Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jingle Bells

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells” and so sings my three year old morning, noon and night. The fact that she’s not blessed with dulcet tones makes it even funnier. An off-key screech greets us in the morning, and a hushed hum lacking harmony filters down the monitor in the evening. This is it. My first Christmas in 32 years that Santa will Ho Ho his way down the chimney again and I’m as excited (possibly more so) than my apoplectically animated daughter who has been wearing her Santa dress every afternoon for 5 weeks in eager anticipation. We’ve just put the finishing touches to Santa’s cookie which we made (looking forward to that I must say!), and have decided which carrot to leave Rudolf. Somehow she’s got it into her head that it’s Santa’s birthday tomorrow and Christmas is his party – and who am I to rain on her parade? So apart from Jingle Bells we have to sing Happy Birthday to Santa on a regular basis.

We’ve given them their stockings which we’ll hang with great ceremony at the fireplace before they go to bed – although my 18 month old, Poppy, has gotten into hers and refuses to come out.

I think more than any other part of Christmas (apart from creeping downstairs in the morning with them to see if Santa has made his delivery of course), is putting them to bed tonight, whispering excitedly about Santa coming down the chimney (I love the fact she has accepted this with absolutely no doubt, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world) and then hubby and I will open a bottle of wine and wrap their presents and fill their stockings (and eat the rather yummy looking cookie). I am so excited I actually feel giddy.

It’s like the Christmas day of parenthood. This is what it’s all about. This makes the unendurable nights, the torturous tantrums, the frustrating suction of any sort of ‘me-time’ from my life worth it. This is the pay-off. The bells are jingling, and I can almost hear the sleigh bells above our house. Ho ho ho, and a merry Christmas to everyone. And for once, I won’t be grumbling when I hear jingle bells beside me at 6.30 am.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Born Again

So my husband has finally persuaded me to have another baby. That sounds like I don’t want one – I do. I really do – when I look into the future and see a tea table full of chatter and stories, I desperately do. When I look at newborn babies, I desperately do. It’s just the thought of taking 20 steps back down the ladder of independence. It’s just the thought of being pregnant exhausted and sick and looking after two children under three. It’s just the thought that all my hard fought writing time will evaporate in a puff of epidural.

But, my ‘I desperately do’ outweighs my ‘it’s just the thought that…’. And so I’ve made a decision. Whatever happens over the coming months, if I am blessed with a successful pregnancy, then I am determined to not fight, not resent, and not pout, but to enjoy the last time I do this. I will write for the rest of my life. I will have ‘me time’ again at some point. But I won’t nurture a baby again and I don’t think I did justice to my first two pregnancies. The first was raw and terrifying, all shock and awe that left me reeling with post-traumatic stress. The second was hurried and harried, a penance to pay as quickly as possible, my first smile in nine months the morning my daughter was born.

I remember a few weeks into my first pregnancy, blue lines zigzagged across my bludgeoning breasts. A chaotic map of mammary ducts and I realised – a little terrified – that my body was getting ready without me. My body was rearranging itself and leaving my head behind. Even after Daisy was born, my brain never quite caught up with my body’s transformation from single focus to multi faceted machine. I would stare at her, mesmerised and wonder where she came from. I was quite a creative person I thought. I’d even knitted a few choice jumpers (albeit the sort one would only wear on a remote west of Ireland island). But this perfect piece of engineering? This angelic arrival? How could I possibly have made her? And so I never fully accepted – believed – I was actually going to have a real baby. That actually breathed and cried. An actual person. The fact that stored neatly (or not so neatly as it transpired) behind my puzzled belly button was another human being – that I was making – seemed way beyond my imaginative capability.

“Why are you so tired?” my husband would stupidly ask.
“I’m making eyelashes today” I would announce majestically from my horizontal position on the sofa. “Tricky work those eyelashes.”
Or toenails. Or fingers. But despite my giggles at such maternal magic, I never quite believed that was what I was actually doing, despite the trillions of books and websites I was devouring along with my folic acid and banana fruit smoothies. Every new hour, every new symptom was analysed. I poured over the sections that listed the possible side effects of each trimester, gleefully ticking the horror list of swelling ankles, heart burn, bleeding gums like some test I had to pass. I didn’t have varicose veins. What was wrong with me? Was I not doing it right? Where were the damn piles? Ah great, indigestion. Damn, it hurts.

I was too busy being worried about the bad bits to be happy about the good bits. And of course my colour coded neatly typed birth plan merely made a mockery of my final tenuous grasp at control. The moment the heart monitor jabbed it’s distress call, I was no longer in any sort of control as my baby was ripped from my body before I could even say “I’m pushing!”.

Still doey eyed and lovesick, I got pregnant again before my baby’s first birthday. Quite a bit before. And then my husband got a job overseas. There was no ‘let’s put this baby back in the jar until a more suitable time’. He went, I stayed and struggled with a wilful toddler, pregnant and pouting at the unfairness of it all, my second confinement like a prison sentence. I love my daughter dearly but let’s face it. Guantanimo Bay would be a lot more successful if they swapped water boarding for toddler torture – locking inmates up with a toddler 24 hours a day – they’d confess to anything to get free! There was no escape, no reprieve and certainly no time to nurture my pregnancy. I had backache, piles (oh good, got them this time), heartburn and chronic tiredness. More purgatory than pregnancy. My husband came home two weeks before Poppy was born and I had no time to blink before we clutched our hearts in the rollercoaster ride of two under two.

And so now I approach my third. I say my third, but it is really my fourth. Sadly my third didn’t make it, forever a butterfly in my garden of daisies and poppies. Another reason why this one has to count.

I know now to appreciate my miracle. I know now that worrying won’t change the outcome. I know now to love every minute, every change, every blue zigzag, and every careless kick. This will be my last, and in a way, my first. There will be no shock, just awe. I will languish in the lavishness of my belly, resting my hands on top, knowing that afterwards for a while, maybe forever, I will go to rest my hands on my mound and feel disappointed there is none. The private pride of knowing the secret within me, the ridiculous bond I will have with them, unknown but loved entirely already, so that when they emerge it’s like they’ve always been there. To clutch my cleavage and sashay my voluptuous glory down the street, goddess, magical, majestic.

It may not be a perfect pregnancy. There may be pain, and scares and exhaustion. But it will be a perfect pregnancy because it is a miracle. A magical maternity miracle, and one I intend to enjoy.