Womb with a view

Grazia (UK) - - Contents - By broad­caster Liz Fraser il­lus­tra­tion joe cruz

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.