Womb with a view
I’ve always been a planner. An organiser. A good girl who ticks the boxes. No tattoos, no smoking, no drugs, no teenage delinquency. Proper, regular, good. For the first three decades, things ticked along in this vein. Went to university, got married, had three kids, a successful career, recycled religiously, paid my bills and cleansed and moisturised diligently. And then… BOOM.
In the last three years I’ve added: divorce, nervous breakdown and a new relationship. Now, to cap this list of Huge Unexpecteds, I am nearly eight months pregnant. At the age of 43. Exactly 20 years since I had my first baby. So yes, a BIT of a change of life.
My partner and I had talked about having a child together since we first met. He has no children and was adamant that, if I didn’t want to go through it all again, he would be totally OK with that. But I could never deny him the chance at fatherhood. I realised I want a child with him so much, I’d have gone through anything for a second bite at this happiness cherry.
And what a bite it is – though it tastes entirely different this time. However young, fit and not-geriatric-at-all-thankyou-very-much I might feel, I am a fifth of a century older than the first time I was pregnant. I worried about this a lot – would I be able to conceive at all? What were the health risks to the baby – and to me? Would I be too exhausted to handle the lack of sleep, the crying, and any potential post-natal mental health issues?
But the positives drowned out any worries a thousand-fold. Like lots of women I know, I am much stronger, fitter and healthier than I was in my booze-and-kebab-soaked early twenties. I know myself better now; I’m calmer, more patient.
However, dealing with GCSE options, university application forms, plus general teenage life angst and door-slamming – while enduring six months of unrelenting morning sickness – has not been easy. Where my previous pregnancies were simple, this time I’ve had several bleeding episodes, the most painful bump I’ve ever had, and a terrifying 10-day spell of possible pre-term labour at 27 weeks, resulting in many hospital visits and the prospect of a severely pre-term baby.
I’ve never felt such a fear, or a desperate wish for something to go right, as during this pregnancy. It’s not just my life, mind and body that’s entirely different this time; the way we live is almost unrecognisable. I’ll be parenting a newborn in a world dominated by technology, and interruption. When I had my first three children – now aged 20, 17 and 14 – there was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. No Whatsapp, Netflix or Facetime. No smart phones! This almost total techno blackout created a blissful sense of presence. Of calm amid the family chaos. I was THERE. With my children. Fully. All the time. This loss of presence is something I worry I won’t be able to recreate.
There were downsides to having a newborn 20 years ago – phones attached to the wall that would inevitably ring the second you’d settled down to breastfeed. And I’d have to leap up and run to answer it, milk gushing across the floor. It took me until my second child to upgrade to a fancy cordless one. Maternity clothes offered a spirit-drowning style choice between ‘transit van’ or ‘ bloated wardrobe’. These days, we are actually allowed to look and feel sexy while we grow a human inside us. It’s quite the revolution.
And even though I’m a mother with two decades of experience, having a baby with a new partner makes this a totally new parenting experience. I’m acutely aware of not bringing my Motherhood Badge of Honour into this one. I want him to experience it all for the first time – fresh, untainted by my worries and memories. It’s hard to step back and not jump in with the way I like to do things ( obviously the best ways.)
One of the things I worried about was telling my children. Would they feel I was trying to replace them? Make a new, ‘nicer’, unbroken family? When I broke the news, they all cried. Happily, they were tears of joy, and my son immediately bought us a baby hat and a dartboard (somewhat mixed messages). He’s already made lists of guitar songs he’s going to teach his little sister.
My friends have been nothing but supportive. So many people have written to me telling me of their similar Gap Families and ALL I’ve heard is how much love and fun and life it has brought.
I’m not mad. This isn’t foolhardy or selfish. Yes, it’s really hard doing it when I’m 20 years older. Yes, it’s going to be tough at times, in many ways I probably don’t even know yet. But it will add to all of our lives. And I feel incredibly lucky. Pre-order Liz Fraser’s ‘ Lifeshambles’ at unbound.com/books/lifeshambles