I'm due to give birth tomorrow. I've never done it before and like many women my age (early 30s - just), I've agonised over whether now is the right time. Will it wreck my career? Do we have enough money to feed and clothe another human being? Will we become one of those couples who fill social media feeds with massively un-fascinating photos of their dribbling offspring?
Now, with my 'due date' upon me in less than 24 hours, I find myself fixating on the thing that the Great British Parenting Public have turned into a lucrative and obsessive industry: am I 'Prepared for Parenthood'? The answer is undoubtedly no, but like any middle class, neurotic 30-something, I've had a damn good go at filling my brain and draining my bank account in the fool-hardy pursuit of Preparation for Parenthood. Here are some of the highlights from my 'journey' thus far:
Think of these as an expensive after-school club to gain yourself some friends who conceived at around the same time as you. Don't get me wrong, lots of useful information is imparted on these National Childbirth Trust courses, but I spent most of the time fighting the urge to weep with laughter as I watched my husband perform various forms of ritual humiliation. My favourite was when he and the other 'dads' had to select one of the sorry looking baby dolls, remove its nappy (which was filled with Vegemite) and cleanse the dolly's bottom with cotton wool while I was supposed to say 'encouraging' things to him. Coming a close second was his mastering of massage techniques with names like 'The Waterfall' or the even less appealing 'Christmas Tree'. His favourite was 'The Ironing Board' which involves a sustained attack on my lower back in the style of an aggressive one-armed bandit. Can a Christmas tree-shaped back rub help me endure the most nerve-shreddingly painful experience of my life? I'll be finding out soon enough....
"This birth business is a very animalistic thing George, you've got to face it alone, as if you were in the jungle". Er - thanks dad. My father was present so briefly at my birth that he mistook my umbilical cord for a penis and proudly announced the birth of his son at the pub. My mother's take on modern day parenting advice is one of bafflement and disgust: breast feeding is deemed "utterly vile" and the 'official' instructions on how to prepare a baby's bottle (water at 70 degrees, sterilised tongs) labelled "utter bollocks". Hmmm.....
The Great Buggy Debate
Will it be the ubiquitous Bugaboo Cameleon weighing in at a hefty £800 - £1000? Or the stylish (who knew a pram could be stylish?) Scandinavian Stokke, in a similar wince-inducing price range? Would you prefer an iCandy Cherry or an iCandy Strawberry (no these are neither edible nor are they Iphone Apps)? I had dismissed the array of vastly over-priced 'Pram Systems' as nothing more than status symbols for the 'Babycino' queue at your local Farmer's Market. And yet..... I still spent a WHOLE EVENING OF MY LIFE reading reviews and watching You Tube videos about PRAMS. And as I look at my shiny new Uppababy Vista, soon to be coated in layers of vomit and baby food.....I just feel a little bit empty inside.
The prospect of a ruined Lady Garden is one which engenders greater and greater fear as the Big Moment approaches. Despite the fact that my NCT group barely know each other, we've been exchanging forlorn messages about how to locate the mysterious perineal area, as apparently untold benefits will come our way from a massage of this mythical zone. Can you really treat your privates like an ageing car and use pre-emptive oiling in this manner? A friend has kindly loaned me a contraption called 'A Pelvic Floor Exercise Device'. It seems to involve putting some inflatable object into the crucial region and pumping it up it up like some vaginal arm-band. Just....No.
Breast is Best.....I Guess
Breast feeding is one of the great feminine concerns of our era. It brings out the worst in people. Friends who were never judgemental before look at you as if you've sprouted a nipple on your forehead if you say you're not sure whether you want to do it or not. I know it's the best option but it just does not fill me with an abundance of motherly joy. It makes me clutch my bust in horror and feel nostalgic for the non-banana-shaped breasts that were once mine. Yes - I know I'm being ridiculous, but I'm potentially hours away from giving birth so I reserve that right.
I've loaded my phone with Apps, raided Mumsnet and Netmums for advice, fallen into an Amazon death spiral where I've even bothered checking reviews of nappy bins. Do I feel ready? Do I feel Prepared? Have I tried out that terrifying inflatable thing? Hell, no.