I’ve secretly wanted 3 children for almost my entire adult life, but the practicalities of having 3 when you already have 2 daughters and 3 dogs and run your own home-based business are not as straight forward as they might sound. I accepted ‘my lot’ a couple of years ago when I finally realised it was going to be highly unlikely that I’d ever birth a child again. I consoled myself with how damn lucky I was to have been able to bring two daughters into this world at all, especially when I know so many women struggle to conceive or suffer miscarriage and baby loss. That knowledge has certainly repositioned my view of things and helped me feel even more grateful than I was already for having my two darling girls, Eska and Leanora, in my life. But that doesn’t disqualify me, now that I’m a little older, from mourning the knowledge that I’ll never experience pregnancy or give birth again. And just lately, I can’t shake the idea from my head of the absolute brute finality of this.
Whilst I absolutely appreciate not all women desire to become a mother – I don’t think I’m generalising incorrectly by suggesting a great many do. We’re conditioned from an early age to believe that this is a normal, healthy route in life to take. Some of us can’t wait to become parents and try early, some of us fall into it by accident at a young age, others, like me, leave it until later. I was 30 when we started trying for a baby – up until then, I felt quite strongly about gaining experience and just living my life a little first. But like with so many others, it felt like I did a u-turn on those feelings overnight, when my maternal instincts awakened. I purchased all the books, and I mean all the books and threw myself immediately into taking my temperature daily and holding my legs akimbo in the air after sexual intercourse. Yup, I was that person and that desperate to be a mum.
Whilst I don’t claim to be perfect at any of it, I adore motherhood. My first child, Eska, arrived 11 days late after a text book perfect pregnancy and slightly complicated 40 hour labour – but that didn’t matter. When she was positioned onto my belly like a soft, slimy little mermaid, my life changed in an instant. I felt I had purpose. I learned what it feels like to love someone so much you know you’d literally kill for them. Eska was born 2 months after I turned 31 and we’d only been trying to conceive for 3 months. We were exceptionally lucky.
Our second daughter, Leanora, was conceived after almost 12 months of trying. My second pregnancy was quite different to the first; it was fraught with heavy bleeding for the first 18 weeks – the bleeding first started before I was even 5 weeks pregnant and was accompanied by great pain. Naturally, we thought I was experiencing an early miscarriage. I was in so much pain in fact that I was ambulanced to hospital and advised whilst waiting in A&E to prepare for news of miscarriage. But I knew better. Call it instinct or what you will, but I knew I still carried life within me. I had to stay in overnight and was admitted to the early pregnancy unit for scans the next morning. I vividly recall being sat in the waiting room with my husband who had gone into some spiritual kind of meditation as he held my hand and made an attempt to visualise and connect with the little life-force inside me. Thirty minutes later, we were watching a tiny heartbeat flickering away in the form of an ultrasound scan. A teeny tiny little digital pulse on a screen that would come into our world in a few months time. Incidentally, she arrived a month early after my waters had actually broken a full week earlier.
My children are 12 and 7 now and watching them grow and flourish over the past few years has brought me untold joy. Yes of course, there have been times where I’ve wanted to tear my hair out at their bickering and untidiness, or made myself feel sick with guilt (and physically sick with stress) as I’ve struggled with the often soul-crushing sense of overwhelm in trying to balance it all. But these challenges have been eclipsed entirely by the indescribable sense of reward that parenting can bring; so many beautiful memory making opportunities; that sense of being adored, needed, idolised even, the levels of pure compassion as a child develops their empathy. Being on the receiving end of 100% unconditional love.
Last week, my little girl was admitted to hospital with some nasty viral infections. Staying with her for 3 nights in her little room gave me a chance to do some deep thinking. I watched her as she lay in her sleep, breathing heavily and wheezing gently – her little 23.9KB body battling away like a trooper inside to fight the viruses affecting her respiratory system. And I suddenly felt very aware of her vulnerability and absolute dependence on me. The feeling brought with it a wave of warmth and motherly instinct and I covered her little forehead with the lightest of butterfly kisses for a good 10 minutes. And then after this, I sank back into my bedside camp bed and fell into a state of anxiety about how fast she’s growing up, how quickly I’m losing ‘my baby’ and what on earth I’d do in a few years time when both my girls would be be in their teens and at secondary school.
I can hear the bells tolling loudly for the death of my ovaries as they basically shrivel up and die. And that, I’m not coping quite so well with.
I’m 43 and turn 44 in September this year. When I turned 40, I went through a weird ‘hell I’m getting old’ thing, though it didn’t last long and I soon got over myself. Honestly, life has been the best it has ever been in the ensuing years. I feel fitter, healthier, sexier, wiser and more grateful than I ever have before. Who was that gin swigging women in her 20’s who thought she was quite useless? I didn’t have the faintest idea. As I get older, I genuinely give far fewer, if any shits about what people think of me or my age. However, when I silently utter the age ’44’ in the deep recessions of my mind, I can hear the bells tolling loudly for the death of my ovaries as they basically shrivel up and die. And I’m not sure I’m coping quite so well with that.
Part of me, the more rational, sensible part, is shouting ‘GET A GRIP! Some of your friends can’t have babies at all! Some have had to spend thousands on IVF! Shut up and be happy you ungrateful twazzock!’. I truly understand this and acknowledge the place it comes from too. In that respect I am one of the lucky ones and hand on heart, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t thank my lucky stars that I got to be a mummy. It’s an incredible blessing, a dream come true. But I don’t think that excuses me from the gamut of emotions that comes with being a parent. And these days, those emotions seems to dominated with a fear of the impending, inevitable redundancy I dread as a parent, as my children grow older and will need me less.
My children have outgrown their baby and toddler years; one of them is becoming more independent by the day as she navigates her way through secondary school and social media, and the other leaves me wishing I could hit the pause button on a daily basis with her sweet and funny little malapropisms – I don’t correct her because those charming little mistakes will correct themselves as she grows up – there are teachers at school to do that. For now, they are a lovely little reminder of how young she still is.
I wouldn’t have felt this way five years ago, but I’m more conscious than ever these days of my impending 44th year of life and what that means for my fertility. And, I just don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye to knowing that I’m capable of making babies just yet – even if there are absolutely no plans at all to set the conception cogs in motion. There’s almost something in the symmetry of those double digits that has become symbolic, like two little crosses parading at the funeral of my precious reproductive organs. And it makes me want to cry.
There are certain events in life that there’s absolutely no getting out of. Birth, death! ….and the inevitable ageing process and all that it brings with it.
I try to make every day count and pause to soak it all in and be grateful for the normality and ordinariness of it all, because I’ve become all too aware that these are the days.
I want to remind you of what I said earlier; my 40’s have been great to me so far, I genuinely have never felt more in love with life – but I think that’s part of my issue. The fleeting preciousness of everything has become so enhanced – I’ve become so much more aware of the magnificence, mystery and absolute miracle that is being alive, and I’m so much more conscious of my mortal existence. I try to make every day count and pause to soak it all in and be grateful for the normality and ordinariness of it all, because I’ve become all too aware that these are the days. Those days we take for granted now will come to mean everything in due course. For the most part, they might be mundane and event-free, but I know that these are the days I’ll look back on in years to come, wishing I could have even the tiniest slice of being back there again amongst the ‘every day’ of it all, folding my little girl’s tiny hands within mine, stooping to kiss the forehead of my 12 year old as she reluctantly agrees to go brush her teeth, bursting with pride as she performs with her classmates at the school concert, tidying the soft toys and teddy bears into neat little piles and watching my little ones tickle and tease each other into fits of giggles. I want to grasp it all and hold onto it with every bit of might I have, before boyfriends and house parties become all too distracting and, dare I even say it, my babies become old enough to fly the nest and live their own lives.
But it’s not all doom. As my children grow older, I sense the loss of each magical phase of their lives, but I’m also learning that through loss, there is an opportunity for regrowth. And through regrowth, you learn to adapt based on your experiences so far – you become stronger, more resilient, more grateful, loving, compassionate and open hearted. I’m trying to view this regrowth as the heralding of an exciting new chapter. Adventures await.
My fertility might be diminishing to the point of no return, but I’m learning that life is one constant pattern of loss and regrowth, loss and regrowth. Acknowledging the inevitable loss of something even if it plays such an important role in how I identify as a woman is important, so that I can fully embrace the newness and opportunities that will follow in the regrowth stage. My relationship with my children isn’t going to end with the death of my reproductive abilities after all. It will simply change and evolve. I’ll say goodbye to one era and welcome in another.
Let’s not forget, that parenting never really ends. That part of life keeps on going forever, even when those little birds have flown far from their nest. Now is the time for me to gracefully bereave the slow but very certain disappearance of my fertile years and prepare myself for new adventures with my girls. Just because a part of me won’t be working any more, my love for them will still grow stronger every day; loss and regrowth.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
Main image by me, taken on a family walk in January this year