Sunday, 19 June 2011

In the beginning...

I moved to London at the tender age of 19, eager for the bright city lights and all the excitement it promised. The next four years were a whirlwind of parties, boyfriends, part-time jobs and studying for a degree (when I remembered to). In my final year I finally buckled down and worked furiously, glued to my laptop, writing long essays on the conquistadors, south american novelists and spanish cinema. I suddenly got the academia bug and every assignment marked as a 1st felt like a leap towards a starry future.

I love books: reading and writing about them, but at the time I was not entirely sure how this was going to translate itself into a job… publishing? Journalism? Writing a novel? In any case I never got that far because right at the end of my degree I met and fell in love with my partner and within a few months I was pregnant with our first child. It wasn’t planned- of course not- I was 24 and as naive as a babe in the woods . I hardly knew what I wanted but somehow my body was plotting against me, my hormones were racing, my clock set firmly; I swear I could feel my body willing itself to fall pregnant.

This first pregnancy was a mixed up time. I was excited but also incredibly scared, worried about giving birth, being able to look after a baby, making money (or not making any as was the case at the time) and fearful that the relationship I was in would not survive the pressures of parenthood. 

We did survive, although not without a rocky, turbulent start. We might not have come this far not without the guidance of an amazing counsellor and the support of friends and family who made us open our eyes and realise that it was not enough to just love or desire, we also had to understand, support and empathise with one another. Our difficult times did not reflect the love we felt for our daughter, she was born three weeks late, as if she sensed that maybe the world outside was not a perfect place but when she arrived she was perfect in every way. Little Lila Lux. A pretty chortling baby who was full of love. She is now eight and as beautiful as she was then but also kind, thoughtful, clever and strong willed. She is a big sister to Elvis Cassady, who arrived during the very cold November of last year.

Many people wondered why I had left it so long to have another baby. There were lots of reasons: work and money, a year after Lila was born I trained as a massage therapist so I could work around her schedule and the crazy, erratic hours of my musician partner. Yes I know- massage probably seems like a world away from academia and novelist dreams, but I was really fascinated by alternative therapies and knew that I would enjoy bringing a little bit of peace and wellbeing into peoples lives. I worked hard at it and within a couple of years I was running a successful business. Neglecting it felt like an impossibility both for my own sake and that of my family: massage = dinner on the table. 

 A few years ago friends of mine began to have babies… suddenly I was not the only one with horror tales of sleepless nights, tears and projectile vomiting. At first I was glad to be on the other side. I was a veteran, a survivor of that killer first year when sleep deprivation renders you close to useless: you wear your pyjamas to the supermarket, cry for no apparent reason and stare glassily at people when they try and engage you in conversation.

I had hit my thirties and I knew I was happy. I was in a positive relationship, my child was a happy-go-lucky thing, easily appeased and incredibly loving. I was going out again, not in the all-night, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends way of my twenties but I was having a lot of fun. My business was doing well, I was writing and studying in my free time. But then… my body started ticking again. It began yearning for another baby. I put it off for as long as I could, making the usual excuses: we wouldn't have enough money without my massage income, we didn’t own our own house (or a big enough home!), my husband was in the middle of changing career...

But in the end the heart won over. Welcome to the world Elvis Cassady. Unlike Lila, his birth was a smooth and easy transition. He was born at home with no medical interference- it was what I had always wanted. My husband held him and cried, after two girls (his eldest from a previous relationship) he was overjoyed to have a little boy.

I suppose we now have the complete family (until my hormones rage again?) As soon as I had Elvis people asked if I would have another… Whoa there!!! Isn’t two enough? But babies are wonderful and slightly addictive. We can’t get enough of them and fortunately for me it is as if the rest of the world (or my small corner of the world) has caught on. Amongst my friends there are first and second babies springing up everywhere. I was often lonely when Lila was little but second time round it’s been a different experience: like one big, giant, baby club. And yes I’m glad I left it so long…

Being back at home has given me time to think about the things that matter, the things that make my heart grow fonder… but I have been pondering about the random and the trivial too. I have also begun to revisit old pieces of writing, amassed in little notebooks over the years, which I am finally releasing into the wild.

I am busy (nappies, no sleep, feeding a family and the washing machine that never ceases to turn) but not distracted by work or that nagging feeling of trying to make something of yourself (which comes, I think, from living in a city hung up on talent and success). For once I can focus on life as it is. I thought I would share some of this with you…. 

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