Magazine article The Spectator

Emily Rhodes: The Bookshop and the Bump

Magazine article The Spectator

Emily Rhodes: The Bookshop and the Bump

Article excerpt

'You are like my cat.'

So I was told when eight-and-a-half months pregnant, just before going on maternity leave from the bookshop. I had hauled myself up from putting a book away on the bottom shelf -- no mean feat when one is quite so heavily spherical -- and this cat-loving young woman had caught me exhaling a little too vociferously. I certainly didn't feel especially feline, but as it transpired her cat had just had kittens, and I looked just like the cat had looked before giving birth. The lady giggled.

Working in the bookshop while visibly pregnant has made me aware how touchingly awestruck we all still are by the miracle of childbirth. Once my belly had protruded past the awkward stage of being mistaken for too big a lunch, I found that conversations about having a baby rose to over ten a day. Of course, in a bookshop, one has conversations with customers all the time but I had assumed that most people, like me, are happiest chatting away with people about what they enjoy reading. Not so. It's babies over books every time.

'Do you know what you're having?', 'Where are you having it?, 'Is it your first?' Then, towards the end, alarmed: 'How long have you got left?'

Men were every bit as forthcoming. They gave me practical tips on the best buggies and the merits of hypnobirthing.

I'm sure that some of our customers, with whom I've built up a friendship and rapport over the years, were genuinely interested in my baby, but I'm not vain enough to believe for a second that it's all about me. …

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