It’s often said that childbirth gets easier the more children you have.
I’ve noticed another curious phenomenon: the bubbly consumed immediately after the birth decreases in quality the more children you have.
When I was pregnant with Happy Chin I bought a bottle of 1984 Bollinger Grand Annee and tucked it away for the occasion of his birth. I worked in a restaurant at the time and was able to buy it at cost, so it wasn’t as expensive as it might have been. 1984 was apparently a good year, and as I couldn’t drink during the pregnancy and had no taste for it anyway, being ill most of the time, I was determined to have a nice drop on hand when the moment finally came. And it was absolutely delicious. Mind you, after 25 hours of labour it could have been Fruity Lexia for all I cared.
As incomes were somewhat depleted when Tech Support’s turn came to be born, I had to settle for a mere Veuve Cliquot NV, which again went down a treat.
By the time the Lamington decided to make his appearance (via emergency caesarean), we were reduced to a generic Aussie sparkling bought by Grandpop at the last minute. It probably cost about $15, and was money well spent. I was so zonked out by the epidural I don’t think I even got through my glass anyway (and as my close friends will tell you, circumstances have to be pretty trying for me to leave a glass unfinished!)
I can report a similarly marked decline in the quality of post-delivery food. Labour is bloody hard work, and 25 hours of it (plus 12 hours of pre-labour with hardly an arrowroot biscuit to sustain me) meant I was absolutely ravenous afterwards. The curious metallic taste in my mouth which had been there for 9 months vanished the moment HC finally consented to be born and, declining the nasty hospital egg sandwiches, I sent Mr August on a mission to Find Me Some Food! He returned 25 minutes later with a spicy prawn laksa, which is just exactly what you feel like eating after pushing out a baby with a head the size and shape of a Sherrin football. Anyway, at least Mr A’s dinner was taken care of.
Cut to two years later and Tech Support’s birth, a natural delivery in a birth centre which took precisely four hours. By now, I had it worked out. I realised that all I really craved was a ham sandwich with swiss cheese on sourdough. So I asked my beautiful mum-in-law to please make me one and bring it to the hospital post-delivery, which she very kindly did. It was only as I was wolfing it down that we discovered whoever had sliced the ham at the deli hadn’t removed the plastic wrap first. The sandwich was delicious, but I had to pick thin shreds of Glad Wrap out of my teeth. Still, a minor inconvenience really, and unlikely to phase a woman who has just given birth without drugs. I just washed the Glad Wrap down with Veuve!
Now we come to the Lamington’s birth, a surprise affair beginning a week earlier than expected at 1AM and ending in an mad rush to theatre after one of his hands was discovered to be where his head should’ve been (even then, you could trust the Lamington to do things differently). You may well be wondering, what could possibly be worse to eat for dinner than a plastic ham sandwich? I’ll tell you – two mini-packs of hospital biscuits and a cup of tea made with long-life milk.
There’s also been a noticeable downgrade in our furniture and other household possessions. When my Mum and Dad were first married, their only living room furnishing was a couch Dad made from old apple crates. It was a good ten years before they could afford to upgrade to the cream fluffy modular couch with chocolate brown velour trim and the quadrophonic stereo system (remember them?)
With us, it was the opposite. We started our married life with fairly decent furniture. We were both working full time and could afford to visit Freedom and Ikea on the weekends. Then came the children. By the time we finished dragging three boys through toddlerhood and early adolescence, our furniture resembled something you see on the side of the road on Community Clean-Up mornings. In fact, a lot of our furniture was sourced from Community Clean-Up mornings.
And honestly, there really didn’t seem much point in replacing furniture during the Flying Pasta Days. With Happy Chin hurling objects round at random, we just got used to scrubbing couches and rugs, cleaning up broken glass and as a last resort if all else failed, chucking a colourful Indian throw over the worst of the stains.
We do own a few nice things, but they’re mostly tucked away in cupboards and stumbled on every couple of years during random clean-ups. We then get them out, reminisce delightedly about where we got them and how long it’s been since we’ve seen them, then wrap them back up and stow them carefully away so we can repeat the process in five years’ time.
Holidays have become similarly less salubrious as the years have worn on. Once, I admit, I was a five star girl. My checklist when choosing a holiday went something like this: quaintly historic cottage, 1000 thread-count sheets, spa bath, open fireplace, wineries within short distance and so on. How times have changed. Now it’s more like: humble coastal shack, not on the same street as any shop that sells coke, well-worn furniture, fenced in backyard, working DVD player and melamine plateware.
But a happy phenomenon I’ve also noticed occurring is that I care less and less about all of these things. I’m perfectly happy to collapse on our stained but comfortable sofa at the end of a working week, eat bad takeaway pizza and drink $8 wine. In fact, if I were a marriage counsellor, this is the advice I’d give to young couples – lower your expectations. You’ll always be happy that way.
As the incomparable Stephen Hawking once said, “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”