In the second instalment, Martha Alexander discovers whether she’s having a Girl or a Boy!
Author: Martha Alexander
Yippee! Everything people say about the second trimester is true. I’m up at the crack of dawn doing restorative squats and lunges. Then I might eat the first of two breakfasts boasting varying levels of nutritional value, have a bath, do an online shop, feed the cats, take the bins out. I’ll go to work. I might even go out for a lime and soda on a Friday night.
I’m wearing fragrance again. I’ve been to Topshop Maternity and now don’t permanently dress like I’m about to undertake a weekend’s worth of DIY in my husband’s shirts and saggy leggings that are worn to threads at the knees and buttocks. My beard of acne is fading and I feel relatively alert at work: at one stage in the first trimester I couldn’t remember the rules of apostrophes, or whether it was rein, reign or rain.
I’m vast for five months: I move through crowds like a big blonde bulldozer. I went to a black-tie party and hovered around like a mobile wigwam, everyone else in sequins looking like members of Taylor Swift’s girl squad asking me when I was due, agog when I said not for another four months.
My father refers to me as “the whopper”, colleagues have started to call me “Globe” and I’m a threat to the profits of all- you-can-eat Chinese buffets. But I don’t mind. I have spent the last 18 years caring how thin I am. This is different. Anyway, the headline news is that the little kidney bean who waved to us a couple of months ago is a girl.
We had the second scan: we saw the soles of her feet, the blood flowing through her little heart and life ticking in her brain. I was keeping my eye out for the one definitive sign of boyhood but could not decipher anything.
“Are you certain?” I asked the sonographer, when she said it was a girl. “I hate a change of plan and it will really weird me out if my daughter is born with a willy.”
“No, it’s definitely a girl,” said the sonographer, who now thinks I’m bonkers.
Some people don’t approve of finding out. They say there will be no surprises left. Frankly, pushing another human being out of there in front of strangers as I howl like one of Narnia’s wolves will be bombshell enough for me.
People assume we found out so we can paint her bedroom pink or buy gender-specific toys. I do not subscribe to pink for girls, blue for boys. In fact, my husband has already bought her a ‘boys’ dinosaur print parka, and he has painted her walls a soft blue.
Knowing her gender is not about pink bedrooms or baby clothes with ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ on them, it’s about wanting to know as much about her as soon as possible. Starting with being able to call her “her”, not “it”.
We have been shopping, though. It was terrifying. Buying anything for a baby requires as much question-asking and deliberation as purchasing a car, and the cost is just as traumatising. Twice we have been into Mothercare and John Lewis and twice we have left empty handed after wheeling prams around not knowing what we need to look for, blinking blankly at assistants who ask us if we want a drop-sided cotbed or just a cot. Do we want a Moses basket or some contraption that straps onto the side of the parents’ bed? Have I thought about the back pain if I don’t have a changing unit?
“What’s a teething rail?” asked the husband, scratching his head and looking confused. “A rail for teething,” I said. “Sure. What does that mean?” “Not sure.”
Luckily, there’s always someone who is sure. A lot of my friends hate other mothers who are all-knowing about teething rails and Bugaboos, and systems of swaddling a baby that comply with current government guidelines. Not me. I love all information, gobbling up even the most appalling delivery anecdotes detailing 40-hour labours and giving birth on the loo. However, I can’t quite process the reality of the inevitable. I just met with a friend who gave me a bag of “things no one tells you about” including giant adult nappies, New Mama Bottom Spray, breast balm and lots of round tea bags.
“Those are nipple pads, moron, for when your milk leaks.”
I put the bag in a cupboard behind the hoover, telling myself it’s months before I have to face up to this.
But just before denial can kick in, our unborn daughter kicks, seven times in quick succession while we’re watching TV. It’s as if she’s telling me to get a grip, she’s here and she needs a mother who knows what a teething rail is and isn’t afraid of bottom spray.