What I didn’t mention in my last post – the one where I said I wasn’t afraid of giving birth again – is that I was due to, er, give birth again the following October. And I did! Although it actually ended up happening in November, which any calendar fan will tell you comes after October. The baby – a boy, called Alexander – was 15 days late, which I suppose is probably quite interesting in itself and I should almost certainly write about that.
I should also write about the fun tour of the hospital we had during labour and the larks we had bouncing around the special care ward during the week after. Also, the pros and cons of finding out the sex of your child, what to do when your episiotomy stitches dissolve a week before they’re supposed to and how to make the best use of cushions when you can’t sit down.
First of all, however, I would like to make a record of something far more traumatic than all of that – our first, and possibly last – family photoshoot.
My nice, optimistic husband bought us a photo session for £30 at a baby fair a couple of months before Alex was due, while I was off eyeing up Liberty print slings. The photo people also gave us a free balloon, leading to the obvious question, what’s the catch? It didn’t take too long to find out – the prints cost almost exactly four billion pounds each. I did make a case for not going – to be honest, six sleep-deprived, uncomfortable, misshapen, anaemic weeks after a reasonably unpleasant birth is not the time I would ideally have chosen to be photographed for a set of dangerously priced images that will hang on the wall for the rest of my life and probably afterwards – but going along with it was easier than being a big old killjoy and saying no.
Also, while I’d never had any previous desire to shell out for a set of family portraits, I had started noticing them on the walls (Facebook and actual) of other people and it made me wonder if I perhaps I wasn’t perhaps being a bit of a miserable git. Am I supposed to be documenting these precious days with something more impressive that a phone camera and an Instagram account? Am I a rubbish parent? Is everyone else better than me and more in love with their children? Arghhh, OK, fine! I’ll do it!
So off we trooped to a studio in Eton. I’m not sure why I thought this would be possible in Eton, the poshest place in the world, but I was expecting some kind of horrible back-street studio, the sort that a schoolgirl would escape from in a hard-hitting CBBC drama about the perils of giving into peer pressure and swigging from a teenager’s can of pear cider at the bus stop then falling into the clutches of a predatory photographer. However, it was actually a very nice place on the twinkly light-festooned high street. I was also expecting the hard sell, despite the fact the somebody from the company had phoned two weeks previously, explained that their prints were a ‘premium product’ and priced accordingly but that we would not be subjected to a hard sell.
It was all very slick and jolly. The reception area was decorated with glossy examples of the company’s work: grey marl-draped photogenic parents gazing adoringly at their newborns, wide-eyed toddlers, smooshy-faced babies and family portraits of hyped-up kids with cool mums and slightly uncomfortable banker dads all goofing into the camera like the world’s least likely Rolling Stone cover stars.
Eva – now 21 months – was having a whale of a time. Having chatted excitedly to herself in the car, she raced around the reception area in her best outfit and pigtails, clambering on sofas, shrieking with delight on the rocking horse and babbling to the staff. Until, of course, we went through to the studio, at which point she unleashed the most terrifying hurricaine of a tantrum we have witnessed to date. She lay prostrate on the floor, screaming and shedding fat, splishy tears onto the white-washed concrete, turning her angelic face blotchy with the effort of expressing exactly how much she did not want to take part in whatever it was that was happening.
It took an hour and a half, a pack of hotel biscuits, two bouncy balls, a lolly pop, a dose of Calpol for her cold and a LOT of expert cajoling from the photographer to get the shots, and we couldn’t tempt her to take part in a single frame cooing over her new baby brother, who she adores and usually can’t stop kissing. By the time we wrapped it up, Will and I were dry-mouthed, clammy and knackered, ready for a large whisky and a lie-down.
It was, of course, completely our own fault for not postponing when we realised she was ill. Miraculously, when we went back to see the shots, the photographer had somehow managed to get at least two dozen decent images, which we, of course, bought, like the mugs that we are.
At least now I understand why so many of these already cheesy shoots so often feature parents holding their children aloft, mouths agape, twinkling and grinning like panto princesses on ecstasy – they’re desperately, desperately trying to get the darling little shit in their arms to stop twisting their entire being in disgust for just one, all-important moment so the photographer can snatch a second of faux jollity out of the air, blow it up into a 30×40 canvas print and stick it on the wall so it’ll stretch out for infinity. Worth the money? Maybe not, but after all that, I feel like we earned it.