My friend V and I are breakfasting with someone lovely who we will call R (see how I protect the other participants from comment box opprobrium?). We are talking about having children, which R is considering.
"They're nice really", V muses "Babies are nice".
"Especially with hats" I add, urgently. "They are MUCH nicer if you put a hat on them. Especially if they have scaly heads"
"Yes, or unfortunate hair. One of mine had unfortunate hair"
"One of mine had a hideously scaly head. People recoiled at the sight of it. It needed a hat, or else I was irresistibly drawn to picking at the scabby bits. My sister gave him a sweet one that looked like a strawberry. Really, you can't have enough hats".
"I am worried about having to see other people. I don't want to see people in my house", says R. "I don't like the idea of playdates. I mean, other people coming to your house. Awkwardness".
"Oh" I say blithely "By that stage you are really insanely delighted that someone else will do the playing. Playing is really boring. That is what fathers are for, I think. I hate playing. I am shit at it. When they make me play with Playmobil or something, all I want to do is arrange them in neat lines. Or make the warriors use the hoover. Anyway, if you take their child, they have to take yours in return, which makes it entirely worthwhile, and well worth a bit of stiltled conversation".
"Not to mention", says V "That any awkwardness or social anxiety you may experience presently will be a thing of the past once you have had whole roomfuls of strangers looking at your lady parts".
We are all silent for a moment in contemplation of this unsavoury truth.
"Any other concerns?" says V, brightly. "Oh! Yes. You must join NCT classes. Not for all the whale song indoctrination and knitted placentas. To meet other middle class parents. But you must say you are there to learn how to manage your pain and all that rubbish. They don't like being treated as a dating agency for middle class parents. My husband didn't make the right noises about pain management and it was very awkward".
"I didn't do that" I say bitterly "So I spent the first six months of my eldest son's life, in the once daily 4 minute slot that Gina Ford would allow me to leave the house, standing in Selfridges Beauty Hall and crying in the hope that someone might talk to me".
"People will talk to you when you have a baby though" says V, with a note of warning "Endlessly. It's like having a dog, within seconds of leaving the house, someone will come and poke at it".
R visibly blanches "I don't WANT to have to talk to strangers. Or have them poke the baby"
"Oh, but" says V soothingly "You must remember that after giving birth, your brain is like a computer with a screen saver that appears after about a minute, and the screensaver says 'BABYBABYBABYBABYBABY'. So, for a minute or so, you will manage to have a coherent thought about, say, going to the Post Office, or reading a book. But before you can act on it, the BABYBABYBABYBABYBABY screensaver comes back and you're finished. So those kinds of conversations with elderly ladies are the best kind. 'lovely baby' 'yeees, lovely baaaaby'" she mimics, in a dreamy zombie voice.
"I couldn't take my eyes off mine, the first time", I recall. "It was fucking exhausting. I simply, physically, couldn't look away from the baby. It must be in case it gets snatched by wolves or something, evolutionarily speaking. But it wasn't even DOING anything. They don't. Just twitching jerkily. For WEEKS. And there are no wolves in W1*. And even when the baby slept, I would be awake, waiting for the wolves to come and steal it".
"Only the first time, though" says V.
"Oh, yes. The second time I wore ear plugs. The CFO used to have to shake me awake to feed him".
"I found a way of feeding mine without even waking up" says V "Like a baby kangaroo or something. Though a friend of mine fell asleep feeding her twins and woke up to find one of them had fallen into the wastepaper basket".
We all laugh uproariously.
"He was absolutely fine. Sound asleep".
"They are lovely though" I add, guiltily "They have silky heads and they are very warm, like hot water bottles ".
"I'm not sure I could cope with boys" says R
"Oh, boys are really great. They really really really love you. The only thing is, you must resign yourself to leaving the house every single day for about 6 years".
"Like dogs" supplies V helpfully "You need to take them out a lot. They need to be walked. Endlessly".
We both sigh.
"They really ARE nice though". I say. "With the right hat".
*This may not be strictly true, but I think the zoo is NW1, so I am probably safe making this sweeping statement.