When I was six months pregnant with twins, my son was coming up to a year old and on the cusp of walking unaided. Although confident standing on his two chubby legs, he still needed a comforting steer before he would put one foot in front of the other.
We were at a first birthday party for a baby chum of his, and I was standing in the kitchen, struggling just to stay upright. My bump was enormous: turn me sideways and I was a dead ringer for Mr Greedy. None of my maternity clothes fitted beyond five months, and I had resorted to wearing a terrifying pair of charity shop trousers with an elasticated waist-band, which clung precariously to my stretch marks.
I searched fruitlessly for somewhere to sit, but the party was in full swing and it seemed all the chairs had been stowed away to make room for more guests. I replenished my plate and topped up my orange juice. I loathe standing up at parties. Even when I’m not pregnant I’d far rather find an unpopular pub with seats, than cram into floor space at the most rocking bar in town. My feet always ache, I fidget unbearably and end up drinking my wine far too fast simply because there’s nowhere to put it down. Well, that’s my excuse, anyway.
Never-the-less this party represented my only social engagement in a calendar filled with nothing more exciting than vaginal examinations, so I felt I should make the most of it. I shuffled into a space in the middle of the kitchen and tried to look as though I was enjoying myself in spite of the acid indigestion and SPD. My son leant slightly against me, looking for all the world like a midget with a space hopper.
With a plate in one hand and a drink in the other, I wondered how I was actually expected to eat anything. I managed to juggle a mushroom vol au vent to the edge of plate and duck my head down to flick it in my mouth. It worked, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle the cous cous.
The older children ran through the kitchen on one of their five minute loops of the house, chasing each other and slipping between grown-ups to be the first into the garden.
It all happened in a flash; a girl in a buttercup yellow dress bumped past us, not noticing the toddler at my feet. He startled, flapped his hands in a pointless effort to stabilise himself, and finally clutched at my trouser leg to regain his balance.
I knew it was happening even before I braced myself for the rush of cold air; my trousers sliding in defeat down my legs as the elastic groaned and gave up, my voluminous grey pregnancy pants bravely fighting the elephantine buttocks striving to escape from them, and no free hand to halt the shame.
My son’s friendship with the birthday boy had ceased by the following year, for which I was extremely grateful; imagine what party trick his guests would have expected of me then…