Thursday, August 4

Pissing on the parade.

If someone is about to go on holiday and looking forward to it, telling them it's going to be shit is considered rude. Telling children that Father Christmas does not exist — especially in December — is the mark of a true bastard. And telling people how The Sixth Sense ends is enough to get you rejected from polite society and roundly slapped.

Yet for some reason it is not only considered OK but is in fact the norm to tell expectant parents that having a child is going to be utter hell.

What I always say to any expectant first-time parents I know is that no-one ever tells the story of things going right — not just about parenthood, but about everything in life. No-one will ever feel an urge to tell you how they had a plan and it all went smoothly. It's things going wrong that makes for an interesting story.

My niece is eight. She is terrified of having children because it's going to be so unbearably painful. Why are people telling eight-year-olds about the pain of childbirth? Why is this considered a socially acceptable thing to do?

I'm never going to do it myself, obviously, but, talking to various mothers, and reading others' accounts, and talking to doctors and midwives, I have discovered that childbirth varies in painfulness from "Actually not too bad" through to "I would rather be on fire". But the accounts of mothers who have an easy time of it are not the dominant stories in our culture: no-one's interested in hearing about a lack of adversity. It's only the extreme pain that is recounted, and recounted again, and emphasised, until we have the absurd situation that first-time mothers are opting to have major abdominal surgery because they are convinced that natural childbirth must always be more painful than having their bellies sliced open with knives.

We live in a country with a below-replacement birth-rate. This is otherwise known as "dying out". Yet all anyone can tell you about parenthood is that it starts by hurting you so much you'll wish you were dead and continues by "destroying" your "life", by which people seem to mean you won't be able to go out clubbing, take a handful of Es, have sex with anonymous strangers, and wake up two days later in a pool of your own vomit more than once a fortnight.

I'm sick to bloody death of this.

Having kids is fantastic. Daisy and Poppy are the two most amazing and wonderful things that have ever happened — not just to me, but in the whole of history. I hardly ever go out any more; I wait for DVD releases rather than going to the cinema; I don't go to restaurants very much; I rarely get drunk: my life revolves around the looking-after of children. That's not the "end" of my life. It's a new phase. And it could not be more welcome. It's more rewarding than a non-parent could possibly imagine.

Yes, even the bits that involve being covered in vomit.