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Titivating the shed

So as soon as we decided to move to Wanaka in late 2015, Husband and I swung instantly into action. By which I mean: we prepared for action by reflecting on how we could best achieve maximum outcome with minimal swinging as such.

 

It was a really very thorough, measured and definitive thought-process.

 

Ideally we wanted to sell our house in Oamaru in summer 2015, but Husband wasn’t ready because he hadn’t titivated the shed. Or if it wasn’t that, he wanted to weed-mat the garden; or replace some panes of glass; or repaint the deck; or finish the garden folly.

 

(By the way: oh yes it is, ‘titivate’ is TOTALLY a word.)

 

Our beautiful old 1890s character villa with 2000sqm of landscaped cottage gardens may have been glorious and rose-scented and redolent of frilly parasols and croquet and cucumber sandwiches, but it was an absolute fucking motherfucker to maintain. Although we loved it, all our spare time was diverted to gardening or renovating or gardening or trying to convince the kids that pruning was fun or train the dog to differentiate between weeds and flowers.

 

 

I’d asked my unfairly talented mate Maxine to shoot the house, because her architectural photography is ‘jaaast stanning’ as the chick herself would say (not usually about her own work, although she could without risk of false advertising).

 

Eventually she just turned up with her camera. “Look, I don’t care- I don’t have time for this shit- no, I can photoshop in the garage door- fine, I’ll photoshop in the fucking HOUSE, ok? Get out of the frame. And take that fugly sofa with you.” (Only joking; Maxine’s a professional and would never swear on the job.)

 

By this stage – practically winter – we’d pretty much run out of time to list our house, which ideally needed to be sold in late spring / high summer / before the trees completely shit themselves in the autumn. However, being now engaged in full, actionable swing (see above), I went ahead and contacted four of the five RE Agents in town for valuations.

 

My history with RE Agents is somewhat tempestuous and honestly, I haven’t missed them at all since my last torrid affair back in 2011. We were all set to go with online real estate company 200 Square, but despite tracking the local weekly property listings we had no idea what the value of our house was. There was no consistency and nothing even vaguely comparable to our home. Trademe listings with photos featuring heaps of unfolded laundry and dead animals with an unfocused bit of shack in the background stated offers over $500k; some gorgeous character homes appeared to be in the region of less than $250k.

 

We figured industry professionals would know.

 

We figured wrong.

 

They didn’t.

 

I mean, they really, REALLY didn’t.

 

The range of estimates issued by RE Agents varied $90,000 in value.

 

That’s $90,000; or ninety thousand dollars; or FUCKING NINETY THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS.

 

(To add some context: we paid $242k for it in 2011.)

 

After looking around, they’d say: “Yaaas, weeell, it’s beautifully presented, but it’s not a great location and you know what we say: ‘location, location, location’ hahaha ahaha! South side of a hill *meh* . . . no view of the sea *meh squared* . . . and *meh to the power of 10* who wants to maintain 2000 square meters of garden?”

 

Well, apart from Not Us, I’m sure um lots of people specifically gardeners and – I dunno – outdoorsy types would like to . . . but WTF DON’T COME INTO MY HOME AND TELL ME IT’S SHIT! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

Since I lived in the house for five and a half years, I figured I knew its limitations better than a RE Agent who’d spent only half an hour in the place staring mainly at their checklist. And I was fairly confident that someone would fall in love with the house: its charm, its privacy, the inspection pit in the garage.

 

(Well, that was what sold Husband.)

 

I’ve never liked the local branch of LJ Hooker’s approach to supporting the community, specifically taking out full page adverts in the Waitaki Herald congratulating themselves on donating thousands of tax-deducted dollars to local non-profits and charitable community organisations. However, we originally bought our house from the fully delicious Claudette, and she was the first agent I contacted.

 

I’d always suspected my feelings for Claudette were unrequited and was devastated as she struggled with commitment issues and grew increasingly emotionally distant.

 

An RE Agent from The Professionals suggested the house was worth only $18,000 more than we paid for it six years ago. So according to her dystopian proposal (and disregarding the thousands we spent on improvements and renovations), we would have ended up with a roaring profit of approximately $5,000 after she skimmed her commission.

 

“Well, I don’t think you exactly got a bargain when you bought this place,” she sniffed.

 

WTF don’t come into my house and tell me it’s shit AND THAT I’M STUPID! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

When challenged with a moderated version of the above, she said, “Over the last month we’ve sold all our properties within days.”

 

“Um . . . does that not . . . kind of . . . suggest you’re undervaluing them?” I asked.

 

“I’ll have you know our clients are very satisfied,” she said defensively.

 

One RE Agent even kicked the dog (although admittedly it was after Jed had spent a good five minutes checking their crotch for contraband, and then worried their pleather folder on the floor . . . he also munched their biro a bit).

 

I was reluctant to go anywhere near Ray White after our experience with the company six years ago, but my To Do list had five items and I’d only ticked off four. However, I was lucky enough to be put through to Leona Stretch. When she came to visit, she patted the dog and loved our house.

 

“But what about the view- sorry; I mean ‘aspect’?” I asked suspiciously. “And locationlocationlocation?”

 

“I suppose it might be worth more if it were on South Hill, but it’s a beautiful home,” said Leona. “Great big section, overlooks the Gardens, minutes from town. It’s fabulous.”

 

When Leona returned with the estimate, she brought presents for the kids and the dog. I’d decided to list with her even before she said she believed our house was worth $350k. I know: I’m a whore. But we were in no particular hurry and um well her valuation was greater than anticipated, so we thought what the heck? We decided to list the house for a proscribed period, sale on offers over $350k.

 

I knew we’d made the right decision when the kids and I went to her office to review the contract and Saoirse applied crayon to everything except the thoughtfully-provided paper; then flooded the place. Leona was unfazed; even Saoirse couldn’t break her.

 

We were fully prepared for Leona to recommend dropping the asking price after a couple of weeks – not that she ever gave that impression, or indeed any impression other than being responsive, professional and striving diligently on our behalf – but evidently I have trust issues.

 

Her assessment of the market (for our home: out of towners), recommendations on how to present the house, and regular reports were all bang on. It took a couple of months, but Leona sold our house for pretty much exactly what she said she would. She could have negotiated a longer settlement than three weeks – but now I’m just struggling to find something to get my bitch on.

 

What I can and GODDAMN IT I WILL get my bitch on like white on rice on a Styrofoam plate in a snowstorm, is that had we gone with any of the other industry professionals’ recommendations we would now be up to $90k out of pocket. WHY DON’T YOU JUST BREAK INTO OUR HOUSE AND STEAL ALL OUR ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT AND . . . um . . . WHATEVER ELSE WE OWN THAT’S WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ALREADY? (My combination oven? Husband’s sound system? Finn’s lego collection?)

 

And before you point out that grossly undervaluing our house doesn’t involve malicious intent: you might not have meant to kill the frog, but it’s still fucking DEAD.

 

Here’s the promo video for the house set to 70’s porn music.

 

And since you got this far: here’s a picture of Jed sitting on the swing:-

 

Is it five years yet?

Ok, where to start? Another coffee: yes, great plan. Right, let me just push aside the dark mists of Time – there we go – wait; oh that’s Weather not dark mist – and revisit 2011, when we decided to move to Oamaru.

When I say ‘we’, alright alright FINE it was mainly me. Although when Husband points this out (admittedly not as frequently as I would were our positions reversed), in all fairness: I have no idea what he was thinking, letting me get away with it. I was foetus-afflicted and hormone-riddled and in a penultimate stage of epic broodiness; clearly in no fit state to be dictating such momentous life-choices.

The only condition Husband imposed on relocating was a term limit of five years. At the time, I huffed:

“OMG why do we have to put a timeframe on it? Why can’t we live there as long as it works out, vis a vis indefinitely? This just sooo doesn’t align with my free fucking spirit. Pass me that croissant – yeah just brush the coffee grounds off it – that’s grand mmm.”

Fast forward to 2015, and I’m all: “Say Husband, is it five years yet?”

And so we started thinking about where we wanted to bring up our children. For a while we considered Picton, but rejected it as too far away from Her Goatiness and Agent of Death; we also spent some time skulking around Queenstown but decided it was too . . . you know . . . too . . . Queenstown.

I’m not sure why Wanaka wasn’t an obvious choice; maybe because Agent of Death frequently and apropos of nothing growls, “Who the fack would want to live in Wanaka?” I’m not sure what I’ve ever responded, but given my cultural imperative to please, probably something along the lines of, “Yeah, Wanaka with its stupid lake and stuff, hurhurhur”. Until instead the answer was, “Um, maybe us?”

Towards the end of 2015, we started scouting real estate in Wanaka. We spent several weekends looking at pricey and vaguely preposterous properties before realising there was little to nothing that accommodated two people working from home. My job is part-time and flexible and, although I can work leaning against the kitchen bench with a spatula in the other hand, I’d prefer to gainfully employ myself at a workstation in between the scary parts of Turbo The Snail.

However, since Husband runs his business from home, he needs an office which can accommodate Excessive Technology™ (a recent upgrade from Enough Technology™), and nothing we viewed offered anything appropriate for Husband’s office that wasn’t acoustically compromised; or tucked under a stairs; or didn’t feature a stunning vista of the neighbour’s bathroom.

The situation was further complicated by Husband not liking any of the houses I did.

Eventually we decided if we’re going to ransom our children’s education for a house, it needs to tick all the boxes, and the only way to achieve that is to build our own. Coincidentally this plan aligns with Husband’s life-goal to build a house, which he presented in detail supported by a feasibility study, strategic case and realistic contingency plans on our second date. You can see how I knew he was A Keeper.

So last year we bought a section in Wanaka.

Christmas 2010

La Leche

She invited me to the monthly meeting and said there would be snacks. Obviously, as a committed snack-whore, I was fully IN. I was so busy wondering about doughnuts that I didn’t think very hard – or even at all – about what format a La Leche League meeting would take.

Since Saoirse was born, she had problems nursing. She suffered from reflux, a condition aggravated by taking on air during feeding. For the first six weeks of her life, she existed in two states: asleep or roaring, punctuated with epic chunder. Saoirse’s feeding didn’t improve after treatment for level 4 tongue-tie, and when the Plunket Nurse finally referred us to LLL it seemed less drastic than asking my father to exorcise her.

We met up with the local LLL Representative – let’s call her – Bess half an hour before the meeting.

Oh, she was LOVELY. Much prettier than she sounded on the phone. She gave me a mini shoulder massage, and you know the way most amateur masseurs attack you like they’re trying to beat bears out of a bush? They don’t feel they’ve demonstrated their credentials unless you’re in agony for two weeks afterwards and your neck makes a strange ‘click’ whenever you walk up stairs? Well it wasn’t anything like that; it was WONDERFUL: light but confident.

And- AND! Bess was HELPFUL. She observed Saoirse nursing and suggested that since the latch looked fine and Saoirse was happy slurping away like a trainee alcoholic, that I should just go with the flow, as it were. Which may sound simple, but effectively vaporised the mental block I’d been banging my head against for weeks.

It was the first time I’d ever entertained a girl-crush on someone who smells of ylang-ylang and I was just reflecting on the mysteries of the human heart and where the snacks were stashed, when the rest of them arrived.

Now, honestly, I wanted to like these women. I mean: free food, including an insanely delicious cake with the perfect distribution of moist, sharp rhubarb glowing greenly against a backdrop of rich butter sponge DROOLZ.

And at first they seemed nice.

No, wait; don’t get me wrong; they WERE nice. Certainly much, much nicer than me.

Also, worthy.

But then I made the mistake of talking to them.

I’m not sure how we got on to sleep training – you know: establishing good sleep habits and teaching your baby or infant to fall asleep by replacing negative associations with positive ones. Yeah, I read a book. Can you tell?

Anyway. I wasn’t trying to be controversial – no, really – but I might as well have suggested they vaccinate their children.

“Well, I think it’s cruel,” bristled one woman, defensively cuddling her son as if she feared I might traumatise him by proposing he take a nap.

That’s probably only one of the reasons her three year old still co-sleeps with her and her partner.

Ok, right. Let me just flex my fingers and I’ll tell you what’s cruel: when Finn hasn’t had a mid-day nap, he turns into a two-year-old terrorist skilled in the arts of interrogation and psychological warfare. Seriously: when he’s sleep-deprived, my child could give Damien lessons on how to ride a tricycle. (I suspect he takes after me in this respect.)

Also cruel: Husband’s armpit variation on a Dutch oven. It’s ghastly; he waits until you’re fast asleep before snapping his pit over your face like a vice, and I would NEVER subject my child to that level of abuse.

But what the fuck do I know? I’m cruel.

I’d kind of run out of words anyway, but suffered a state of severe speechlessness when I noticed that several of the women were nursing their children. And we’re not talking about babies here; one was hotwiring a tricycle in the corner before he came over and demanded milk.

Let’s be fair: these kids looked rip-snortingly brawny. In comparison, Finn looked a bit, well, runty (sorry Finn! Thank goodness you can’t read yet! But you’re very clever! And great at roly polys!). But regardless how much boob juice I squirt at him, Finn is never going to be an international weightlifter.

I’ve spent a lot of time since the meeting contemplating why I am so actively uninspired by someone breastfeeding her toddler. ‘Repelled’ is too strong a word – I mean, I’m not about to come around and set their garage on fire or anything – but my feelings are approaching that general neighbourhood.

It depresses me because I want to be encouraging of fellow women and mothers, but in this instance the only support I can offer is recommending a good maternity bra.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve nothing against mammaries. In fact, I think boobs are brilliant. They’re fragrant, squishy and accessorised with buttons: what’s not to like? I’ve loved nursing both my babies. I still feed Saoirse on demand, often in public.

But there comes a point when breastfeeding is not ‘beautiful’ and ‘the most natural thing in the world’, but just a whole world of hell no. Or more specifically: WHAT and EW NO and WHAT ARE YOU- STOPPIT- MY EYES MY EYES! in various combinations.

When a child can walk and speak in whole sentences with complex grammatical constructs, they’re too old for nursing. They’re not babies! They’re little people!

And if you want to infantilise your child in the privacy of your eco-friendly wattle-reinforced home, then knock yourself out – but why do you need a meeting to do so?

There is rarely any reason to nurse a child in public after the age of (I’m feeling generous) one. “I’m hungry”? Here’s a banana. “No! I want miiiiilk!” Well, you’ll have to wait. When Finn wants raisins, he doesn’t always get them. I appreciate that setting boundaries might be trickier if I could fire raisins out of my nipples at will – but perhaps even more necessary. Put your boobs away! It’s been fun, but they’ve had their time in the sun!

I don’t think I’ll be attending the monthly La Leche meetings. Here’s how one of the women introduced herself: ‘I was a member of La Leche in Dunedin and I’m looking for a new tribe.’

And I thought: YES, that’s EXACTLY IT.

Although I think she might have meant ‘cult’.

I just don’t understand the whole attachment parenting thing. Personally I think bringing up children is challenging enough and anyway, I don’t  have time for the free-range yoga and weeing on apricot bushes. Well, I used to wee on my apricot bush.

It died.

Even my widdle is cruel.

I’m confident my children know the vasty reaches of my love for them, without wearing them on me. And despite calling Finn runty – oh, and referencing The Omen and The Exorcist in relation to Finn and Saoirse respectively.

“Here at La Leche,” said Bess during her welcome, “we put our children first.”

As opposed to me, who worships my dark lord and master first.

Oh no; wait; that was a phase I went through and I’m pretty sure I’m over it now.

You know, for an organisation that puts children first, some of the kids were dressed in savagely hairy jumpers. I mean, those things must have been fucking itchy.

I’m just saying.

Filthy spirit

Making mischief

When Finn was 3 months old, I enrolled us in SPACE: a playgroup recommended by Angela.

You know? Angela. Lovely woman. I regret our friendship was so fleeting. It started auspiciously enough, when I bought some cloth nappies from her at the Oamaru Opera House. Unfortunately the second time we met – at the inaugural meeting of the Book Club – I hugged her inappropriately. My excuse – actually, I have two – were: 1) pregnancy hormones; and ALSO 2) she looks cuddlesome.

Angela never invited me to any subsequent Book Club meetings – which was actually fine by me because even still I’m vaguely traumatized by Monique’s recounting how she explained menstruation to her five year old son. Shortly after Finn’s birth, Angela visited the house with some lemon cake and we conversed awkwardly. I couldn’t stop thinking about hugging her, and I could tell the poor woman was terrified I might fling myself on her at any moment for snuggle time.

I never heard from Angela again.

I still miss her.

Anyway, playgroup. Around the fourth session, I discovered SPACE starts at 1:00pm, not 1:30pm. Of course I’d noticed Finn and I were the last to arrive, but had assumed the other mothers were unusually – in fact, retroactively – punctual.

Finn and I had been missing the singing. SPACE kicks off with ‘The Welcome Song’ in Maori. I’m convinced the words change every week; after the first line, ‘Te aro ho(?)/ha(?)’, it’s an organic jumble of ‘wha’, ‘ka’, ‘pa’ and ‘po’ noises.

The rest of the songs – in English – generally involve actions. I never realized how difficult it is to simultaneously sing and mime. In particular, ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ makes me almost appreciate Justin Bieber. (I have no idea why Incy Wincy couldn’t have been a possum – or a seal. I can do a wicked seal impression.)

Singing is followed by a ‘thought for the day’, which generally places a sinister emphasis on ‘fun’ and ‘play’. For example: ‘Your baby will remember having fun with you, not whether the house was tidy’.

Quite apart from the fact that I’m pretty sure Finn will remember neither for quite some time; but, where is a child supposed to learn a work ethic? The sense of satisfaction, achievement and self-worth derived from welding, or preparing tasty snacks for his mother?

Here’s another: ‘the most precious gift you can give your child is time.’

Well, there are 86,400 precious gifts in any given day, and frankly I don’t want to spoil him. Or, you know, bore the shit out of him.

Then we have activities. At first, these were about refining our motor skills, e.g. making mobiles out of ice-cream containers while trying not to drop the babies or stab them with scissors.

Now our crotchfruit are a little older, activity time appears to be geared towards generating the greatest mess possible. Because ‘messy play is important’ according to Ailsa with no supporting rationale.

I try to enter into the filthy spirit of it all, but honestly: every time one of the coordinators says, ‘Yay! Next week painting!’ or, ‘Slime! Yay!’, my heart sinks. It was only when pregnant that I noticed how many people interject ‘yay!’ with the same enthusiasm I apply to swearing; I presumed it was a symptom of morning sickness and would wear off, but if anything it’s getting worse.

Three weeks ago they brought out the pits.

“A few babies try to eat the sand,” said Ailsa.

“That’ll be Finn,” I said, grimly. “If he poos rocks, I’m holding SPACE directly responsible.”

Sure enough, Finn munched through half the sand pit. Otherwise everything was fine – until Ailsa added water, when it turned into the sort of footage you see on the evening news when a landslide has taken out an entire city e.g. Toronto.

Then Ailsa built a sand ‘volcano’, adding vinegar to red food-colouring and baking soda so that it frothed and bubbled over. Swept away in a paroxysm of joy, Finn flung himself on the volcano and licked it.

The week after, the coordinators made up vats of foam (Lux soap flakes whisked with warm water and some food-colouring) and slime (cornflour mixed with water and the playgroup staple: food-colouring). For half an hour, I held Finn literally at arm’s length, between my index finger and thumb.

The coordinators had supplied a bucket of warm water for the purpose of washing the babies’ hands. Well. I had to strip Finn down to his nappy and basically bathe him in the bucket. I even washed his hair, which was covered in pink goo.

Of course Finn loved it. But to put that in perspective, he also loves when I click in his ear – or shake my head. That’s the latest thing; it’s as if my purpose on this planet is to say ‘no’ for Finn’s exclusive entertainment. I should enjoy it before he realizes I say ‘no’ to RUIN HIS LIFE.

Thing is: Finn is a boy. There are already holes in the toes of his socks and muddy fingerprints on all my clothes. Before too long, it’ll be skidmarks on the lintels and slugs, snails and tails in my crockery. What I’m saying is: it’s innate. He hardly needs my endorsement to be messy – never mind ENCOURAGEMENT.

Sharing the drool: You’re welcome, Mama

Your fly’s down

Finn’s 8-10 week Plunket appointment was this morning.

The Plunket Nurse immediately established a tactical advantage by enquiring whether I needed a breast pad – which I assume is the Plunket equivalent of saying your fly’s down when it’s not. Because I wasn’t leaking.

At least, not much.

When I demurred, she swiftly pressed home the advantage by asking whether I was clinically depressed.

“Who- you mean- ME?”

I actually looked around to see if some lank-haired dead-eyed twitcher had crashed the appointment. I mean: my jeans fit; it was a beautiful day; Finn and I had just strolled through the Oamaru Gardens; I had only a suggestion of dribble in my hair, which was perfectly straight; and just for a change I had remembered to apply mascara to both eyes. Quite frankly, I was positively brimming with bounteous motherhood, the fucking epitome of relaxed, ruddy-faced mental health.

In the face of such a vicious onslaught, perhaps it’s no wonder I let slip that during mealtimes we sometimes placed Finn in his bouncy chair on the dining table.

“I would question the safety aspect of that arrangement,” said Nurse Plunket, menacingly swiveling her steel eye.

Now, being Finn’s mother has opened up whole new avenues of anxiety for me. Sorry; did I say avenues? Make that motorways. I worry about him falling down a well, or becoming allergic to polyester, or being unpopular in school, or doing drugs, or his ears growing disproportionately large. Recently I had a nightmare that he went blind. In summary: I have anxiety covered without the Plunket Nurse’s assistance.

But the LAST THING I worry about is a baby who’s not even aware he has ARMS undoing both clasps on a bouncy chair’s safety harness, then propelling himself up and out and over the side. Or bouncing so energetically that the chair springs past his parents and onto the floor. (That’s the second-last thing.)

And even my imagination does not extend to our solid wood dining table developing a sudden and alarming tilt that defies the bouncy chair’s non-slip grips.

She’ll have to do A LOT better than that to alarm me.

Amateur.

Top of Trotters Gorge

Finally got around to uploading the pics from Trotter’s Gorge last Saturday. We only got two because the camera sprang a leak.
 

This is me, after climbing to the top of Trotters Gorge. In many ways, the photo is deceptive. As I recall, my face was throbbing red; also, that shirt evidently covers a multitude of sins. One of them being an eight month old foetus. Which is really more a misdemeanor

 

Places of interest.

Shock value: high

For months – years, even – the only thing we’ve been required to schedule are mealtimes. Although the thought of missing lunch fills me with a chill, clammy dread, in this instance my stomach is more reliable than a Swiss-precision timepiece.

However, I doubted I could rely on hunger to remind me of our first ante-natal class three weeks ago, so I made an entry in my diary along with a note the day before; and set two reminders on my phone supplemented with alarms.

OF COURSE I forgot. Early that afternoon, I brought the dog for a walk along Kakanui Beach and, after he swallowed most of the sea, some starfish and a piece of driftwood, Jed’s arse was a danger-zone. I didn’t want to drive back to Oamaru immediately in case he pebble-dashed the interior of the car, so I sat a while on the tailgate waiting for Jed to get it out of his system. I was reading an article on the importance of mulching and I’m not sure what nature of mental leap made me think, ‘THE ANTE-NATAL CLASS FUUUCK!’

I flung Jed and his volatile backside in the boot and stormed back into town. As I charged into the house, I roared up the stairs to Andrew, “The thingy! Class! The ante-natal class! It’s today! In fifteen minutes!” Whereupon we wasted a large portion of that time bumping into each other and swearing, until I leaped into the shower.

By 17:55, I was standing by the door waiting for Andrew, who was putting away some screwdrivers. Or whatever.

(In fact, we haven’t missed any of the classes so far – although not for want of trying.)

Naturally, we were the last couple to arrive, which meant we got the hard chairs. The other attendees were arrayed on an eclectic selection of furniture: a leaning lazy-boy, a sagging sofa, two pouffes with backs, and a number of hard chairs with no arms. The walls were decorated with some laminated posters depicting cross-sections of pregnant torsos and/or gimungous mammaries. While the prospective mothers sat around expectantly, the men sat and fidgeted and avoided eye-contact – or looking at the pictures.

I was immediately distracted by two plates of biscuits on the table – which basically meant I couldn’t concentrate on anything said during the first hour of the session.

I can only consider myself lucky, judging by the material presented in the remaining classes (six so far). Although I’m about twice as old as every other prospective mother there, I’m invariably the one slumped in her chair giggling helplessly whenever the instructor says ‘vagina’.

During a debrief the morning after the first class, still vaguely traumatised, I said to Andrew, “So we spend our entire lives trying to avoid saying the words ‘nipple’, ‘breast’, ‘penis’ or ‘perineum’ in polite company, and suddenly the conversation gets all pelvis-centric . . . and we’re expected not to laugh?

“Well, yes.”

“Oh my god, I am WAY too immature to have a baby.”

“Um-”

“So be honest: when the instructor lay on her back on the floor with her legs in the air like Invasion of the Giant Alien Beetles, did you not choke back a chortle?”

“Not especially. No!”

“I see. How about when she drew two dots on the whiteboard and said, ‘This is the vagina and this is the anus’. Seriously: are you trying to tell me you didn’t feel even remotely like sniggering?”

“Ok, maybe just a little bit.”

Here’s the thing: when I drop the word ‘vagina’ into a conversation I’m aiming to shock – which, you’ll no doubt agree, is understandable; even worthy in select circumstances – but when Sandra the instructor does it she’s in ABSOLUTE EARNEST.

Frankly, it’s freaky.

Also, just plain wrong.

Sometimes Sandra kicks off the class by asking, “Right! Who’s been practicing their perineal massage?” and, while I’m busy trying to hide under my chair, some of the girls actually RAISE THEIR HANDS.

I should be marginally more resolute after being subjected to a barrage of horrifying birthing videos featuring a plethora of fanny flaps. Particularly noteworthy was the very first video, with footage of a woman’s waters breaking. The slow-mo was a nice touch.

By far the most disgusting, appalling birthing video was that featuring the mother with hairy armpits. I mean: if you know you’re going to be on camera, surely you’d make an effort to shave your pits? At times it was hard to tell which was her head, the baby’s head or her armpits. There’s simply no excuse for that degree of hirsute.

As far as I’m concerned, whoever goes on about the beauty and miracle of birth has obviously not observed one: the mucous, the sweat, the blood, the throbbing neck-veins, the labouring women trying to rip their husbands’ heads off with their bare hands.

Actually, I don’t see why I have to be pre-informed in graphic detail about what’s going on down there. It’s not as if I’ll SEE it; and anyway, I’ll be preoccupied wondering how to rip Andrew’s head off with my bare hands. And I hardly need persuading via visual evidence that pushing a fully-formed human being out the vaj will likely sting a bit.

Just to mix it up, Sandra showed us a video that wasn’t called ‘Mutant Babies’, but could have been. Instead, it was titled ‘What Newborns Look Like’. Bless her, the new mother made every effort to look thrilled with her purple, mustachioed baby, but she was obviously dejected. There followed a gallery of newborns with giant gentalia, cone-heads, bruised foreheads, rampant zits, club feet, and one that looked like Mussolini.

And then there are the practicals. During the first class, Sandra lectured us on the importance of pelvic floor exercises, demonstrating the pressure a baby’s head exerts on the perineum with a sack of salt. Then she had us all practice pelvic floor exercises. Thankfully, she didn’t check to see we were doing it right. I was very proud of Andrew who really put his back passage into the exercise – I could actually see him clenching. Also, his gums turned white.

Thank goodness there are only two more classes to go – I just- I don’t think I can take much more

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