Crossing the great childless/parent divide

17 July 2011
All my life I've been quite an independent sort of a person, venturing fearlessly into the world and doing battle with the grown ups on their terms from a very early age. God help you if you jumped ahead of the eleven year old Nico at the deli counter and tried the excuse "I thought you were with your mum." I've lived alone for a decade, forged a career, fought my battles and haven't let myself get (too) intimidated by anyone.

Until, that is, I found myself in the latter stages of pregnancy, with a crippling joint condition, and getting teary when DH heads off to work. Alone? All day?

What has happened to me? I don't need a man. I don't need anybody. But I was completely unprepared for how fragile and vulnerable the "good grief, I'm enormous" part of pregnancy would make me feel. I read Naomi Wolf's account of her experiences of the phenomenon in Misconceptions , and thought "what a load of sentimental nonsense". But when I go out now, the world seems big and scary and full of things - people - who can hurt me. I cling to DH's arm, hiding behind his body. And I dread going out alone at all. I've taken two hard knocks to the abdomen from careless strangers (both by "women of a certain age", and I hope neither of them have ever complained about kids with schoolbags on the train). Maybe it's part of the nesting instinct, a need to stay close to home. I just know I'm looking forward to in a couple months time, when I can stride fearlessly forward in my steel-capped Docs, and ram people with the pram.

At home for now though, we invited my sister-in-law and her partner around to show off the nursery. Like all cliched new parents, we have become convinced that anyone would find anything to do with our child as fascinating as we do, so I was a little startled to hear my sister-in-law say she was looking forward to being able to play with the baby and then hand it back, whilst my brother-in-law was taken aback by DH's proud and detailed descriptions of the baby kicking. I wasn't put off thinking they were rude, merely to realise I have squarely landed on the other side of the parental divide.

For so long I was one of the "kids?" people. The kids were fine; it was their parents I had a problem with. Seemingly unable to talk about anything else, they would talk about feeding and changing and routines and the Wiggles and I would nod and smile, pity them their dull lives, and escape as soon as I could to the nearest bar.

But now DH and I have become parents. We will bore anyone who asks, or even who doesn't, silly with our plans for modern cloth nappies and bilingual playgroup and attachment (to a point) parenting (whilst being very careful to not say we will do anything better than any existing parent on Earth). Today I've been painting furniture for the baby whilst DH is out buying blockout curtains for the nursery and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing. Sure, I still care about politics and social justice and train timetables from the 1930s. But somewhere between the first discernible kick and the ritual visits to Ikea and Bunnings, I lost my childfree innocence. I will never dance to "Blow My Whistle" by DJ Alligator with the aid of intoxicating substances at 2am in the same way again.


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