Caitlin goes to Boob Class

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When I walked into the room, I was confronted with a semi-circle of baby dolls lying on plastic chairs. Each one had a squishy boob-ball next to it.

Torn between amusement at the squishy boob-balls and apprehension towards the baby dolls (it’s creepy how they stare, and worse if they blink), I chose the smallest doll and sat down. Gradually the chairs were filled with ten other women with bulging bellies, and the midwife started to take us through what was really a very helpful session.

I don’t know why it hit me, really. It could have been the fact that mine were the only eyes that widened in discomfort at the mention of ‘embroidery’ (a euphemism for having your vagina stitched up post-tearing) or that I was the only one who laughed at the idea of boy babies shooting themselves in the face with their pee if you forget to point their willy downwards in their nappy. It could have been the purely coincidental fact that I was easily the shortest woman in the room. It could have been how natural all the other women looked holding their baby dolls, when I was wondering where on earth I was supposed to put mine’s lower arm while I was poking a squishy boob-ball at its face. I don’t know.

But whatever the trigger was, I was suddenly hit mid-session by the reality of my age and unusual circumstances. I felt like a girl playing with a doll in a room of fully-grown proper mothers. The other women all looked like mums. I had no trouble at all imagining any of them chatting with other mums over strollers as their kids played on the playground, or confidently and successfully demanding that their children clean their rooms. I struggle to imagine myself doing any of those Mum Things.

The midwife occasionally quipped about husbands, or joked about leaving the babies at home with “The Partner” while you went out and had a coffee with “The Girlfriends”. I felt like I was from a different world. Not only am I single, but I don’t have a stroller-pushing posse of girlfriends. I have a fantastic set of friends, who vary greatly in lifestyle, personalities, goals, gender, sexualities and opinions. However, one of the things they do all have in common is that none of them are planning on having children in the near future. I felt like all these confident, competent-looking women came from a world where they had successfully worked through the correct Life Steps and were at exactly the point they were supposed to be at, whereas I’d bungled up the order and picked up a doll and a boob-ball that I wasn’t meant to be playing with.

For a while I felt very small, very inadequate and quite ridiculous.

Then I decided to stop being a self-pitying idiot.

Because the reality is that while I was very happy for them, I didn’t envy these women their Partners and Pram-Pushing Girlfriends. That sort of traditional lifestyle has never appealed to me, and I don’t see why that should change just because I’m going to be a mum. I’m proud and grateful that my baby is going to grow up in a non-traditional environment surrounded by my friends and my family, and I think the regular exposure to very different people at various stages of life will be a great thing. While different things work for different people, personally I’m more than comfortable with the fact that my kid won’t grow up around a group of wives, a group of husbands and a group of kids and have to try to work out which group they do and will fit into. Hopefully, it will be very obvious to bub that the people who come in and out of their life are just individuals, with unique lifestyles and relationships.

I know that in many ways my situation isn’t ideal. But maybe one of its advantages is that my kid will learn from the beginning that he/she is not just ‘one of the kids’, ‘one of the boys’ or ‘one of the girls’, but is their own person with an early understanding that not everyone’s family is structured in the same way and not everyone’s life follows a traditional step-by-step checklist.

In the end, I walked out of boob class feeling just as entitled to play with boob-balls as any other woman.

I might still avoid creepy dolls, though.

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