Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reproduction Roullette

Is it just me, or did it all used to be a lot easier? I'm sure in the folklore of familial heritage when someone wanted to have a baby, they simply closed their eyes, thought of their respective country and hey presto, nine months later they were up to their armpits in interfering mother-in-laws, sore nipples and buckets of rancid nappies.

Nowadays it seems so much more complicated. While me and my peers rode on the shoulders of our forbearing feminist barrier-breakers, we travelled the world, climbed the corporate ladder and took our rightful place on a bar stool. As we come down from those dizzying heights though, we find ourselves struggling not only to cope with pregnancy and parenting at the tail end of our body's best breeding window, we find ourselves struggling to cope with becoming pregnant at all.

I'm one of the new feminist statistics - pregnant at 40, exhaustingly extolling the virtues of late parenthood as I bring up two toddlers with no surrounding extended family, while secretly wishing I was actually ten years younger (as opposed to just looking ten years younger!) And I play perfectly into the fearful facts of delayed reproduction - three miscarriages in six pregnancies, my grief and loss hidden behind the awful commonness of my experiences. For it is not just me. All around me my peers - from my closest buddies, to my wider network of friends and acquaintances, we feminists are still fighting for our place in society - but this time, our place as mothers.

Infertility. Miscarriage. Chromosomal issues. Unexplained problems. A few years ago it would all have been about cross-stitched gifts and congratualtions, now it seems more about crossed fingers and commiserations. And so as I navigate the current wave of friend's frustrations and disappointments (while keeping quiet about my own little window of wonder), it was a super shock when I heard recently about a friend's good news. I almost burst with delight that someone else would be finally sharing the joy I feel right now. Nature's rainbow amid the cloudy skies. It shocked me how rare it has become.

And although I often think about what would have been if I had started my family earlier, thoughts pushed aside as I account for every year of travelling, career building, party pleasing as ones I would not have given up, will I be telling my girls to try for families earlier? Yes, I think I will. And not just because if they have inherited my dodgy X chromosome they too will be susceptable to a much greater risk of miscarriage, but because simply I would wish on them the rainbow, and not the clouds. And as I read in today's paper that doctors have now devised a test that could tell young women the precise age at which they will no longer be able to have children, perhaps the next generation can ride on our shoulders as well as the shoulders of our predecessors, and from those dizzying heights finally make the choices they need to make to have fulfilled and happy lives.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Enter Stage

I'm approaching a funny stage - forget the 7 ages of (wo)man [although with my pregnancy hormones taking centre stage, I play all different stages in one day] - I'm in the midst of the three ages of childhood. Jury is still out as to whether this will be a thriller or a tragedy.

I am increasingly becoming an (albeit suntanned) beached whale as my baby cooks nicely in my tummy, and I cook beautifully in the sun-shine. I'm slowing down, being forced to watch a bit more from the side-lines rather than centre stage as the girls play and posture in summer silliness. They are funny little mites, and I settle down in my front row seat at the most amusing, amazing show on earth. And I need my rest, because it all kicks off in September. Usually I'm a mess at times like these (Daisy just finishing Monetessori for good) unable to let go. But this time I know September is going to be full of new beginnings.

Daisy starts school - a seismic shift in my parenting experience, mother to a schoolgirl.
Poppy starts Montessori - after three years of being home with me this is a huge step for us both.
And my new baby arrives - a unique show beginning all over again.

Three stages, each with its own challenges and triumphs, each mesmerising and unmissable. Three little people embarking on three huge steps of their lives - and I not only get to watch, I get to clap and cheer and hold their hands. Pass the popcorn and show me the emergency exits - I suspect come September I'll be too stressed, sleep-deprived, hyper, emotional and exhausted to appreciate any of it!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Notes on a scandal

It's funny the things that trigger it off. You think you find a place for the grief, and then you open the Sunday paper and it bleeds out all over the pages.

I won't go over old ground here. Suffice to say loosing three babies took its toll and took time to try and deal with. When the draw of diving into a depression of grief became too tantalising, I had to make a decision that I wasn't going to let my losses become the over-riding force in my life. That has to be my gains; our girls, and now my third baby on its way.

But there are still moments. Moments still given over to my lost children; moments that belong to them; moments of longing and lost memories. But they are moments amid the mayhem of life and living, happy loud days where the sound of Daisy singing and Poppy laughing fills the silence. And my moments are easier because I know definitively that my babies were lost. I know absolutely they had died. And I know why. I know my chromosome disorder meant they were never going to live. I am lucky.

For the countless women reading the paper with me today who have also lost babies and do not have those assurances, I cannot imagine their pain. The ultrasound scandal that has jammed the Irish radio airwaves and blackened the newpapers has opened up raw wounds for so many vulnerable parents. As more and more women emerge to tell their tragic stories of being told their babies were dead, booked in for D&C's, but somehow had the instinct and strength to fight for second opinions only to discover their babies were alive and well, more and more women who didn't fight, who couldn't insist, who believed the authority bestowed on medical staff - and will now never know if they lost more than their dreams must be feeling the earth has shifted on its axis.

I have felt my losses all over again this week, and my heart aches for those women forever haunted now by the thoughts of 'what if'......

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Post-holiday blues

Ah the joys of coming home from two glorious weeks of sunshine and lazing about while hubby becomes my hero and does all the cooking, to pouring rain, unfathomable amounts of washing and ironing, and empty fridge and a week of cooking to get organised. Some things never change. Some things do though. This is what I used to say on holiday before I had children:
- Pass the Marlborough Lights love
- Another cocktail? Sure, make it three.
- Do you sell Ambre Solaire oil?
- Let's go to that cosy little restaurant and have a long romantic night
- Let's go clubbing!!
- We can walk around these ancient Greek ruins and then have a bottle of Rose for lunch
- Oooh - Shops!! I'll meet you in an hour.

Here's what I said on a holiday with two young children and pregnant:
- Put your hats on girls.
- Have you put cream on the kids?
- Shall we just go to bed when they settle? It's been a long day.
- Don't run round the pool!
- NO! You'll turn into an ice-cream if you have any more.
- OK, no more ruins. Let's find a playground.
Still, wouldn't change a thing. OK, maybe the loads of washing.