Under the counter with Lindsay Calder

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The Independent Online
They're all at it - like crazed rabbits. Everyone I know is either pregnant or has just given birth. A year ago none of these people knew what a baby looked like, and now they just can't stop making them. This week alone, two friends have produced more than 20lb of babies between them; one had twins.

Each day, it seems, I have fewer DINKY allies. Nights out with the girls, and wine, wine and more wine in cramped Soho bars, have been replaced by Sunday afternoons of tea, carrot cake and baby admiration in nice places such as Putney. Girls who once wore sleek suits, had smart jobs and never ate in, have taken to wearing shapeless knitted jumpers and leggings. The highlight of their days is a trip to the supermarket to buy more wipes. Vogue and Cosmo have been pulped for new reading matter - Mother and Baby and Practical Parenting. Reading these is not exactly encouragement to reproduce - in fact, they're enough to make the human race extinct. How about this for catch? "We got no sleep at all"; "I didn't brush my hair for days"; "My contractions started in Sainsbury's"; "What can I do about my cracked nipples?"

Recent visits to newborns have left me feeling anxious. A flat-chested actress friend was so delighted with her new swellings that, instead of feeding her baby discreetly, she removed her top completely and sat in the middle of the floor. She also passed round the birth album - "Look, that's me, seven centimetres dilated." I drew the line at the friend whose husband videoed the Caesarean.

As if that weren't bad enough, my neighbour has also reproduced, and, according to her five-year-old, has buried the placenta at the bottom of the garden, next to the dead hamster.

Even my best friend has just given birth. I found the first visit extremely stressful, worried that the sight of her offspring would render me unnaturally emotional, or, worse still, that the baby would be ugly. As I removed my fur-trimmed Astrakhan coat, and said "Well, where is he then?", she looked protectively towards the living room, making me feel like Cruella de Ville.

The child was asleep, and didn't actually do anything for about two hours.When he woke, Helen looked over to me nervously. "You can pick him up if you like." I didn't want to push for details of the birth, but this soon came out when I asked why she was sitting on a shrink-wrapped whoopee cushion. This was, in fact a Valley Cushion, especially for lucky new mums who have been, you know - cut. (I have to whisper this to myself, as it makes my legs feel funny.) Other accessories in her collection were silicone nipple guards like see-through mini-sombreros.

In the end I wasn't lost for words - he was rather beautiful. I think I even quite like babies. But I couldn't eat a whole one ...

Silicone nipple guards, pack of four, pounds 5.99, Mothercare. Valley Cushion, to hire from the National Childbirth Trust (0181-992 8637)

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