In 14 days I shall turn forty. I have successfully reached middle age.
Some optimistic folk (you know the type, the ones always sharing twee motivational messages they've pilfered from someone else on Facebook) would say it’s the beginning of an exciting new chapter in my life.
I think it’s the zero. Not that I have anything against zero but it seems to trigger some sort of repressed fear. It makes me a bit anxious. I’d be happier to be 41 – that’s not a significant milestone birthday that forces one to reflect.
But now it’s time for another decade. Is this one about slowing down? Speeding up? Trying harder or trying less? Live to work or work to live? Survive or thrive?
The first hurdle of this new middle aged era is the imminent arrival of ‘The Baby’. (It requires capital letters as for some strange as-yet-unexplained reason, humankind elevates a foetus to a status deserving of its own hashtag.)
I am pregnant. At the time I blow-out all those damn candles I’ll be 36 weeks along the delightful journey that is pregnancy.
Times have certainly changed. Back in ’74, the average age for a first time mother was 24 years. It’s now closer to 31. Older mothers are on a trendline that continues to extend, in part due to medical intervention and in part due to lifestyle choices.
As a young child, I had a school friend who had an ‘older mother’. In hindsight, I’m thinking she may have been in her early 40’s. Definitely no older. The other mothers used to look at her with pity that bordered on scorn. I remember her having greying hair and wise eyes. My friend never said she was embarrassed by her noticeably older Mum, but I always felt that she was acutely aware that her family dynamic was somehow different.
I too will be an older mother, but statistically I’m still within the bell curve and hopefully our child won’t feel ostracised because of my age (I make no promises about our child not being ostracised due to my inappropriate behaviour or fashion sense however).
So far, pregnancy has been great. I've loved every second of it. Said no one. Ever. I've lost my ankles, my memory, and my bladder control. Oh the glamour. I’ve gained 14 kilos and I caught myself grunting in public last week. Actually audibly grunting. I've been voluntarily wearing the brown shoes because they 'comfortable' (oh the shame!). The 20 weeks of morning sickness (the ultimate misnomer by the way) just flew by, and I’m not missing sipping on a refreshingly chilled Pinot Gris on a balmy summer evening at all. My super-sized granny knickers are sexy yet comfortable. And going to bed at 8pm in order to then get up four times a night to pee is excellent.
My husband has been trying very hard to do the right things. If only my befuddled mind could establish what the right things are, I’m sure he’d be finding it a whole lot easier. He has been diligently reading up on various pregnancy / birth books and has built numerous items of nursery furniture in anticipation of the big arrival. He asks me 20 times a day if I’m ok and if I need anything. It really is rather a selfish condition, this pregnancy lark. If I could share it with him, I would.
The single biggest revelation from my confinement (I love that term - obviously relevant and descriptive in 1814, but in 2014 I am barely confined to my office chair, let alone the boudoir) is the desire of random strangers to caress my body. I feel a little like a pole-dancer except I’m not getting wads of cash shoved into my undies. It truly is a phenomenon to behold. People who usually wouldn’t even say hello suddenly feel at liberty to ask a series of personal and private questions accompanied by a rub of my belly.
"Yes, I’m having a baby. Yes, it’s due in February. Yes, I am rather big - thanks for commenting. No, we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl but we’re hoping it’s one or the other. No, we’re not just saying that, we are having a ‘surprise’ like people did in the old days. Yes, we obviously had sex to make the baby. No, I can’t remember the exact date, time or position. No, it wasn't planned, I was probably drunk. No, you can’t rub my tummy. Oh too late, you have already totally invaded my personal space and are doing it anyway. Now piss off before I punch you in the face and blame it on hormones."
As well as unrequited physical attention, I've also been lucky to receive wise words from the many and varied women in my life who randomly impart such gems like ‘I had an extended forceps delivery with my second, ripped me to bits and I had to have reconstructive surgery to rebuild my vagina. Took a year to get it looking normal again.’ Excellent. Just the topic for Christmas Luncheon.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know how absolutely blessed we are to be with child. We are lucky to have conceived without medical intervention. I have had a moderately normal pregnancy with only the standard array of discomforts and issues to attend to. There are many I know who are desperate to have a baby and I remind myself of that everyday. We are thankful and we are fortunate.
I am also acutely aware that I will never be considered a MILF. My milkshake will not bring the boys to the yard. My forties will not be spent travelling the world, building a global corporate empire, driving a sportscar or living in the house of my dreams. Instead it will be nappies, playdates, practical shoes and basic survival. Doing what is arguably the most important job in the world.
Not sure I’d want it any other way.