People suddenly want to pair you off with Other Mums. Never mind the fact that you might count a diverse range of men and women among your friends, suddenly you're supposed to go all homogenous and only socialise or want to talk to women who are "going through what you're going through".
And heaven help you if you have a whistling kettle, a vaguely posh accent or a "profession". "Ah you'll be going to NCT classes then?" comes the automatic response. Deep breath. No, as it happens I won't.
I have been to one perfectly helpful NHS antenatal class, in which I was told about the birth and the resources available. My partner and I sat and took it all in (I even made some notes) and finished quite happy that, combined with the literature we own and the friends we'd asked, we had no further questions.
But at the end of the class, we were encouraged to "pal up" with each other and make arrangements to meet separately. A bunch of women and men we have, seemingly, nothing in common with bar the life growing inside us, were all supposed to suddenly become bezzie mates and swap pelvic floor anecdotes.
This makes me seem terribly unsociable and I'm not, far from it. I have lots of friends, some of them single, some of them married, some with kids, some pregnant. They are all a source of delight and support to me. Since I got pregnant none of them have "fallen by the wayside,"
just as I didn't fall by the wayside when my parent friends suddenly started whipping their breasts out during lunch-dates.
Meanwhile, my parent-friends' tales of ongoing antenatal and post-natal classes filled me with terror. "It was full of women sat around comparing the size of the diamonds in their wedding rings," said one friend of a forced social group formed after one such series of classes.
A male friend reported how the new social circle he and his wife formed caused them nothing but stress as they were expected to take it in turns to play host to a gaggle of over-achieving newborns and their pushy parents: '"Yes, Tabitha was sitting up on her own within hours'. 'We've enrolled Elijah in Spanish lessons already'. In the end, we felt so inferior in our two-up-two-down terrace with our modest plans for our child that we couldn't continue."
Another male friend described how, during his antenatal classes, he was encouraged to don fake breasts with the other dads to demonstrate breast-feeding and encourage bonding. How I laughed as I imagined my partner's reaction to that. Though he's completely involved in this pregnancy, has read the hypnobirthing guide from cover to cover and already sized himself up for a sling, the chances of him ever scrumming down with five other New Men to simulate the birthing process are as slim as the jeans I last squeezed into in August 2010.
I'm not anti-antenatal classes, by any means. I've been to one and it was very helpful. But I don't want to go any more and I don't want to have to find myself lumbered with a whole new social group to whom I have to make excuses about my badly behaved dogs/lack of Boden babywear/desire to carry on working.
"But you should go to classes just so your partner can meet other men who are about to become dads," says one helpful friend. The very idea fills him with utter dread. And, by the same token, I don't need a bunch of other hormonal, frustrated fatties to solidify my
(apparently) "new" identity..
So, no, I don't want to be your antenatal buddy. I don't want to come to your coffee morning and I don't want to come round your house to compare strollers.
Do you feel like this? Or have you (perhaps unexpectedly) formed strong new friendships through antenatal classes, nursery, school?
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