’s okay, keep going,’ she encourages.
‘…just before I convinced myself to feel the appropriate level of horror at the fact that, under the right conditions, my dormant nipples may one day spout milk, there was a moment,’ I say, steeling myself for what I was about to reveal, ‘where I was lost to a goopy kind of happiness that I’d never experienced before.’
‘Listen…’ Reservoir Mum says, patting the couch. When I sit down next to her she uncrosses my arms and places my hand back on her stomach. ‘You’ve had a rough week. You’re just tired and…’
‘Stop trying to fix things,’ I say, cutting her off. ‘I just want you to listen. I just want to be heard.’
‘Okay,’ she says, patiently. ‘Continue.’
Pouting, I look forward at Natalie Portman and say, ‘This morning I went to have a pee and it took all my strength to stop myself from sitting down.’
‘I saw a newspaper advertisement about an hour ago and I seriously considered dying my hair…’
‘But you’re bald.’
‘… well I thought about having hair first and then I thought about dying it.’
She waits a moment and then says, ‘Is that it?’
‘I just said pee a few seconds ago. Men don’t say pee.’
‘Right, I want to watch the rest of this movie. So I am going to fix this. Here’s what’s happening. One – you’ve had a rough week. The kids have all been sick. You’ve hardly slept and your thinking’s all crazy and that makes everyone more emotional – men and women. Two – from what I can see, you’re as fat as you’ve ever been. Three – you wore your superman swimming vest under your t-shirt all yesterday, so that’d explain the nipples.’
‘That would make them more tender,’ I concede.
‘Four – the bathroom’s one of the only places either of us get some kid-free time so no wonder you want to sit down to have a slash. Sometimes getting the job done quick can be a disadvantage.’
‘Vagina envy?’ I offer.
‘Five – and we’ve talked about this in the previous three pregnancies. Men do experience hormonal changes when their partners are pregnant. It’s their body’s way of preparing to care for an infant. So that may go some way to explaining your bloaty feeling and your heightened emotional response.’
‘And that goopy new happiness,’ I say, in agreement, as Reservoir Mum turns back towards Natalie. ‘So, you don’t think I’m turning into a lactating, emotional, peeing version of my former self.’
‘Maybe,’ she shrugs, as she points the remote at the TV. ‘But I’ll still luv ya. I’m starting the movie again my love. You might want to grab a few tissues.’
I have to admit that talking about it has helped. As the movie rolls on I’m feeling better and just as a teary Natalie looks into the doleful eyes of Ashton Kutcher and says, ‘I don’t know why I wasted so much time pretending I didn’t care,’ something pokes my palm.
I sit up and remove my hand from Reservoir Mum’s belly, ‘I think I just felt Rick Astley…’ I say.
‘You felt him? About time. He’s been kicking like crazy for weeks.’
‘Just two more things,’ I say, adopting her counting strategy. ‘One – please don’t ever tell anyone about what just happened here.’
‘I thought you’d want to blog it?’ she says.
‘That will never happen’, I say, ‘Some things are destined to remain private. And two – I don’t have any pregnancy tips to blog this week. Up The Duff and Huggies gave me nothing. Have you got anything I could pass on to the faithful?’
She thinks for a moment. ‘Skin tags and skin pigmentation – I’m getting more freckles and little bits of skin in weird places.’
‘That’s gross,’ I say, before adding, proudly, ‘but I’ll still luv ya!
My palm gets another kick and then several more and before I know it the movie’s over and I missed the ending but I’m not too concerned because these girly, lovey-dovey movies all end the same way anyway. ‘Right, shhh,’ I say to reservoir Mum. ‘ Now that Rick Astley and I have made contact through movement I want to see if we can hear each other.’
‘Okay,’ she says.
‘Hello, Rick Astley,’ I say, my lips only a centimeter from Reservoir Mum’s belly. ‘It’s Daddy. There’s a whole lot of crazy shit going on here and we can’t wait to see you and introduce you to al the madness. Now, I want you to make a noise to let Daddy know that you understand.’
When I turn my ear and place it against the soft curve of belly….