I was buying shoes on Saturdays when, spotting the football subtly hiding under my shirt, the sales assistant advised maybe holding off buying until after the baby arrives because your feet change size in pregnancy. What?! Bras big enough to act as equipment in a quarry and knickers that could be recycled as a trampoline I understand, but changing feet size, that’s just cruel. Any woman who loves shoes will generally cite the consistency of size as the justification for having far too many pairs. Weight and dress sizes might yo-yo but shoe size remains a constant. Pregnancy can deal nausea, heartburn, stretch marks and just about every other discomfort you could imagine, so why, oh why would it go after the feet as well? As a stance I bought the shoes………and now spend an excessive amount of time scrutinising my feet, waiting for the appearance of sausage-like toes and man-size heels.
Trying to fill out the birth plan that the maternity gave me without falling into fits of giggles is like trying not to laugh when my son says something wholly inappropriate to my parents. The 1980s-style literature and accompanying images bring out the school girl in me. I think my mother must have been given the exact same literature back when I was born – when they had the good sense to keep new mothers in for five days bed rest and sleep train their babies. In an age of incredibly accessible info graphics and user-friendly literature, why do all of the maternity pamphlets look like a church newsletter, complete with hand-drawings and poorly posed photographs, where Deirdre Barlow glasses seem to be all the rage? The content of the leaflets isn’t much better. The information on epidurals has scared me right off what I had come to think of as my given right and for the medical sector, they seem very uncomfortable with the word ‘vagina’. Given what they deal with every day, I find that particularly funny. If the literature was to match practice, doctors would be delivering this baby while smoking cigarettes and instructing me to put her to sleep on her tummy. Still, I need to put on my big-girl pants and get this birth plan written.
Em, that would be learning that even your feet can get fatter in pregnancy.
I do have a second low this week though and it was completely self-inflicted. I’m not a fan of reality TV so why I chose to watch an entire episode of ‘One Born Every Minute’ last night is completely beyond me. I was channel surfing, it had just started and something drew me in. Despite scaring the pants off myself halfway through, I then couldn’t turn it off. Hats off to the expectant mother who deep breathed her way through a quiet and dignified birth but it was the banshee that came up next who really gave me nightmares. Long after the programme had ended I could still hear her swearing, roaring and crying. I think I may have spent most of the evening a whiter shade of pale and am still quite traumatised. I hadn’t really thought much about the mechanics of labour up to this point and now I’m obsessed. I’m having flashbacks to the first-time around (and those were deeply repressed memories) as well as hallucinations about what is to come. Who needs kegel exercise when your lady bits became so tensed up during ‘One Born Every Minute’ that it might just take a gynaecologist to go in and retrieve them? Note to self – no more channel surfing over the next 9 weeks.
People are incredibly generous in terms of both giving and spirit. We have been given so many things for the baby that I fear (s)he might grow up with an awful complex: ‘So you spent the equivalent of a small country’s GDP on my brother when he was born and eight years later you didn’t see fit to buy me even a new muslin cloth, eh?’ We recycled all of our original baby bits and bobs between friends but now they have come back three-fold. I have enough newborn babygros to rival Mothercare’s stock room, more baby equipment than any small human should ever need and a hot-press full of beautifully hand-knitted baby cardigans and blankets.
In addition to the physical things that we are rapidly accruing, what never ceases to amaze me is the interest that people take in your pregnancy and the genuine joy that they seem to experience on your behalf. It’s lovely amongst friends, family and colleagues but the banter with strangers is often more enjoyable. The boredom of waiting in line in supermarkets and banks is broken by their questions, well wishes and guesses about the baby’s sex.
Apparently I’m having a boy because (a) my bump is ‘tidy’, (b) my face isn’t puffy which it would be with a girl because ‘they steal your beauty’ and (c) I haven’t lost my appetite. One elderly lady welled-up as she told me about her five pregnancies during the 1950s and how she doesn’t know how today’s mothers do it because ‘the world has become so needlessly complicated’. Another lady approached me in the market on Saturday and told me it was lovely to see a bump on display because her pregnancies had been defined by confinement and tent dresses. I’m having all kinds of conversations with people I might never otherwise encounter and charting a kind of socio-cultural history of pregnancy in Ireland as I go. At the risk of getting too philosophical let me end with a quote from a builder I met in a queue in Centra. ‘Jaysis love, I’d love to be pregnant so I could wear this belly with as much pride as you wear yours’. For maximum effect, he even lifted his shirt and jiggled his wobbly abdomen for me. My only thought was that, while I might be a match for him in the size department, a hairy belly is just a step too far.