In the year 2015 BC (before child), I received lots of advice and tips, and even a photo of someone’s damaged vagina. Most of it I listened to, smiled and nodded begrudgingly (except for the photo which arrived by email from a colleague I had worked with ten years ago. There was no nodding and smiling when that gem popped up in my inbox).
Advice before you have a baby can often be a form of nostalgia from the person doleing it out; and nostalgia isn’t what you need at a time like that. Large bags of crisps, yes. Other people’s wistful memories and partial regrets, no. I’m sure I will write several more posts on how welcome or not most pre and post pregnancy advice is, but this particular one will be familiar to most of you; it’s the person who lists off all the things you should be doing “whilst you still can”.
These include (but are not limited to), eating out, lie-ins, going to the cinema, leisurely strolls, weekend city breaks. Having a picnic was one I heard frequently. Really? I think picnics are a pain in the arse – surely they were invented to entertain kids once you have them. That and to prove a couple are happy in Merchant Ivory movies. I am deeply suspicious of any couple in real life who go on picnics.
I digress. Around the 7 month mark, I started to panic by all the lists of things I should be doing being fired at me, and said to my husband “We have to go the the cinema NOW! And then walk home the long way, stop for a romantic meal and then have a lie in tomorrow. WE MUST HAVE A LIE IN AND THEN GO TO PARIS!” Not for the first time, he looked at me like he had just seen the last of my marbles rolling away in the distance.
And then it struck me. I was 39 years old. I had been on a lot of walks, eaten lots of popcorn in the cinema, been lucky enough to go on many city breaks, danced til dawn many times (well, about five truth be told) and rarely surfaced before 10am on the weekends. I hadn’t forgotten how great these things were, but was ready for something new.
So now that I am on the other side of pregnancy, I don’t tell pregnant pals who’ve come after me to do things they have probably done plenty of. They know sleep will be limited for a while and that spontaneous meals out might be tricky. But here’s the thing – you don’t actually miss them as much as others think you do. And they don’t stop altogether. They just take a bit of planning. I had a kid-free lunch out with a group of girlfriends last weekend. My husband and I went to a party last month and my Mum took my baby overnight on Friday while I went. I go to baby-friendly film screenings when I can and for the most part, I am happy to incorporated hanging out with my lovely baby in everything I do.
And if I ever suggest to anyone that they go on a romantic picnic, you’ll know I don’t consider them a friend at all.