At about 30 weeks pregnant – the stage when a walk morphs into a waddle – I became obsessed with homewares.
Whatever satisfaction I once got from new clothes, I now felt from buying throw rugs. And hand towels. And scented candles.
Lunch breaks while working in Richmond were dangerous. A walk to get a sandwich would often take me on a detour to the homemaker’s end of Bridge Road, where I would pine for fancy doona covers I couldn’t afford and bath towels the size of sheets.
I spotted it in the corner. A rocking chair and footstool. Draped in a throw rug – placed strategically to look like it was thrown carelessly – my breastfeeding fantasy was born.
Sure, having a newborn would be a messy, stressful, chaotic business, but breastfeeding would provide moments for blissful pause. This chair, I reasoned, would be the place where I steal quiet time with my baby and do all those things I’ve been meaning to get around to.
I set about drafting an ambitious agenda for self-improvement.
“I’ll teach myself Italian!”
“What about an online university course?!”
“I’ll crochet bunting!”
“I’ll finally listen to Serial!”
So the chair was bought and it was placed in the nursery, by the window, where I imagined myself rocking away, gently keeping rhythm with everyday life unfolding on my street. And there the chair remains. Untouched. A shrine to my naivety.
In reality, it’s the couch that gets all the action. Littered with unread newspapers, stacks of folded washing and a snoring Labrador nestled in between the cushions, the couch is where I feed my son and eat my meals at the same time. His cheeks a placemat, and his ears, a reservoir for toast crumbs, wayward peas and any other bits of dinner that don’t quite make it to my mouth.
The day he copped a splodge of mashed potato on his face was when I realised I was not ethereal, Cate Blanchett-esque when I breastfed. I was often sleep-deprived, sometimes un-showered and virtually topless about 75 per cent of the time.
I cut a slightly more composed figure when I’m out and about, although I’m not sure if awkwardly flashing a nipple in the garden furniture section of Costco is much more dignified.
So there they sit in opposite ends of the house. My pristine rocking chair and my dishevelled couch. A composite of fantasy and reality. The contrast of all of those conflicting emotions of being a new parent. The continuing sea-saw of elation and exhaustion; niggling self-doubt and surprising instinct; overwhelming love and listless boredom; and expectations – some unmet, others exceedingly fulfilled.
But what better place to share this time with my son than on the couch? Its well-worn bum ditch is evidence of the many wonderful nights spent lounging across it, creating some of our best moments as a family.
It’s where we eat delicious meals when we’re too lazy to set the table, heckle the contestants of cheesy reality TV shows and imagine what the dog might say to us if she could speak with a human voice. It’s where we laugh in hysterics and share tears wrought by sorrow and by sheer happiness. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, it’s imperfect. It’s perfect.