Comment: About to give birth? Get ready to lose your identity - but prepare to be overwhelmed by love
My cousin is pregnant with her first baby, a boy. "Any advice?" she asked me. "Any helpful hints?"
I gave her the usual spiel of stay active but make sure you rest. Eat well but don't freak out if your lips touch a crumb of soft cheese.
Don't look at photos of celebrities in their skinny jeans, 12-and-a-half minutes after giving birth and do not, under any circumstances, tell anyone your baby names, because they'll have an opinion on them.
Most of all, I told her, prepare yourself for unimaginable joy…and unimaginable change.
What I omitted telling her was that she was about to lose her identity.
The loss of identity begins when you first announce your pregnancy. People no longer look at your face, they stare at your stomach to see how big it is and often feel free to comment on your size.
Usually people avoid words like 'huge', 'massive' or 'enormous' when talking to a woman about her shape. But when you're pregnant, people seem compelled to be incredibly frank and blunt. Some men will also feel free to comment on the progress of your chest size. It seems that not only is your midriff out of control but so are people's mouths.
Then the invasive questions start - breast or bottle? Natural or C-section? Crèche or nanny? Stay at home or go back to work? Boy or girl? What are your baby names?
When the child arrives, my cousin will have visitors. Lots of visitors. Relations she didn't know existed will turn up in her hospital room and camp out, drinking copious cups of tea and eating all the grapes and chocolate they bought for her.
Some may even feel free to dish out advice. One pal was told by a distant relative she had only met once, to put on a bit of lipstick before her husband turned up. She was, at the time, holding her screaming baby who had just thrown up all over her.
From the minute my cousin's baby is born, her name will disappear into the abyss. She will go from being a person in her own right with a name and surname, to being Johnny's mum. And that is the name that she will have for the rest of her life. People won't ever bother to remember her name. It's easier to call her Johnny's mum.
Obviously her child will never use her name.
To him she will be mummy, mum or usually MUUUUUUM, which he will roar from another room to get her to come in so he can then ask her to go and fetch something for him.
I didn't tell her that as well as losing her name she will also lose her normal speaking voice and spend her days talking in a loud shout. If she wants her child to do anything, she will have to forgo asking in a nice even tone and raise her volume to a roar.
How could I tell my cousin that the husband who currently adores her and hangs on her every word will soon ignore her too.
The husband who currently beams across her at dinner will soon tune out when she talks about her day.
When a husband becomes a father everything changes. My cousin's attentive husband will come in from work, throw his coat on whatever piece of furniture isn't covered in laundry and sigh about being tired.
Having been deprived of adult conversation and listening to nursery rhymes on a loop, she will follow him around craving 'grown up chat'.
She will want to tell him how she walked around the neighbourhood for three hours trying to get little Johnny to sleep. How when he finally fell asleep she wanted to weep with relief and rushed home to collapse on the couch. But then after 13 minutes and six seconds his eyes snapped open and he began crying…again.
Her husband will not be interested to hear how her eyes are burning in her head because she hasn't slept for more than three hours in a row for six weeks.
He's tired too, he is suffering from broken sleep and has just had a long day at the office. He wants to 'chill out' for a bit.
Do I tell her she will want to get the bottle of beer he pulls from the fridge and pour it over his head?
No. What I will tell her is that when her baby smiles at her, she will feel overwhelmed by love.
That his legs and arms will shake with excitement as he waits for her to pick him up.
That when he falls asleep with his head against her cheek and she feels his breath like a soft tickle, she will experience a little slice of heaven.