Hearts beating, yours with mine. Self-consciously holding you, small, but sturdy babe. Frog like foetal position. New-born’s doughy feet, knees folded, flattened to my front. Feeling faint, sweating palms, sudden somersault stomach. A celestial connection sparks. No one knows, not even you, yet. Tendrils sprout, beginning to unfurl. The invisible thread. London’s streets shine. Buggy splashing through recent rain. Eyes gleefully gleaming under spotty, speckled winter hat. Content to be pushed, held, loved. Up, down. Play park, museum, restaurant. Through streets. Around leafy gardens. Coffee in cafés. Cake and cuddles in a cosy corner. Connection fuses and increases. Now perhaps you know. Shoots lengthen, bud and bloom. The invisible thread. A long journey homeward bound. A lonely beaded bracelet in your place, a vacuum where only moments ago you dozed, lulled by whirring tarmac wheels. Quiet replaces sing-a-long rhymes, subdued silence descends. Damp mascara cheeks. Limbs loose. Throat choked, twisting tissues. An inconspicuous cord, mutually tangible, defying distance and time. Slim strands grown thick and strong. The invisible thread. Salty, sticky fingers and sun cream kisses. Bobbing on lilos. Bat and ball. Body board clutched by bold ‘Queen of the Ocean’. A howl of dramatic despair as sand between toes tickles and itches. Disaster soothed by towels and treats, swimming costume and ice cream. Time melts on beach hut lazy days. Connection glows, fed and anchored. Congruent, confident memories. A thousand strands weave silver spirals. The invisible thread. More duvet cuddles at dawn. Languid chatter, sipping tea, sharing my space. Keen to be close. My hand held. Reassurance, trust. Eager energy bright and curious, quick to question. Homework completed to a perfectionist’s standard. Hair styles, searching for socks, packing for riverside picnics. Interconnection clearly communicated, a synergised glance, a mirrored gesture. Tendrils now deep roots, tenaciously entwined. The invisible thread. Wrapped gifts reflect Christmas lights, rattled then hidden for treasure hunt quests. Riddles and jokes. Entertainment and games. Role-plays and drama. A rehearsed duet couples the aroma of roast, pudding and candles. A ridiculous dance to disco classics then mellowed by Aretha’s authentic refrains. This connection, a bond like omnipresent lithe laced arms, a continual current flowing freely, fluidly, ‘twixt you and I. The invisible thread.
'Would you like some help to wipe that vomit from your top?’ I politely ask my friend as she winds her child non-stop. “Oh, I really shouldn’t worry,’ she says, ‘it’ll probably blend right in with the other patch of baby puke, the dribble, crumbs and gin.’ There are many ‘soon to be’ mothers here, radiant with rotund tums. As well as those who’ve popped sprogs out and are already experienced mums. Together, we are gathered to wish one such expectant friend farewell. She is on the cusp of her first foray into her own exhausting, sleepless hell. Meanwhile, a small squadron of cantankerous two year olds toddle aimlessly around. Our conversations left incomplete as one of them face plants on the ground. Cards and gifts are given generously. Sugary cupcakes and booze-free tipples consumed. A lady with a proud, protruding bump discusses the contents of her womb. Increasingly, it occurs to me how out of place I really am. The air is so thick with oestrogen, it could trigger ovulation in a man! I do attempt to natter with another of my good friends, but her child announces that he’s pooped himself and there our conversation ends. No, this is not the best environment for those in situations such as mine. For goodness sake, why did I neglect to bring some alcoholic wine? Swapping midwife stories, gender guessing, births, big breasts and pregnancy. I remain calmly composed despite my contrasting reality. Like new ships, they’re launched one by one into the next phase of their lives. Whilst I’m left wrestling with my own unexpected, not quite so nice, surprise. It’s not a competition, not a contest, tournament nor race, but next time I’m given ‘exciting’ baby news My smile may not be fixed so quickly into place. I am aware of the positives. Unlike my friends, I’m not covered in sick or poo. My favourite outfit is dribble free, not a hint of snot or baby goo. A stenchous whiff does not pervade the air, wherever I choose to roam. When I’ve had enough of noisy kids, I seek shelter in my tranquil, child-free home. But still this so called bright-side that I can quite clearly see, isn’t quite enough to completely outweigh my growing sad, despondency. Surrounded by these hormones, babies, buggies and bulbous bumps, it's another brutal, cruel and bitter blow that adds to my hidden anguish every month.
I sense your eyes of judgement bearing down on me. I know you can’t understand it, so naturally it’s hard for you to find empathy. You haven’t been where I am which makes me difficult to understand. But rather than disappointed incomprehension, I wish you’d reach out your hand. But instead, you have unrealistic expectations. One’s that I can never hope to meet. As the chasm widens between us, I battle a growing sense of defeat. Two women world’s apart at opposite ends of the spectrum. Your ascent has brought you joy whilst I’ve been sucked under by depression. Unaware that it is the ‘black dog’ who has become the guardian of my cage’s key. I pretend, trying to act ‘normal’ and not at my selfish gaoler’s mercy. Alienated from those I love, trapped in a cycle of misery, shackled by my own self-loathing, it’s from within these walls that I see. I see you, seemingly proud and confident, embracing the newest chapter of your life. The Spring to my endless Winter, flourishing, fertile, successful in your role as wife. You are a celebration of womanhood, a producer of grandparent’s heirs. You’ve created and you’ve given light. God has answered your secret prayers. You are the success and I, the failure, the mutant female, ashamed of whom I’ve become. My body a barren betrayer, unlike yours that has produced a golden son. Yes, I sense your eyes of judgement questioning my behaviour and response. But I can’t do much about it. My self-esteem, my inner strength are all but gone. This atmosphere of expectation is a heavy burden, I can’t fulfil. I dread the knowledge that I will disappoint you despite asserting great courage and strength of will. I suppress my urge to shriek, to grimace with grief and cry. My fight or flight would like to run for it without even pausing to explain why. As best I can, I cover up this battle. I remain suffocating slowly in this room. I hide my physical and emotional shakes and try not to sit here like a harbinger of doom. I am sorry. I’m aware I may hurt you. We co-exist in a growing cloud of tension. I can see in your eyes of judgement your invisible, yet tangible incomprehension.
Our daughter is a blessing, a precious gift of life. From chubby faced babe to giggling girl. One day a grown woman, a strong leader and perhaps a wife. In her we see such potential, exciting possibility. As she passes through each stage of youth, we see glimpses of the woman she'll one day be. Her natural gifts are blossoming with encouragement and praise. We guide her through the toughest times, tears, terrors and tantrums. She shines light into our days. Our baby girl still really loves cuddles and bedtime stories. Yet, she's always had an independent streak, needing both space and reassurance from her worries. We've picked her up, counted to ten when she has grazed an elbow or a knee. We sing to her, ride bikes, climb trees, put on fashion shows and funny plays. This child of ours has exhausted us. She is a complex, clever girl. We teach her morals, patience, integrity, new words, geography listen to music from 'round the world. We give to her all we can. Love, time, finance too. It's tempting to spoil, indulge her every whim, but she must learn restraint, respecting what is right and true. We're instinctively protective of our beautiful, zany girl. Our pride and joy, who we adore, is blossoming her character beginning to unfurl. But our darling child doesn't share my DNA. She was created in your womb. You gave birth, you gave her life. But we're both mothers in a different way. We have so much in common, but it's hard for you and I. We're strangers, tense, distant, yet connected, this special child is the reason why. I've sacrificed a lot to raise your daughter as my own, but no gracious word, nor acknowledgment, no reaching out to the other mother of her second home. I too have rocked your baby in my arms when she cannot sleep. I too have cleared up sick, brushed hair, designed menus, played hours of hide and seek. So I ask you to sit and talk with me, show respect, not apprehension, take an interest in my role. Let's establish solidarity, banishing this pointless tension. I'd like for us to demonstrate what love can truly achieve. For our daughter to feel a sense of joy as her mothers display the real love in which we both believe.
Still no sign of a baby, Still all barren and bare. No bun in the oven. No anything, anywhere. Still empty and waiting. Still counting the days. Endless frustrating Baby shower parties. Still pretending not to notice A billion mothers walk past. Suppressing the ache With a terrible, fake laugh. Vitamins and potions, Tablets galore, Bonking my husband Like a desperate whore. Another month gone And still full of grief For the life that I wanted But couldn't conceive. Losing my faith And along with it hope That it'll ever happen. It's a really sick joke. A test of a marriage For better or worse. We never expected The infertility curse. The worry of age. My biological clock. Terrible thoughts of using Another man's cock. Losing my grip On these whirling emotions. Crying in Waitrose. Causing commotions. My femininity in question. A redundant, duff womb. An incomplete woman An imposter, a loon! Ignoring friend's babies For fear that I'll crack. If I held one a moment I may not give it back. Flippant remarks, And unhelpful words. Just no idea Of this ongoing hurt. "Don't think about it." Said so ignorantly. Years of my life thrown right back at me. A change of direction. That's what's required To boost my morale, Be re-engaged, re-inspired. An action packed life. I'm managing things well. Counting my blessings When my friends speak of hell. Of persistent insomnia Of nights without sleep. While for me, it's a bonus A blessed relief. I can lie in til 10 Or siesta at two With no threat of tantrums Drool, sick or poo! I look on the bright side, Am thankful for a lot. I learn not to forget To ‘enjoy what you've got’. Then all of a sudden, My chest starts to ache. Another announcement That’s all it takes. Again all alone. Trapped in this cycle Of endurance and fatigue It's physical and mental. I want to hear mummy, And a new baby's cry To have my child with me Not a week then goodbye. I want to know motherhood Present a child to my mum. A way to say thank you For the friend she's become. Phone calls at midnight A calm, listening ear Plenty of hugs To soothe the raw fear. More prodding and poking, Appointments and queues. Undignified positions. More time in loos. More peeing on sticks, More far Eastern cures, More consultants and nurses What more to endure? The worry, the stress, The fear and confusion. Starting a family? It's just pure delusion.
Excuse me, can I ask you, how you have your sex? I don't think that we're doing it right and it's making me feel quite vexed. I'd like to conduct a survey to uncover your toppest tips and find out if we're using them right (you know, all our jiggly bits!) I didn't pay much attention to biology back in school which really is quite unfortunate as now I can't have a clue at all. For if I were a genuine 'sexpert', I'm sure it wouldn't be such a struggle to pop another human out without getting in such a muddle. Everyone else seems to manage it. It's not a silly saga for the rest. So, what have we been doing wrong? We've been trying our very best. Maybe it's all about the angles or perhaps the temperature. Should we perform a special ritual before each jiggy-jiggy adventure? We use the correct biological bits. I've double checked, so I am sure and from the umpteen books I've read, we've run out of options to explore! So reader, that's why I need your help, to explain this confounded mystery. Answers on a postcard please. It would mean an awful a lot to me.
She married her true soul mate. The one she had been waiting for. The one for whom she had turned down the others who'd come before. As soon as she had met him, she knew he was the one. Despite initial reservations, to his charms she did succumb. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Weekends travelling to see him, to and fro on South West trains. Lunch in child-friendly restaurants, pushing the buggy through the rain. One of two other females, quite a challenging, complex game. Hoping, helping, supporting, though she found it a bit insane. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' At the altar, on one condition that her dad had asked him to accept, 'Don't make her wait for babies, treat her right and don't neglect to remember all she does to raise your child whom she protects from harm, often to her detriment with no acknowledgment nor respect.' 'Be grateful for what you've got.' But, no babies came, month after month for the yo-yo, part-time mother. Though sadness and confusion grew, she kept on caring for another's child who made the pain much worse, Often she needed to recover from the consuming visits of the child she'd promised to love forever. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' The mounting grief would swell then ebb, though she rarely complained of this feeling. No, she didn't speak of the emptiness left by her step-daughter's abrupt leaving. The tension built as the couple tried for her own baby she dreamt of conceiving. But when nothing happened time and time again she spent her nights silently grieving. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Not many knew of this inner struggle for each day she reapplied her smile. Lipstick in place and hair done well, no cracks to betray her trial. She tackled life with positivity, stayed busy, worked hard and with style. But the secret stone in her solar plexus was dragging her further into exile. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Her marriage, by now heavy with struggle, burdened by guilt, grief and tension hit a new and major crisis that rendered her bed bound with depression. She'd spent years fighting to stay strong, conquering fear and apprehension, but crippled by anxiety, now she lay staring at the ceiling of her bedroom. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Extreme exhaustion and panic attacks are not a pleasant sight. Frequent episodes could paralyse her both day and through out the night. Uncontrollable tears, pains and body shakes made her ashamed and gave her such a fright that she wondered if she'd finally lost her mind, but though it was close, she hadn't yet, not quite. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Slowly, the pills she took began to help. The psychologist was essential too. Together they rebuilt their marriage, acknowledging all the tests they had been through. Step by step, she regained her strength, searching for fresh hope in something new that could help her once again feel positive, not so sad, alone and blue. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Now when asked how she is getting on, she speaks out more honestly. It’s healthy to share the truth with others not just a few friends and family. It takes courage to speak of personal struggles, through it we can gain such liberty. But just be prepared to forgive that most infuriating phrase of complete stupidity, 'Be grateful for what you've got.'