On Friday 1st August 2014 I finished my shift at The Lion King and met Minnie Mouse and Pumbaa for a quiet dinner in my favourite restaurant. We were sipping our drinks and catching up when Minnie Mouse changed the entire world forever more.
She said the word "so."
As she said it, she looked up at both of us from under her unreasonably long lashes, and smiled.
My stomach immediately dropped.
Before my brain could register why on earth my stomach was behaving that way, Minnie Mouse spoke again.
And that was that. The world changed.
(Not that everybody felt it, of course. Our waitress continued to ask us whether we were ready to order and was not hugely impressed when we kept tearfully shaking our heads and laughing whilst snivelling, as dramatic girls do, about the fact that we hadn't looked at the menu yet. I used to be a waitress. We were the worst kind of table that night. But the world was different. The rules didn't apply to us.)
Minnie Mouse has been my best friend since 2005. When someone becomes your best friend at the age of sixteen, you go through a lot together.
We've spent plenty of years together in which the words "I'm pregnant" would have caused a different kind of crying.
So somehow her pregnancy didn't just mean that a baby was coming, it meant that we were well and truly adults.
Some of you may have noticed by looking at my various career choices and general behaviour that I am attempting to avoid growing up at all costs, and I'm doing a great job of staying in denial about the whole thing.
But my best friend being married with a mortgage and a baby? An actual baby, that she's having with her husband and taking home to her four bedroom house that has four bedrooms for this exact purpose?!
That is actually quite grown up, isn't it?
I spent the next seven months shopping for baby clothes (nb. if you work in a shop, specifically Disney Store for clientèle like me but any shop that sells baby clothes really, please don't ask the customer if they are pregnant. It's mortifying for all involved. She'll tell you if she wants to.), all manner of baby merchandise and talking to anyone and everyone about the fact that this baby was due.
Every now and then I would have a little moment of realisation, like the fact that Minnie Mouse was going to give birth to an actual person, who would go on to have a career and a love life and funny stories like the rest of us. Or like the fact that she was going to have a baby. It wasn't just a bump- one day she was going to give birth. And then there would be a baby. A real one like the ones my mum's friends have. And the fact that it would then be a toddler. We'd have a toddler running round when we caught up with each other.
I did get used to her being pregnant eventually. Probably in around the last two weeks.
We went on Pumbaa's hen weekend in September and Minnie was just about showing a bump. I drove her to Pumbaa's house where we met everyone and I felt like I had been left with the responsibility of running up a vertical travelator without dropping the crown jewels. The baby may as well have been strapped in the back wailing, for all the responsibility I felt on that fifteen minute, straight forward drive. I carried her bags, I held her hand, I brought her water at the drop of a hat. (Actually, Pumbaa would quite readily tell you that I have always been like this with Minnie Mouse. She's like a real life princess- you can't help yourself.) Then on one occasion, one tiny occasion, I slipped up. Minnie Mouse had to carry her bag herself.
She will never, ever let it go. That story will still being told at his 30th birthday party, I swear.
Pumbaa revelled in Minnie's pregnancy. She bought all the right things at all the right stages, she had all the right answers at all the right times, came out with pearls of wisdom and brilliant ideas. She'd run into the room and immediately go to the bump, running her hands over it and speaking to him like he knew her. She asked the right questions, made the right amount of fuss, and showed so much love to him from the word go.
I, like Pumbaa, was in love the second I heard that this person was even on his way to existing. I bought him haphazard presents- tops and babygros and bibs as I saw them, and was too excited to save them, just gave them straight to Minnie to go in the wardrobe. I told everyone about it, just couldn't wait. I cried walking down Surbiton High Street telling my mum about the pregnancy. For the baby shower, I took a present really suitable for a one year old, but I was too excited to wait a whole year to buy it. I touched the bump twice, when told to by Minnie Mouse, and absolutely could not get my head around that being a human.
So what I want to know is: how do people know how to act?
I was on Facebook this morning and saw that a friend had bought a mutual friend's baby a Christmas present. I'd say we're about equal friends with this mum, but I didn't even send them a card! Was I meant to send a present now that she's had a baby? Is all this wisdom just going to come to me the second I have my own house? Or a husband? Who teaches us this stuff?
Anyway, despite my lack of etiquette around the whole thing, I think it's the love that counts, right?
It reached March. He was due 12th March. (Mel C's birthday, incidentally. Why do stupid facts like that stick around?) By 7th March I was going relatively crazy. Checking my phone every five seconds. Checking Facebook just in case for some reason I didn't receive the text (my phone is notoriously unreliable.) I messaged Minnie on a daily basis to check that she was okay. Sometimes two or three times a day. Sometimes she didn't reply and I'd call her, imagining she was stuck in labour in her bathroom and for some reason couldn't dial out but would be able to answer the phone.
Once, I popped round there. She knew I was coming but she didn't answer the door immediately. I got to the point where I was about to knock on the neighbour's door and ask them to help me break in, convinced she was stuck upstairs alone and was waiting for me to turn up and rescue her.
What I had forgotten, of course, was that despite the pregnancy, she hadn't had a personality transplant. It was Minnie Mouse.
She sauntered to the door just as I was debating stopping the police car that was driving past and said "sorry babe, I was just doing my hair."
It got to 16th March. Dale and I popped round to see her. We got back in the car, she was stood at the door waving, and I checked my empty phone and sighed.
"You know she's not in labour Rebecca, she's right there!"
It got to 19th March.
I went into Costa and bought a coffee as a treat on the way into work. The service was exceptional, so I took down the names of the very busy-and-efficient baristas, and planned to write an email later that day. I got back into my car, and the phone started ringing. My doctor, returning a call about my appointment. As I picked up the phone I saw a text arrive. All I saw was the word "Minnie".
I never did send that email to Costa. And I wrote down the wrong time for that doctor's appointment.
She was five centimetres dilated and had been sent to hospital.
Somehow, the world had changed again. And I hadn't seen it coming this time.
I had been checking my phone obsessively for weeks. I had talked of more or less nothing else. My cousin, an excellent midwife, had been on call for me like I was pregnant, we'd been talking almost constantly about what would happen when Minnie did go into labour and how the date/time could change things. I'd watched all the tv shows where you see the characters wait for their best friends to give birth. Friends, SATC, Gavin and Stacey...I thought I knew.
I got the text and was overcome with emotion. I am quite an emotional person, so it's not shocking that I had an emotional reaction. But this was so unexpected.
I drove out of the Costa car park, tears running down my face, when Hold On by Wilson Phillips came on. One of our (many) songs.
When I finished my year in Disney I remember one of my friends saying to me that as she watched the Epcot fireworks for the last time, she saw a show reel of the last twelve months in her head. When we moved out of our family home last September, my brother said that as he walked around the empty house for the last time, he saw a show reel of the past seventeen years in his head.
As I drove to work with the words of that text still echoing in my mind and Wilson Phillips singing in my ears, I saw a show reel of the past ten years in my head. Overhearing this outrageously beautiful and outrageously loud girl on the first day at my new college saying that she had to wait two hours for her Law class to start. Going over to her and introducing myself, explaining that I was in that Law class as well. Her telling me that I'd made a fool of myself randomly talking to a stranger like that but proceeding to hang out with me for the next two hours anyway. Her passing her driving test the same day that I failed mine. Her 18th birthday- the night that she fell over and actually seriously damaged her ankle and everybody told her to shut up and stop making such a fuss. Pumbaa's 18th birthday- the night that we all felt like actual Goddesses, despite pictures now suggesting that we were anything but. Coming back from my holiday to Halkidiki to hear that Minnie Mouse had met this boy at Pumbaa's barbecue and it looked like it might turn into something. (That boy, by the way, is the man that had text me approximately two and a half minutes earlier to say his wife was 5 cm dilated.) The trip to Dublin for our 21st birthdays where we all declared in front of my relatively new boyfriend that we couldn't believe we were almost half a century old, and he couldn't believe we really thought that. The holiday to Crete, where Minnie's bag weighed the same as the rest of ours put together and my dad almost did his back in trying to get it out of the boot. The time I got a message from Minnie whilst she was in Vegas and it was a picture of an engagement ring. The time I popped round there and she gave me a goody bag asking me to be her bridesmaid. The time we took a selfie just before we walked down the aisle and the vicar and the photographer thought it was hilarious and made it the theme of the wedding. The time Pumbaa and I walked down the aisle in our bridesmaid dresses and hadn't been warned that we were walking down to a live version of "A Thousand Years", and so sobbed in a wholly undignified manner for the rest of the service. The time we were sat in Sophie's in Covent Garden for a casual dinner and Minnie told us she was pregnant.
Where had the time gone? How was she in labour?
I got into work and told the lady on customer services as I signed in that my best friend was in labour. I got into the office and told both of the other managers. I continued to tell myself.
I spent the rest of that day in an emotional daze. I checked my phone approximately once every millisecond. The only relief I got was when I was holding interviews and was actually so focused on being professional and hiring the right people that I could temporarily forget that anything else existed.
My amazingly thoughtful and talented cousin came in and saw me at work twice that day, keeping me updated with what could potentially be going on. She told me that the absolute latest he could be born was 10pm.
I finished work at 8pm. Nothing.
It got to half past nine and I text Pumbaa. We proceeded to stare at our phones for the next ten hours, the only messages from each other.
I don't think I can tell you how I felt during this time. I'm not sure I can express it.
For some reason, despite the fact that we had spent seven and a half months being excited about her pregnancy, repeating to myself that she was growing a person, I still hadn't quite registered that she would go into actual labour and have an actual child.
It made me see pregnancy and childbirth in a whole new light.
At 7am I got a phone call to tell me that he was here, and that both mother and child were safe and sound.
I went to work in a daze. I was tired, and worried, and everything had seriously changed.
I kept seeing pregnant women and wanting to tell them: you know you have to get that out of you now, don't you? That's an actual person and you've got to push him out! Are you ready for that? Are your friends and family?
At 10am I got a text from Minnie herself.
At 12pm I got pictures of the most beautiful human being that has ever existed.
At lunch, I showed the pictures to a colleague, who couldn't believe how glamorous Minnie was post-birth. (Just to give you an idea, when she went overdue she was concerned that her eyelash extensions wouldn't last much longer.)
As I showed my work friend the pictures, I said: "Mm she had a list of names. I know she liked Joshua and Zachary but clearly they're out!" She looked at the pictures and frowned.
"Um...why? Has she said that?"
"No. But look at him. Neither of them are his name!"
She laughed her head off.
"He's...he's a baby."
By the next day, I was the definition of exhausted. I'd had texts and pictures from Minnie and her wonderful family (who I will be forever grateful to for keeping me updated), but I needed to see her before I would sleep properly again. I kept being told that I needed to see him, I needed to meet him and then it would all make sense in my head and my emotions would calm down again. Actually, I needed to see Minnie again. I love that baby so, so, so much already- he is perfect. But his mum is my best friend in the world and she had been through one hell of an ordeal. It was her I was worried about, her I needed to see again to put my mind at rest.
On Saturday 21st March (remember Sam? From Sam and Mark fame? His birthday. Seriously. I should go on Mastermind for celeb birthdays), I finally met him. This little man that I had waited for for so long. And I finally saw Minnie Mouse. And the second I hugged her, everything settled back into place again. The worry evaporated, the world settled. I relaxed. I held and cuddled him, we talked about the birth, but we talked about other things. We talked about Pumbaa's wild antics from the night before. We talked about my job. We talked about friends and family and normal things.
The world had changed. And was the same.
That night I finally slept again.
The next morning, having put the photo on Facebook just before I fell asleep, I woke up to an outrageous number of texts congratulating me. I really had mentioned it to everyone I had met in the last seven and a half months, and they all text me to tell me to pass on their congratulations.
Which was wonderful.
What I couldn't get my head around though, and probably never will, is that the world didn't stop.
I still had to go to work. I still held those interviews. I saw people walking around Sainsbury's as though life wasn't about to change forever. People I told said it was lovely and gave me a smile but- it wasn't enough. It wasn't one of the news stories down the side of my Facebook. It wasn't trending on twitter. Nobody mentioned it on This Morning.
Millions of people go through this every single day in every corner of the globe. And when it finally happened in my world- in the centre of my world, not just near it- I realised what a big deal it is.
Once upon a time, this happened because you were on your way. That's how important you are. For someone, the entire world stood still because you were being born. You are so, so special. You mean so much to the people around you. You could do anything if you wanted to. You changed the world.
Isn't it funny that we write our date of birth on so many things? We use it as a password, as a form of ID, as a way of measuring what's going to happen to us this month and who we are compatible with according to astrology! But it's hard to think that was ever an actual day, isn't it? I know that the Hillsborough Disaster happened just before I was born, and that the charity single was number one that day. I know that Charlene and Scott had not long got married on Neighbours, and that everyone was still singing Especially For You. I know that it was the year that the Children Act was passed, and the year that The Little Mermaid was released.
But I can't get my head around it being an actual day. Sometimes I look at my birth certificate and try and imagine the person that wrote the date thinking "hmm, what's the date today?" then casually writing 1989, because it was 1989.
One day, he will know that 2015 was the year that Madonna fell over at the Brits (because that will definitely be a pub quiz question in 2035), that Frozen Mania was still upon us, and that Uptown Funk stormed the charts.
What he will never know is that the entire world changed for a whole bunch of people just because he was here.
Try and remember that, next time you're doubting yourself, or questioning your self-worth.
Welcome on board Jack James Orme. Born Thursday 19th March at 21.21. Weighing a very healthy 9.7.
You have already changed the world.