beginnings and endings
It’s hard to spend a great deal of time thinking about birth and the beginnings of life without thinking about the end of life and the aging process. Creating a new generation means shuffling along that proverbial ‘mortal coil’ a little and realizing that we are getting older. We do this at intervals of course – the major birthdays, the big life changes (first day at uni, first job, buying a property, getting married) but not in such a specifically mortality-related way perhaps.
For a start, there are suddenly wills and guardians and life insurance concerns that crop up and we are forced to consider what might happen to our child if we were no longer there, but on a more subtle level there is the fact that our child will never see us the way we think of ourselves. They won’t remember our youthful looks – the ones that turned our partner’s head initially – they won’t know that we were wild adventurers, that we were carefree and unafraid once. They will see only the parent we have become from the time they reach around 7 years old and memory really establishes itself.
Instead they will be frustrated by our slowness, by our muddling stories or not understanding the leaps in technology, the latest music or what is now socially acceptable that wasn’t in ‘our day’. Is that it then? Have we had ‘our day’? And is it selfish to want it to continue? I’m sorry to sound miserly but, as much as I would give this baby anything and I haven’t even met him yet, I don’t want life to end. There is so much pressure to be this wonderful, selfless earth mother character in today’s society that we aren’t really meant to say this out loud (and I am trying to steel myself for some negative comments in response to this post), but the fact is I don’t want to stop my romance with my husband or our magical travels or the creativity that inspires me. In fact, more than that – I want my child to witness these things; to grow up with their light in his life so that he knows their wonder too.
Of course we are in the age of ‘you can have it all’ but I am not talking about having a job and a family. Not necessarily. I’m talking about NOT becoming the stressed out monster who moans about her lot, nags about homework and is all about getting through the day or keeping the routine. I’m talking about keeping the magic, the inspiration, the joy… even the youth? I know I can’t look like I did forever – I don’t recognize my body now and I’m really trying to prepare myself for the shock after it’s been through childbirth so I guess I have to suck that up (although I can’t help the little hopeful part of me that is kidding herself that with a little bit of gym work and a good diet… ha ha ha! Of course I also imagine the results will give me back my pre-25 figure!) – but the point is I’d like to feel young, to still have the urge to play, OK OK… and to look, at least, the way I recognise myself.
Wow I’m not painting a very nice picture of myself here, am I? Vain, selfish and scared of not being young anymore (even though, at 35, I’m clearly not that anyway!). But isn’t this a lot of people’s internal dialogue? Aren’t we all a little daunted by what we’ll become? Don’t lots of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s look back and feel a little sad they aren’t still in the thick of it all: healthy, vibrant, looking to a future full of dreams?
I am lucky that I have parents who still do a great deal, who get out and travel and live and enjoy the theatre and garden and read and get involved in the world, but even they won’t deny that it gets harder. And they stand beside us watching us forge ahead, occasionally stepping in to scoop us up when things get tough, without ever a trace of envy. Will I be good enough to do the same?
In many ways I think I will. I have had so much so far, and I know I have many years’ more experiences to gather up (life doesn’t end with a baby, it just changes – right?!) and I have such great hopes for the little boy we are going to love so much, I know I will be so proud of his every step through this amazing world. But I do not want to bear witness to my own fading and it is hard for any self-aware individual not to be conscious of that. Do I matter in the grand scheme of things? Not one bit. Have I changed the world in any way? Not yet. But he could, and maybe that is all that it’s about.