The NCT myth and magic

It’s nearly Milk’s birthday and I spend a quiet moment on the loo thinking about the exciting and ignorant weeks before he arrived.

When people say pregnancy lasts for nine months it’s just one of the very big fat lies they tell you about becoming a mum. Most of the health professionals want you to have your baby at around 40 weeks, which is four weeks longer than nine months. And four weeks, when you are carrying around an extra human being, feels quite a long time.

Another pointless exercise is having a due date. Apparently only five per cent of babies arrive “on time”. Except in Louisiana USA, where I once saw a weird woman on TV saying that her doctor correctly predicted the arrival of all five of her children. She said this while patting the rolls of skin on her tummy as if her doctor was magical. Surely if there was someone who knew how this clock ticked no one would be telling us to order Vindaloos or have hot baths or try and hump each other with a massive bump in the way.

In the weeks before Milk’s arrival we meet up with an NCT group. The only way to survive parenthood, according to those gurus who are already parents, is to buy friends in the local area who had sex and got pregnant at the same time as you.

“Can’t we just go to the pub and talk to people?” I say before my husband sends the payment.

“Not many pregnant people hang out in pubs. Or do you?” he raises an eyebrow.

“I wish I could drink,” I say stroking my belly. I have abstained from alcohol from the moment I found out I was pregnant. It’s a choice every pregnant woman has to make and I chose to be a martyr.

“For that money I hope the teacher explains what the bloke has to do during labour.”

“I’m gonna be watching the Apprentice Final,” he says and clicks send.

We are the last to arrive and I survey the group, milling around sorting out hot drinks and laughing nervously about taking a second biscuit. There is a circle of hard plastic chairs and the facilitator holds her hands together and welcomes us, asking us to introduce ourselves and say three words which best describe us. I stare at everyone and push my leg against my husband when people speak, as if I can transmit my thoughts through his kneecap. He pushes back, but I never hear his thoughts so I just have to hope they aren’t going somewhere else.

The teacher is intense and obsessed with “natural births” as opposed to drugs or C-sections. She explains how her daughter had a home birth and breathed slowly until the child was born. “Any particular concerns?” she asks.

“How do you change a nappy?”

She seems disappointed at the group’s lack of interest in hanging from a tree in the fairy woods while breathing out a baby onto a lotus leaf.

“We’ll show you all that,” she says with a tight smile. “Soon you will be doing it in your sleep.”

As we drive home we are both buzzing.

“So what do you think? Did you like everyone?” I look at my husband’s profile in the yellow light of the car.

“Yeah everyone seems OK.”

Typical husband answer.

“Who was the prettiest do you think?”

“You.”

“Ha. I’m not stupid I know you were looking at Sara.”

“Zara.”

“See, you even know her name.”

“Well everyone does – they introduced themselves.” He turns the wheel as we pull into our road.

“Mmm. She is pretty though, isn’t she?”

“Shut up. Did you like any of the blokes?”

I don’t answer. Not because I liked any of the blokes but because I did not notice the men at all. I was too busy staring at all the girls and their solid bumps and fabulous boobs and pretty shoes and shiny hair. I am trying to ascertain where I am on the friendship scale and whether I will get on with these people. I don’t care if they have big boobs, but if they have big boobs and wear loafers – well, we are not going to be mates. I haven’t told my husband about the way I make friends, I’m not sure he would approve and also I don’t want him to think about the big boobs – except mine, which are incredible at the moment. First time I have ever had a cleavage, and I like it.

I am jerked out of my toilet reverie by the sound of Milk and Mayhem screaming “stuck stuck” and I race down the stairs with my knickers twisted up my bum, to find them locked in a panicked embrace under every possible soft furnishing they could find in the time it took me to have a pee.

The Harvest Festival

I’m searching through our cupboards for some food for the Harvest Festival. I spy a tin of butter beans at the back and carefully extract it from the sticky ooze next to the honey jar. My husband is a relative of Winnie the Pooh. I can track his movements around the kitchen. He has been to the fridge and also by some miracle worked out how to put on the washing machine. His laptop has sticky keys.

The question is would a person less fortunate than me want a tin of butter beans? I don’t think so – I haven’t wanted to eat them for the past year so it seems a bit mean to palm them off on someone else. I rummage around and knock over several small bottles of spices the contents solidified against the thick glass.

Non-perishable goods. Nothing containing nuts. Nothing too heavy. The school does not want toes broken by a four pack of baked beans. I find a packet of curry flavoured instant noodles. I am not sure this is suitable. I’m not even sure they count as food and I am definitely not comfortable with the idea of my four-year-old, Milk, carrying them though the church as a nutritional offering. I settle on a small box of tea bags.

Off to church we go. I say we because I foolishly take my two-year-old Mayhem with me. What could possibly go wrong? We are offered a cup of tea as we step into the darkness, which is a bonus as I wasn’t sure if drinking in church was allowed, but then they do knock back the wine on occasion. I don’t get to touch my tea. I know this will happen but I am a hopeful soul. I am far too early. A two-year-old does not understand the concept of a) church b) waiting c) silence d) personal space. Mayhem shows everyone his Playmobil musician and then he focuses on an elderly lady across the aisle and pushes his toy up her skirt. I pretend I don’t notice and pull him away. He wants to lie on the floor, someone’s grave I think, and as the school children arrive he says hello to them all, tilting his head sideways and shoving his face into theirs.

“Yellow! Yellow!” he shouts with a manic grin.

“Let’s see if we can spot your brother,” I say brightly pulling his struggling mass onto my lap. He slaps my face and laughs and then, as the first song begins, he dances on my legs jumping energetically as if I am a mini trampoline. He cleverly uses my head as a support. I see cans of soup and cartons of porridge passing me in a blur like a game of Supermarket Sweep. We wave to Milk who is carrying his tea bags in his little outstretched hands, palms upwards as if it is a gift to the baby Jesus. Gold, Frankincense and PG Tips.

Mayhem and I don’t make it past the first reading, to the silent relief of the rest of the congregation. My cup of tea has gone cold and I sneak out as the vicar begins his tale of hunger and despair. I am so relieved to get outside I feed Mayhem biscuits one after the other, and he raises his hand as soon as one has been deposited in his mouth. I walk increasingly quickly to a chant of “More! More! More!” and can’t wait to get home and put the kettle on. I open the tea caddy and am faced with nothing but a dusting of silt at the bottom. I sit staring at the butter beans while Mayhem pours cumin into my shoes.