I should start by saying it was beautiful, just as the baby who will be my great niece or nephew (OMG) will no doubt be beautiful. It’s been a while between baby showers (if not drinks). And they get easier, they really do, but still….
Ok – first to address my faux horror at being a Great Aunt (by marriage I must add). I’m already great (he, he), courtesy of my husband’s oldest niece, who at 32 is the lovely sister of the lovely expectant mother. In fact my great-nephew is only three months younger than my son. I already feel old.
But putting aside my feelings of being ancient (and OMG, beyond pregnancy at 44), I still felt just that little bit discomforted by being surrounded by so much blooming expectation (a total of four pregnant mothers were celebrating, all glowing and fulsome).
The theme was a Wonderland Tea Party and I felt just a little like Alice must have peering through that looking glass.
It’s ridiculous, I know. I don’t want to go back to babies – we’ve just got Little Yang toilet trained and I don’t want back there. I don’t want to give birth now. I’m a great Aunt for God’s sake. Ancient.
Only part of me still regrets that I haven’t been there. Not that I would ever go back and change the children I have, but the elusive experience of pregnancy still haunts me like a faded memory I should be smiling at now, reminiscing about, content in having magically forgotten the pain of labour.
Cue GUILT – big time. I am so lucky to have our two children – what could I possibly covet about nine months of discomfort (nausea, swollen feet, back ache), followed by however many hours of intense pain (pushing, screaming, tearing), followed by several months of all-consuming, bone-aching fatigue, leaky breasts, stretch marks etc. I don’t need to go on.
But I need to forget what I can’t remember.
I’m guilty, because did I mention how lucky I am to have our children! I must say that when I fantasize about being pregnant, it’s about giving birth to the children I have and nurturing them as newborns. It’s not some vague dream of gravidity, but a clear vision focused on the experience I missed out on having with them. There is always that sense of loss.
But I shouldn’t regret what I couldn’t have had.
The Baby Shower quiz asked us to estimate the girth of the Mum-to-be’s baby bump – I honestly had no idea and could only size up the swelling bellies around the table and guess (wrongly of course). It felt slightly disconcerting. Who knows I had no bump to show for the ectopic pregnancy I lost at eight weeks – nothing at all. And I must have somehow blanked out all knowledge of pregnancy matters, or else I was lucky enough to have been spared such details by mothers who were far more thoughtful than I was. Cue guilt.
And there are others I know who have experienced pregnancy, but it hasn’t come easily – how could I begrudge them? Others I know for whom circumstances have never given them the opportunity to be a mother. I can only guess at their unspoken regret. I should be grateful and in no way grudging. So I’m guilty – it’s my default setting.
But I’m not grudging, surely? That would be far too uncharitable. Just a little envious perhaps – so far from the raging jealousy I felt when I was mired in infertility and IVF – who knows my sister and countless friends copped the brunt of that.
Now it’s just something hard to explain – a whimsical sense of reflecting, brooding, pining perhaps for the past to have given me what I’m already so lucky to have PLUS that experience I once longed for so much.
And realistically I know that’s not possible – I could not have been pregnant and given birth when I longed to do so AND still have the children I have (well certainly not both of them). But still….
Do I lessen the gift of my children, by somehow still missing what I wasn’t gifted? Am I just being plain greedy?
Will I finally shake this strange and shameful feeling when I’m a grandmother (let’s hope one day) and over the years to come when I’m a great Aunt again? Will time heal?
I hope so.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share a little more of my memoir writing. So here goes: READ ON – hope you like it.