‘Parent-in-waiting seeks mate with no sense of humour and two left feet’
To avoid future problems, make sure you choose the right mate
When I was pregnant I consumed ‘how to’ manuals in quantities almost as impressive as the jelly and ice cream I craved for six months straight. What to Expect When You’re Expecting became my bible, supplemented by hundreds of pregnancy magazines, online forums and Facebook pages. I knew everything there was to know about pregnancy, labour, breast-feeding, sleep-training, nappies and weaning.
This quest for knowledge had begun years previously, at the beginning of a journey that would ultimately lead to IVF. As anyone to whom babies have not come easily will testify, trying to conceive (TTC, to those in the know) is an all-consuming, seemingly never-ending project over which the participants have limited control. As in pregnancy, knowledge is power. At least, that’s what you tell yourself. Eighteen months into Operation Baby, my understanding of menstrual cycles, ovulation and (look away if you’re squeamish) cervical mucus would have rivalled that of any gynaecologist. I knew the lifespan of a sperm, every complementary therapy believed to increase chances of success, and the best position to conceive a boy (standing up – you’re welcome). I knew EVERYTHING. Or so I thought…
More than a decade later and the truth is coming home to roost. There is a key chapter – an entire section, indeed – missing from those books on conception. Just as pregnancy books would be more useful focusing less on the birth (which, let’s face it, is going to happen regardless of whether you know the right way to breathe), so fertility manuals should focus less on the ins and outs of – well, the ins and outs… and more on whether you are attempting to mate with the RIGHT PERSON. I’m not talking about is he your soulmate, do you have lots in common, do they hog the duvet blah blah blah. I’m not even talking about whether they’ll be a good parent. No, this is far more fundamental. And far more useful. It’s too late for me, but if you’re still at the preconception stage, pull up a chair. THIS WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Number 1: Mate with someone tall. Not because they make you feel dainty, they’re easy to find in shops, and you’ll never have to change a light-bulb again. No, mate with someone tall because five years later (and for 16 subsequent years) you will not lose several evenings of your life each September taking up school trousers because you foolishly married someone only five foot two in socked feet. Now, you’re listening, aren’t you? Well listen on – there’s more.
Number 2: Mate with someone who has zero sporting ability. Oh, I know it’s tempting to have your pick of the front row, with their cauliflower ears and biceps the size of Bath; and oh goodness don’t those tennis players know what to do with their balls… CONCENTRATE. Focus. Play the long game. Do you really want to spend every Saturday morning shivering by the side of a football pitch? Driving the breadth of the country to watch your progeny compete in a national gymnastics contest? Do you want to wash filthy kit, shell out a fortune for club uniforms, or get roped in to making teas for the cricket club because you may as well – you spend every waking day there anyway? No, you do not. Mate with someone with the sporting prowess of an elderly sloth, and you will not have to. (See also: musical talent). Finally...
Number three: Mate with someone socially inept. Granted, actually meeting someone who struggles to hold a conversation can be a challenge in itself, but one which will more than pay off when your child inherits said social awkwardness and eschews play dates for the comfort of selfselected solitary confinement. No parental taxis back and forth to friends’ houses! No ferrying to youth clubs or waiting outside the school disco at kicking out time! No staying sober because little Johnny needs a lift! Instead: FREEDOM.
You see how a little investment early on can pay off? If you’re fortunate enough to still be fertile, free and single, update your Tinder profile and think strategically. Professional parentin-waiting seeks mate with no sense of humour and two left feet. Inability to play the piano a plus. Must have own teeth (there are limits).
Me? I’m currently hovering outside a swimming pool waiting to pick up child number one, when I will deposit her at her BFF’S and nip back to take her sibling to guitar, before picking the remaining child up from rugby, and going home to take up six pairs of trousers that would otherwise trail in the mud. It’s too late for me, but save yourself. You’ll thank me for it.
ABOVE: As anyone to whom babies have not come easily will testify, trying to conceive is an all-consuming, seemingly neverending project
Clare’s third novel, Let Me Lie, published by Sphere, is out now