One of my best friends is growing a baby and I am so proud. I don’t know exactly why I’m proud. She’s not done much yet except lie on a table a couple of times and buy some new bras. All the magic is going on inside her while she gets on with normal things like work and trying to keep her dinner down. She’s not in control of operations; it’s not as though she’s conducting it all like a grand opus of biology. It’s pretty automatic that gestation stuff. If we tried to interfere it would all go horribly wrong. If all the buns in all the ovens needed our help we would be running around in a tiz with burnt oven gloves before the first trimester was even out.
I don’t have any right to this pride I feel in her. It’s nothing to do with me. I didn’t put the baby in there.
I can’t wait to go visit her soon. I want to watch her shuffling around being bloated and grumpy and cute. I’ll probably want to lie on her belly and talk to it. It’ll be a cosy little scene, there in her Kent country cottage with the fire blazing before October’s even over, me dutifully drinking the wine she can’t crack open for months and talking at her vagina while she and the dog stare at each other and wonder when might be a wise time to shove me off and send me home.
It’s a beautiful thing to be kept abreast of her internal development. “It has teeth and fingerprints and is the size of a peach”, she informed me on the phone less than an hour ago. It’s eleven weeks old for goodness sake. How on earth has it got fingerprints? They are some of the most delicate almost imperceptibly tiny bits on our outer form. Unique as snowflakes. At this rate, in the time I’ve taken to write this, the foetus has probably moved out of home to do an architecture degree in Durham or something. Precocious little nugget.
Yes. In the time it takes me to think about throwing out a dead basil plant, this creature has made itself a fully functioning heart with chambers and ventricles and everything. Is my friend’s child better than me already? Will it overtake me? Am I intimidated by a fist-sized baby alien? It all seems disgustingly sorted in there, all protected and miraculous and over-achieving. Am I going to hate my friend’s baby?
I may now be in awe of her and ‘it’ – Little Mr/Miss Show-Off – but I know that when she is up to her elbows in green poo and her baby can’t even find a nipple without help, I will be back to feeling slightly less inferior. When she has sick in her hair and her baby doesn’t even know why it’s crying, I might even feel smug. I haven’t had sick in my hair for over a year and I almost always know exactly why I am crying.
Why is our development in the womb so advanced, so precociously lightning quick, all fully formed by eleven weeks with only size left to muster, yet when we burst outside into the cold light, the rude air of real life, why then do we slow down? Why does it take humans months to learn how to walk, when gazelles are galloping the plains by the time their amniotic gloop has been licked off? Humans start off so well and then spend the rest of our lives slowly slowing down – learning less, being less magical – so unlike our fine beginnings in the womb.
Writing this, I think I have figured out why I am proud though. Because my beautiful friend is doing all this alone. Single Mumdom. She is a superlative grumpy pregnant lady with a stoic appreciation of the wonder going on within, and when she is a mother she will be all these brilliant things, and so much more to Little Mr/Miss Waily Stinkypants. And I will love her as half of a double-act even more.