Minnie’s policy: no baby showers, no exceptions. She did not always feel this militant but after two hideous experiences, she had quickly developed shower fatigue. She was sure the original concept was noble in intention but they had never worked out for her.
The first, in her early thirties, was for a family friend who had not intended to have a baby. It was a genteel blur of an afternoon with women of all ages exchanging advice about breast feeding. Minnie felt unable to contribute and her face hurt from the effort of trying to smile as the owners of successful hormones shared their stories. The second shower, in her late thirties, was more earthy. A gigantic, inflated penis balloon knocked her on the head as female friends told funny tales. The mother-to-be, despite being rich enough never to have to work again, had made a list of demands at a local shop and Minnie had despondently trailed around the store, feeling increasingly alienated at this exorbitant Santa’s grotto of under 5s merchandising.
Minnie knew many of her bad feelings emanated from envy but she also thought baby showers were more about clever marketing and peer pressure than a genuine mother-to-be’s rite of passage and strong celebration of female bonding. Maybe they were good for a struggling parent-to-be without a lot of emotional support or money but the baby showers around her were usually for affluent women who hired decorators for the nurseries. She had got very drunk after both the ones she had attended but even her hangovers were easier to bear than the pain of an empty womb.
Like so many promised lands, not all was as it first appeared in her new, shiny, sparkly home. The first clue: one newish man of Minnie’s acquaintance refused to confirm his eligibility for dating. “Of course I’m not married, you’re so suspicious…” He smiled a confident, easy grin as if it was all a big joke. They had known each other a few weeks.
Several weeks later, after more strange inconsistencies, he revealed he had been lying to her since they met. “Does it make a difference?” He asked innocently. Minnie was taken aback. “Yes, actually it makes ALL the difference”. The man looked surprised. “If you want a child I’ll give you one”. Minnie thought about the man’s wife. She thought about how she might feel if she were married and her life partner casually impregnated another woman in such a lackadaisical manner. Similar offers followed. “How strange this place is…”thought Minnie. Pretty on the outside, not so dazzling on the inside. She thought of the little boy in the story who travelled to another land. He had a lovely time but still yearned for the familiar at the end of the story.
In Minnie’s new home, the barter system appeared to be a baby in exchange for a visa to the original land. Minnie, like the child in the story, wanted to go where people knew her best, not this place with its upside down values. At times, when her wanting to be a mother was strongest, she lay awake trying to imagine changing her beliefs but her thoughts always led to unhappiness around the child. If a man was so eager to reproduce with her, despite being in a supposedly committed union, then how many others was he saying the same glittery script to? She needed trust to make a little person. Her clock ticked…
To Minnie s generation the pill was commonplace. She took it for many years – at first to try to deal with her hormonal mood swings which were bleak at particular times of the cycle. Later, as a contraceptive – one of many.
Minnie was casual in the way she used to take the pill, sometimes doubling a dose; other times, adding alcohol to try to dull her increasingly ferocious “blues”. Period pain was often intense. Minnie missed school several months in a row due to severe cramps and diarrhoea. Unfortunately, there was little sympathy at this time. Instead, the message was stop whinging and get on with it.
It was not until she was in her thirties that doctors discovered endometrial scar tissue, revealing that Minnie was most likely fighting more than “the menstrual blues” during her narrow, reproductive window of opportunity.
The only time Minnie did end up with a mini Minnie alongside her was through well-meaning “tosh talk”.
An old school friend had died in a car crash. She happened to resemble her. At a couple of different alternative healing events, psychics “saw” her next to Minnie. They tilted their heads to one side, lowered their voices and softly enquired, “Did you lose a child?” They described the image. Each time Minnie kept quiet, knowing she had not miscarried but wondering if guardian angels did exist. If they did, she did not mind the idea of Rosa accompanying her on her life journey. Rosa had been a party girl during her short life and Minnie had loved her untamed soul.
Minnie could not imagine how it felt to lose a child. She had always felt for parents who had. Grief was a many-headed monster who developed a dragon’s tail lashing here and there when it came to a lost child.
Minnie mourned for what might have been but never was.
My younger self saw my future self as a farmer’s wife. Children milling about, ruddy complexion, dogs and geese. I look back fondly at the little girl who imagined having six children easily. I was always told I had child bearing hips. That turned out to be a lie. These hips have borne no life. I ve tried to conceive but it did not work. This is my story – or rather, this is Minnie s story. Minnie s story of the hips that lied.