Until now I've always been rather mystified as to why women want to have babies. You wouldn't catch many men volunteering for a lifetime of servitude--unless you count marriage, of course. However, since the arrival of my own little bundle of joy it's all become clear: babies are the perfect excuse to go shopping.
Last Saturday I spent the afternoon being dragged around various designer baby boutiques in Notting Hill Gate, constantly being asked what I thought of different outfits. I find it hard enough to express an opinion when Caroline's shopping for herself, but when it comes to baby stuff I simply haven't got a clue. "Aren't these adorable?" she asked, picking up a tiny little pair of trousers in Bonpoint. She then held them against herself and looked at me expectantly. I was tempted to reply that she might have a bit of trouble squeezing into them, but thought better of it. My wife is back to within five pounds of her ideal weight, whereas I've yet to lose the stone-and-a-half I've put on in the last nine months.
When it comes to shopping for the baby, the only piece of kit men are expected to buy is the pram. I'm convinced that the reason Maclaren is the market leader is because the company has gone to great lengths to make its pushchairs sound like cars. There's the Volo, for instance, and the Quest, not to mention the Rally Twin. Just in case this is too subtle for your average knucklehead, there's even one called a Triumph, presumably in the hope that the poor, deluded fool standing in Mothercare with his wallet out can make believe he's buying himself a motorbike.
Why doesn't some enterprising menswear designer come up with a paternity line? I realised just how unsuitable my existing wardrobe is on the day Sasha was born. I was cradling her in my arms, telling her how cute she was, when she projectile vomited all over my brand-new Turnbull & Asser shirt. I was so shocked I almost dropped her. Indeed, it came out of her mouth in such a thick, powerful jet I half-expected her head to start revolving as she recited passages from the bible backwards. "Oh my God!" I thought. "I've had an Exorcist baby." The situation wasn't helped when my wife and mother-in-law doubled up with laughter.
I've subsequently learnt not to go anywhere near Sasha without spending at least 10 minutes draping little strips of muslin over myself. Even then, she manages to home in on the one patch I've left uncovered. Wouldn't it be simpler to have a shirt made of muslin? Better yet, a giant babygrow, like the kind Churchill used to wear in bed. If you're reading this, Paul Smith, wake up and smell the baby sick. There's money in them there spills.
The only thing I've actually added to my wardrobe since Sasha was born is a baby sling. If a more emasculating item of clothing has ever been designed, I've yet to see it. My theory about them is that they're a way for wives to avenge themselves on their husbands for all the indignities they had to suffer during pregnancy. They've spent the best part of a year waddling around with a baby hanging over their trousers, so we can jolly well see what it's like. You might as well have a sign pinned to your forehead that says: "Warning: Eunuch approaching."
You won't believe me when I tell you this because it's the sort of thing that only happens in Hugh Grant films, but I swear to God it's true. I was in the baby department of Peter Jones last week, carrying Sasha in the baby sling, when who should I see but Claudia Schiffer! I interviewed her not long ago for a glossy magazine and I swore that if I ever ran into her again I'd introduce myself, but how could I with this hideous contraption strapped to my stomach? If only I'd been wearing my Paul Smith muslin suit, I could have dumped the baby at one of the Pay Points and asked Claudia for her phone number. As it was, I loitered next to the maternity bras until she'd disappeared from sight.