Before my first baby was born, I have a vivid memory of walking down the road on one of my lunch breaks from work.
Well, waddling was really a more accurate description. Nothing to do with the baby, it had more to do with the overdose of bread, cheese and hula hoops (the potato kind, not the gymnast type, obviously) that I had been cramming into my mouth at every opportunity.
As I walked, I was looking forward to the not-too-distant-future of not having to go to work at all. Pootling around garden centres and NCT nearly-new sales on my maternity leave - not thinking about emails and admin and irritating office politics about what constitutes a "jean" - when it suddenly dawned on me:
I wasn't just having a baby. Oh no. I was having a school child. And then a teenager, followed by an adult!
Not all at once you understand. I had a sizeable bump, but I wasn't quite big enough to fit 4 people in there. I had been so focused on my pregnancy though; the hospital bag, the birth plan, which buggy was going to be the best and all manner of other, now completely unimportant trivia, that I hadn't ever really thought about what was going to happen after all that.
And now that the thought had occurred to me, it was TERRIFYING. In no other thing in life are you required to sign up to something FOREVER.
Jobs only require a maximum 3 months notice, marriages can be dissolved in less than a year, even mortgages are only 25 years, and you can always sell the house to get your money back. Do you think anyone has ever tried to sell a teenager? Scratch that actually, that's a whole different kind of blog post...
It was an all consuming thought for a while. I knew what to do with babies. You feed them, cuddle them, change them, dress them in cute little outfits and then they love you. Easy peasy.
Still - I was one step ahead of my other half, who had spent all of my pregnancy so far avoiding thinking about the fact that there was even a baby on the way (despite it being his idea!)
He had never been around babies - never even held one before and being firmly in the "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" school of male thought, was blissfully happy in his ignorance. At nearly 7 months pregnant, he was still refusing to even discuss baby names, or give any opinion on my suggestions. I therefore spent a lot of time thinking up more and more outlandish options to irritate him into participation, to no avail.
I had read all the books, I had attended all of the ante-natal classes (the free ones, because he certainly wasn't going to pay for us to be told information about something he didn't want to know about...) and I was the one who was now panicking about how we were going to put this baby through university!
After being particularly annoyed that he wouldn't let me spoon him in bed when the baby was kicking because, "it feels weird, like an alien is in there", I decided he had to get with the programme. I mean, what the fuck did he think it felt like for ME to have a melon squirming around in there?! (I bloody loved it actually - shhhhh, don't tell him!)
My last ditch attempt to drag him into the reality of the situation was to book a tour of the hospital maternity ward. He had no clue where it was, what happened when women went into labour and was also saying that he wanted it to be just us for the birth. Just us? I wanted someone who didn't think I was going to be doing an impression of John Hurt when it came time for our baby to be born!
So we went, one Sunday, about 8 weeks before our due date. I smugly informed him that he was going to have to start taking things seriously now - that this was the turning point. Well, it actually was. Being a practical man, he felt much better about the whole situation now he knew the location of the ward, that there was gas and air readily available and a whole host of midwives on standby throughout. We left with him smiling, possibly even beginning to start thinking about names for our little bundle of joy.
I on the other hand, left feeling completely and utterly terrified. There was no way I was having a fucking baby. Not in that hotter-than-hell, disinfectant-stinking hole and not anywhere else. It would just have to stay in there.
My Mother-in-Law described pregnancy perfectly for me at this point. It was like I was on a rollercoaster that I wanted to get off. Not at the end, once the ride had finished, but now. This instant, when you were only at the second drop and you still had the loop the loop to come!
I wasn't used to feeling like this. It was the first time I had ever even considered the fact that I was a complete control freak. Me. Laid back, housework slut with a devil-may-care attitude to most things. Nope. Apparently not. Complete control freak.
Whilst we're on the whole slut thing though, I've never understood the comparison. When you look up the definition, it means a woman with many casual, sexual partners or a dirty, lazy woman. Surely if you're sleeping with all of those men, you can't possibly be lazy?! Anyway you look at it, it's not a nice word, so I prefer the Urban Dictionary definition (as I do for so many things - see Angry Pirate if you have a similar sense of humour to me...)
a woman with the morals of a man
However, the great thing about Mother Nature is that it doesn't matter if you are knicker-frecklingly terrified of the prospect of having a baby - it's going to happen, whether you like it or not. It's actually the most liberating experience of my life and I am so glad that I had that period of terror about it. Maybe it's her way of preparing you for what's to come - on the fateful day of the birth and forever more as well.
Just like the ridiculously long human gestation period is useful for getting you over that terror and into the "I don't sodding care how much it hurts or what's going to happen when it's here, just get it the fuck out of me!" phase of pregnancy.
By the time the 15th October 2005 rolled round, I was over my fear and well into the aforementioned final step of pregnancy. Indigestion, sleeping sitting up so I could breathe, swollen ankles and not eating Brie or drinking booze was all coming to an end.
There were bits of that day where the terror returned, but there was no looking back this time, only forward. And when (at bloody last) my baby who was one day to be a boy and a man, finally arrived, none of it mattered. Not the fact that approximately 47 people had seen my vag that day. Not the fact that I had left my dignity at the door when my husband had to hold my catheter bag up whilst I had a shower. Not the fact that I looked like something from the Evil Dead for weeks afterwards. Some say that's how brilliant morphine is and I agree, but nothing prepares you for the feeling of your baby being placed in your arms.
I am so grateful to be able to watch him as he has changed from that tiny version of William Shatner into the handsome, kind, funny boy he is today. I am also grateful that it didn't matter that his Dad didn't read a single sentence on what to do with a baby - we just figured it out. And we still are...