Sunday, 30 May 2010

Horror stories

While most friends who are already parents couldn’t be more supportive about our impending initiation into the world of sleeplessness and shit-filled nappies, there are a few who seem to take a sadistic pleasure in scaring the pee out of us. Our neighbour who, to be fair, has survived two years with the screamiest child I have ever encountered, cackled somewhat maniacally when we told him the news. Then he said something which I think reveals a little more about his relationship than it does about parenting in general – “You’ll find yourself biting your lip a lot,” he said sagely to S, casting me in the role of unreasonable harridan, and S as the heroically long-suffering spouse. Interesting. I had always had his wife down as the kind of unflappable, capable type and him as a slightly feckless twat who sucked down can after can of Tennants like it was some kind of surrogate nipple. Gosh, how wrong I must be.

Then there’s my brother and his wife who, to be fair, had no intention of scaring us. It’s just that as veterans of a tag team of twin girls who never, in the first 18 months of their lives, managed more than about 90 minutes both asleep at the same time, my brother and sister-in-law have done parenthood in a way most people can’t fully conceive. Their reminiscences are like the scene from Jaws in which everyone compares their horrific shark attack injuries. The way my brother describes it, juggling twins is like grappling with some kind of human Catherine wheel which is spraying projectile vomit and liquefied poo everywhere. Then he gets started on the snot stories and his wife cracks her knuckles, ready to step in with the tale of ‘the tummy bug that took out the entire family, twice.’ Fortunately, they are both so exhausted that they fall asleep by about 9.30 so we are spared the part of the conversation that deals with kids, and the horrendous freak accidents that can befall them.

Scan number two

I know I wanted to know the sex of the baby, but I’m not entirely sure I was happy to hear my unborn child’s genitals referred to as ‘his third leg’. It seems wrong somehow. It’s a term you expect to hear in third-rate erotic fiction, not coming from the mouth of your highly trained obstetrician. Even if he is from the Ukraine. Fortunately, I soon had other things to fret about. Everything is progressing well – all the baby’s vital bits and piece seem to be in the correct places and he’s growing very well. Perhaps a little too well. While they didn’t actually use the phrase ‘freakishly large’ the subtext was, ‘you know those pelvic floor muscles you have been exercising so diligently? Well, don’t get too attached to them…’

Monday, 10 May 2010

This morning.

I climb out of the shower, towel myself dry and try not to let the news that I seem to have put on 4 pounds over the weekend get me down. I smile brightly at S as I pull on the super-comfy stretchy trousers I borrowed from a friend. S smiles back and says, "You look like an egg cup!" Crushing. But funny.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Pregnancy nose

One of the most interesting side-affects I have noticed from being up the duff is the heightened sense of smell. In the first trimester I was convinced that I could even smell inanimate substances like plastic and sellotape. It’s settled down a little since then. Now the everyday smells of the world are just magnified by a factor of about 20 or so. As I live in Holloway, this can get interesting. I was on a bus the other day with S when an obviously mad person got on and sat directly in front of us. That sharp, sour smell assailed me like a slap to the face. It was a combination of the yellowish, ammonia tang of ripe fish and the damp spongy, sickly stench of old mushrooms. It was so strong I could practically hear it – a kind of insistent high-pitched discordant shriek. It was immersive, the only thing I could focus on. When we got off the bus, S turned to me with an expression of horror. “I know! He smelt like the bins outside Whittington hospital.” I said. S looked surprised. “It was more the fact that he was shouting the words, ‘East London white people! DEAD DEAD DEAD!’ which bothered me.”

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Antenatal anxiety

I think I have been pretty fortunate so far. My pregnancy has been relatively stress-free, particularly since I stopped reading any books by Gina Ford – or indeed any books at all (They’re so badly written! They make me irate!). But there are, of course, a few niggling worries you just can’t shake.

You know the kind of thing: Will the baby be healthy and happy? Will I be able to love it as much as I love my husband? Is my unborn child demonically possessed? The usual stuff.

You may scoff but the demonic possession thing was a bit of a concern for a week or so. We arrived in New York, settled into our ridiculously small rented apartment in the Lower East Side and, bright and early the next morning, we went out for a stroll. A few blocks from where we were staying, a massive fire had broken out the previous night. It was a ‘7 alarm’ fire, we learned from the TV news coverage. Which is pretty damn big. We took some photos, thought no more of it. Then, the following week, stranded by the volcanic dust, we moved to a friend’s lovely house in Woodstock in upstate NY. Bright and early the next morning, we went out for a stroll. Just down the road, another fire had broken out during the night. What a weird coincidence, we thought.
And then – but what if it isn’t a coincidence? What if my foetus is a firestarter? The rest of our holiday became a little like one of the Final Destination movies. Everywhere I looked, there was the potential for a devastating inferno. A seven-year-old playing with lit tealights? Check. Electric cooker plates which don't light up, even when they reach skin melting temperatures? Check. We became extra vigilant about turning off gas and extinguishing candles for at least a week afterwards. Fortunately no other conflagrations have occurred. Probably just as well – I was dreading having to raise the subject in my next meeting with the midwife.