Help me i’m pregnant – In the first of a new series we introduce Martha Alexander, who is finding it hard to come to terms with the fact she’s pregnant.
I should have known when I found myself giving in to an uncontrollable urge to purchase a wedge of stinking blue cheese at 9am before biting into it on the street as casually as if it were an apple. But I blamed a hangover for my unorthodox eating habits.
I should have known when my expensive silk shirt became so tight that I looked like Tom Kitten, but I blamed my husband’s washing machine-related incompetence.
I should have known when I could hardly keep my eyes open during meetings and fantasised about catnapping on the floor. But I blamed the long hours that come with a contract in TV.
“It’ll take months,” they said. “It doesn’t happen just like that!”. Except sometimes it does. And you’re pregnant ahead of schedule by the six months everyone said it would take. There was no time to think of the positives, as soon as pregnant winked at me from a Clearblue, I was terrified of what was going on in there, when and how it will come out, what it meant for my job, my (non-existent) finances and my (already questionable) sanity. And then there were more immediate dilemmas. Common predicaments, but as with most things in life, not real concerns until they happen to you.
Firstly, what am I going to do about, you know, actual life between now and eight weeks’ time when I have the first scan and can tell everyone?
Without wishing to sound unseemly, I’m more Miss Hannigan than Maria Von Trapp in terms of approach to alcohol and infants. I must commit to not going out. If I do, everyone will guess instantly and I can’t lie – and I can’t tell the truth in case something unspeakable happens. So I gear myself up for two months of silence and evasion, beaching myself on the sofa, a slave to awful TV and a pair of society-repelling pyjamas.
Secondly: smells. All of the scents I love – tumble-dried sheets, Chanel No. 19, cheap shampoo, expensive bath oil, bacon – are now repulsive to me. I yearn to lose my sense of smell entirely. When colleagues get ready for their Friday night and a cloud of Elnett hangs over the office, I hide in the stationery cupboard where I can inhale the stale smell of paper.
My final pressing problem is that my neuroses are in overdrive about The Food Situation. There were four weeks of normal eating and drinking, which involved gin, Stilton and oysters, but then I found out about the baby and discovered the list of banned foods. I ring my mother, coming clean about all the culinary contraband that had been in my system.
“Honestly darling, we need to nip this food business in the bud, we really do,” she trills. “It’s just some goat’s cheese and what-have-you, for goodness sake! You know, when I was having you, I ate everything. And when Granny had me, she drank everything. And we are all fine.”
In the background I hear my father bellow something about that being debatable, and remember that mum is not a midwife. She is the opposite of a midwife. This is a woman who poured herself a glass of champagne and lit up a Silk Cut immediately after labour. She hates Millennials and our mollycoddled ways. I resolve to respect The List.
The next eight weeks plod on uneventfully: I don’t go to parties, I shun shellfish, I wee five times a night and develop a penchant for Mr Freeze lollies. It’s a wild old time. I panic that I can’t visualise the baby, that I won’t know what to do once it comes. I worry that I’ll become someone covered in puréed banana, who speaks only of Sophie la Girafe and mastitis.
And then I find myself lying in a room, as gel is spread over my potbelly. I fear that I won’t see anything on the screen, that I made it all up. Suddenly, there is a kidney bean. It’s moving its arms – waving? The room becomes loud with the sound of a heartbeat and I start to cry with the feeling that somehow I am cocooned inside myself with a baby. My lovely, real baby.