Baby envy is always hard to feel, but never hard to understand.
It amazes me how primal women get when they see other women with what they can't have themselves. When I was growing up, little girls went green over dollies. I remember being pig sick when my friend got one I longed for. Whenever she asked me if I wanted to hold her I had to say 'no'. I was so afraid I would run off with it.
She and another girl with a similar one pushed their little darlings around my road while I sat on the electricity box, brooding and turning into a tomboy out of jealousy and necessity. My parents couldn't shell out for a state-of-the-art mannequin so I had to think of something that cost less.
Recently some of my single thirtysomething friends are finding it harder and harder to look into prams and congratulate the parents. They describe symptoms that sound very similar to eight-year-old me. One of them told me: "I want a baby so bad when yet another girlfriend turns up in her first Formes outfit with her eyes glowing I want to die. I want to be holding onto a little white piece of plastic I just peed on and getting a round of applause."
"It's worse when your friend or sister starts to show and you're bumpless. I never thought I would pass Mothercare and want to dive in," the other woman chimed. "Recently my two best friends hooked up with serious partners and they're both starting to cluck. I should be pecking the ground with them for nest material. But the nearest I get to that is painting my own shed on a Sunday. My life is so effing perfect I want to scream. I want loads of primary colour toys strewn around the place and piles of washing and some awful mother-and-toddler group to moan about."
You know you have it bad when you envy people their creche dilemmas and babysitting nightmares.
As someone who got pregnant in a blink, I never had the uncertainty of waiting for the blue line. But I did leave a marriage in my 30s and wondered if, with it, I was losing my chance for children. Then I met my partner. I was lucky and I was ready. Two things you have to be to find the right guy and to conceive.
A lot of friends then were having problems conceiving. I felt so hurt when some of them didn't come to see my little babies. Now I realise their hearts were broken watching me with what they couldn't have. One of my best friends never even bought a card for me when the boys were born. I used to see her car parked regularly outside the house of another friend who lived close to me. I pushed the twin buggy past, grinding my teeth and feeling she had no time for a stressed-out mammy who had nothing in her life but daily domestic grind. All she wanted was the domestic grind.
When we reconnected, a couple of years ago, she had made her peace with not having children and taken on the role of best damn aunty in the universe. There are days when I don't know where my svelte identity went, when I want to scream at the endless drudgery and nonstop invasion of self that is parenthood. Then I think of the women I know going through IVF, laparoscopies and other invasive procedures to see if they can get to where I am.
The next time you notice a woman without kids isn't calling you anymore, think about why and pick up the phone. Sometimes friends are genuinely put off by all the poop and circumstance. But if not, if they're hungry for kids and you're hungry for help, then you're onto a winner.
Baby envy's only cure is being around children and being appreciated for it.
Tell them: "You're going to be a brilliant mum when it's your turn."