Clare Mack­in­tosh

‘Par­ent-in-wait­ing seeks mate with no sense of hu­mour and two left feet’

Cotswold Life - - EDITOR’S COMMENT - contact @claremack­in­t0sh www.claremack­in­

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

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