Man about Town: Knitted wombs for a Friday night out

Weekends spent learning the mechanics of childbirth have become my new parties

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The Independent Online

Who makes the knitted wombs? That’s what I want to know. The ones they shove a plastic doll inside and then pull out like a magic trick. But it’s not just the knitted womb, there’s a knitted umbilical cord and even a knitted placenta, not unlike a maroon beret. I imagine rows of retired ladies taking care to get the bloody effect just right for the placenta walls.

These knitted euphemisms, for those who’ve not had the pleasure, are what you see when you go to ante natal classes. Eager to be well informed, we’ve gone to three different types of classes.

All of them are like different church denominations. All with their meeting points, leaders, words used and dogma. Like modern churches, they all want to seem forward-thinking and non-judgemental. But each is as preachy as the next, and every class leader has fundamental suspicions of the wisdoms of other faiths.

At some (again, like at church) medical advice is questioned, while the mother’s “choice” is championed. In some, talk of pain is downplayed, at others weirdly dwelled on. As with religion, there are continual contradictions: the squeamish can be reassured by the woollen body parts before being shocked as the bloody photos of caesarean sections are passed around.

The expected baby loses the definite article and simply becomes “baby”, mothers “birth” rather than “give birth”. More infantalising comes when you are divided into “mums-to-be” and “birth partners” (even when all the partners are, in fact, “fathers-to-be”). The birth partners become the children in the room, painstakingly instructed that women need to eat and drink and that giving birth might involve a bit of travelling and stress.

Weekends and evenings spent learning the mechanics of childbirth have become my new parties. It’s now a subject on which I feel I could pass an exam. But I also know that the moment the real exam comes, I’ll forget it all and rely on the nearest medically-trained professional. Before then, however, there’s more learning to do – tomorrow we’re off to another class, this time on breastfeeding. I’ll be there for moral support and, of course, the knitted breasts.