I have a problem.
Everybody thinks I’m pregnant.
I have started to keep a bitter tally of the well-meaning parish ladies, hapless school dads and soon-to-be-mortified kinder mums who have leaned in conspiratorially whilst casting affectionate glances at my belly and asked when the baby was due. That’s my lunch you’re looking at, folks.
Food babies: I can’t seem to eat a meal without entering a phantom gestational stage. If the meal were to contain wheat or onion or – God forbid – beans, it’s enough to send me well into my second trimester. And my weakness for liquorice jubes doesn’t help matters.
You might remember my attempts at running. I had great hopes that my weekly lolloping through the park might eventually result in a non-pregnant physique. Running gave me lovely, slender arms and legs, all muscular and lithe, which only helped to accentuate my completely unaffected designer bump.
So I got this DVD – Pilates for Dummies – and I think I might be too dumb for it. This impossibly cheerful American lady in a leotard contorts herself into myriad positions whilst reminding me to “pull my navel to my spine” and “maintain the ‘C’ shape”. By the time I’ve convinced my body to bend into a lame counterfeit of leotard lady’s, the children are all out of bed and decide it’s “jump on Mummy” time.
Then I thought about Shape Wear. Those magic underpants and skirts and things that try to compress your stomach and all your vital organs into a shape approximating that of a photoshopped model. Last week, I went on a special date with my husband. It took me twenty minutes to successfully climb into my brand-new Miracle Pants and another ten to stop bits of flab from poking out in strange places.
It was as we were dropping off the children at my parents’ (all dolled up in my LBD and expensive lipstick) that I ran into the school secretary from my old primary school.
“What lovely children you have! And are you…?” she beamed, nodding at my midriff.
I shook my head apologetically. Her eyes filled with panic, but her smile stayed valiantly in place.
“Well, what I mean to say is, you always look so lovely…”, she finished lamely and we quickly ran away from each other.
Now I’ve decided the problem is not me, it’s OTHER PEOPLE. Surely there should be some rule: Don’t Ask a Woman if She Is Pregnant. Simple, straightforward, easy to follow. If a woman approaches you with a prominent bump, panting, and says “Please call me an ambulance – my contractions are two minutes apart!”, you should blink and say “but, whatever for?”
People are stupid and they have no social skills. This righteous anger has carried me all through the week. Yesterday, I was chatting to one of the kinder mums about school holidays. “Having both of them at home full-time is too much for me,” she said, “I don’t know how I’m going to cope when the next one comes”
“Oh, I didn’t realize,” I say, frowning at her stomach, “are you expecting?”
Her face fell. “When the next school holiday comes,” she said in a small voice, “because, um, it’s longer…”
I felt horror-struck. There was nothing I could do. I knew from experience that any backpedalling I might attempt would only make things worse. I could already see that she had retreated inside herself, and that her head was helpfully playing a reel of Stars Who Lost Their Baby Fat Whilst Still in the Delivery Ward and Thigh Gap and Disney Princesses Whose Waists are as Narrow as their Necks.
The pause that followed was very pregnant. I had become my own worst nightmare. I reached into my pocket.
“Erm … would you like a liquorice jube?”