When we fell pregnant (still totally jumping ahead with the story here), T mentioned to me the number of men who started confiding in him about their own parenting experiences. These were often work colleagues with whom he hadn’t had a close relationship prior to sharing his news. Seemingly they felt that they could nudge the relationship into friendship terrain now that there was the topic of children to bond over. T started referring to it as ‘the secret club’. Apparently entering into a lifetime of suffering at the hands of offspring was enough to earn him a new level of respect amongst fathers.
I didn’t notice it during my pregnancy, but in the last two months since Whoopsy was forcibly extracted from my body, the women’s version of the secret club opened its doors to me and handed me a lifetime membership. The first clue I had that this club existed was when, in the presence of my sister, a childless friend asked me about the labour. I started retelling the story. The race to the hospital. The pain. The emergency button. The contractions. The scissors. Oh, the scissors. When said friend excused herself to go to the bathroom, my sister swung round to me and narrowed her eyes. “We don’t tell women who haven’t had children the details” she said in a hushed tone. I quickly wrapped up my story, brushing over the horrific Hollywood-esque picture I had been painting by repeatedly exclaiming ‘Well, it wasn’t that bad, it’s only one day in your whole life…’ (For clarification, it is that bad, and that one day is the worst day you’ll ever have bar none). Clearly this club has rules! I don’t know how many other rules of the club there are and I’m not certain what the punishment is if they are broken but I’m almost certain that my membership to the club can’t be rescinded.
The second clue I got that I had subscribed to an underground mummy society was when I met my friend O for coffee (cider) one Friday morning. Whoopsy was seven weeks old and I was starting to feel like a normal human being again, both mentally and physically. I had recently been able to sit down again rather than perching on the edge of a chair with one buttock. I had stopped crying about Princess Diana dying (baby blues are a bitch). I had worked out that if I put my overtired child to bed at 11pm rather than bouncing him around thinking that his tears were due to excessive wind, he’d gratefully sleep rather than scream in my face for three hours. Life was starting to fall into place. Sipping my coffee (cider), I recounted the highs and (mainly) lows of the previous few weeks. O listened with a sympathetic face and then, touching my arm, said “I tried to warn you…” “Warn me about what?” ‘How awful the first few months are.. I tried to subtly hint at it.”
Firstly, I demanded, why didn’t you try harder? Secondly, why did you wait until I was pregnant to begin dropping hints about how hideously awful life with a newborn is?! I needed your insight far earlier, probably around the time that I was making decisions about what contraception to use. So why, I asked O, do mother’s not talk more openly about all that is awful about labour, birth, the first few weeks at home. I suppose, she answered carefully, we have to protect the human race from dying out. Also, she added, you don’t want to bum a pregnant woman out who is about to have the hardest day of her life before being handed a screaming newborn and a year’s supply of hormones. She needs all the optimism she can get.
I don’t know what other benefits the club affords me other than invitations to discuss hushed up topics over inappropriately timed alcohol. I’m assuming there are no discounts at chain restaurants or annual gifts coming my way. Thus far the only other upside to my membership seems to be that other parents now speak to me as an adult. Not just any parents either – my own parents have started talking to me as an equal instead adopting a tone of condescension with their misbehaving wayward daughter. In their eyes, I have come of age. Which is ironic, really, given that it was wayward misbehaviour that bought me entry into the secret club!