The world’s population feels like it is exploding right now. At least six or seven of my Facebook friends have had babies this year or are about to have one, making my Facebook wall look like one continuous baby album.
Between my drafting this post and publishing it, even the Duchess of Cambridge, the most famous pregnant woman of 2013, managed to pop Royal Baby George out. Blame it on the full moon of the night before.
My timeline is a pregnancy diary I am forced to read every time I log in, complete with photos of foetal scans, recordings of babies’ heartbeats, reports on blood test results, baby kicking, baby turning, baby clothes shopping. Too. Much. Information.
I cannot help but feel sorry for the yet-to-be-born kids, who don’t even get a choice whether to be on Facebook or not: they’ve already been exposed to the world picking their noses inside a womb at 12 weeks. And I thought there was an age restriction on Facebook?
I was delighted when a friend had her first child at age 40, after being told by doctors she could not conceive, and I smiled at one or another baby announcement from ex-colleagues after that. But by the time newborn number 6 or 7’s photo was uploaded, followed by daily updates of their feeding and sleeping routines, I decided social media was harmful for my mental health and had to give Facebook a temporary wide berth (pun intended).
Don’t get me wrong: I love children, I do think babies are cute, but when every other female you know starts reproducing like rabbits on heat, the world becomes one big orgy scene from a Fellini movie, where you are the only non-participating voyeur. I feel like a freak.
God forbid I end up a self-pitying embittered spinster like the self-loathing Mail columnist Liz Jones, who, coincidentally has a book out this month called Girl Least Likely To. Even if I were the girl least likely to find true love or have a family, I still have enough scruples to find making money out of tales of self-fuckeduppedness abhorrent.
This month, 35 years ago, Louise Brown, another famous baby, came into the world and revolutionarised the lives of many infertile couples. Brown, now a mother of one herself, was the world’s first IVF or “test tube baby”. Since then, apparently, more than an amazing five million-plus IVF babies have been born.
A piece of trivia: did you know that whereas the cost for an in-vitro fertilised embryo could set you back as much as £3000 at the time, it is now possible to have one for as little as £170, or so this Guardian article says. Pregnancy for a bargain.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that if you have 200 quid spare in your back pocket, you can just go to a lab and order a baby. Having a child is a sum of many intricate parts that must come together at the right time and the right place. Often they don’t, even if you are fertile.
Many women I know are having children in their late 30s and 40s because the right man did not turn up when they were supposedly at the peak of their fertility.
Girlfriends of mine, in their mid to late 30s, who have come out of a relationship or not even in one, are in a state of mild panic, thinking they can hear their biological clock ticking loudly. Males that cross their path consciously or sub-consciously look like like potential fathers to their future offspring, just like every cactus you see must morph into a pond with shimmering water when you have been roaming in the desert for days.
The accidental baby
One of my team mates, a divorcee I am good friends with, is currently ten weeks pregnant after a holiday in South America with her new boyfriend of only a few months. The rest of the office still does not know. She told me personally by email while I was in Japan on business, suffering from severe insomnia, chronic stress stomachaches and a serious bout of the blues:
“You won’t believe this, but I’m three weeks pregnant! I’m in shock, don’t know what to do. I miss you so much. Come back soon.”
(Only a day or two before, in my insomniac fragility, I had broken down in tears in my hotel room upon finding out a man from my past I still deeply care about had had a second child, or his wife had (detestable Facebook again). The timing couldn’t have been worse. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at her news.)
I did what any decent friend would do in these circumstances: I sent my pregnant colleague a big virtual hug by email, told her not to make any hasty decisions she could regret later, as it was still early days, and whatever she decided I would support her and stand by her.
I was prepared to accompany her to an abortion clinic and hold her hand so she would not have to do it on her own, but by the time I came back to the UK she had decided to keep the child. “I am 36 now; I may not have a chance again later,” she said.
Everyday now she gives me reports on how sick she has been, how every food she puts in her mouth makes her throw up, how no trousers fit her any more as she is so bloated. She receives email alerts from some pregnancy website telling her how many inches her baby is now, week by week, and shows them to me, proudly.
It almost makes me miss the days when she used to brag to me how good her new boyfriend was in bed, that they were having sex everyday, twice a day. I suppose it is the duty of a friend to be a good listener, in good and bad times…
She is planning a small ceremony to secretly marry her boyfriend in a few weeks’ time and has already bought a dress. Physically she feels miserable but I can see she is happy. I am happy for her too: a whirlwind romance two years after a divorce and a child on the way.
A happy ending. As always. For others.
She asks me if I can come to her wedding. I check my diary: the day of the ceremony is a day I am away on business. “Sorry,” I say, but I am relieved.
I am a bad friend.
I have seen and admired more than a tolerable share of happy “Kodak moments”. I haven’t got a family right now; chances are I never will. Even at the risk of breaking politeness etiquette, I cannot bring myself to “like” any more baby photos and updates. I’ve had enough.
Doesn’t the world know I am hurting like hell?
Give my your gas and air and show me your pet hedgehog’s photos any day.