Tag Archives: family

When A Child Is Born

Oh shit. This is a fucking, arsing tit-wank of a disaster. And I swear I’m not just casually swearing for no good reason. No, I’m not pregnant but I have come to a realisation…breathe… I have realised that I would like to have a child. Or maybe even, inshallah, children. Fuckity fuck balls bollocks. I don’t even know how to boil an egg, let alone how to hatch one…

I thought I had cleverly by-passed this strange ancient tribal maternalism which most women seem to possess. Although I have never strongly not wanted (is that a double negative?) a child I have always been one of the ‘undecideds’ among us. Not bothered either way. If I find the love of my life and it just happens, so be it. But if I don’t and it doesn’t, so be it also.

But suddenly – on the rapid approach to my 36th year – I feel like the crocodile from Peter Pan, not only because my skin is so much rougher than it used to be but because there is a constant tick-tock coming from my stomach reminding me that I am woman and woman make child.

So, how do you make a baby? No, I know HOW you make a baby, but HOW do you make a baby? It may be hard to believe but I am actually a romantic, and would never go out to find a penis for impregnation, or go to a sperm bank…call me old fashioned but I would like to make a baby out of love and raise it with someone I love in a house with a white picket fence, with twee bunting hanging about. After half an hour with my baby-raising friends however, I usually want to hang myself with said bunting but still, I hold on to the belief that this is still possible in the modern world, despite evidence to the contrary, and am not ready to give up hope just yet.

I have a bit of time (not loads, but a bit) so it could still happen naturally, but it is such a huge unknown it almost doesn’t bear thinking about – Will I be able to conceive? Will he? Will I carry to term? Will I like it? Will it like me? Will it be ugly? Will I be a good Mother? (I think I answered that in the previous question) – it makes my head explode every time I try to think about it. Maybe this is why it has started seeping into my dreams…the other night I dreamed I was heavily pregnant but nobody believed me, they just thought it was trapped wind. That is until I went into labour in the street and all my friends gathered round, so excited to share in my joy, and in that moment I could finally understand the joy they have been experiencing over the last few years as they have had their kids, and it was bloody beautiful. I don’t know what happened next because I woke myself up with an enormous trump but it was a good dream, I think.

On the day I was born, in January 1977, ‘When A Child Is Born’ by Johnnie Mathis was number one in the Hit Parade so I have always identified with Jesus Christ – he was a Capricorn too you know. Like Jesus, the story of my birth has been told every year, but not by the world, just by my Mum and Dad. There was nothing particularly miraculous about it…it was snowing, but it was January so… I think they like to tell it because it was the day their world(s) changed. Not bigging myself up here, and my Mum had already had my amazing sisters years earlier so her world had already been changed, but it seems to me that the story is important to them not just because it was the day I was born, but because it was the day their old lives died. Having children changes your world. Fact.

I know there are all sorts of obstacles and it is entirely possible that my world will never change in this way so on my sane days I am quite philosophical about the whole thing but it saddens me that it might not, in the same way it saddens me that if it does, the child(ren) may never get to know their wonderful, crazy Granny or any of my amazing family in the same way I do because, let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger. In a weird way I think accepting this fact and the lack of control we ultimately possess is all part of the growing up you need to do to raise a child or accept that you might not. Accepting that there is danger and pain in the world, that you can’t fix everything, that life isn’t always one big party, that with great joy (and power, come to think of it) comes great responsibility.

So, I’m not prepared to give up just yet, if only because I really don’t want to be the old lush in the corner, about whom everyone smugly (if slightly jealously) comments “Isn’t Auntie Janey funny because she’s drunk/hungover again?” and I will continue to hope. But you know what? Whatever direction life takes me in, all I will say is: so be it.

When A Child Is Born

 

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Living Just Enough…

I think I can say with absolute certainty that Stevie Wonder did not write this incredible song with me in mind. Therefore I’m not going to mention it, I’m just going to use the lyric as a starting point for yet more middle-class-angst-ridden musings.

Most of us live day to day – thinking about what’s for dinner or what’s on tele before we think about what we want to do with our lives, what we want to achieve. We might fantasise about our future for 10 minutes during lunch break but we soon get distracted by a text about so and so’s birthday drinks at the weekend or Mum ‘just calling for a chat’. After all, we’re essentially just trying to keep our head’s above water and pay the rent or, if we’re ‘lucky’, mortgage. How then, does anyone ever achieve anything, see the bigger picture, look forward to future accomplishments? The athletes we have seen recently at both the Olympics and Paralympic games are examples of people who have seen beyond the mundane day to day and set their sights on achieving a goal and dedicated their lives to it – these incredible people are not living just enough, they are living more than enough. Even though they have had to sacrifice many of the things (like nights out/nandos – delete as appropriate) which we (I) hold as so important to a happy life. Of course you have to be a particular type of person to commit yourself in this way, and have a certain type of talent, and drive, but surely what they end up achieving is all any of us really want to do – to make our mark on this world, to leave a legacy, to make some impact and achieve their goal… so why don’t we all just try a bit harder? Since many of us have the capacity and the opportunities now, why don’t we all live more than ‘just enough’?

This frustration is compounded by the realisation that I remember about 40% of my life. Most of my working life has been forgotten – those moments of pure stress when the world is going to fall apart if you don’t get that callsheet out – gone. In addition, unless there were pictures taken, many nights out have been confined to my mental trash can, as have, I’m ashamed to say, many of the hook ups. I’ve always known  that I don’t want to live a forgettable life, but I’m finally realising it is up to no-one but me to make it memorable.

I’m really not complaining as I already have an amazing life. Great family, friends, career, I couldn’t be any luckier but I don’t do anything ‘useful’. I don’t hear any legacy or sustainability department sitting round the conference table in my head, and it’s time I put them to work.

The other night while watching ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ with my Mum, I learnt something new. All of my grandparents died before I was born but I’m told my Grandpa, Andrew, was a grocer and I remember being told once that he was an air raid warden during the war, on account of his bad eyesight. Anyway, during this programme my Mum mentioned that in actual fact, he was conscripted and went to Normandy. “Not on the first day mind you, on the second.” Now, I know the first day was when all the action happened, but still, it’s pretty impressive. It turns out my Grandpa worked his way up and achieved the highest civilian ranking. As Kevin Arnold once said, “Some men pursue greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them”… or was it Shakespeare?

Anyway, if I want to have any impact (and truthfully, who doesn’t?) I better get to work – thankfully I don’t think I’m going to be conscripted any time soon so it’s up to no-one but me.

We can only improve the future and live better lives than our ancestors if we fully understand the past so I’m gonna start questioning my mother to see if any other relatives were involved in world-defining moments. Maybe it will provide the inspiration live more than ‘just enough’ and hopefully remember some of it too.

Broken Home, Not Broken Family

The best thing my parents ever did (apart from have me, of course) was split up. I don’t remember much about the 7 years before my dad had an affair with a family friend, but I remember how our house felt – despite being a safe, comfortable family home, there was an underlying sense of unease that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

It was my mother’s second marriage and she had sworn never to marry again. She had married far too young the first time round and had two kids, my sisters, by the time she was 21. That marriage was mostly unhappy and marred by affairs, so when she finally found a way out and started to have the career she always dreamed of, the last thing she wanted to do was marry again and have another kid at 40. But she fell in love with my father and had me, so you can imagine her despair when she realised she’d been betrayed again. We had a tough few years – there were attempts at reconciliation and I do remember screaming rows and long nights of crying, but by the time I hit puberty, their separation was the status quo. I would see my father maybe once a month as he moved to a different town, but I had much more important things to think about, like schoolwork and boys.

I’m aware that this is a fairly typical tale of a kid from a broken home, but it really is only half the story. The remarkable part is that I never once felt unloved, or like it was my fault. My mother was never cruel about my father in front of me (God knows how she managed that) and I actually felt more at ease in my home now that the strange feeling of unease, which I believe was a symptom of their incompatibility, had lifted. I also had a beacon of support in my sister – or rather half-sister, if we’re being fussy. She invested an unbelievable amount of time and energy making sure I was okay and not adversely affected by what was happening. It was only years later that I realised she was giving me all of this love and attention at a time when her own relationship with the father of her first child was breaking down and she was struggling to get by as a single parent herself.

Now, 28 years later, I am surrounded by the most incredible, inspiring and mixed up family. I am close to my father who, after many years of it being ‘on and off’, is still with the woman he left my mother for, who I now call a friend. My sister is in a good relationship following two bad ones, which were not all bad since they produced two very brilliant daughters, to whom I hope I can repay a fraction of the support and love that their mother gave to me. My eldest sister has three gorgeous daughters, just got a PhD and is working hard at her marriage – and my mother is a towering matriarch of inspiration, even at 5 foot 3 and a half. She unsurprisingly never married again, but she lives for her three daughters and five granddaughters (yes, we are essentially a family of women) while still tearing around to social engagements aged 75 at a pace I can hardly keep up with.

I look at my parents now and can only see them as individuals. I can’t imagine them together as they are such different types of people. I am so thankful then that, whatever the catalyst, they realised this early on and didn’t waste time trying to hold onto something which was no longer there.

Families are complicated, but I know that most people’s lives don’t turn out the way they expected them to. Nobody I know sets out to make mistakes or bad decisions or to hurt other people. In order to live free of bitterness and resentment, we must learn to progress to understanding and forgiveness, to accept what has happened, learn from it and move on.

This may sound like therapy speak and sure, I’ve had some therapy and my life hasn’t all been plain-sailing, but the same goes for a lot of people I know who come from ‘stable’ homes, and I would argue that the love and affection in my family would rival anyone else’s. Therefore I’m grateful for my wonderfully complicated, not ‘broken’, family and I wouldn’t change them for the world.