I was never one for grand future plans, a list of goals. I never dreamed of the big white wedding. Never had a picture of what my Mr. Right should look like or what job he should have. I’m just not a wish list kind of gal.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always been pretty happy. I’ve always loved life for what it is – very unpredictable, full of ups and downs. I like to focus on the ups. And in that sense I‘ve always been the life of the party – a believer in never checking my watch.
So it came as a shock to me, the feeling that worked its way into my stomach when I tumbled into my thirties. It manifested itself as a small, gnawing sense of unease. With each failed relationship the feeling intensified. While it tightened its grip it proved itself incredibly efficient at playing with my head. I did what I thought was best and concealed it from those around me. I ignored it.
For a while I was even able to tell myself it was nothing more than a passing phase, a nagging irritation that would go away. That’s what happens when you’re a born pragmatist. You just get on with it. Besides, I had plenty to be extremely grateful for, a wonderful family, magnificent friends and I was a total rock star auntie (nephew number one carried around a photo of me in his pencil case).
But you can only ignore for so long – at some point you have to confront the white elephant crashing around inside your head. You have to sit down alone, in the silence and engage. It’s a very difficult conversation to have with yourself: as a woman, a woman with Greek blood. My time was running out. I was unlikely to ever experience the joy of motherhood.
I tried so hard to convince my rational self that I could live without having a child I almost believed it. I would travel instead. Travel the world – the cure-all tonic for those of us who have run out of moves. Checkmated.
Of course there are unfortunate economic realities involved in gallivanting across the globe and with the big 40 tearing down on me, reality hit. I was kidding myself. No escaping it. The sense of unease I’d been lugging around my shoulders was now a deep sadness.
It was time to stop lying. Time to acknowledge what deep down I already knew was a truth, becoming a mother did matter to me. It meant everything.
I blamed myself for the mess I was in. I’ve made some fantastically poor decisions in my love life and as a result have been haunted by the notion of lost time – of having lost my chance for trying to have a child, let alone finding a person willing to take the journey with me. When you reach this point you have to consider going it alone. I reasoned with myself that at least if I tried then I could live with that. Live with myself. Even the act of trying would help fill the hole inside me. That horrible creeping emptiness many women suffer. Endure. But heartbreakingly, I knew I wasn’t strong enough to do that – for so many reasons, to do it all alone.
I met him in a furniture shop.
Sun-induced delirium is the excuse I use when explaining what happened next, why I did something completely out of character. I chatted him up – an Englishman living in Melbourne. You can never have too many opinions when buying an over-priced bookcase, especially one with well-rounded vowels.
Four days later when he left my apartment I found a note on the kitchen table. It was a list of must-see films. This was promising. I’ve still got it stuck on the fridge with splashes of curry sauce on Five Easy Pieces and McCabe and Mrs Miller. Outstanding.
Early on in our relationship he dropped the bombshell. He was upfront and honest. It killed me. He didn’t want a child. Definitive. He was working on his film – his film was his baby. I didn’t want to give away my happiness because, for once, I was with someone I felt I could grow old with. But I also didn’t want to go down without a fight. I dealt with it speedily. No ultimatum. Just a clear expression of what I wanted, a chance to try, naturally, for a baby. I told him how important it was – I was 42 this was my last chance.
He looked me straight in the eyes and told me, once again. I’m sorry, but no.
Last January I gave birth to a beautiful and robust boy. I didn’t make a big hullaballoo about my pregnancy or the birth. I didn’t crave the praise and admiration of others. This was about the three of us.
The awful hollowness inside me is gone. I know how very lucky I am.
Two years ago my partner’s father died and on his deathbed it struck me how it was the small moments in time with his sons that mattered – those seemingly trivial memories occupied their final whispered conversations. Life, for all its grandeur, can really only be measured by the things that give you true happiness.
For me, it is the very unremarkable feat of having my own child.